Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Post by Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson is launching his new thriller Liquid Fear today. He’s also giving away a $100 gift certificate on participating blogs if he hits the Top 100. Buy it at Amazon, BN.com, and Smashwords because it’s okay to forget your nightmares for a while or pop by Haunted Computer)


Good Cop, Bad Cop
by Scott Nicholson


I freely admit Joe has been an influence on my decision to enter the self-publishing world (or indie, or, hell, call it “vanity” if you want, I’m vain enough), and I’ve been a frequent visitor here, even though I disagree with Joe on some big points—particularly the rosy eternal-expansion model of six-figure incomes for indie writers.


I haven’t been around as much for the simple reason that Joe is mostly making the case why authors should do it themselves, and I was sold by last summer. Now, with Barry Eisler turning down half a million clams, I think we’re kind of past that debate. That’s about all the evidence most writers will need, because most writers will never reach that level. I mean, like 99.9999 percent of all writers.


Read their recent discussion if you haven’t yet (this interview needs a name, it’s like a bookmark of literary history—let’s call it The Summit), and Dean Wesley Smith makes a good counterpoint, though I am not fully sold on the positions of either. Dean, in particular, seems to think bookstores will remain valid for the next decade or two, whereas I foresee a collapse on the order of what happened to video and record stores.


In our little college town of 15,000 students and about 10,000 full-time residents, we had seven video stores and four record stores five years ago. Today, all we have is Blockbuster, which is a chain on the ropes, and one niche store that combines videos, books, albums, and CD’s, eclectic art for the discerning college hippie. Ironically, we have one other “record” store—and all it sells is classic vinyl albums, mostly on eBay. I think that’s the Bookstore Future—towns might have one weird shop that thrives on nostalgia and the personal touch. We do have a neat indie bookstore owned by former M*A*S*H writer Karen Hall, but it recently cleared away a section to put in a yarn store, not a good sign of the health of paper sales in spite of our recent Waldenbooks closing.


Since Joe, Barry, and Dean already made the point that the time to self-publish was yesterday, I’ll deal with some possible seismic shifts that would concern me if I was set on any specific outcome of the digital revolution. In fact, I was a lot more cynical about the future before I read The Summit, and if Barry has enough faith to walk away from enough money to keep a sensible family secure for life, there must be aspects I have been downplaying or over-inflating. My mantra in my wiser middle age is “Universal truth is nothing but a personal perspective inflated to a wish.”


I’m not sold on the “legacy” label Barry uses for traditional publishing, because my dictionary doesn’t have any definitions to justify it. But “traditional” doesn’t work, either. Which tradition are you talking about? Monks transcribing with quills? Hand-pressed books in the Gutenberg era? The 19th and early 20th Centuries when editors actually helped craft books and build careers? The 1950s through the 1980s, when run-of-the-mill paperbacks would sell 100,000 copies? Last year, when publishers made a number of major, major miscalculations (the Apple bet being the biggest blunder)?


I stick with the term “corporate publishing,” because every single decision will come down to the presumed well-being of shareholders and executives, not you, whether you are a reader or a writer.


We could do this all day, but I don’t want to write 13,000 words that I’m not selling. So I will play some Good Cop, Bad Cop of the Digital Future, and Joe will chime in with his 2 cents.


Good Cop: Joe foresees eternal expansion. He brings up Dark Side of the Moon, selling like crazy today after charting an incredible 736 weeks since its 1973 release, falling off, and then returning to the charts for another decade or so.


Bad Cop: The immortal Eric Weissberg topped the charts the week Dark Side launched. Trivia-question answers like Deodato, Dr. Hook, Anne Murray, Jermaine Jackson, and Edward Bear rounded out the Top 10.


Verdict: A few e-books will sell steadily for the life of copyright; almost all will not.


Joe sez: As I often say, forever is a long time to find an audience. There are few record stores left, and Best Buy probably doesn't sell Dr. Hook. But iTunes still does, and the good Doctor is still making royalties. What the hell was he a doctor of, anyway?


BTW, this from Barry, via Wikipedia:


"A legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program that continues to be used, typically because it still functions for the users' needs, even though newer technology or more efficient methods of performing a task are now available."

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


Good Cop: Low-priced e-books will mean more people hoarding and reading more authors and more genres than ever, especially at 99 cents.


Bad Cop: 99 cents is great if you are selling in the six figures on multiple books. Otherwise, you are likely to use up your audience and still be looking for a job.


Verdict: A mix of prices and a broad platform will enhance your survival, because there are multiple audiences, not one single audience. Some want 99 cents, some equate it with crap, some do nothing but cruise for free books, and others like that stamp of corporate approval and are willing to pay for it.


Joe sez: Your best bet is to keep writing good books, keep posting them, and don't be afraid to experiment with pricing. Remember, success always involves luck. But you can improve your odds by being talented, smart, and persistent.



Good Cop: Corporate pricing has opened an incredible window of opportunity for authors who can compete with lower prices and equal quality.


Bad Cop: Most books are not of equal quality, and New York hasn’t even begun to compete—when they do, they can trim their staffs and go to war with a monstrous catalog of hoarded, cheap, and possibly stolen backlist. See Brian Keene’s experiences with Leisure/Dorchester if you don’t believe me.


Verdict: At some point, corporate publishers may organize enough to muscle in with economies of scale. “At some point” will likely be far too late for them and their poor authors who are locked into pitiful royalty rates virtually forever.


Joe sez: I don't believe that legacy publishers, as they now exist, can survive selling cheap ebooks as their main source of income. If they do downsize and start epubbing exclusively, they can expect a slew of lawsuits from writers who want their rights back after going out of print. Leisure is an important case study. Not to be mean, but they were always the low man on the publishing totem pole. When the bottom feeders can no longer make money, how can the bigger companies with much greater overhead?



Good Cop: E-book lending will help books reach potential new readers and expand the writer’s customer base.


Bad Cop: There are already sites illegally “selling” the “lending” rights, which means not only new readers, but new readers who don’t mind ripping you off.


Verdict: As with piracy, the main victims will be overpriced corporate books.


Joe sez: Agreed. Diffuse piracy by offering your ebooks at low prices, in a wide variety of formats. It's all about cost and convenience.



Good Cop: Agents are cruising the Kindle bestseller list and sharking the 99-cent writers, some of whom are thrilled to finally feel legitimate after years of trying to “break in,” so there’s new opportunity.


Bad Cop: I don’t see room for corporate publishers on 99-cent books or proof that those books will sell for significantly more, but I see easy paydays for lazy agents, bad return-on-investment for shareholders, and future lament for authors who make ego decisions instead of business decisions.


Verdict: Remember Boyd Morrison? He lost a ton of e-book audience but has expressed peace with his decision because he knew what he wanted—the hardcover deal. D.B. Henson went big because she wanted to pay off her house. Amanda Hocking plans to pursue both avenues. Some will win, some will lose, like always.


And this is all the proof you need that New York is not looking for quality. Nobody is sitting around reading slush in hopes of finding that great new literary talent (despite what agents say on Twitter when they are busy not reading your submissions.) Good books are largely interchangeable, and this is clearly explained in The Summit. Barry’s gone, but they probably already have a new Barry lined up. Not the same talent, of course, but there’s somebody out there whose agent saw the opening and made a convincing case for a good-looking, charming writer of intelligent, well-crafted thrillers.


No, get it out of your heads that quality is the defining attribute in corporate publishing. Only sales matter. Sales and numbers will always be the most important issue to shareholders. And, remember, it is shareholders who are the boss, not readers or writers or editors or distributors or bookstore owners or agents, despite how some of them act.


Joe sez: Education, research, and experimentation can help you make wise decisions. If an agent comes calling, know what questions to ask. If you don't know what those questions are, you aren't ready to enter the legacy world.



Good Cop: Amazon’s dominance of the e-book market is wonderful because they have been so considerate of writers.


Bad Cop: The royalty structure was designed to lure “real authors” away from publishers and make a joke of the agency model, not “lift up” the value of indie books to $2.99. And they could be working on a switch to a Netflix-type subscription model, as they did with their Prime accounts for movies. Or they could cut royalties to 20 percent after they bankrupt a bunch of publishers.


Verdict: This is about as incredible an opportunity as you could ask for, short of constantly selling content from your own site at full price, but given the complicated system required for that, Amazon is well worth the 30 percent and even the 65 percent. But Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo have been working hard to secure their foundations, which is a good buffer against draconian royalty cuts (remember shareholders?). Worry about the future when the future gets here, and do what’s best for you right now.


Joe sez: Agreed. But there's a long way to go before it gets as bad as the 17.5% currently offered by legacy publishers.



Good Cop: The 99-cent e-book sells well and stimulates algorithms that put your book in front of more potential readers.


Bad Cop: It can create a rush to the bottom, make it more difficult for higher-priced books to be seen, and build a sense of consumer entitlement in which the intrinsic value of literature is demeaned.


Verdict: Both will happen. Why should books be any different than what has happened with digital movies, music, and game apps? What’s so special about books, anyway? You can go to any thrift store in America and load up boxes of paper books at 10 cents each, and some they will pay you to haul away.


