Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Monetizing Your Intellectual Property

So you've got this story you want to e-publish. It's about 5000 words long. You've seen the success Barry Eisler has had with The Lost Coast, selling a short story on Kindle for $2.99, but you don't have Barry Eisler's fanbase. So you decide to price it modestly at 99 cents.

After it goes live, you mention it a few times on your blog, on Twitter, on Kindleboards.com. Then you move on to your next project, content that you'll forever earn money on this short story.

But are you truly maximizing this story's potential?

No. You're not even close.

Let's look at five of my short stories. The Screaming, a vampire story that originally appeared in an anthology six years ago. Symbios, a sci-fi/horror take that originally appeared in Apex Digest. Shapeshifters Anonymous, which was originally in the Wolfsbane & Mistletoe anthology. Serial, which I wrote with Blake Crouch expressly for Kindle as a freebie. And Truck Stop, a Jack Daniels/Jack Kilborn crossover I wrote for Kindle.

The Screaming appeared in trade paperback, mass market paperback, and then in a reprint anthology. I recently released it as a standalone ebook for 99 cents on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. But I didn't stop there.

The Screaming is in my $2.99 collection Horror Stories (which is also available as a self-published trade paperback.) Horror Stories is part of a larger, omnibus collection called 65 Proof (also available as a trade paper.)

I did the same thing with Symbios and Shapeshifter's Anonymous. They're both available as singles, in Horror Stories, and in 65 Proof.

Three stories. Fifteen ways to buy them.

Serial, which Blake and I wrote a few years ago, is still available for free (and still in the Kindle Free Top 100.) We also released it for 99 cents, and, incredibly, people are buying it. Since authors can't release ebooks for free on Kindle, Nook, Sony, or the others, we went through my legacy publisher to do so. But realizing that Serial might be missed by those who don't shop for freebies, we put it out at 99 cents for those surfing Amazon,'s other areas, and we sell a few hundred copies a month.

We also sold Serial to Cemetery Dance for the anthology Shivers VI, where it appears between the covers with Stephen King and Peter Straub. Serial is also in 65 Proof, and Blake's collection Six in the Cylinder. And Six in the Cylinder is in his omnibus Fully Loaded, which is also available in print.

But we weren't done monetizing Serial.

Banking on Serial's popularity, we released a longer version called Serial Uncut, on all ebook platforms. It's also available as a trade paperback, which includes my story Truck Stop, and Blake's story Bad Girl, along with more original content. Naturally, Truck Stop and Bad Girl are also available as 99 cent stand-alones.

Serial Uncut has proven to be very lucrative, earning us tens of thousands of dollars. We just wrote a sequel, Killers, which is now available.

Can you guess where we're going next? Killers Uncut will be out soon, in ebook and self-published trade paper. Then it's a no-brainer to bundle both versions (which will be a whopping 90,000 word novel) into Serial Killers Uncut, which will be a $5.99 ebook and a $15 paperback.

Horror Stories and Serial Uncut were also sold as audiobooks to Brilliance Audio. And Serial had its film rights optioned. My agent is working on foreign deals for these properties.

You're getting the idea, right?

A single intellectual property can be exploited in multiple ways. It can be sold as a single, as a part of multiple collections, as an expanded version, as a bundle. It can be sold to anthologies and magazines, to audio and foreign markets, and can be self-published in print.

The more ways you package it, the more chances you'll have to reach new eyes.

In the past, a brick and mortar bookshelf had limited space. If authors wanted to be discovered, they improved their chances by taking up as much of that bookshelf as possible.

These days, the bookshelf is the internet, and it is infinite. The more IPs you have for sale, in various packages and formats, the more potential fans you'll find.

You don't need to have fifty unique IPs to have fifty products for sale.

Different people are looking in different places for different things. But if you properly package your story, you can vastly improve your reach. Just as in the print world, the more places you appear, and the more shelf space you occupy, the more you'll sell.

And for those keeping track of such things, I'm selling about 1500 ebooks a day.

99 comments:

TheSFReader said...

Great, Smart and so on ! Brilliant even, but please MENTION explicitely the content of your distinct packaged offerings, so that a customer can know when he is buying something he has already bought in an other package !

Gerald Hornsby said...

Good post (as usual) Joe.

I've had comments that say readers would like to read more from some of my short and micro fiction characters, so there is also the possibility of working a short story into a longer piece, to sell at a higher price, of course!

Selena Kitt said...

I did this with several of my anthologized shorts but I always mention which antho readers can find them in. I am uploading my books right now to a new distributor. They're small and carry mostly erotica but I was excited about a feature they offer to bundle books for one price. I wish the big distributors would allow bundling. It would be another great way to monetize.

T. B. Wright said...

How coincidentally fortuitous! I just released a short story, Thief's Deception on Smashwords for free and on Amazon for $.99. I hate that Amazon won't let the price go down to zero, as I think a short story of 5k words shouldn't really cost $.99.
However, it is about to go in a small collection of three or four shorts, and I am much more comfortable with that being at $.99.
Do you suggest keeping Thief's Deception up on Amazon for $.99 even after the collection is live, probably for the same price?

T.B. Wright
www.TheMcClurePapers.com

ezbeanz said...

I may just have to give this a whirl.

Allen Varney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allen Varney said...

If every author did this -- no, even every halfway-decent author whose works would attract a substantial audience -- if they all do this, soon Amazon will be flooded with multiple iterations of each item, and findability will become a still greater challenge.

If an author has (say) seven stories, should she then bundle each subset of four into a new collection, and thereby produce ten different bundles?

We need a common-sense best practice to discourage promiscuous rebundling.

TR Montressor said...

Love the post - actually, I love all the posts - but this one looks terrible in RSS. I had to come to the blog to read it.

Never thought about the potential for rebundling like that - thanks!

-TR Montressor
The Fullness of Time - an experimental collection of shorts.

kimboosan said...

I'm curious about what you consider "the tipping point" for putting out a self-published story (of any length); by which I mean, how many other stories/books do you need ready to add to the bookshelf?

