Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Pie

I hear a lot of talk about the ebook market getting glutted with too many ebooks. Some say the pie is finite (the pie being the amount of money being spent on ebooks) and as more and more ebooks are published, authors will get a smaller slice and earn less and less.

This is so very bullshit I'm not sure where to begin.

First of all, there are billions of paper books on planet earth right now, but there was never any talk about being too many, or worries the paper market was saturated. What a ludicrous concept.

Author: Do you want put publish my new book?

Publisher: I'm sorry, but there are already too many books. We can't print anymore.

Silly, ain't it?

Second, the pie isn't finite. I've heard repeatedly that people who get ereaders read more and buy more than they did with paper. Even if another person was never born, and even if another ereader was never sold, there is still a huge, untapped market for authors.

For the sake of argument, let's say I've reached 10% of those who have ereaders. I've still got a long way before I saturate the market.

But the market is growing. Fast.

When I started self-pubbing on Kindle in 2009, there were 700,000 ebooks available. Now there are over a million. So there have been about 150k added each year.

There are a lot more than 150,000 Kindles, Nooks, Sony Readers, Kobos, and iPads sold per year. So the ereader market is actually growing faster than ebooks are being published. I would guess there are more ereaders than there are ebook titles, many times over.

The pie is getting bigger. In fact, it is growing faster than new content is being uploaded. That means more and more people are going to be looking for ebooks.

Here's a nonsense representation of what I'm talking about. Keep in mind I suck at math, and my figures aren't accurate. I'm pulling these numbers out of my ass, but I'm doing so to prove a point.

Let's say ebook titles grow by 150k a year, and ereader sales grow by 5 million a year.

In 2011, let's say there are 5 million ereaders, and 1 million ebook titles.

In 2021 there will be 50 million ereaders, and 2.5 million ebook titles.

In 2031 there will be 100 million ereaders, and 4 million ebook titles.

Get the picture? The market is expanding faster than the content is.

On first glance, this doesn't appear to be beneficial to the author. Look at it from a reader's point of view. I'm a Kindle owner. Right now, I have 1 million ebooks to choose from. In 2031, I'll have 4 million ebooks to choose from. One one hand, this is good for Joe the reader, because I have more choices. On the other hand, this seems bad for Joe the author, because of all the competition.

Which begs the follow-up argument I see a lot: "With all of those ebooks available, it will be impossible to find anything, and authors will get lost."

Doesn't the same apply to paper books? Or websites? Or music? Yet people still find things they like. The imdb now has over 1.7 million titles, yet people still can find movies and TV shows to watch.

As long as websites like Amazon make browsing easy, the cream has the potential to rise to the top. You don't have to be a monster bestseller. A hardcore niche group of 10,000 fans can support a writer quite easily. Write two ebooks per year at $2.99, and three shorts at 99 cents, and you're making $50k a year.

But ebooks don't stop selling after a year. They sell forever. And good books will eventually find more than just 10,000 readers. And every new book you write will find new readers along with old fans.

Going back to the 2031 figures, an author will have a much better chance of finding those career-sustaining 10,000 readers when there are 100 million ereaders out there.

In other words, as every day goes by, authors only have to appeal to a smaller percentage of the ereading population.

Which means we won't need to be bestsellers in order to make the same amount of money we're now making by being bestsellers.

Confused? Think of it like this.

Let's call my current slice of the pie 10%, meaning I've sold to 10% of the ereading public--about 500,000 ebooks (out of 5 million potential customers). In 2031, assuming my readership stays flat, I'll earn the same as I am now with a .005% slice of the pie. (500,000 ebooks out of 100 million potential customers.)

Now these numbers assume that I'm only selling one ebook per consumer, not multiple ebooks. If I have fans who buy multiple ebooks, I need fewer fans to make the same amount of money.

These numbers also assume I won't grow my fanbase, or write anymore ebooks. By 2031, I'll have at least forty more novels completed, plus dozens of shorts and novellas.

Of course, a lot of things can happen between now and 2031, and I may be wildly off base on a lot of this. But the fact remains that the pie isn't getting smaller. If you keep writing, and keep self-publishing, chances are you'll eventually find your audience. And you won't have to be in the Kindle Top 100 in order to make a nice living.

And for those not there, remember that cream rises. If you made cream, and it hasn't risen yet: make more cream.

243 comments:

1 – 200 of 243   Newer›   Newest»
J.R. Pearse Nelson said...

I think most of your math checks out. :) And so...the possibilities are really endless. A growing market, more and more opportunities to get your work out there. All good things for authors, and for readers.

I read my first Joe Konrath post back in February, and it was a good kick in the ass. I published my first novella in August and will publish another toward the end of the year. Thank you!

David Gaughran said...

Authors have never had it so good, yet some people are determined to find the negative in everything.

A Harris poll today pegged e-reader ownership at 15% of the population. E-books are grabbing a larger and larger share of the market. The economics of publishing and distribution will force this trends to continue.

Looking further afield, Amazon is in the middle of a vast international roll-out, opening up new markets, creating new opportunities all the time.

You really have to struggle to find anything to be pessimistic about. Won't stop some people though.

David Wisehart said...

Some authors are pessimistic because they don't want to take full responsibility for their own careers. Change is hard, but those who adapt and take responsibility and produce good work should do just fine.

And perhaps much better than fine.

David

Daniel Keys said...

As an aspiring author who just penned the first sentence of my first novel yesterday. This is very inspiring.

To think I could make a very comfortable living writing two books a year with only ten thousand fans is awesome.

The only thing between me and my dream is the second sentence, then the third....

Things are as simple as they are understood.

Joe lays it out perfectly: Write. Write some more. Write even more. The more you write, the better luck you'll have.

Thanks Joe!

Aaron Polson said...

I like pie.

And this pie has an awful lot to love about it.

Keep your head down and write.

Thanks, Joe, for telling the truth.

Rex Kusler said...

Predictions are abundant and wishful, Joe. But I'm hoping we won't run into each other wandering the streets of Vegas ten years from now. I'll be pushing 70 then--however I will steal your shoes if they look like a good pair.

Richard Brown said...

I guess it was about time you gave the "finite pie" subject its own post. I recall seeing you make this case a few times within the comment section recently.

Although I fear some people still won’t get it, no matter how simply it is explained to them. They think if one person succeeds then somebody else has to fail. They don't understand free trade or mutual benefit, and this is true in any marketplace and for economics in general. The finite pie myth most often arises in discussions of tax policy, where some believe that wealthy people unfairly take a larger slice of the pie at the expense of everyone else.

What they don’t smell is all the other pies baking in the kitchen.

www.richardbrownbooks.com

Fingers Murphy said...

You're not off base at all. In fact, I think you are wildly underestimating the number of ereaders in the future. 20 years from now the number will be way more than 100 million. I'm sure it will be over a billion. Maybe substantially so.

Imagine what people were saying about cell phones 25 years ago: "25 years from now there will be 100 million cell phones in the world!" Today I'll bet there are almost that many in the United States alone, and I'll bet the same holds true with ereaders.

25 years from now most people in the developed world will own one and a substantial portion in the developing world will. We're already almost at the $100 Kindle. 20 years from now these devices will cost next to nothing. Devices that do what the ipad does today will cost $40.

And with that, reading books on ereaders will be the norm and books will be accessible by way more people than they are today. We all get used to living in the US, Canada, and Europe, but think about the fact that bookstores like we're used to don't even exist in much of the world. That means traditional publishers today aren't reaching nearly the number of people that ereaders will be reaching 20 years from now.

Fingers Murphy said...

To add to my last post, I just Googled it and learned, to my shock, that there are 285 million mobile phone subscribers in the US today. There are more than 890 million in India today. How many do you think there were 20 years ago? Probably none in India, and very few in the US. Ereaders will see the same kind of growth. These devices will be ubiquitous in another generation.


When there are billions of people with ereaders (and a whole generation raised on them), how many ebooks do you think will be sold in the world? Do you think Amazon hasn't already done that math?

And don't forget, many of these people do not have access to most published books today. So we're not talking about just replacing the existing paper book market, we're talking about creating an entirely new market in a new population.

There are approximately 1.5 billion people in the world who speak English as a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd language. That number may be 2 billion in 20 years. When 80% of them have ereaders it's going to make today's marketplace look like a joke.

Forget guys like John Locke blowing everyone away by selling a million ebooks. People who go viral will sell 50 million in a short period of time.

The world is a really big place and a lot of people don't seem to understand that.

Jude Hardin said...

If you keep writing, and keep self-publishing, chances are you'll eventually find your audience. And you won't have to be in the Kindle Top 100 in order to make a nice living.

There's no way to predict this--not one year ahead, and especially not twenty years ahead.

Three years ago, self-publishing was not a viable option; three years from now, that might again be the case.

Write the best book you can. Keep your mind--and your options--open, and don't burn any bridges.

That's my advice.

SK Waller said...

You always inspire me with you no-nonsense delivery of things that other writers enjoy making so difficult to understand.

Thanks!

Tracey said...

I'm really excited about the next few years and what it means for authors. Can't wait to get a slice of pie myself. As long as it comes with cream of course.

Tracey :)

Sarah Woodbury said...

I like the notion that you have to appeal to a smaller percentage of the total audience, but still get the same number of readers. Plenty of authors write books that are quirky, or that traditional publishers don't think will sell--or sell well enough for them.

I think it's true already.

David Wisehart said...

Fingers,

I like your cell phone analogy, but remember: lots of people read books on their phones. I started reading ebooks on my BlackBerry before I bought a Kindle, and I still sometimes read books on my phone because it's always with me.

In many countries, cell phones may remain the ereader of choice.

David

The Daring Novelist said...

The other element is that authors now get a way bigger slice of the existing pie -- i.e. a higher return from Amazon and other etailers than they did from publishers.

But let's be honest and admit that no matter you say, people will still be reluctant to believe it, because they're AFRAID. Change is scary, and some can only see the downside -- even if they have to invent one.

Joshua Simcox said...

As a writer, self-pubbing obviously makes the most economic sense. No argument here.

But as a reader, I'm still concerned about the quality of the content that will continue flooding the market in years to come.

I seriously doubt anyone reading this blog will agree with me, but legacy publishing, while obviously a broken system (in much the same way that health care and education are broken), is still a system that mostly works...at least for readers. (Writers, maybe not so much.)

I have a theory that there are two primary reasons for why the legacy system has given us so many wonderfully gifted authors that continue to be read decades after delivering their first novels (in the realm of commercial fiction, I'm thinking specifically of Koontz, King, etc):

Rejection and strong editorial guidance.

Rejection helps authors focus and sharpen their talents until they deliver their strongest material. Some of the most beloved commercial fiction in history wouldn't exist as we know it had the authors not suffered rejection at least once (in many cases, several times), and brought their novels back to drawing board to reshape them into tighter, more focused pieces of storytelling.

Is a publishing industry where rejection no longer exists and immediate gratification for authors easily available really the best thing for readers? Will most self-pubbing authors bleed and sweat to deliver the very best work they're capable of? Joe can probably answer that better than I can, but based on many of the indie books I've read, I suspect not.

For example, I happen to be a big fan of one particular indie author who was once legacy published. As is the case with many mid-listers, he was royally screwed by his publishing house and failed to earn a living as a full-time fiction author. He's now doing great business self-pubbing ebooks, but in my (highly subjective) opinion, his legacy pubbed novels are much, much stronger. And I'm sure that's mostly the result of an editor demanding more and better drafts until the work was as solid as it could possibly be.

This brings me to my second thought about editorial guidance. Any indie author can hire an editor, sure, but there's a huge difference between a recent MFA graduate setting up a freelance editing service and a seasoned industry pro that's guided numerous bestsellers. Now, to be fair, maybe only a very small percentage of legacy pubbed authors actually get to work with editors of that caliber. Still, I think it's a point worth considering.

I realize that Joe addressed this in his "Tsunami of Crap" post, but as a reader I still have concerns. Yes, cream will rise, but sifting through oceans of mediocre self-published novels still makes my job as a reader that much more difficult.

It also begs the question of which is truly a better value: a $2.99 indie novel with a cool cover but storytelling that's only serviceable at best, or that new Preston and Child title that may set me back $12.99 but will almost certainly give me hours of reading joy?

I'm probably wrong, but those are just a few thoughts I would love hear everyone's take on.

--Joshua Simcox

Fingers Murphy said...

David,

It's true that some people read on cell phones, but it's not nearly as pleasant as a larger screen. My prediction is that the tablet will become ubiquitous, and with it, so will ebooks. That technology combined with unparalleled access to ebooks will feed the exponential growth. That's my theory anyway.

Technology has a way of doing that. If you'd have told someone in the mid-50s that 30 years later not only would virtually every household have a TV, but that many would have two or three, people would have thought you were crazy. Then if you told them that the average American would watch 6 or 8 hours of TV and there would be hundreds of channels of content, they would have locked you up. How could anyone ever watch that much? How could anyone ever figure out what to watch with so much available? That's what they'd have said.

And that's what they're saying about eReaders and eReader content today.

Who knows how it will happen. Some other hardware maker might come up with a better device, and some other content provider might beat out Amazon for delivery of content, but I think the fact that it will happen is hard to dispute.

Even if I'm only part right, the real numbers will be much higher than Joe's.

chris said...