Joe sez: I'm still experimenting with pricing, but my experiments are getting me more money and more sales than if I stayed at $2.99. Like it or not, 99 cent ebooks are a powerful weapon in an author's arsenal. Just learn how to use them correctly.



Good Cop: There’s one sweet spot for pricing and every author should do the same thing.


Bad Cop: Joe’s sweet spot was $1.99, went to $2.99, flirted with 99 cents, and now seems to be $2.99 again. Guess what? Most of that was defined by Amazon, not Joe (except his influential original pricing). If there was a 90 percent royalty at $3.99, I’d bet that would be his new sweet spot.


Verdict: Don’t worry about what’s best for Joe or for John Locke or for Michael Sullivan or for me (although I have books from 99 cents to $9.99, because I believe there are multiple audiences I don’t want to miss). Try different mixes and see what works best. Your own data will always be the most reliable.


Joe sez: Amen to that.



Good Cop: Joe and Barry are established veterans well-versed in the industry, so their path is good enough for me. I’m convinced.


Bad Cop: Barry walked away from half a million dollars. Joe turned down multiple book offers of guaranteed money. Almost everyone (who wasn’t paying attention to the publishing industry) would call that “dumb.”


Verdict: They both made the right moves, for them, at the right times. But you’re not them. You probably don’t have a huge audience and a solid backlist. Find out what is the right move for you—I hear there are some slots opening in New York.


Joe sez: If you write and release a solid backlist, I like your chances at finding that huge audience. At the very least, you have a better chance on your own than you would going through a legacy publisher.


Consider that I've worked with major publishers and have been given major releases, and in eight years I've sold a few hundred thousand books.


Last month, I sold 60,000 books on my own. I don't know too many legacy authors selling that many.



Good Cop: With the mainstream and well-publicized success of Amanda Hocking and John Locke (and J.A. Konrath before the trade press blacklisted him), “indie publishing” is now legitimate.


Bad Cop: There’s more crap than ever. Last year, I could upload my book and be #3 in the Smashwords queue. I uploaded a book yesterday and it was #1,249 in the queue. Clearly, not all of that is corporate quality, or even legible quality, and it will be harder to separate the wheat from chaff.


Verdict: The best comparison I’ve heard is to the number of websites. Do all those other websites out there that don’t interest you even bother you? Do you even know they exist? Do you care about the NYT bestseller list or do you look at the Kindle Top 100, or just books in your favorite genre? Readers will find a way to find the books they want. And, clearly, readers are better at picking winners than New York is. That’s why New York is belatedly picking books already chosen by readers—another point that proves one book is as good as another for their purposes.


Joe sez: We're pretty good at searching for and finding what we want. Crap has always existed, and always will. But it is still easy to discover worthy media.



Good Cop: People trust a solid corporate brand like James Patterson and will stay loyal even after the tipping point.


Bad Cop: What the hell does that mean? What exactly is a “James Patterson book”? It has no defining element at all except the factory name on the cover. Put them in brown paper wrappers and Patterson would be ranked in the middle tiers of the Kindle list, especially at those outlandish prices. And I used to like Patterson, back when he was a writer.


Verdict: Some corporate authors will make the transition, some won’t. The number of writers making a living will be roughly the same, but half the names will be different. Would we have needed a Stephanie Meyer if Amanda Hocking had happened first?


Joe sez: My prediction is that the bestseller list will drastically change. It's currently fueled by print runs and widespread distribution. People buy bestselling books because they make up the majority of what is available to buy.


That will change when ebooks become dominant. Watch and see.



Good Cop: The future looks great. Expanding sales, better royalties, more markets, more diverse selection for readers, a Golden Age revival of literature, more money shifting to authors and away from corporations, a growth of new ancillary cottage industries for editing and book production, an egalitarian rise in creative entrepreneurship.


Bad Cop: The future sucks. Piracy, hack work, unedited copy., 99 cents rapidly plummeting to free, millions and millions of slush-pile e-books, hoarders discovering they already have more books than they’ll ever read, slower waves of new adopters who will read less and with more resentment because you “took away their paper books,” cut-throat corporate practices that will lead to the Wal-Martizing of literature, and few avenues for any writer to make a sustained living.


Verdict: The future is neither good nor bad. The future doesn’t care. And the future is always changing. Some of both might be true, or it all might be wrong.


Joe sez: I'm going to be very rich. And I won't be the only one.



Good Cop: Sounds good. I’m going to pull that mystery manuscript out of the trunk. Let’s go get a donut.


Bad Cop: Clichés and stereotypes are lame, buddy. But I understand, because you are “indie,” and that makes it okay, because you’re a rebel sticking it to the Man. Plus, you got rejected 700 times. Ha ha.


Good Cop: At least I can write.


Bad Cop: So can anybody with an Internet connection.


Good Cop: Must you always have the last word?


Bad Cop: I’m not bad. I’m just written that way.


Verdict: I had 700 rejections. I was accepted by a corporate publisher. At the time, it was a dream come true and the best move I could possible make. Now, it looks like the biggest mistake of my career. It could be the moves I make today will seem like mistakes in 10 years. Right now, they are working. All I ever wanted was to do this for a living, and I’m doing that, so it’s all gravy from here, even if it only lasts a year.


Joe likes numbers and data, but I am avoiding those kinds of comparisons. While useful on the business front, my spiritual path is about the destruction of ego, and clamoring about ranks and money and other comparative measures does nothing to further my journey. However, here’s a little story about a little novel.


My first book The Red Church did very well for a midlist paperback. The sell-though was an incredible 95 percent (compared to today’s standard of 50 percent or less). It was an alternate selection of the Mystery Guild Book Club, got good reviews, and managed a second printing, but then the corporate publisher was done. In their business model, it made sense to be done, because they had other books to shove in its place. In my business model, it was tragic to have the book dead for five years. I was lucky enough to get my rights back, so now I am grateful the publisher let it go out of print. In the last two months, I have earned more than the book’s original advance. And I have it for the rest of forever.


That, to me, is validation that I made the right decision. I knew it wasn’t dead. And I am so happy that it still feels fresh today and still finds a receptive audience. I hope Liquid Fear is as fortunate.


I am not wed to any specific outcome for the digital era. Worry about the future when the future gets here, and do what’s best for you right now. Indie, self, vanity, whatever—it’s best for me, because I love every single aspect of my cottage industry. I hope you do, too, because it’s much harder to be happy than to sell a million e-books. Good luck.


Joe sez: All I ever wanted to do was write for a living. That's the whole point of this blog; to help writers who also have that goal. I never wanted to be the King of Self Promotion, and never wanted to be the Poster Boy for Self Publishing. While I'm grateful for all of the attention I've gotten, and thrilled at the money I'm making, the thing that matters most to me is watching my wife laugh, cringe, cry, and smile while she's reading one of my stories.


Yes, I quote numbers and figures. But that's a means to an end.


I've already helped someone on their journey.


Me.


Every other person I help is just icing on the cake...

138 comments:

AuthorVStone said...

Not much of a competition with the big boys if they sell books at 7.99 and still hit the top 10. Indie authors can def make more money than with traditional deals, but we haven't hit parity yet.

~ Vanessa

Kendall Swan said...

Great post! But I already bought Liquid Fear yesterday based on John Locke's tweet (@DonovanCreed). Im almost done with These Things Happened-- wonderful book!!

I'm all for ego destroying- mine gets in the way entirely too often. There's lots of breathing involved in that, right? : )

Cool post- the bad cop stuff scares me a little but not enough to change course. And it's hard to argue Joe's logic about the future.

Thanks guys!

Kendall Swan

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Boyd Morrison said...

Remember Boyd Morrison? He lost a ton of e-book audience but has expressed peace with his decision because he knew what he wanted—the hardcover deal.

I'm not sure how to take this. I don't think I've gone anywhere. In fact, I have two books out now in the US, another two coming out this year, publishers in 21 countries, and my debut, The Ark, made it to number 13 on the UK bestseller list. I'm not just at peace with my decision; I'm happy with my decision.

Guido Henkel said...

That is a very thoughtful list of arguments you put together there, Scott. Very interesting, very valid and very important.

Donald Wells said...

Joe, that was another great post with excellent points made on both sides.
Quote "The future is neither good nor bad. The future doesn’t care."
So true.

nwrann said...

Great post.

The Good Cop / Bad Cop is like the discussion I have inside my head everyday, except that the verdict constantly changes.

Ultimately neither one wins but I decided months ago to go the self-pub route ignoring both of them. Basically the reason for me to self-pub? The same reason I independently make and (virtually) self-distribute my films. I don't like to ask permission, and wait around for an answer, which is essentially what you are doing if you submit manuscripts to legacy publishers and agents. I guess you could say I'm lazy because I don't want to have to do the work that it takes to get a publishing deal or an agent. Except that I'm willing to do ten times the work to independently find an audience for my work.