I'm coming into my writing career late in life (hello, 40!) and I have very few *finished* stories. I could selfpub the couple I do have, or I can wait until I have a backlog of a few books. But waiting means waiting for maybe a year - I avg. only about 2,000 words a day, not including edits, when it's not mid-terms or finals in grad school - and that's time my other stories could be "out there". But they'd be out there without back up, so to speak.

Should a writer roll with just a novella, or wait until she's got five books to put on the shelf? *conflicted*

Nicholas La Salla said...

1500?! Holy crap, Joe, you're kicking some serious butt.

I'm putting together a collection of novellas, and never thought about possibly releasing each one individually besides just releasing the collection. Interesting...

The possibilities in particular for short stories are endless. It's a lot better than getting a couple pennies thrown at you for each word.

Good work, as always, and keep on fightin' the good fight!

- Nick
One More Day

Lois D. Brown said...

Interesting posts and interesting comments. Sounds like a lot of your short stories were first in hard print. Can you ever do that backwards. Release it as an ebook, and they try to get a magazine or ezine to pick it up?

EB said...

Great stuff Joe. Thank you for sharing your bundling strategy.

Erik Blakkestad
ebookeconomy.com

S.J. Harris said...

Great info, Joe. Thanks!

I'm working on a horror story, and thinking about releasing it under another pseudonym. Is this wise, or should I try to get as much content as possible under one brand?

Cover Art Review

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Merrill Heath said...

@Nicholas: I'm putting together a collection of novellas, and never thought about possibly releasing each one individually besides just releasing the collection. Interesting...

Nicholas, I'm working on a series of novellas - The Alec Stover Mysteries. The 1st book was released last year. The 2nd book will be done in a couple of months. And the 3rd book will be out by the end of the year.

My plan is to release 3 per year as individual ebooks. Then do a collection of 3 each year in both print and ebook format.

Book 1 is currently priced at $1.49(down from $2.99 originally) and it's not doing much at that price. I suspect that $1.49 is kind of a "dead zone" between 99 cents and $2.99. I plan to drop the price to 99 cents when book 2 is released. Book 2 will be priced at $2.99.

Depending on how both books do at their respective price points, I may drop the price on book 2. We'll see what happens.

The collections will be priced at $2.99 if the individual ebooks sell best at 99 cents or at $5.95 if they sell at $2.99. Once I find the "sweet spot" on individual pricing, I'll try offer the collection at a 3-for-the-price-of-2 cost.

The print version of the collections will be priced in the range of a standard mass market paperback.

Once I get several books out there I'll be able to determine if this plan is going to work and, hopefully, get the pricing figured out. I just wish I had more time to write!

Merrill Heath
Alec Stover Mysteries

Coral Russell said...

Wow...

Coral Russell said...

The only downside I've read bad reviews (which have stopped me from buying) is when people find out their re-pub stories in anthologies of stories that they've already read, I guess because they've changed the name, but it's the same story.

I don't see it in what Joe's just written, but it's been done elsewhere.

Russell Brooks said...

Joe,

This is the same technique that they used with Lord Of the Rings trilogy. First release the movie, then the DVD, then the extended version DVD, the the Blue Ray, etc. It's deviant, devilish, and it works because it's a great way of identifying your true fans.

I have a short story trilogy in the works. I plan on maximizing on this.

As always, great post!

Russell Brooks
Author of the Action/Thriller, Pandora's Succession

Merrill Heath said...

Back to the point of Joe's article...Joe, you're a machine. I envy your output.

I'd love to get some short stories out on Kindle. I've got several that I wrote years ago that I may dig out and revise/update. But I'm unsure about the price. 99 cents seems a bit much for anything less than a fairly long short story. I'm thinking of maybe publishing a collection of 6 or 7 instead of putting them out individually. These are all relatively short - on average 1,500 words.

I'd love to hear everyone's opinion about pricing.

Merrill
Bearing False Witness

Rebecca M. Senese said...

@Lois D. Brown - Sorry I don't think that will work for short stories. If you look at the rights requested by magazines whether print or ezine they ask for first rights. So if you publish your short story online yourself, you've used that first right up.

However, if the magazine will accept reprints, that's a different right and you could send your story to them.

Jason said...

Correct me if I'm wrong Joe, but it looks to me like Dear Diary, The Eagle, and the 3 Hint Fiction shorts are the only things in '65 Proof' that were not in '55 Proof' that are also not available elsewhere...?

I'm gonna have to buy the 'Shapeshifters Anonymous' $.99 short. That's right up my alley!

Cunningham said...

Joe -

For certain properties, bundling and so on is the tip of the iceberg.

We have FRANKENSTEIN LIVES AGAIN! debuting on Kindle March 11th for $.99. This edition is just the book.

The "Collector's print edition" will feature a ton of extras taken from the author's archives. Our audience is the "Famous Monsters, 12 cent comic book, Aurora model kit" audience, and finally having all the books with all the backmatter in one place is important to them.

We already have posters available for sale of the cover art which you can see here:

http://pulp2ohpress.com/coming-soon-frankenstein-lives-again/

We also have tee shirts for sale featuring the same artwork.

Both the tee shirts and posters are printed to order so there was no cost to us.

And I am in the development phase of creating collectible resin statues based on the cover. Again - we are looking at developing these at no cost to us.

To top it off - there are a total of 11 adventures in the NEW ADVENTURES OF FRANKENSTEIN series by Donald F. Glut. So we will eventually collect them all AND an additional 12th novel that Don is working on to wrap up the entire series...

Oh, did I mention the audiobooks we're developing as well as the online animated series?

Lundeen Literary said...

@Lois -

You can try that route, but it's harder to do - most anthologies & magazines want something that is not currently available elsewhere. Some magazines and many anthology will accept reprints, but not usually if they are currently available in print somewhere else. Ebooks count as "in print" in this case.

@ Russell -

You're dead on with that analogy! I'm one of those Lord of the Rings / Star Wars suckers…


One thing about this - you have to be sure to label everything correctly, and always offer some level of new content, otherwise you're going to piss customers off!

Jenna
@lundeenliterary
www.lundeenliterary.com

Joe Konrath said...

Release it as an ebook, and they try to get a magazine or ezine to pick it up?