There also has to be something said about the amount of titles that e-users purchase over a short period of time, or all at once. I know of several e-users who admit to buying in bulk (dozens to hundreds of titles)in one fell swoop. That's because they've found specials, or they were just in the mood one night to browse and pick until their eyes bled.

And face, it is SO much easier to buy and pay online now--no fighting traffic to head to the book store--the book store is right in your lap. It's just too, too easy to browse, pick and choose, and read all the reviews you want on said title.

Paul Mannering said...

I buy a lot of books in ebook format. Most of them are indie or self-published. Most of them are so badly written or edited that I don't bother finishing them. The ones that are well polished professional gems make it so worthwhile though. I'm reading a book every few days and spending up to US$2.99 every time. I haven't bought a paperback in about 3 years. My last hardcopy purchase was Guillermo Del Toro's The Strain - and what a festering pile of crap that was!

Ty Johnston said...

I'm a nobody author. I don't have an e-book in the Amazon top 1,000, let alone the top 100. Heck, it's not uncommon for me to not have an e-book in the top 10,000. But I have in the past, just not at the moment.

And guess what? I'm getting by. Nope, I'm not rich, but I'm paying the bills which makes the wife is happy.

With my next novel coming out in November, and others after that, who knows? Maybe some day I'll be doing more than just "getting by."

T.J. Dotson said...

Joe dude, you're a visionary. I read you, Rusch, and Dean W. Smith regularly.

When I first started, earlier this year, I hadn't published a thing. I know have have 11 shorts published and sell about 70 short-stories a month under my pen-name. I'm compiling my first anthology. My plan is to just keep writing shorts and Novellas... and move along.

Keep hear Joe. Ignore the naysayers, plenty of us listen to you and take your very helpful advice.

Claude Nougat said...

As always, you make an excellent argument, Joe, and I agree with you that the pie is enlarging and that as usual people don't grasp the dynamics of the situation. An exploding situation!

But I don't agree with you that "the cream will rise to the top". That's neither true nor automatic: many, many factors are at work, chief among them marketing savvy and marketing dollars.

Then as one of your readers commented, there's the question of quality. Lots of indie novels suck qualitywise because they were not strongly edited. Sure you can pay your editor as an indie, but that's not the same thing as having to deal with the editor paid by your publisher. That editor's allegiance is to his employer and he's going to make damn sure that you the author produce the best possible book. If you're the one paying your editor, this guy will work with you of course, but if you don't follow his advice (as you may well decide since you're the one paying) well, tough shit,he's going to let you go on with your mistakes...

Why don't you post something about how the "cream rises to the top"? I'd love to hear your ideas on the subject!

Alain Gomez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alain Gomez said...

This is sort of like that question on whether hell is an endothermic or exothermic heat reaction.

Brian said...

Last time I checked, there are new kids learning to read every single day, new kids turning 18 every day, new readers coming into the market every day.

The pie is infinite.

Blair-Pacific said...

Like most other products, ninety percent of the sales are made by ten percent of the participants; books, condos or condoms. Those that are determined to achieve usually do. The one in a row authors, wannabe's poachers and junk peddlers will fall to the bottom and be buried forever. Potential sales are infinite for e-book authors. Now, That being said, I'd like to thank both of those people who bought all seventeen of my published books.
Thanks for your blog, Joe. I'm usually in agreement.

Robert Hatting

Bruce Andrews said...

Joshua,
I'm sure that you're correct that the rejection built into the legacy system has forced many authors to ramp up their game. However:
1. There is still plenty of rejection in the new system. Spending a year writing a book only to make six sales, each of which gets a lousy review, is plenty of rejection for most people.
2. Not every author needs this.

Yes, I have no doubt you can find an example of an author who self-published crap after strong legacy books. You can also find authors who legacy publish crap after a few good books, or improve self-publishing because the editors just didn't "get" their unique voice, etc... I already have plenty of trouble finding good books in a bookstore - legacy publishing is no indication I'll like it. So I'll continue to look for people who share my tastes in reading, and can pass along good recommendations. Don't believe this changes much in the new paradigm.

PJ Lincoln said...

Speaking of sales, Joe, most indies have had a big drop this month ... where are your sales for the month (if you don't mind me asking)?

Darlene Underdahl said...

Another very good post. I also liked an earlier comment about hoarding. Nothing wrong with that when you're not killing trees.

Thank you.

billie said...

No matter how you slice it, there will always be people who prefer to stand back and predict doom and gloom for those who dive in and actually DO something with whatever size slice they have on their plate.

It's human nature.

It's easier to say something won't work, or isn't sustainable, than to risk change and success and yes, failure.

There are already writers who spend years writing and revising, never sending out even a query letter - b/c they believe if an agent says no they've somehow polluted their shot at being published.

John G. Hartness said...

Even now, you don't have to have a book in the Top 100 to make a nice living. I have 11 books out, with six of them selling in any quantity (over 100 copies), and this month my revenue projects to be around $7600. That's a $90K annual income, more than twice the Average Wage Index for 2011. And my highest ranked books right now is in the low 2,000s. So the midlist author can thrive without ever hitting home runs, just consistent singles and doubles will make plenty of cash.

Summer said...

I realize you are saying the pie is not finite. Meaning there is plenty to go around - but why does it feel like I am fighting the same 1,000,000 mice for the crumbs left over?

Is it simply that I have not done a good enough job identifying my target audience at this point?

I realize that I have very little "skin" in the game at this point and that I should just keep my head down and write. It is hard sometimes (and perhaps an insight into human nature) to take the longer term view when seeing so many other outstanding success stories right out of the gate.

Thank you for your wonderful blog - it truly is an inspiration to those of us just getting started on our literary journey.

Summer
author of Summer's Journey: Volume One - Losing Control

Stuart said...

It's overwhelming to look at Smashwords and watch 10 ebooks being uploaded seemingly every couple of minutes.

It's good to hear that my book can still be found in the mess.

http://www.fiveaweekfiction.blogspot.com

Summer said...

I'm a nobody author. I don't have an e-book in the Amazon top 1,000, let alone the top 100. Heck, it's not uncommon for me to not have an e-book in the top 10,000. But I have in the past, just not at the moment.

And guess what? I'm getting by. Nope, I'm not rich, but I'm paying the bills which makes the wife is happy.


Thanks for posting this Ty - your comment as much as anything lately has given me back a little hope.

Anonymous said...

I think the onslaught of books from both indies and backlist authors does in fact impact sales for other authors. One of the primary drivers for good sales is to be on one of Kindle's bestselling lists. Those spots are getting harder and harder to score. In my case, sales at the 3,000 rank used to score a spot. Now they don't, hence less visibility, hence less sales. The bottom line is that who is around you, and how many are around you, do indeed effect your visibility and ultimately your sales.

Anonymous said...

Joshua,

1. "rejection" still exists. It's called "you can't get anyone to read your novel, even when you try to give it away". Sure, one can get the "instant gratification" of seeing their book in print regardless of what they write, but to get readers, they still need to write things people want to read.

2. "strong editorial guidance" still exists for those who choose to seek it out. Some will, some won't.

3. You don't have to sort through all the dregs if you don't want to. You can skim along the top and limit yourself to looking at books with enough readers to indicate that the worst of the dross has been filtered out.

I'm kind of puzzled why you think more choices hurt the readers. Sure, there will be a tsunami of things you don't want to read, but also plenty of things you do. And tools like "people who enjoyed this book also enjoyed..." can help you find things you are more likely to like, without having to personally filter through all the slush.

Selena Kitt said...

I think the onslaught of books from both indies and backlist authors does in fact impact sales for other authors. One of the primary drivers for good sales is to be on one of Kindle's bestselling lists. Those spots are getting harder and harder to score. In my case, sales at the 3,000 rank used to score a spot. Now they don't, hence less visibility, hence less sales. The bottom line is that who is around you, and how many are around you, do indeed effect your visibility and ultimately your sales.

This is really true. Ranks are dropping for many indies and it's harder to be found and seen on the top lists.

I also think the big players (Amazon, Barnes and Noble) have started playing with their search algorithms to nudge indies off the top lists. Can't prove it... and I've been known to be a bit of a closet conspiracy theorist... but the anecdotal evidence seems to point in that direction.

puravida said...

I'm with Konrath. There will be more readers and more opportunities for us to grab an audience. With the Amazon features of "look inside" and other platforms that let you review a book before you buy, you can an opportunity to know quickly if the style of writing is something you would enjoy.

Because of that, I've actually bought more books. And I get to be in charge of getting my book out to the masses. I like that responsibility, even if it seems daunting at times.

And like Konrath and other successful writers try to instill in us newbies, write well...keep writing...keep marketing and others will eventually find you.

It beats waiting for a publishing house to decide whether I am worthy.

Nadine

Happier Than A Billionaire

Gina Marie Long said...

You are a genius. I've been following your blog for several months, read "Origin" recently (loved it-I'm into that genre), continue to absorb your knowledge of the publishing biz and appreciate your blunt, honest personality.

You can actually SEE reality and use common sense to understand it.

Back to writing...as you've said before: writers have to actually WRITE if they hope to succeed!

Thank you for sharing your brain!

I.J.Parker said...

Weeelll . . . I'm cautiously optimistic that,as readership grows, so will sales. But my problem as a traditionally published author was indeed the fact that too many books were being published, tossed at the public, and withdrawn to be pulped. Traditional publishing is notorious about trying something new and then dropping the author if the sales don't pour in immediately. Everything depends on how much the publisher spends on promotion to raise some names from among the rest and buy them name recognition and sales. Most of us didn't get that kind of attention.

Self-publishing in a world where everyone has a book in them still leaves us without the name recognition. Authors try to make up for this by offering their novels for 99 cents or for free. Sure, the well-written books among these will bring more sales as customers return for more, but it will get harder and harder to reach enough people often enough to get the thing rolling.

At least we are no longer at the mercy of someone who takes most of the profit before there is any sight of royalties. And yes, your books stay out there instead of being pulped or remaindered.

Mark Asher said...

@Selena: I also think the big players (Amazon, Barnes and Noble) have started playing with their search algorithms to nudge indies off the top lists. Can't prove it... and I've been known to be a bit of a closet conspiracy theorist... but the anecdotal evidence seems to point in that direction.

I'm not sure why Amazon and others would do this, but it does seem like they have been fiddling with algorithms. I suspect one goal is to refresh the list of bestsellers to get more churn in the list. They don't want readers to see the same names month after month. Too much of that and it discourages visiting the sites. It would be like going to a bookstore and seeing the same books on the front tables month after month.

And I understand Joe's argument, but it does seem like it's getting harder to sell. I think it's harder to reach that point where Amazon takes over and starts to sell your book for you.

One thing I would love to know is how the iPad changed reading and buying habits? Did iPad owners start reading more books? Because that's the world we're moving towards, a multi-function tablet world where it's just as easy to stream a movie, play Angry Birds, and surf the net as it is to read a book. A couple of years from Amazon may not even make a dedicated e-reader because it's limiting in what Amazon can sell on it.

fantasydreamer12 said...

Totally makes sense.

Another example of books always finding an audience is The Hobbit. The book is 75 years old, yet it still sells, and Tolkien is always getting new fans.

alshia m. said...

Joe,

I think you're a wonderful man. I really do. And I believe that you believe in what you are saying. Really, I do. I've followed your blog, Amanda Hocking's, John Locke's, and many others, along with TONS of horrible blogs from literary agents. In short, I've followed everyone's blogs.

I don't want to get into a long story. I'll just say that I've done everything I was supposed to...as far as writing. Taken the classes, read the books, studied, put my book up next to bestsellers to see if it could stand up to those (I'm not quite there yet). I wrote several manuscripts before I decided to self publish, so I didn't just jump out there with a first book or anything. But now, I feel like I'm finally starting to see the light, Joe.

You, Amanda and John, Zoe Winters, and all the others got into self publishing "before" 2010. That was when the big explosion happened. 99 cents was still effective then. There weren't that many of you (self publishing).

But I have no real choice but to believe that self publishing "is" glutted (your word). There are too many writers, too many offering 180,000 word tomes for 99 cents and free, too many blogs, too many authors tweeting about their books. Just TOO MANY for anyone to try to be noticed.

If a writer has good book, I don't think it would matter at this point. If a writer works their butts off, I don't think that would matter either because...the market is too saturated right now.

Also, I don't want to say the wrong thing but, I don't think there's any real money to be made writing ebooks, Joe. I'm sure you're making good money, along with Hocking, Eisler, Mayer, Lee (I forgot his last name), Winters, and others. But "when" did you start with the ebooks-all of you? Before 2010 (maybe 1 or 2 didn't, but still). I've read hundreds of comments from Kindle consumers and they want the 99 cents. They say above $2 is too much, and so on. I just don't see...how someone can sustain themselves on 35 cents.

I just don't...see the point in all this when I look at it more closely. I mean, the amount of hardship & work, sweat & tears that goes into creating ebooks (or print)-and then I can wait 3 months to get my 35 cents from Amazon while 2 people share my ebook on the "lending" program. I just don't see...any prosperity coming in this, Joe, just more work and a few gatherings of 35 cents here and there. Do you understand what I'm saying?

You and the others I mentioned are terrific talents, truly you are. We all know that. However, I also feel that being in the right place at the right time had a hand in the success for all of you (aka luck). And I think all the luck has been taken.The rest of us will see 35 cents. It's like somebody threw cold water in my face day today & it woke me up, Joe.

