Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Slippery Slope

If You Eat Hamburgers, You Will Kill Billions of People

1. Hamburgers are made of cow.

2. Cows produce methane.

3. Methane is a greenhouse gas, 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

4. Methane comprises 14% of the world's greenhouse gas. By 2030 that could increase by 60%.

5. Greenhouse gases lead to global warming.

6. Global warming will lead to the sea level rising.

7. The sea level rising will lead to the ecosystem collapsing.

8. The ecosystem collapsing will kill billions.

9. So stop eating burgers, or you will destroy mankind.

This is a slippery slope argument--a logical fallacy that makes sense taken in small steps, but when all the small steps are put together it leads to a silly, baseless conclusion.

But in the case of this particular slippery slope, there is some merit to it. The world's consumption of beef is leading to more cows, which is leading to more methane. While saying that eating a burger will kill billions is stretching the point to ridiculousness, at least each step taken individually seems plausible.

Right?

That hamburgers are made of cow and cows produce methane is irrefutable. So is the fact that methane is a greenhouse gas, and more potent than CO2. 

Then things get fuzzy. I pulled the 60% number of the net, and I'm sure there is some scientific justification behind it, but we truly won't know for sure until it happens.

We can guess. But we don't know. This isn't a scientific experiment with a control group. Saying the earth's methane output will rise 60% may look good on paper, it it isn't the same thing as saying 2 + 2 = 4, or mix oxygen and hydrogen and you'll get water.

Greenhouse gases do lead to global warming. Venus is a pretty decent example of this. But it can be argued that global warming is cyclical and has little to do with humans, or that it is manageable, or that a hundred other things might happen before sea levels start to rise.

The ecosystem collapsing is a pretty big leap. And if the ecosystem does collapse, how can we be sure billions will die?

That's the problem with guesses. They cause fear, but are unproven until they happen.

But you probably looked at the original statement, that eating burgers will kill billions, and realized it was bullshit from without me dissecting it. Other statements, however, aren't as obvious.

Let's look at another slippery slope argument:

The Agency Model Encourages Competition and Is Good

1. Amazon has the lion's share of the ebook market.

2. Amazon has sold ebooks for under the publisher's cover price, and below cost.

3. Other retailers can't sell this low, and will be driven out of business.

4. The only way to save retailers is if publishers set the retail price of books.

5. If Amazon becomes a monopoly, they will harm authors and readers.

6. Publishers had no choice but to stop Amazon from predatory pricing, to protect competition and for the good of everyone.

The first two points are true. Amazon does have the lion's share of the ebook market, and they have sold ebooks at below cost.

But we need a bit more information here. Amazon pretty much single-handedly created the current ebook market. Just like they created online bookselling. As Bob Mayer says, Amazon didn't exist except for in Jeff Bezos's mind back in 1994.

Amazon listened hard to what readers wanted, and it fulfilled those wants. They've kept prices low. I'd guess they do it to attract customers, because customers are drawn to low prices. But I truly don't know Amazon's motivation, other than the fact that they are a company in business to make money. Just like Big Publishing. Except Amazon seems to be doing it by giving people what they want, rather than forcing people to take what is offered.

Then we get to "retailers will be driven out of business."

That can cause an emotional, knee-jerk reaction when someone hears it. We don't want companies to go out of business. We all know companies that have. That leads to people losing their jobs, which is sad. It leads to places we once liked to go to no longer existing. That's sad. As human beings, we don't like to see unemployment, and we don't like to see bullies.

But this statement is no different than stating greenhouse gases lead to global warming. Certainly, they might. But we won't truly know until it happens. Until it does, it's fear mongering.

A lot of bookstores might blame Amazon for putting them out of business, or competing unfairly. Welcome to capitalism, kids. That's like saying, "My girlfriend left me for another guy who is more attractive and treats her better."

Don't blame the guy. Blame your girlfriend for preferring someone over you. And blame yourself for not stepping up your game to win her back.

Nobody owes anyone a living. Just because you did well in the past doesn't mean you deserve to do well in the future, especially in the face of competition. If you want to run your own business, you better pay attention to what the customers want. If you can't give them what they want, you shouldn't be in business.

Then we get to the next giant leap in logic; the only way to save retailers is to let publishers set retail price.

Huh? How can otherwise smart men and women seriously say and believe something so stupid?

If the price of a book is the same everywhere, that leads to less competition, not more competition. Customers are price conscious, and they will shop for the best deal. You can lure them to your store many different ways, but price is one of the biggies.

Taking away a store's ability to set a retail price is fixing the game.

The other side to that coin also needs to be addressed. Not only do stores get harmed by not being able to set prices, but there is nothing illegal, immoral, or unfair when companies do set prices.

Passive Guy says it very well:

In the United States, it is not against the law to sell at low prices. It is not against the law to sell products for less than they cost. It is not against the law for you to price your products so low that you put other retailers out of business. For all intents and purposes, it is virtually impossible to win an antitrust case based upon predatory pricing.

Show me a case where a retailer used predatory pricing to drive competitors out of business. And let's say you find a case or two, what's wrong with that? The customer benefits from lower prices.

But you can't say "Amazon is evil for keeping prices low" because people will think you're an idiot. Show me someone who doesn't want to pay less for something.

So instead, the pinheads use a slippery slope argument, and a damn poor one at that, to instill fear in those who aren't paying close attention.

I also have to ask, is the Agency Model really the only way to save bookstores and publishers? There really are no other ways?

You see how silly that is, right? Especially since I've shown, many times, how bad the Agency Model is for authors and customers.

Which brings us to Amazon's potential monopoly power, and how it will hurt everyone.

Huh?

People love to bash Walmart. Walmart ruins communities. Walmart destroys American Main Streets. Walmart murders malls. Walmart forces poor mom and pop shops out of business.

And then, once Walmart takes over a town and enslaves the populace, it triples all of its prices, holding customers hostage.

Except that it doesn't. The great evil empire that is Walmart keeps its prices low, even after it has killed the competition.

Hmm. Kinda sounds like Amazon, which continues to keep prices low, no matter how many businesses it allegedly destroys.

So what are we afraid of exactly?

Oh, yeah. All the unemployment. All the jobs lost. Except for the 65,000 people Amazon employs. And the tens of thousands of authors who--many for the first time--are making money.

But once Amazon reaches a critical mass and eliminates everyone, certainly it will begin a reign of terror, even though that is the exact opposite of everything Amazon has done thusfar.

It could happen. Just like cows could cause the icecaps to melt. Just wait and see it to get proof.

Except I doubt we'll ever get that proof. Companies have always competed with Amazon, and I'm sure more will come along. Amazon hasn't put Smashwords, or Kobo, or B&N out of business. They didn't put Borders out of business (nor did the raise prices on books once Borders collapsed.) And the Agency Model isn't the reason these other companies have been able to compete. Innovation, location, and customer service are how they've stayed alive. They were around before the Agency Model. Some will be around after it ends. And new companies will enter the game.

That's capitalism for you.

Capitalism is not about allowing the publishing cartel to collude so they can continue screwing readers with high prices and authors with unconscionable contracts.

Capitalism is not about putting businesses on life support when they refuse to innovate or cater to their customers.

Capitalism is not about price-fixing.

And competition doesn't exist for its own sake. The point of business isn't to encourage competition. The point of business is to beat the competition by having more customers. The more businesses in a market, the more a customer will benefit, unless the businesses collude to fix prices.

I'll say it again: No one owes you a living. And I won't weep for any company that whines, lies, or makes bullshit arguments to stay afloat. You shouldn't either.

260 comments:

1 – 200 of 260   Newer›   Newest»
Aric Mitchell said...

Another good beatdown.

Would love to get your thoughts in a future post on Zola Books. No customer reviews allowed, paid for and operated by the establishment. Sounds like they may finally be taking off the gloves.

RD Meyer said...

How am I solving the problem of too many cows? I'm eating them...

Nebris said...

Too many people. Stop fucking. =)

Sue T. said...

It can't be said often enough that the publishers DID NOT CARE about big box retailers (and Amazon) deeply discounting the price of books and putting countless indie booksellers out of business. When Costco was selling bestsellers for $10-15 under the retail price, there was nary a complaint. Everyone who knows an indie bookseller has heard the stories of small retailers going to Costco or Wal-Mart to buy books because they could get them cheaper than by going through Ingram. Where were the cries for an "agency model" then?

Shantnu Tiwari said...

Let me take your analogy further:

Once Amazon destroys all the publishing companies, thousands of people will become unemployed. Since the price of oil is also rising, this will lead to a total & permanent recession.

Society will fall, and finally, the zombies will take over. Humanity will be forced to fight for it's survival, using nothing but toothpicks and toilet paper.

And all because you had to eat a hamburger, while reading the e-book you bought on Amazon. Shame on you!

Pathetic though it may be, I'm seeing this logic more & more.

Bankers say if they aren't allowed to give themselves huge bonuses, the system will collapse. CEO's say it's only their bonuses that are stopping the zombie apocalypse. And now publishers have joined the party.

All these people trying to save society. Can't we understand it's for our own good? Can't we?

TheSFReader said...

And yet, Amazon is still quite a little bit fuzzy WRT some things (DRMs ?) : Why is it that they don't disclose DRM status on ebooks on their more recent Kiondle stores (FR, IT, ES ?)

Alan Spade said...

Good question. Kobobooks does it but not Amazon. For myself, I clearly indicate on the description field my ebooks are without DRM.

I hope Amazon will take an example from ebooks stores like Kobo or the next Macmillan's ebook store : http://indiebookspot.com/2012/06/04/macmillans-tor-to-launch-drm-free-ebook-store/

J. R. Tomlin said...

Joe, you left out the part where Amazon eats the world.

Frank R. McBride said...

Joe, I don't think it is as clear cut as you make it out to be. You keep saying the Agency model is bad for everyone - but it is only bad in the specific examples you set forth. There is no reason to believe that, in the event the wholesale model comes back a) Amazon would continue to sell ebooks below cost indefinitely or b) would sell every ebook below cost. Because, why would they lose money indefinitely? There is a reason they are doing this - to get more market share via loss leaders.

You are probably right - even in the unlikely event Amazon would gain a monopoly, they wouldn't raise prices to consumers. But consumers are not the only players here. I'd guess publishing houses are more concerned what Amazon will do to the conditions they negotiated with them. Because if you don't raise prices to consumers, the only way to get more money is lower costs, meaning giving your suppliers worse contract terms and squeezing them for money.

So - consumers wouldn't see it, but authors will suddenly realize that Amazon lowers their royalty offer significantly, because hey, what are you gonna do, Amazon would be the only game in town.

Getting more money as an author under the wholesale model only works if the wholesale price stays above 70% of retail price - since 70% of retail is currently where its at in the agency model.

You also said, "hey, if I don't make enough money - I'll just raise the wholesale price". What makes you think that will be that easy? Do you think renegotiating that will be easy?

A big publishing house (or even smaller houses and groups like IPG) have the negotiating position and leverage to negotiate with Amazon. A single author? Err - nope, they'll get "take it or leave it" terms. Just like now - sure, that 70% royalty you get is fantastic, but there is no way you could negotiate it to something else.

In earlier post you said, the author gets $3.12 on an ebook that retails for $9.99 under the wholesale model, but only $2.17 on the same retail price under the agency model. Yeah - for that specific example your argument works. But that also means Amazon is selling the ebook below cost, as they paid $12.50 for it.

As I said above, they don't do this for every ebook and not indefinitely. And when they stop doing this, that wholesale price will go down significantly.

Anonymous said...

JA Konrath, standing on the deck of the Titanic, cheering for the iceberg.

Scott Daniel said...

I think your state about fear-mongering is right on the money. Even with a dominant place in the market, Amazon hasn't gone nuclear on its pricing or its dealings with authors because they know if they do, a competitor will rise up and take their spot. Readers aren't loyal to Amazon because it's Amazon, they're loyal because pricing is low.

Anonymous said...

One either looks for an excuse, or looks for an opportunity - in either case he finds what he is looking for.

This increasingly common 'culture of victimization' damages the chances of success for those who attempt to legislate equal outcomes when all that is promised in the US is equal opportunity.

For every $10/hour bookstore job taken away by Amazon/ebooks, an independent author making just as much (or more) is created, and the laid off bookstore employee can still go get another job.

Don't be the nail, be the hammer.

Anonymous said...

$10 an hour bookstore jobs? Seriously? In what theoretical workers' paradise?

Joe Konrath said...

There is a reason they are doing this - to get more market share via loss leaders.

It could be said that they do it to get more customers.

Your example implies a need to dominate the marketplace. Mine implies a need to make money.

You also said, "hey, if I don't make enough money - I'll just raise the wholesale price". What makes you think that will be that easy? Do you think renegotiating that will be easy?

You did read the part where I talked about fear-mongering arguments being unprovable, right?

Amaon didn't negotiate wholesale prices. Amazon bought what wholesalers sold it at the prices wholesalers set.

Joe Konrath said...

Dude, I got off the Titanic years ago.

Also, I'm not about cheering when it sinks. I'm about warning others to not get on.

Frank R. McBride said...

You did read the part where I talked about fear-mongering arguments being unprovable, right?

Amaon didn't negotiate wholesale prices. Amazon bought what wholesalers sold it at the prices wholesalers set.


I didn't make the argument to defend either the big pubs, or the argument that Amazon is the big Baddy and needs to be put down.

I am trying to make the argument, that it is not as simple as "hey, if I don't like it I'll just raise prices" - that might be possible or negotiable if your a big wholesaler and simply refusing business with that wholesaler is bad for Amazons business, so they'll negotiate. But if that wholesaler is you, a single author - changes the whole dynamic. It was also a response to your previous arguments of "I'd love to sell wholesale to Amazon".

You are saying "Agency model is bad, no matter what" - when that simply is not true, especially when you bring examples for which a specific set of circumstances needs to happen, most importantly Amazon selling the book below cost.

Anonymous said...

"My girlfriend left me for another guy who is more attractive treats her better."

