Thursday, June 23, 2011

JK Rowling Will Self-Pub Harry Potter Ebooks

Yes, you read correctly.

According to Wired.co.uk, the billionaire author is forsaking her print publishers and releasing her novels on her own.

Whoa.

A few years ago, I was critical of Rowling's decision not to release ebooks of the Potter series. Piracy became the only way to get her ebooks, and those bootleg copies thrived. I wouldn't be surprised if she was the most pirated author ever, simply because fans had no other choice if they wanted to read her on their ereaders. That means she missed out on a lot of money.

Looks like she found a way to get that money back.

Naturally, I think she's brilliant for making this self-pubbing move. She'll be the first superstar to do so, and others will no doubt follow suit.

This comes on the heels of Amazon's Thomas & Mercer imprint acquiring the rights to more than forty titles in Ed McBain's backlist. McBain died in 2005, and has sold more than 100 million books. I love the 87th Precinct novels, and they were one of the main reasons I chose to write police procedurals. It will be great to see them in ebook form, and in print once again, even if the Seattle Mystery Bookshop won't carry them.

They also won't carry Barry Eisler, who turned down half a million dollars from St. Martins in order to self-pub. (For those with Kindles, our entire three-part 35,000 word conversation is now nicely formatted and available for 99 cents. Ditto Nook, and free on Smashwords.)

And, of course, let's not forget that John Locke is the first indie author to sell a million ebooks.

Borders recently got a one month extension to find a buyer before they're forced to liquidate.

Barnes and Noble is hanging in there, and sales are up 20% over last year. But this is mostly due to increased BN.com sales, many of which were ebooks.

So what does all of this mean?

More than a year ago I predicted that ebooks won't destroy the Big 6 because readers will abandon print (even though they're doing just that--ebook sales up 157% in March, print books down 22%-40%), but rather it is authors who will render the Big 6 obsolete. The more authors who choose the self-pub route over legacy, the harder it will be for legacy publishers to stay afloat.

Some bookstores will survive if they learn how to adapt. But it'll be tough, and I think everyone agrees that the heyday of bookstores is over. From now on there will be more stores closing than opening.

As I've said before, this is a death spiral.

What happens next is obvious. After more bookstores close, publishers will follow suit. They'll keep ebook prices high to make up for their print losses, but won't be able to sustain their overhead. Since ebooks now outsell print, very few authors are going to sign new legacy deals for 14.9% ebook royalties, so publishers will have to offer more or lose them.

It's only a matter of time before the house of cards collapses.

163 comments:

Ana said...

Hi,
It seems incredible that was not already in electronic format.
By the way, my first month on Kindle. I made 15 sales. Much? Little?
The book is in Spanish. I´m now preparing the English translation.
Good times, but much uncertainty.

Kekoa said...

When I heard about Rowling's creation of Pottermore in order to self-pub, the first thing I thought to myself was "Has she been reading Konrath's blog?"

Kekoa Lake
The Twentyfirsters

Dustin Scott Wood said...

Holy crap. That's a pretty big deal. JK Rowling, I believe, is the first author to ever achieve billionaire status. I could be mistaken, but I think I'm correct on that bit of information. No doubt there are a good many executives at Bloomsbury and Scholastic who are crying in their coffee.

Dustin Scott Wood said...

and DUR on me...Konrath even said so about the billionaire thing in his blog...so much for my reading comprehension on a Thursday morning.

badas2010 said...

Wow, that's brilliant!
She must have heard that I've just bought a Kindle!
Good for her.

Joyce said...

Yes, I read it correctly, but I'm not sure you did.

Actually, if you read the UK wired article, she's NOT keeping 70% for herself. She's splitting it with her publishers (worldwide).

Until recently, reports have been speculating that the rights to sell the e-books would be worth as much as £100m. By retaining the rights and selling them through her own platform, Rowling stands to make much more. She is not, however, completely turning her back on hands that fed her -- her publishers around the world will get a cut of e-book sales and will no doubt benefit from the "halo effect" of an uplift in print sales.

She wanted the DRM free, and this was the way she went about doing that.

She also makes it clear that her decision isn't one that would work for all, or even most, authors, but was perfect for her because she had the capital to pull it off.

It's hardly self-publishing.

azarimba said...

And the Calling-It-Right prizes goes to ... JA Konrath! ;-)

Kelly McClymer said...

O.M.G. What she can *add* to these books has me in high anticipation. Games. Maps. Things I can't even imagine yet. Wow.

Not to mention the woman is a biz genius -- retaining film rights, and *control*, and erights? Brilliant business woman.

Jonas Saul said...

So true...

J.K. Rowling won't be the last superstar author to toss that stone at her publishers in their glass house.

Times are a changin'

Joe, you have announced time and again that the Big 6 need to be a changin' their ways...but they won't listen to what makes sense.

Moovin'

Jonas

Joe Konrath said...

She's splitting it with her publishers (worldwide).

Though that split hasn't been revealed, I'm pretty comfortable believing that her cut isn't 14.9%.

She owns the rights. She calls the shots.

And it is self-publishing. These won't be Scholastic ebooks. They'll be her own company.

Joe Konrath said...

Rowling is also going to watermark the ebooks somehow, to discourage piracy.

Not quite sure why. That horse has already left the barn.

TK Kenyon said...

Holy cow. It's been the beginning of the end for a while, but now it's the MIDDLE of the end! JK Rowling is self-pubbing Harry!

TK Kenyon

You can receive daily writing prompts by liking us on Facebook: Dr. Kenyon’s Writing Apple or by subscribing to the RSS/Atom feed at Blog: Dr. Kenyon’s Writing Apple Blogspot .

Robert Carraher said...

To me, a retailer refusing to sell something that the public is going to buy goes against everything I ever learned about business.

Kane said...

Joe,

In all the talk about the ebook revolution, the one name I haven't seen tossed out yet is Dan Brown. I seem to recall that his last book was the last one he was under contract for. Smart money says the next Robert Langdon thriller will be self published too.

Another entity quietly reaping the benefits of self-published ebooks? The Ian Fleming estate.

Cyn Bagley said...

Glad to see that JK finally saw the light. ;-) BTW I am starting small on Kindle too, but I am working on my next piece of work. It feels good.

Live Out Loud said...

This is the next (huge) step toward what Konrath has been saying all along - the world at large has to see this now. It's not just in our little circle of authors and publishers and agents.
I don't understand how the Big 6 and Borders and others didn't/don't change. Every business I've ever heard of throughout history changes with the flow of economy, technology and buyer tastes (or they fail) so why do these huge companies not have market analysts telling them what to change, how to change and what to offer - right before the buyers demand it? They should know what's going on before we (authors) do. We write. The agents and publishers were the ones who were supposed to have their finger on the pulse and keep us sold - not drop us before taking us on and then losing the big names they had!

Nathalie Hamidi said...

"More than a year ago I predicted that ebooks won't destroy the Big 6 because readers will abandon print (even though they're doing just that), but rather it is authors who will render the Big 6 obsolete."

Could you please also predict when the zombie apocalypse will begin? Because you're being insanely acurate and I'd like to be prepared! ^^

Just wanted to say that I'm currently reading The Newbie's Guide to Publishing and really enjoying it. Keep up the good work!

Sean Thomas Fisher said...

Jk's announcement is sure to bring a lot more ereaders into the market. It will be like Christmas in October! I should probably iron my Snape cape because I'm still going to dress up to buy her ebooks...

Joe Konrath said...

Could you please also predict when the zombie apocalypse will begin?

There will be no zombie apocalypse.

The vampires will kill them all.

David Gaughran said...

Joe,

I agree, it's self-publishing.

Her US publisher, Scholastic, are being paid a percentage for "marketing and promotion support" but will not be selling the e-books.

That's self-publishing.

She is publishing them through her own company and selling them through her own website.

That's self-publishing.

She is paying a bunch of companies a percentage out of her sales for services provided. Just because those companies happen to be her print publishers doesn't change anything.

It's self-publishing.

IMO, of course.

Sandra Edwards said...

I think Rowling's decision to climb aboard the Indie publishing ship is pretty much one of the last nails in the coffin for traditional publishing. Her actions will validate self-publishing for a lot of traditionally-published authors who've been holding out.

David Gaughran said...

Link to Scholastic statement:

http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/23/3721781/scholastic-statement-on-jk-rowlings.html

Rabid Fox said...

Self-publishing takes on a different connotation, I think, when the author in question is a worldwide, world-renowned corporation in and of herself. Still fits by textbook definition, though.