But I want to thank you for sharing your stories and information. I enjoy reading the blog. xoxo

Mark Asher said...

"Another example of books always finding an audience is The Hobbit. The book is 75 years old, yet it still sells, and Tolkien is always getting new fans."

Of course the opposite is true. Go to a used book fair and see all the books on the tables from writers you never heard of before. Most writers aren't read beyond their own generation. Tolkien is an exception, not an example.

Some writers will flourish generation after generation, especially once their books are available as affordable ebooks. I bet Agatha Christie would be selling like hotcakes if all her books were available as $2.99 ebooks. A lot of her contemporary mystery writers would be ignored, though, even at $2.99 a pop.

Rex Kusler said...

The way I used to find books in the old days was to spend hours at a time in bookstores looking at every book in the sections that interested me. To start with, the spines had to be appealing.

Now, for me, there are already too many books in the Kindle store on Amazon. I can't find what I'm looking for unless I know an author by name. I don't trust the bestseller lists anymore, because publishers will lower prices to get their books up in the ratings and then raise them again. Occasionally I go to Goodreads and find someone who likes a specific book that I like and see what else they like.

Joe Konrath said...

Yes, cream will rise, but sifting through oceans of mediocre self-published novels still makes my job as a reader that much more difficult.

Does it really?

Do you have cable TV? It's got 200 channels, but you can find what to watch. If it's crap, you turn it off after a minute.

If you ever surf YouTube, same thing. 95% is crap. But you surf and find the good stuff.

It's the same thing browsing in a big bookstore.

I know you're saying that in a bookstore, all those books have been vetted, so one is less likely to encounter crap. But most of the stores in a bookstore aren't what you're looking for, crap or not, and you can easily avoid them.

Crap will be easily avoidable in ebooks, too. Reviews, free samples, and many "tells" reveal crap within seconds of the first glance. You may get burned, but you've no doubt gotten burned on paper books too. And TV shows. And YouTube vids...

Joe Konrath said...

where are your sales for the month

Sales slowed in the summer. They slowed last summer too, but I had new releases last summer, and none this summer.

The last three weeks, they've been picking up. EXPOSED, my next Chandler story is Ann Voss Peterson, is coming out next week. TIMECASTER 2 and STIRRED are out in November/December. Plus I have some other stuff planned.

This holiday season is going to be amazing.

Joe Konrath said...

I realize that I have very little "skin" in the game at this point and that I should just keep my head down and write.

Exactly. You're allowed to be discouraged when you've got 50 ebooks live and they've had crummy sales for ten years.

Until then, just realize it takes time to find an audience, and keep writing.

Milton Bagby said...

There are some authors who admit the inevitability of becoming engaged in commerce. It is not always pretty, nor is it fair, but it is the engine which makes our civilization chug ahead.

There are other authors who dislike commerce and shrink from it in disgust or protest.

Maybe we are talking about social attitudes here, not technology.

Ask someone who "hates" Kindle and swoons over the "feel" of a paper book to give up his cell phone and go back to land lines and rotary dials. Uh, ixnay on that.

If you decide to self-publish, you elect to engage in commerce. If you always envisioned yourself as an artist above such tawdry doings, this comes as a shock, a price too high to admit, let alone pay.

Joe Konrath said...

I just don't see...any prosperity coming in this

If you can stop writing, you should. Save yourself the heartache.

If you can't stop writing, because it's your dream, in your blood, you're driven, etc. then this is the best time ever to be a writer.

Cream rises.

If you've made cream, and it isn't rising, make more.

Merrill Heath said...

If you keep writing, and keep self-publishing, chances are you'll eventually find your audience. And you won't have to be in the Kindle Top 100 in order to make a nice living.

There's no way to predict this--not one year ahead, and especially not twenty years ahead.

Three years ago, self-publishing was not a viable option; three years from now, that might again be the case.

Write the best book you can. Keep your mind--and your options--open, and don't burn any bridges.

That's my advice.


Jude, I couldn't agree more. It will be interesting to see where we are a year from now, let alone 5 or 10.

Joe, I also agree with your point that you don't have to make the Kindle Top 100 to make a comfortable living. I have a 5-year plan to have 20 books available, and to add 4 books per year to that backlist. If each book I write sells 10,000 copies I'll be able to write full-time and live comfortably. It also looks like I may be able to hit the 20 book goal well ahead of the 5 year time frame.

Right now I'm not selling a lot of books but I only have 4 available. I expect my sales to increase exponentially as the number of books available increases. So I'm looking long-term and hoping my writing will allow me to "retire" and write full time some day. That may be in 5 years or 10 or even 15. Then again, it could be in 2 years. You never know.

Merrill Heath
Novels by Merrill Heath

Morgan Mandel said...

What's great is in today's publishing climate we can offer electronic and/or print versions of our books to the public. That way everyone's happy.

As for a glut on the market, you can never have too much of a good thing!

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://www.morganmandel.com

MT Nickerson said...

Alshia M.- Readers will find you, if what you offer appeals to them. If you start with a desire to write, to improve and to put in the hard work that is necessary, you will find readers.

Joe and others have been in the business for years and I would say, (with confidence that I'm not putting words in his mouth) that overnight success doesn't describe Joe's career.

Is there a glut of books? Maybe. It seems that way, and cheap books are despairingly easy to find and new writers are finding it hard to stand out by pricing alone. Yet, perhaps the real issue is that now we have a library, a bookstore, what have you, all on screen right in front of us. We can see the million books almost all in one place instead of a thirty foot section of shelves found in a bookstore.

Stick with it, keep plugging away and find out where all this is going.

My two cents are officially used up :)

SBJones said...

You get out what you put in. If your work is quality, good covers, and a reasonable amount of time invested in marketing and promoting. Anyone can be successful.

lauralynnelliott said...

I love your take on this. And you've been right so many times that I have no doubt you're right about this. I think this is a great time to be an author!

Joe Konrath said...

overnight success doesn't describe Joe's career.

Exactly. I wrote my first novel in 1992.

It took me 19 years to get to the point where I'm making enough money to be comfortable.

Nancy Beck said...

@Summer said, I realize that I have very little "skin" in the game at this point and that I should just keep my head down and write. It is hard sometimes (and perhaps an insight into human nature) to take the longer term view when seeing so many other outstanding success stories right out of the gate.

Summer,

I know exactly where you're coming from; that's why stopped reading those types of posts on Kindleboards ("Why have I sold under 100 books this month?" That type of thing.)

Depressing.

But like you, I don't have much out. Yet. I'm scheduled to upload the 2nd book in my series this weekend, after Life intruded the past couple of weeks (personal stuff and office stuff). I refused to rush the editing just to get another one out there.

@John G. Hartness - Your success gives me hope for own writing; thanks for posting. :-)

Ten Cent Wings

Joshua P. Simon said...

So the bigger question is: "When will Joe's self motivation book be coming out?"

Always good stuff. *thumbs up*

Summer said...

Exactly. You're allowed to be discouraged when you've got 50 ebooks live and they've had crummy sales for ten years.

Until then, just realize it takes time to find an audience, and keep writing.


Thank you Joe. It makes my day to have you comment on my comment. And yes - I know that sounds a little sad. ;-)

Well said - and I will do just that - keep my head down and keep writing. I will be successful at this - eventually - I guarantee yo you.

Thanks for the great blog and the wonderful advice.

Summer

Summer said...

@Nancy Beck,

Summer,

I know exactly where you're coming from; that's why stopped reading those types of posts on Kindleboards ("Why have I sold under 100 books this month?" That type of thing.)

Depressing.


Nancy - thank you for the new author commiseration. While it is truly inspiring to read such wonderful success stories all around us - I think it is human nature to want a little of that "luck" to flow our way. ;-)

Todd Trumpet said...

Mmmmm...

Pie.

Todd
"THE TELLING OF MY MARCHING BAND STORY"
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Yuwanda Black, InkwellEditorial.com said...

Mr. Konrath:

Stop making so much sense. You'll only confuse those who make no sense at all that much more.

Then, you really could be a Dead Man Walking.

Victoria said...

>>Authors have never had it so good, yet some people are determined to find the negative in everything.<<

So true! Sometimes it's best to tune the negativity out. It can mess with your mind and your business plan. Great post Konrath!

Hunter F. Goss said...

Joe said:
"Cream rises. If you've made cream, and it isn't rising, make more."

Who gave you my business plan?

OK - just kidding.

I'm just starting out as a writer, but I've had enough business experience elsewhere to be able to say that persistence works.

In short, Joe (and Dean Wesley Smith, too) is right.

Cyn Bagley said...

I wish I could write faster. I have really enjoyed the kindle pie, even though my slice is tiny.

And I read about the same amount of books before my kindle except I don't need to carry around a TON of books.

;-) Cyn

PS I know people who read ebooks from their kindle, or other digital device who rarely read after high school. Strange.

Thrilling Covers said...

Although there may be more DEVICES available for reading and the number of devices will continue to grow over the years, I'm not sure that translates (to any significant amount) to more collective reading of books by those who read books.

Even assuming that the number of overall books read by readers per year increases, this will probably not increase as fast as the number of books that are being made available for reading.

Thus the size of the pie is increasing but the number of people eating the pie (readers) is not.

The secret is not to worry about the size of the pie but instead to appeal to these who read the kinds of books you write.

Joe Konrath said...

Three years ago, self-publishing was not a viable option; three years from now, that might again be the case.

Agreed. Once Skynet takes over and the machines destroy mankind, there will be no need for ebooks anymore.

Unless that doesn't happen. In which case ebooks can only become more widespread, and self-publishing will always be an option.

But if the asteroid hits the earth and wipes out all life, then you're right.

Unless that doesn't happen. As new technologies are adopted (Radio, TV, Computers, Cell Phones, DVD players, mp3 players, ereaders) they follow a fairly predictable saturation path.

We're past the early adopter stage, as evidenced by ebooks outselling paper. That means this tech will stick around. Which means we'll be making money for a while.

But if Amazon suddenly slashes royalties and there is an EMP and blah blah blah.

Look, nothing is 100%. But worrying about what "might" happen when there is overwhelming evidence that predicts ebooks and self pubbing will be around a long time is silly.

Joe Konrath said...

Although there may be more DEVICES available for reading and the number of devices will continue to grow over the years, I'm not sure that translates (to any significant amount) to more collective reading of books by those who read books.

Exactly. All of those millions of people buying ereaders aren't planning on reading with them. They're going to hang them on their wall as art.

Ack.

Debbie said...

What you're saying, Joe, is so good. The pie is ever expanding and we need to write great books and get them out there. D.D. Scott has a book coming out soon called 10 Years and 24 Hours about her journey through trying to be traditionally published for years and finally going the indie route. She only started seeing some success in the past year and said the other day on her grog that by this time next year she will have 21 books and short stories for sale on her virtual shelf.

I guess I had better say good-bye for now and get back to my writing!

alshia m. said...

Joe Konrath,

Thank you so much responding to my comment (and MT Nickerson)! I appreciate it and no, I can't stop writing; I've got too many great stories in me! Ha! Too many good rounds left, but I have to stay in the ring! Sometimes I have to grab the ropes to hold onto something. Maybe you and MT Nickerson were my ropes today. Thank you. xoxo

Gregory E. Shultz said...

I agree with the poster who said Amazon and Barnes & Noble seem to be making it more difficult for indies to be discovered. Amazon does a much better job, however, than Barnes & Noble, whose keywords searches don't even work! We've a long way to go...

Cathryn Grant said...

All of those millions of people buying ereaders aren't planning on reading with them. They're going to hang them on their wall as art.

Actually, I've been thinking, as we bemoan our love for our static paper bookcases, we need a wall device the size of a TV screen that displays our e-collection like the visual at the top of each folder window on the Mac.

Our remote would scroll through and we could see all those amazing covers. Friends could browse, pick a book to borrow, or preferably, pull out their phone and grab a sample to purchase later ;)

Hey, Tim Cook, are you there? (But open platform, please)

Todd Trumpet said...

Joe said: Once Skynet takes over and the machines destroy mankind, there will be no need for ebooks anymore.

"Sawah Connuh?"

Todd

Jude Hardin said...

Agreed. Once Skynet takes over and the machines destroy mankind, there will be no need for ebooks anymore.

Unless that doesn't happen. In which case ebooks can only become more widespread, and self-publishing will always be an option.


Ebooks aren't going anywhere, but self-publishing might not continue to be a VIABLE option. Is it even that great of an option now? There are currently a million ebook titles on Amazon, and only about 1% of those are selling more than one or two copies a day. Most are selling way less than one or two copies a day, and most in the top 1% are from traditional publishers.

I'm pretty sure an asteroid won't have to destroy the earth for self-published ebooks to revert to being the equivalent of selling paperbacks from the trunk of your car. It's moving in that direction already.

J.R. Pearse Nelson said...

@Mark Asher, I can't speak for all iPad owners, but I know I read on my iPad a lot. I also write most first drafts on my iPad. I feel more free to work writing into the daily household stuff. (And the kids don't notice like they do when I'm on a laptop!) Back to the reading...there are so many apps that you can read lots of different documents on an iPad, which makes it pretty versatile. You can also be surfing the web, see something you want to buy, download it and curl up on the couch for a good read. Makes it very easy.