THIS IS EXACTLY what happened to me. Thanks, Joe, for pointing out what I need to do to fix this: More Federal legislation to level the dating playing field. Women should not be allowed to make choices based on these criteria. I want somebody to hold her new boyfriend accountable for his unfair competition.

Werner said...

Joe, you forgot to mention the major ripple effect ebooks will have on humanity and the world.

With far fewer print books being produced, demand for paper will dry up which will lead to many paper mills shutting down – costing those jobs. This will lead to lumberjacks, heavy equipment operators and truck drivers to lose their jobs. This will in turn impact chainsaw sales, not to mention the sales of Dickies clothing and Timberland boots. People in those industries will also lose their jobs.

With so many people out of work, they won’t be able to afford beef and the demand will drop. This will lead to decreases in the beef industry. The forests will return – leaving less arable land for which cows to graze upon. Trees consume carbon-dioxide and produce oxygen. With fewer methane laden cow farts polluting the atmosphere, global warming will be averted.

Which means – ebooks will save the planet!

Joe Konrath said...

More Federal legislation to level the dating playing field. Women should not be allowed to make choices based on these criteria. I want somebody to hold her new boyfriend accountable for his unfair competition.

Damn, I wish I'd stated it this way. :)

Maybe I could band together with her other ex boyfriends and force her to date me...

Monica Shaughnessy said...

"Capitalism is not about putting businesses on life support when they refuse to innovate or cater to their customers."

Unless you're an American car manufacturer.

Are publishing bail-outs ahead?

Joe Konrath said...

You are saying "Agency model is bad, no matter what"

No, I'm not.

It's bad for competition when a retailer has no choice. And it's bad for authors when publishers price ebooks too high. But an author controlling their own prices via the agency model works fine. Then again, I'd be happy to try the wholesale model with Amazon.

Amazon can't control wholesale prices. They can only decide what they will and won't buy from publishers and writers.

Amazon has refused to stock books before. That's the prerogative of any retailer, deciding what to sell. But, to my knowledge, they haven't done this to control wholesale price. On the contrary, Amazon buys at the wholesale price, then sells below cost.

But I think we're circling each other's arguments here and basically saying the same thing.

Christamar said...

You should try another analogy. This one is politically charged and undermined by statements like, "it can be argued that humans have little to do with global warming." it can also be argued that gravity doesn't apply to me, but is it really a scientific argument? Is this the argument you want? Here are some better slippery slope arguments: drinking Jack Daniels leads to smoking crack. Or how about eating hamburgers leads to hamburgers eating people?

Steve Holak said...

I think you're over complicating things. For Pete's sake, everybody, please, just eat more hamburgers, which will require more cows to be butchered, lowering methane levels.

I never really needed an excuse to eat a burger before, but saving the world is a *powerful* fucking motivator.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Joe said: And it's bad for authors when publishers price ebooks too high.

This hits the nail on the head for most of us. $12.99 ebooks may be just fine for stars like Child and Connelly, but when a relatively unknown midlister like myself gets saddled with that same $12.99 price tag, nobody buys his books. So, how, exactly is this good for anyone involved?

When I decided to go indie, I priced my books at $3.99 and the lead release not only hit the Amazon bestseller charts, I'm selling more books than I ever have. New readers are discovering me every day.

Lower prices can't be anything but good for midlist authors. This ain't rocket science.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why everyone attacks Amazon for taking away competition from bookstores. Didn't Barnes and Noble and other mega bookstores take competition away from the 'mom and pop' bookstores that served their local communities with more personality and friendship? Don't people want to address how mega-bookstores destroyed an entire way of buying books before they themselves were threatened with internet sites like Amazon? Or if people want to just say that the failure of those "mom and pop" bookstores was due to natural competition and growth in the book selling business, then how can Amazon's growth not be due to natural competition and growth as well? Maybe people have already mentioned this, but I just thought I would throw this out there...

Alfred Poor said...

"It is not against the law to sell products for less than they cost. It is not against the law for you to price your products so low that you put other retailers out of business."

Actually, it is against the law. Whether or not that law can be enforced effectively or not is a separate issue, but there are laws against driving your competition out of business by selling below cost.

Joe, your arguments are strong enough without introducing parts that are not true.

Meb Bryant said...

I'm a business owner who writes fiction on the side, but I don't understand big business. I eat beef occasionally and breathe full-time. I just hope Amazon continues to send me checks in the mail.

What scares me is the girlfriend leaving for a better deal. I've got to be nicer to my husband.

Anonymous said...

And yet ebook and hardcover prices have fallen under the agency model, and digital reading innovation has flourished. What do you make of that, Joe?

Anonymous said...

Joe: One could say your blog in itself is a slippery slope argument - "KDP allows authors who choose not to be Big 6-published to bring their books to market ... therefore the Big 6 will go out of business."

But it isn't happening. The Big 6 is doing better than ever.

You'll say, "Ah, but that's only temporary. Just wait!"

It's been a long wait so far.

And, you pin so much on the article of faith: "... customers are drawn to low prices."

But that isn't true. Evidently, they're not. The Kindle Top 100 is packed with high-priced e-books. All the multi-hundred-days-in-Top-100 (sometimes thousand-plus) are full-price Big 6 books.

"Established brand!" you say. "Previous print platform!!"

But not always. Katherine Stockett had no brand or previous platform. The Shades of Grey thing, likewise.

People buy what they like, and they like things with buzz, and the Big 6 is good at buzz (not perfect, but it's lazy to expect someone to bat 1000. Over 300 is good enough in the real world.)

I think we can see the beginning of the e-book landscape now, so we should move the discussion forward, with attention to facts, not slogans.

Anonymous said...

I have looked everywhere on Amazon.com and can find neither a cow or a hamburger for sale. Monopoly? I don't think so.

Joe Konrath said...

And yet ebook and hardcover prices have fallen under the agency model, and digital reading innovation has flourished. What do you make of that, Joe?

Hardcovers aren't agency. Only ebooks are.

Ebooks are a disruptive technology. Even at high prices, they'll flourish. Consider the first Sandisk cards, which were large and had a small amount of memory but were damn expensive. Now they're smaller, have more memory, and are cheaper.

Tech always improves and prices always go down. The thing to ask is how much faster would innovation and price drops occur is ebook price wasn't being kept artificially high.

Joe Konrath said...

It's been a long wait so far.

That's because publishing contracts often last for years, and publishing is notoriously slow.

For publishers to stay afloat, they'll need new content. As more authors realize they're getting screwed, they'll self publish. Maybe publishers will begin treating authors better, but so far I've seen no evidence of this happening. Instead of innovating, they're circling the wagons.

The Kindle Top 100 is packed with high-priced e-books.

Why do you think the Top 100 is representative of all ebooks?

And I stated pricing is one way to gain customers, not the only way. There's not either/or.

the Big 6 is good at buzz

When people say silly things like this, I have a stock reply.

Read PW. Follow 20 new book titles over the course of five months. See if Big Publishing bats 300.

Or ask 100 authors how well their publishers generated buzz. See how they respond.

Dan DeWitt said...

"And yet ebook and hardcover prices have fallen under the agency model ..."

I hope that you're not using Mark Coker's Smashwords data to support that contention.

Ebook prices from indies and self-pubbers have gone down from Agency. Works from big publishing houses went up, sometimes dramatically. For example, King's 11/22/63 costs $19 in ebook format. Nineteen bucks for a license to read!

Anonymous said...

I hope that you're not using Mark Coker's Smashwords data to support that contention.

No, I'm not. It's the new Barnes & Noble data:

http://paidcontent.org/2012/06/07/barnes-and-noble-doj/

Anonymous said...

Joe answered, " ... publishing contracts often last for years, and publishing is notoriously slow ... As more authors realize they're getting screwed, they'll self publish."

Again, let's do facts, not slogans. Author contracts can be multi-year, but there's no set date on which they all expire. Renegotiation happens every day. And yet not one single Big 6 author - when offered a better, or as good, or even somewhat worse contract - has jumped ship. The baseline for rebellion seems to be Barry Eisler, with the offer of a 66% pay cut and a Hail Mary move to the weakest of the Big 6. Your promised scenario simply isn't happening.

Then Joe asked, "Why do you think the Top 100 is representative of all ebooks?"

Odd question. It tells us where the sales are. It tells us customers aren't price sensitive.

Joe said, "Read PW. Follow 20 new book titles over the course of five months. See if Big Publishing bats 300 ... Or ask 100 authors how well their publishers generated buzz. See how they respond."

Let's stick to an apples-for-apples argument. Read everything, not just PW, and follow any 20 Big 6 releases and any 20 indie releases. Find out which set produces success statistically greater than random. To argue between 300 and 310 and 250 ducks the issue. To claim the Big 6 has no marketing expertise is fingers-in-the-ears la-la-la sloganeering, not intelligent discussion.

Sarah McCabe said...

Now you've done it. Someone is going to read this article, put two completely different ideas together, and conclude that Amazon also causes global warming.

Dan DeWitt said...

Yeah, I read that, too. A few thoughts:

1) B&N's data counts all ebooks, including self-pubbed ebooks. We've established that agency works for indies and small presses (i.e. prices have dropped), but that prices through the big publishers went up literally overnight.

2) As Joe pointed out, I think hardcovers are still subject to wholesale pricing. Just because hardcovers dropped in price while agency was in effect doesn't mean agency had anything to do with it. You know what did have everything to do with B&N hardcover prices dropping? Amazon.

3) B&N is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of price-fixing, because, as they already pointed out, they couldn't compete pre-agency.

4) It's yet ANOTHER article that frames the DOJ suit as an attack on agency and not collusion.

5) And yet another attempt to state that lower prices will ultimately harm the consumer. That's funny.

6) Even funnier is that B&N (whom I like, by the way) is now the champion of brick-and-mortar stores, when they spent the last decade and change putting them out of business.

A.G. Claymore said...

If cows produce so much methane, let's hook them up with some kind of gas collection system and use it to run our cars!

Come to think of it we could hook the same system up to the president of the author's guild...

sdrennon said...

Many years ago there was an Internet browser company called Netscape, and their browser, the Navigator, controlled about 90% of the market. Then this little company called Microsoft came along and offered their browser, Internet Explorer, for FREE! Netscape claimed unfair practices and swore they could not compete with such an unrealistic approach. Eventually, they did indeed fail, and Microsoft climbed to about a 90% share of the market. Then other companies like Firefox and Google started getting involved, and they were more innovative and willing to adopt similiar business models, and now they are taking larger shares of the market for themselves. Netscape's failures came as a result of their inability to innovate or adapt, not because of the pricing models adopted by Microsoft. Sure, people lost jobs as a result, but most, if not all, of them ended up with other companies doing the same or similar things, and the world has continued to embrace the changes in Internet technology that have come about as a result. The Big 6 need to stop pointing fingers and hurling accusations and focus instead on adapting their business models. If they don't, they will find themselves in a sinking ship with no Navigator!

Joe Konrath said...

Your promised scenario simply isn't happening.

We'll know when we know. Feel free to read my blog going back 5 fives, and see how often my predictions prove accurate.

Odd question. It tells us where the sales are. It tells us customers aren't price sensitive.

It tells us the sales for 100 ebooks. There are several hundred thousand ebook titles on Kindle. That's hardly representative.

Reread my post refuting Simon Lipskar to show how data sampling doesn't mean much.

To claim the Big 6 has no marketing expertise is fingers-in-the-ears la-la-la sloganeering, not intelligent discussion.

Again, read my blog. I've got years of evidence from various sources that shows how little the Big 6 do for authors. If you're a bestseller, yes they market you. If you're not, you get 1/4 page catalog copy, a press release no one reads, and that's about it.

And yet not one single Big 6 author - when offered a better, or as good, or even somewhat worse contract - has jumped ship

Many have. Many more will.

Again, we won't know until it happens, but I'd be happy to put a wager on it.

Jim said...

First, a correction: there is a slippery slope argument, and there is a slippery slope fallacy. The two are different. A slippery slope fallacy is a slippery slope argument where the premises are not supported. This is actually why I hate the word "fallacy" being at all associated with "slippery slope," as EVERY argument that has unsupported premises is a fallacy; why single out slippery slopes? Now we have unthinking undergrads dismissing valid arguments just because they're of the slippery slope kind without bothering to actually evaluate the argument on its merits first.

Second, we need not fear the Amazon of today because if they abuse the market share they have, technology makes them easy to replace. The wonderful thing about the Internet is every Web-based company is built upon sand. If you develop a bad reputation (which the Web will disseminate to the whole world at the speed of electrons), you will fail, and market share will not protect you.

Todd Trumpet said...

I can has cheezeburger?

And capitalizm?

Todd
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Anonymous said...

Joe said, "Feel free to read my blog ... and see how often my predictions prove accurate."

My point exactly. Your "predictions" are more accurately "wishes", and they aren't coming true.

About the Kindle Top 100, Joe said, "It tells us the sales for 100 ebooks. There are several hundred thousand ebook titles on Kindle. That's hardly representative."

I'm not trying to say anything about e-books. I'm saying customers aren't very sensitive to e-books' prices, given that the vast majority of sales are at the top end of the pricing structure. Hint: You can tell where the vast majority of sales is by looking at the Top 100.

Joe said, "I've got years of evidence from various sources that shows how little the Big 6 do for authors. If you're a bestseller, yes they market you. If you're not, you get 1/4 page catalog copy, a press release no one reads, and that's about it."

So how did Stockett and Larsson and James happen? They weren't already bestsellers. Dumb luck? Magic? Really? One after the another, just like that?

Joe claimed, "Many have," about Big 6 authors jumping ship when offered a better, or as good, or even somewhat worse contract. Who, Joe?

But then he said, " ... we won't know until it happens, but I'd be happy to put a wager on it."

But I thought you just said it *had* happened, many times. Which is it?

RD Meyer said...

The Agency Model artificially inflates the price of e-books to a point where most people won't buy them. Sure, some notable authors can charge $12.99 for an e-book, but I've walked away from a lot of promising titles because the price was too high. Traditional publishers are doing one of two things:
1. Trying to prop up their hardcover sales by making the prices of e-books comparable.