It's a step that seemed inevitable. And hearing snippets of what her online store is offering, it's practically a digital theme park by the sounds of it.

Kate Madison, YA author said...

Even though it doesn't look like it, she's actually the most Indie Indie out there by bypassing Amazon etc and solely going through her own site.

Is she getting marketing and technical help from partners? Absolutely. But as Joe pointed out, it looks like she owns the erights so, yep, counts as self pubbing to me.

Kate Madison
WriterKMadison.blogspot.com

Kayanna Kirby said...

WOW! I'm shocked.

Isabella Amaris said...

Wow, I was wondering when something like would happen! Good for Rowling... she's definitely a strong businesswoman, kudos to her for that...

Hmmm, how much do u wanna bet that lots of companies (whether publishing houses originally or not) are now gonna develop departments for 'marketing and promotion' of authors' books for a cut of the profits?:) Makes good business sense too, doesn't it?...

Hmmm, the future sure looks interesting...

Robert Carraher said...

Joe. You blew that one. It can't possibly be the Vampires because I read in Blake Crouch's Run that it was the Zombies...

David Gaughran said...

btw - Publisher's Weekly said this:

"Although some are likely to see Rowling's decision to be her own publisher for her e-books as a significant one for the industry at large, Potter is a unique franchise."

They are calling it self-publishing (just not using the bogey words)

Sarra Cannon said...

Very exciting news! I have been dying to re-read the series, but haven't wanted to lug my hardcovers around again. Can't wait to get my hands on the ebooks, and what an amazing decision by Rowling! Thanks for this timely news.

Just as a side-note to your comment that bookstores are barely hanging on - I have a friend who is so excited to get a book deal this week. When I asked him when the book is coming out, he excitedly said, "2013!" I almost cried for him and thought, will there even be any bookstores left to debut your new book?

www.sarracannon.com

SBJones said...

I haven't researched it, but it seems like she was forward thinking enough that she retained the rights to her work. One reason this would not work for most traditionally published authors is that they don't have enough rights to their work to even attempt this.

It reminds me a lot of George Lucas and his retention of the Star Wars franchise instead of the studio owning the property.

Robin Sullivan said...

Rowlings announcment goes WAY beyond self-publshing. It will be a "virtual" amusement park for readers and, here is the important part, will be controlled by the one who creates the content

To quote Ron Wesley, "Bloody Brilliant!"

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Robert Bidinotto said...

This is HUGE. There's no bigger name in fiction, and taking this step, Rowling "legitimizes" the entire ebook self-publishing enterprise.

How convenient for me that she did this on the week that my own first ebook, HUNTER: A Thriller, went live on Kindle, Nook, et al.!

THANK YOU, J.K. Rowling!

Anonymous said...

The more interesting thing about this is that Rowling is bypassing the digital retailers. Amazon and B&N won't get a cent of the millions of dollars the Potter franchise is about to rack up. Her traditional publishers (especially the ones who created translations) will. I think, in the end, that the only safe bet in this new world is one made on authors.

Touting one corporation over another is a fool's game. Amazon may have opened up the floodgates, but they no longer control them. Everyone in publishing who isn't an author is probably feeling a little queasy this morning.

Joe Konrath said...

Potter is a unique franchise.

Indeed. But it isn't unique as in "No one else will do this", which is the message PW needs to convey.

It's unique because "If the biggest bestseller in the world does it, you can bet others will as well."

David Gaughran said...

It's a crazy world.

Agents cutting out publishers. Publishers cutting out agents. Retailers cutting out distributors. Distributors cutting out publishers. Authors cutting out retailers.

There are only two groups who can't get cut out of the chain.

Readers & Writers.

Joe Konrath said...

The more interesting thing about this is that Rowling is bypassing the digital retailers.

Supposedly the books will be available on all platforms. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I'm really getting a kick out of the fact that authors, who have been getting the shaft for decades, are finally the ones with the power. Which is how it should be. The one who creates the content should be the one who benefits the most.

Robin Sullivan said...

My guess on why there were no ebooks before now and why Scholastic is getting a cut.

I bet the rights were in "limbo" - the contracts didn't give Scholastic ebooks rights because there really wasn't the "concept" of ebook rights back 14 years ago. But...a non-compete claus probably prevented her from releasing or selling those rights. Hencse - stalemate.

My guess is she decided to "buy out" the non-compete clause by giving a percentage back. That seems to make the most sense to me.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Robin Sullivan said...

Interesting point David.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Anonymous said...

Supposedly the books will be available on all platforms. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

They will be available in all formats which is a slight, but important, distinction. Lots and lots of users are about to learn how to download and sideload digital files on to their e-readers.
I don't think this was a lesson the e-reader makers wanted them to learn at this stage of the game. Maybe when it was all settled, (a la Apple's dominance of mp3 players) but not now when traditional publishers AND AUTHORS! can still horn in on the market share.

I don't think the story is about Rowling self-publishing (at least not in the way we think about it) though it makes for a sexier lead . I think it's about her ascending to a whole other level of author autonomy...she's created her own channel that's not dependent on the profitability, or lack thereof, of any of the usual players.

David Gaughran said...

The books will be exclusively available from Pottermore.com

In all formats.

Joe Konrath said...

While the Rowling story is big news, no one has yet commented on Ed McBain.

He's sold 100 million books, and publishers allowed him to go out of print. That's insane, and very telling.

That Amazon snatching him up is a big deal. Used book sales are a 4 billion dollar a year industry. Partly because used books are cheaper, but also because the majority of books are out of print.

Ebooks mean no more out of print. The fact that Amazon snatched these titles up, and not a Big 6 company, is solid proof who understands the future.

Mark Asher said...

I think it's healthy she's bypassing Amazon, too. Not many writers could do that, but she's not the only one. Stephen King, Stephanie Meyers, etc.

Maybe the future deals will be for print rights only. It's not as if some publisher wouldn't publish the next Stephen King book if King didn't include the ebook rights.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Scholastic is getting a cut because they're doing the marketing and promotion. Sony built the site (sponsored?).

If anything, Rowling just fired a shot across the bow at Amazon. She's breaking their monopoly in a big way and has the resources to do it. And if it works, it could be the first serious step toward making non-DRM books market standard.

Gina Penn said...

This is a huge win for indie authors! This is a transitional period. At first, purists snubbed their noses at us. It won't be long before they're asking for OUR help. HA!

Cyn Bagley said...

a choice of being a zombie or a vampire? I think I go for vampire even if there were no more humans as cattle - oh wait aren't we talking about the apocalypse?

Once again - in my next incarnation I want to be JK (or even Konrath)

Gayle Carline said...

I was at a writer's conference earlier this week, and it was interesting to listen to the agents on the Agents Panel. Some of them were still justifying their existence as Holders of the Keys to the Publishing Gatekeepers. Some of them admitted that they needed to evolve into other avenues, including publishing their clients' e-books. Their rational for this service is they would have expertise and contacts in the biz.

I figured out I don't need them at all.

the1940mysterywriter said...

I'm hoping to see some agents freelancing subsidiary rights services. This would give self-published writers the same access to foreign language and movie deals as traditionally published ones.

Realistic?

Gunnar

Jude Hardin said...

They'll keep ebook prices high...

I imagine Rowling, and any other superstar who decides to fly solo, will keep the ebook prices high as well. It'll be interesting to see how much she charges for a Harry Potter book. I'm going to take a wild guess and say $12.99. With that in mind, will it make any difference to the consumer that the books are self-published? Nope. It just shifts the profit distribution.

Jussi Keinonen said...

The JK skipping of estributers 30 or 35 % makes me think again that there will soon be a major battle for effectiveness in digital distribution, first among the giants Amazon, Apple and Google, and perhaps we will soon see new innovative players stepping in.

My guess is 10 % will be the distribution cut in the future.

Donna said...

I got into a little "discussion" on Facebook yesterday regarding how indies do not,cannot, and never will make the $$ the traditionally published authors do. (Plus,why does everyone who argues that side simply assume you can just get a publishing contract if you've submitted a novel?) That aside, today's news really drives home the point I was trying to make. Publishers are becoming more and more unnecessary.

Robert W. Walker said...

Is it rally rally rally any wonder, dear??? That JK is going to set the publishing world aflame? She has done it now how many times over, rally! Rally.

The math of new epublishing is just too obvious to any but the most stupid of authors (of whom there are legion) who are sitting about at their print publisher has convinced them that they can do far, far more for them than they can possible do for themselves. RALLY....