Which brings me to one point about this (excellent) post:

The section where Good Cop / Bad Cop discuss readers "finding" the good work. (I wish each of the points were numbered). I think that both of you have this wrong. The successful self-pubbed authors will search for and find their readers, the unsuccessful self-pubbed authors will wait for readers to find them. It's not the field of dreams, "If you build it, they will come" doesn't work in the real world.

One more thing, I mentioned this in the comments of the Mark Coker post: Regarding Piracy, self pubbed authors don't need to worry about their books being stolen (hell, I'd rather have 10,000 copies stolen than sell 500). Here's where piracy hurts the self-pubber: If legacy publishing's biggest threat to self-pubbing is price point, how do self-pubbers compete against Legacy Publishing's Best, Buzzy, Most Marketed, Most Popular, Best Sellers when they are priced at FREE? (Or maybe, being able to get Stephen King for free (pirated) means the reader has more money in their (digital) pocket for Joe Schmoe's horror e-book? Or maybe where the concern lies is with time. Why waste hours (and $2.99) on Joe Schmoe's horror e-book when I can spend quality time with Stephen King? I don't have the answer, just asking the question.

Ellen Fisher said...

Nice post, Scott. I agree with you on a lot of points (especially the "eternal expansion" one, which my own sales figures tend to suggest is not the case for all of us). I will say that pricing at 99 cents is working well for me-- I'm not getting rich, admittedly, but I'm making a healthy chunk of change every month. But you're right in that we all have to find what works for us.

It's weird that you mention Karen Hall-- I just mentioned her to my daughter last night as an example of someone who broke into Hollywood with a spec script. How nice that she has a bookstore now. I didn't know that.

Congrats on the new release, and best of luck with it!

jennymilch said...

I'm not quite wedded to either the Good or Bad Cop's perspective on this--I wonder if both will change, evolve, and eventually co-exist. Especially the bookstores, which here in the NE seem to be waxing (3 in my town alone) rather than waning. But I did want to congratulate you on your move, Scott, and on your level of success. Also, wanted to mention another indie publishing sensation, Karen McQuestion, whose work I discovered thanks to Joe, and who certainly makes you guys look "right". I hope your readers will come on by and continue the discussion http://www.jennymilchman.com/blog/?p=1358

Monica Shaughnessy said...

"No, get it out of your heads that quality is the defining attribute in corporate publishing. Only sales matter."

Amen to this.

I used to think all I had to do to get published was write a good book, so I spent a lot of years hammering out compelling stories. Until I realized that you have to write the "right" good book.

Ah, youth.

Daryl Sedore said...

I completely agree with "Corporate Publishing". There is absolutely nothing "Traditional" about them or even "Legacy".

Sorry, in my opinion, legacy and traditional hold too much respect.

@Boyd Morrison,
What you did over those three months, with as far as I remember 7,500 units sold, helped to inspire me. Konrath gave me the final push to go indie.

But then you signed a deal. So disappointed with that. You may be happy with your decision now, but I predict you won't be in a few years.

Jon F. Merz said...

Great post. For those interested in numbers, I just posted my March ebook sales data: http://bit.ly/h4p5Ya

JL_Bryan said...

Great discussion! If there is a race to $.99, I hope I have a bigger backlist by then. All my novels are $2.99 and I make a pretty good living right now.

In most consumer products, there's a huge range of prices. You can buy shoes at Target for $20, but some people will still pay hundreds of dollars for a pair of shoes by the right designer. I hope ebooks continue to have price diversity like that.

Writers with an established audience can charge a bit more, too--Zoe Winters has pointed out that if you can sell at $4.95, you only need hundreds of sales per month to make a decent income.

But, we'll see...

Merrill Heath said...

Great article, Joe. The point that people need to really think about is when the publisher is "through" with your book. As Scott stated, it happens because their business model is to focus on another book, another author, another fad after a predetermined time frame. Your book is just as good as it was when it was selling. There are still readers out there who will read it and enjoy it. But they can't if it's not available.

Bottom line -- printed books go out of print long before they reach market saturation. Ebooks do not.

Merrill Heath
Alec Stover Mysteries

Ella said...

I enjoyed the dialogue between Scott and Joe. Quite refreshing. It was good to hear a somewhat contrasting opinion to Joe (you know I still love you Joe!)

Scott, I agree with you about the future of the bookstore. The traditional bookstore is dying the same slow death that record stores faced in the 90s. But it is the small bookstore that is poised for a major comeback. Bookstores need a reason to survive, and that reason is a book lover’s need to be part of a bigger community of book lovers – and that is the one service that Amazon, Google, and Apple cannot provide, but the neighborhood bookshop can! I recently blogged about this. If you are interested, here is the link:
http://ellaschwartz.net/2011/03/the-future-of-the-bookstore/

Scott makes some good points about self-publishing. I just don't think making millions with self-pubbing is as easy as Joe makes it sound. For me, being new to the business, I worry that I will put my novel out there for .99 cents and the only people that will look at it are friends and family. A traditional publisher is a crutch (at least for me), but sometimes you need a crutch?

L. David Hesler said...

Great post, Scott. This is the reason I love what I'm doing right now; there's so much debate, so much uncharted water. It's exciting as hell.

I think for some, the "Bad Cop" points will be deterring; at the same time, I think others will see them as challenges. For instance, if we are worried about the "crap" that will flood the ebook market, then responsible indie authors will begin to raise the bar through their own actions.

The cream will rise to the top over time, especially as writers deal with the learning curve inherent in indie publishing.

Thanks for the debate, gentlemen.

Thrilling Covers said...

"I don't believe that legacy publishers, as they now exist, can survive selling cheap ebooks as their main source of income."

Don't be so sure. The only reason indies can sell right now, for the most part, is because of low prices. Once corporate publishers lower their prices, indies will see their books fall to the back of the "store."

For example, Lisa Scottoline's "Everywhere that Mary Went" was recently price-dropped to $1.99 and it almost instantly shot past every indie author, now at #391 in the Kindle store. Same thing for "Final Appeal," priced at $2.99.

Corporate publishers can and and will sell books cheaper and cheaper as time goes one, paritcularly back-lists. The lock that indies have on low prices is going to disappear.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Vanessa, that $7.99 Top 10 has changed dramatically in just two years and I expect it to change even faster. There are some great analyses out there of the Top 100 shift.

Kendall, thanks! Don't worry about Bad Cop--Joe is right, talent, persistence, and hard work create your luck AND your future.

Moshe, that explains this strange lump in my...never mind.

Boyd, it wasn't meant as a slam--I know you are doing well. I just think you traded a large ebook audience for a large paper audience. Congratulations. I would have done the same thing. And I hoped you'd stop by.

Hi Guido, congrats on the great Red Adept review.

Donald, I hope YOU care even if the future doesn't.

NW, I simply don't believe pirates read all that much. They are having more fun stealing.

Hi Ellen, Karen is sweet but I think the bookstore was more of a tax write-off than a wise business investment...I mean, who buys bookstores anymore?

Jenny, some are right and some are wrong--not everyone will "make it" but EVERY writer's odds are better than before

Monica, if the best 100 books ever written showed up in NY at the same time, 95 would have to be rejected...

Daryl, I would guess there MAY be a point at which someone's declining paper sales can't match the huge loss of ebook revenue--but who knows what the future looks like? I feel Boyd made the right decision at the time. And I would probably even take that deal today (as long as I could maintain some independence on the side)

Thanks, Jon, glad you're getting serious about this!

Mewrrill, the saddest realization I had when the buzz of first acceptance faded was "These people could now care less...they've already gone on to other things..." Then, when your editor tells you to quit bugging their publicity department with all these review requests you've rounded up...well, you soon realize you better take care of yourself.

Ella, I fully agree-real stores with clerks who actually read will have window of opportunity. I hate that "Want fries with that?" mentality of the corporate bookstores.

David, I love the scariness of it all! I wake up every day excited, wondering what will explode, if it will collapse, if a book will take off. Plus, the money shows up in MY bank account instead of squirreling through other dirty hands.

Thanks for sharing, Joe, and for inspiring others to make a living.

Lori Devoti said...

Great post!
On pricing, I also think genre enters into what is the right choice. Many romance readers are used to being able to pick up a short category books for $5 in print or even less. Whereas young adult books commonly sell for $12 or more (even though the length frequently isn't all that much less). (Electronic versions of both of these are priced lower, but the discrepancy holds.)
So, these groups are shopping with completely different price expectations.
Lori

Daryl Sedore said...

@ Scott
Thanks for the response. I would agree that a deal yesterday or today may still be viable, as long as independence on the side can be maintained. I'm only suggesting, based on today's stats, long-term, that deal will probably play out better without Corporate.

@Thrilling Covers
You quote Lisa as an example. I'm sure there are others. But seriously, the indie low price advantage will not disappear, ever. There is zero chance Corporate Publishing could ever, and I do mean ever, hold a candle to what the indie movement is doing.
I don't want to be the guy to burst that Zeppelin, but it's not only going down in flames, it'll never fly again.
They have massive overhead. They have authors to pay. There's just no way. Not ever.
I'm not saying they won't last for a while yet. Just that they can never compete long term with indie pricing.
That's a fact. In my opinion, the lock indies have on pricing will never disappear. You couldn't be more wrong.