2. They don't understand the shift in the market towards e-books and the potential they represent. However, Amazon does understand it.

And BTW, it's NOT predatory pricing, and therefore illegal, to undercut the price of a good you sell but don't produce. Predatory pricing laws apply to the original manufacturer(in most cases), something anti-trust litigation and precedent established a long time ago.

Finally, Joe isn't on the Titanic - he's on one of the boats that decided to go south, around the field of icebergs, and is calling back letting folks know what's coming.

Anonymous said...

RD Meyer said, "The Agency Model artificially inflates the price of e-books to a point where most people won't buy them."

But that's simply counterfactual. Most people buy ONLY the high-priced e-books. Look at the Top 100. That's where most sales happen, and the Top 100 is crammed with high-priced titles.

Then: "Traditional publishers are ... Trying to prop up their hardcover sales by making the prices of e-books comparable."

Not true. Sales are sales, and profits are profits, and it doesn't matter which edition brings them in. What publishers are actually trying to do is keep all content prices at a level that enables their business model.

And: " ... They don't understand the shift in the market towards e-books and the potential they represent. However, Amazon does understand it."

I know it's cliquish and clannish and tribal in a terribly satisfying way to pretend that "they" don't understand this or that, but believe me, they do. By volume and value they dominate the e-book market. Sad for some, but true.

Anonymous said...

People keep calling the old model a wholesale model, but it isn't. Amazon doesn't buy ebooks at wholesale and then sell them. They sell them and then pay for them.

This isn't wholesale, this is consignment.

I think the distinction is important, because the moral argument is, in part, "Hey, Amazon paid for these ebooks fair and square, so they can sell them at whatever price they want."

But they haven't paid for them. Ebooks belong to authors and to publishers, who should indeed be able to set price floors for them.

What Amazon is really doing is devaluing the hard work of others, for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with literary culture and everything to do with dominance, in retail and on Wall Street.

One dominant theme of our time is the devaluation of labor, whether it's Walmart buying clothing sewn by Asian children for sale to bored American teenagers, or Amazon wanting to sell novels for the price of cheeseburgers.

Sometimes the invisible hand of the free market just deserves a whack.

Dan DeWitt said...

"But they haven't paid for them. Ebooks belong to authors and to publishers, who should indeed be able to set price floors for them."

Books don't belong to publishers, either. They rent the rights, and pay the authors on a consignment basis. Therefore, by your logic, only authors should be able to set the price, as they are the only true owners.

Next.

Dan DeWitt said...

And, for the record, authors setting the price works out well for everyone. The problem is when the publishers get their greedy little hands on them and price high to protect their own print dominance.

Anonymous said...

Dan, I think you might need to review contract law.

Dan DeWitt said...

Oh, and raise your hand if you feel "devalued" by Amazon.

I, for one, appreciate the avenue they've given to authors like me. They've added much more value to my work than what I ever would have received from a traditional publishing house.

That "devaluation of labor" argument, at least how it is being applied to Amazon, is a joke.

Dan DeWitt said...

"Dan, I think you might need to review contract law."

Do rights eventually revert to the author?

Then publishers don't "own" the work.

That aside, if you believe that a contract between publisher and author transfers ownership to the publisher, you'd better argue that the contract between Amazon and the publishers transfers ownership to Amazon.

However, citing the law in light ofthis whole collusion thing is making my day.

Anonymous said...

Dan DeWitt said, "The problem is when the publishers ... price high to protect their own print dominance."

Our problem as writers is that we make stuff up for a living, and to do it well we have to really, really believe our fictions, at least temporarily, but that isn't a good template when we consider the rest of the world.

To think that publishers are defined by print dominance is like thinking baseball franchises are defined by booking charter planes between cities. It's a necessary collateral, that's all - at least, so far.

Publishers have a fairly serious short-term issue with print, because on any given day they're owed fairly serious money for their print books (see the comments about consignment, above.)

But overall, publishers would be thrilled if print disappeared forever. It's an irksome industrial problem, always varying in raw material cost, always requiring unglamorous transportation and warehousing, easy to damage.

If all the cow methane killed all the trees and paper production was prohibited, publishers would be thrilled. Then all that would matter would be their skills (Imagined? Proven? Your call) in choosing content and goosing the market toward this title or that. Which is what they see as their core function, after the background clutter is cleared away.

Dan DeWitt said...

Jesus, I just can't respond to "Anonymous" people. Have a name, for simplicity's sake.

Anonymous said...

"I just can't respond to "Anonymous" people."

Weak, Dan.

B. Justin Shier said...

I have no idea which anon is which anymore. Could you please sign your posts with your favorite flavor of ice cream or something?

What Amazon is really doing is devaluing the hard work of others, for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with literary culture and everything to do with dominance, in retail and on Wall Street.

Retailers cannot devalue products. Only consumers can. Your problem is not Amazon. Your problem is readers. You need to offer them something that they perceive value in. They worked hard for their money. You have no right to a certain percentage of their funds.

"But overall, publishers would be thrilled if print disappeared forever. It's an irksome industrial problem, always varying in raw material cost, always requiring unglamorous transportation and warehousing, easy to damage."

If you can point me to an editor at a major house that has stated this in public, I would be much obliged.

B.

Dan DeWitt said...

I have no idea who I'm talking to. I have no idea if there are multiple "Anonymous" or they're all the same one. It's more confusion than I care to bother with.

Want to know what I think? Read the previous posts and stop thinking you're special enough to command a reply, especially when you can't be bothered to attach a name to your words. That's pretty weak.

Anonymous said...

If Amazon is your publisher, Dan, as they are, then you don't feel devalued by them. But if Random House is your publisher, and Amazon, as a retailer, wants to sell the novel that you worked on for three years at $9.99, then yes, you might feel devalued.

This conversation is going to be all rah-rah posturing with Amazon's creatures (like Dan) on one side and buggy whip manufacturers like myself on the other, so it ain't gonna be much of a conversation. It's just going to be people shouting past each other. Kind of boring.

But I hope you guys can do better than the slippery slope thing. That would only convince the previously converted. Anyone could do a slippery slope argument going the other way. This kind of tactic is pretty weak.

Joe Konrath said...

My point exactly. Your "predictions" are more accurately "wishes", and they aren't coming true.

Go back to the end of 2009. A lot of the things I figured would happen are happening now. So lets say by 2015 publishers will be declaring bankruptcy, and we'll have many examples of bestsellers self-publishing.

So how did Stockett and Larsson and James happen?

Three authors out of tens of thousands that have legacy publishing contracts? Yes, of course that's luck. That ain't batting 300. It's not even batting 30.

How did Hocking, Locke, and Howey happen? Same thing, luck. Except they self pubbed and made better royalties. Let's add JR Rain, Rick Murcer, BV Larson, Teri Reid, CJ Lyons, Darcie Chan, Gemma Halliday, and lots of others who have made 6 figures self pubbing.

But I thought you just said it *had* happened, many times

Besides me, Barry, and Blake, here are more authors who all had legacy careers and decided to self-pub: Bob Mayer, Bella Andre, Lee Goldberg, Michael Prescott, Scott Nicholson, Brett Battles, Robert Gregory Browne, Jeff Shelby, Jeff Strand... but why I am doing your research for you?

We're going to see more and more of this happening, until eventually Big Publishing has no mid-list. Will they collapse then? We'll see.

Want to place bets on when the first Big 6 publisher files for bankruptcy? Want to put money on when a top 10 NYT bestseller decides to go it alone?

Oh, wait. David Thorne already did that. #4 on the NYT List, now self-pubs.

Mira said...

I'm getting lost with all the Anonymous posts, I wonder if they are one person or ten.

Can't you call yourself, Anonymous #1 and Anonymous #2? Or get fancy, and say I'm the Anonymous with the Raven Black Hair?

Then we'd know you are not only mysterious, but Beautiful, too.

So, I enjoyed this post, I enjoyed the comments, and I want to say to Joe, about this line:

"And I won't weep for any company that whines, lies, or makes bullshit arguments to stay afloat"

Right on! Preach it, Joe! Couldn't agree more.

I also thought the dating analogy was pretty funny.

I want to add another analogy for us writers. Writers need to collude!

Have you noticed that Television is basically free? And don't even get me started on that Radio thing.

All of these free forms of entertainment are under-cutting the entertainment field. It's predatory pricing against writers!!

I think it is fully justified for writers to collude in this case. We should seek out anyone who is watching T.V. If they won't stop watching T.V. and start reading our book, we should pull out a gun and shoot them in the foot.

I'm sure the DOJ will understand we had a GOOD REASON for our criminal activity. If they don't, we'll just get the Author's Guild to write a letter.

Who's with me? Let's collude!

Joe Konrath said...

But overall, publishers would be thrilled if print disappeared forever.

Their actions speak otherwise. A great deal of what they've done since the premiere of the Kindle has been to protect paper sales.

And to the anons: I'm pleased with the quality of these last few anonymous posts, and think it is promoting healthy discussion. But it helps if you slip in a fake name to differentiate yourself from other anons.

Sasha said...

I'm just reading Harry Bingham's W&A Yearbook Guide to Getting Published, written in January 2010. He quotes 2008 Nielsen Bookscan data showing that bookstores and supermarkets accounted for about 55% of sales and online retailers about 15%. He says that a big part of how the Big 6 get attention for their books is to physically get them in front of customers in these stores - that is, it's not about promotional book tours, reviews, interviews and so on, it's the physical presence of the books in stores where people can notice them.

Presumably the latest Nielsen figures are shifted considerably towards online sales in 2012. But, although many authors seem unhappy with the Big 6's general lack of promotion, how much of a book's success is likely to be due to the Big 6's ability to get books on shelves where they can be seen? That's something self-publishers of ebooks can't do.

I have no clue, just wondering what others think.

Rebecca C. said...

Anonymous said: "So how did Stockett and Larsson and James happen? They weren't already bestsellers. Dumb luck? Magic? Really? One after the another, just like that?"


Kathryn Stockett did not get much marketing support, and THE HELP did not sell well right out of the gate. Ms. Stockett did an incredible amount of marketing on her own--reaching out to book clubs and so on. After her own initiative, word of mouth picked up, and her book began to rise up the charts. She had very little Big 6 marketing support up front. What she had was some determination and a really good book that resonated. Those things are available to any self-publisher.


Stieg Larsson actually WAS a bestseller in Europe before the US imprints got interested. There was a bidding war for the trilogy, and Sonny Mehta from Knopf paid a lot for the books. Since they paid a lot, they put a lot of marketing support into it. Like Joe has said about Patterson, the simple fact that you couldn't walk into a bookstore, airport, train station, CostCo, Target, or Walmart without seeing a mountain of "Dragon Tattoo" books virtually guaranteed bestsellerdom. So yes, a self-publisher ain't going to be able to do what Knopf did for Larsson, but the fact remains that Larsson was signed as a bestseller and not a midlister.


EL James, as everyone (except you) knows, self-published these books. When they began to sell in the thousands, she got picked up by Random House/Vintage. So, she was already a bestseller, and a self-published one at that.

Thanks for playing, Anonymous . . .

Anonymous said...

Joe said, "Go back to the end of 2009. A lot of the things I figured would happen are happening now. So lets say by 2015 publishers will be declaring bankruptcy, and we'll have many examples of bestsellers self-publishing."

I'm pretty sure you predicted a Big 6 bankruptcy in 2011. Didn't happen. I'm pretty sure you predicted you'd hit the Million Club early in 2012. Didn't happen. So sure, let's move the goalposts - 2015 now, then 2020, and so on. Whatever works.

And if I do go back to 2009, I find you saying: "It's incredibly hard to succeed as a novelist. There are more players in the NFL than there are full-time fiction writers. But everyone doesn't think they can get into the NFL, yet everyone seems to think they can write a book. And when Big NY Publishing rejects them, they really feel it is some flaw with the system, rather than a flaw with the writing." Etc, etc. But you were on the inside then, of course. So much personal emotion in this debate!

Joe asked, "How did Hocking, Locke, and Howey happen? Same thing, luck. Except they self pubbed and made better royalties."

Better percentages of lower prices, so less money, apples to apples. And smaller numbers, per title. Probably the seven titles from Stockett, Larsson and James have sold more digital copies than all self-pubbed e-books put together.

Joe said, "Besides me, Barry, and Blake, here are more authors who all had legacy careers and decided to self-pub: Bob Mayer, Bella Andre, Lee Goldberg, Michael Prescott, Scott Nicholson, Brett Battles, Robert Gregory Browne, Jeff Shelby, Jeff Strand... but why I am doing your research for you?"

You're not. You're dodging the issue. It's not about who had a previous legacy career and was dropped or constructively dropped - it's about who turned down an upswing offer from a legacy publisher in order to go it alone. None of your listed names did. I'm pretty sure no one ever has.

Joe says, "We're going to see more and more of this happening, until eventually Big Publishing has no mid-list. Will they collapse then? We'll see."

Indeed. But generally, when a corporation sheds loss-making or marginal lines, it's seen as a positive move, not a sign of imminent collapse.

Tom Maddox said...

What continues to amuse me about this whole thing is that The Agency System itself is not under attack. If it was then Random House would not be sitting on the sidelines, congratulating themselves for waiting a year and not being pressured to join the other five publishers earlier. As far as I can tell they are free to continue to use the Agency Model and set their prices as they see fit.

So, it is not about the Agency System and it is not about setting your own prices. It is about colluding, as a group, to raise prices for the consumers. Publishers making this sound like it is all about the agency System is nothing more than a smokescreen to hide the true facts from the general public.

Anonymous said...

I swear Joe just makes this stuff up:

"Amazon listened hard to what readers wanted."

Name one reader that had a conversation with Amazon and changed their marketing strategy.

Amazon isn't listening to anyone, not even Joe. Joe's the guy who withdrew from one of Amazon's own marketing projects. I guess they didn't listen to him.

Joe has talked a lot of sense in the past, back when he first started inspiring authors by publishing his sales figures. But now he just seems to be shilling for Amazon. It's always Amazon this, Amazon that.

Amazon is just a business making money. And when they stop making money with Joe they'll make money some other way. Don't think business is ever going to be loyal for past services.