Meanwhile, some 70,200 Indie/Kindle authors have visited my thrad "What Moves Kindles off the Shelf" at "voice of the author/publisher" at KDP Community forums. Over 100 pages of shared advice among Indie authors on how best to get visibility for a title.

The iMoveMent is ON. No shit intended...

Rob Walker
author of Children of Salem, Bayou Wulf, Titanic 2012 and other Kindle Original titles.

Sarah Woodbury said...

Honestly, with four kids, our hardbacks have been so 'loved', I've been dying for e-versions that don't fall apart in my hands.

Do you all remember, 3,4,5 years ago when Rowling said that her books would never be ebooks? Wondering if that was a way to avoid signing a deal with a publisher until she could determine which way the wind was blowing.

Robert W. Walker said...

So Says JOE:

While the Rowling story is big news, no one has yet commented on Ed McBain.

He's sold 100 million books, and publishers allowed him to go out of print. That's insane, and very telling.

Ebooks mean no more out of print. The fact that Amazon snatched these titles up, and not a Big 6 company, is solid proof who understands the future.

WHAT JOE SAYS ABOVE is so Right ON. They let TWO of my series go down in flames on the SAME damn day and both were earning monies for me and for them. Now they are in my hands and so all my INSTINCT & EDGE Titles are daily finding new readers, new audience, fresh and alive....It's ALIVE, It's ALIVE along with my 30 other out of print titles once known as DEAD BOOKS. Makes me feel like DR. FrankenSTEIN....hehehehe...

Rob Walker
Killer Instinct, Cutting Edge

Website said...

That's an interesting possibility, Sarah.

This is a fascinating development that is going to cause discomfort to a lot of the people who are fighting self-publishing tooth and claw. They'll try hard to say that she is in partnership with trad publishers it isn't real self-publishing.

That's mince, of course.

I.J.Parker said...

Fascinating blog! I'll focus on the revenge plan of the Seattle Bookstore against Amazon-published authors.
Much of the miseries borne by midlist authors are directly due to the way book stores have treated them. Getting a signing is not a given any longer. Barnes&Noble turned me down for my St.Martin's published first novel. (Not that a signing does anyone but the store any good.) For the midlist author, staying on the shelf for more than a month after release is an impossibility. This causes major damage in the case of a series. The quick returns additionally damage the author's standing with his publisher. And finally,having your royalties withheld for years is entirely due to book store returns.
So why should I be grateful to book stores? Amazon has sold more books for me than the stores have, and they have promoted them and cross-listed them on their sites.

I shall soon also print-publish through Amazon, and I don't care if Seattle Books won't let me sign. In fact, I don't do signings.

Ty Johnston said...

"While the Rowling story is big news, no one has yet commented on Ed McBain."

Sorry, Joes. That's only because I hadn't gotten to your blog yet today.

The Rowling news is great, but I was far, far, far happier to learn the news about the McBain novels. One of my goals in life is to read all the 87th Precinct novels. I love every one I've read so far, though some more than others. I feel McBain/Hunter was and is a much under-appreciated author, and one I don't see mentioned very often (though maybe I hang out in the wrongs circles, since I mostly write fantasy).

Robert Carraher said...

Yeah, could you imagine an Indie Book Store refusing to carry a Stephen King? Or A Patterson?

Robert Carraher said...

Gayle, there was a good article in Mediashift by PBS about Agents providing other services. After all some of them are great at working the web, managing the resources.Some are working with authors they have gotten into print by getting their backlists repubbed as eBooks, etc...here's the article: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2011/06/literary-agents-try-new-role-as-self-publishing-consultants167.html

I think this is good. They ARE adapting.

Gisele said...

Joe,

You are becoming quite the clairvoyant!

Not only you've been spot on about the the on-going changes in the publishing industry and heavyweight authors opting to self-publish versus legacy but you've also envisioned an ever increasing interactive experience being offered to readers, in which author websites would offer games, forums, live discussions, etc... Where is the link to that recent blog post?

Robert W. Walker said...

btw - Publisher's Weekly said this:

"Although some are likely to see Rowling's decision to be her own publisher for her e-books as a significant one for the industry at large, Potter is a unique franchise."

They are calling it self-publishing (just not using the bogey words)

PW is a chickenshit outfit -- always has been, always will be. Always pulling thier punches, and always on the side of Big Company Houses. I take NO stock in what PW puts out, and yeah, they are full of qualifiers.

Asswipes.

Rob Walker
Titanic 2012 (what if a creature was lose on board?)

Shawna said...

*jaw drops on floor*

robert w. walker said...

I hate seeing any bookstore or library branch go under and out of business, however, this is TRUE: I was told by one Indiana Indie bookstore, "I don't carry your books, Mr. Walker, because I know my clientele, and they do not want to read the kidn of hardcore suspense you deliver."

In other words, HE was exercsing his right to NOT place my books on his shelves, fine. But in a sense, he was also sayding, despite the fact they were published by Berkley or HarperCollins or whomever, none of his 'regulars' read anything other than cozy mysteries.

I have had over the years other bookstore owners tell me similar things. The fact that I write in several different categories did not come into play. A book with my NAME on it was not going on THEIR shelves.

Finally, I said fk'em.
One in Indiana I told to his face.

Rob Walker
www.robertwalkerbooks.com

David Gaughran said...

Joe,

I don't think you are going to get many people talking about Ed McBain today!

That is interesting move too though. Will we see more of this from literary estates? I think so. They are probably more likely to make decisions based on cold, hard numbers rather based on any sense of loyalty or anything like that.

Robin Sullivan said...

the1940mysterywriter said...
I'm hoping to see some agents freelancing subsidiary rights services. This would give self-published writers the same access to foreign language and movie deals as traditionally published ones.

Realistic?


My self-published husband has eight foreign langage deals and I hear authors all the time on Kindle Boards talking about being approached. So yeah I'd say it is realistic.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Gunnar

Anna Murray said...

If anything, Rowling just fired a shot across the bow at Amazon. She's breaking their monopoly in a big way and has the resources to do it.


Yes. Pottermore will be Potter & More. Once the infrastructure is built she can sell all things Potter (toys, games, apparel), as well as other middle grade books by other authors.

Anonymous said...

Could this be the opening that YA books were waiting for? Maybe this will be a windfall for the genre.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club

Terrance Foxxe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fawn Neun said...

How were you able to convince Amazon and B&N to carry BTM for 99 cents if it's free on Smashwords - I could have sworn there was a non-compete clause in the Amazon agreement.

I can't see myself buying the Potter books (again) just for eReaders, but there's probably millions of now 20-somethings with fresh new iPads, smartphones and kindles who will. Good for her!

David Gaughran said...

The HP fans are a special kind of crazy. They would buy soil from my yard if I stamped “Harry Potter” on the sack.

Seriously though, picture this: a fancy new Sony tablet pre-loaded with all 7 Harry Potter books plus some exclusive content (a short story or novella or whatever).

That will sell insane numbers.

Dave

Margo Lerwill said...

Donna said: "I got into a little "discussion" on Facebook yesterday regarding how indies do not,cannot, and never will make the $$ the traditionally published authors do."

*This* is the reason I started looking into self-publishing. Not because my agent or editors treated me poorly or because I heard Amanda Hocking was making a mint, but because there's a traditionally published author I know of with not one but *two* successful series (one adult, one YA) and she still has to work a day job.

Joe Konrath said...

They would buy soil from my yard if I stamped “Harry Potter” on the sack.

I would, too.

But only if it was dirt cheap.

Terrance Foxxe said...

Publishers used to read their own slush piles, thrived, and then relied on agents. Death of the
midlist followed, with a lot of suck-butt celebrity books hitting the shelves. Agents proved themselves mostly incompetent, and started writing and representing other agent’s books. Now agents are moving into publishing, but it’ll cost you. Mainstream publishing continues its downward slide. Publishers are starting their own self-publishing divisions to survive, but it will
really cost you. Ouch!

The smart authors do everything for free, if they can, catering to their readers. They want their
words to live long and prosper. It seems to me that authors, though mad as hatters, seem to be the
sane ones. Now, how has the landscape shifted for us now that the first billionaire author joined the ranks of the sane? (Equating this to being bitched out by Oprah on live tv.) Industry
heavyweights have to feel as if they been bitch-slapped. I’ll be interested to see what happens in
the next few months.

Sarah said...

Seattle Mystery Bookstore, best store ever!!!

David Gaughran said...

touché Joe

Barry said...

