Monday, November 07, 2011

Guest Post by Lee Goldberg (and Konrath talks numbers)

Lee sez: There was a turning point when I realized that I’d completely shaken free of all of my previous, deeply held perceptions and beliefs about publishing….and fully embraced an entirely new publishing model.

It wasn’t when my out-of-print backlist, which the publishing industry deemed played out and worthless, started pulling in $70,000 a year for me in ebook royalties.

It wasn’t when I signed a 12-book digital, print and audio deal with Amazon’s 47 North imprint for The Dead Man, a monthly series of original books that Bill Rabkin & I created, and that we are writing with a dozen incredibly talent authors, and that we began in February as a self-publishing venture.

And it wasn’t last week, when I agreed to a two-book digital-print-audio deal with Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint for my new novel King City and a sequel.

It was Tuesday, when I delivered Mr. Monk is a Mess, my 14th Monk tie-in novel to Penguin/Putnam and informed them that my 15th book, the last in my current contract and due this coming May, would also be my last book in the series.

In other words, I quit.

They were surprised, of course.

I am walking away from a hugely successful book series, one published in multiple languages around the world, and from the certainty of another three-book contract and an increase in my advance.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the idea of ending a hit book series, in hardcover, with a major publisher would have been inconceivable to me and just about every author I know.

But the publishing world has completely changed.

The Monk books, like the Diagnosis Murder novels that I wrote before, were licensed tie-ins. That means I was hired for an advance, and given a tiny royalty, to write books based on characters that belong to someone else. I was a hired hand…albeit one paid very well by tie-in standards.

I had a great fun writing those books, took enormous pride in them and, until recently, considered myself very fortunate to have the gig.

And in that old world, I was.

But now, in this new world, my attitude has completely changed.

I am still very proud of the books…which is why I find it incredibly frustrating that I have written 22 novels that I dearly love but that don’t belong to me.

They belong to studios.

It’s frustrating because if they belonged to me, I could be earning so much more money from them now…and, more importantly for my family, in the future.

I won’t make that mistake again.

Instead of writing two books a year for Penguin/Putman, I will be writing that many books… or more…for myself that I own.

Some I will self-publish, others I will write for Amazon’s imprints.

But they will be mine.

I know what you’re thinking. What about those books for Amazon? Haven’t you just traded one master for another?

Every aspect of the deals that I have with Amazon’s imprints on The Dead Man series and the King City books are far, far, FAR more author-friendly and potentially lucrative than anything I ever had before…as are my chances at success with such a savvy partner, one who, incidentally, operates the biggest and most successful bookstore on the planet.

And I own King City. If I end up writing 15 books in that series, all of those books, now and in the future, will be mine.

Ah, but what about all those writers who are doing The Dead Man books for us? Aren’t we exploiting them? Aren’t they making the same mistake I’d have made if I’d signed to do more Monk books?

Nope.

That’s because unlike the old school publishers (and, let’s face it, publishers are what Bill and I have become with The Dead Man), we have thrown away the old rules of doing business with writers on licensed properties.

In fact, what we are doing is revolutionary in the tie-in world.

We are splitting all of the publishing royalties from digital, print, audio, and foreign translations on The Dead Man books 50/50 with the writers.

Our success is their success…and vice-versa.

We’ve made them our partners.

(And publishers of tie-ins should follow our lead…or there won’t be any tie-ins anymore, because it won’t make any financial sense for writers to write them).

The Dead Man series relaunched on Oct. 24th and is already doing amazing business. Our next book comes out later this month.

And King City is coming in May.

It’s a bold, exciting new world for authors and I haven’t been this excited about writing since I was a teenager.

Joe sez: I've had several conversations with Lee where we discussed him making this move (both his wife and I have been trying to convince him for years) and it's great to see him finally embracing the future.

Work for hire, in this publishing climate, is a damn stupid thing to do.

Lee is also correct that publishers should follow his lead. It would be a smart, and fair, thing to do.

But publishers haven't shown any evidence that they are smart or fair in this new publishing climate. All they've done is make mistake after mistake.

They won't offer better tie-in terms, because there will always be young, hungry, eager writers willing to work for pennies just to be associated with a well known intellectual property.

Writers do fan fic for free. If given the opportunity to do a real book based on a property they love, they'll do it.

I can understand this. There are a few IPs which, if offered to me, I'd consider. It would be worth the pay cut.

But--and this is important--it would only be worth it to me because I already have a lucrative writing career and a known name. I write several books a year.

Lee can also write several a year, but he had sold his soul to the company store. Penguin/Putnam was making him write so many Monk books, he didn't have much extra time to pursue his own projects.

A company infamous for this is Harlequin. They keep offering multi-book deals with low advances and small royalties, and authors have to keep writing them just to stay afloat. But that leaves them no time to write other projects, where they'd get better royalties.

Because publishers have been in control for so long, they've forgotten their place. I'm happy to remind them:

Publishers get paper books into stores.

That is the main thing they do. The one thing that writers can't easily do.

But guess what? Bookstores and paper books are becoming a smaller and smaller share of the market, while ebooks are becoming bigger and bigger.

Why would anyone still want to work with a publisher? Especially while earning 17.5% royalties on ebooks?

Now, publishers may eventually wise up and offer 50% to authors, which at the agency model rate is 35% of the list price. This is better, but still not wise for authors to take when we can get 70% on our own.

Q: But Joe, legacy publishers still get paper books into stores. Isn't that worth something?

A: Not much.

Here are my latest royalty statement figures for my six Hyperion titles and my Hachette title, for Jan 1 - June 30, 2011. Paper sales are hardcover and mass market combined.

Whiskey Sour paper sales: $1450.00
Whiskey Sour ebook sales: $5395.00

Bloody Mary paper sales: $463.00
Bloody Mary ebook sales: $2591.00

Rusty Nail paper sales: $226.00
Rusty Nail ebook sales: $3220.00

Dirty Martini paper sales: $415.00
Dirty Martini ebook sales: $3370.00

Fuzzy Navel paper sales: $485.00
Fuzzy Navel ebook sales: $3110.00

Cherry Bomb paper sales: $224.00
Cherry Bomb ebook sales: $3864.00

Afraid paper sales: $1608.00
Afraid ebook sales: $12,158.00

Looking at those numbers for the first half of this year, you can see how much ebooks are outselling print in my backlist. Any author would be foolish to take a 17.5% ebook royalties from a legacy deal, or even 35% royalties, just so they can have a book in print.

Q: But all of those are old books. We all know paper sales are greatest at the release date, then they trickle off. Did your total paper sales beat out your total ebook sales for these legacy titles?

A: Whiskey Sour, which was published in 2004 in hardcover and 2005 in paperback, has earned me $52,474 in paper sales, and $11,453 in ebook sales.

So six years ago, paper sales made a difference.

Cherry Bomb, my last novel with Hyperion, was published in 2009 and has earned $20,782 in hardcover and $10,759 in ebooks.

But the ebook thing didn't really start taking off until 2010, which is when the Cherry Bomb paperback came out. The Cherry Bomb paperback has earned $3901. That's about 1/3 of what it made as an ebook, and 1/6 what Whiskey Sour made in paperback.

Q: Isn't that because your series is dying?

A: Shaken, the 7th Jack Daniels novel that I published with Amazon, is doing very well. This series is not dying at all.

Q: How well is Shaken doing?

A: I can't disclose details due to an NDA. But I'll discuss more about Shaken in a bit. First let me prove my point with paper vs. ebook sales.

Afraid, which came out in 2009 and had a hardcover release in the UK and a paperback release in the UK and US, has earned $29,183 in combined paper sales, and $27,657 in ebook sales.

Dead tree books are, well, dead. And any author would be foolish to release a book with a legacy publisher because they believe paper sales will make up for the lower ebook royalty rate. Especially when legacy publishers set the price, which is always too high.

If I had these above titles back, I'd be earning a lot more than I am now.

Q: Really? How much more?

A: I'm glad you asked. Here are my top four self-published books.

Origin (rejected by publishers) has earned over $72,000 since April 2009.
The List (rejected by publishers) has earned over $82,000 since April 2009.
Endurance (rejected by publishers) has earned over $71,500 since June, 2010.
Trapped (rejected by publishers) has earned over $85,000 since June 2010.