Boyd Morrison said...

Congratulations. I would have done the same thing. And I hoped you'd stop by.

Thanks, Scott. This entire topic will be fascinating for a long time to come.

Casey Moreton said...
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Kendall Swan said...

@Jon F Merz
Love, love, love numbers (hence, loving Joe's blog). Thanks for posting yours. And my hubby just started Parallax yesterday.

Kendall
NAKED Housecleaning

Joe Flynn said...

If you write and release a solid backlist, I like your chances at finding that huge audience. At the very least, you have a better chance on your own than you would going through a legacy publisher.

I added my eleventh title Nailed last week to my list of ebooks on Amazon and other distributors. Nailed was originally supposed to be the second book of a two-book contract with Bantam. But they said it was too much of a police mystery and not enough of a thriller.

Over the next two months, I'll be adding two more titles: One False Step and Still Coming.

My sales in the first quarter of this year were: January, 400; February, 1,088; March, 2,311.

In April, my novel The Hangman's Companion is mentioned in Scott's last column for Suspense Magazine and will appear twice in Kindle Nation. So, I'm expecting sales to jump again.

I think Joe's assessment mentioned above is right on the money — and it will probably be a nice chunk of money.

Douglas Dorow said...

Damn A Newbie's Guide to Publishing and Twitter. I'm supposed to be writing!

Thanks for adding another great post, Scott. I appreciate your take on the industry and direction that this is heading.

No one knows the answer, but the fact that we can all play the game makes it a little more exciting.

One thing we all know is that being a writer is more than just writing. It includes a great deal of time spent on marketing to find your audience and improve your "luck".

Good luck to you, Scott! Now I'm off to finish my book so I can send it to my editor this weekend.

David Ross Erickson said...

"Nobody is sitting around reading slush in hopes of finding that great new literary talent (despite what agents say on Twitter when they are busy not reading your submissions.)"

LOL, my friend!

Robert Bidinotto said...

@ Casey: I haven't read your titles, but from the Amazon reader reviews, it seems that you released the ebooks while they still had considerable editing and proofreading problems. That apparent haste has led to a number of negative reviews that now appear to be "poisoning the well" for your future sales of those titles. Yet, judging from other reviews by happy readers, it also appears that you do have storytelling talent.

So, I'm going to guess that if you take the time to pay more attention to matters of writing craftsmanship and marketing (e.g., I don't see that you have any active website or blog), you might be amply rewarded in the future. But the time to become discouraged is only after you've taken care of these other things, which under your direct control.

Casey Moreton said...
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author Scott Nicholson said...

JL you have a great series going--money in the bank!

Thrilling Covers, the difference is corporate publishers CAN'T keep giving their books away--see how fast they drop when the sales are over. What it's really doing is making those authors do some math...

Casey, you never know when your time will come--and it costs nothing to leave the books up!

Good move, Joe Flynn, multiple titles is the best hedge against whatever the future may or may hold!

Douglas, the fact that we are even having this conversation is a head trip for those of us who were banging our heads against the gate 10 years ago.

David, thanks for dropping by

Robert, good advice. The customer is ALWAYS right, even if they one-star you,. Maybe especially then.

Scott

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MichM said...

I think traditional publishing will still lure new writers for years to come. There's far too many who think it's the only route available to 'real' authors.

Until then, publishing will maintain satus quo. They'll continue to lay people off, make those that still have jobs work harder, and offer smaller advances.

They'll change only when they have no other choice. Maybe when they no longer have the majority of talent?

Michelle Muto
The Book of Lost Souls

C. Pinheiro said...

I love this post. And I love that Boyd came by to weigh in on the comments. I don't know what to think of it. Every author has to do what he or she feels most comfortable with.

I got into an argument with my beloved editor recently-- she's still chasing a legacy publishing deal-- she's got a great agent and he's shopping the manuscript. It's what she's always wanted. My arguments for self-publishing are never going to change her mind.

Sometimes you chase the brass ring for so long that nothing else matters.

I think that if a publisher offered me a full year's salary, that would be hard to turn down-- and I'm a pretty big cheerleader for the self-publishing movement. I also make a full-time salary self-publishing, but a 100K check would be very nice.

JL_Bryan said...

@Scott - Thanks for your kind words about Jenny Pox :)

@Daryl - I tend to agree with "There is zero chance Corporate Publishing could ever, and I do mean ever, hold a candle to what the indie movement is doing." Corporate office space alone is expensive...especially in Manhattan.

I run my writing career from a small room at the back of my house. I hire freelance editors and cover artists who also work from home. It's a true "cottage industry," the kind where you don't have to leave your kids in daycare while you commute somewhere to work. It looks like I'll get to be a stay-at-home parent and full-time author.

I don't think a large corporation can compete with the extremely low cost of being an indie. There's just very little up-front cost involved in creating a book--mostly time and effort.

Belinda said...

I'm on both sides of this and have been. It's easy to get disillusioned because, like everything, we only hear the pro side. Amanda Hocking made $2 million! Woo hoo. What they're not saying (and hardly a direct comparison, one book to tens of books) but, Belinda Frisch made $60(50 copies with prices varying from $0.99-$2.99). LOL. I can laugh at it because I'm being paid in incredible reviews and right now, living on love works just fine for me.

No one publicizes the ugly truth and I think none of us are on a "level playing field." I don't think there is such a thing in writing because there are genres, styles, marketing savvy, raw talent, mass appeal, exposure and other factors to consider and none of us have all of those things in equal measure.

We're all part of the great writing experiment.

Awesome banter, guys. A lot of food for thought, as usual. Liquid Fear is going on my TBR. What a great idea!

Coolkayaker1 said...

http://panlexicon.com/

Hello, writers. I wanted to tell you about a free website that acts like a thesaurus. It’s fantastic. No definitions, but gives plenty of brain stimulating word choices. Try it out. It’s by a guy who was in NanoWriMo and it has no ads and is free and this is not an ad or anything. Try it out. Bye now.

T.J. Dotson said...

I got into an argument with my beloved editor recently-- she's still chasing a legacy publishing deal-- she's got a great agent and he's shopping the manuscript. It's what she's always wanted. My arguments for self-publishing are never going to change her mind.

Its amazing to me that people can't see this isn't an 'either-or' type of deal. Indie publishing can lead to a book deal. Also, instead of wasted hours chasing a publisher down, you can sell your own books..and make money. I'm sure Jon Locke or Konrath, could at the very least get a meeting with any of the big six guys; if they wanted too.

The chances of getting a good publishing contract and the chances of hitting the Kindle top 100 are probably the same. At least with e-pubbing you can make a little spare change for your efforts.

C. Pinheiro said...

Its amazing to me that people can't see this isn't an 'either-or' type of deal.

Well, according to my friend, it is. Her agent, (as well as many other agents) refuses to work with authors who have self-published. Apparently, there's still a stigma out there in traditional publishing that self-published authors are "tarnished goods."

People like Boyd and Amanda Hocking are the exception, not the rule. At least that's what I've been told. Maybe Joe could weigh in on this-- I'm just repeating what I've heard from agented authors.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Michelle, I agree humans have a hard time changing until they have no other choice. After eight "real" books, if I had offers, I'd probably still be blind to all this. Now the hardest time I have is getting my money from the "real" publishers.

C, my "deal" number was previously pay off the house money, but it looks like that will happen this year with my indie income anyway, so there won't be a whole lot of lure left (oh, I will take foreign and movie deals...I have a hell of a hard time getting paid for those on my own)

Belinda, Amanda Hocking "made" $1.7 million--never forget the shark bite. I mean, the agent cut. Forever. I stick by my guns--some trad will fail in the new era, some will thrive, and vice versa. I do think overall a larger middle class of writers will emerge--working-class heroes with keyboards.

TJ, the problem is most corporate publishers demand control. That seems to be easing, but NY is also paying you NOT to publish, or to publish only one book a year on THEIR timetable. And usually options on future books. And usually lifetime control of digital rights. And usually...

Funny, but the less rigid ones will adapt fastest and survive.

Scott

Selena Kitt said...

I stick with the term “corporate publishing,” because every single decision will come down to the presumed well-being of shareholders and executives, not you, whether you are a reader or a writer.

Yes! I love this newly coined term. This is perfect.

And I love watching your journey, Scott. So many great new authors I've found in the Indie world that I'm grateful to have discovered. You especially, because I have sooooo many awesome books to read in your backlist and you just keep putting out more yummy stuff!

And because you're just cool. :)

nwrann said...

@Casey

You're expecting readers to come to you, you need to find them and go to them.

btw, Joe's bad reviews came after selling thousands and ending up in the top 1,000. (read his John Locke interview for more about that). I hardly think it's a good idea to ignore bad reviews because a best seller also had bad reviews, regardless of the excuse (spell check?).

Don't have a website at your own peril. Are there any top 100 (1,000) authors that don't have a web presence? A Facebook presence? A twitter presence?

But feel free to give up, you're not hurting anyone but yourself.

Gary Ponzo said...