We're still in the early days of digital publishing, and it's taking a while for some people to get their minds around what makes a "publisher." Most of what people associate with a publisher -- editing, marketing, distribution -- are the artifacts, not the essence. The essence of publishing is control of rights.

For the reasons Joe and I discussed in Part 3 of Be The Monkey, Amazon's Thomas & Mercer is no legacy publisher. But there's no question that T&M is, in fact, a publisher, because the company is buying the rights to the books they sell. By contrast, no matter who she chooses to hire to assist her in getting her works to readers, an author who retains rights to her works is self-published.

Look at the Scholastic press release David linked to above. It says, "Scholastic will receive a royalty on sales of the U.S. editions of the ebooks." One entity is controlling the rights and paying the other entity a royalty. Does that model sound familiar? It ought to, because it typically describes a publisher and an author. But here, the roles are reversed: Rowling retains the rights and pays a company a royalty for assisting her in her publishing endeavor. The fact that the company she has hired and is paying calls itself a "publisher" might obscure, but does nothing to change, the real nature of the relationship.

"Potter is a unique franchise." I like that PW is trying to position Rowling's move as some sort of exception that has no wider applicability to anyone else. This is such a reflexive and predictable reaction to change that at this point it's almost boring. Other authors won't be able to sell their self-published works directly through their own websites? Watch my website this summer to see if this is true. And watch Rowling's YouTube video announcing the details of Pottermore, and ask yourself if this is something other authors can't (and shouldn't) do, too.

http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2011/06/23/pottermore_announcement/index.html

As for Seattle Mystery, in a weird way I respect their decision. Sometimes you fight not because you have a real chance of winning, but because you feel that not fighting would be an unendurable affront to your dignity. Why do I blog, travel, and speak out so much about Bush's and now Obama's abuses of the Constitution? Less because I think I can win this fight, more because it would be wrong to just give up.

So if JB is taking this stand despite the fact that it's bad for his customers and likely to damage and even destroy his store, and he understands and accepts this, then even though I disagree with his rationale, I respect his stand. But if he thinks his stand will be good for his customers and his business, I have to respectfully say that I believe his thinking is misguided. The fact that the title of his blog post calls Amazon "the Devil" suggests it's the latter, but I don't have a way to really know. Anyway, they're good people and if they want me to sign when I'm in Seattle as I have many times before, I'd be happy to.

For a little more on the kind of weird and erroneous thinking digital publishing has induced in people afraid of change, here's my response to a recent Salon article on editing and self-publishing.

http://letters.salon.com/books/feature/2011/06/21/ebooks_john_locke/permalink/2ac7069a1be8751b3988aaaf2ae69495.html

David Gaughran said...

Great post Barry.

Now that we have established what she is doing, I'd like to look at how she is doing it.

*Partnering with existing publishers

Presumably, this means that she can use the edited versions of the manuscripts fom her publishers, the translations, and the cover art, and the translations in all the existing markets. On top of that, there will be cross-promotion which could amplify sales of both formats.

*Selling through her own website

The e-books will be available from October. She is going to give a sneak preview to 1 million lucky readers who will be able to "shape the interactive gaming experience". If you are a Harry Potter fan you will be bouncing off the walls just imagining what that could be. From now until the end of July, you can enter your email address to be in with a chance to be one of those lucky 1 million. She will hoover up the email address of every single Harry Potter superfan in the world. Then she is going to sell directly to them.

*Extending the life-cycle of her products

October will see the launch of the interactive reading experience of the first book only. The second book will come in 2012. Do you see what is happening here? The movies are at the end of their run. There's no more coming out. Now she will have a "new Harry Potter release" for her fans every year - a new interactive version for them to experience - only on her website. She is tieing them in. It's genius.

She's going to make another billion.

Melissa said...

Joe,

So who will agents and the Big Six take on if their biggest authors start to jump ship? There’s been a lot of guff about agents now serving as paid consultants (publishers) and the ethical matters surrounding this. But let’s put that aside for a moment and look at who agents are now willing to work with: authors who were formerly published through the legacy system. Not new authors. So … what exactly are their plans? Cater to writers who used to have an agent/publisher at any given point in time but who were dropped for some reason (e.g., low sales)? And do what, publish their backlists?

Obviously, this would be smart, as these books need no extensive editing, just an updated cover. I’m just as excited about seeing backlists as ebooks as anyone – there are several paperbacks I sold that I wish I still had. But why would any writer whose name is reasonably recognizable want to share his/her profit, unless he or she is so technologically impaired that he/she doesn’t know the first thing about self-publishing?

Barry said...

David, great analysis, and agreed, she is a fookin' genius. Can you even imagine the mailing list alone she's going to get out of this?

A shame, of course, that everything she's doing is exceptional and inapplicable to any other author. :D

Megg Jensen said...

Everyone says middle grade (MG) doesn't sell well in ebook format.

Guess what? Pottermore opens in October. You have December holidays where every kid will want their own ereader so they can buy the HP books in ebook format.

When they're done reading Harry Potter, what will they do with their ereader?

Buy my upcoming MG fantasy novel (thank God I wrote it last year and it only needs final edits).

THANK YOU JO ROWLING!

Megg Jensen

Anonymous said...

Rowling is also going to watermark the ebooks somehow, to discourage piracy.

That's the reason why Rowling didn't publish e-books before. It shows her lack of understanding about how piracy actually works-- like I can't just buy a copy of her book, pop it into a scanner with OCR software, and boom-- I have the entire manuscript in Word in 20 minutes. Not that I've done that with her books, but I've actually done it with my own writing, when all I had was an old hard copy.

Younger authors understand this, conceptually, because they file-share all the time.

I'm surprised it took Rowling this long to come around. She's lost millions already.

Anonymous said...

J K Rowling would do well to remember what she had to go through to get into the business. Has she forgotten how much of the profits she generated by her creativity went to suited plodders who lived far better than she did? Or that they experienced none of the gut-wrenching, poverty and despair authors have to to be who and what they are?

Stephen King went through such a rough patch getting launched as an author that he contemplated suicide so depressed did he become. I would have thought that if an author became as wealthy as the big publishers, he'd give his fellow battler authors a break by financing the establishment of an eBook outlet like Amazon owned by the authors themselves, as a co-operative.

For hundreds of years, a form of slavery has been tolerated because 'that's how things are done.' Like banking, publishing enjoyed privileges that were set up in the medieval period. Both are dependent on the absence of a challenge to the unrightness of their exploitation. Publishing was contingent on the exploitation by the business mind of the artists in our community - the wealth generators; the 'talent'. Nothing could be done about it until technology came to the rescue via the microchip and all the stuff that flowed from it.

There's a lot of bleating by people who find themselves redundant in the new publishing landscape but I don't hear much comment on the ethics they pursued in screwing authors as part of their job description. Until the internet came along, most authors didn't know they were being screwed. Now that it's here, they can hear from colleagues all they need to know to get out from under the exploiters.

Altruism (noblesse oblige) isn't big amongst successful people these days, so I don't expect any miracles. Success has so little to teach us compared to what authors have known for centuries. Authors had an edge over all other players because they put their soul into it while those who didn't reaped the lion's share of the rewards. That's character building.

The big questions about the effects of all these changes are yet to be asked. Is it possible that the sting in the tail of this quiet revolution is that authors become harlots to money the way the middlemen did? If so, it's not just the publishing landscape that will change but the whole dynamic of artistic creation.

If nothing else, publisher slush piles filtered out the crap that constituted 90% of literary output. Are we about to be swamped by the suddenly liberated slush piles around the world? It's not a comforting thought.

Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose if all the talentless louts who used to clog up slush piles are now rushing to self-publish their flood of worthless drek --- it must be great news for agents and publishers to be out from under all that stuff! Right?

With the unwanted garbage gone from the slush piles, agents and publishers should be going through it all in a fraction of the time it used to take! This should lead to new dividends of efficiency and accuracy! Slush-pile readers should finally be able to unleash their awesome skills to the fullest --- and pluck hidden gems out of the slush with new, uncanny levels of accuracy!!!

Linsey Lanier said...

Stunned, amazed, dizzy, scared, deliriously happy and hopeful. As an indie writer, all of the above are my reactions to your headline, Joe.

I don't really want bookstores to go away. I love bookstores. But the future (and present) of eBooks is so exciting and filled with possibilities.

If Rowling is a billionaire, then her motive to self-publish isn't money. There's much more to be had from this venture. Independence, the ability to experiment, control. And I think, at last, readers, too, are having their say in being able to choose from a wider variety of fiction and to "vote" with a click.