Why the hell would anyone want to continue publishing with legacy houses? Even if they raise royalties to 35%?

Q: But I heard that Amazon imprints like Thomas & Mercer and Encore also offer 35%.

A: First of all, Amazon is not a legacy publisher.

Second, even though I'm unable to discuss the royalty amounts in my Amazon contracts, or how much Shaken (published in ebook in October 2010 and paper February 2011) has earned, I will say that I'd absolutely sign with Amazon again.

And an extra word on Amazon's NDA, which some people on the internets seem to think is suspicious. As Lee mentioned in the comments below, Amazon is changing all the rules on how publishers deal with authors. I've never been treated better, or gotten better terms. If Amazon wants to keep those terms hush-hush because they think other publishers may try to emulate their contracts, I'm happy to remain silent on the issue.

But publishers will have to do MUCH MUCH BETTER than they're doing now if they want to even come close to offering what Amazon offers me.

Q: Would you ever sign with a Big 6 publisher again?

A: I can't say that I would never sign with a legacy publisher again. If they offered me a huge amount of money, I'd consider it. If they became really progressive with their contract terms, I'd consider it.

But they'd have to do a lot to convince me that they're worth the big chunk of royalties they're taking.

I'm not the only one who understands this. Lee Goldberg is the latest in a growing number of authors who are coming to this realization.

There will be many, many, many more.

I'm in this business to make money and reach as may readers as possible. I've got hard evidence that I can make more money on my own than I can with a big publisher behind me. This isn't speculation; it's cold, hard facts.

If you can self-pub, then also sign with an Amazon imprint, even better.

Q: But aren't you worried Amazon will gain so much control they become a monopoly and then start cutting royalties?

A: As Barry Eisler recently pointed out, and I've said many times before, why worry about what might happen in the future with Amazon when we're currently getting the shaft with legacy publishers? You need to be concerned about the tiger chomping on your leg right now, not the lion you might meet someday.

Q: I thought you're on a blogging hiatus.

A: I am. This was a guest blog.

But I will say that I'm getting tired of critics bemoaning my blog and attacking my guest bloggers.

I understand that this is a scary time. Change is frightening. This is nothing less than a revolution, and no wars are fought fairly.

But I still get irritated when some pinhead starts criticizing me, or my blog, and does such a poor job doing so.

Attack the argument, not the person. Focus on the facts, not tone. Offer counterpoints based on logic and experience, not feelings.

I don't care what you think of me. I want to hear you debate my points.

There are a lot of writers who have done well playing the social network game (I'll follow you if you follow me!) and are spouting their uniformed opinions, which amount to nothing more than masturbation and speculation.

I talk the talk because I walk the walk. Since 2009, I've made over half a million dollars self-publishing. I've worked with three major legacy publishers for novels, and half a dozen more with anthologies.

I know what I'm talking about. I've played for both teams, and the self-pub team is better, hands down.

You're welcome to post your numbers and prove me wrong.

Otherwise, take your pill. It's the one in the bottle marked "Shut the hell up."


117 comments:

Fatima said...

Great guest post, Lee! Wish you all the best on your journey!

Joe, always love reading your updates.

Bridget McKenna said...

Love ya, Joe. Just keep doing what you're doing. You and Barry convinced me back in the "Be the Monkey" days, and it's been instructive to see the amount of B.S. you've taken for the crime of saying what works for you.

F**k 'em if they can't take mathematical proof.

Bridget McKenna said...

Lee, you're amazing altogether. Congratulations on taking control and taking a good deal when you found one. You inspire me.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Thanks for sharing all that. This blog is a must read, for me at least.

Jon Olson said...

Good luck, Lee! Thanks for the guest post, Joe.

DaniAmore said...

Great post, Lee! And thanks, as always Joe, for the insight. It's appreciated and valued!

S.E. Gordon said...

Thanks for posting your sales numbers, J.A.! A real eye-opener...

Lee Goldberg said...

Joe is right when he says that he and my wife have been telling me to walk away from MONK for a while now. Actually, they have been yelling at me.

But I resisted. I was writing a hit series for a major publisher. In hardcover. How could I walk away from that?

By waking up, that's how.

As much as I love writing the books, I should have listened to my wife and to Joe and passed on my last three book contract in August 2010 and ended the series with book 12. For one thing, it would have been an even number :-)

But seriously, when I think about how much money that decision probably cost me, it makes me angry at myself.

I totally understand why I couldn't commit to making the move at the time...and why it was a lot easier now for me to make that decision now than it was then.

I've had another year and a half of incredible ebook royalties on my backlist and the added incentive of the wonderfully author-friendly Amazon deals. (And my wife said, jokingly of course, that she would divorce me if I signed another MONK contract)

I'd have to be brain dead to sign with Penguin/Putnam again on a tie-in...or even a mid-list novel contract, in today's world.

Like Joe, I'm not saying I wouldn't write for a big six publisher again, but the terms would have be radically different than what they are offering authors now.

Like Joe, I have signed an NDA with Amazon...but let me just say that they they have thrown out the old way of doing business with authors...creatively and financially, they treat authors far better than "traditional" publishing. I really like my editors at Penguin/Putnam, they are good people who treated me as well as they possibly could within the confines of what their company could offer....but my experience already with Amazon has been extraordinary, far better than any other publishing experience I have ever had.

But Amazon aside, I have been doing so well with my backlist that I am eager to see what I can do with an original, self-published novel...

Lee

Jonas Saul said...

The numbers are staggering!

Here's to even more sales as the e-book market continues to expand - Cheers!

Jonas

Patrice said...

It's powerful when you share the real numbers. Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to support other writers.

I'm publishing the first episode in a new series on 11/11/11. Now all I need is time (oh, and a bunch of really entertaining books) to get into the money.

Back to work!

Sue T. said...

As a fan (I've read all of the MONK books), I hope the publisher lets Lee wrap up the series and doesn't try to find a new writer to do the tie-ins. I can't imagine any other writer doing as beautiful a job as Lee has, and it seems fitting to let Mr. Monk and Natalie ride off into the sunset, so to speak.

Jason said...

Regarding the King City cover...is that guy firing the gun out of the cover or into the cover? Very cool effect.

Michael A. Boyadjian said...

It's hard to argue against numbers--especially numbers like these. Yet, people still try.

Lee Goldberg said...

Sue T,

No need to worry. The publisher is going to bill book #15, Mr. Monk Gets Even, as the "final book" in the series. I will be doing a fitting finale.

Lee

Walter Knight said...

Only in America.

Joe Konrath said...

I just added this to the blog entry:

And an extra word on Amazon's NDA, which some people on the internets seem to think is suspicious. As Lee mentioned in the comments above, Amazon is changing all the rules on how publishers deal with authors. I've never been treated better, or gotten better terms. If Amazon wants to keep those terms hush-hush because they think other publishers may try to emulate their contracts, I'm happy to remain silent on the issue.

But publishers will have to do MUCH MUCH BETTER than they're doing now if they want to even come close to offering what Amazon offers me.

Douglas Dorow said...

Lee, congrats on making the decision and the new books and deals. Who says nice guys finish last?

Joe, thanks for sharing the numbers, they speak louder than any words.

Great post!

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

"Dead tree books are, well, dead."

This is so wrong I can't even begin to separate the reasons to be coherent enough to say why.

Ebooks may well be gaining in sales and popularity but no way are they in any danger of taking over paper books just yet.

Barry said...

Congrats, Lee, you are an inspiration!

Re the confidentiality, I could be wrong, but I think the explanation is likely pretty simple: Amazon is offering different authors different terms, including different royalty splits, and doesn't want to put themselves in a position where what they thought would be a ceiling instead becomes a de facto floor. But it doesn't logically follow from their reticence that they're not paying significantly more than legacy houses. In my experience, they certainly are, and I'd encourage any author to have her agent contact Amazon Publishing before signing a legacy deal and at least see what might be on offer. Can't hurt to have options.

And FWIW, I've encouraged Amazon to be more open about the terms of their contract. As I said at ABA, the Amazon draft was by far the best publishing agreement I've ever seen, both substance and style, and I think their standard contract could provide them with a significant competitive advantage if they were willing to publicize its terms. And more publicity would also create more pressure on legacy houses to offer authors more competitive terms.

Joe Konrath said...

This is so wrong I can't even begin to separate the reasons to be coherent enough to say why.