LV Cabbie said...

As you;ve shown the rest of us, write a good book - then work like the devil to get out the word about it!!!

Anonymous said...

Ebooks aren't going anywhere, but self-publishing might not continue to be a VIABLE option. Is it even that great of an option now? There are currently a million ebook titles on Amazon, and only about 1% of those are selling more than one or two copies a day. Most are selling way less than one or two copies a day, and most in the top 1% are from traditional publishers.

Jude, I was in a Borders in Denver a couple of weeks ago. They were of course having their going-out-of-business sale. The shelves were full of trad-pubbed books with prices slashed. The moral of the story? THEY COULDN'T GIVE THEM AWAY.

And why is this? People are buying ereaders. Period.

As for the quality of self-pubbing, writers will get smarter and more sophisticated and we will work harder. We will have to up our game and take responsibility for the product. THAT'S EASY.

I'll burn bridges all day long. Traditional publishing has nothing to offer me. Been there, done that. You can have it.

S. A. Engels said...

All of the assumptions made are based on current technology. 10 years ago, there was no Kindle, iPad or the like. In 10 years, we might be uploading books directly into our brains via 'brainwire' or some nice Apple technology (unless the Mayan calendar is correct and we're all dead). But the fact is, stories don't write themselves. Boring, non-creative people will always seek out stories from interesting, creative people. If you don't want to be a drop in the bucket, figure out how to make your drop glow red.

Michelle Muto said...

I hear of more and more people who are getting their first ereader. Two friends and one neighbor just this past week!

Overall, I think people are reading more. It's still the cheapest form of entertainment for the dollar.

Archangel said...

@ SA "(unless the Mayan calendar is correct and we're all dead)"

i know you were kidding. But just so, our Mayan friends are trying hard to correct such that somehow was twisted from their holy words regarding the turn of 'part' of their calendar at this time... which is an end of a way of seeing/thinking, to be repaired/replaced by a clearer way that includes spirit. Sometimes MSM gets it wrong, then it's copied ka-jillion times elsewhere

On the other hand SA, just to join in some levity, 'the end' could be tomorrow given politics in every direction lol.

@David Gaughran... you're right and yesterday Amazon said they would give for free all ebooks participating to libraries to be lent by using full kindle capabilities with all bells and whistles. That's not income for authors, but free to all library goers... there's an article at PW yesterday for more info about joining in, which not sure whether pub or author or both or either have to sign on, or it just happens.

Anne R. Allen said...

Nice to read this as a rebuttal to some stuff Stephen Leather and others have been saying about how the indie "bubble" has burst. Thanks for this. And it's good to hear from commenters like Ty who are having success without needing to be at the top of the heap.

Rob Cornell said...

Why do so many of the naysayers think that editors working for the legacy system are somehow magical beings that can turn any book into gold with their uncanny editorial skills?

First of all, most of the books in the legacy system are barely edited at all. Second of all, we're dealing with an entirely subjective art. One commenter says a former legacy author's books were better before going indie. I'm willing to bet there's a mirror image of that reader who thinks the indie stuff is way better than the crap published before.

That's the crux right there. Quality writing is subjective. Editors haven't, don't, and never will change that. I've read what I consider utter tripe that's been edited, critically acclaimed, and/or a bestseller. When it comes to writing for a living, my opinion doesn't matter, your opinion doesn't matter, and the opinion of some "hardened pro" editor doesn't matter either.

Put another way: Editors are people, too. Which means they have biases, quirks, loves, likes, and hates--just like you. Even the acquire-only editors make bad calls on what they think will resonate with readers. How many times was Harry Potter rejected? How many rejections did Konrath get before scoring an agent--and then how many more until he actually got a book deal? How many times was Origin rejected before Joe sold it to one of the big 6? Oh, yeah. It never made it into the legacy system. Go check out the reviews and rankings on that book and tell me he's hurting without the editor faeries of Legacyland.

Lady Jewels Diva® said...

You said -

Author: Do you want to publish my new book?

Publisher: I'm sorry, but there are already too many books. We can't print anymore.

I actually had a publisher say something like this in a rejection letter, they told me they really liked my book but had no room left with all the books they were printing.

S. A. Engels said...

What our friend Joe points out to us on a weekly/daily basis is that there are no "rules." The long and twisted road to getting published of the past is no longer the only path. Cutting to the chase will flood the market with crap that the paying audience will have to weed through and will only create a survival of the fittest culture. But at least we'll have a chance to survive, where in the legacy old-school publishing days the only thing that was a given was rejection and dismissal.

Editors? Meh...those who can't play, coach. Those who can't write, edit.

The paradigm is a changin'. Either ride the wave or crash and break on the rocks. Either way, you'll make it to the beach.

I'm waxing my surfboard.

Rob Cornell said...

I'm going to make some of you feel better about your low sales. My numbers since January, when I first got serious about self-publishing:

(This is for Amazon and B&N together)


Month........Dollars......Unit Sales

January.........$6.34............14
February........$4.72.............4
March...........$16.10...........13
April...........$67.25...........43
May.............$96.02...........66
June............$95.30...........53
July............$134.10.........140
August..........$176.70..........90
September.......$166.50..........82 (so far)
Totals..........$763.03.........505


This doesn't count the 100 or so dollars I have made, total, from Smashwords sales reported thus far.

See a pattern? If I'd made up my mind about self-publishing between January and March.I'd have called it quits for sure. Instead, I decided to continue banging my head against the wall. And each month after March my sales increased. I put both numbers of sales and the amount earned to cover pricing experiments. In July, I discounted my novels to 99 cents. So, more sales, but not nearly as much revenue. (This turned me off to 99 cent novels for good--or at least until I have enough titles where I can afford a loss leader.)

I kept writing, kept feeding the beast. My sales continue to increase. And the more cream I make, the more my dough will rise. ;)

Have I "arrived?" Not by a long shot. It's not the actual numbers that matter to me right now. It's the pattern. I plan on having two more titles available by Christmas. I can't wait for the holidays.

Karen Woodward said...

David Gaughran wrote, "Authors have never had it so good, yet some people are determined to find the negative in everything."

Amen!

DVshooter said...

"But...but...us traditional publishers..um..only we can..y'know, like..."

Says the publishing guy sitting on the $50k a month NYC office they're struggling to pay for with dwindling paper sales.

"Phew, stay calm, got an e-mail from the CFO, conference call in 10,Ok, know he's gonna say to stay the course the publishing industry has for the last 100 years, ignore this silly indie book trend and it will all just go away.

Ok, good, gonne be fine. Not gonna worry about all those pathetic wanna-be's, putting their worthless little books online from home without our stamp of approval.

Ah, definitely feel better.

Now if only someone could get that Konrath guy to shut the %$@# up"

Rob Cornell said...

Jude said: "There are currently a million ebook titles on Amazon, and only about 1% of those are selling more than one or two copies a day. Most are selling way less than one or two copies a day, and most in the top 1% are from traditional publishers."

Jude, these numbers mean nothing--not to mention the fact that they are made up. If you have real statistics for the amount of ebook sales by title, there are a lot of people in the industry that would murder you in your sleep them.

Okay, so there are 1 million ebooks available on Amazon. Are all those competing for the same space? No. We can start by splitting them into fiction and non-fiction. From there, we can splice the fiction into various genres. We can then divide those genres into smaller niches by sub-genre, topic, setting, etc. Finally, we can further dissect these categories by outside features. (Cover design, book description, pricing.) Note, I say nothing about quality of the contents. For now, we are simply splitting things up by what readers are looking for.

Some readers on looking for urban fantasy with sexy women sporting tramp-stamp tattoos on the cover. Some are looking for spilled blood and buff dudes with fangs, which could also fall under the urban fantasy umbrella, or paranormal romance. All depends on what a reader wants.

I won't even go into the non-fiction. Some of the non-fiction put out as ebooks are SPAM buckets that most people will ignore, thus clearing a good chunk of that million out of the way.

Point is, there are so many various niches and reader tastes, it doesn't matter if there are 1 million ebooks total. Just like it doesn't matter how many cars have ever been made. When I go car shopping, I'm not looking for the same kind of vehicle as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hummers just ain't my style.

Looked at in this way, there is still plenty of room to splash around in the indie pool.

And I think you'd be surprised how many indie authors are making more off their books than the paltry sums a legacy publisher would offer.

DVshooter said...

Some readers on looking for urban fantasy with sexy women sporting tramp-stamp tattoos on the cover. Some are looking for spilled blood and buff dudes with fangs, which could also fall under the urban fantasy umbrella, or paranormal romance. All depends on what a reader wants.

Rob

I'm with you. That "1,102,678 Kindle books available" number does look daunting and intimidating to throw your work into.

My chosen genre is Sci-Fi and when you go into the many sub-genre's, remove the serials like Star Wars, Star Trek, Halo (your not going to compete directly with them) and then the classics like Enders game, Forever War and Starship Troopers (that are going to be best sellers forever, no matter what) and the shelf actually get's prety managable to search through.

Browse through that shelf and the really bad covers and (no offense to anyone else) the godawful descriptions come out and then the quality choices get to be fairly narrow I think...compared to the total number of books anyway.

Write cream.

Summer said...

Write cream.

This is so tempting for an erotica author with an overactive and very naughty muse to comment on, but I shall act like an adult (for once) and refrain from commenting further.

Back to writing. Have to increase that virtual shelf space. ;-)

Jude Hardin said...

Jude, these numbers mean nothing--not to mention the fact that they are made up.

They're not made up. They're based on my own self-published sales. If you're not ranked in the top 10,000, you're not selling more than one or two copies a day. Period. Fiction, non-fiction, genre, etc. is irrelevant.

DVshooter said...

Summer

Ok, I wasn't going there but that's funny.

Checked out your blog, congrats on the good review.

Adam Pepper said...

It is a crowded marketplace. I think most would agree on that. For me, I'm still in the "handselling" stage. The hard part is getting eyeballs on your book pages, and then of course, getting them to press buy. But a trade deal isnt a panacea for the crowded market.

I agree that this holiday season should be good. There are going to be a ton of kindles, nooks, iPads, tablets, phones sold. And of course those folks are going to be looking for content. That's why I'm working feverishly to get two more books up in time!

S. A. Engels said...

I'm going to take Joe's numbers (the one's from his ass), place them carefully into a new equation, and then add the generous numbers laid out by the other commenters:

If India eventually acquires 100,000,000 iPads (Kindles, Nooks, Goat-readers, whatever). And they happen to be voracious readers of American E-novels. Well, let's just assume, out of ignorance or stupidity or baloney sandwiches, you place a .01 price tag on your book. You'll wake up one morn with a bank account this side of 1,000,000.

Sell a book at .01 each to a BILLION people in India, China, Timbuktu and you'll retire alongside Amanda Hocking on the French Riviera.

Or is my math wrong? It was never my strong suit. Maybe its my ambition that's flawed...

Anonymous said...

They're not made up. They're based on my own self-published sales. If you're not ranked in the top 10,000, you're not selling more than one or two copies a day. Period. Fiction, non-fiction, genre, etc. is irrelevant.

Jude, hate to tell you this, but it might just be your story, or your title, or your cover. If it's not selling, write another one, and then another. You just never know when your books will start to take off. It's really not that hard to crack the top 10k and make a living.

Mark Asher said...

Jude, hate to tell you this, but it might just be your story, or your title, or your cover. If it's not selling, write another one, and then another. You just never know when your books will start to take off. It's really not that hard to crack the top 10k and make a living.

I don't think you're hearing what he is saying. He's not complaining about his sales. He's describing how sales correlate to sales rank. If you're not in the top 10,000 in sales rank, that means you are maybe selling two copies a day at most.

Now, to look at more numbers, I believe there are over one million ebooks for sale at Amazon. That means that the top 10,000 represents 1% of those ebooks. That means that 99% of the ebooks for sale are selling fewer than two copies a day.

I think Jude is simply doing a reality check.

Joshua Simcox said...

"Quality writing is subjective. Editors haven't, don't, and never will change that."

I disagree with the second half of that statement. You'll find many bestselling legacy pubbed novelists that are quick to give their editors credit for helping take serviceable, if unspectacular, manuscripts to a higher realm that only the best of commercial fiction reaches.

If you believe the oft-repeated adage that there is no good writing, only good rewriting, then it's editors that demand those rewrites and push their clients harder to deliver manuscripts that are more than merely passable. Maybe every writer doesn't need that sort of whip-cracking, but most probably do. And maybe, with time and experience, most authors become solid editors in their own right. But that doesn't lessen the need for outside editorial guidance, even for the most talented pros. If indie writers develop a dismissive attitude about the importance of a good editor, or even worse, rely solely on their own editing skills, the Tsunami of Crap will indeed drown us all.

Speaking of which, it isn't the Tsunami of Crap I fear so much as the Tsunami of Mediocrity. Crap is easy to spot. I'm a savvy enough reader to know it when I see it almost immediately. And for all the indie novels I've read, I can honestly say that not a single one of them struck me as being outright garbage.

However, all but two were dreadfully, painfully mediocre. And unfortunately, in most cases, that wasn't apparent until I was at least a quarter of the way through the novel. (Any book that appears to be at least competently written will get, at a minimum, 75-100 pages worth of my reading time.)