Who knows? Maybe Amazon will buy out Borders and Barnes & Noble and we can have the best of both worlds.

Anonymous said...

I agree that kids will be wanting more ereaders and it will be helpful to those of us in the YA genre. Looking forward to it.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club

Theresa Milstein said...

JK Rowling hasn't really self-published. This is another example of her exercising more control than typical authors (like with her movies). Her publishers are getting a cut. These are all books that have been out before. If anything, Amazon along with other big booksellers should be worried because they've been cut out.

I wish you had mentioned this because I think your post is misleading as is.

David H. Burton said...

Theresa, I think you're incorrect on this.

She's absolutely self-publishing.

She owns the electronic rights to her work and has started up her own company (Pottermore) to release the books in ebook format, not to mention release new content in an interactive manner.

The publishers that have the print rights to her work are getting royalties from her, not the other way around.

She's absolutely self-publishing.

Barry said...

Theresa, the urge to post an 85th comment without even glancing at the previous 84 is one to be resisted.

David Gaughran said...

To me, it's quite clear. She owns the e-rights. She is paying various companies a percentage of those rights in exchange for services. She still controls the rights. She is the publisher.

If I start paying a publicist 5% of my royalties to motivate her to sell as many of my books as possible, she is not my co-publisher, she's just working for a percentage instead of a flat fee.

Why did she cut her publisher in at all? Cross-promotion, links between both sites, no possibility of legal action over who really owned the e-rights, translations ready to go in every market, the exact text of the print copy so that superfans can have an identical digital copy, and just to make everyone play nice. Makes sense.

Robert Carraher said...

Oh, she most definitly is self publishing. But look who else is involved in this project. Sony, Warner Bros. And her publisher. But they are working for her. Warner Bros. did the movies, so they can contribute a lot to the interactive web experience and they do own the movies. Sony is providing the Web Experience....think about that. Google it. Sony isn't (until now) a web provider. But they do make eReaders and have been looking for a way to compete with Amazon, Nook, and iPad. So I see them getting a big boost by the association. And then there is the publisher, actually the smallest player in the game now, but they do have expertise to brinng to the table. Maybe Rowlings is the only author around to be able to bring this kind of "product" to market...I mean Paterson is big, but games? Interactive web sites...nah, but if this comes out as big as I'd expect, it'll give some creative ideas to the rest of us. Oh, and I can't find it at the moment but FYI for the person that said there are no more movies. Wrong, the 8th movie is do out soon.

Tony said...

The idocy of your entire post aside. This is bordering on funny...

Stephen King went through such a rough patch getting launched as an author that he contemplated suicide so depressed did he become.

Really? With a wife and two little kids, he contemplated suicide?

You're a complete fucking moron.

Barry said...

Tony, I don't know about King, but you seem to be arguing that no one with a spouse and small children could ever have contemplated, let alone committed, suicide. This is so obviously empirically wrong that... well, let's just say you might profitably pause before calling other posts idiotic, and other people, morons.

Chris said...

Theresa, the urge to post an 85th comment without even glancing at the previous 84 is one to be resisted.

Nice.

Not.

Kinda lowers your status, Barry.

Christopher John Chater said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry said...

Chris, not sure what my status is, but if it's lowered by calling out people who post arguments that have already been addressed in the comments they can't be bothered to read, I'm okay with that.

Christopher John Chater said...

Will the big 6 be able to stay alive parasitically, getting scraps of the billions big authors make on these types of deals, or is the end near? Even a small percentage of billions is a lot of money. If all the authors do this, then maybe the big six can afford to stick around for a while.

coppervale said...

@Megg - your post is the one that popped out at me, because you're absolutely right.

Jo will drive the kids to get the readers - and when they look for something else to read, we'll be waiting! ;)

Chris said...

Barry, it's the way you called her out. Hey, I know, it was clever and all, but ...

Who knows, I could be wrong... maybe you made her day.

Megg Jensen said...

@coppervale - I've been sitting on this MG novel for a year, simply because I didn't feel the time was right for a MG ebook.

Now is the time. It's fortunate too, because I just secured original artwork for the cover. I can't wait to fully edit it and publish. :)

Megg Jensen

Robert Carraher said...

Tony, your post is not only moronic, but uninformed.When King wrote Carrie, and it was excepted in 73 he didn't have an inciome, further his mother was dying. Gis advance for Carrie was like 2 grand....that was 73. it was two more years before Salems Lot was excepted. In the mean time he was taking part time teaching jobs, moving often, and his mom died. It wasn't until like 1980 that his works started to take off, with movie rights etc...I can clearly see that he might have contemplted suicide, wife and child withstanding. During this same time period King had a very bad and deep drinking problem. So, very little income, two kids, losing his mom at a relatively young age, and trying to write for a living in a genre that was considered "pulp" at the time, throw in a drinking problem and an apparent lack of ability to hold a 'straight' job, suicidealy thoughts seem pretty much par for the course.For you to post what you did, pretty much lets us all know who the moron is.

puravida said...

Thanks for providing a site that inspires me with each post. My friends who are published authors thought it was crazy for me to self publish. That I should keep waiting for a literary agent to be interested in my book. They would say things like "you won't be taken seriously" or "published authors laugh at self-published work".
I will now point them to your site, a place full of wisdom from someone who is both published and self-published. Perhaps that will get them off my back. But hopefully not bounce on yours.

Jude Hardin said...

If the prices stay the same, why does it matter who publishes it? Do readers care that Rowling is getting $9 per copy rather than $3 per copy?

If she came out with a new book and sold it for $2.99, now THAT would be news. THAT would shake the industry. But, if she charges $12.99 as I predict, how is that really going to change anything? She's just Random House by another name.

Joe Konrath said...

Let's remember to be civil, and attack arguments and not people.

Joe Konrath said...

But, if she charges $12.99 as I predict, how is that really going to change anything?

Being able to set the price, no matter that it is, is a big deal. You of all people should understand that, based on what your publisher is charging for your ebook.

Also being able to keep the lion's share of the profits is a big deal.

Still, it was inevitable that a big author would self pub, just as it is inevitable that other big authors will follow.

The game changer here is Amazon, coming up as an alternative to self pubbing and legacy pubbing.

Amazon continues to collect authors and titles with their various imprints. And they're thinking long term, which means they can hoover up properties that other publishers aren't interested in, like out-of- print backlists and newbies.

In five years they could conceivably have a huge stable of authors.

David Tanner said...

While it sounds plausible that Stephen King might have contemplated suicide while a struggling writer I did want to point something out:

He didn't have to wait until the eighties for his career to take off. He sold the hardcover rights to Carrie to Doubleday in the spring (March or April) of 1973. And then sold the paperback rights to Signet in May of the same year for 400,000 dollars. Half of that sum went to to Doubleday and half to King. Adjusted for inflation his share would be around 900,000 dollars. So, he really didn't struggle after he sold Carrie.

Before hand? Definitely. He barely scraped by. And had teaching jobs where he only made 6 or 7 thousand a year. So, yeah, he definitely had some lean years. He's mentioned in interviews several times working multiple summer jobs while holding down teaching jobs during the school year.

Anyway, just my two cents and I'll go back to lurking now.

Kristie Leigh Maguire said...

Absolutely fabulous news for us self-pubbed authors. I wonder if everyone would be up in arms if JK Rowling posted about her books on the main Kindle Discusson Group like they do the rest of us Indie Authors.

Chris said...

@Tony:

Really? With a wife and two little kids, he contemplated suicide?

I agree with Barry on this.

Depression leading to suicide isn't mutually exclusive to those who are childless and single.

Sadly, I know this for a fact. And from many points of view.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Call me an optimist but I foresee a resurgence of the small Indie bookstore. People still love going to bookstores. A combo coffee/wine/bookstore can be a fun gathering place a la the local "bars" are in Italy (except with books).

I also think that as printed books become fewer, a demand for expensive hardcover (or even leather-bound) books will increase as people select beloved choices for their non-digital libraries.

But then again who am I? Just the guy who people laughed at 18 months ago for saying eBooks would be outselling printed books within 3 years. No one's laughing now.

Jude Hardin said...

Being able to set the price, no matter what it is, is a big deal. You of all people should understand that, based on what your publisher is charging for your ebook.

Yep. If I had my way, Pocket-47 would be $2.99 and I would be getting a 50% royalty. If that were the case, everyone involved would make more money. As it is, the book is priced at $9.99 and currently ranked 142,265 and nobody's making shit.