Uh, when you're trying to make a point, try using logic and facts, not avoidance and opinion.

Ebooks may well be gaining in sales and popularity but no way are they in any danger of taking over paper books just yet.

I'm guessing I'm not the only writer whose ebooks are outselling paper books 10 to 1.

Have you been paying attention to things happening int he publishing industry? Borders, which accounted for 20% of all paper book sales, is gone. Print sales are down almost 40% from last year. Ebook sales are up 150%.

This holiday season, Kindle and Nook and Kobo and Sony will continue their price wars, meaning better technology will be available for cheaper than ever.

Paper had a nice, long run. But the run is over. As I said last year, print is the new subsidiary right.

Liliana Hart said...

Joe,

I'm glad to post my numbers and prove you right:-) I've been self publishing since June 1st of this year. I just surpassed the 20,000 books sold mark, and I've made just under $30,000. In less than 5 months. And my sales increase every month. I have freedom I never expected, and I'm loving every second if it.

Lee,

Congrats on having the guts to walk away. Good luck to you.

Jonathan Gunson said...

Not sure this is entirely correct Joe and Lee.

I'm still hearing echoes from the recent furore over authors being called the Stockholm Syndrome 'House Slaves' of the big six publishers.

The trouble with that idea Lee is that while you are clearly correct about what will happen to the 'dead tree business', one factor remains that will not change:

Sadly, most authors, including geniuses with high literature in their bones, simply don't have the chutzpah or confidence to break out and 'do it themselves'. I agree that they SHOULD, but they won't. They'd rather change career than do that.

Are they mad? Stupid?

No, they just simply will not. Because of this factor alone, the big six will not die, but will soon wake up and change re eBooks. They will dramatically increase the author % because they'll see the success of small indie publishers who ARE looking after brilliant authors who do not have the strength to go it alone - even in the eBook age.

The 'author dream' of being found and made famous by going with a publisher who 'puts it out there for them' will still be with us I expect - all brought about by writers who will not, or cannot let it go.

They 'need' the psychological support and the connections of the big boys even if it doesn't entirely make sense financially.
They really are 'just writers.'

This is the factor that may determine the shape of the future it seems to me.

Jonathan Gunson
http://Twitter.com/JonathanGunson

J.P. Kurzitza said...

Don't worry, Joe (I know you're not). I wouldn't put too much stock into what Mr. Anonymous, err, "Craig" has to say...

Long live the shift from atoms to bits!

Craig said...

I'll reply to joe properly when I have a bit more time for a full post but

Don't worry, Joe (I know you're not). I wouldn't put too much stock into what Mr. Anonymous, err, "Craig" has to say...

Why am I anonymous? From what I gather thats a derogatory term on this blog. I've posted via a google account. What more do you want.

Anonymous said...

"Publishers get paper books into stores. That is the main thing they do. The one thing that writers can't easily do."

That's the key, right there. If an author wants the books on the shelves of BN, indies and libraries, it's best to go traditional if the author gets the option, which 99% never will.

If the author doesn't want that, or can't (again, 99%), then indie is the route.

For 99% of authors, there is no choice. There is only one option. For the other 1%, most of the household name authors are still going traditional. Why? Because the decreased percentages are made up by the increased sales associated with the publishers' printing, distribution and marketing.

It's pretty simple, actually.

Nancy Beck said...

@Craig - qutoing from Dean Wesley Smith's site (since I can't access Publisher's Marketplace):

From publisher’s Marketplace…I will write more about this when I get back…

CBS reported second quarter earnings after the close of the market on Tuesday, with Simon & Schuster recording a 1 percent increase in sales, up $2 million to $220 million, and a sharper increase in profits. Adjusted OIBDA rose $6 million (or 19 percent) to $38 million, and adjusted operating income also rose $6 million, at $30 million. The company said that “strong growth in the sale of more profitable digital content was offset by lower print book sales,” indicating that improved profits were “driven by lower direct operating costs, including expense decreases resulting from the significant increase in more profitable digital sales as a percentage of total revenues.” (bolding mine)

Night Terrors

Joe Konrath said...

That's the key, right there. If an author wants the books on the shelves of BN, indies and libraries, it's best to go traditional if the author gets the option, which 99% never will.

Where did you get the 99% number?

What is more alluring about having a paper book than having more money and total control?

My ebooks are in libraries. And I earn more money--easier and quicker--by going solo.

Do you really believe authors are so in love with paper that they will give up money and control for an elusive shot at getting into print at a publishing house? How does that make any rational sense?

If an author's goal is to get onto the shelves at B&N, then a legacy house is the only way to go.

My blog is showing authors better goals to pursue. Like reaching more readers and making more money, on your own terms.

williamdoonan said...

It would seem that the publishing world has finally become a level playing field. It doesn't mean that all writers are equal, but that we now all have an equal opportunity to get read. Almost. For someone reasonably new at this, with two wonderful but poorly-selling mysteries under my belt, I'd still kill for the three-book, traditional publishing deal, even if I had to give away a lot of rights. It's still worth something, even if only to get your name out there.

William Doonan
www.williamdoonan.com

Joe Konrath said...

Sadly, most authors, including geniuses with high literature in their bones, simply don't have the chutzpah or confidence to break out and 'do it themselves'.

That's certainly a factor, Jonathan. I've addressed the notion of fear many times, and how scary the industry is right now. Being taken care of has some allure. And being validated by the Big 6 is still attractive to authors.

And, of course, those making big $$$ from the Big 6 have no immediate incentive to pull away.

But will bestselling authors and a group of frightened, uniformed newbies be enough to keep the Big 6 afloat? Methinks not.

Information is a virus. This blog is a carrier. More and more writers every day are learning there are alternatives to legacy houses.

Alan Tucker said...

The magic bean that most folks feel the traditional publishers have is marketing — the "getting your name out there" thing.

Unfortunately, as Joe and many other authors have said, there is no magic in that bean. The traditional publishers spend the majority of their marketing budget on the "sure thing" authors who already have an established fan base. Amanda Hocking got a huge deal from a big house, but not because she's the next Bill Shakespeare. She got it because she has the established base. In essence, the publishing house bought her mailing list.

There is no substitute (magic bean) for hard work and perseverance.

Anonymous said...

"Where did you get the 99% number?"

That's low, if anything. How many indie authors are on Kindle? How many authors have books sitting on the shelves of BN across the country? The mathematical division is self-explanatory.

"What is more alluring about having a paper book than having more money and total control?"

See the last answer below.

"My ebooks are in libraries. And I earn more money--easier and quicker--by going solo."

Your ebooks are in libraries only because they are marketed by OverDrive, which doesn't do business with most indies. You've sprung off a platform supplied by publishers, T&M, etc. Most indies don't have the OD option.

"Do you really believe authors are so in love with paper that they will give up money and control for an elusive shot at getting into print at a publishing house? How does that make any rational sense?"

Almost all of the brand name authors are sticking to traditional publishing. The reason is because it makes economic sense when the package is looked at as a whole. There are a few authors who have switched sides, in both directions by the way, and I'm sure they have their own personal reasons for doing so. Overall, though, most of the authors who have been successfully in the business a long time have made an informed decision to stick with a print distribution business model.

"If an author's goal is to get onto the shelves at B&N, then a legacy house is the only way to go.

My blog is showing authors better goals to pursue. Like reaching more readers and making more money, on your own terms."

First of all, going indie does not ipso facto mean that the author will reach more readers and make more money than s/he would have made going traditional, if given the chance. Some do but most indie authors live in obscurity. After all, there are only 10,000 books in the top 10,000.

Second, for those that have the option of going traditional, choosing the indie route does not necessarily imply more readers or more money. The traditional publisher gets the author into the print distribution stream, which in turn fuels digital sales, audiobook sales, overseas sales, etc. Most established authors who look at the whole picture see the benefits.

Rob Blackwell said...

I think people have an emotional attachment to print books, but they need to face facts: it's pretty clear ebooks are winning. It's not a fad or a trend, it's just easier (and cheaper) to read a bunch of books on a Kindle/Nook/eReader and the price of eReaders is going down all the time.
When I published my novel, I felt badly I didn't have a print version ready to go. Now I'm not sure I even need one. By Christmas, tens of thousands more people will have ereaders and will be buying ebooks, not print books. As an author, I can charge $2.99 instead of $10 and still make the same amount of profit.
It's a no-brainer for authors and readers. Ebooks are here to stay.