Amazon is a good bet at the moment for authors. But they, and Joe it seems, want to make it the only bet in town.

That's probably not a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10:01 said...

"I have looked everywhere on Amazon.com and can find neither a cow or a hamburger for sale. Monopoly? I don't think so."

Your fact finding is as bad as Joe's, Amazon has been selling food for some time they just don't sell it below cost. Search for "hamburger" on Amazon.com and you will find plenty.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca C said, "There was a bidding war for the (Larsson) trilogy, and Sonny Mehta from Knopf paid a lot for the books. Since they paid a lot, they put a lot of marketing support into it. Like Joe has said about Patterson, the simple fact that you couldn't walk into a bookstore, airport, train station, CostCo, Target, or Walmart without seeing a mountain of "Dragon Tattoo" books virtually guaranteed bestsellerdom."

I don't recall what Knopf paid. I think it was a good chunk of change, but not really "a lot." But even so, you're making my point for me. Whatever the stakes, Knopf backed the books, and the result was, as you say, virtually guaranteed bestsellerdom. Joe thinks that never happens, or is somehow structurally impossible. Joe thinks it's all luck, all the time. I'm glad you agree with me that targets are sometimes set and achieved.

Then you say, "EL James, as everyone ... knows, self-published these books. When they began to sell in the thousands, she got picked up by Random House/Vintage. So, she was already a bestseller, and a self-published one at that."

Selling in the thousands isn't bestsellerdom. Not really. But yes, she's instructive. This is what's going to happen. Self-pub is a test market. It helps the Big 6's efficiency no end. They watch, they offer - and no one says no.

That's another question to ask: How many brand-new self-pubbed successes have said no to subsequent Big 6 offers?

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Is our garrulous "Anonymous" Scott Turow?

Jay Allan said...

You should try another analogy. This one is politically charged and undermined by statements like, "it can be argued that humans have little to do with global warming." it can also be argued that gravity doesn't apply to me, but is it really a scientific argument? Is this the argument you want?

Actually, I think the global warming analogy is spot on. Regardless of the underlying truths, whatever they are, the global warming debate is driven by a need to ridicule and marginalize anyone who disagrees, which is a pretty good comparison to the arrogance we see from the conventional publishing crowd, which clearly thinks itself superior and looks down on anyone else.

The global warming debate is also driven by a lot of people simply accepting as absolute fact what they are told and not so much by people trying to understand for themselves. Again, authors are expected to accept the status quo because if they don't, Amazon will become a big monster and eat them. Analyzing actual facts and making you own decision is not encouraged in either debate.

The debates both also thrive on disregarding information that is harmful to the "message." For example, when in the global warming debate do you hear anyone mention that every period of population growth coincided with a period of warming? It's true; look it up.

In the publishing debate you hear things like, "most self-published authors make less than $X." Of course, what isn't mentioned is that most of them would make $0 traditionally, because they wouldn't be published at all, and the ones who were published would make a couple thousand in an advance and probably nothing more. But when you simply point out the low earnings of many self-pubbers you create an implication that authors seeking traditional publishing make much more, which is highly misleading.

Nirmala said...

Once more an excellent rebuttal to the poor logic that was especially on display in B&Ns recent response to the DOJ lawsuit.

But I do have a question: Why are we still discussing this? And more importantly, why is Apple still fighting this lawsuit? Since most of the publishers already settled with the DOJ, Apple has already lost its Most Favored Nation clauses on most bestselling books. I saw somewhere online that the two remaining publishers account for just 17% of books sold (not sure if this includes indie books or not). So in a sense Agency pricing is already history for legacy published ebooks except for the small percentage of books published by the two remaining publishers.

And yet Barnes and Noble and Apple keep fighting yesterday's battle, when Amazon will start discounting bestselling ebooks again any day now under the terms of the settlements, and Apple and B&N will have to compete with that new reality anyways. Why are they still making such a big deal about the virtues of agency pricing?
Even if they now win their portion of the lawsuit, things will still be pretty much back to the days when Amazon was free to discount.

Do they really want to spend the next several years while this suit moves through the court system explaining over and over to us why higher prices on ebooks are better for consumers? And what about the two publishers that are still fighting this battle: are they really going to stick with selling their ebooks for $12.99 to 14.99 and up while Amazon is discounting the other publishers books back down to $9.99? Again, it seems to me they are fighting a battle they have already lost.

I would be curious to hear what you (Joe) see happening to Apple's ebook business and the ebook sales of the two remaining publishers in the short term once Amazon starts discounting again.

Meanwhile, i am happily self-published and staying that way :)

Anonymous said...

Patrice Fitzgerald asked, "Is our garrulous "Anonymous" Scott Turow?"

No, I'm not, and I don't share his point of view. I'm not afraid of e-books, or of Amazon. I think e-books are great - they'll allow both authors and publishers to get more traction out of their respective core expertises. And I believe - for oblique and sideways and roundabout reasons - that Amazon will always remain good for readers and writers.

But our business is complex and endlessly fascinating, and discussion is fun - but it would be more fun with facts rather than wish-it-were-so slogans and shibboleths. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Jay Allen sees "a need to ridicule and marginalize anyone who disagrees, which is a pretty good comparison to the arrogance we see from the conventional publishing crowd, which clearly thinks itself superior and looks down on anyone else."

Actually that's a better description of what self-pubbers aim in the other direction. Joe screams Fail! Fail! Fail! Others smugly assert that publishers "don't understand," and so on. Glass houses, etc.

jakeescholl said...

The cow thing & Global Watming is a perfect analogy. There is no doubt Global Warming is happening. The Earth warms up then always gets cold, and the cycle repeats and whataya know, we're still here! Cows were made to be eaten, and definitely are not the cause of Global Watming, no more than lower book prices on Amazon are destroying the book industry. In fact more people are reading books, and book stores are still around!:)

J. R. Tomlin said...

Anonymous #??? (whichever one made the statement that no author ever walked away from a Big 6 contract) evidently never heard of Barry Eisler.

From last year's headlines: "Barry Eisler had an interesting career, and that was before his announcement on March 21st, that he was turning down a previously-agreed to contract from St. Martin’s Press, for $500,000 for two books, to self-publish his next thriller, The Detachment. ..."

Quite a number of authors walk away from publishing contracts because a lot of them are crap.

As for the idea that you make more money getting 25% (less 15% to your agent) than you do getting 70% royalties, I suggest a remedial math class. I can AFFORD to charge less and still make more.

Anonymous said...

JR Tomlin said, "Anonymous #??? (whichever one made the statement that no author ever walked away from a Big 6 contract) evidently never heard of Barry Eisler."

I mentioned him. Brave spin at the time (and all of us would have done the same) but he was dropped from a 750k-per deal and the only offer he could get was a 250k-per deal at the weakest Big 6 house. (We should really call it the Big 5 1/2.)

My point was - and it's right there, in, you know, actual words and all - was that no one has walked away from a better, as good, or only somewhat reduced offer. I said the baseline for walking away so far seems to be Eisler, with the 66% pay cut.

B. Justin Shier said...

Selling in the thousands isn't bestsellerdom. Not really. But yes, she's instructive. This is what's going to happen. Self-pub is a test market. It helps the Big 6's efficiency no end. They watch, they offer - and no one says no.

I tend to agree that this is where we are heading. For one, the Big 6 cannot easily go bankrupt because they are themselves owned by larger media monsters, and for two, a conglomerate's muscle is best employed on the large motions of mass rather than small ones. But you must also recognize that if traditional publishers decide to go this route, the price of the rights that they are purchasing are going to be higher.

For a new author, genre author, or a mid-lister for that matter, position power is terrible. You take the offers that you are given, because you never know if you'll get another. Negotiations are limited to the fringe benefits. Everything is 'please' and 'thank you'. This means that these writers are bound to obtain royalty rates and advances. It also means that there is less incentive for the publisher to go the extra mile. (Why bother focusing on one book when you can afford to throw 50 cheap darts at the wall?)

But an author with a proven indie record is a different beast entirely. She can attract a more talented agent, approach a number of publishers at once, and generate a bidding war over her product. We've already observed this phenomenon occur with Ms. Hocking, and Mr. Howey is in the midst of it at present.

We can also look at other industries where the digital revolution has already occurred. Take the music industry, for one. Artists like Skrillex that released their own MP3s prior to being offered a record contract are now the norm rather than the exception. There is a certain inevitability to it. The risks and rewards make far better sense to all the concerned parties.

And if the developments in book industry mimic those in the music industry, readers should be excited. If they are willing to take a bit of a risk (as I do with unknown bands), they can purchase new indie titles for a small sum of money and really expand their horizons. If they are a bit more risk averse, they can wait for "certified" by a recognized label.

More choices for authors.
More choices for publishers.
And more choices for readers.

There is nothing to worry about unless you insist on selling buggies.

B.

B. Justin Shier said...

Ack, missing the "poor" behind the "royalty rates", in "This means that these writers are bound to obtain royalty rates and advances."

This is why I always hire copy editors : )

B,

Anthea Lawson said...

Another author who used to trad-pub and is now self-publishing, with tremendous success (and NYT list-hitting with her self-pub):

Courtney Milan - left a 6-figure advance on the table from HQN.

And there are many many other romance authors who either were ditched by their publishers, or walked away from contracts, and are now having fabulous success self-pubbing. I could name at least two dozen off the top of my head without even trying or doing a dab of research. And yes, I'm one of them.

Dear Anonymous -- don't go making assertions about what is or isn't happening unless you're in the trenches and know for sure.

To throw a further wrench into things, what about people like Tina Folsom, Catherine Bybee, Jamie MacGuire (the last 2 hit NYT with their self-published novels) who didn't even BOTHER going trad-pub, and have sold hundreds of thousands of copies of their books? I find instances like that even more telling than the authors leaving trad-pub. What does it mean when authors are bypassing NY publishing altogether...

Anthea Lawson said...

"no one says no"? lmao. I know of a number of authors who were offered ridiculously low amounts from NY -- like advances that equaled a couple months' worth of their self-pub earnings. You better believe they said no. :)

Again, Anon, your ignorance is showing.

Anonymous said...

B. Justin Shier said, "I tend to agree that this is where we are heading ... But you must also recognize that if traditional publishers decide to go this route, the price of the rights that they are purchasing are going to be higher."

Which is good for the writer, and - weirdly - for the publisher, too. As with the Larsson example referenced above, nothing seems to work better than the pricy-but-not-outrageous acquisition of a pre-tested success.

Which is why I welcome the chaos of the e-book market - if we all take a breath and think constructively, it's good for everyone.

Anthea Lawson said...

"no one says no"? lmao. I've known a few successful self-pub authors who were approached by NY and offered ridiculously low advances -- basically equaling a couple month's worth of their self-pub income. You better believe they said no.

Again, Anon, your ignorance is showing. Just because you don't think you've seen things happen in publishing, doesn't mean you're right or that those things aren't happening. Willful ignorance is bliss, I suppose...

Anonymous said...

@Anthea: See what I mean about "a need to ridicule and marginalize anyone who disagrees"? I have been in more trenches far longer than you. And I think Internet commentary needs to be less than book length, and not full of parentheses and sub-clauses and so on, so sure, you'll be able to come up with marginal gotcha examples where exceptions probe the rule. Have at it. But we both know Joe is banking on someone at the Stephen King or Dan Brown or John Grisham level going solo - so let's examine the eight-figure walkaways, not the six-figure.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm pretty sure you predicted a Big 6 bankruptcy in 2011. Didn't happen. I'm pretty sure you predicted you'd hit the Million Club early in 2012. Didn't happen.

How about providing links? You really should back statements like that up, because I don't believe you.

But everyone doesn't think they can get into the NFL, yet everyone seems to think they can write a book.

You found that quote fine. But what does it have to do with this discussion? I was correct then, and I'm correct now. There's a lot of crap out there. Never said there wasn't.

Better percentages of lower prices, so less money, apples to apples.

Nope. More money. $2 royalty on a $2.99 self pubbed ebook. $1.75 royalty on a $9.99 legacy pubbed ebook. And $2.99 outsells $9.99 int he majority of cases I've encountered.

None of your listed names did. I'm pretty sure no one ever has.

So it can't be just an offer from the Big 6, it has to be an upswing offer?

I've said, many times, if a legacy pub offers walk away money, take it and walk away.

But there are writers who have walked away from offers. I've named several. And more will join them.

But generally, when a corporation sheds loss-making or marginal lines, it's seen as a positive move, not a sign of imminent collapse.

Which is why all publishers only publish bestsellers, right?

Or do you really believe mediocre books die, and only the true geniuses become bestsellers?

Joe Konrath said...

Name one reader that had a conversation with Amazon and changed their marketing strategy.

Research "$9.99 Boycott" and see what Amazon did.

Joe's the guy who withdrew from one of Amazon's own marketing projects. I guess they didn't listen to him.

They listened so closely they took notes. And I learned a lot listening to them. I'll opt back in eventually. Right now I'm playing with some other retailers. More on that in a few days...

Joe Konrath said...

but it would be more fun with facts rather than wish-it-were-so slogans and shibboleths. Just sayin'.

You're aware your term "sloganeering" is indeed sloganeering, right?

I like the term, but that isn't what I do. I have ample evidence to support my arguments. Normally I provide links, but in the case of this post, all the links would have been to blogs I did the past five weeks, which I figure everyone has already read.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe screams Fail! Fail! Fail!

Only when I can prove they're failing.

Anonymous said...

Joe asked, "How about providing links? You really should back statements like that up, because I don't believe you."

Don't have time. My memory may or may not be faulty, but people can search for themselves. Or not, based on their personal preferences.

Joe said, "$2.99 outsells $9.99 int he majority of cases I've encountered."

Except in the real world. Again, check with Amazon and prove me wrong: the seven titles from Stockett, Larsson and James have sold more at high prices than all the low-priced self-pubbed titles put together.

Joe asked, "So it can't be just an offer from the Big 6, it has to be an upswing offer?"