The game changer here is Amazon, coming up as an alternative to self pubbing and legacy pubbing.

I agree, but isn't it eventually going to be business as usual, with slush piles and form rejections and agents submitting to Amazon instead of the Big 6?

Robert Carraher said...

David, he didn't make or get anything like $400K for Carrie. he "eventually" realized 440K from Carrie, that took awhile. He was still pretty much a struggling writer, working in the "Horror" field in the late 70's Then Carrie was a hit movie, and the Stand was a much criticised TV mini series...didn't matter, he got paid, and from there he really started making money. and when Nicholson played the Lead in The Shining in 1980 that hje was anywhere near secure financialy.

David Gaughran said...

Jude,

I can't see it being in Amazon's interest to restrict access to KDP. The more titles on sale the better. The cost of displaying each one is marginal. If it sells one copy they are up.

Terrance Foxxe said...

King quit writing, throwing Carrie into the trash can. Tabbitha picked it out of the can and sent it to the publisher. And JK, she was on wellfare or the UK equivalent, from what I remember, while plotting her series.

I see a Harry Potter empire. Good for her. You go, girl.

I see all the time where authors, unable to actually live on what publishing gives them, consider joining the rank and file of us Indie Authors. Midlist authors without contracts have no real choice but to join us. And it has been said here before, the readers will winnow the slush. There are seven billion people in this world, and for the first time in human history we can communicate instantly from one side of this rock to the other. The market for our books will never cease. Not ever. Write well, edit even better, give your readers 150% effort to be 99.8% the perfect read, and the only thing you really need to worry about is getting your name out to those readers.

As to how her actions translate for us, she's yet another Indie Author. Day by day the world sits up and takes notice of our grassroots movement. Us having to prove to the world we have something worth the time to read. JK has made things easier for us in the long run, but it's still our individual efforts that will allow this bit of good grace to pay its dividends.

Jude Hardin said...

David, he didn't make or get anything like $400K for Carrie.

The mass market paperback rights sold for $400K. King got half. He tells all about it in On Writing.

Derek J. Canyon said...

Hah! This news has apparently gotten the attention of some other UK writers. Sales of my DIY book How to Format Your Ebook for Kindle in One Hour went up 350%-700% today. (I usually sell 0-2 copies/day in UK. Sold 7 today!)

Jude Hardin said...

I can't see it being in Amazon's interest to restrict access to KDP.

No, but once Amazon has a huge stable of authors, as Joe predicts, they will naturally focus on promoting those signed to their imprints. That being the case, having access to KDP won't mean much. Self-publishing will no longer be a viable option unless you're a superstar. It will go back to the way it was a few years ago, with the scales weighted heavily toward authors who are able to sign a deal.

Carolynp said...

I hope the publishing revolution for textbooks is equally around the corner. It will probably take longer because the administrations, politicians, and the professors are in cahoots, but it has begun.

jtplayer said...

I find the comments about all the money Rowling has left on the table amusing. Seriously, how much does any one person need?

To even attempt to prop this up as a "smart" business move is plain silly. Unless she's pissed away all the bank she's made, all this move will do is cement her status as one of the mega rich.

Sure, there may be some coattails to ride...for some indie authors. But as Joe has pointed out numerous times, that's more luck than anything else.

It's more likely Rowling's ebook success will remain in an orbit that rarely if ever touches that of the average self-published writer.

J.M.Cornwell said...

What I found most interesting about the news was that bookstores are calling foul after they put J. K. Rowling on the map. Excuse me, fellas, but I believe Ms. Rowling put herself on the map and you helped by selling her books, but how can you sell ebooks?

It's as if the bookstores believe authors owe them for putting them over. How about big chain bookstores calling the market by refusing to stock books they don't think will sell, ignoring unknown authors, dictating the trends and refusing to pay their bills while they send the books back to the warehouse just before they have to pay and then ordering new books? Chain stores have their fingers in the pie and now they're getting stiffed. I wonder why.

Anonymous said...

Jude you make a great point. Once the Big 6 are gone does Amazon start becoming what they once destroyed? And don't they begin to go with "name" authors like a Rowling instead of taking some chances with other authors?

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club

JustRR said...

Now the only question is: is this the pebble that starts the avalanche?

Susan said...

I LOVE the 57th Precinct books and will happily snap them all up on Kindle.

And Rowling. Wow...

Joe Konrath said...

It's as if the bookstores believe authors owe them

I've seen publishers and agents act in a similar fashion. They feel responsible for "making" an author, when they were earning money too.

Newsflash: the only one necessary in the creation of art is the artist. People can help the artist, and should rightfully get a cut of the profits for doing so, but they wouldn't be making anything without the art.

Artists owe them nothing. They weren't getting any favors, and shouldn't be obligated to give any favors back.

That's not to say I haven't appreciated the help I've gotten from booksellers or agents or even publishers. But this is a business. When it is no longer beneficial to both parties, one of the parties always moves on. Usually it was the author getting the raw deal, being dropped by agents and publishers, having books sent back or not stocked by bookstores.

Now the author has the power, and these people don't like it.

Guess what? Show an author value, and they'll share the wealth.

W. Dean said...

Carolynp,

It’s the science and social science profs and publishers who’ve long been in the textbook racket. But it began to change in the academy long before it hit the mainstream. The tech-savvy in the humanities have been using pdfs of notes and texts instead of textbooks for years. On top of that, journals have been simultaneously published in e-format since the mid-90s and some have abandoned paper altogether.

I don’t know of anyone’s who has actually self-published a textbook for classroom use, but I expect that it won’t be long away. The reason it’s lagged behind on textbooks is that you actually need “gatekeepers” for this part of academic publishing. It’s not just quality-control; the sheer quantity of labor involved in creating an academic book or textbook is staggering.

Actually, the electronic revolution is a boon for academic work. It has made rare and inaccessible books easily available and greatly reduced the amount of labor involved in research.

Robin Sullivan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Rabig said...

Most of the talk will be about Rowling, of course, but ED MCBAIN!!! Hot damn! Dare we hope for the Evan Hunter books too?

Bests to all

Robin Sullivan said...

Carolynp said...
I hope the publishing revolution for textbooks is equally around the corner. It will probably take longer because the administrations, politicians, and the professors are in cahoots, but it has begun.


Carolynp - The BISG has been studying the ebook market for several years and they reported some recent findings at BEA. Text books are VERY much behind in terms of adoption, based on their data.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Karen Woodward said...

Great news! I've moved most of my library over to digital and the Potter books were a notable exception. I'm looking forward to re-reading them as ebooks.

Stephen Leather said...

Yup, I've no doubt that JK is the first of many. But I'm surprised to see so many "Indie" writers jumping for joy over the news. Feels a bit to me like turkeys cheering for Xmas. Suppose she puts them up at $2.99. And suppose Stephen King does the same. And the James Patterson production line starts spewing out a $2.99 book every month. And Tom Clancy does the same. What hope then for the Indies? Maybe they'll sell at $1.99. And what if the big guns do the same? So the Indies drop to 99 cents. In the race to the bottom there'll only be one loser - the Indies. Yes, John Locke has sold a million copies. But how many would he have sold if Ed McBain's whole backlist had been available at 99 cents a throw?

Jimmie Hammel said...

I just had to say that THIS is effing awesome. It finally makes sense why Rowling has been refusing to create kindle versions of HP.

Tom said...

@Stephen Leather

I'm with you on this. The main strength of the indies at the moment is the ability to undercut the big names to tempt readers to give them a go. At some point publishers and co will wake up and realise they'll make more money at a lower price.

The usual argument that is mentioned on here is that publishers can't afford to drop their prices, but that goes against the whole "lower price = more volume sold = more profit" logic that is also used here all the time.

Big authors self publishing at low prices is a negative for emerging indies. But, I remember David Morrell self-publishing at $9.99 not so long ago, and Rowling certainly doesn't need to drop her prices, so it's likely to be a while before the shift occurs.

Anonymous from 3:37 said "Slushpile & Drek?" said...

@Anonymous (posted 3:28 & 3:27),

Stick to editing Snooki, girlfriend. Or publishing it. Glad you all took a bath on that one.

YOU are in the traditional publishing racket because you threw your famous words around : SLUSH PILE & DREK. You're so greedy & bitter towards writers. You can't even *hide* your contempt. The mere fact that the submission bin for aspiring authors is called The Slush Pile is very telling of your contempt right off the bat. That's like saying it's The Sh!t Pile IMO.