Joe Konrath said...

The mathematical division is self-explanatory.

Maybe you should do a recount. There are a million ebooks on Kindle, but legacy pubs put out 100,000 new titles per year, and there are many years' worth of their books on Amazon.

A B&N superstore can have 200,000 titles on the shelf at once (or at least they used to.) That would mean I'd estimate at the least 20% of Kindle titles are legacy pubbed, and I think that's too low.

Most indies don't have the OD option.

Yet.

Most indies haven't had a legacy deal, either, which we both recognize.

But how many have had a legacy deal, gone indie, then decided to go back to legacy? Are there any? What does that tell you?

First of all, going indie does not ipso facto mean that the author will reach more readers and make more money than s/he would have made going traditional, if given the chance.

I dunno. My numbers are pretty compelling. I want to see other midlisters post their numbers.

Bestselling authors aren't at that point yet, AFAIK. They still do better with legacy. But midlisters? I'm sure my numbers aren't unique.

I'd guess the majority of those who get legacy deals could do better on their own.

choosing the indie route does not necessarily imply more readers or more money. The traditional publisher gets the author into the print distribution stream, which in turn fuels digital sales, audiobook sales, overseas sales, etc.

I know at least a dozen indie authors who have gotten film, audio, and foreign deals.

As for the print distribution stream, that stream is drying up. Do you really think it's smart to sign a legacy deal today for a book that won't be released until 2013? If so, what do you base this on?

Kathleenshoop said...

Congratulations on your amazing success, Lee. It must feel so good to have so much control of your work now--I know you'll do great things with it! Can't wait for it!
Joe--your print vs ebook numbers are jaw-dropping. Thanks for sharing them! Keep up the great work and enjoy it!

The Last Letter

Anonymous said...

"The mathematical division is self-explanatory.

Maybe you should do a recount. There are a million ebooks on Kindle, but legacy pubs put out 100,000 new titles per year, and there are many years' worth of their books on Amazon.

A B&N superstore can have 200,000 titles on the shelf at once (or at least they used to.) That would mean I'd estimate at the least 20% of Kindle titles are legacy pubbed, and I think that's too low."

My initial point was that only 1 in 100 authors (1%) are capable of landing a traditional offer. Phrased differently, for every 100 who try to get an agent and then a publisher, only 1 or less succeed. You can assign your own number if you want. The gist of my point is that the whole discussion of trad v indie is moot for almost all writers because most couldn't land a trad book if they tried.

"Most indies don't have the OD option. Yet."

We'll see what happens down the road. Right now, OD $ is not a source for indies.

"Most indies haven't had a legacy deal, either, which we both recognize."

Finally, you got something right.

"But how many have had a legacy deal, gone indie, then decided to go back to legacy? Are there any? What does that tell you?"

There hasn't been time for a double switch. However, is would could you to be a semi answer in that you started trad, went indie, then are back to a "semi-trad." In any event, we'll see if people who have voluntarily (aot being kick out) left a trad house to pursue an indie route like that life better overall. I suspect some will and some won't.

"I'd guess the majority of those who get legacy deals could do better on their own." Maybe, but the bottom line is that it's their choice to make. It's not for you or anyone else to say they've chosen a wrong goal or made a stupid decision.

"choosing the indie route does not necessarily imply more readers or more money. The traditional publisher gets the author into the print distribution stream, which in turn fuels digital sales, audiobook sales, overseas sales, etc. I know at least a dozen indie authors who have gotten film, audio, and foreign deals"

Good for them. I never said an indie made a wrong decision going indie. I'm merely making that point that others choose a different course that is right for them.

"As for the print distribution stream, that stream is drying up. Do you really think it's smart to sign a legacy deal today for a book that won't be released until 2013? If so, what do you base this on?"

Let me put it this way. Authors like John Sandford, Lee Child, John Grisham, etc., are finding the print business model to their advantage. These are intelligent, knowledgeable people who are making informed decisions. They're just not vocal as to why they're doing what they do or why.

Bob said...

As far as posting numbers and put up or shut up, I've made half a million dollars this year alone on my own, so I think that adds up to something. That's after starting the year selling 347 eBooks in January. Suffice it to say I'm selling a lot more now. As I've stated many times, every author has to choose their own path based on their own situation. What I don't understand are those who come to a blog like this and try to argue against what someone says is their own experience? IP is valuable, but has rarely been treated as such in publishing. Most authors have been treated as replaceable parts in a big machine. But now there are people who are more than authors; they are promotion experts, business savvy, and have knowledge on how all this works, that many publishers are only just beginning to grasp.
I found it quite interesting that there was not a single representative from a Big 6 publisher at Publishers Launch in San Francisco last week, where the cutting edge of eBooks was being discussed by experts, including Barry Eisler's wife.
I think the respect playing field has to start leveling out, because we are not replaceable parts any more.

Maurice Nicholson said...

Great post Lee, and Joe - thanks for providing all those facts and figures. It's great to get information that has a real authentic feel to it.

Joe Konrath said...

The gist of my point is that the whole discussion of trad v indie is moot for almost all writers because most couldn't land a trad book if they tried.

I don't disagree with that.

The gist of my point is that midlist authors with legacy deals should stop looking for more legacy deals.

Finally, you got something right.

Actually, since April 2009, I've gotten over half a million things right. :)

Authors like John Sandford, Lee Child, John Grisham, etc., are finding the print business model to their advantage.

I acknowledged that bestselling authors will stick with legacy publishing for a while.

But for how long?

Paper will stick around for a while. As more bookstores close, King and Grisham will still have shelf space in Costco and Walgreens.

But when ereaders become widely adopted, Costco and Walgreens will stop selling paper books.

Keep your eyes peeled. Watch when someone in a checkout line at CVS picks up the latest Turow paperback, whips out her Kindle, and orders the ebook. This is commonplace at bookstores now.

Joe Konrath said...

Congrats on the sales, Bob.

If you don't have a financial adviser yet, get one pronto. :)

What I don't understand are those who come to a blog like this and try to argue against what someone says is their own experience?

People don't want to believe this is really happening. I didn't. Lee didn't. You didn't. No one does.

The smart writers try it for themselves. The scared writers call me names.

Lots of scared writers on the net.

Marta Szemik said...

I have a problem. I am a control freak. Ask my husband. At first, traditional publishing was the only way I thought I could get my novel to my readers. Dec. 1st I'm releasing my debut novel Two Halves and all I have to say is "Thank you Joe!", because of you, I know that with a little 'luck' the novel will be successful, live in perpetuity and I will own all my rights. Am I saying I wouldn't accept a deal from a publisher. No! Even with no exposure, I don't think I'm ready to sell my rights. I honestly believe, with time, I can generate the kind of following I need to continue writing. And, I will be in control (husband sighs). Good luck Lee! Great post.

Todd Trumpet said...

When I first saw today's column I thought, "Wow, this Lee Goldberg writes a long guest post."

Uh, wait a minute...

Joe said: You're welcome to post your numbers and prove me wrong. Otherwise, take your pill. It's the one in the bottle marked "Shut the hell up."

And I was afraid "blog vacation" might mellow JAK.

Phew!

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

Bob said...

And legacy authors will switch. I've talked to several bestselling authors in the past few months and once we start dissecting the numbers, I can see the wheels turning in their heads. As eBooks take larger chunks of their royalty statements and they still get crappy rates from their publishers, there will come a tipping point. To argue that brand authors like Lee Child are doing great with the traditional publishing model is the same are your argument against the percentage of those who succeed at self-publishing. Both ends are small, but they are going to meet on common ground, sooner rather than later.

Andy Conway said...

Great post Lee, and fantastic follow up, Joe. I swore aloud on the bus when I saw those numbers.

Without this blog and Joe's constant logic smackdowns, I would never have attempted to publish 11 titles in less than a year. But by this Friday I will have met my "11 Before 11.11.11" challenge.

By God it's been hard work, and I have a tough week of editing and formatting ahead of me to meet the challenge, but boy is it worth it.

Today I had a load of football supporters ordering my Man City football fan novel and sending me rave reviews (for a novel that was rejected by publishers long ago). How bloody rewarding is that? It is starting to sell well and I haven't even scratched the surface of its potential readership yet.