I like the cover Scott--who did it?

Casey Moreton said...
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John said...

These debates will go on and on...

Ebook publishing can be thought of as a cottage industry-based business. As such it requires writers to think about their activities as for any small business. Some cottage industry-based businesses fare well. Some don't. Some make profits. Some pay taxes. [Not sure why elsewhere someone wanted insight into Joe's tax position...].

In this context, the eBook business needs access to editors, designers, formatters [perhaps], accountants, marketing expertise, etc. Do you want to take control of most of this yourself? If yes, then self publish. Can you do it all yourself? Probably not - so contract it out. If all you want to do is write and not bother with the 'business' aspects - then find a traditional publisher.

I attended a Writers Conference last weekend. Traditional. Agents cozying up to publishers. Publishers proposing to eliminate advances. 12+ months old slush piles. Complaints because there is no capital available. Authors' stories of failed marketing by publishers. Amanda's acceptance of a book offer given as validation of the traditional model, therefore ebook model was irrelevant. No one, either publishers or authors, with strategies for ebooks.

Aaaargh. I could go on.

Joe's blog plus guests and commenters is a marvelous breath of fresh air.

John West

Rebecca Stroud said...

Thanks for the great post, Scott (and Joe). I basically agree with all the "verdicts" and I especially loved this one: And I used to like Patterson, back when he was a writer. I so agree.

As for my own work: It's very slow going but I freely admit that the constant social interaction (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) gives me a massive headache, not to mention time away from writing new stories.

Anyway - and btw - I am from the mountains, too (West Virginia), Scott and I miss them (live in FL now). Hope to return "home" some day. Good luck to all!

Rebecca Stroud
A Three-Dog Night
Zellwood: A Dog Story
The Animal Advocate

Casey Moreton said...
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Casey Moreton said...
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Boyd Morrison said...

People like Boyd and Amanda Hocking are the exception, not the rule. At least that's what I've been told. Maybe Joe could weigh in on this-- I'm just repeating what I've heard from agented authors.

When I self-pubbed in 2009, I was in an odd no-man's land where I had a great agent but publishers weren't interested in my book. It's also hard to remember--after seeing the success of Joe and Amanda among many others--that when I got my first publishing deal two years ago, very few people thought you could make a decent income self-pubbing ebooks. I think agents would be doing themselves a disservice now if they rejected an author simply because she had self-published a book. I know my US publisher, Simon and Schuster, has had great success with self-pubbed authors like Lisa Genova, and D.B. Henson's Deed To Death (very successful as a self-pubbed ebook) will soon be published by S&S.

Coolkayaker1 said...
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Coolkayaker1 said...

Barry Eisler, with all due respect as a good, solid writer, knows how to calculate his revenue with traditional publishing versus e-publishing; he has a proven track record and knows what he can make as a midlist author in both. Turning down 500k with years of information is calculable and understandable.

A brand new author, who has not traveled the traditional road, who may have the gifts as a writer plus the fortune to score a multimillion dollar deal with a publisher—ads in USA Today, movie contracts, etc.—would be a fool to turn down the potential. A new author who experiences success like recent writers Dan Brown, Jodi Picoult, Michael Connley, Sara Gruen, and on and on will have riches beyond anything even calculable in e-publishing.

Remember…no one heard of Stieg Larsson five years ago. Now, with three books, the dead author’s calculated wealth is over 150 million dollars according to online sources.

Blake Crouch said...

Great insights, Scott, and congrats on all your success! The new book looks fantastic.

Rabid Fox said...

Very nice write-up. This tears it... I'm heading to Amazon now.

Best of luck on this one, Scott.

Robin Sullivan said...

A throughly enjoyable and edicational read. Thanks so much to both of you for continuing to bring such insightful commentary.

I've spent some time recently at Absolute Write's Water Cooler where the authors are very Pro "coroporate" and think only a few can make it with self-publishing. It's so refreshing to hear other voices confirming what I've already seen myself.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Robin Sullivan said...

AuthorVStone said...
Not much of a competition with the big boys if they sell books at 7.99 and still hit the top 10. Indie authors can def make more money than with traditional deals, but we haven't hit parity yet.


To the author's wallet it doesn't matter as they make more even while selling less - but yes I agree I'm waiting for the day when an indie author is priced the same as a traditional author and they sell equally. We'll get there we've only recently seen ANY indies on the Top 100 list. Heck it wasn't too long ago when an indie was hoping and dreaming of topping the top 1000. It'll come.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Coolkayaker1 said...

Robin: "Absolute Write's Water Cooler where the authors are very Pro "coroporate" and think only a few can make it with self-publishing."

The writers at Water Cooler are seeing that the top of their game in 2011 in e-publishing (Konrath, Hocking, etc) make 500k-4million.

The top of their game in traditional publishing in 2011 (Gruen, Larsson, Meyer, etc) make 30million to one billion (S Meyer is approaching the levels of Rowling).

A new author with skills without a track record to place them at midlist would choose which route?

Robin Sullivan said...

T.J. Dotson said...
Its amazing to me that people can't see this isn't an 'either-or' type of deal. Indie publishing can lead to a book deal. Also, instead of wasted hours chasing a publisher down, you can sell your own books..and make money. I'm sure Jon Locke or Konrath, could at the very least get a meeting with any of the big six guys; if they wanted too.


I couldn't agree with you more. When my husband Michael Sullivan was offered six-figures for a 3-book deal it was BECAUSE he had self-published. If he had submitted through the standard channels he would have gotten more like $15K - $30K.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

author Scott Nicholson said...

Lori, romance readers also shop in bulk at thrift stores, like my mom, who buys them by the box--she'd laugh at a $12 book. There are multiple audiences and consumers

thanks, Selena, you are an inspiration to me, too! Like Joe says, seeing people live their dreams is a truly satisfying thing.

Gary, I did that cover myself--after going around with professional graphic designers, I realized it was nearly impossible to make them "think small" and that they were marketing a postage stamp. One image, big title, that's really all you have room and time for. Plus I understood the mood of the book, which Barry Eisler talks about on his blog. My name should have been bigger but I'd rather see the legs myself...

Come on back up to the mountains anytime, Rebecca--it's another reason I am happy to work at home!

Coolkayaker1, the trouble with that theory is it will get exponentially harder to break into NY, and then you emerge with a book on what shelf in two years? Is it no surprise these instant indie pub deals are rushed to market? It's shrewd. No iron stays hot for long. Remember when Larsson was locked in at 1-2-3? Now they have to fake a few more "lost manuscripts" to squeeze dimes out of his corpse. Hell, I saw VC Andrews in Walmart the other day...

Hi Blake, Jeff, Robin!

"Deleted Comments," I sure wish you'd come back--I am here to learn, not judge!

Scott

Robin Sullivan said...

@Coolkayaker1 said...
A brand new author, who has not traveled the traditional road, who may have the gifts as a writer plus the fortune to score a multimillion dollar deal with a publisher—ads in USA Today, movie contracts, etc.—would be a fool to turn down the potential. A new author who experiences success like recent writers Dan Brown, Jodi Picoult, Michael Connley, Sara Gruen, and on and on will have riches beyond anything even calculable in e-publishing.


I just did an analysis on my blog of two authors that aren't outliers like Hocking or Locke. They are "midlist" average Joes that work hard and have talent. One is Jim C. Hines (Traditional) and the other is David Dalglish(Self) and the differences between their incomes is pretty revealing.

You can check it out here.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Robin Sullivan said...

@Coolkayaker1 said... T
The writers at Water Cooler are seeing that the top of their game in 2011 in e-publishing (Konrath, Hocking, etc) make 500k-4million.

The top of their game in traditional publishing in 2011 (Gruen, Larsson, Meyer, etc) make 30million to one billion (S Meyer is approaching the levels of Rowling).

A new author with skills without a track record to place them at midlist would choose which route?


None of those people you mention are "midlist" they are all "outliers" and at the "top"...That's why I did a comparision of "midlist" people - chack it out....

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Kendall Swan said...

@Joe Flynn-Thanks to you, too, for sharing your numbers. Looks like you are having some awesome Hocking like growth as well. Congrats!

@Coolkayaker
That's a cool site--and it loads faster than thesaurus.com-- Thanks for the tip!

Remember…no one heard of Stieg Larsson five years ago. Now, with three books, the dead author’s calculated wealth is over 150 million dollars according to online sources.

I read all three as ebooks-- I didn't see them in the bookstore (bc I don't go anymore) or at Walmart (I do go there but not for books). I saw them on the Kindle bestseller lists. When it comes to digital-- 'corporate publishers' don't have the boatloads of advantages-- it's much more about the book. And the trilogy example in particular is a great illustration of word of mouth rather than corporate marketing-- something indies can and do benefit from just as easily as corporate published books.

As long as print is around, corporate has advantages in that arena, but print won't be around much longer.

I think I click on the 'tell the publisher you'd like to read this on Kindle' button at least twice a week. And I've gotten 5 people in my family to get and read on Kindles (any ereader will do, tho). And now they are like me and get a little annoyed if they have to read a paper book. It's very inconvenient.