That's what we did with SERIAL, sold it after it was a Kindle ebook.

Joe Konrath said...

Correct me if I'm wrong Joe, but it looks to me like Dear Diary, The Eagle, and the 3 Hint Fiction shorts are the only things in '65 Proof' that were not in '55 Proof' that are also not available elsewhere...?

I'm gonna have to buy the 'Shapeshifters Anonymous' $.99 short. That's right up my alley!


Shapeshifters is also called SA, which is in 65 Proof and Horror Stories.

Dear Diary is at the end of Disturb as an extra.

The hint fiction was in a Hint Fiction collection previously, and The Eagle was never published anywhere--it's an old one.

The other additions to 65 Proof can be found elsewhere--Serial, Truck Stop, Planter's Punch, etc.

lol said...

Shorts can quickly test the waters for writings unrelated to what we typically publish. A 90,000 word labor of love is less laborious at 5,000 words and as sure a barometer of reader interest. "Art is long, life is short,judgment difficult, opportunity transient." [Goethe]

Alex said...

I agree with TheSFReader on this.

It's interesting that you had to go out and write a self-review on Amazon (giving yourself 5 stars) for one of your 'uncut' anthologies to address reader confusion. And still, many readers were asking politely: "is it worth it?"

If I fall victim to such strategy (having paid for the same stories twice in different compilations), I'd ban that author from my e-reader.

I'd also be disappointed that the author tricks me into buying the same material in order to get to some mysterious "lots of new stuff". Even if it's cheap.

Selena Kitt said...

It's true - readers HATE feeling "tricked." I recently got a 1-star review on my book, Foreign Exchange. It's a revamp of Naughty Bits, which Amazon banned for incest. I made it VERY CLEAR in my description what it was, but the reader didn't read the description. He said I'm an "automatic buy" so he saw a new title and clicked. And then felt ripped off.

As an author, you always run the risk of something like this when you're putting out different editions of the same thing.

Tara Maya said...

It's not like this is "pulling one over" on a reader, or that this is a new strategy. If you look up Isaac Azimov, one of my favorite authors, who wrote many, many books and short stories, you will find different editions of the same book, a short story and novel edition of the same book, other authors writing in his "universe" and a gazillion different anthologies that feature his work. I know that I have duplicates of many of his books (in print) and duplicates of many of his shorts (reprinted in various anthologies).

I would never stop reading an just because I bought the same story twice under different packaging. I'd rather duplicate than miss something from an author I love. Ironically, I think the more prolific an author is, the more likely that is to happen.

Tara Maya
Initiate
Conmergence

Ty Hutchinson said...

Packaging. The next step. This is what happens when you have complete control over your product and you put a lot of thought into market it.

Great job guys. Keep breaking down the walls and venturing into new turf.

waker said...

assume you've seen this, but just in case:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20110228/46289-waiting-for-a-fair-e-book-split--david-to-goliath-keep-the-advance.html

Russell Brooks said...

@Merrill Heath

You don't need to be concerned about the price of 99 cents for a short story. You're not the one that's spending, your readers are. From my past experience in sales, all I can say is that "There is no logic when it comes to sales."

I've dealt with clients that found it difficult to spend $8/month on an insurance policy, yet they had more than 6 pairs of shoes at the front door, a plasma TV, satellite television with over 200+ channels.

I say place it at 99 cents and let the buyers decide if they want to buy it or not. You worked for it, don't let anyone devalue what you've written.

Russell Brooks
Author of the Action/Thriller, Pandora's Succession

Joe Konrath said...

And still, many readers were asking politely: "is it worth it?"

Yep, it's worth it. Serial was 7000 words. Serial Uncut is 36,000.

This is the Daniel Keyes method of exploiting a property. First he wrote the short story Flowers For Algernon. Then he expanded it to a novella. Then he expanded it again to novel length.

Many authors have taken short stories and expanded on them. It might annoy some readers, but other readers are happy to have stories they enjoyed lengthened.

Kendall Swan said...

Of course I'm going to talk about short stories!

They rock! And ereaders are bringing them back in droves! I love the short form and love that money can be made with them.

Short story writers-- WRITE ON!!

I have made a little mini career out of writing ONLY digital short stories.

My very first novella literally went live yesterday (link below). It was fun writing it, but shorts are just so much more exciting to me for some reason.

Anyway, happy writing, y'all!

Kendall Swan
NAKED Vampire (New Erotic Novella)

Anonymous said...

I have a novel that I plan to break up into several novellas -- and from there I'll break those down to short stories and then paragraphs and maybe even words . . . and finally I'll package it all into a novel again and change the name. (With a good cover of course.)

Kendall Swan said...

@Allen - I love your term 'promiscuous bundling'- this is not a new issue, however. Too much repackaging can be a turn off just like bad writing. The cream will rise as usual.

And honestly, hunting around for a very specific paper magazine to read a short story by my favorite author is way more difficult then reading a couple of product descriptions on amazon/bn.

As long as we do like TheSFReader says and clearly list which stories are in the collection so the reader knows what they're buying, bundling isn't much of an issue.

@Joe- 1500 - You are my hero!!! May we all get there, too.

Cheers,

Kendall

NAKED Vampire

Basil Sands said...

I am gradually working on putting up the dozen or so short stories I have and debating whether to make it several short story collections, or sell them alone. Like TB mentioned 99 cents seems like a lot for a short story, but then again, not really.

I am thinking of a division like this:

1. Shorts that are back story to my novels, sell them individually at 99c.

2. popular or very good stand-alones individually at 99c

3. Other unrelated shorts, grouped by fours as a collection for $2.99

Er sumpin like dat

Heather Hildenbrand said...

joe- on a totally unrelated note- you should do a poste sometimes about your experience with createspace, and the paperback thing. I think you did one awhile ago, or at least stuck it into another post somewhere, but info on that would be great for some of us newbies, navigating the murky DIY waters. Thanks =)

www.heatherhildenbrand.blogspot.com

V. Furnas said...

Joe,

Another savvy post for writers. Did you see that Smashbohttp://blog.smashwords.com/

Joe Konrath said...

and finally I'll package it all into a novel again and change the name.