Joe says "Don't write crap." Not writing crap is easy. But writing something that does exactly what a good novel should and is worthy of a reader's time and attention is much harder. Joe can do it. Blake can do it. I'm sure many of the self-pubbers commenting here can as well.

But most probably aren't ready, and will nevertheless rush an inferior product out the door that won't hold up when placed alongside the works of (using examples from a genre I enjoy) a Harlan Coben, or a John Connolly, or a Michael Connelly, or numerous other authors forged on the anvil of legacy publishing.

And as a reader and paying customer, it's frustrating because I've been burned so many times on indies, even at a mere $2.99, that I often find myself wishing I had saved my nickles and dimes for that $12.99 legacy pubbed ebook that I obviously would have enjoyed more. I once balked at such a price tag for an ebook. But now I'm starting to think that I would be willing to shell out a higher price for a better quality product from a trusted author that won't waste my time. I suspect other readers feel the same, and that's why (in spite of Joe's predictions to the contrary), I believe most traditionally published bestselling authors will continue to thrive even with higher priced ebooks...unless, of course, they jump ship and go indie. I'm sure we'll see more of that in the near future, though I doubt the true heavy-hitters will abandon their legacy deals any time soon.

None of this meant to suggest that I'm a "naysayer" or unsupportive of the ebook revolution in any way. I'm as excited about it as anyone here. But as of yet, I haven't found any indie authors that wow me the way so many legacy guys have over the years. And I hope the rise of self-publishing doesn't create a new generation of less diligent authors that simply don't try as hard as they should because they no longer have to.

--Joshua Simcox

Jude Hardin said...

It's really not that hard to crack the top 10k and make a living.

As of today, you're going to need approximately 30 titles priced at $2.99 and consistently ranked around 9000 to earn $65,000 a year. Maybe you can live on less than that. I can't.

I'm trying to build a career as an author. One size does not fit all.

And, with climate changes coming at us at warp speed, it would be SILLY to try to predict any sort of future with today's numbers anyway.

Jude Hardin said...

That means that 99% of the ebooks for sale are selling fewer than two copies a day.

I think Jude is simply doing a reality check.


Thank you, Mark. Yes, that's it exactly.

Mark Asher said...

"As of today, you're going to need approximately 30 titles priced at $2.99 and consistently ranked around 9000 to earn $65,000 a year. Maybe you can live on less than that. I can't."

I think the idea of this thread is that in a few years there will be so many e-readers out there that you can be ranked 90,000 with all those books and still pull down that $65,000.

Do I believe that? No. But that seems to be the optimism here.

I think it's a percentage game. As more and more e-readers are sold, the top ten percent will get richer and richer, and the bottom 90% will struggle.

Mark Asher said...

I think a realistic way of looking at writing and self-pubbing is that each book you publish is much more likely to sell one copy a day than 10 copies a day.

So can you make it on one sale per day per book? How long will it take you to get to ten books and ten sales per day? Ten sales per day at $2.99 x .70 = $2.07 per sale, or $20.70 per day. That's $621 per month.

Is this a realistic way of looking at it?

Ty Johnston said...

"As of today, you're going to need approximately 30 titles priced at $2.99 and consistently ranked around 9000 to earn $65,000 a year. Maybe you can live on less than that. I can't."

I won't disagree with that. BUT, I will say it seems as if Jude (and others here) are only taking Amazon into consideration. There are other places online, and other ways, to get e-books to readers.

Steven Tolliver said...

The pie is digital, so it's limited only by server capacity - we can all keep publishing as many ebooks as we can upload!

The trick is getting the positioning right so that the book can be found by its readers.

Ian Martin said...

Well, this is most encouraging, I must say. Borborygmic activity is clearly audible and I am beginning to salivate at the prospect of sinking my remaining teeth into a portion of that tasty pie.

Rob Cornell said...

I'm glad everyone seems to have the Amazon algorithm so well figured that they can use their own sales figures and some fast and loose anecdotal math to determine the state of the publishing industry. Ya'll are way smarter than me.

But if anyone seriously thinks that someone with 30 books out will stick to only selling the exact number per title as they were when they started with one... Time to go back to business school.

The more titles you have out there, the more readers you will find. The 500,000 people who have published one, maybe two books, and try to promote their way to 10,000 sales a month will never make a living--except for the occasional fluke.

A lot of people think Joe is making all this money from his books because of his legacy roots or that he's a genius.

We've talked about the first one. That kind of explanation has been disproved enough to discard.

The second explanation, much as I love Joe, is also false.

Joe makes so much money because he has over 40 titles. That's a lot of different streams of income. And in this case, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Each new book you write will increase readers of the others. I find it hard to believe that a writer who has managed to write 30 books would only make $65,000 a year. That doesn't make any kind of business sense.

The real issue is that most writers will publish a few books, look at their numbers, assume those numbers apply to everyone, and quit because they think they can't make a living. The real winners will be the ones that recognize this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Can we predict exactly what the future will bring? Of course not. But the digital revolution took over ten years to grow legs and become a viable source for reading material. To think it will all crash in a year or so is foolish. Especially considering all the money to be made with this model--and I'm not talking about for writers. Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, etc. have a stake in keeping this beast running for as long as they can ride.

In the end, people can believe what they want. I'll keep writing. And when I have 30 books available for readers while you're still lamenting the sales of your paltry three, wondering why you aren't rich, don't come asking me for a loan. ;)

Adam Pepper said...

S.A. Engels, whether Joe pulled his figures out of his ass really isnt the point. The point is more ereaders and tablets are going to be sold, and that means the demand for good content will be there.

Joshua Simcox, I respect your opinion as it seems to be well thought out and fair, or as Joe would say deliberate. But really, hasnt legacy publishing mastered the art of producing mediocrity? Excellence is rare, period, and to expect it from every indie author isnt realistic. I do agree that authors should aspire to excellence and not accept less from themselves.

Jude, your numbers may be a reality check about the odds of success in self publishing, but your only checking the reality of one side. What are the odds of landing a deal from NY? And what are the odds of that being a success? Then compare the two and try and determine which path has the best chance of success. My feeling, as someone who's been toiling in the trenches for a while is that self pubbing has better odds for the vast majority of writers.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me a bit of the housing bubble, though. How everyone thought it would go on and on and on...

We did well. We saw it coming--after all, all markets soar and crash and evolve. Nothing in business is constant.

So we bought a foreclosure, flipped it at the height, sat through the crash, and bought another (twice as big w a sweet in-ground) in Feb for half of what we paid for the first. We banked the rest as we search for dirt cheap investment rental properties.

Others have lost everything.

Indie pubbing is great and profitable right now for the smart. It's definitely frothy. But it would be foolish to think it will continue indefinitely. Terms change. Markets change. Technology changes.

Smart writers should keep this in mind and seize the now, but be ready to adapt in the future. Even this won't last.

Joe Konrath said...

This reminds me a bit of the housing bubble, though. How everyone thought it would go on and on and on...

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/ebooks-aint-bubble.html

As I'm fond of saying, ebooks are forever. Forever means they will indeed earn money forever.

There is precedent for this. Dark Side of the Moon has been around since 1974 and still sells 8000 copies per week. Shakespeare? He's been selling for a bit longer.

The problem of the past--that things go out of print--no longer exists.

Show me an example that proves this wrong.

Angela McConnell said...

This just reinforces my belief that we need to include writing in public school curriculum, as well as reading (not for basic skills, but for content consumption, building a database of stories and tropes in our little people's heads -- in other words, experience).

Our need for content -- and *good* content -- is rising exponentially. Web content writers can hardly keep up with the demand, and as a result, articles are becoming shorter and less-detailed.

The more technically good writers we can graduate from high school, the better chance they've got at making a living in this new digital world...and the better choices we'll have as readers. :)

Jude Hardin said...

The problem of the past--that things go out of print--no longer exists.

Show me an example that proves this wrong.


If a book isn't consistently ranked at least in the top 100K, it might as well be out of print. Nobody's making any money off of it. I can show you 900,000 examples. :)

Summer said...

@DVshooter

Summer

Ok, I wasn't going there but that's funny.

Checked out your blog, congrats on the good review.


It is my job to go there. A sense of humor is a terrible thing to waste after all. ;-)

Thank you for checking out my humble abode of a blog.

Yes - some very good reviews to date for my story - hopefully that will help me find some readers as more works fill my virtual shelf.

Summer

Rob Cornell said...

If a book isn't consistently ranked at least in the top 100K, it might as well be out of print. Nobody's making any money off of it. I can show you 900,000 examples. :)

Jude, again you are assuming all sales across all books is static. It's cyclical. Just because someone's ebook is ranked 400,000 doesn't me it will always rank that way. An increase in e-readers and readers in general could easily support that writer one day. You also assume the impossible--that all sales of all books will always remain the same. (You also imply that Amazon is the only money source for writers of ebooks and always will be.) Hence, your numbers are still inaccurate. Someone who doesn't do well on Amazon, could do great with Nook or iBooks, or Smashwords, or any of the other e-book outlets. Your cursory study of patterns in Amazon (which lacks any depth of detail, I might add) does not represent the whole of electronic publishing. I have short stories floating around in the 400k area on Amazon. For whatever reason, people with iPads snatch up those stories pretty regularly. People from Australia seem particularly interested in my short stories. Then there is the occasional jump in sales for those stories on Amazon. Suddenly they go from 400k ranking to 50k ranking.

Sales churn. Even the mega-bestsellers ebooks drop off the bestseller list. You can't tell me that means they stop selling altogether. A ranking list does not tell the whole story. And I'll say it one more time--it's a marathon, not a sprint.

You might want to check out this article by Dean Wesley Smith. He does a better job of explaining how even minor sales can add up to a full-time writing career. He's also been in the business for longer than any of us commenting here, and is well versed in the history of publishing. This experience and knowledge carries a lot more weight for me than any new writer sitting on one or two legacy published books with a vested interest in clinging to the old guard.

Anonymous said...

The pie is finite. Very big, but very finite. It's not about e-books vs print. It's about readers' time.

There are more books than time to read them. This difference is growing faster and faster. Books don't die. More people born equals more readers, but also more authors.

If you don't realize this, you ARE bad at math indeed.

JA, you are spouting same sensationalist nonsense over and over. It's tiring. Try logic.

Look, there are tons of successful self publishers. I am not about to deny that. Nobody can deny that. But it's the sensationalist bullshit like this post that has potential to distract authors from properly assessing their options. It's bullshit like this that makes me worry for the industry as a whole. People clump up behind "leaders" without really thinking. For every one of Jude Hardins there are 50 yes-men who will mindlessly follow, re-tweet and repeat elsewhere your baseless hype-building nonsense. And that's when bad things start to happen.

I know I as a reader, am worse off now than I was 20 years ago.

And part of it is your blog's fault.

"Readers should be the gatekeepers."

HAH.

Well, I shouldn't be too harsh. You are not the first who has built a career out of sensationalist nonsense, nor are you the most harmful. And on the positive side, perhaps you did push a few individuals to make the right step. So I suppose you are like that mafia boss who donated to a few universities to take more underpriviliged students. Fair enough?

Alex

Anonymous said...

"As I'm fond of saying, ebooks are forever. Forever means they will indeed earn money forever.

There is precedent for this. Dark Side of the Moon has been around since 1974 and still sells 8000 copies per week. Shakespeare? He's been selling for a bit longer.

The problem of the past--that things go out of print--no longer exists."

Well, no. I wrote this talk and overconfidence and the attitudes I see remind me of the bubble. The market may not be a bubble. I never said it was. But the rest so reminds me of it.

Your stories might be around forever. But E-books might not be around forever. Go back 100 yrs ago and ask someone about e-books. They'd think it was impossible.

So, 100 yrs from now, I ask you. Might there not be something else? Something better? Then digital books?

Maybe.

DSOTM was vinyl. Then 8-track, tape, disc, mp3...who knows 100 yrs from now. The song remains, though. I agree w you about that.

A story was rock dust on a cave wall, ink on skin, type on parchment...who knows 100 yrs from now.

You, yourself, talk all the time about technology changing.

And e-books are good for indies right now because of Amazon, and other distributors, and the terms and ease and all that. Those can change. Oh, hell. They will change.

Things are frothy w e-books. But what is happening now won't be forever. (Just your stories, hopefully.)

A writer should never hinge their everything on the how of their stories getting out there. Never think it'll go on forever as it is now. Just take advantage of now as much as you can, be smart, and adapt when you need to. But don't be arrogant like those who lost everything in the bubble and believed it was going to go on and on and on.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"If a book isn't consistently ranked at least in the top 100K, it might as well be out of print. Nobody's making any money off of it. I can show you 900,000 examples. :)"

Jude,
As an author who has 15 books out of print right this minute, I can tell you that having a book ranked over 100K is much better than having a book that's out of print.

Of course, that's my opinion.

What are you basing your opinion on?

Joe Konrath said...

It's bullshit like this that makes me worry for the industry as a whole.

Actually, it's bullshit to worry about the industry at all, because the publishing industry IS bullshit.

Writers have never had this much opportunity before. This is good, not bad.

Your whole "time is finite" nonsense is bullshit as well.

Sure, we all have limited leisure time. We all have limited lifetimes.

But if you like reading, you fit it into your life. Just like you fit anything else you like into your life. I've never met a single reader--and I've met thousands--who said, "Well, I can read this OR that, but I'll certainly never have time to read them both, because time is finite."