Anyway, YOU won't have to dig through more DREK & SLUSH PILE as you put it. Hopefully you'll be digging through the dumpster once your job has been cut. Hopefully that will soon. Long live Konrath! Long live Hocking, Locke, and Rowling!

P.S. Goodbye.

N. L. Earnshaw said...

I was having this discussion with my partner the other night and to me it seems that the change is in some ways similar to what happened in Hollywood.

The studios used to groom their stars, they had a 'stable' of stars so to speak. Then things changed and actors became independent and worked for who ever had the most to offer, project by project.

This may be where authors end up. You work hard and enter the game by which ever means you can and when you are big enough you can have your autonomy. You are not going to be tied to a single publisher all the time.

The days are gone where the publisher had all the control and they treated writers like a commodity, they have no ability to hang onto any writer now if a writer wants to do things their own way.

We now have both options. You can choose to pursue your career with or without a publisher. Both options are valid, as is everything in between which is what JK Rowling is doing.

I for one am glad to be around to see these changes. New frontiers are always the most exciting.


http://indieebooks.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I agree with many people here. If Rowling starts this who is to say that "big names" don't squeeze out the indies? Of course there is the thought that Rowling is the tipping point for authors to regain control and be the ones in charge which isn't a bad thing.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club

Robin Sullivan said...

Stephen Leather said...
Yup, I've no doubt that JK is the first of many. But I'm surprised to see so many "Indie" writers jumping for joy over the news. Feels a bit to me like turkeys cheering for Xmas.


When I want to improve my tennis game I look to someone who plays better than I do. I'm excited because I want to see what she does and how she does it and encorporate leasons learned to my own authors.

I'm not affraid of competition. I know my products are good ones. Yep I'm celebrating this new development.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Robin Sullivan said...

N. L. Earnshaw I agree with you 100%.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Robin Sullivan said...

Anonymous said...
I agree with many people here. If Rowling starts this who is to say that "big names" don't squeeze out the indies?


The only thing you can count is that things will change. Indies are great at adapting, they are nimble. As the times change so shall we. You can't stop progress just learn how to live within it.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Andy said...

The bypassing of Amazon is the really interesting part of all this, much as I love them.

I think there are certain situations, when dealing with a 'unique' market like this, where it makes sense to set up your own stall and not try to get a place in the 'bookstore' (whether it's online or bricks and mortar).

I'm putting my titles on Amazon and Smashwords, yes, but there are two titles I'm got scheduled for release that are targeted at highly specific markets, gathered neatly together as online communities. And in those two specific instances, it makes more sense for me to set up my own online store page and go to those sites and tell them there's a book available that's all about their lives.

100% profit on each sale to me, with minor costs for web hosting, techie consultation and, of course, cover art.

Rowling has, of course, created her own online community but it's worth every writer thinking about whether they have something that appeals to a highly specific focus group or online community that they're probably already a member of.


Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11 on Amazon and Smashwords : 3 down, 8 to go
The Very Thought of You, a timeslip ghost story, out now...

Adam Pepper said...

Joe,

If you want to just get it over with and post tomorrow's lottery numbers, that'd be fine.

And Barry, I like how you slipped in a plug for Blake's RUN on Salon! Did Joe teach you that kind of marketing genius?

I.J.Parker said...

And now I have another gripe at the pricing policies of the big six. Four of my titles have e-books where the rights are with Penguin. They are priced at 12.99.
The other e-books are mine, priced at 4.99.
So what happens? A reader buys one of the Penguin e-books and posts a one-star review complaining about the outrageous price when the other titles sell at 4.99.
Somehow, the author always gets blamed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with other's comments that JK Rowling going E can only encourage young adults to buy or use Kindle's etc - and hopefully then stumble upon other Young Adult fiction to read.

I know 2 people who have self published decent Young Adult fiction, have good websites, much forum use, competitions etc - and aren't selling much; making me think carefully about marketing requirements before self publishing my own YA work.

Mike
[seeking moderately selling YA authors who need more product to take on my YA novel under co-writer label for cool royalty cut: realgoodbookstoread@gmail.com

]

Mike Dennis said...

Good post, Joe, as always.

Question: why do you suppose none of the big 6 is even thinking about taking the obvious step of moving out of New York?

When you think about it, there's no real reason for them to be there, except that "the business is there". But of course, they ARE the business.

The high rents, crushing taxes, and impossible cost of living (apartments, utilities, etc) would all be ameliorated by a move to another state. This act alone would make the needle move in a favorable direction and could impact their receding bottom line.

Shéa MacLeod said...

Am I the only one relieved there will be no zombie apocalypse?

Doctor T. said...

I hope the demise of the bookshop leads to a comeback of the library. We still need a place where we go and touch, feel, and smell, and flick through books as well as read them. Or maybe this is only for dinosaurs now?

David Gaughran said...

@DoctorT

The kids growing up today won't even have bookstores to be nostalgic about, unfortunately.

W. Dean said...

Stephen Leather,

While you’re probably right that the comparatively low price of indie books confers an advantage, it doesn’t follow that lower prices overall will harm indies. In every other market, lower prices across the board benefit everyone for the simple reason that cheaper books mean more books sold.

There are also some ‘psychological’ benefits. Rowling’s switch to e-books will add legitimacy to all e-books in readers’ minds in a way that all the Hockings and Lockes cannot. It will erode the stigma of not having a big name publisher’s imprint on your book.

Third, tastes and habits change; and the reading audience has grown larger. Ed McBain was a heavyweight in his genre. But so were H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft and Isaac Asimov in each of their genres. Most of the works of these writers are now public domain, yet they haven’t decimated the sales of contemporary writers.

Edward M. Grant said...

"When you think about it, there's no real reason for them to be there, except that "the business is there". But of course, they ARE the business."

To a large extent the people are the business and most of them probably don't want to leave New York. The IT companies I've worked for could have moved to India and saved money, but they'd lose 98% of their employees in the process... eventually they could be replaced, but in the meantime the company would go bust because there'd be no-one who knew how to do the work.

Also if my experience of movies is anything to go by I'm guessing there's a lot of face to face contact in the current business model which wouldn't work as well; there's a difference between going to a bar with Joe Writer's agent and each of you sitting in front of a TV screen with a six pack talking over the Internet.

Kate Madison, YA author said...

@Shea I'm relieved there won't be a zombie apocalypse. For now, at least. ;)

@Stephen Leather
I don't think your scenario will play out.

Price point will be part of the branding as more and more authors self publish. Many big names (and no names, too) will see themselves as more Nordstrom (9.99+) than 99c store.

Price will be one of the main communicators of brand and quality (regardless of whether it communicates accurately) among the millions and millions of ebooks that will be available.

Kate Madison
WriterKMadison.blogspot.com

Doctor T. said...

@David Gaughran

Yeah, too right. But I suppose we should remember that the Egyptians would have been absolutely horrified to find out that we have been using flimsy tree mush instead of beautiful stone monuments to record our greatest thoughts.

Edward M. Grant said...

"Price will be one of the main communicators of brand and quality (regardless of whether it communicates accurately) among the millions and millions of ebooks that will be available."

I don't really see how it could be an accurate communicator; if enough people say 'I'd never buy a $2.99 ebook because they're low quality', then every self-publisher will starting pricing their ebooks at $3.99 instead.

I do agree that pricing too low can cause people to ignore your products because in one of my past jobs we saw sales increase on some occasions when we increased prices. But the solution to that is easy: increase the price.

Anonymous said...

@Shea - a zombie apocalypse would be interesting...

Mike

Selena Kitt said...

As for Seattle Mystery, in a weird way I respect their decision. Sometimes you fight not because you have a real chance of winning, but because you feel that not fighting would be an unendurable affront to your dignity.

I'm with you, Barry - in the minority, most likely. I get it. Some things are worth taking a stand for if you really believe in them. But things are hardly ever black and white.

So who will agents and the Big Six take on if their biggest authors start to jump ship?

Snooki

I can't see it being in Amazon's interest to restrict access to KDP. The more titles on sale the better. The cost of displaying each one is marginal. If it sells one copy they are up.

I don't know. They're getting a big media backlash right now for the spam and plagiarism going on through the Kindle store. Amazon may start putting more restrictions on KDP - and they may do it through their imprints.

...the only one necessary in the creation of art is the artist.

Yes! It always seemed insane to me that the people who actually created the art were the folks getting the tiniest slice of the pie. Who would sign up for that?