And then you'll comment anonymously like a coward.

Oh, wait. You already did that.

bowerbird said...

jenna said:
> One thing about this -
> you have to be sure to
> label everything correctly

that's very good advice...

but it's not enough.

requiring customers to
pore over your labeling
to avoid getting burned
is not a good thing to do.


> and always offer some
> level of new content,
> otherwise you're going
> to piss customers off!

again, that's good advice...

but...

...it cuts both ways. if you
make a customer "re-buy"
stuff they already bought
just to get the new content,
that will piss them off too...

***

there are lots of ways that
you can "trick" readers now.

but i'll remind everyone
yet another time that
a dissatisfied customer
can be very dangerous
in this day and age of
instant communication
with the entire world...

you'll be much better off
asking your true fans to
give you extra money --
they will do so, happily!
-- than trying to "trick" it
out of average customers.

i put "trick" in quotes here
because i know that's not
the _intention_ of any of
the _suggestions_ here,
so i am _not_ making any
_accusations_, mind you,
(and i will _slug_ anyone
who jumps to that stupid
misattribution regardless),
but it _might_ be the way
that customers _interpret_
what happened to them...

-bowerbird

Tim Myers said...

I am now a huge fan of bundling, and many of your other ideas, so thanks for the excellent ongoing advice, Joe.

I'm fairly new to this, with my backlist and new fiction fully up since December, but I just hit the 1,000 books a month sold level, and I couldn't be happier about it.

I had fifteen cozy mysteries with Penguin/Berkley reverted to me a few years ago, so I recently published them myself, along with novels I wrote that I couldn't get anyone to even read because they weren't cozies, from suspense to young adult to romantic fantasy and more.
I read about your idea to package like books together, so I bundled several sets of them for a better price than they'd be if bought separately. I also wrote two sequels to my Lighthouse Inn mysteries, finally completing the series how I'd always envisioned it. I even bundled the first books in each of the cozy series together and called it Series Firsts to give folks a taste across the board.

Even more exciting, I took my five new suspense novels, put them under another name, designed new covers, offered one (ICED) for 99 cents, and those sales are starting to appear, too! Too many people think of me as cozy only, so I introduced them under the name DB Morgan.

I am seeing your advice work for me, and fast! What's even better is that books I've loved are now actually being read. I can write as eclectically as I read, which is a powerful feeling indeed.

Thanks!

Tim Myers
www.timmyers.net

S.J. Harris said...

Doesn't all this get expensive when it comes to commissioning covers and formatting? Is it going to make sense for us to buy a $200 cover for a short story?

Selena Kitt said...

Many authors have taken short stories and expanded on them. It might annoy some readers, but other readers are happy to have stories they enjoyed lengthened.

I'm one of the annoyed readers. :P I read Serial the free version. Then found Serial uncut. Doh! But I didn't want to reread what I'd already read AND since I knew what happened at the end, well, it seems like a waste of time.

However, since I knew you did that with Serial, I figured there'd be a Killers uncut, so I waited. I'd much rather read the whole thing (esp with stories that end with a punch) then read the short and then the longer version.

I recently had someone contact me on my site asking how much for my ENTIRE collection of books? I quickly did the math, took a discounted percentage off that, and gave him a number. He bought them all.

Lundeen Literary said...

Bowebird sez…
"requiring customers to
pore over your labeling
to avoid getting burned
is not a good thing to do."

No, nor would I do that, but I plan to put some sort of labelling method in place anyway - That way, I can say "well, it says this here…"

"...it cuts both ways. if you 
make a customer "re-buy" 
stuff they already bought
just to get the new content,
that will piss them off too…"

I think this is what differentiates fans and readers.
For instance: 1994 - I was a HUGE Smashing Pumpkins fan. They were about to release their 3rd record, but I had 36 cd's by them - bootlegs, imports, etc. - because those other cd singles had different B-sides. I bought a vinyl box set because it had a b-side cover of a Depeche Mode song. That 3rd record came out, and it was a compilation of their B-sides. Was I pissed? No. First, the original cd singles had songs the didn't appear on the compilation album. Second, the compilation album had several previously unreleased songs. Third, I got to do this thing when people were playing the compilation record - they were like "OMG, have you heard this???" and I got to reply with " *yawn* yeah, I heard that ages ago. But have you heard this one? *inserts other CD single into player*" (Yes, I pulled the classic hipster d*ck move. The one and only time I ever did. But I was 19 or 20, so yeah…) Fourth, this was before MP3 players, and I got to have most of my favorite b-sides on one disk for the sake of convenience.

Another instance: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman wrote for the Dragonlance Saga for ages. For a few years, they wrote short stories for the anthologies for this particular world. The publisher put 1 Weis & Hickman story per anthology, knowing that fans would buy it for THEIR tale, and then maybe read all the others. After a number of years, they compiled a bunch of those stories into one book. A couple of years later, the publisher compiled a DIFFERENT compilation of mostly the same stories, but with one new one. The fans bought ALL of those books. It's just what we did. However, some of us cried foul with the slightly incorrect labeling, and some didn't like the repurchasing of stuff they owned already. Most of us didn't whine much, because we also got new cover art (which was actually paintings, not photos).
My point is that a fan will buy it all. Not everyone will. But labeling will help defray some of the anger costs, and judicious offering of sufficient new content will make it worth the while of the purchaser.
Note the word 'sufficient'. The publisher in the latter example stopped offering sufficient new/interesting content, and they pissed people off. They've redone the covers of the same 6 books so many times that people stopped buying. They've shut down most of their publishing arm now, and are only offering new editions of the same old same old. The acquiring of new fans will gradually taper off, but this method got them on the NYT bestseller list numerous times.
I'm saying this method works, as long as there is truth in labeling and new content for fans. But there will always be whiners. :) Like you said, an angry customer is a dangerous thing these days. Best to not risk that too often.
Jenna
@lundeenliterary
www.lundeenliterary.com

Lundeen Literary said...

SJ Harris sez:
"Doesn't all this get expensive when it comes to commissioning covers and formatting? Is it going to make sense for us to buy a $200 cover for a short story?"