And then there's also the Hollywood option offer on a novella no publisher would read.

What a journey. And I'm barely out of first gear.

Would not have done a thing without this blog.

Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11 : 8 down, 3 to go
The timeslip ghost story novella that Hollywood wants to option...

J. Tanner said...

Another great guest-blog read, and informative followup from Joe.

My concern is a bit of a tangent in Joe's followup, and discussed a bit by Barry in the comments, so I'll start there:

BARRY: Re the confidentiality, I could be wrong, but I think the explanation is likely pretty simple: Amazon is offering different authors different terms, including different royalty splits, and doesn't want to put themselves in a position where what they thought would be a ceiling instead becomes a de facto floor.

I have no reason to doubt that the Amazon terms are a vast improvement over the typically draconian contracts non-bestsellers see (Mike Stackpole recently covered a lot of the more hideous clauses) but isn't the NDA portion pretty draconian in and of itself? One example, it prevents organizations (SFWA, HWA, etc) from being able to vet the contracts and point out areas of concern that aren't in author's best interest.

I'm less interested in the royalty rate Barry (or anyone) got than things like how reversion is handled in an ebook world, or if the Dead Man authors have any additional ownership of their writing in Lee's example as compared to typical trade work for hire and so on. I'd be really interested in seeing a sort of Amazon contract 'template' with the numbers specific to Barry/Joe/etc left out.

That seems to be in both authors and Amazon's best interest from my novice perspective, but if it's not I'd be interested in hearing why.

Anonymous said...

"And then there's also the Hollywood option offer on a novella no publisher would read."

Just out of curiosity, which company optioned it? How much did you receive, if you don't mind telling?

John Rector said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yuwanda Black said...

Otherwise, take your pill. It's the one in the bottle marked "Shut the hell up."

I literally laughed out loud when I read this!

Thanks Joe for another informative read. I'm loving your "hiatus." We get great guest bloggers . . . and YOU!

Couldn't be a better two-fer. :-)

John Rector said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie Bellet said...

There's also this guy, dunno if anyone here has seen it: http://www.reddit.com/r/writing/comments/m2ejo/broke_1000_in_one_day_for_the_first_time/

Made 1k in a single day. Looks like he (or she) has about 80 works up, mostly short stories.

DVshooter said...

And more publicity would also create more pressure on legacy houses to offer authors more competitive terms

Barry...I see a myriad of online sentiment regarding Legacy houses these days. Expressions run the gamut from "There are good people working at those houses and I wish them well" to "May they all burn and rot in hell."

I like to imagine the folks at Amazon as a fairly easy going Seattle bunch, you tell me, I could be wrong, but by looking at how they've seized their book market share, and how the continue to grasp market share with their e-book business practices, I think their sentiment is clear without them saying a word:

They want nails in legacy coffins.

I think pressuring legacy houses to be more competetive is the last thing they want. They want more established authors for their imprints more than they want reinvigorated competition for existing talent.

As for us Newbs...from Joe's post on "It's Over" to where he and many others openly discuss their sales and success; I definitely think the new dream isn't the phone call from the agent that you landed a deal. It's logging in and seeing 10k+ sales in one month for a third month in a row.

And then calling your boss with the bad news.

Snooki Spunk said...

A little off topic, but what's the most you've written in a single day, Mr. Konrath? What's your personal best?

Snooki Spunk said...

*THANK YOU* Annie!

From throwaway_writer (the 1k man):

"Far and away, 2.99. Conventional wisdom says that .99 cent books sell more but I haven't observed that. I've changed prices back and forth to test it out and the 2.99 does it."

This supports the wisdom of the previous guest post, and what Konrath long suspected.

Lee Goldberg said...

Craig wrote: "Ebooks may well be gaining in sales and popularity but no way are they in any danger of taking over paper books just yet."

Um, Craig, have you been reading the newspapers lately? Even the publishers are acknowledging that ebooks are now outselling mass market and hardcover. And, perhaps you haven't noticed, by Borders, the second largest bookseller in the country, went out of business, taking hundreds of thousands of paper book orders/purchases with them.

Printed books will never go away, but they will not be the dominant format for much longer. That's a given.

Lee

Karen Woodward said...

Great post, Lee, Joe!

Lee, I'm crushed that you're not going to write the Monk books anymore! I've read them all and love them, but I do understand your reasoning and wish you well.

Joe, it's great to hear from you again. I enjoy your blog posts. :-)

Lee Goldberg said...

Karen,
Don't worry...there are still three more MONK books in the pipeline...

MR. MONK ON PATROL in January 2012
MR. MONK IS A MESS in July 2012
and the book I haven't written yet, MR. MONK GETS EVEN in January 2013.

Lee

Karen Woodward said...

Yea! Thanks Lee. I look forward to reading your last few Monk books.

I just looked at The Face of Evil on Amazon. Looks great! I'm going to enjoy working my way through your new series. Cheers!

Craig said...

@Joe (Not sure how to quote or do a fancy indent so hope this posts OK)

Uh, when you're trying to make a point, try using logic and facts, not avoidance and opinion.

Fair comment. I was in a rush and I must admit the assertion that print/paper is dead i.e past tense, gone blew my mind.

eBooks may well be gaining traction but paper is going to be around for a long time yet. There's just some things ereaders aren't good at. Tech manuals, comics, reading on the beach and spilling sun cream on etc.

Have you been paying attention to things happening int he publishing industry? Borders, which accounted for 20% of all paper book sales, is gone. Print sales are down almost 40% from last year. Ebook sales are up 150%.

Borders and their ilk also made the mistake of not adapting to a changing market. Yes, ebooks had an effect but the Kindle, Nook etc aren't solely responsible for the downfall of a major business. What they are responsible for is changing the consumer mindset to realise the high street isn't the only place to purchase.

Paper had a nice, long run. But the run is over.

I don't want to be rude but this is your opinion presented as fact. The market is changing, granted, but the run isn't over. When it is, the publishing houses will close, everything will be digital and you won't be able to buy the latest James Patterson as a hardback.

Print and digital will learn to live together, it's inevitable but one won't beat the other because they're not in competition. Writers are self-pubbing for greater control and better terms, not because they don't like paper.

Jude Hardin said...

Great post, guys. I think you're doing the right things at the right time.

And what a pleasure it was working with Lee and Bill on my installment for the Dead Man series. Pros all the way.

Lee Goldberg said...

Jude,
Thank you! It was a pleasure working with you, too.
Lee

Anonymous said...

Joe

The $ figures you quote, are those total sales value or total value of what you receive in royalties?

Richard

Andy Conway said...

@Anonymous

I said Hollywood option *offer*. My agent is still negotiating it. The deal might include my own screenplay too. It will take a while to play out, but the main point is that I self-published a novella and a Hollywood producer got in touch. In my 15 years as a screenwriter I've only ever had one producer call me, and it wasn't a Hollywood producer.

Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11 : 8 down, 3 to go
Why Hollywood wants your ebook...

Archangel said...

Lee, that is a great move and your wife is also a genius along with you. Live long and enjoy your new world.
I can tell you are already secure in your future in writing. And, to be a dragonslayer, sometimes you have to suffer to be the 'draggin' first. We all learn as we go along. There ought be no ridicule or shaming about coming awake. Hardly anyone comes awake by being put down.

@Bob... "and legacy authors will switch. I've talked to several bestselling authors in the past few months and once we start dissecting the numbers, I can see the wheels turning in their heads."

Youre the first person I've read who has the insight from first witness in talking with other authors who are 'bestsellers.' Thanks for that observation. Just my .02, but I find it is true in spades.

I wince when I read that some believe that authors pub'd by big six are recalcitrant, stupid, backward, insecure, wrongheaded etc etc. My experience is as yours is. know hundreds of so-called legacy authors well, and most have no idea what the numbers are, nor what might be projected for them. It isnt that they are foolish or dumb. It's a number of factors, but most of all that they do not yet have a solid comparative sense of indie vs contract.

Based on their sales now, in books on paper vs ebk sales of same work , you couldnt have said it better Bob, for many the tipping factor will be when they see the increase in ebk sales overtaking HB or PB sales, and seeing their little cut... not only the flimsy percentage it is now even if one had agency model throughout, but after the agent's 15% as well. That 15% has to be factored in, and I rarely hear that as an element in the process of seeing there might be a better or different way for legacy pub'd authors.