A new author with skills without a track record to place them at midlist would choose which route?

Can a midlist not become a superstar? Is it either or?

@Robin
I'm about to head into my local RWA chapter conference tonight where I am that 'self publishing girl'--tho admittedly less strange than 2 years ago when I joined. They still don't understand why I didn't sign up for any pitch sessions.

Maybe I can corner a few of the agents tonight at the bar and see if they still think self pubbers are tainted.

Happy Writing, all!
Kendall

NAKED Slumber Party and Other Stories

Coolkayaker1 said...

Robin-- just as Konrath and Hocking are outliers in e-publishing.

Scott-- thanks for your reply. I understand that you have opted for e-publishing. It is clear that is best for you. And for taht, I wish you success.

In 2011, however, the sinking ship of traditional publishing, with it's huge advertising and distribution and Hollywood connections, is laden with gold and jewels beyond anything the e-pub rescue ship has even imagined.... in 2011, for those that can jump the traditional ship, they can still wallow in the wealth and get off alive.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, this particular Newbies Guide To Publishing is very baised away from traditional publishing for new authors. The vast majority of other blogs and website (eg. Water Cooler) are less provincial.

The track records of hundreds of recently ultra-successful authors suggests new authors should consider trastional publishing before relgating themselves to e-publishing if they have the skills, and the luck, they will score a bounty larger than the Atocha Shipwreck off the Florida Keys.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

Great points, indeed.

The future is neither good nor bad. The future doesn’t care. And the future is always changing.

Absolutely true. The future is never certain, and it's foolish to think that anything is guaranteed to last. What is guaranteed is that change will come, is coming, and can be actively invoked if a person has the moxie and the luck.

Casey Moreton said...
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author Scott Nicholson said...

Okay, well, most of us won't be Steig Larrsson or Casey here...but EVERY ONE OF US IS AN EXCEPTION. NO exceptions!

Scott

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Daryl Sedore said...

Yeah, we're all unique, just like everyone else...

Casey Moreton said...
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David said...
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Joe Flynn said...

"Success sure is fun, Scott. Failure is not."

The comment above misses the point. If writing is fun for you, there's no way to fail by doing it. If writing is not fun for you, the most you can hope for is to be a successful hack.

Twenty years passed from my first moment of inspiration as a writer to the time I got my first book deal. Even after putting in two decades working at my craft, I was just starting to get good.

But I had fun the whole time, and I still do. I hope to keep writing until shortly before my wife rakes my ashes into a bed of roses.

If you think you're a writer but don't have a passion for the work, find something to do that actually pleases you.

Robert Bidinotto said...

Great post at your blog, Robin, which confirms everything Joe has been saying here. You focused not on the "outliers" of self-publishing, like Hocking and Locke, but on two midlist authors, comparable in virtually every important respect. One, published by Corporate, has been struggling over four years and is still not making a self-supporting income from his writing. The other -- never traditionally published, and who began to self-publish ebooks just last year -- has seen his sales soar from $800 last August to $12,000 in March.

What does this tell the author caught up interminably in what Robin calls "the Query-Go-Round"?

Robin Sullivan said...

@Kendall Swan - I'd be so interested to hear what they have to say - keep me posted !

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Casey Moreton said...
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Joe Konrath said...

Success sure is fun, Scott. Failure is not.

I spent 12 years writing 9 novels that were rejected over 500 times.

When you're at that point, you can start talking about failure.

It took me over twenty years, writing over 2 million words, to get where I am right now. And even then, my success is largely the result of luck.

You gotta keep at it. Never say die.

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Rebecca Stroud said...

Casey - If it makes you feel any better, I am also a struggling author and I've been writing professionally for at least a dozen years. And, believe me, I'm not being patronizing here. Just letting you know that I understand your frustrations. Hope you hang in there. For what it's worth, I am, as I have nowhere else to go but up.

Daryl Sedore said...

@Casey

Wow, too negative. People have spoke up and said their piece. You're the only one who can change the way you see your situation.

Either brush your shoulders off and stay at it with whatever fight you have left in your bones, or walk away and be done with it. Do it on your terms.

The barrage of negativity serves nothing. Listen to Anthony Robbins or watch "The Secret" and move on, or stay stuck and stop growing. It always will be and is your decision.

People with money don't have excuses. People with excuses don't have money

Joe Konrath said...

It's 2011?

I got my first rejection in 1988.

That means it took me 23 years to become a big success.

But in those 23 years I wrote 25 novels and over 200 short stories.

So you need to lick your wounds and keep at it.

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Mark said...

Liquid Fear looks awesome - just downloaded a copy. Great cover!

Mark Edwards

Merrill Heath said...

Casey said:
Some get love. Some get shit...

It's so awesome. I re-edited all my books, put on great new covers, and I'm now actually selling a 4th of what I was previously.


Casey, I sold a whopping 10 books last month. But I'm not on here whining. I'm trying to contribute to the conversation and take away something that might be helpful. I'm patient and working on my next book. When I'm done with it I'll start on the next one. And I'm thankful for constructive criticism.

Perhaps your attitude has something to do with getting shit on?

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

David said...

"Vanessa, that $7.99 Top 10 has changed dramatically in just two years and I expect it to change even faster."

Removing John Locke, Amanda Hocking, Joe, Sudoku, and the bible, 18% of the Top 100 were $2.99 or under this morning.

Coral Russell said...

Hi Scott! Through author direct I actually acquired, like, all your books... lol I think I'm going to read the Red Church first.

Can I also say you're a great editor to work with and I'm not the only one that's saying so! You came highly recommended.

Good luck!!

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Blake Crouch said...

@Casey - I've gotten the shit kicked out of me, and I know Joe has too, along with a lot of people here, and I hate to read the despair in your comments here, but I understand it. I've never quite been to the point of saying, "fuck all this" but I've had low times where I could imagine reaching that point. Where I could see it coming. I always told myself if I did reach that point, I'd take all of the outside pressures and expectations out of the equation and simply go back to writing for the pure joy of it. The same joy that made me start when I was in 8th grade. When I was dealing with the staggering incompetence and frustrations with my traditional publisher, somehow I did hold onto that core love of writing and that's what got me through those times. Just going back to putting one word in front of the other, trying to write the kind of book I love to read, and believing my best work, the book that is going to make all this fucking pain worth it, is still ahead of me. Stay strong man, and good luck.

Casey Moreton said...

Blake, that is all I wanted to hear. Just something real and honest. Thank you.

Joe Konrath said...

I just bought all your ebooks, Casey.

Never say die, brother.

Mark Terry said...

Most interesting and informative blog post on e-book publishing I've read in a very long time. Thanks.

Casey Moreton said...

That's the first time I've smiled in a while. A good long while. Think I might start a new book tonight.

C. Pinheiro said...

I don't know if it's this blog, but Casey's sales rank isn't really that bad, in fact, his sales rank is better on all his books than mine.

And that's despite the fact that he had bad reviews for poor editing and typos. Those are very hard to overcome, even if you do a new upload. IMHO, it's easier to start over with a new edition ( and a new detail page).

Eloheim and Veronica said...

@joe
I spent 12 years writing 9 novels that were rejected over 500 times.

Holy shit... No, I mean HOLY FUCK!

I know I have a lot of perseverance, but I don't know if I would have been able to do that.

Thanks to your example, I don't have to walk down that path.

The paperback version of my book went live on Amazon today (through LSI) and the Kindle version has been going for a couple of weeks now.

I'm thrilled and so are my readers. Book #2 is nearly complete.

So, WOW and thanks.
Veronica

The Choice for Consciousness: Tools for Conscious Living, Vol. 1

Joe Konrath said...

Holy shit... No, I mean HOLY FUCK!

The measure of a person's worth is how much they can take before they finally give up.

And...

Too many people quit without realizing how close they were to succeeding.

And...

Illegitimi non carborundum.

It wasn't ever a question of failing with me.

It was a question of how long the world would take to catch up to me.

Joe Konrath said...

Rock on, Scott!

#1800 this morning.

#295 right now.

That's a damn impressive book launch.

Garry M. Graves said...

...JK, aside from your incredible writing, your existence on this blog space is very comfortable and homey for so many. Thanks for being there.

Megg Jensen said...
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author Scott Nicholson said...

Amen, Joe. I had more than 500 rejects before I sold a novel. A few hundred after that. I quit counting. I bottomed out emotionally in 2006, ran out of book deals, I won;t say I was suicidal but I had no interest in living. Somehow through it all I kept writing--feeling, thinking, knowing there was a reason.

A reason I might not ever understand. All I know is that everything I was ever made to do was to get here, today. In gratitude. And to help others where I could. And funny how every experience of my life now coincides perfectly on this personal cottage industry. I was simply made to be here now. That's how I feel.

Five years ago, I didn't. So hang in there, no matter where you are. Type blind, type sick, type in pain. That's the good stuff.

Scott Nicholson

Megg Jensen said...

Both Borders & Blockbuster are currently going out of business in my town. Ironic, no?