Put it this way: Does it benefit Hooters to require a waitress to don a uniform with a $20 shirt, $15 shorts and $10 special pantyhose, plus makeup, specific socks, and non-skid white work sneakers to sell wings for $8 a pop? You betcha. They're not selling their wings based on quality.

If you look, the cover for Serial has only been modified a little bit for serial uncut, making more efficient use of the existing art. But no matter what it is, the proper presentation will sell it better and more. Yes, you'll have to sell 600 copies of a 99cent story to make that back, but that's happening in a couple of months for some folks. It definitely won't sell that well if the cover art is awful.

KevinMc said...

What is the short end folks think should be viable for the 99 cent price tag? Like, after what word count should you be seriously looking at putting several stories together for that price?

Basil Sands said...

"Is it going to make sense for us to buy a $200 cover for a short story?"

Or learn to use GIMP (or Photoshop if you have money) and do your own, if you have an eye and skill for it.

Speaking of that, I'd be curious if folks here think I had the eye/skill. Check out this GIMP made cover for my short story Geeks Rule and give a thumbs up/down.

A.P. Fuchs said...

This is the Daniel Keyes method of exploiting a property.

Or George Lucas, lol.

Still surprised you're using Createspace, though, for a measly $2-3 royalty. They're gauging you, man. There are better ways.

S.J. Harris said...

Basil (and everyone!), you're welcome to submit your covers to my new site for peer review. Check it out.

S.J. Harris said...

A link might help.

Cover Art Review

jeroen ten berge said...

@s.j. harris
Great initiative! Follower.

@basil
Please do submit your cover art - I would like to read what people think.

About the repackaging... It pissed me off whenever I bought a new DVD or CD to then months later be confronted by an extended edition of the same title. So now I restrain myself and wait, knowing something bigger and usually better will follow. That doesn't disqualify me as a fan - I'm just someone who has been bitten too often by this marketing ploy, and I like to spend my money wisely.

That said, there is a difference with Killers... anyone interested in Killers will discover it is only the first installment. Little point of getting angry or annoyed when Killers UNCUT and Serial Killers see the light of day.

Thrilling Covers said...

Maximizing your product footprint is definitely a good idea. Attaching great covers to those products is an equally good idea.

We design, create and sell thrilling covers for eBooks. Please visit our site for inventory and prices. Thanks!
www.thrillingcovers.blogspot.com

Lundeen Literary said...

@Basil

I'd submit your cover art, but here are first thoughts...

Glasses are too small, leaving too much negative space. The centering for the title is very poor and needs to be corrected. The amount of spacing between the words and their shadows is way too large, and does not correlate to anything that the glasses are on to make sense for such a large space. The shadow on the text at the bottom is MUCH better. The shadows are cast in separate directions, making it seem that there are too many sources of light - this is subtle and confusing, but makes the cover illogical for no particular purpose. If you're going to have those shadows, they need to be logical, and all cast in the same way from the same light source. The kerning on "Rule" is AWFUL. (kerning is horizontal space between letters.)
Geeks rule, eh? While I agree, I see nerd glasses, but no indication of ruling. Add an actual ruler (a slide rule would be epic!), put the glasses on a globe or set them on a map or image of a cheerleader. Maybe a reflection of an iron fist in the glass. Give me a visual representation of "rule." The need is lessened if the glasses are bigger, and the KISS rule applies, but you need more of something.

Those are just initial thoughts, but I'd still submit over to the cover art blog. It's on the right track, but needs a rework to make it work. It's awkward, and doesn't pop.

But what do I know? People only pay me to do covers and ebook design. ;) But I'm happy to offer advice to those who need it, and are trying to go it on their own. I have 17 years of photoshop experience, and I was first on a computer design program in 1985. 30+ years of art classes, too. I know how to make stuff work, in terms of art, and that helps hugely.

Jenna
@lundeenliterary
lundeenliterary@gmail.com

S.J. Harris said...

Thanks, Jeroen!

Love your work, btw. The cover for Blake Crouch's new release rocks!

Cover Art Review

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Joe Konrath said...

Still surprised you're using Createspace, though, for a measly $2-3 royalty.

I get $4.50 to $5 a copy.

A.P. Fuchs said...

Still surprised you're using Createspace, though, for a measly $2-3 royalty.

I get $4.50 to $5 a copy.


You've said otherwise on some of your entries--I could be mistaken--hence the comment. Glad it's better.

I do suggest going with Lightning Source, though. (i.e. a sale of "Trapped" through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart.com and everywhere else would get you $6 a copy at your current price point.) Same amount of work, too.

Just FYI. :)

Joe Konrath said...

When Blake and I wrote Serial, we didn't expect to expand it. But we had some cool ideas on how to flesh it out, and then it became a pretty long novella, 36,000 words.

Then we realized we still had more to tell. So it's sort of like writing a novel in installments. The different pieces each stand alone, but they fit together like a puzzle to form a cohesive whole.

It's a weird, but fun, way to tell a story.

elisamichelle said...

I think this is a great idea. I've never thought about short stories in this way before and, as a someone trying to make it as a small publisher, this gives me all sorts of ideas.

Do you make sure people know that particular short is in your other work so they're not buying duplicates of the same story? That's the one issue I see here, unless that really doesn't matter in the long run.

bowerbird said...

ya know, it's funny, because
i was gonna post a comment
saying "everyone here should
read bob lefsetz regularly..."

lefsetz is an astute observer
of the music business, who
goes back a long ways but
also has a very clear vision
of what the future will be,
and his writings are useful
for anyone who wants to
operate in this new world...

so i'm out taking a walk and
i check my e-mail and heck,
whaddaya think i find there?

bob has just written a post
about amanda hocking...

http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/index.php/archives/2011/03/03/amanda-hocking/

anyone who thinks that you
need a traditional publisher
to become "famous" is gonna
be proven wrong _again_ by
ms. hocking. she's blowing up,
and making the news all over,
and it is precisely _because_
she has no corporate muscle
behind her pulling the strings.
she's the man who bit the dog.

you go, girl!

-bowerbird

Andrew said...