That's what I said. You don't hesitate to ask people to read carefully and understand, so I'll do the same. In other words, I know of no one who has walked away from an offer that wasn't pointedly inferior to his or her previous deal.

Joe quips, "Which is why all publishers only publish bestsellers, right?"

They'd like to. They try to. (Gotcha exceptions apply, Anthea, I know.) But they don't succeed, so they have a model where they survive if 20% or so make money, of which a handful will be solidly profitable, all tentpoled by one or two big earners every year which make lots. Laugh all you like, but no one anywhere in entertainment does better.

Anonymous said...

Joe says, "I have ample evidence to support my arguments... "

Honestly, I don't think you do. You have convictions, hopes, aspirations, and assertions. To assert something, and then link back to it, is not evidence.

You make claims - e.g., that publishers defend print. That's an interpretation, or a guess, or a way of explaining to yourself something you don't fully grasp.

You have no evidence for that.

You say $2.99 outsells $9.99 or $13.99 - but it doesn't. The evidence is right there for all to see, and it runs in the opposite direction.

And so on.

But this is your railroad, so run it however you like.

Joe Konrath said...

Again, check with Amazon and prove me wrong: the seven titles from Stockett, Larsson and James have sold more at high prices than all the low-priced self-pubbed titles put together.

You're sampling again, like you did with the Top 100 comment.

The Top 100 bestsellers are not a good representation of the other million Kindle titles. And cherry picking a few legacy bestsellers doesn't prove anything.

There are always anomalies. I don't consider myself an anomaly, and yet I am nearing that million ebook mark.

In other words, I know of no one who has walked away from an offer that wasn't pointedly inferior to his or her previous deal.

I know authors who have walked away from inferior offers, and similar offers, but I haven't seen any walk away from a huge offer. As I said, if you get a great offer, take it and walk away.

But the fact is, few authors get huge offers. So we'll see more and more walking away from the poor and mediocre offers, whereas int he past they didn't because they had no real choice.

they have a model where they survive if 20% or so make money, of which a handful will be solidly profitable, all tentpoled by one or two big earners every year which make lots. Laugh all you like, but no one anywhere in entertainment does better.

Actually, all of my titles are profitable. So are the titles of all the names I've mentioned int he comments. 100% of our titles make a profit.

Bob Mayer has his own publishing arm. I believe 100% of his titles are profitable.

And, last I checked, every title published by an Amazon imprint has been profitable. Not a single loss in the bunch.

Joe Konrath said...

That's an interpretation, or a guess, or a way of explaining to yourself something you don't fully grasp.

I'll concede that. I do indeed interpret windowing titles, high ebook prices, the Agency model, and DRM as a way to protect paper sales. And I believe I got confirmation for that somewhere, when some pinhead executive said as much in a leaked email.

What's a better interpretation? Saying "I don't fully grasp" is blind faith, and that's more dangerous than my educated guesses. I've seen no evidence publishers know what's best. I see only stupidity.

To assert something, and then link back to it, is not evidence.

That's not me. I present logical arguments, with data to back it up.

This blog post is an example. Where is the misstep in my logic? When am I failing to make my point?

Feel free to fisk me. Even partially.

Jill James said...

Well-said again. I love coming to this blog.

Nirmala said...

I am still curious about what will happen going forward now that three publishers have settled. As I understand it, they have to negotiate new contracts with retailers that allow discounting (as long as a retailer shows a profit overall on all sales of the publishers books). Are the three publishers that settled going to go back to the wholesale model and charge Amazon $15 for a bestselling ebook? Or are they going to still charge them about $10? I know Amazon would love to keep paying 70% of a $15 retail price on a book they can legally discount, instead of a wholesale price of $15 on an ebook that lists for $25.

But it does seem clear that Amazon is going to be doing some discounting on the ebooks sold by the three publishers that settled. How are Apple, Barnes and Noble, and the other publishers going to compete? If I can buy a bestselling ebook on Amazon for less, I am probably going to think twice before buying another publishers book for more money, or the same book on Apple or B&N for more money.

No one can predict the future, but it does seem like the whole advantage that Apple and the publishers (and by default Barnes and Noble and other ebook retailers)gained from agency pricing and the Most Favored Nation clauses has already been wiped out by the settlements. How are they going to compete with Amazon's pricing going forward? And can the remaining publishers (and Random House) really stick with a $15 price for ebooks when Amazon is selling lots of other bestsellers for less?

In other words, have Apple, B&N and the publishers already lost this war?

Joe Konrath said...

How are Apple, Barnes and Noble, and the other publishers going to compete?

If publishers care so much about competition, they can sell their ebooks to Barnes and Noble for less than they sell to Amazon, to even the playing field.

Call me a skeptic, but I don't see that happening.

Anthea Lawson said...

Hey Joe, could you fish my most recent post out of the spam please? I have a question for Anonymous I'd really like to know the answer to. Thanks!

Michael McClung said...

Anonymous: "...so let's examine the eight-figure walkaways, not the six-figure."

Are you shitting me?

Honestly, Anonymous, I was following your arguments with great interest until you felt the need to shift the goalposts to an entirely different postal code (presumably in the Hamptons).

I don't always agree with Joe, but I listen to him because what he has to say has some value for me as an author. You, my friend, have offered me no value other than an insight into the 'Masters of the Universe' mentality that apparently pervades publishing.

I'm glad I made the decision not to go back for a second round of abuse with traditional publishing. Thanks for reminding me why I chose to self-publish.

Anonymous said...

Joe said, "I do indeed interpret windowing titles, high ebook prices, the Agency model, and DRM as a way to protect paper sales ... What's a better interpretation?"

Frankly, I don't see a less likely interpretation than yours. Windowing titles gives bricks-and-mortar stores short-term relief (and as I said above, publishers always have that short-term monkey on their shoulders, because stores always owe them for 60 days' of sales); "high" (your word: I would say appropriate, in context) prices mean the publishers can continue their established business model, in which publication of a book is neither cheap nor free; Agency enforces that price floor; DRM is designed to prevent theft, like the locks on their street doors.

None of the above protects paper; and if publishers could transition painlessly to an all-digital world, they would.

And Joe says, " I've seen no evidence publishers know what's best."

Despite being more profitable than ever, even amid a big distribution revolution? Despite still commanding the culture in terms of what sells by the boatload? Really?

Anonymous said...

Michael McClung said, "Honestly, Anonymous, I was following your arguments with great interest until you felt the need to shift the goalposts to an entirely different postal code (presumably in the Hamptons)."

LOL. But it's Joe's game, not mine. Blame him. He's been fond of predicting that a big name will walk away from the Big 6; I said it hadn't happened; someone chimed in with a small name; I reminded her that Joe predicted a big name. That's all. Nothing to get all prolier-than-thou about. I've only been to the Hamptons twice, and didn't enjoy it either time.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I'm with anonymous but I wish he wasn't anonymous - makes it difficult to side with him even if he is making sense. Quote - to get more market share via loss leaders.

It could be said that they do it to get more customers.

Isn't that the same thing, Joe?

I am the only one starting to think Konrath is an Amazon frontman?

Michael McClung said...

Oh, but I am prolier than thou. It's not a question of need, it's just a simple fact. A fact, I would imagine, that obtains to most people reading this blog, who you are pitching the trad pub argument to.

When you blithely dismiss rejected six figure deals and try to place the marker at eight figures, the ridiculousness of the argument becomes apparent to anyone who has a grasp of what six figures actually means to, gasp, 99% of the population.

It's big money, Anon. Life-changing money. Every case where someone has walked away from that kind of money is a visceral argument for self-publishing.

Anonymous said...

"The global warming debate is also driven by a lot of people simply accepting as absolute fact what they are told and not so much by people trying to understand for themselves."


Comparing this to publishing is nuts. Global warming is the consensus of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, based on enormous amounts of data. Could it be wrong? Sure, that's science. Evolution could be wrong. The heliocentric theory could be wrong: it's a theory based one (not always easy to understand) data. It's a model.

But 99% of the population can't do algebra, let alone calculus, or beyond. They can't understand the proofs of the heliocentric theory. They can't understand climate models. They can't understand radioactive decay, so they can't "understand for themselves" the data that the earth is NOT 10,000 years old. The hard truth is that they HAVE to take things on faith.

These theories (climate change, evolution, heliocentrism) are based on enormous amounts of data reasoned over by experts in the field. Is it elitist? You bet your ass it is! In truth, only a very few people in the world can handle the intellectual heavy lifting, and if you don't like that, your ego is getting in the way of your ability to accept the truth. There is a big difference between elitist and arrogant, even if the two are often mixed.

I get angry about this because there is an anti-intellectualism devouring America like a cancer right now. And the fact that the anti-global warming cultural force is backed by HUGE moneyed oil industry forces (who have convinced so many that the scientists are getting rich off of their theories! Hilarious! If they wanted the money, they'd just shill for Big Oil, idiots) should set alarm bells ringing.

When you put aside Al Gore and the tree-huggers, the truth is that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus about (1) Global Warming and (2) the contribution of human CO2 to this phenomena.

If these "elitist" scientists are the analogy to the publishing industry, then the publishing industry is the place that has all the real data, the trained personnel, and is fighting a battle against entrenched and $'ed forces seeking to preserve the status quo.

And if this nation decides it will thumb it's nose at people who really do known a hell of a lot more about some things, then I wish the fate of Atlas Shrugged on all of you!.

(Except for the ridiculous sex scenes, unless that's your thing).



-Anonymous, because speaking the truth is not safe in America

Anonymous said...

Michael, re your last: I'm not pitching anything, except fact-checking. And again, it's Joe who placed his bets on the eight-figure guys joining the revolution. Not me.

Every case where someone walks away from six figures absolutely is a visceral endorsement of self-pubbing. Agreed. So tell Joe his job is already done, and tell him to stop holding his breath for a big name.

Nirmala said...

"they have a model where they survive if 20% or so make money, of which a handful will be solidly profitable, all tentpoled by one or two big earners every year which make lots. Laugh all you like, but no one anywhere in entertainment does better."

This is a perfect example of the root problem with the publisher's business model. There whole business model is based on scarcity which made sense in an era of limited shelf space. However, the internet has created a whole new business model based on abundance with unlimited shelf space for books. The internet is not going away anytime soon, so guess which business model has a future.

Note: I am borrowing this language and way of framing things from Kristine Kathryn Rusch. You can read her brilliant blog on this topic here: http://kriswrites.com/2012/03/14/the-business-rusch-scarcity-and-abundance/

Becca Mills said...

While I generally agree withthe conclusions you're drawing about the publishing industry, your approach bothers me. People have to make decisions all the time based on incomplete information about future events. They have to build chains of reasoning and use them to generate conclusions and then make decisions the will have a real impact, and they have to do that eve though they can't know for sure that they've made accurate predictions. That tough necessity -- making decisions that will have a marked impact even though you don't KNOW you're right -- is central to business, to governance, and to life as an adult. To claim, in essence, that we can't do X just because we don't KNOW for sure that X is the correct choice is, sorry, sort of silly. We never KNOW, and refusing to make a decision because we don't is still making a decision.

This is to say, I think you should find a different rhetorical approach. Defenses of the agency model may be based on bad reasoning and false connections, as you indicate here, but the general practice of making decisions based on reasoning and connections instead of waiting until the future becomes the present -- there's nothing wrong with that.

Sorry for typos -- big fingers + little phone.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anonymous said: "It's not about who had a previous legacy career and was dropped or constructively dropped..."

Sorry to tell you this, anonymous, but I wasn't dropped. In fact, I just turned in a traditionally published book last week and my book THE PARADISE PROPHECY was released in paperback last Tuesday as well.

I actually CHOSE not to take Trial Junkies to Big 6 publishers and decided it was time to self-publish. Why? Because I have too many midlist friends making money hand over fist to ignore.

You're making an assumption not based on facts.

Anonymous said...

Nirmala said, "the internet has created a whole new business model based on abundance with unlimited shelf space for books. The internet is not going away anytime soon, so guess which business model has a future."

Of course, but the old operators are going to be there with the new operators, in the new business model, and their bet is that their core abilities will prove advantageous. Are they right? We don't know - yet. But it misunderstands the facts to dismiss them out of hand.

Anonymous said...

@ Rob Gregory Browne - OK, sincere apologies for the unsupported assumption. I stand corrected.

Nirmala said...

"Windowing titles gives bricks-and-mortar stores short-term relief (and as I said above, publishers always have that short-term monkey on their shoulders, because stores always owe them for 60 days' of sales); "high" (your word: I would say appropriate, in context) prices mean the publishers can continue their established business model, in which publication of a book is neither cheap nor free; Agency enforces that price floor;"

What am I missing here? It seems you are arguing for Joe's point of view. How is giving relief to brick and mortar stores and continuing their established business model not a part of protecting the delivery of books on paper against the inroads of the newer digital medium where it can be relatively cheap to create and deliver an ebook? I think Joe was saying "protecting their established business model" when he said "protecting paper sales".

And clearly DRM does not prevent piracy, while high ebook prices encourages piracy. So if that is their intention, they are going at it in a clearly ineffective way.

Anonymous said...

Nirmala asked, "How is giving relief to brick and mortar stores and continuing their established business model not a part of protecting the delivery of books on paper against the inroads of the newer digital medium ... "

It's protective, not of paper as paper, but of the physical security (as it were) of the approx. 16% of their annual revenues that paper-sellers are withholding at any one time. That disentanglement will have to happen slowly and delicately, but it will happen. Publishers have long memories, and there's no historic love for retail. Returns were a one-time Depression favor that retail wouldn't give back; B&N have been truly awful, overall. Writers' horror stories are told; publishers have them too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Alan Cramer said...

As usual Joe I agree with most of what you say. I do have a problem with the give the customers what they want part. if wee only gave people what they wanted we'd never come up with something new. Henry Ford once said, "If I asked the people what they wanted they would have said faster and stronger horses."

Becca Mills said...

I don't get why the Anonymous posting at 12:36 and 12:58 thinks the Amazon Top 100 offers some great proof of the public's willingness to buy expensive books. I just ran through it, and one-third of the books in the Top 100 are either indies or traditionals with prices at indie levels ($4.99 and under). Considering the persistent stigma against self-published books and the fact that indie authors have so little marketing power compared to the big publishers, I think that's pretty strong evidence that price point matters a whole lot to many book buyers.