Bullshit.

there are 50 yes-men who will mindlessly follow, re-tweet and repeat elsewhere your baseless hype-building nonsense.

People who agree with me are mindless yes-men? That's just plain silly. Especially since my arguments are sound, so it is wise to agree with them.

I do appreciate you chiming in with an opposite viewpoint, because it makes things interesting. But you really didn't say anything smart or worthwhile.

Do you dispute more readers are being born than authors being born? If so, you're cracked.

Do you dispute that people who read for pleasure will avoid reading something they want to read because they have no time? That's also flat-out silly.

I know I as a reader, am worse off now than I was 20 years ago.

I'd love to see you try to defend such a dumb thing to say.

There are billions of books on the planet, the majority of them written before 1991. You can easily ignore the last 20 years, since they're so awful, and still find plenty to read.

Having more choices is not a bad thing.

DVshooter said...

A lot of shout backs and criticisms for Joe on ths post about the specific examples and numbers he's using to support the "future of publishing" argument".

Joe's very direct, blunt and maybe even a bit brash but hey, it's his blog. I'm also pretty sure he's basing everything off his own factual experience and not making sh!t up just because he's "disgruntled" against the Big 6.

Whether it's Kindle, or Amazon or .005% of 100 million theoretical readers in 2031, on a Tuesday, around noon, or a neuological feed that plants books directly in your brain a hundred years from now, I think it's really irrevelant.

The big picture (and the argument) is that digital publishing, easy and plausible for every writer with effortless, affordable delivery, coupled with infitely more consumer friendly devices (vs. clunky, wired, laptops of the past) makes it the preferred choice for consuming most if not all personal media going forward.

People will always love theatres, books, plays etc...sure, I know I will, but if you have kids or a tech savvy significant other..you know that personal devices are what people are now using for the VAST majority of their casual media.

Like MP3 players, GPS's, cell phones and wirelss internet...this is NOT a silly fad or hyped trend.

Mark Asher said...

It might be interesting to look at digital download sales for music. Think of how many iPods have been sold, how many other MP3 players have been sold, how the tens of millions of iPhones are also MP3 players, and you see a huge audience for music downloads.

So are indie musicians making a living off digital music sales?

I don't have the answer, but I haven't read a lot of success stories so I wonder. And if not, why not? And if they are not making a living from music sales, why will ebook authors be different?

Joe Konrath said...

Your stories might be around forever. But E-books might not be around forever.

The ability for writers to self-publish and reach readers will be around forever.

Ebooks may morph into something better. I'm still holding out for the book pill; you swallow it, and the story is read in your head (I have something like that in my sci-fi book Timecaster.)

My point it that with the gatekeepers gone, books will exists forever in one form or another, and authors will benefit from that.

We've lost countless paper books to time (Bibliotheca Alexandrina anyone?) and to gatekeepers rejecting things that never saw the light of day. Neither will ever happen again. No more rejections. No more lost books. This is all win for the author.

But what is happening now won't be forever.

I'm not disputing that things change. But again I ask you for some past example that proves your point.

Artists create art. In the past, artists depended on gatekeepers, so the art only lasted as long as the gatekeepers made it available.

I just opened an ebook store on my website. I can sell directly to readers, without middlemen. I anticipate being able to do that forever, in one form or another.

Anonymous said...

I think the reality is that there will be many more successful indie writers than there ever were in the legacy publishing system. OBVIOUSLY not everyone will be a success or make tons of money, just like in legacy, but the odds are much more in your favor going independent.

Jude Hardin said...

Congrats on the new store, Joe. Looks great!

Michael E. Walston said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this, Joe. It's helpful.

KR Jacobsen said...

Even assuming that more than 150k titles are added each year (which will be the case), there's still a hell of a lot more devices being sold than content being added. It's ludicrous to think that there's too many or will be too many ebooks. Just as you said, Joe, there's not too many physical books. (Hell, I'm not sure I could conceive of what that would even mean!)

Aside from devices geared directly (or somewhat directly) toward ebooks, there's still phones and computers to add to the possible reader pile. Granted, I think those are smaller groups of people, but there are definitely those who read on those things.

Also, I've been considering starting my own ebook store as well, and you're already one step ahead (as usual), Joe. It looks good, too. Nice and clean.

Rob, thanks for sharing your numbers. I just uploaded my first book last month and I'm trying to remind myself I'm in it for the long haul. Your numbers confirm I need to have patience.

Tammie Clarke Gibbs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tammie Clarke Gibbs said...

Not everyone's sales have dropped over the past couple of months. My sales started climbing in August, and September has already surpassed the August figures. I have heard many complaining that they are off. It's a mystery, but in my case not accurate.

Rob Cornell said...

I think the reality is that there will be many more successful indie writers than there ever were in the legacy publishing system. OBVIOUSLY not everyone will be a success or make tons of money, just like in legacy, but the odds are much more in your favor going independent.

Yes.

Rob Cornell said...

Pretty cool with the direct sales, Joe. The only complaint I have with direct sales is the clunky way I have to download the file, then transfer it over to my Kindle.

It's not a huge deal, but I look forward to the day authors can sell their books direct and shoot them over a wireless connection like Amazon does now.

Jill James said...

Why are the same people who preach that paper books have been around for hundreds of years and aren't going anywhere the same people who doom and gloom eBooks into non-existance within, like, 10 years? The bubble will burst. The technology will change. Whatever!

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're hearing what he is saying. He's not complaining about his sales. He's describing how sales correlate to sales rank. If you're not in the top 10,000 in sales rank, that means you are maybe selling two copies a day at most.

Actually, I think I hear EXACTLY what Jude is saying. He is talking about the number of copies sold per day for a book ranked above 10k. But the only reason he brings this up is because of his experience with a book ranked much worse than that. MY point is that he needs to stop worrying about that one book and its poor ranking, and write more books that will sell BETTER.

I think it's easy to want to argue with Joe because he is making significant income from ebooks while many others are not. But Joe produces content, which is the only thing that matters on Kindle, etc. And he packages his content well, and he is willing to make whatever changes are necessary until he gets lucky.

Jude, you can choose to hold your breath and wait for a major publisher to anoint you, but those days are coming to an end.

Michelle McCleod said...

I'm not worried about the pie being small, but I am concerned about gatekeeping and gaining access to the pie.

Have you seen any of the conversations online regarding algorithm changes on retailers that favor big publishers over indies? It's getting harder to gain traction and build momentum as an indie.

Having dealt with Google and their algos, there's a strong sense of deja vue with Amazon and B&N. It's all similar to how Google shut out the little guys.

M

Rob Cornell said...

Joe produces content, which is the only thing that matters on Kindle, etc. And he packages his content well, and he is willing to make whatever changes are necessary until he gets lucky.

This is exactly right. Sort of what I've been trying to say.

See? I should have just let the rest of you chime in. You all said it better (and with fewer words) that I did.

Jon Olson said...

Let us eat pie. It's a very sound argument. It is a little hard, though, I think, as an individual reader, to find the new, untried-and-true, things that work for you. And there is, really, a lot of junk out there.

Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone

Anonymous said...

@Mark Asher -- I don't have any stats on indie musicians, but I know I've spent a lot of money on music I never would have known existed before the digital era.

I'm never going to hear Myrkgrav, ChthoniC, Wintersun, Ahab, Evoken, Finntroll, Isole, Moonsorrow, or Wrust on broadcast radio, nor see their album in a local music shop. But I've spent money on their music, and listen to it regularly.

And, despite the fact that there is far, far more music out there that doesn't interest me than music that does, I find these groups because of things like last.fm, pandora.com, and people I meet online who have musical tastes similar to my own.

As a music listener, the decentralization of distribution has been the most wonderful thing in the world for me. I'm now able to FIND music, from six continents, that hasn't been pegged as "top 40" by some record executive.

And I think that inide authors have it a lot easier than indie musicians, because the business expenses are a lot lower.

Anonymous said...

"Why are the same people who preach that paper books have been around for hundreds of years and aren't going anywhere the same people who doom and gloom eBooks into non-existance within, like, 10 years? The bubble will burst. The technology will change. Whatever!"

I never doomed and gloomed anything, personally. And I never defended paper books.

It's merely a statement of fact: technology changes. E-books will evolve into something else down the road, just as paper books did, just as 8-tracks did, just as...you get the idea.

Publishing is changing, faster than ever.

I never said ten yrs, either. I said they won't be here for forever. Because they won't. As Joe mentioned, a book pill would be delightful. It will be something else, though, that delivers your content. It has always been that way. Only your content can be forever-if you protect it.

E-books and indie publishing are wonderful. But it feels like people are forgetting the lessons of paper books and trad publishing already. The how is not as important as the what, and the how is not forever.

Joe opened a direct store. His how is changing as we speak. He's adapting.

Yet, others here are talking as if e-books and how things are now will just go on and on as they are now forever. It reminds me of how others talked during the bubble, that's all.

Jude Hardin said...

As an author who has 15 books out of print right this minute, I can tell you that having a book ranked over 100K is much better than having a book that's out of print.

Actually, I would love it if Pocket-47 went out of print. Then I could get my rights back.

Jude Hardin said...

Jude, you can choose to hold your breath and wait for a major publisher to anoint you, but those days are coming to an end.

I'm not holding my breath. I'm working on my book for this.

Anonymous said...

Jude waves arms wildly and shouts, "Me! Me! Me!"

:)

Seriously, I would be ecstatic with a decent advance and 50% ebook royalties.


Sounds like you would take it in a heartbeat.

Jude Hardin said...

I think the reality is that there will be many more successful indie writers than there ever were in the legacy publishing system. OBVIOUSLY not everyone will be a success or make tons of money, just like in legacy, but the odds are much more in your favor going independent.

That might be the case right now, but I'm not convinced it will be the case forever. And, like I said before, one size does not fit all.

I wish everyone who wants to self-publish best of luck; I'm just not sure it's right for me at this point in time.

Anonymous said...

That might be the case right now, but I'm not convinced it will be the case forever. And, like I said before, one size does not fit all.

I wish everyone who wants to self-publish best of luck; I'm just not sure it's right for me at this point in time.


Sigh...

W. Dean said...

Rob Cornell says:

“…editors working for the legacy system are somehow magical beings that can turn any book into gold…”

That’s a strawman. A better question is who doesn’t believe a good editor can make a good book better? If I’m wrong, let’s see a show of hands from writers who’d self-publish without having anyone look over their work. And if you are one of these perfectly self-sufficient production units, how have sales been? Any complaints from readers? None, I’m sure.

Seriously, everyone who writes anything—fiction, non-fiction, ad copy, road signs—knows that self-editing is nearly impossible to do effectively. And I’m not just talking about typos. You can’t always remove the quirks and tells that draw attention to you, the author, and away from the story.

In fact, I’d say that the single biggest weakness in the hundreds of samples I’ve read from indies is exactly that: the age, sex and education of the author comes through in the first ten pages, which undermines the suspension of disbelief by drawing attention to the author. (I hardly think this is subjective either.)

S. A. Engels says:

“Editors? Meh...those who can't play, coach. Those who can't write, edit.”

I realize the chip on your shoulder does all the talking, but you’ve never heard of John Wood Campbell Jr.? I assume you haven’t heard of the others either. So before you go slogging other people’s profession, maybe you should learn something about how it has contributed to your own, which, I’ll admit, is a nice way of saying maybe you should learn a little more about your own.

W. Dean said...

Adam Pepper says:

“Excellence is rare, period, and to expect it from every indie author isnt realistic.”

I don’t think Joshua’s talking about absolute excellence. There’s excellence and then there’s really good; and really good is usually just a tweak or two away from mediocre.

Haven’t you read books—legacy or indie—where you thought that a few things would have made them better? I’ve read a lot of indie books like this, and I’m betting that I’m not the only one. And this belongs on the loss side of the ledger as traditional publishing fades (this does not mean I think all traditional books are really good).

Mark Asher,

I can understand your worries and they may prove well founded. But the Konrathian line, which I happen to agree with, is that you should always make hay while the sun shines.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"Actually, I would love it if Pocket-47 went out of print. Then I could get my rights back."

Out of print is only good if you can get your rights back and self pub it, EVEN IF the book then ranks over 100k on Amazon.

So we're back to Joe's statement that you disagreed with. "The problem of the past--that things go out of print--no longer exists.

Show me an example that proves this wrong."

Jude, you just used your own book as an example that proved Joe right.

It's always better to have a book that's selling slowly than one that's out of print and no longer selling at all.

Wayne McDonald said...

Joe has stated elsewhere numerous times that he uses other professional writers as his feedback in place of editors. He's also suggested people test out there books with the critism sheets on friends/family, and a writers group etc.

If your self publishing and can't afford an independent editor its still worth getting objective feedback before throwing it out there.

SteventheThorn said...

"A hardcore niche group of 10,000 fans can support a writer quite easily."
That's my hope.

It's also never been easier to REACH and FIND and MARKET TO that hardcore niche group of 10,000 fans.

Huzzah for the digital age. Opportunity.

Jude Hardin said...

Out of print is only good if you can get your rights back and self pub it, EVEN IF the book then ranks over 100k on Amazon.

Good point, although I wouldn't necessarily self-publish Pocket-47 if I got my rights back. I might, but there's another avenue I would pursue first.