Writers are masochists apparently. Egoic masochists. :)

The good news is now we can be RICH egoic masochists. And then we can take over the world! Bwahahahahah!

At least, until the apocalypse...

By the way, it won't be vampires or zombies... it will be peak oil...

Jeff Kay said...

When are the J.D. Salinger books -- including the unpublished ones he had inside the walk-in vault at his house -- coming to Kindle and Nook?

Margo Lerwill said...

Selena Kitt said: "By the way, it won't be vampires or zombies... it will be peak oil..."

LOL. I love this remark. I'm in resource planning and have to keep up on this sort of thing. I've thought about peak oil's impact on publishing...if physical book distribution became too expensive...if $8-10/gallon gas meant the trips to the bookstore had to be less frequent....

Melissa said...

RE:

"So who will agents and the Big Six take on if their biggest authors start to jump ship?

Snooki"

Selena, now you've gone and done it. My cup of afternoon Sumatra no longer tastes as good as it did 45 seconds ago. ::grin::

But I do have to say that fear this is exactly what we're looking at -- sub-par memoirs, autobiographies and even fiction about and by celebrities. I was in my local bookstore recently, and I noticed that publishers are dredging up some seriously *old* names (rock stars, actors, etc.) that I haven't even contemplated in a decade. I'm starting to see *fiction* written by these people. Seriously --?

To be fair, I made some of my money off ghostwriting for one of these celebs. If your prediction comes true, ghostwriters are going to see a huge increase in contract work.

Selena Kitt said...

I've thought about peak oil's impact on publishing...if physical book distribution became too expensive...if $8-10/gallon gas meant the trips to the bookstore had to be less frequent....

Depends on how bad they let things get. If it gets too bad, the corporations themselves will collapse and nothing will be valuable except commodities. (Invest in gold and silver now...) But if the ship only starts listing and we can still bail, you're right, it may force ebooks to the forefront for economic reasons. Physical books take a great deal of oil to print, store and ship. In comparison, the Internet runs on far less.

If your prediction comes true, ghostwriters are going to see a huge increase in contract work.

Dust off your resume. ;)

Stephen Leather said...

@ Robin Sullivan

"When I want to improve my tennis game I look to someone who plays better than I do. I'm excited because I want to see what she does and how she does it and encorporate leasons learned to my own authors."

Absolutely watching great tennis players might improve your game. But you wouldn't expect to play against them at Wimbledon, would you? You might learn how to improve your backswing by watching TIger Woods but that doesn't mean you'll ever be a professional golfer. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for Indie publishing and now a third of my income comes from eBooks, but you shouldn't think that what is good for JK Rowling is also good for self-published Indie authors trying to make a living... c

Stephen Leather said...

@ W Dean

"In every other market, lower prices across the board benefit everyone"

Sadly that's just not true! Yes, it might benefit the consumer, but not necessarily the producer. Lots of poverty across north east Thailand because the price of rice is relatively low. Lots of child labour in Asia making cheap trainers. Lots of American firms going out of business because companies in China can make their products cheaper.

JK Rowling, Patterson, King etc can make a great living selling cheaply. A few Indies might be able to sell millions and make good money. But what about all the Indies in the long tail, selling a few dozen a day or less? How will they survive if $2.99 becomes the norm. Or 99 cents? Low prices do not benefit everyone, they tend to benefit the market leaders.

I'm a huge fan of Indie publishing, an even huger fan of Joe's, but I just think that those Indie writers jumping up and down cheering JK Rowling's decision to self-publish eBooks should start looking at what it might really mean down the line.

Cranberry sauce anyone? Stuffing?

David Gaughran said...

@Stephen Leather

I don't really see it as turkeys voting for Christmas. First off, I'm not "cheering" this move. I think it is fascinating, and I am especially interested in the details of how she is doing it and how the power relationship has changed over the years between her and her publisher, but that's about it. I don't see it dramatically affecting my bottom line either way.

Even if she sells her books for $2.99, which I very much doubt, what effect will that have on my sales? None. She won't even be on Amazon to take up the top spots in the charts, so that minor potential effect on ranking won't even exist.

What she could do is speed up the transition of a lot of people to e-books. In the long term, that would have happened anyway, but she will quicken the pace to some extent.

Your long term business plan should, at the very least, entertain the possibility that all the big guns will have some or all of their future projects as lower priced e-books.

I'm okay with that because I think that by the time that happens, the pie will have grown big enough that they won't distort the market too much. If they enter the market ahead of the curve, they will just grow the market quicker.

By the last AAP figures out on Thursday, e-books had 19% of the market. At its peak this year in February, they had 29.5% of the market. The UK is only at around 8%. The rest of the world is far behind.

The global book market is worth $80bn to $90bn, of which the US is just one (albeit large) market. There is a huge amount of room for e-books to grow further both in the US and the UK, and elsewhere.

So if we want to look at what it might mean "down the line" we are looking at three times as many people buying e-books in the US, ten times as many in the UK, twenty times as many in the rest of Europe, and even more in the rest of the world.

There is plenty of room for Patterson, Child, King, Roberts, and all of us too.

Besides, as John Locke conclusively proved, advertising, book trailers, ads in cinemas, expensive publicists, radio interviews, and press releases don't sell e-books. Word-of-mouth does. And the only way to jumpstart that is with social networking.

Those big guys (and their publishers) aren't used to the social media hustle. They are used to large plinths in bookstores, being the only guys on the rack in airports, posters in the window of every chain.

There's no real coop online. They will have to learn a new game.

Dave

Robin Sullivan said...

@Stephen Leather said...
I'm all for Indie publishing and now a third of my income comes from eBooks, but you shouldn't think that what is good for JK Rowling is also good for self-published Indie authors trying to make a living...


Well, my husband's self-publishing income isn't 1/3 of our household income it is 100% as I quit my six-figure day job in April. Self-publishing allows him to do something that most "professional" authors can't which is earn a living wage. And I'm now taking advantage of the ebook revolution to build a nice little indie press of my own that I'm quite proud of.

What I know is that things will always change but if you keep abreast of what is going on then you can adapt. It is those that evolve who will always come out ahead.

Rowlings is making a virutal on-line amusement park for readers. If she develops a platform that resonates with them (a place for the author and reader to connect) then others may benefit from doing similarly.

But what I find very encouraging is that SHE is in control. What we are seeing is further errosion of a system that used to hold a pretty tight grip on how authors make money and when I see that happening - I'll applaud it everytime.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Stephen Leather said...

@ Robin Sullivan - Sounds like you're putting all your eggs in one basket. I wish you luck with that. Everything adapts. Turkeys adapted by losing the ability to fly, but I never understood that!

James said...

>Not that a signing does
>anyone but the store any good.

Just to be fair, most signings don't do bookstores any good these days, particularly if they dedicate a staff member to it and/or publicize it in any way. If the author isn't a big name (regionally or nationally), people generally won't show up.

When I worked at Borders in the early 90s (when it was still a good bookstore), I was surprised to discover that the vast majority of signings ended up with zero sales and (often) no visitors.

Even big celebrity authors don't necessarily result in profits. Ann Rice pulled in somewhere around 900 people, with a lot of sales, but most people brought their own copies of the books. Any profit from the sales was lost in the advertising and extra employees that had to be added to handle the event.

I have seen some authors who work hard to ensure that a certain number of fans show up to all their signing events, but they are definitely in the minority.

W. Dean said...

Stephen Leather,

You’re right that low prices benefit consumers more than producers, but you also have to take into account the product. Rice is a commodity, books a luxury good. As a rule, the demand for commodities is more or less stable regardless of price (in technical terms: the demand is inelastic), while the demand for luxury goods depends very much on price (demand is highly elastic). In other words, people only eat so much rice, but the cheaper you make books, travel, amusement parks, etc., the more they’ll be consumed.

Now, I agree that indie authors will lose the comparative advantage they have with lower prices. But there’s an equally good case to be made that it will be cancelled out by the cheaper overall price of books.

J.M.Cornwell said...

I seriously doubt J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, or anyone with an immediately recognizable and wealth-producing name would sell their books for less than $5.99. I think those of us on the low end of the spectrum will be in no danger. There's something about being used to a much higher standard of living -- and earning -- that makes it difficult to sell at a cheaper rate.

author Scott Nicholson said...

I'm still holding out hope that Amazon, BN, iPad, and Kobo do reverse exclusivity and bar the Potter books from their devices, and let's see Sony carry the ball.

Blog posts galore!