I think this is only the beginning of the interesting kinds of things you could do with ebooks. Imagine if you tied stories to say a facebook game, or if you published 5 stories and allow readers to "vote" with their purchase as to which of the 5 gets expanded to a full novel. Right now I'm re-writing a twitter based novel I wrote last year as a novelette. Not only can you re-bundle works, you can "remix" them into new formats, lengths, and media.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another fascinating and inspiring insight into the new world of ebooking.

Is there the same potential for backlist titles? I have a series of six historicals, which between them sold over half a million copies.

After my Big Six editor got fired, they've been orphaned, and my agent is asking for the rights to revert. If she sells the backlist to my new publisher, I know I'll get minimal advances.
And they pay 15% of net on ebook sales.

If they were unpublished, I wouldn't hesitate, but is there ebook life in a backlist like this?

Archangel said...

jeroen ten berge rocks. His covers have the juice.

I've looked at pages of covers that look like the same cover only in twenty different colors, or with twenty different dogs or cars or women or men on them with same same same font and layout. Wont work, looks like mag adverts.

Too, SJ Harris, that is a wonderful idea- a cover critique blog/site. I hope you succeed mightily. I find that often the people who have no graphic software skills, no fancy schooling often also have excellent instincts for what works and what doesnt in a cover... also in a text. The public's voices can be truly valuable.

And Jenna, I agree with you on Geek Power cover... his is a great idea and what courage to make one's own cover. But drowns in white space, and font is not geekisto enough. Just my .02 as one who has no formal graphic knowledge other than know what has the goods and what doesnt, by my sights alone.

dr.cpe

Marcus Blakeston said...

Don't you worry about readers feeling cheated if they buy the same story twice, either by mistake or through necessity to get the latest "uncut" version?

An unhappy customer is a lot more likely to tell other people than a happy one.

Mikaela said...

Suddenly, I have a lot of ideas for the short stories gathering dust on my hard drive. Thank you Joe! :)

Naomi Clark said...

I released a short story on the Kindle a couple of weeks ago as a promo for a new novella - the short included the first chapter of the novella as a bonus. But I also offered to give the story away for free to anyone who emailed me, so I haven't seen great results with the Kindle version! My hope is that people will snatch up the short story for 99 cents, like the novella sample, and then buy that too (BTW, the free short story offer still stands; check out my blog).

I've been debating for a while putting together a short story collection for the Kindle; I have far more of those sitting on my hard drive than I do novellas or novels. I'm thinking bundling might be worth experimenting with for such things. Nothing ventures, nothing gained, etc.

Cameron said...

This topic deals almost exactly with something I'm trying to sort out.

I have a novella that will be published in a couple of weeks.

I also have a short story that's ready to go.

I'm trying to figure out a) how to price them, and b) which one I should post first.

Any general advice on those questions? Thanks!

My Kindle Journey said...

Thanks Joe!!

I've been so inspired by what I have read here over the last few weeks I have stopped thinking about writing and actually done it!! The result is that I have a short story going on sale tomorrow! It's called "DEEPER; DAY ONE" and the headline for it is "If you though Hypnosis was painless - think again..." It's the first of seven short stories about a female therapist who uses her skills (and position) as a Hypnotherapist to push seven of her clients over the edge. Each one of them has been through horrific experiences of abuse and torture at some point in their lives which is why they turned to Tessa for help in the first place. Over the course of a week (Monday to Sunday) Tessa has sessions with each of them where they are forced to re-live the experiences they have been desperate to forget. Told in stark and graphic detail, the DEEPER; series is not for those who are squeamish.

If it hadn't been for what I've seen on your blog I don't know if I'd ever gone ahead and done it! I've spent so long worrying about the pitfalls of legacy publishing that it had actually stopped me from producing anything.

Thanks again,

MoJo xx

S.J. Harris said...

Thanks, dr.cpe!

Today we have one of the most frightening covers I've ever seen. Come check it out.

Cover Art Review

Tomorrow, Selena Kitt!

Anonymous said...

You're brilliant! I bow at your feet.

RĂ©ussie Miliardario said...

Loved the Shapeshifters Anonymous cover! Too funny and quite catchy. Uh oh... Gotta read that one.

Lundeen Literary said...

Anonymous 4:55 AM said…

"If they were unpublished, I wouldn't hesitate, but is there ebook life in a backlist like this?"

You are a prime candidate for putting your backlist out in ebook form. You have a name, and you have not near saturated the market at a half million total copies. You should be hesitating *less* since these were published, not more!

15%?!?!!? And I thought 25% was godawful! Especially for a series that has proven to sell.

My advice? Do NOT sell your backlist rights. If you do, you'll never get them back again! Start with title #1 and do your own cover, format, and upload. Rinse & repeat with 2, 3, 4… Then make a Createspace paper copy for each. Allot about $500-800 per title to get it done right, or work with someone who will give you a package deal (like me! ;) ) on the work. Yes, that's a lot of money, but I'd be willing to bet that you would make it back quickly.

You probably have editorial reviews you can add, and likely some of your fans will post reviews for you on the new versions if you were to send them ecopies of books they already own.

In this instance, you are losing money every day these are NOT posted on Amazon, and Joe would say the same! If you so desire, you can still shop your next book to the big 6, but these are back to you after going through the big 6 treatment. That value is incalculable. Keep it to yourself! Why would you just hand that money and work over to a company who didn't do anything to work for it? And at such an awful rate!!?! Your agent will still be able to sell foreign rights, etc. on these for you.

I realize that you may want to keep this quiet, and I respect that - email me at lundeenliterary@gmail.com if you have particular questions about formatting, etc., and no one else will hear about it. You don't even have to hire me, but I want to help you, and will be happy to guide you gratis. Yes, I think you should release these on your own THAT MUCH. Do yourself a favor and email me, and I will point you in the right direction.

Jenna
@lundeenliterary
www.lundeenliterary.com

Lundeen Literary said...

Dr Cpe -

Jeroen does rock, doesn't he?? I'm so in awe.

And I'm so glad that SJ set up that cover review site!

John said...