Anonymous said...

So, a finite number of readers can read an infinite number of books? Let's call a "very bullshit" on that, Joe. At some point, even if every adult wanted to read a maximum number of books possible, they'd hit a limit, due to time.

Database searches and recommendation algorithms don't flatten that, or remove the upper limit.

So--at some point, the competiton for readers becomes increasingly fierce, the amount of time a reader can spend choosing is finite, and the ability to reach the top is less common.

Just like, oh, traditional publishing. Thinking e-books provide a limitless opportunity is magical thinking of the worst kind.

Joe Konrath said...

So, a finite number of readers can read an infinite number of books? Let's call a "very bullshit" on that, Joe.

Who are you, and where have they hidden your brain?

There are many more readers than titles. Soon to be billions of readers, no more than a few million titles.

Out of that billion, your book needs to find 10,000 readers. That's not only doable, given enough time it's probable.


at some point, the competiton for readers becomes increasingly fierce, the amount of time a reader can spend choosing is finite, and the ability to reach the top is less common.

More silliness.

"Help! There are too many choices!"

Or

"There are a million ebooks on Kindle! When there are two million, my ebook will be lost!"

And where did I say an ebook needed to reach the top? This post was about the opposite: not needing to reach the top.

Look at cable TV. You can't watch them all. Yet you always are able to find something to watch. And those shows you don't watch? Someone else watches those.

There are already billions of paper books on the planet. That doesn't stop more being produced, and it doesn't stop money being made from them. Your argument is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"There are already billions of paper books on the planet. That doesn't stop more being produced, and it doesn't stop money being made from them. Your argument is ridiculous"

I had the same thought about your argument. I'm not saying the books can't be produced--make ten billion of them!--I'm saying there is a finite amount of reader TIME. Your argument about "waah, too many choices" is sillier still, because in fact, it's a common complaint made about ALL TYPES OF MEDIA. Shoving a search engine doesn't make that go away. There are entire cottage industries of counseling now helping folks who have trouble with the firehose of information being thrown at them. Kids in grade school are having nervous breakdowns--something utterly unheard of a generation.

Look--I know you've been writing "fun bits of fluff" for many years, but prognosticating with such fervor about the future makes you look a bit too desperate for the story to be true. I'd be more willing to listen in if you weren't so dismissive of ANY possibility other than your own.

Anonymous said...

And it's curious that you mention "money being made from them", because every indication about self publishing demonstrates that--exactly like traditional publishing--a handful make enough money to survive, and the several million others don't. You disagree? Prove that self publishing is spreading the sustainable wealth. Because claiming it's true based on a handful of reports and your own career is not only "very bullshit", it's dishonest.

Joe Konrath said...

Prove that self publishing is spreading the sustainable wealth. Because claiming it's true based on a handful of reports and your own career is not only "very bullshit", it's dishonest.

Show me a post where I say you're guaranteed sustainable wealth by self-pubbing.

Can't find one? Maybe because I never said that.

Now show me a post where I said you have to get lucky to become successful. In fact, show me a hundred posts, because I've said that at least a hundred times.

Right now, writers have the best opportunity in history to reach readers. Some will get rich. Just like in ANY artistic endeavor.

And because ereader sales are increasing faster than titles are being uploaded, a writer can appeal to a much smaller percentage of them in order to reach readers. Given enough time, it is inevitable.

I'm saying there is a finite amount of reader TIME.

What don't you understand here? Seriously?

It isn't about time or choice. If a reader wants to read something, they will. And readers are very good at finding what they want to read. There has ALWAYS been a limited amount of time and there has ALWAYS been an overabundance of choice when it comes to books. The appearance of ebooks doesn't change this. Every year, since Gutenberg invented the press, more and more new books have been released.

No one has EVER had time to read them all. Your argument sucks.

Kids in grade school are having nervous breakdowns--something utterly unheard of a generation.

Please link to that article about those poor children having nervous breakdowns because there are too many choices and not enough time to read all the new ebooks coming out.

Take your time. It'll probably take a while to locate it with that insurmountable, unavigable morass of loose data out there. And be very careful you don't have a nervous breakdown while you're looking.

Anonymous said...

Q. E. D.
And one less Konrath reader.

Reacher said...

I think what's not going to last very long is Amazon's 70% royalty. Once Kindle/ereader/ebook is firmly established and the legacy publishing industry is sufficiently crushed, Amazon will began ratcheting down the royalties. Perhaps they will never drop as low as legacy publishing (teens?) but they also might. Amazon is just a company, and companies are greedy.

Sure, we can solve this by all having our own ebook stores, but that only makes sense for already well known authors with an established following who will seek them out.

Some form of a distributed web that isn't yet imagined will need to be invented in order for readers to discover new authors across a network of micro-ebookstores on the web. The question is, how long after Amazon slashes royalties will it take for this to be developed and actually be useful enough to replace all the Amazon algorithmic goodness?

Not sure. Not really worried either, it will figure itself out, just, don't take the current 70/30 royalty split for granted, invest your money, etc. We may see a prolonged dip in self-pub profitability between when Amazon yanks the rug and the self-ironing out occurs.

Joe Konrath said...

And one less Konrath reader.

You're always welcome to stop by again. But learn to defend your points first. Or don't make such silly points. Either would work.

BTW, when I'm wrong, I admit it. I don't run off.

Joe Konrath said...

I think what's not going to last very long is Amazon's 70% royalty.

Also, there is always the chance of an EMP. Or a nuclear war. Or that asteroid hitting.

Putting all your eggs into one basket isn't wise, but worrying about things that MIGHT happen is pointless. Insisting that it WILL happen, like you seem to be doing, is a bold prediction without any evidence other than a feeling you have. There are plenty of compelling business reasons Amazon won't lower royalties.

Sure, they might. But living in fear of that isn't productive.

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

I think what's not going to last very long is Amazon's 70% royalty. Once Kindle/ereader/ebook is firmly established and the legacy publishing industry is sufficiently crushed, Amazon will began ratcheting down the royalties.

May happen sooner than we think.

http://allthingsd.com/20110607/kindles-getting-cheaper-and-huge-10-of-amazons-business-next-year

Even of their projections are blatant propogands BS to boost hype and sales, even a fraction of that growth will be monumental.

Or...it is in fact just a silly fad everyone will tire of.

Reacher said...

Not fearful or worried at all, actually -- which is why I mentioned the phrase 'not worried' in my post. I think you got your replies crossed here.

Also, evidence isn't really relevant to future predictions since none of us can predict it. It's always speculation, regardless of how much "evidence" we present or don't present. I think you spend a fair amount of time on here "Insisting that things WILL happen" don't you? ;) But it is your blog after all.


Joe Konrath said...
I think what's not going to last very long is Amazon's 70% royalty.

Also, there is always the chance of an EMP. Or a nuclear war. Or that asteroid hitting.

Putting all your eggs into one basket isn't wise, but worrying about things that MIGHT happen is pointless. Insisting that it WILL happen, like you seem to be doing, is a bold prediction without any evidence other than a feeling you have. There are plenty of compelling business reasons Amazon won't lower royalties.

Sure, they might. But living in fear of that isn't productive.

Joshua Simcox said...

W. Dean says:

"Seriously, everyone who writes anything—fiction, non-fiction, ad copy, road signs—knows that self-editing is nearly impossible to do effectively. And I’m not just talking about typos. You can’t always remove the quirks and tells that draw attention to you, the author, and away from the story."

And:

"I don’t think Joshua’s talking about absolute excellence. There’s excellence and then there’s really good; and really good is usually just a tweak or two away from mediocre.

Haven’t you read books—legacy or indie—where you thought that a few things would have made them better? I’ve read a lot of indie books like this, and I’m betting that I’m not the only one."

Yes. Thank you.

Editors are necessary. Any self-pubber that believes otherwise is delusional.

I won't bother to attack S.A. Engels's statement about editors, but if that attitude becomes prevalent among the new generation of indie authors, I think I'll be much better off holding on to my $2.99 and putting it toward a $12.99 legacy pubbed ebook where someone did me the courtesy of surgically removing all the bullshit from the manuscript before asking me to invest my time and money in it.

As for the pie, I'm sure Joe's correct in his theory that it's infinite. I just hope all the mediocre self-pubbed novels clogging the market won't cause readers to become jaded, cynical, and less likely to take a chance on indie authors. Based on the experiences I've had, I'm leaning in that direction. I'm not there yet, but I'm closer than I'd like to be.

--Joshua Simcox

frank palardy said...

Editors certainly help, but there's plenty of books written that are full of waste. Almost all of the books published in the last 50 years. I'm reading Stranger in the Strange Land, a 50 year old book still in the top 10k. Half of it should be cut because it just rambles on. They probably encouraged writers to do that so the books would be longer. The last few decades seems to be worse. They want 500 page so they can charge $28. A better size is probably close to the movies that you can read in a few hours but a 200 page book would look too small to pay $28 for, so they stuff it with fluff. This turns off readers including myself. What I hope is ebooks make people read more because they increase the size of the audience. They need to go head to head with Hollywood, which means they need to be cut down. Editors could help with that but again they have their own agendas.

frank palardy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Asher said...

One thing to consider when assuming the ultimate demise of traditional publishers is the lure of the advance.

If you think modestly and think your book might sell 60 copies a month if you self-pub, it will take you nearly 42 months to make enough to equal a modest $5000 advance from a publisher.

It's 84 months if it sells at 30 copies a month. And that's at a $5000 advance. Double it to $10,000 and it takes even longer to generate that kind of revenue via self-pubbing.

I'd say right now at least 95% of the Kindle books are not even selling 60 copies a month.

I'm not advocating anything at all, but it's something to think about when the idea is floated that the traditional publishers won't be able to attract writers. I think they always will.

frank palardy said...

All the arguments about publishers miss the basic issue, how much the book sells for. Even if they kept 70 percent at 3 dollars a book that's not enough to support their structure unless ebooks started selling much more than paper books did. They need the price to be at least 10 bucks with them getting at least half. That doesn't seem likely so the publishers are cooked. Their only chance is if they keep control of backlists, but it seems they lost them by not keeping them in print. The same could be happening in Hollywood with streaming, although they do have their old movies.

All the talk about money misses an obvious point. With the poor economy it might appear easier to make a living writing but that is not generally the case. If Konrath was as successful in tech or business as he is writing he would be worth millions. He might make more off this blog some day then he ever makes writing books. Some of these websites that help you find new writers could be worth alot if they are successful.

Selena Kitt said...

Ebooks are not the bubble. Legacy publishing is the bubble.

Weldon said...

I also think the big players (Amazon, Barnes and Noble) have started playing with their search algorithms to nudge indies off the top lists. Can't prove it...

It's far more likely that people are looking at the $.99 price tag, realizing it's a self published manuscript, and passing since they've most likely been burned many times before.

Joe Konrath said...

Also, evidence isn't really relevant to future predictions since none of us can predict it.

Thousands of years of the scientific method, gone in a single sentence.

OF COURSE evidence, and past occurrences, are relevant to future predictions.

I'm dig empiricism. I don't believe anything until I see it with my own eyes. But I'd also put good money on the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow. Call it a prediction.

The publishing industry is following an eerily similar path to the music industry, and to many other media/tech format changes over the past fifty years. Extrapolation makes a lot of sense in this case. I've got 30 months of blog posts that back me up.

Mark Asher said...

"The publishing industry is following an eerily similar path to the music industry...'

The record stores are gone but the music labels aren't. I see bookstores closing and struggling, so I see the similarities too.

So the question I raised before still stands. What kind of money are indie musicians making from digital sales, and is that the kind of reality indie writers can expect?

Joe Konrath said...

it will take you nearly 42 months to make enough to equal a modest $5000 advance from a publisher

Follow it through. What guarantee is there that the legacy paper version will sell better than the self-pubbed version?

I've seen a handful of cases where bestselling self-pubbed ebooks get scooped up by legacy publishers. I've watched their prices go up, and their rankings go to hell. Assuming we can equate rankings with sales, these writers aren't making through the legacy system what they were making on their own.

Sure, they got an advance. But now they have to repay that advance at 17.5%, instead of making 70% per sale.

Everyone insists on pointing to ebooks that are doing poorly as evidence that only a few writers will make money.

Guess what? In the old system, only a few writers made money.

I know hundreds of professional writers. Only a few dozen have been able to quick their day jobs, and only a few handfuls are rick.

The rest struggle. Like the majority of artists in any profession. Actors, musicians, painters, etc.

Ebooks aren't a magic bullet. But I'd say the odds of an author making more money than they would through the old system are much better with ebooks. I know many midlist legacy authors who are now self-pubbing bestsellers. I know many self-pubbed who came out of nowhere and sold a ton.

A $5000 advance may look attractive, at first. And then it can easily become an albatross hanging around your neck...

Joe Konrath said...

What kind of money are indie musicians making from digital sales, and is that the kind of reality indie writers can expect?

That's like asking, "I'm going to the casino today, how much can I expect to make?"

Luck is always a factor. But, like gambling, you can improve your odds. Write good books, with good covers, good descriptions, and low prices, and keep writing them until you get lucky.

Mark Asher said...

That's like asking, "I'm going to the casino today, how much can I expect to make?"

Luck is always a factor. But, like gambling, you can improve your odds. Write good books, with good covers, good descriptions, and low prices, and keep writing them until you get lucky.