I'd mention too that the genre one writes in seems to have a great deal to do with sales. I dont know the numbers of each genre, but suspect that some authors legacy pub'd might not do as well as others, not because of writing style but because their niche is not a readership that eats up 3-5 books a week.

I just published a hardback with a small publisher this month while retaining erights, so not being in the genres spoken about most often here, we shall see as soon as I'm able to upload. The hardback is holding well on Amaz at #1, 2, and 4 in various categories, and not sure overall in terms of ALL amazon books how it is doing. I see the change, and my sense is there are many customized ways to proceed, to each their own. I sure am trying to find my way along with some others who also log on here.

thanks

dr.cpe

Dan said...

I know you're under NDA on your publishing contracts, but can you say anything about how Amazon is dealing with bookstores? Specifically, is Amazon honoring returns the same way that other publishers are?

Personally, I always thought booksellers got bent over the table on returns and have often wondered how much of their profitability problems in print stem from that.

Amazon, on the other hand, seems to be in the position to set its own terms on returns. After all, they already own the biggest print bookstore on the planet, so they don't have to bow to the rules of brick & morter.

So, do you have any info on that aspect of their business?

LK Watts said...

It seems that every day I read about another successful author who has chosen the ebook route over the traditional one. I wish you all the best, good luck!

j S said...

Joe, Great that you're sharing!

Since you mentioned Amazon's NDA .. that cuts both ways. They don't want other publishers learning 'how to do it' but they are also keeping a lid on what they pay authors, or the terms they are using.

Some of that is they are feeling out how to improve success for themselves and the authors working with them. Experimenting to see what works. Some experimenting won't work but other attempts will be wildly successfu.

Work on them to tell them not to fear sharing, they should over share. Celebrate data (like you have been doing). And the whole industry will improve in the wake of Amazon's trail blazing.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I read this post with great interest. As a struggling writer, I'm always looking for information on how and where to be published. My hardcover novels for an independent publisher have paid out little to me even with good sales.

Sean McCartney said...

I have worked for an indie publisher for the last year and have enjoyed a 50% royalty, which I like. Would I like more? Sure, but I am not as well verse with promotion as others seem to be. However, Joe mentioned giving numbers and I just got my Nov. sales report and for the first time my ebooks have out sold paper. Now keep in mind I am not talking the numbers many people on here have but it is significant enough that I am going solo on a different project in a couple of weeks. I am interested to see what will happen.

Joe, are you still taking blog entries?

Sean
Sean

Adam Pepper said...

Congratulations, Lee. It's not easy to turn down a check, but having the courage of your convictions and the backing of your wife is what's most important. Good luck!

Some hiatus Joe. I knew you werent capable of keeping your mouth shut. And we arent tired of listening!

I.J.Parker said...

A question about the NDA provision and the fact tht Amazon prohibits the vetting of contracts: my agency has tried and failed to get a contract with T&M. Am I handicapped by going through my agent on this? Thanks. I've been hugely disappointed by this rejection.

Joe Konrath said...

A little off topic, but what's the most you've written in a single day, Mr. Konrath? What's your personal best?

10,000 words. But only about 9500 of them were good.

Joe Konrath said...

There's just some things ereaders aren't good at. Tech manuals, comics, reading on the beach and spilling sun cream on etc.

The Kindle Fire and Nook Color and iPad are perfect for comics, mags, color books, and manuals.

I have a waterproof case for beach/hot tub/bath.

The market is changing, granted, but the run isn't over. When it is, the publishing houses will close, everything will be digital and you won't be able to buy the latest James Patterson as a hardback.

By "run is over" I meant its dominance is over. There will always be paper books. There's still a market for new vinyl records. But it will be a niche market. The midlist will no longer be released in paper. When that happens, most bookstores will close, or morph into something else.

Publishers will also change, or reorganize, or restructure. There may be some bankruptcies, but since most houses are owned by larger companies, I predict they too will morph into something else.

one won't beat the other because they're not in competition.

Show me another case where two media formats weren't in competition.

Ebooks and paper are each formats, just like VHS and Beta. One always winds up dominating, and it is often the more technologically advanced.

Blu-Ray is doing something really smart to overtake DVD--it is including the DVD in the bundle. DVD may last a while longer, but already there are new releases where the only way to get extras is to buy the Blu-Ray. As more DVDs become barebones, they'll be phased out.

CDs and mp3s are an interesting exception, but there's a reason for this. CDs can be ripped to mp3s. A CD has basically become a hard copy for mp3 players, but when was the last time you saw someone with a CD Walkman?

Paper books can't be ripped to mobi file. At least not easily and cheaply. I'd love to digitize my entire paper library--how cool would that be? In Japan, there are services to do this.

But it all pretty much speaks to paper becoming niche.

Joe Konrath said...

The $ figures you quote, are those total sales value or total value of what you receive in royalties?

Those are my royalties.

Gary Ponzo said...

"Keep your eyes peeled. Watch when someone in a checkout line at CVS picks up the latest Turow paperback, whips out her Kindle, and orders the ebook. This is commonplace at bookstores now."


I saw this happen with my own eyes inside B&N. Someone was downloading books onto their Kindle while strolling through the aisles.

Joe Konrath said...

I wince when I read that some believe that authors pub'd by big six are recalcitrant, stupid, backward, insecure, wrongheaded etc etc.

Some are.

First comes fear. Most authors are scared. Scared of their publishers, of losing a contract, of not getting a contract, of bookstores closing, of ebooks, of going it alone.

As far as ebooks go, many are ignorant. They simply don't 'get' it.

But once they are aware of what is happening, several things can happen.

They can accept it, and look for ways to benefit from it.

They can ignore it and hope it goes away.

They can blindly trust their publishers.

They can refuse to accept it, and get angry at people like me.

They can become even more scared, but instead of acting, they become defensive.

And in those cases, authors can be stupid, wrongheaded, backward, and insecure.

If you're still accepting legacy deals as-is, you really aren't thinking about the future. That isn't being business savvy. It's being stupid.

If you're fully aware you're getting bad terms on ebook royalties when ebooks are growing so quickly, just to get a paper version in print when paper is receding so quickly, explain how that is wise. Unless you're a bestseller or getting a ton of money upfront, it makes no sense.

Publishers KNOW this. Their contracts are becoming wickedly draconian in regard to erights. They refuse to offer more to authors because they need to replace their lost paper sales. They need to cover their overhead.

But something has gotta give.

Shadonna said...

Thank you Lee & Joe for this insightful and inspiring blog post. I don't mind posting my numbers to encourage others. I never thought this would be possible but my first novel, An Unexpected Bride, has sold 10,063 copies to this minute since it's release on August 11/11. (So 11/11/11 will mark 3 months since publication on Amazon Kindle). I'm really thankful as an unknown author to have gained this wonderful readership. Keep inspiring others. Anything is possible.
Wishing you all continued success.
Shadonna

Katie Cramer said...

Here in the UK we are only at the very beginning of the revolution. Ereaders from Sony etc are currently relegated to a dusty corner of the electronics store - the Kindle is the only viable choice. Things will start to really take off this Christmas I believe.

I've just published my first ever ebook, What Lisa Did. It's only a novelette but every second of the experience has been joyous. But just this week I was talking to an author who was vitriolic about ebooks. She - and virtually everyone she knows - despises them. Why? Because they don't have the 'feel' or 'smell' or paper.

The level of hate was completely unfathomable, as if paper books are a gift from the publishing gods. There was also the usual drivel about quality control, blah blah blah. Then she ended her tirade with a full-on session of misery about how poor she was.

I smiled to myself and called it a day.

Andy Conway said...

Katie

I don't think it's all that bleak in the UK. I'm seeing ereaders everywhere now. The other day I passed a giant poster advertising the new Kindle for under £90 and I had to laugh, because I know it's going to be THE Xmas present this year.

I too had a few writer friends who were negative about e-publishing when I started out in March (not to the extent of your friend though, that's *really* bitter!) and they said all the usual stuff -- people like paper books, ereaders will never take off, no one makes a living on the internet, vanity-publishing is career suicide -- and now almost every single one of them is asking me how they can self-publish too.

Before the end of next year your friend will do the same to you. I guarantee it.

Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11 : 8 down, 3 to go
Go to Budapest, make a movie, have an affair...

Tracy Sharp said...

Wow! Fantastic post. I always love to see the number, Joe. Nobody can argue with facts.

Andy Conway said...

@Katie

Oh, and I forgot to say that I saw the big poster for the new Kindle in Tesco's.

When Tesco's start selling Kindles for under £90, you know it's going to be huge.

Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11: 8 down, 3 to go
Touchstone: a time travel adventure...

Katie Cramer said...

@Andy Conway

Yes, totally agree. Once it's in Tesco, it's mainstream.

As for my friend - I don't doubt she'll be wanting to self-publish in time. I was just shocked at how utterly dismissive she was of the medium while continuing to live virtually in poverty with an unpublished backlist and a publisher who couldn't give a hoot. The loyalty seemed so misdirected.

Lee Goldberg said...

IJ wrote: "A question about the NDA provision and the fact that Amazon prohibits the vetting of contracts"

That's simply not true. I had my lawyer, an expert on publishing and intellectual property law & contracts, review my contract and he made some changes in the language of certain clauses.

That said, it was by far the cleanest, most straight-forward, simple contract I've ever encountered in publishing, TV or film.

Lee

Edward M. Grant said...

There's just some things ereaders aren't good at. Tech manuals, comics, reading on the beach and spilling sun cream on etc.

While I agree about tech manuals and comics -- even my laptop doesn't have enough resolution to read them well -- a waterproof e-reader is not a big deal; I was using a friend's computer underwater in the sea twenty years ago and that just had waterproof connectors, good case sealing and a sealed keyboard. The downside is that it would add maybe $50-100 to the cost of a Kindle, so it's probably not a viable option until prices come down to the point where reading in the shower becomes a good marketing edge.

Edward M. Grant said...

I definitely think the new dream isn't the phone call from the agent that you landed a deal. It's logging in and seeing 10k+ sales in one month for a third month in a row.

Ditto. I used to dream about getting a trade publishing deal, now I dream about selling a few thousand books in a month.

Actually right now I'm happy when I sell anything, but I'm not planning to try any kind of marketing until I have three or four books up next year.

I.J.Parker said...

Re NDA, Lee wrote: That's simply not true. I had my lawyer, an expert on publishing and intellectual property law & contracts, review my contract and he made some changes in the language of certain clauses.

Thanks, Lee. That's very good to know. Another post made me a bit nervous.

Anonymous said...

Last month I was thrilled to sell over 100 books on Amazon.

In the first week of this month, I sold 50.

Those are small numbers sure, but I like the direction we are headed.

I also was contacted by a foreign publisher and sold the rights to my brand new book before I had even sold a single copy in the US.

Where did they find me? Amazon.com!

That deal alone will pay for the advance costs I incurred publishing my first 10 books.

Thanks Joe....Thanks!

Kate Madison, YA author said...

Fantastic post, Lee and Joe. And, as usual, the comments are almost as good as the post.

And it is always fun to see Joe all riled up.

Thanks for blogging,
Kate
WriterKMadison.blogspot.com

Archangel said...

Thanks Joe: I dont think they're /we're stupid. I strongly sense the tipping point will come for many when they see their traditionally pubd ebks outselling their HBs in their royalty statements for several half years and someone sits down with them and explains the step by step to take, according to their personal situ of commitments, legal contracts, talks with spouse who often is not sole suppor of family, to agent, editors, thinking through their often long friendships with those who logroll in both directions. I think it takes time. That most are smart and talented people. I work in post trauma, and we know that there are those who yell fire when they see it, those who are firefighters come running not only to put out the fire, but most of all to keep it from spreading and doing more harm, but most of all to enter the burning building and pull the civvies out of their chairs where they have been stunned into paralyses by the sudden peril. I know you will continue to do all you can to help mobilize. I appreciate it. I will also.

thanks Joe.

dr.cpe

wannabuy said...

Craig and others who think the growth of ebooks isn't significant, I chart the sales every month (the data lags by quite a bit).

http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2011/11/august-2011-ebook-sales.html

The prior month's article noted how each time a new Kindle is launched, another paper format sales start a linear decline:
http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2011/10/july-2011-e-book-sales.html


We have two new kindles this year. Three if you count the cheap Kindle as different than the $99 touchscreen Kindle. The fire is certainly a new category. As Joe already noted, it will open the comics and technical market.

Neil

wannabuy said...

I should have mentioned, kids books are going to apps/ebooks fast.

My young daughter wants her good night stories on Mommy's iPad. Or she wants me to read kid's books that I have on my Kindle.

Her two best friends get their nighttime stories on color Nooks.

All of the these kids will be receiving Kindle Fires for Christmas. Today's kids will expect books to be touchscreen; they will never have known anything different.

Neil

Mark Asher said...

What would happen if each paper book was printed with a unique code that gave access to a free download of an ebook version?

I could see that helping traditional publishers and bookstores. If a book is available in $7.99 paperback and $6.99 ebook, it might be worth my while to get the paperback -- especially if I had free shipping with Amazon Prime and Amazon would let me download the ebook immediately upon purchase.

I don't need 2000 paper books in my house, but I do have a fondness for them. And I like the idea of being able to lend or give away to charity a paper book.

Katie Cramer said...

@Mark Asher

This is something that happens a lot with vinyl records - you buy the vinyl, get the lovely artwork and audiophile sound quality and inside is a card that allows you to download the digital files for convenience.

It's an absolute no-brainer. But are publishers listening?

Ray Jaxome said...

"Some do but most indie authors live in obscurity. After all, there are only 10,000 books in the top 10,000."

That's what I thought until I ran the numbers.

The truth is, not everyone can be Konrath... but it's for the people who "live in obscurity" that indie publishing really makes a difference.

Say you are a writer who is a small, niche writer. A writer who, worldwide, has only 5,000 fans.

You couldn't be published by traditional publishers, the numbers don't work.

If you sell 5,000 books a year WORLDWIDE, you won't be in *any* bestseller list, and all your author friends will look down at you.

BUT, say you can write 4 eBooks a year and sell 5,000 copies of each at $4.95.

You're making $78k a year.

And you're doing so as an obscure author whose author friends will look down on as a failure.

That's the math for an obscure author selling at numbers that would mean traditional publishing would close them down after the very first book .

Lucas Nicolato said...

Ray,

That's exactly the math I've been doing. And I think you're absolutely right.

I'm a short story writer. I guess if I write and publish 4-8 short stories a month, all I'll need is a fan base of about 5,000 people worldwide to make 100K a year.

Convincing 5,000 from 7 billion people that you're a good writer can't be such a difficult thing. It surely will take time, persistence and a lot of motivation, but it's definitely feasible.

For some people it will be easier to convince only one guy who's responsible for a huge marketing budget, but for most of us it's going to be a matter of reaching readers directly.

Anonymous said...

Legacy publishers are in the business of "programming our consumption" (see Seth Godin : http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/11/the-extraordinary-revolution-of-media-choice.html - an excellent read for anyone on the bleeding edge of entertainment). They have access to a varying, but finite amount of shelf space, on which they (of course) want to put max-selling books. And (again of course), they do their best PR effort to make max out reader/buyer interest in the books on that shelf space. So legacy pub'ers sell shelf space and PR to the writer. Now writers no longer need the shelf space. So the paper-vs-ebook debate is really pointless. It's the PR that's important - "PR" meaning everything that is done to maximize reader/buyer attention & interest (cover, promo, price, authors web-siting together for sharing of fans/customers, ...). Given the legacy pub's preference for mass-appeal books for their shelf space, the price of outsourcing PR to legacy pub will be that the writing is tailored to mass-appeal. If one is fortunate enough to do that easily, it's only a matter of getting the price (i.e., royalties agreement) right, I guess. If not - or if the writer is a manio-progressive like Joe K. - the writer must do also do PR. The legacy pub'ers already have competition on that point - like cover and formatting services for e-books. So why not try to focus the thinking and discussion on the best ways to do and get PR? Debating paper vs. e- is always entertaining, but it doesn't contribute to PR or sales ;o)

DVshooter said...

My young daughter wants her good night stories on Mommy's iPad. Or she wants me to read kid's books that I have on my Kindle

Wannabuy

That's what I see every day of the year between my three kids, two nieces and their swarms of friends. Kids today are using digital devices for EVERYTHING.