A small publisher advises that if by some good fortune, your mss is accepted for publication -

11. Your novel is placed into the publishing schedule (probably some point in 2013, though possibly a little earlier).

No mention of course of earlier schedule possibilities for ebook publications...

And it probably takes six months to reach point 11. So two - three years to publish...?

No way!!

Mss with editor this month.
Cover and formatting April.
Release to Amazon, B&N, etc May. Three months instead of three years.

Now where are those short stories I was working on?

Joe - marvelous blog!

John West

bowerbird said...

"anonymous" said:
> I have a series of
> six historicals, which
> between them sold
> over half a million copies.
>
> If they were unpublished,
> I wouldn't hesitate, but
> is there ebook life
> in a backlist like this?

is there commercial possibility
in content which has proven that
it has commercial possibility?

i'd guess the answer is "yes, yes,
over-half-a-million times yes!"

***

cameron said:
> I have a novella
> that will be published
> in a couple of weeks.
>
> I also have
> a short story
> that's ready to go.
>
> I'm trying to figure out
> a) how to price them, and
> b) which one I should
> post first.
>
> Any general advice
> on those questions?

combine them.

-bowerbird

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

#Geeks Rule Cover:

Thanks for the input folks. Nathan Lowell gave a bit of help and employed some suggestions and here's the newly designed one, waddaya think?

And in gratitude for the input and just because it is a beautiful Friday afternoon in Alaska here's a coupon code to get "Geeks Rule" for free at Smashwords!

"Geeks Rule" Free eBook Coupon: ZK43X

For that matter, here's a coupon for my novel "Faithful Warrior" as well...just because.

"Faithful Warrior" Free eBook Coupon: NE49S

Enjoy

Rebecca Stroud said...

Basil, I think your "Geeks Rule!" cover is just fine, especially for a short story...but, hell, since I don't really pay much attention to covers when I buy books, I suppose my opinion may be a bit skewed.

J. E. Medrick said...

I just want to add that I _also_ think Jeroen is an amazing cover artist!

He did my cover for Shackled and I love it! I've also signed him on to do the covers for my upcoming (YA) Icarus Helix series.

I highly recommend him!

J. E. Medrick
Shackled

S.J. Harris said...

@Basil--I like the new one much better. The blurred font on the original gave me a headache, lol.

@Jenna--Thanks! I already have 25 authors queued up for review. I'm planning to send all of them, and anyone else who submits a cover in the next few days, a free copy of Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller. So come on over and play, everyone!

Cover Art Review

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Selena Kitt said...

I love the cover review blog, it's totally fun! :)

S.J. Harris said...

Thanks, Selena! Looking forward to your cover tomorrow.

Love the Symbios cover, Joe. Did Carl Graves do that one?

J.A. Marlow said...

Seems some people in the comments don't like bundling at all. Yet, it works.

Bundling works in music. Greatest Hits albums with a few new songs and/or remixes. The true fans buy it to get the new work, while it also attracts casual buyers who may not have bought all the previous albums.

No one gets mad at the music industry doing it. The songs are clearly labeled, so the buyers know exactly what they are getting.

I don't see any problem with it for short stories for the same reason. So long as the description clearly marks what is available in the collection, then why not? It's not a trick. It's a convenience to a different type of reader who may not be interested in buying the short stories individually.

By the way, Dean Wesley Smith has been suggesting this for a while now, too. Put out the short stories individually for .99 cents. Then also bundle them in 5-packs and 10-packs at different price ranges. It's working well for him.

J.A. Marlow

Russell Brooks said...

@Basil I prefer this current book cover.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Aaron said...

This is just the blog I've been looking for. I'm new here, so thank you! I look forward to reading your work in the very near future!

h lynn said...

@Basil Sands

I like the 'Geeks Rule!' cover I see.

Archangel said...

@Basil

Yes, the new cover is preferred. Like I said, much bravery to do your own covers. Good on ye.

dr.cpe

India Travel Guide said...

I will bookmark this page and have my friends check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else.

Anonymous said...

You need to carefully separate people's complaints from how they vote with their dollars. They are rarely in sync.

When fans says "That's it, I'll never buy another Konrath title ever again - he's reselling old stuff!" you can bet that many of them are buying it anyway for the new content.

Listen to the sales data and not the vocal minority.

B.J. Keeton said...

I've been planning on doing this for quite a while. I intend to have the short stories for free on my blog, and have them as ebooks for .99 and in collections for 2.99. My fear, though, is the length of the stories. Most of my stories (with the exception of a few flash fiction stories) fall between 2500 and 3500 words. I will obviously tell how many words they are in the descriptions, but are these too short for solo e-publication?

http://www.professorbeej.com

Lada Ray said...

J. A., you are my indie idol! Thanks so much for great advice, which I intend to follow. To think that just a few months ago I was confident I'd go the traditional publishing route. A few rejections and requests for partials and fulls later, I realized that life was too short to wait for someone, I don't know from Adam, to decide whether I was worthy of being in print.
That's when I found your blog. And now, I can't wait to upload my first mystery novel on Kindle. Just a few more days! It's such a joy to control your own destiny!
Cheers!

Leigh Saunders said...

Cameron asked...
"...I have a novella that will be published in a couple of weeks. I also have a short story that's ready to go. I'm trying to figure out a) how to price them, and b) which one I should post first. Any general advice on those questions?..."

Cameron - What are you waiting for? If the short story is ready to go, and you've exhausted all the print magazine markets you wanted to send it out to, go ahead and put it up now for $0.99 (be sure you're clear in the description that it's a short). Then, in a couple of weeks, or whenever the novella is ready, post it for $1.99 (again, list it as a novella in your description). It's also a good idea to put a note of some sort on the cover that it's a novella or short story.

Later, when you have enough short stories that share a common theme, you can go ahead and bundle them with a new story or two and sell the collections at higher prices.

Bowerbird suggested that you combine the two stories now -- you could, if they have something in common that would make the collection make sense, but there's no reason to only combine them when each story can also be out there working on its own for you. This is a great time for short fiction "singles." People are finding that they like to read while they're waiting in line at the bank or at the dentist or in all sorts of other situations, and while a lot of people like long ebooks, many people are finding that short fiction on their smartphones is a great way to fill the time. And $.99 for a good short story or $1.99 for a novella is a very reasonable price.