Laura said...

I saw this post today about Amazon's delivery charge. I've been following your blog for awhile now and you seem very pro-Amazon, and I was wondering if you might explain how this relates to your books, if at all.

http://andrewhy.de/amazons-markup-of-digital-delivery-to-indie-authors-is-129000/

Thanks.

Nirmala said...

"It's protective, not of paper as paper, but of the physical security (as it were) of the approx. 16% of their annual revenues that paper-sellers are withholding at any one time. That disentanglement will have to happen slowly and delicately, but it will happen."

It still seems like protecting the withheld revenue from paper sales is protecting paper sales. Are you saying that if the publishers released ebooks at the same time as paper books that bookstores would simply refuse to pay the publishers for the paper books they have already sold? Is that delay of the ebook release somehow enshrined in the contracts with the big bookstore chains in a way that would allow them to not pay the publishers if they released the ebook too soon? And even if so, it still seems to me that the bottom line is that the publishers are protecting their paper sales by delaying ebook sales. I mean ebooks have been around for years. Why haven't the publishers figured out a way to slowly and delicately disentangle yet? What are they waiting for? I may just be misunderstanding what you are saying, and if so please do educate me. But I still do not get how this is different than what Joe said.

Anonymous said...

Joe said: "We're going to see more and more of this happening, until eventually Big Publishing has no mid-list. Will they collapse then? We'll see."

I always thought mid-list authors were just kept around to see if one of them eventually breaks out and becomes a super-star like Stephen King or Rowling. Mid-list authors who never break out and even start to lose readership get dropped.

As long as the super-stars stay with the traditional print publishers, then the publishers will make money.

Walter Knight said...

Joe, you sound almost like a Republican. Too bad you won't vote that way.

RD Meyer said...

I tried to follow this comment string, but it's hard to keep track of how many anonymouses there are out there. Is it one or 100? Perhaps the individual(s) in question should grow a pair and actually, you know, sign their name.

As to the point of the $9.99 e-book making more money, you're discounting volume. Rolls Royce will make more money too because you only have to sell a few to hit the mark, but you'll suffer in off years. Further, you also ignore that more authors are realizing just how shafted they get with the Agency Model, traditional publishing, and the royalty rates paid. The trickle turning to indie is small but growing. I hope for the sake of your job - for you DO come across as working for a major publisher - that the deluge is delayed, but I somehow doubt it.

Finally, thanks for the chuckle provided when you shifted the six figure goalposts to eight figures. That's like shifting from masturbation to a threesome - funny, but not in the same ballpark.

Wayne said...

Laura, about the delivery charge there's a lot of comments on the Passive Voice blog about it:
http://www.thepassivevoice.com/06/2012/amazons-markup-of-digital-delivery-to-indie-authors-is-129000/#comments

Basically that the book is extremely large compared to text books but that other sites don't charge delivery fees.

You can avoid it by choosing the 30% royalty rate. Since a lot of illustrated books are over the $9.99 limit on the 70% royalty rate its likely not something most authors have had to deal with or books by bigger publishers.

Most authors are paying $.03 to $.15 per download. It's likely to be a bigger issue as illustrated books are put out by more and more indies though, if they price them in the $2.99 to $9.99 range.

Barry Eisler said...

Anonymous, I like a lot of the points you're making, but sometimes you take them too far. For example, it seems silly to argue that the presence of many relatively expensive digital books in the Kindle Store Top 100 proves readers aren't price sensitive. After all, you could as easily argue that the existence of Rolls Royces proves car buyers aren't price sensitive. It seems pretty clear instead that some book buyers are more price sensitive than others, and that some brands will command higher prices than others. If my brand were such that I could maximize profits at a $13.99 or even a $19.99 digital price point, I'd probably do it. Instead, I find my profits are maximized at $5.99 for novels and $2.99 for short stories -- the lower price point seems to dramatically increase volume for the novels, and the higher price point seems not to have much effect on volume for the shorts. Other authors are going to find different sweet spots. It seems more productive to discuss the extent to which readers are price sensitive than to try to argue that no such price sensitivity even exists.

Another such quibble: when an author walks away from a $500k two-book legacy offer, I don't think the author's action is rendered less relevant because the offer was lower than what he'd been offered previously (nor do I think the author's action would be made more relevant if the $500k were more than what he'd been offered previously). The relevance I see is that now authors have choices they never had before, and that one author, at least, having had a bad experience with his previous publisher, decided to eschew what by any measure was a financially attractive new offer from a legacy publisher in favor of self-publishing. I also think it's relevant that after making that decision, the author went with yet another new alternative that presented itself -- Amazon publishing -- and that the alternative has made the author far more from the book in question than the author has made from any of his previous books (some of them extended list NYT bestsellers).

In other words, an argument about marginalia such as, "Was the offer higher or lower? Was the new publisher better for this author or worse?" (I would argue better, but again, that's not the point) obscures a much more important point: that authors now have choices. Now, for the moment we're talking about only one author, of course, so you could argue this one example is an outlier or otherwise unrepresentative of any broad trends, and therefore of little relevance. But that's not the argument you've been making, and regardless, it's one that's been refuted by many commenters in this thread.

Barry Eisler said...

Similarly, I don't agree that only an eight-figure-advance author leaving the legacy world would be noteworthy. If it's true that legacy publishers make most of their money from eight-figure-advance authors, with midlist etc representing more of a cost than a benefit, then you might be right -- as long as legacy publishers don't lose James Patterson and Nora Roberts et al, they'll always be fine. My gut tells me this analysis isn't sound -- if it were, presumably legacy publishers would long since have dropped everyone but those eight-figure-advance authors, and I also don't see how brick and mortar stores could survive selling not much more than titles by eight-figure-advance authors -- but I could be wrong about all this, too.

I also disagree with your argument that the main strength of legacy publishers lies in creating buzz and picking and successfully developing big books. I would argue instead that the main strength of legacy publishers has always been their lock on paper distribution, compared to which everything else they do has been incidental. In digital, authors need no distribution partner, so I think that to stay maximally relevant, legacy publishers will have to offer something else of comparable value. If they really are crack marketeers as you claim, the increasing loss of their lock on distribution will have little effect on their business. Again, that's not my analysis, but of course I could be wrong.

But I have to admit that, while all of this is interesting and I enjoy speculating about it, it also doesn't matter to me all that much. As a writer, I just don't care that much how/when/whether legacy publishers live or die. I don't need them anymore, and again, it's the fact that I no longer need them that seems maximally relevant to me as a businessman. If I were heavily hooked into the legacy system and making eight-figure advances from that system, then the health of the system would be relevant to me indeed (a quality problem, as the saying goes). But I'm not, and neither is anyone but the tiniest fraction of authors. For those authors, yes, the health of the legacy system is of extreme concern. For all others, what's of primary concern, I think, is the greater choice afforded by self-publishing and hybrid models like Amazon's. If I'm right, then it's probably more useful for authors to discuss how to make those choices wisely than it is to speculate on how/when/whether legacy publishing will die. As I've said many times, legacy publishing and self-publishing are both, statistically speaking, lotteries. Before, we authors could play in only one type of lottery. Now we can play in several. I think it's wise for all authors to consider which lottery makes the most sense for them. How/when/whether legacy publishing will die, while not an inherently uninteresting topic, seems at best a small part of that consideration.

Alan Spade said...

Barry said : "If I'm right, then it's probably more useful for authors to discuss how to make those choices wisely than it is to speculate on how/when/whether legacy publishing will die."

I tend to agree with that. I don't want to speak for Joe, but from a question I have asked him in a previous post, he seems to believe the fall of legacy publishing will benefit him. Maybe I'm interpreting, but in this case, he would be right to accelerate the demise of legacy publishing.

I feel divided on that issue because Joe does help a lot of people to take in account the new world of publishing. And yet you cannot go at war without getting your hands dirty in a way or another.

Frank R. McBride said...

Re: the Top 100 example.

The anon who made the example is right. The Top 100 represent the titles that moved the most copies - if readers where really price sensitive, those Top 100 were mostly books priced below $9.99 or something.

Because - if the price of those books is too high, how did they end up in the Top 100 in the first place?

Anonymous said...

Barry Eisler said, " ... it seems silly to argue that the presence of many relatively expensive digital books in the Kindle Store Top 100 proves readers aren't price sensitive. After all, you could as easily argue that the existence of Rolls Royces proves car buyers aren't price sensitive."

Barry, what else does it prove? I'm not saying the *existence* of high-priced e-books proves lack of price sensitivity. I'm saying the fact that people buy them in large numbers proves that. That's what the Top 100 is. It's a list of the e-books people buy most of.

It's a fact. People buy high-priced downloads in much larger numbers than cheap downloads. I could even argue that people *prefer* high prices - that's what the evidence seems to show - but it would be more sensible to conclude that people are merely indifferent to prices.

Your Rolls Royce example is rendered bogus by the subtle use of "existence" - the existence of Rolls Royces proves there are expensive cars in the world, that's all. But if I look out my window and see them bumper to bumper on the street, then I could rationally conclude that car buyers aren't sensitive to the price of their purchases.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anonymous said, "LOL. But it's Joe's game, not mine. Blame him. He's been fond of predicting that a big name will walk away from the Big 6; I said it hadn't happened;"

Maybe Joe has heard something others haven't. There are certainly rumblings from big names—I've heard some myself. Authors talk to one another and I know that some big names are keeping a very close eye on what's happening with the midlisters who are paving the way.

Will any of them walk away? It's very difficult to walk away from a guaranteed seven figure advance, so I suppose as long as the Big 6 can afford to offer those kinds of advances, they'll stick around.

Then again, maybe not.

I, frankly, see a future in which the Big 6 will be selling ONLY those big names, while the rest of us who haven't reached those lofty heights will be quite content self-publishing.

Since the release of TRIAL JUNKIES three weeks ago, I've sold more books and made more money than I thought possible with a midlist book, and I'm quite happy with my decision.

Am I cutting all ties with the Big 6? Of course not. I see no reason why we can't all co-exist peacefully.

As for Joe's predictions, I have to say I thought he was nuts a couple years ago, but most of his predictions have come true. And I frankly feel a little foolish for dismissing him in the beginning.

Maybe he doesn't get it 100% right, but he comes close enough that we should be paying close attention to what he says.

Barry Eisler said...

Anonymous, I wasn't trying to be subtle when I said "existence of Rolls Royces" rather than "sales of Rolls Royces." On almost all items, consumers are price-sensitive. As I've said, I think the better argument is that with regard to books, some readers are more price sensitive and others less so, and that some brands can demonstrably command higher prices than others. This seems as true as it is interesting and potentially useful, and is backed by my own experience and those of many other authors, by the mobs who flocked to Borders when Borders offered fire sale prices, by the numbers Amazon moves when it launches a 99 cent 24-hour sale, and by the 99 cent price point even many legacy publishers are using to attract new readers to backlist titles and short stories by even the biggest bestsellers. In the face of all this evidence (along with everyday experience and common sense), demonstrating a relative lack of price sensitivity about some books by some consumers is merely another way of making the point I've argued really matters: again, that some readers are more price sensitive and others less so, and that some brands can demonstrably command higher prices than others.

In the face of something so obvious, I don't know why you would persist in trying to argue that when it comes to books, consumers aren't price sensitive at all. If so, shouldn't you charge twenty dollars for your digital titles? Fifty? A hundred?

I salute your call for subtlety instead of sloganeering, but I don't see it in this argument. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you; if so, my apologies.

Adam Pepper said...

Thanks for stopping by, Anon. This blog is much more interesting when intelligent and dissenting opinions are offered.

On price, simply pointing to the top 100 doesn't really answer the question. If the latest King book was priced at 5.99 instead of 12.99, would it move more copies and gererate more revenue? That would answer the question about overall reader sensitivity to price. Not comparing King and the other best sellers to self pubbers, who couldn't give away free as many copies as King sells at top dollar.

Writers are walking away from offers. Granted, it's never easy to turn down money but it is happening and the trend will continue as authors continued to become more emboldened and empowered by the option of going alone.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anonymous said, It's a fact. People buy high-priced downloads in much larger numbers than cheap downloads. I could even argue that people *prefer* high prices - that's what the evidence seems to show - but it would be more sensible to conclude that people are merely indifferent to prices.

Since I've been in the Top 100 for a couple weeks now, I have to agree that quite a few of those books are high-priced books. But what people are buying at those prices are brands—authors they already know and love and are wiling to shell out the bucks for.

Had I priced my books in that price-range, I highly doubt I would have gotten to the Top 100. And I think it only makes sense that lesser known authors will sell better at lower prices.

Your argument seems centered around only big name authors—and that, to my mind, is one of the problems with it. It's a kind of elitist attitude that assumes that the only authors who really count are the ones at the top.

Maybe that's not your intention, but it certainly seems that way. And, if so, I think it's rather sad.

Lucas Nicolato said...

I would like to ask a completely off-topic question.

Do any of you get a lot of royalties from Europe?

Do you pay some sort of "Europe IRS" on these royalties?

I ask this question because I live in Brazil, and Amazon withholds 30% of my US royalties, but not my Europe sales, which are more than half my sales.

Do you know any good international taxes accountant I could consult about it?

Thanks!

Sariah Wilson said...

What about Jackie Collins? She's surely getting eight figure advances, and she's started self-publishing.

Ron Edison said...

RE price point and the Top 100: If an e-book is priced at $9.99 or lower, I don’t hesitate to buy it. The presence of a title on the Top 100 list doesn’t indicate that readers love high prices—in many cases it’s an indicator that the author is popular and the high price is the only game in town until a mass market edition comes out. I put higher-priced-than-necessary e-books on the back burner and check out print copies at the library—a lose/lose for both author and publisher.

Michael McClung said...

Anonymous said, It's a fact. People buy high-priced downloads in much larger numbers than cheap downloads. I could even argue that people *prefer* high prices - that's what the evidence seems to show - but it would be more sensible to conclude that people are merely indifferent to prices.