Joe, you said we need to know the right questions to ask an agent if they come knocking on our door. So, what are the questions we should ask? Let's see a post on that.

In the meantime, y'all can check out an interview I did with agent Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency where she discusses how the agent's role is changing to fit indies...

http://meggjensen.blogspot.com/2011/03/q-with-andrea-brown-agent-mary-kole.html

Thanks muchly,

Megg

author Scott Nicholson said...

Another funny story--Liquid Fear was originally conceived when my agent said "Write a thriller." Any thriller. Didn't matter. Had to do an outline. I hate outlines. How the hell do I know how the story would end until I took the journey?

Agent took it to an editor who was a fan of mine. (this was somewhere in 2006/07). Outline was "confusing." Of course it was. The book wasn't written! I hadn't discovered anything. What was there to say?

So here we are years later and I said, "You know what? I can write it however I damn well please!" And so I did...

Scott

Tim Myers said...

I made my first short story sale in 1993, on today's anniversary, April Fool's Day, how appropriate, and then had 127 rejections before I sold the next one. I promised myself after 100 bounces I'd quit, but I kept at. I'm so glad I did. Now I've got a track record with legacy I'm proud of, and Joe has made me an indie convert, too!

Just remember, keep the faith, even when it's all you've got!

author Scott Nicholson said...

Megg, having worked with a handful of agents on different things, the questions would depend. But I'm damaged goods so I would assume going fresh, you'd ask:

Where do see my books in the market and with what publisher?
How do you feel about the rapidly changing publishing environment, particularly ebooks?
Do you have a long-term strategy to build my career?
How do you feel about my self-publishing while you shop books?


Good agents are adapting, from my observation. They are watching. Probably a few read this blog regularly to keep informed. Some agents are fighting for better e-right splits. Like everything with this business, the smart will adapt and thrive. But getting an agent is like getting married without a pre-nup and usually without even a first date. They go, "I'd like to shop this" and you go, (tongue hanging out like a hound dog getting patted), "Gee, do you like me? Do you REALLY like me?"

See my column Monday at indiereader.com, "Fifteen Percent for Life."

Scott

Tim Myers said...

Scott, I don't know if you remember me, but we signed side by side in Boone a long time ago! I remember that my cozy fans and your horror fans had a great time standing side by side! They didn't quite know what to make of each other!

I've enjoyed watching your success grow, and I'm happy you're doing so well!

Congratulations!

Dean Wesley Smith said...

Scott, great article. I have a hunch the final outcome will be somewhere between your view and mine on the bookstore topic. I am sure going to hate watching so many great indie stores go down.

I did a poll three years ago at the World Science Fiction convention, asking major writers (who had been writing and working like I have for over twenty years) how many crashes they had had. (I defined crash as not being able to sell anything, feeling like their career was over.) The average among ten writers I asked was 4 crashes in twenty years. Lowest was three, highest was five. I had four. (This was before the indie publishing day.)

How does anyone remain a fiction writer? Or become one? Just never give up. When it looks hopeless and the rejections are piling up and the sales on Kindle are low, just keep going. Keep learning.

Great article, Scott, Joe.

Jude Hardin said...

Great post, Joe and Scott!

Hang in there, Casey. We all get down on ourselves sometimes, and depression (as Joe's previous post illustrates) is common among creative types. If you ever feel you need it, there's help out there. Don't hesitate to take advantage of it.

Jason said...

Scott...Liquid Fear is at #201 now. You know it'll break the 200 barrier tonight!

Casey...get your ebooks up on B&N asap! I only see your (way overpriced) legacy published ebooks there. I know I can probably convert the Kindle books so I can read them on my Nook, but it's much more preferable to click and start reading right away.

Speaking of legacy published ebooks - Casey all of your self-pubbed ebooks are kicking the crap out of your (way overpriced) legacy pubbed ebooks as far as Amazon sales ranking goes. But yeah, I guess that's to be expected.

Still working on my debut book. It's a cozy coffee house mystery called Mugged by a Mug...

author Scott Nicholson said...

Of course I remember you, Tim! That lighthouse in the mountains? A very kooky and memorable concept for a mystery series! Are you still in Hickory?

Thanks, Dean, I know plenty of other writers like me appreciate you sharing your experiences--I actually think there will be a window of opportunity for smart, personable indie bookstores to emerge from the rubble. One the economies of scale aren't stacked against them, they can go back to selling books instead of pimping Patterson at 60 percent off.

Glad you stopped by, Jude.

Jason, it's always good to see those comparisons with the same author--I think I have one ebook out there from my former publisher. To be honest, I haven't looked at it in a year, and have a disincentive to promote it--that's how bizarre things have gotten...

I'd love to break the Top 100 but I don't think I'm organized enough. If I were organized, I might really be dangerous!

Scott

Coolkayaker1 said...

Joe. I know you don't need me to write what I'm about to write, just as I don't have to write it. But here it is: I have sublime respect for anyone that sticks to goals and a personal mission. My job took 12 years of schooling and training after high school, with a bushel of luck and an orchard of effort to grown my apples, figuratively.

I have the utmost respect for the amount of time, effort, words written, editing and years that you have put into your craft. Even your openness and work on your blog--this glorious, unpredjudiced and free blog--reflects your dedication to the art of writing. I did buy and read all--- yes, all--1100 pages of your Newbies Guide...so I know how hard you have worked. You say it again here in this thread.

You are honest. You are very skilled at your craft. You walk the walk. I admire your fortitude, and your dedication. I personally admire it. Very much. -- Steve

nwrann said...

@Casey,

Why are all of your posts deleted?

Elisa Michelle said...

Honestly, all of this is very interesting to watch. I've never really liked the thought of traditional publishing. Since the first time someone explained it (poorly) to me, I've always seen it as a corporation. A money-making business, nothing more.

This post comes at a strange time for me. I have a good-sized group of writers as online friends and I recently polled which they would go for, self or traditional publishing and why. All of them came back traditional because it's 1)easier, not as confusing, marketing-wise 2) the only way to become a "real" author and 3) self-publishing costs way too much up front. These are the same three things I've heard over and over again, and this post reminds me that writers still know very little about their options.

But that was random. Sorry. When I take my little self publishing plunge, we'll see which of these good cop/bad cop sayings hold true for me. Hope for more good than bad.

WDGagliani said...

Hi Scott,

Thanks for a great piece that manages to hit all the uncertainty in our old-and-new business: the only certainty is that it's all so uncertain. Seems as though the journey, as you put it, must end up being somewhat different for everyone... your career arc is inspirational precisely because it's so wiggly, and it proves that no matter how wiggly they get, everyone's arcs can be rewarding. How rewarding can be measured in different ways. Good luck with your continuing journey, and with continuing to help educate others as you travel along. I'm about to buy Liquid Fear.

Howl on,

Bill

Mark Asher said...

@JL Bryan: "I don't think a large corporation can compete with the extremely low cost of being an indie. There's just very little up-front cost involved in creating a book--mostly time and effort."

I agree that they can't compete on cost, but they can compete with marketing money that indies don't have. They will buy premium placement at Amazon and B&N. They will get reviews from sources readers have heard of rather than from internet blogs. And they will sales price some books at $1-$3, at least on a temporary basis.

Right now the bulk of their profit is still in paper, so I don't think they have given ebooks their full attention. And in terms of how low they will go with pricing, that Harlequin imprint that is online only has $2.99 novellas and $4.99 novels. If Harlequin can get that low, the others will figure out how to do so also.

I'm not saying they will displace indie books, but I don't think we've seen their best efforts yet to crack this market. Once ebooks become the main market I expect to see them adopt different tactics.

Mark Asher said...

" 3) self-publishing costs way too much up front."

They either have no idea about how easy it is to self-publish or they are thinking of vanity presses.

If they are computer-literate, they can figure out how to put an ebook up for sale on Amazon and B&N, and the only cost is their time. It's not like cheesy covers have kept some books from selling, though I o agree that a good cover really helps.

Mark Asher said...

"I don't know if it's this blog, but Casey's sales rank isn't really that bad, in fact, his sales rank is better on all his books than mine."

I was thinking the same thing. You can make money at those ranks. Maybe not big money, but get enough books out there selling at those ranks and you can get by. There are a lot of people out there not selling as well.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Elisa, my God, what Kool-Ade have they been drinking? Something from the back of the fridge circa 2006?

No overhead if you have the skills or can trade for them--you will be doing most of your marketing anyway--and who is the "real" author? The one that keeps reaching thousands of readers, or the one that had two people (one editor and one agent) validate them once upon a time?

Bill, thanks for coming by. Security is always an illusion. Look at the working class whose jobs vanished and benefits vanished and insurance vanished and pensions vanished and houses vanished. The only security you can have is whatever you can muster in your faith.

Mark, glad you came by--good points

Scott

wannabuy said...

@Merrill Heath:"Bottom line -- printed books go out of print long before they reach market saturation. Ebooks do not."

:) As a reader I love that ebooks will be available.

I would quibble on 'market saturation.' For any genre, there are always new readers entering the market. e.g., an author's book inspires the book that is the hit movie. ;)

Neil

wannabuy said...