Remember, too, that you don't have to post everything all at once, although keeping to some sort of regular schedule is helpful both for you (on the production side) and the audience you're building (on the expectation side). I've been using this method to get my name out there while working on a book -- putting one or two shorter pieces out every couple of weeks, and then returning my focus to writing the book. I have seven "singles" out now, of varying length, and I'm getting good response from them.

Bottom line (as I see it): there's no rush for you to put everything up right away. Ebooks are new and hot, and things will change as the market figures out how to respond to the flood, but it's pretty certain that they're not going away. On the other hand, if the stories are ready to go (and you are, too), there's also no reason to hold off.

Good luck with it! And welcome to the new world of publishing!

bowerbird said...

"anonymous" said:
> You need to carefully separate
> people's complaints from how
> they vote with their dollars.
> They are rarely in sync.

i would agree with most of that.

instead of "rarely", i woulda said
"often not", but close enough...


> Listen to the sales data
> and not the vocal minority.

i'd disagree almost completely.

unless that "vocal minority"
is tiny (i.e., less than 10%),
it is your _warning_signal_
that "you're doing it wrong."

so you should listen to it...

and even if it _is_ tiny, you
still might wanna listen to it.

i'm not necessarily saying that
you should _bow_down_ to it,
or even appease it, but you
most definitely should _listen_.

in days of old, you could afford
to ignore unhappy customers,
but as too many corporations
have learned already, today's
unhappy consumers go viral,
and that can cause problems,
big hard-to-solve problems,
problems to avoid if you can.

and listening is a cheap way
to avoid those big problems.

it's all about the relationship.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

jenna said:
> this is what differentiates
> fans and readers.

i agree with you. thing is,
if you're selling e-books --
at under 5 bucks a pop --
you're selling to _readers_.

you must find another way
to get money from _fans_,
since fans want to give you
_lots_and_lots_ of money,
not just a few bucks, and
_not_ for something that
anyone else can buy cheap.

that's why i had mentioned
bob lefsetz up above, since
this is a big point of his, but
i forgot to do the follow-up.

bob made observations that
people get pissed off when
the ticket-price for concerts
skyrockets. but the people
who are the most satisfied
are the fans who paid extra
(and it's a very big amount)
to meet the band back-stage.

don't charge everyone extra
for the basic product, in the
feeble hope fans won't mind.

because that doesn't make
_anyone_ happy, most of all
the non-fans who you need
to fill all those empty seats.
but also not the fans either;
they want something special
the other people don't have.

charge as little as you can
for the basic product, to
try to get as many people
in the tent as possible, so
you can convert as many
as you can into true fans,
who'll _want_ to pay more.


> For instance: 1994 -
> I was a HUGE
> Smashing Pumpkins fan

i really enjoyed your story. :+)

it's nice and fun to hear a fan
talking about the entity of
their affection... touching...

but here's the thing, jenna.

none of that ephemera stuff
applies in the digital world...

you were collecting _stuff_.
great... it's cool to collect...

however, an e-book has _no_
"collector value", because it's
easily reproduced by people...

my copy of "the list" is the
exact same as your copy...
and either one of us could
make countless other copies,
which are all the exact same.
so there's nothing to "collect".

if your fans want to create a
"bundle", they have the pieces
so they can do it themselves.

you want to sell your fans
something they don't have,
something that they cannot
do themselves. for thinking
along these lines, you should
read the blog of kevin kelly...
> http://www.kk.org

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

j.a. said:
> Seems some people
> in the comments
> don't like bundling at all.
> Yet, it works.

it "works" from _some_
standpoints. but not all.


> Bundling works in music.

it does, does it?

most people agree that
napster took off like it did
because the music-buyers
hated the record industry.

why?

most observers say that
those buyers felt that the
industry had cheated them,
thus felt zero compunction
about "cheating" in return.

and the number-1 reason
music-buyers felt cheated?

because they'd been forced
to buy albums composed of
a couple good songs mixed
in with a big bunch of "filler".

and they had had no choice
but to accept this "bundling",
and buy the entire package
to get the pieces they wanted.

so yes, this "vocal minority"
kept purchasing even while it
bitched to anyone listening...

but once it got the chance to
_strike_back_, it seized on the
opportunity without hesitation.

and the rest, as the saying goes,
is history...

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

> and even if it _is_ tiny, you
still might wanna listen to it.

We do, and do make course corrections based on feedback sometimes. Rarely.

However you'll find that unlike someone who has 20 years experience making media that has sold millions of copies to cricitical acclaim, the buying public is rarely the best judge of what's good for the product and the market.

Many people like to talk about how a book could have been better, how they would have done something, etc. Sit down and write a full length novel sometime, then publish it. Then come back and tell us all about it, and what you learned Bowerbird.

bowerbird said...

"anonymous" said:
> unlike someone who has
> 20 years experience
> making media that has
> sold millions of copies
> to cricitical acclaim

um, i don't think you get to
trumpet your track record
when you come in here as
one of the "anonymous" tribe.


> the buying public is
> rarely the best judge of
> what's good for the product
> and the market.

that must be why you experts
have such a bad track-record
in predicting what we will buy,
so the only way you could get
"millions of copies sold" was to
ram it down our throats, using
the "cricitical (sic) acclaim" in
the media which _you_ operate.

but we don't pay attention to
your "payola" game any more.

-bowerbird

Christopher said...

How do you keep track of all the different versions an e-book is released?
Have you ever gotten negative feedback from someone who got it in one form and discovered the value package with other stories and got upset?

Joe Konrath said...

Have you ever gotten negative feedback from someone who got it in one form and discovered the value package with other stories and got upset?

Nope.

Stephen King has done similar experiments, like with The Green Mile, which he released in six installments, then in one omnibus version with extensive rewrites.

Readers are pretty savvy. And if they realize they've bought something twice, they can always return it for full credit.

Lewis said...

Hi, just bought a copy of Shapeshifters anonymous (For kindle), my first ebook purchase via amazon, for the K3. You have a post from techdirt and the $0.99 pricing to thank :)