Look, this is not difficult to understand. People are not indifferent to prices; rather the opposite is true. Consumer behavior is not some dark and mysterious art.

Imagine back in the day when you went to Blockbuster. Most of the time you rented flicks that were the new big thing from the actor or director you enjoyed previously, and you got it from the new release wall and paid a premium. But you also went into the stacks and looked for new to you stuff that seemed interesting based on the cover, genre etc. You took a chance. It was cheap. Sometimes you won the video lottery and sometimes you didn't, but hey, it was cheap.

Ebooks are like that.

None of this suggests that consumers are price indifferent. It suggests they are very price conscious and buy from established brands expecting a certain level of entertainment and pay a premium for that 'certainty' of quality. It also suggests they are willing to take bigger financial risks for smaller sums with regards to lesser or unknown writers of unproven ability. Why? because entertainment is important to us homo saps. We all grow up with the 'tell me a story' gene activated. So we spread our bets.

Really, in this economic climate, to conclude that consumers are indifferent regarding price is deeply out of touch, if not downright delusional.

Becca Mills said...

Frank R. McBride:
"The Top 100 represent the titles that moved the most copies - if readers where really price sensitive, those Top 100 were mostly books priced below $9.99 or something. Because - if the price of those books is too high, how did they end up in the Top 100 in the first place?"

But see my comment above: as of yesterday, a full one-third of the books on the Top 100 list were cheapies ($4.99 and under). One way to look at it (Anonymous's way, I guess): "Two-thirds of the books in the Top 100 are expensive; thus, consumers don't really care about book prices." Another way to look at it: "Inexpensive books have only been around for a few years, and they've already seized a third of the market -- and that despite the self-publishing stigma and their lack of traditional publishing's marketing might. Wow, price really matters a lot to quite a few book buyers."

Anonymous said...

Rob Gregory Browne said of my thinking about prices, "Your argument seems centered around only big name authors—and that, to my mind, is one of the problems with it. It's a kind of elitist attitude that assumes that the only authors who really count are the ones at the top ... Maybe that's not your intention, but it certainly seems that way. And, if so, I think it's rather sad."

And someone else said I'm delusional. But I didn't intend to be either. Far from being elitist, I was more concerned with writers at the bottom, and indeed writers overall.

We're in an early, experimental phase, and we should look at data with open minds and no assumptions. And the data show no provable structural sensitivity within the $1 - $14 range.

It would be a shame to let guesses, gut feelings, and assumptions influence our conclusions. If we show undue willingness to lower prices, we're giving away the store and we'll never get it back.

In a sense we're all publishers now, and it makes sense to look at mistakes publishers have made in the past, the worst of which was to capitulate to the assumption that retail prices must always be lowered.

If anything the data show prices could be eased upward. I take Rob's point about brand strength, but that's a relative comparison, not an absolute value. Possibly unknowns need to be priced many percentage points lower than a big brand, but that's not the same as saying an unknown must be priced at $2.99 or any other specific number.

The alternative is, if not a race to the bottom, then at least stagnation at too low a level. As Joe says, e-books are forever, and these are the days where we decide if we're going to leave money on the table forever.

Dynamic pricing is of course here to stay, but we have to establish which ballpark we're going to be dynamic in.

Merrill Heath said...

Barry said: As a writer, I just don't care that much how/when/whether legacy publishers live or die. I don't need them anymore, and again, it's the fact that I no longer need them that seems maximally relevant to me as a businessman. If I were heavily hooked into the legacy system and making eight-figure advances from that system, then the health of the system would be relevant to me indeed (a quality problem, as the saying goes). But I'm not, and neither is anyone but the tiniest fraction of authors. For those authors, yes, the health of the legacy system is of extreme concern. For all others, what's of primary concern, I think, is the greater choice afforded by self-publishing and hybrid models like Amazon's. If I'm right, then it's probably more useful for authors to discuss how to make those choices wisely than it is to speculate on how/when/whether legacy publishing will die.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Rob said: I, frankly, see a future in which the Big 6 will be selling ONLY those big names, while the rest of us who haven't reached those lofty heights will be quite content self-publishing.

Aren't we pretty much there already? The Big 6 will cherry-pick the new authors they take on based on their success at self-publishing, a la Hocking, Locke, and others. This is what Amazon is doing with their publishing imprints, as well.

Jill James said...

Fantasy author Terry Goodkind to self-publish next novel.

Not sure he is "8 figures author" but he is a known author.

Michael McClung said...

I didn't say you were delusional, Anon, I said to conclude consumers were price insensitive was delusional (at worst). Words have these meanings attached to them...

You said "We're in an early, experimental phase, and we should look at data with open minds and no assumptions. And the data show no provable structural sensitivity within the $1 - $14 range."

Care to share that data? I promise to take it with exactly the same sized lump of salt I took Mark Coker's data that shows Smashwords authors selling best at $2.99 or thereabouts.

Stant Litore said...

Hmm, typed that too fast. That should have read: "They're not racing for the bottom" - not "for the volume."

Stant

I.J.Parker said...

Off-topic: I just discovered that Amazon's Select option is set to automatic renewal. You have to opt out, or the 90-day period renews. For me that is a problem because I'm trying to get titles back from my agent, and they are stuck because ofcohense agreements between the agency and Amazon. Apparently, you don't realize the auto-renewal thing unless you search for it.

Merrill Heath said...

In regard to price, I think Rob makes a good point about "big names" being able to command a higher price. OTOH, there are quite a few authors in the Kindle Top 100 that I've never heard of who are selling books at $9.99 and $12.99. So, it helps to be "known" but I don't think you should price your books too low just because you're "unknown."

What the prices of the Kindle Top 100 show me is that, contrary to what a lot of indi authors believe, readers are not opposed to shelling out $12.99 for an ebook.

I price my short novels at $3.99 and $4.99. But I plan to price my next full-length novel at $7.99 or higher. It will depend on what other books are selling for in that particular genre. If the average price is $9.99, then $7.99 looks like a bargain.

Bottom line - you shouldn't be afraid to price your book in a range that's comparable to the other books in your genre. As they say down here in the South where I live: "If you want to run with the big dogs you gotta get off the porch."

I.J.Parker said...

Sorry. Delete "cohense" from abobe post, please.

Anthea Lawson said...

Also, Anonymous, there's some evidence that suggest that Amazon is starting to weight higher-priced books higher in the rankings - so your 'higher priced books sell better' argument might also be a function of those books actually being weighted higher by Amazon, and not 'prove' as much as you'd like. :)

http://www.edwardwrobertson.com/2012/05/amazons-ever-changing-algorithms-part-3.html

Anthea Lawson said...

Here's my other question for Anonymous:

What about the bestselling authors who are bypassing NY publishing altogether? I personally know two self-publishing authors who have made a million dollars in income selling hundreds of thousands of copies of their self-published work. "Outliers" you say, and it's true. But what about the authors who have made well into the hundred-thousands of dollars? Or the (easily hundreds, probably thousands) of authors who have made into the tens of thousands of dollars? That's all money not flowing through traditional publishing's hands. You are *losing sales* to indie upstarts, and will continue to do so, in increasing numbers. Or is traditional publishing not actually worried about this? Do you there, inside the walls, not see it? Or you think it's a phase and the monies shall inevitably return? Or are there enough readers and dollars for everyone to share?

Edward M. Grant said...

"The Big 6 will cherry-pick the new authors they take on based on their success at self-publishing, a la Hocking, Locke, and others"

If those authors are successful at self-publishing, why will they take a Big Six offer?

Right now, there's a good reason to take a reasonable offer which will get your books into book stores, but as print declines and the easy of getting indie books into the remaining book stores improves, that's no longer such a benefit. The Big Six will have to offer those authors a substantially better deal than they can get for themselves, which will hit their income.

gregorycamp said...

In theory, anyone can do what Amazon does. That company happens to be particularly good at it's job, but the Internet is widely available. Small presses are springing up all over the place to take on what the major houses used to do. If Amazon forgets about customers, someone else will take over in short order.

I say this, of course, even though I'm selling my writing on Amazon. Dance with the devil that bought you, until a better devil comes along.

Anonymous said...

Anthea, great questions above. But the "Big 6" is after all six separate corporations, and so each one always sees (in principle) five-sixths of total revenues go somewhere else. Can't (again, in principle) worry about it. So the new world is a little like the old world.

And despite rumors there are no industry-wide meetings where data is reviewed collectively.

But individually, revenues seem to be holding up. They took a general hit after 2008, and again in the short term when Borders ceased trading. But they're back.

So how to explain? Amazon is passionately secretive about information. Anecdotal evidence abounds, like your "easily hundreds, probably thousands" of serious indie earners, all the way up to your two millionaire friends. Amazon won't confirm that data, which initially seems odd, because it would be a great advertisement for KDP, but we have no reason to doubt it. We think instead that it's the other end of the scale they need to conceal, because it seems likely that the vast majority of indie titles sell statistically close to zero, which would be a discouraging message.

Our working theory is that there's a revenue stream that we never saw anyway - used book sales - and as far as we can tell, indie e-book sales (especially bargain-priced ones) are mostly cannibalizing that stream, not ours. Reports from the used book world (and it's a huge market, dollar-wise) seem to bear that out. Demographically and in terms of previous habits that would make some sense.

So in summary, each Big 6 member is perforce accustomed to "sharing", so no big existential crisis. We see indie e-books as a very broad, very squashed pyramid, with occasional luminous high spikes, and of course we wish we had spotted those spikes and were publishing them, but again, that's situation normal - everyone is (in principle) accustomed to seeing five rivals score big now and then with things we missed, and so I'm sure we'll get used to the presence of a sixth rival.

Barry Eisler said...

Anonymous said:

"If we show undue willingness to lower prices, we're giving away the store and we'll never get it back."

If this is true, then I don't see how it can also be true that book buyers aren't price sensitive, or that "If anything the data show prices could be eased upward." Do you mean book buyers aren't price sensitive now because they're mostly accustomed to relatively high book prices, but they'll become price sensitive if they become accustomed to relatively low prices? Not trying to put words in your mouth, just trying to understand your position on the price elasticity of books, which, for the reasons I noted earlier, still doesn't make empirical or logical sense to me.

Regardless, like Michael, I'd like to see the data you keep referring to. It's hard for me to imagine I'm off base about the price elasticity of books, but if you have data that proves me wrong, I'd like to know. How did you put it? "Discussion is fun - but it would be more fun with facts rather than wish-it-were-so slogans and shibboleths." Here's an opportunity for you to make the discussion more fun in just the way you've suggested.

Anthea, that's interesting about Amazon weighting sales rank in part based on book prices. I think it would be a great idea to have two sets of bestseller lists (not just Amazon, but the NYT etc too) -- one for absolute volume; the other for revenue generated, which would be derived by volume x price. Amazon already does something akin to this with its free and paid lists. Within reason, the more lists, the better for everyone, and I think "Which books are selling the most" and "Which books are making the most" are both questions a lot of consumers would be interested in.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anonymous said, Far from being elitist, I was more concerned with writers at the bottom, and indeed writers overall.

Well, that's a good thing to hear, and I appreciate that. But I think the best thing that has happened to authors—if not the publishing industry—is the ability to take control of their own work and sell it directly to the readers and profit handsomely in the process.

Amazon is providing us a method of distribution we couldn't get before and I can't thank them enough for that. The more authors who become aware of the benefits of self-publishing, the tougher it becomes for any publisher who doesn't recognize the need to negotiate more favorably with them.

I have no desire to see anyone go bankrupt, however. I, frankly, like having choices.

Tom Maddox said...

Anonymous said:

“None of the above protects paper; and if publishers could transition painlessly to an all-digital world, they would.”


Even as a lowly reader I find that statement to be utter nonsense. The ability for anyone to self-publish and get their book in every e-book store just as easily as the Big 6 can democratizes the whole process. The main advantage that the Big 6 have, as Barry states in his post, is the ability to distribute that paper. Their ability to get paper books sold by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart and your local grocery store.

If they went all digital and only sold e-books at the main e-book retailer sites then they lose all that advantage. Any author could hire an intern that would have the same distribution reach as the Big 6 in an all-digital world.

No, I may not be in the industry, and you can discount me all you want but the ability to get the authors paper books into stores is the main power that the publishers have. They do not want to give that up.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anonymous said, "We think instead that it's the other end of the scale they need to conceal, because it seems likely that the vast majority of indie titles sell statistically close to zero, which would be a discouraging message."

That is a discouraging message, but is it any more discouraging than the simple fact that the vast majority of traditionally published titles fail to earn out? Correct me if I'm wrong about that.

Selling books is a black art that nobody really understands, otherwise every book published would make a profit. And I don't think an author has any less chance hitting the jackpot in indie publishing than he does in traditional publishing.

Anonymous said...

Barry Eisler said, "It's hard for me to imagine I'm off base about the price elasticity of books ... "

Barry, I'm sure it's hard for you to imagine you're off base about anything. (Kidding.)

What I'm saying is that, out of long custom and habit, people get used to paying at a certain level for certain things, and in some cases the things themselves have no overt cues as to their inherent value, so that the perception of worth is an entirely mental construct.

At the moment - and the evidence you seek is in front of your eyes in the physical world - most people cheerfully pay double-digit dollars to consume a story they want to consume.

We can either maintain that custom and habit, or we can modify that custom and habit in a downward direction. (Upward is harder, but it happens, e.g. Starbucks, etc.)

Which would you prefer?

Anonymous said...

Tom Maddox said, "Even as a lowly reader I find that statement (that publishers aren't wedded to paper) to be utter nonsense ... The main advantage that the Big 6 have, as Barry states in his post, is the ability to distribute that paper."

OK, Tom. Whatever. A publishing insider, who happens to be reasonably progressive and excited by digital, tries to advance the debate, and you call her a liar. Let's talk again in five years.

Because - and I'm sorry - Barry is wrong in his diagnosis. It sounds awfully informed to make grand analytical announcements about the core function of this or that, but he's hit on the wrong one. Perhaps his acumen isn't as great as you think.