@Robin:"I just did an analysis on my blog of two authors that aren't outliers like Hocking or Locke."

Interesting read. $10k/month for indie versus $1.5k to $4k for the Legacy. Kudos to Jim and David for sharing.

I agree with your quote: "I’m sorry to say, just based on sheer numbers, the “typical writer” is someone who will never really make it regardless of which way they go." :(

Neil

Archangel said...

[the] “typical writer” is someone who will never really make it regardless of which way they go."

thanks for saying a hard truth. This is true for many. And/ But, I'd like to add, that no one knows who will 'make it' in this current Cherokee Strip ebook world. Yet, the good news, I think, is everyone has an equal chance to upload, unlike olden pubknuckle publishers whose gates kept taking on smaller and smaller sieve openings. In last decades I've been published by bigger houses, I've seen so so many dark horses, so many amazing little peeps who turn out to be high jumpers, so many unpromising souls [by someone's myopic sights'] who forged ahead anyway. I think the parity of ebks makes it so much more possible. I've lived long, seen so many people who might not be the greatest dazzlebox, maybe not most lyrical or even most polished, but by their showing up like Zelig, just continuously showing up with new, same, different:
they too often make their mark. Short version: I hope all of us will keep on, give it everything we've got, but not give up. I hope we will all Hang in there.

J.M.Cornwell said...

Big publishing still has a few rabbits in the hat to pull, but not as many as there once were. Yes, there is still crap out there, but that has never changed. Crap will always find its level and there will be plenty of people lining up to take their money to get published.

I've said it before. Indie publishing is not one-size fits all and not everyone will make Joe's or Amanda Hocking's kind of money. As far as I'm concerned, as long as I'm making enough to be comfortable and can quit my day job without having to move to a box beneath an overpass that has DSL and electricity (toilets are optional as long as grass and bushes nearby are available), I'll be content because I'll be doing what I always wanted to do -- write.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Hmm, looks like the lesson here is "Don't be typical!"

Scott

nwrann said...

I don't know if it's this blog, but Casey's sales rank isn't really that bad, in fact, his sales rank is better on all his books than mine.

I could be wrong but I think Casey came on here specifically to cry about his sales and threaten the world with giving up in the hopes that Konrath would pimp his books, rocketing his sales rank into the stratosphere. He then went back and deleted his whiny, negative posts after his mission was accomplished so that they wouldn't follow him around forever like that woman that blew up on Big Al's.

Joe, you might want to be careful, otherwise this place is going to get overrun with a bunch of lost puppies following you home, crying for you to make them best sellers.

Note: a quick search shows that he never commented before the Kiana Davenport blog, and that he only has one positive comment (on the Ann Voss Peterson) before posting (and then deleting) whiny posts about sales on the Origin Experiment blog.

C. Pinheiro said...

like that woman that blew up on Big Al's.

I'm not in the mood to play snake with you! My writing is fine!!!

(that series of crazy posts has become a meme, it's gone viral-- it was weird watching an author's career implode in a few minutes)

Helen Hanson said...

Congrats, Scott!

It's a great post with a compelling list of things for writers to consider.

Me? I want to write all day in my jammies and pay off the house with royalties. Whether I ever have a signing in a NYC bookstore is lower on my list.

I'm with you on protecting the spiritual element of a writer's career. We have to take a long-haul mentality. It's easy to start believing your own press. That applies even when a writer doesn't have any, as was so tragically demonstrated at Big Al's. The review should have remained the origin of the author's single bad mood. Sadly, she simmered for days before the lid blew.

Take care.

Casey Moreton said...

@NWRANN

That was not my intention at all, but thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt and for the kind words. Yesterday was a minor meltdown and I didn't feel the need to leave my comments out there for posterity. Peace.

svigkahuna said...

Thank you guys for such an insightful dialogue. It's nice to know I'm not alone in the climb up Everest. I can relate as I've definitely been in this for the long haul. I've tried to "break in" for the past 24 years now.

The irony is, the worst piece of crap I ever wrote sold immediately, a screenplay back in 1993. I was under pressure to write it in five days based on a single sentence pitch. The experienced proved to me that entertainment is not sold on its merit, but on its commercial viability alone. Why else would we be flooded with remakes, sequels, prequels and films based on video game franchises? It's the safe bet. All entertainment companies are subject to shareholders and they want to see profits, not artistic risk. I've worked in Hollywood for over 20 years now and this is simply fact.

I've got 3 finished novels, 15 screenplays, dozens of skits, and over 100 short stories written over the past 25 years. I also have a file drawer of rejection letters which I refuse to count as they suck the life out of me.

I have tried quitting but writing is a drug. I love getting in the zone. On the days that I dive into my worlds and eight hours pass without me even noticing-- that's the best high there is. Writing is the hardest work I've done, but it's the most rewarding. I love the process.

However, self promoting is hell. I've read a lot about it, been watching everyone do it, and I still have a long road ahead. Hopefully I'll find my audience. I have many more ideas I still need to exhaust in this area. Like everyone here I have many more stories I want to tell, but we all have bills to pay. I'm glad to here Scott and J.A. have been slugging it out as long as they have. It gives me hope.

I wish you guys continued success in your publishing and marketing efforts. I wish everyone here the best of luck. We're all trying to scale the same mountain range.

svigkahuna said...

Ah, svigkahuna is me, Sven Davison www.stateofmindbook.com

Thanks for reading!

svigkahuna said...

And is it fair to ask forgiveness for my typos in a room full of writers?

author Scott Nicholson said...

Sven, I've published three of my screenplays--I figure the odds are better of finding a producer that way than walking around Hollywood with a lightning rod, and I also get a few coins in the process. There's not a huge audience but there is some.

Hi Helen, glad you could stop by. I don't wear jammies but I go for the dirty sweatpants, when I remember to get dressed at all...

I've had the ego crap, the acceptance, the awards, good reviews in NYT and PW. And it added up to squat. All I care about now are readers and feeding my family.

Also, it may have sounded like my agent was bad or that I was down on him--no, he tried really hard and was a good guy. Circumstances were just stacked against me from the moment I signed that first contract, and I just never knew it until much later.

Scott

Scott

J.M.Cornwell said...

How were they stacked against you, Scott?

nwrann said...

@Casey,

I just call it like I see it.

Regardless I wish you the best of luck in finding a more consistent way to gain success and avoid minor meltdowns in the future. Maybe posting on Kindleboards, creating a web presence (site, FB, Twitter, blog) and getting more good reviews.

C. Pinheiro said...

Casey, did you realize that your actual blog name has a big typo in it? I think you should correct that fast.


casey moreton's heartbreaking blog of staggering genious

C. Pinheiro said...

Not sure if it's a tongue-in-cheek joke, so I'm just mentioning it, because Blogger's spell-check doesn't work on the design features, like the blog title.

Nicholas La Salla said...

Great guest blog -- Scott's always insightful, and it's fun to see him go rounds against himself with the whole good cop/bad cop routine.

And of course, by and large, he's right on the money. I like Joe's perspective too because it is more optimistic. As both of your opinions are opinions, unless one of you can see the future, of course.

Let me know otherwise. ;-)

Best,

Nick
One More Day

Casey Moreton said...

@C. Pinheiro

You just made me laugh out loud! I forgot I'd even created that blog. That was about a year ago and I've never posted on it. Real GENIUS, right?

Brenda said...

Your journey feels very "meant to be" to me, too, Scott. I think in order to not be a typical writer, that you need to do several things that you and Joe have done, such as write at least a million or two words, create websites and blogs that offer something to others, follow marketing plans, persevere after rejection, and again, be generous to other writers and people in general. All that takes a lot of guts and persistence as well as a certain spirit.

El Spark said...

Hey Joe. You damn well helped me on my journey. I've just gotten started with a few short stories, and I'm looking forward to having my first novel up there within a month. Thanks to you and other bloggers who made the advantages and disadvantages of indie ebook publishing so clear.

Mr. Fuches said...

Thank you all, everyone here, very much indeed. This morning, for the first time in some time, I don't feel crazy. I'm pretty much weepingly grateful for that.

My story is like many others: maybe 1000 rejections, picked up by major publisher, they bollocked up my second release, dead in the water lately, hope restored by indie ebook revolution - and by the totally lovely words of support and encouragement by all the people here who have been riding the same emotional hurricanes. Bless you. Seriously.

Michael Stephen Fuchs

www.michaelstephenfuchs.com

Monster A Go-Go said...

I know... I know... Kindle is the way to go. Whatever... Call me a fiend, but I still prefer my books made from the flesh of MURDERED TREES!!!!

A.E. Ryne said...

I just e-published my first novel, Watching Her World Fall Down, and have had problems with formatting, getting it published on B&N, creating a cover that's catchy, worrying that it sucks because it hasn't sold, and... I finally had to ask myself what I would do if nothing I wrote ever sold. Answer? I'd keep writing. I really enjoy writing so why would I stop just because I'm not making money off of it? I hope to one day make a living writing, but until then, I'm going to keep writing because I love it and can't imagine not writing!