Clearly this is one simple indicator of future consumer habits being totally overlooked by the legacy debaters.

Stephen Knight said...

Thank you, Lee...and welcome to the dark side. ;)

Joe, thanks for going over the numbers again. Always good to see some positive reinforcement.

Would like to point out this nugget of goodness for folks to contemplate at their leisure:

http://www.reddit.com/r/writing/comments/m2ejo/broke_1000_in_one_day_for_the_first_time/

This is a guy who's yanking in a grand a day at the moment. Of course, he's castigated from afar at such places as Absolute Write for being a poseur, a liar, and dear God, does he actually espouse the 80/20 paradigm?

There are lots and lots and lots of frightened writers out there who are just plumb worried that everything they've been taught for the past several decades is either changing or simply going away.

Then there are others who are willing to step up and do it for themselves. Where some are paralyzed by fear, others surge forth in doubt.

Joe Konrath said...

What would happen if each paper book was printed with a unique code that gave access to a free download of an ebook version?

Three years ago I was a speaker at the Google Unbound conference, where I addressed over a hundred publishers. I said the same thing.

People weren't listening to me then, either.

Michelle Muto said...

Wishing you the best of luck, Lee! Although, it sounds like you're doing just fine.

Good insight, Joe. As always.

Selena Kitt said...

@Archangel

You've almost broken the top 1000 on Amazon. I didn't wait for the ebook version.

Welcome back. :)

S.E. Gordon said...

Two things have completely changed my life on this blog. The first, Joe's posting of e-book sales numbers showing us that indie authors CAN SUCCEED, more now than ever (I first caught wind of this back in January).

And the second, the posting of the link to 1K Guy's enormous success. If you haven't already, go take look . He's the real deal and his wisdom seems to be right on the money.

Here's the link so you don't have to look around.

S.E. Gordon said...

Me thinks the Big Six and their minions are hastening their demise. For those who haven't seen this, fair warning about agents who offer contracts with a Perpetual Agency Clause.

http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/why-i-turned-down-a-new-yorkhollywood-agent

J. R. Tomlin said...

Lee, I can't even imagine going through making a decision like that. Heck, when an editor at St. Martin even wanted to LOOK at one of the novels I was about to self-publish I nearly had a heart attack in forcing myself to say No.

Quitting from Penguin with a successful series? Guy, you have cajones. Kudos to you.

Joe, people are always going to attack you. Nothing new there. As you say, change is scary and and your guests say things people are scared of hearing.

Julie Ortolon said...

Go Lee! (cheering)

I remember reading this blog nearly two years ago, intimidated as hell about the whole notion of epubbing my backlist. I had so much to learn -- but nothing to lose. I had also let the traditional publishing world stomp all over my confidence until there was nothing left. I remember thinking "Wow, if I could just do a tiny fraction of what these other authors are doing with ebooks, that would be so exciting."

If I'd only known then what I know now! LOL

I have made more money in NINE MONTHS from 7 backlist ebooks than I made in NINE YEARS off of 9 print books. It has totally changed how I feel about publishing and myself as a writer. I actually get angry when I think about what I allowed the publishing machine to do to me as a person. They convinced me that my career had cratered because "readers just aren't buying what you write. Sorry."

Ya know what? They were WRONG! Readers are definitely buying what I write. And they're clamoring for more. To me, that's the best part. Yes, the money's great. (Really, REALLY GREAT *G*) But I'm actually excited about writing again, and that's even better. Traditional publishing sucked the soul out of me. Epublishing gave it back.

Julie Ortolon
The Ebook Revolution Survival Guide for Authors

Madison Johns said...

It's easier for the writers that use to be traditionally published than it is for one that has never been published. Nobody knows who we are, and even though we work our ass off, we won't have the success many of you do. We don't have a backlist, and if you do and don't put it out there then that's just stupid. I don't have the money to invest in something that will never even make me the money back. I put two short stories together and sold 6 on Smashwords. I paid $15 to have it formatted for Amazon, although afterward I learned how to do it myself. I'll never make the $15 back either. All the time on Facebook and Twitter has amounted to nil for me. Not that I haven't tried because I have. I have two novels that at this point I have no hope to publish, so for me trying to get it traditionally published is a good move. It's not about paper, it's about needed exposure, editing won't hurt either.

Good luck Lee. I love your books Joe, and can't wait until Stirred comes out.

Archangel said...

@ Selena "You've almost broken the top 1000 on Amazon. I didn't wait for the ebook version. Welcome back. :)"

thanks Selena for your support on this HB. The ebk of same, Untie The Strong Woman HB, (my first ebk) is with Cheryl for layout as we speak... and in terms of support S : Right back at you hermanita.

dr.cpe

Craig said...

@wannabuy



I don't think it is, I just don't agree paper is past tense :)

Lee Goldberg said...

Saw this on twitter today...

@PublishersWkly New sales and marketing structure at Simon & Schuster will shift resources from print to digital; story coming shortly

David A. Todd said...

Good post, Lee and Joe.

Received a pass notice from an agent today on my baseball novel, the last project I sent out before taking the eSP plunge. Guess I'll eSP it too.

Bryan said...

Hello Mr. Goldberg !

I love the way you wrote all Monk's characters ! You did a great job and I love you so much for that !
But I'm still sad to say goodbye for the second time to Monk ! So do you know if someone else would be hired to keep on writing Monk's cases ?
Thank you again for your great job !
Bye !

Lee Goldberg said...

As far as I know, the publisher intends to end the series with my final book.

Lee

Terri Reid said...

Lee - Great post! Joe - thanks for the numbers - compelling as usual. I just wanted to pop in for a moment and add some of my personal experience. This year I have sold over 80,000 e-books. My last e-book, "Darkness Exposed" stayed on the Hot New Releases list for Women Sleuths for four weeks (the length of time Amazon allows a book to be a hot new release) and I played leap frog sharing the top three spots with Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton during that time. I am trying to get a print deal - I now have a NY agent. But its REALLY nice to be in the drivers seat. In my contract I keep all of the e-rights to my works.
Yes - this can be done!!!
Best of luck to all

Terri Reid

Brian S Hall said...

Thanks for the hard data and words of encouragement! I just finished my first novel (yay me) and while I am seeking to have it "published" (per 20th century definition), it is remarkable to me, having spent my adult life in the high-tech sector, that I can write my own book, design my own cover, upload it to Kindle, have it made available to a (potential) audience of tens of millions, around the world, and have nearly a 70% royalty.
Yes, I worry about the future Amazon. But that's a small worry, like you suggest.
Regards,
Brian

Sharon King said...

Thank you from a newbie

sublimeromantic said...

I've been following your blog for a little over a year now. I was in the middle of selling my book the traditional route last Feb. I had a stellar agent and the big boys were looking at my book. It was awesome! Then they started asking me to explain how I got over 25K facebook fans, and why that would help sell my book. I was floored. How did they not know that? How did they not see these wonderful fans as a pre-sold group of people anxiously awaiting the release of my book? Why the hell did I have to explain this? I couldnt wrap my head around it.

The publishers have no clue how to do anything different than what they've always done. Social media? Social networking? Social marketing? No clue. When I found myself explaining to them why the facebook fan base, with over half a million interactions a month, was important and what it meant - I was heartbroken. They were supposed to know more than me. I was just a girl with a book and a knack for social media. Yeah, Im smart, but they were supposed to be smarter. They were supposed to know how to utilize that fan base to the max.

They didn't.

So, I pulled my MS & walked away. And its not just over social media. Its because the world is changing, and facebook is one facet of that changing world, and the traditional publishers seem to have their heads stuck in the sand allowing life to pass them by.

Guys like Joe are awesome for posting this info and all the numbers and stats. Without him, I'm be banging my head into a wall giving social media lessons instead of working on my next book.

Joe's awesome! That's all I'm saying.

Dr. Debra Holland said...

I get excited reading a blog like this which discusses numbers going back years. The possibilities of self-publishing are staggering.

I'm happily self-published with two romances that were rejected because they were sweet, meaning not sexy, and historical Western, not contemporary--both not the subgenre traditional romance publishers buy. Yet in 6 months, I've sold almost 30,000 books and made about $23,000, far more than if I'd been traditionally published with these two books. The third book in the series goes up soon. I'm looking forward what may happen.

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