You can answer the casino question. The odds are slightly in favor of the casino, so on average you will leave the casino with slightly less than you entered with. That's if you play smart. If you are foolish, you'll probably hit the ATM and lose even more.

That was my question. On average, spread out across thousands of indie musicians, what is the typical income from digital sales? And why would indie writers experience anything different?

Joe Konrath said...

And why would indie writers experience anything different?

Why would legacy writers experience anything different?

Why would any artist experience anything different?

20/80 pretty much always applies.

Alan Cramer said...

@Mark Asher when you ask what the average income from digital sales is for musicians it reminds me of something a hoodlum relative of mine said. He asked what's the income of an average working person. Why work when most of our people (African Americans) earn less.

Some people will never 'make it' and will actually get in the way of those who will. But if you keep looking for work and do the necessary things to up your earning potential you can rise above the 'average'. And remeber average is not what most people get. It is the total divided by all people. I know a lot of people who have gotten a near minimum wage jobs and have not tried to advance. That pulss the average down but doesn't affect my earning potential.

The same applies to books. I've met many authors who do one book and call it quits if they don,t sell. They pull the average down but because they don't write another book they really don't affect me. Then there are the self published authors who don't try to improve their craft or will not talk to anyone who criticizes their work. Eventually they fall by the wayside. But if I keep improving and learning from constructive criticism eventually someone will see and like my work and tell their friends. And if I keep writing my readership will grow and my share of the pie.

Brianna Leigh said...

Hatters gon' hat!

S. A. Engels said...

Just heard on WBBM here in Chicago that Kindle has worked out a deal with public libraries all over IL to offer E-books to "check out" without leaving home.

Why would somebody pay me $1.99 to own when they can check my book out for pennies?

What does that do to the formula?

Sorry to hijack the blog.

Anonymous said...

Why would somebody pay me $1.99 to own when they can check my book out for pennies?

Wow, these "library" things you speak of might actually possess the power to kill the book industry! Why would anyone "buy" a book when you can simply check it out for free? Are these "library" things a new invention??!

Lock the doors!! Hide the children!!!

Reacher said...

I think equally as dangerous as worrying about a future possibility that may not occur is not at least anticipating those possibilities in advance so that you won't be caught completely off guard by them. In which case it's wise to at least start contemplating solutions, even if just on the backburner. As a collective, some really amazing ideas can pop up that way. That's not wasted energy, just as letting multiple story ideas percolate and mature on the backburner of your brain while you're primarily focused on another one, isn't.

That's really all I was suggesting before you put on the "you're an idiot" hat.

Reacher said...

On another note, I was excited to hear that Neal Stephenson's new book just came out. Until I visited the Kindle store and saw the price: $16.99. For an ebook? Yes, I know it's a big book, but wow. It's not a question of not having the money; I simply won't pay that out of principle. The beautiful, thick hardcover version printed on premium paper is only two dollars more. At least that I can find some justification in. But it's so heavy it hurts my wrists to hold, so Mr. Stephenson is going to lose here all around. Sorry for Mr. Stephenson.

S. A. Engels said...

Hey Anonymous, I just Googled "library" and you're right...THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!!! OMG! I even have one in my little town. This is the end of the world! People have the ability to drive to this "library thing" and just "borrow" a book, read it, then give it back for the next person. I can't believe I never saw this before.

What you fail to see thru your well-played sarcasm is that libraries are harmless to paper books because of the built in inconvenience of the process of checking out a book. It has undoubtedly led to readers borrowing a book instead of buying it.

But in the digital age, convenience and access are the new norm. Millions of people will have access to every E-book on the market online in stores, and now for a much cheaper price at your local online library.

It doesn't really matter if you're "Anonymous" and have no stake. But if you're not and want to make a profit, it might create and issue.

I'm just saying' is all.

Anonymous said...

What you fail to see thru your well-played sarcasm is that libraries are harmless to paper books because of the built in inconvenience of the process of checking out a book. It has undoubtedly led to readers borrowing a book instead of buying it.

Nah. Sarcasm aside, Kindle wants to sell lots of books and most people like to buy books and read them. They wouldn't make a deal that would hurt business. I've made 20k so far this month on Kindle and think it's only going to get better.

ceecee said...

S.A. Engels. You're right. If I can access the library via my Kindle without leaving my living room and check out your book for free, there's no way I'm buying it. And if all the library copies are checked out that day, I'll put my name on the list and wait; meanwhile, I'll read one of the other gazillion books that authors have sold for a few cents to the libraries. Matter of fact, from now on before buying an e-book, I'll be checking the library first for every book I see in the Kindle Store that I once would have purchased without a second thought.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you can download newspapers on a wooden stick too.

Jude Hardin said...

How is anyone going to make any money if everything is free from libraries' websites? Seems like a major game changer to me.

Wayne McDonald said...

Just like currently the library has to have bought the book. If all 11000 libraries in the US buy your book you have that 10K+ that was discussed above without a single extra sale.

The only question I have is can they loan multiple copies of the same ebook out at the a time.

S. A. Engels said...

I'm not sure if this library thing has rolled out across the US. Illinois just announced their deal with Kindle. I also don't mean to assert that the sky is falling, or that there's a wolf eyeing the sheep, or to cause a state of panic.

I went the the Chicago Public Library website. I clicked on Downloadable Media. I then clicked on one of their recommended E-Titles. It looks like the library has an allotment or inventory of each title. So there is a virtual shelf and the book leaves the shelf. You can put yourself on a list and "take a number" to reserve the book when the title is checked back in. Basically acting just like the old-fashioned library.

Not sure why the number of copies aren't unlimited. Maybe that's the deal worked out with Kindle.

And I agree. If every library buys a copy (or 4) then maybe this will just stretch the audience.

Jude Hardin said...

If I can click on a website (the library) and have a book delivered to my device for free, why would I click on a website (Amazon, for example) and have a book delivered to my device for money? It's not like I care about actually "owning" a digital copy of anything. Once I read something, I'm done with it.

Wayne McDonald said...

If I can click on a website (the library) and have a book delivered to my device for free, why would I click on a website (Amazon, for example) and have a book delivered to my device for money? It's not like I care about actually "owning" a digital copy of anything. Once I read something, I'm done with it.

Me, I reread stuff every few years but I've no clue which is more common your way or mine. I'd be interested to know how many reread.

With the kindle btw, you still need to go to Amazon's website to get the book from the library. No clue if that will generate much additional sales of other books in a series if they aren't at the library.

Joe Konrath said...

If I can click on a website (the library) and have a book delivered to my device for free, why would I click on a website (Amazon, for example) and have a book delivered to my device for money?

You want to wait 4 weeks on a waiting list to read the book for free, or pay $2.99 to read it right away?

Some will wait. Which is fine. I've already made a few grand from library sales, and I have no doubt that number will go way up.
Others won't wait, and will pay for the ebook. Same as with paper books.

A large library could order 5-10 copies of each of my titles. That's several hundred bucks in my pocket, for just one library. There are over 20,000 in the US, not including specialty libraries like schools, universities, military, etc.

I've crunched the numbers. If I have good library sales, I can make well over a million bucks.

And that's just the US. Wait until the world market opens up. Chinese library sales? Hell yeah!

Mark Asher said...

Why would legacy writers experience anything different?

Why would any artist experience anything different?

20/80 pretty much always applies.


So you're saying that things aren't that different now than previously, other than indie midlist writers who succeed will make more traditionally published midlist writers?

I'm not trying to be argumentative, just realistic. From what I see about 99% of the Kindle books sell fewer than 50 copies a month. Knowing that, what are realistic expectations for indie writers?

I don't think it hurts to have a balanced perspective. It's good to be cheered on, but it's also good to be realistic. It's the people who put out a book and are disappointed when they don't sell 300 copies a month who are more likely to give up.

I think it also helps to take a business-like approach to it and realize that it's likely your sales per title may not do more than 30+ copies a month, so figure out how to get more titles out there quickly.

Anyway, it's a great time to be a writer.

I.J.Parker said...

And how do you tell a library sale from a regular sale?

Anonymous said...

DOESN'T. CHANGE. A. THING.

It's still just a feak'n library.

Mark Asher said...

Me, I reread stuff every few years but I've no clue which is more common your way or mine. I'd be interested to know how many reread.

I will reread selected books, but a lot of stuff I won't ever look at again. Things I read for story I probably won't ever reread. Things I read and love the writing at the sentence and paragraph level I might. I often reread parts of some Elmore Leonard books because he's so good at dialog.

Here's something you can do, though. Check out an ebook from the library and when you're done, if you liked it enough to want to save it, download the sample chapter as a record of it. You can build a library of sample chapters of books you have read and at least you have the opening bits to reread, and if you want to purchase that's easy enough to do also.

In general I am not nearly as attached to digital copies as I am to physical copies, though. They just don't seem the same.

Anyway, I always browse library ebooks before browsing ebooks for sale. Free is my favorite price.

Nicholas La Salla said...

Great post once again. I really don't understand where publishers' negativity comes from. There is room for everyone to exist, if we'd STOP DRAGGING OUR FEET AND ACTUALLY MAKE A MEANINGFUL CHANGE IN THE WAY WE DO THINGS.

I like your pie analogy. The fact of the matter is that if you continue producing quality work with compelling product descriptions, people will buy. They don't even have to necessarily buy loads of copies in any one book. If you were to write 400 short stories and they were downloaded once per month, then hey, that's still a good chunk of change.

If you keep at it, you can't help but do better than you would if you just sat in a chair and moaned and groaned about being a writer.

Like my favorite author Clive Barker said: "Get on with it." Start writing. The results will follow.

Best,

Nick

ceecee said...

I reread books, but I'm finding that, like Jude, I have no inclination to reread e-books. Looking at your bookcase full of colorful hardback spines and being inspired to pick up one of them and page through it, maybe reread it, maybe not, is quite different than looking at a list of 12 point type titles on a gray background in your Kindle Collection and being inspired to choose one and then tap the necessary keys to get in. It's just not the same experience. The Amazon/library marriage will be $$$$ for Amazon selling Kindles (a "must have" for everyone to get their books for free), but author sales will be finite. There are only so many libraries. Once you've hit them all, that book is done for you. So, all you authors, write like your writer's life depends on it. Churn 'em out! It appears that "If I have good library sales..." is the key.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for people who want everything for free. Sad little lives.

Ellen O'Connell said...

Maybe it will be, but I've been getting ebooks from libraries for some time, and it doesn't stop me from buying ebooks too. I have access to 2 libraries with digital libraries, and first of all they don't have "all" books. In fact the selection is pretty limited, so if I want the latest by some favorite author the chances of them having it in ebook format are poor. Maybe this will improve since they almost always have the paper versions. Either way, getting the book means putting a hold on it and waiting.

And getting almost anything I want means putting on a hold and waiting because desirable ebooks at both libraries are almost always unavailable immediately. So if I'm right that the majority of the public lives with instant gratification-itis, library availability won't kill sales.

When money was tighter for me I was more inclined to do what was necessary to get the book I wanted from the library. Now that my own indie sales have made life more pleasant I'm more inclined to buy (except for overpriced popular stuff from traditional pubs, which I get free from the library on principle because I'm pigheaded and just won't pay what I consider too much).

Mark Asher said...

I feel sorry for people who want everything for free. Sad little lives.

Sorry. Libraries are a good thing. They encourage reading and help extend knowledge to people who don't have much budget for books.

Anyone who loves books and loves to read should have some reverence for libraries.

I've spent thousands of dollars for books over the years. I still buy books. I'm also going to enjoy library books and not feel guilty about it.

Mark Asher said...

And getting almost anything I want means putting on a hold and waiting because desirable ebooks at both libraries are almost always unavailable immediately. So if I'm right that the majority of the public lives with instant gratification-itis, library availability won't kill sales.

And this is where pricing will be a major factor. If the ebook is $12.99 it's easy to be patient. If it's $2.99 it's easy to go ahead and buy.

Jude Hardin said...

A large library could order 5-10 copies of each of my titles. That's several hundred bucks in my pocket, for just one library. There are over 20,000 in the US, not including specialty libraries like schools, universities, military, etc.

I've crunched the numbers. If I have good library sales, I can make well over a million bucks.


Next questions: how do we go about enticing libraries to order copies of our books?! Are they likely to order self-published titles?

Someone recently told me they saw the hardcover version of Pocket-47 at the public library, and I thought that was just the coolest. Yes, I'm still enough of a newb to get excited about little things like that. :)

Anonymous said...

Anyone who loves books and loves to read should have some reverence for libraries.

Oh, I love libraries, always have. But I certainly don't have reverance for them. And more and of them are losing city funding and being closed down.

Mark Asher said...

I hate to burst anyone's bubble about sales to libraries, but where I live this is how they are doing it: A bunch of municipal libraries are banding together to share a common ebook collection. So instead of 20 sales to 10 libraries it's more like one or two sales. From what I've seen they only buy one copy of an ebook at this time.

I can see an ebook from a midlister maybe selling a few hundred or more copies to libraries, but I wouldn't expect it to be in the tens of thousands if you're not named Stephen King.

Jude Hardin said...

A bunch of municipal libraries are banding together to share a common ebook collection.

Different municipalities? Or different branches of the same county system?

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 243   Newer› Newest»