Paper distribution is a necessary evil, nothing more. It was never exclusive. Anyone could have done it. It was never by definition germane.

A publisher's main advantage is its (imagined or proven, your call) ability to make the mass of consumers want to buy book "x" today. It does that via numerous and related skill sets. It hopes to keep on doing that in the digital world. It might succeed or it might fail. No one knows which. Personally, I can't wait to find out.

Tom Maddox said...

I may very well be wrong but you gotta give me credit for at least owning my opinions by not posting anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Tom Maddox said, "I may very well be wrong but you gotta give me credit for at least owning my opinions by not posting anonymously."

Total credit, but Joe keeps the anon channel open for people like me. Can't be helped.

Edward M. Grant said...

"Let's talk again in five years."

Of course if the Big Six are bankrupt in five years, the odds of you returning to admit you were wrong are...?

I don't actually expect them to be bankrupt by then as I'm sure they could live off back-list e-books alone for decades, but saying 'I'm right and I'll be back in five years to tell you you were wrong' is a common and particularly annoying rhetorical tactic on the Internet. It's pretty much the modern-day equivalent of 'I'm taking my ball and going home and I won anyway, so there.'

As far as I can see, current high prices for e-book bestsellers are largely cannibalizing past promotion of those writers as bestsellers; people who are used to paying $25 for a Stephen King hardback will pay $12.99 for a Stephen King e-book. But in the future, people who are used to paying $2.99-4.99 for an e-book won't be so eager to create a new bestselling writer by buying their e-books at $12.99 when they're an unknown.

"A publisher's main advantage is its (imagined or proven, your call) ability to make the mass of consumers want to buy book "x" today."

If publishers can make the mass of consumers want to buy a book today, why aren't all their books bestsellers?

Anonymous said...

Edward M. Grant asked, "If publishers can make the mass of consumers want to buy a book today, why aren't all their books bestsellers?"

That's a silly, gotcha question. If Babe Ruth was such a great hitter, why didn't he bat a career 1000?

We're human, and we fail a lot, that's why. We try, but we don't always succeed - in fact, we very rarely succeed. But as long as we move the needle perceptibly more than random, we feel we're getting somewhere.

And that's the point going forward, it seems to me. Can indies move the needle beyond random at low or no cost? Amid a crowd, all doing the same stuff? Or not?

Anthea Lawson said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for explaining your reasoning - and for putting on the hip waders and coming on over to play in the comments. ;)

I think there's every reason that NY publishing will stay afloat - not the least of which is that all of the Big 6 are part of huge multinational corporations. Will things change? Of course. Already a number of NY publishers are starting digital-first imprints (especially for genre fiction and backlist).

I'm just glad there are, as Barry put it so well, OPTIONS for authors. And that I'm in a place to take advantage of them.

Bittermac.com said...

This was a beautiful breakdown of the weakness of the publisher's argument, caveman style. Brutal and two the point. Analogies easy to grasp. Thanks Joe.

T Ludlow said...

Anonymous: "A publisher's main advantage is its (imagined or proven, your call) ability to make the mass of consumers want to buy book "x" today."

Edward M. Grant: "If publishers can make the mass of consumers want to buy a book today, why aren't all their books bestsellers?"

Anonymous: "That's a silly, gotcha question. If Babe Ruth was such a great hitter, why didn't he bat a career 1000?

We're human, and we fail a lot, that's why. We try, but we don't always succeed - in fact, we very rarely succeed. But as long as we move the needle perceptibly more than random, we feel we're getting somewhere."

So, Anonymous, perhaps you'd like to modify your statement? How about:

"A publisher's main advantage is its (imagined or proven, your call) occasional ability to make the mass of consumers want to buy book "x" today."

But now not sounding such a great advantage is it? They get lucky sometimes...like the rest of us.

L.J. Downs said...

I am an aspiring author and I love the opportunities that Amazon has brought to the market for self publishing. However, we have seen warnings in the past of places who drive others out of business and then raise prices.

The biggest one that comes to my mind is Blockbuster. We used to have tons of little movie shops in my village. They were in grocery stores, corner markets, and gas stations.

I would say early 2000's we saw a change. All those stores went out of business and were replaced with two Blockbusters on each end of the town. After they drove the other movie places out of business they began raising their prices. It no longer costed $2 to rent a movie, it became $3 or it became $2 for overnight $4 for 3 days. Eventually it was $3 for overnight $5 for a week.

People got fed up with these constant price raises. They got fed up with the late fees. Then one of the blockbusters went out of business. Netflix started up and reboxes started to become big. About 2 years ago the other blockbuster went out of business.

Today I can get movies from 1 of 6 redboxes located inside stores in my area. Around the same time Blockbuster closed up shop we had a mom n' pop style video store re-open. They have decent prices and they often have movies on release dates unlike the redboxes.

Then there is also netflix and the various other streaming services. While Netflix is starting to see things dwindle down out of spite from their customers we still have plenty of options online.

My point is that even if Amazon manages to wipe out competition and then become total asses and raise their prices people will get fed up with Amazon and more competition will arise out of it.

Even if Amazon then chooses to reduce their prices again it's going to be far too much of a hassle ping-ponging their prices up and down everytime some new form of competition arises.

Amazon does far more than e-books unlike entities of the past like Blockbuster who did have these predatory methods.

I don't think we will see Amazon do what some are predicting because a customer base will only allow itself to be alienated for so long before they fight back. No matter how big, people will choose to fight back if Amazon were to try anything.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Yet ANOTHER trad author makes a break for it:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/52532-terry-goodkind-to-self-publish-next-novel.html

But I seem to recall someone saying it would never happen. *grin*

Stant Litore said...

Anonymous says:

"At the moment - and the evidence you seek is in front of your eyes in the physical world - most people cheerfully pay double-digit dollars to consume a story they want to consume.

We can either maintain that custom and habit, or we can modify that custom and habit in a downward direction. (Upward is harder, but it happens, e.g. Starbucks, etc.)

Which would you prefer?"

Actually, I'd prefer the downward trend. I grew up country and far from town, and it was a long haul to get to a bookstore. The local library was tiny. My access to books was quite limited. I know a lot of people in the US and northern Canada in a similar boat.

Between access to digital books and low prices, it's suddenly feasible to build a library at extremely low cost. You can see that as devaluing the product, or you can see it as the makings of the next revolution in literacy. (Particularly as the technology catches up enough to economically and attractively deliver digital children's books.)

I've offered a few additional thoughts here:
http://beajumarang.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/writing-talks-an-interview-with-stant-litore/

As a writer, I'm not terribly worried, because I don't see indies competing with each other significantly on price. When you make a high royalty percentage and have almost zero distribution cost, you can make more on a $2.99 e-book than on a $9.99 paperback (to say nothing of a $4.99 e-book). It's not a "race to the bottom"; it's a new pricing model, in which writers with little overhead are trying to find the appropriate price point ($2.99, $4.99) that maximizes revenue. Strength of your brand name allows you to price a little higher without sacrificing volume, but the balancing act is the same: revenue per sale balanced against volume of total sales.

Stant

TeriB said...

"The Big 6 will cherry-pick the new authors they take on based on their success at self-publishing, a la Hocking, Locke, and others"

Ed Grant said:
"If those authors are successful at self-publishing, why will they take a Big Six offer?"

Well, to paraphrase Amanda Hocking herself, who has been quite transparent about the reasons for her choice:

Because they would rather write than tweak cover graphics, formatting or editing. Because some writers would rather maximize their writing time than handle every aspect of publishing, promotion, and distribution, even if they are capable of doing it themselves.

As Dean Wesley Smith is so fond of saying, every writer is different, every project is different, and what works well for one writer may not for another.

Anonymous said...

The WORST thing that can happen for indie authors is if all the BIG NAME FAMOUS authors become indie authors as well.

Just think about how your sales have dropped off lately. More COMPETITION means LESS SALES.

If the traditional print publishers go out of business and force all the BIG NAME SUPERSTAR authors to become indie authors, then that just means more COMPETITION ALL AROUND.

I said it before and I'll say it again...

Who's going to look twice at your indie titles if BIG NAME SUPERSTAR authors like J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, John Grisham, James Patterson, etc... start pricing their e-books at 99 cents.

Anon #2

Anonymous said...

You don't think competition matters?

Imagine a hypothetical situation in which you were the only game in town and everyone had to come to you to get their needs met.

Lets say that for some reason all the other mystery writers retired and stopped writing and you were the only mystery writer left. Assuming you had decent talent, imagine what your sales would be in this hypothetical situation.

Now, imagine that a few months later a new generation of mystery writers got into the game. Lets say that 100 new mystery writers got into the game and they had according level of talent:
50% had the same level of talent as you.
40% had talent somewhat better than you.
10% had talent that clearly surpassed yours by miles.

How well do you think your sales are going to be then?

Anon #2

RD Meyer said...

"If the traditional print publishers go out of business and force all the BIG NAME SUPERSTAR authors to become indie authors, then that just means more COMPETITION ALL AROUND."

This is an absolutely ludicrous point. It's not like there's a separate market for indie's versus traditional published books - we're all competing for the same market share. I have to sell against Goodkind whether he does it traditional or indie.

Second, your point about COMPETITION ALL AROUND seems to say you don't like competition. However, it's a desire for competition that has driven both the indie market and Amazon to new heights that were unimaginable just ten years ago.

Goodkind doesn't squeeze people out of the market simply by changing the way he gets there. If anything, a traditional publisher will open up space Goodkind occupied for other writers.

Anonymous said...

My point was that if BIG NAME SUPERSTAR authors become indie authors, then they will start to SET THEIR OWN PRICES--just like Barry Eisler.

Repeat--SET THEIR OWN PRICES.

That's I FOLLOWED UP WITH:
"Who's going to look twice at your indie titles if BIG NAME SUPERSTAR authors like J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, John Grisham, James Patterson, etc... start pricing their e-books at 99 cents."

I said this before as well, and I'll say it again...

I would be tremendously happy if the Big 6 charged high prices for BIG NAME SUPERSTAR authors.

Go low priced indie versus HIGH PRICED SUPERSTAR author!

Woohoo! Go! Go! Go!

Anon #2

Anonymous said...

Several posters have talked about consumers being price sensitive.

But no one except me is willing to say the following:

If you are the buyer--COMPETING products are good.

If you are the seller--COMPETING products are bad.

Anon #2

Talen said...

There is one major flaw in your argument...you didn't take it to the final conclusion.

Amazon and books are hardly the first of this kind of predatory pricing and while it is good for the consumer at first it ultimately ends up costing the consumer and producers in the long run.

The very same arguments were made when Home Depot started to get a stranglehold on the market. At first mom and pop hardware stores disappeared, then the major competitors such as Hechingers and finally many actual lumber yards bit the dust.

When Home Depot had the lions share then they beat the manufactures and producers into submission...sell to us at the price we want or don't sell at all.

Now Home Depot is free to raise the prices as they see fit as they have no competition.

If you can't see why this will be a problem with Amazon in the future then you will be in for a shock.

When and if Amazon runs off the competition your royalty rates will drop, why should they pay you more when there is nowhere else to go?

Greg Camp said...

I have to acknowledge a preference for paper books, but I probably would have declared my love for vellum and hand lettering back in Gutenberg's day. I'm fortunate to live near a large used book store (my bank account would disagree. . .), but beyond that, it's Barnes and Noble (on-line or in a physical store) or Amazon. Both of them have the advantage of marketing--read a loud voice--while the small-time operators have trouble being heard.

Al Norman said...

Talen said:

"Now Home Depot is free to raise the prices as they see fit as they have no competition."

Um, I still recall Lowe's and Menards being around, and Lowe's isn't exactly a Mom-n-Pop operation, being #43 on the Fortune 500 list and all.

"When and if Amazon runs off the competition your royalty rates will drop, why should they pay you more when there is nowhere else to go?"

And this is where your argument falls apart, especially when using the home improvement sector as a comparison. The ebook sales sector has a low cost to entry. Practically anyone with a Paypal account can offer ebooks for sale.

Lumber? Not so much. Storing those materials requires large capital outlays, not to mention the cash to purchase the goods in the first place.

In this internet age, if a tech-based company leaves open a hole in its market, someone will typically fill it. Remember AOL? Myspace? Yahoo? Microsoft?

At one point someone made all these same arguments against them.

KJolly said...

Anon,

You say that there is no price sensitivity between the 1-14$ range because Bestselling authors still sell a lot of books at higher price.

I am a customer and one of the main reasons I bought my kindle in the first place is because I was promised to be able to buy my bestselling authors at 9.99 which is at least half the price of what I could buy them for before e-books so I like millions jumped on board because we were price sensitive to that change. Then once we were hooked on that new price, were we're betrayed by the big 6 who took their Mafia style strangle hold over the market and abused their power by price fixing so now we are stuck buying our bestsellers at a slightly cheaper price than in paper because there is no other option.

But I have tried reading many many new indie authors because of their low price/low risk that I would not have before if they were in print and more expensive to buy. I think that is the epitomy of a price sensitive consumer.

What you are seeing now is that there a lot of good, great, and bad indie authors out there and it's taking awhile for the general reader to find who they like. Once they do, you'll see sales steadily rise for the better indie authors out there and they will start to take market share from traditional authors and maybe at that point traditional book authors prices will start to come down again but for now saying that they outsell indies is a bit silly to me. Of course they do. They either already have established audiences or the Big 6 publisher they work with have put enough money behind them to make sure they are established.

From a reader/consumers point of view, your arguments are flawed. Readers are still buying a lot of Big 6 authors at a higher price because these are authors they want to read and there is no alternative to that price point. When there was though ie when Amazon was selling the for 9.99 or less, people came by the millions to a new technology which completely blows your point out of the water.

kjolly said...

Talen said: "When and if Amazon runs off the competition your royalty rates will drop, why should they pay you more when there is nowhere else to go?"

This is hilarious. Why whould Amazon pay more now? The Big 6 doesn't change their low royalty rates as it is so why should Amazon pay 70% at all? They could easily pay 50 or less and still beat their competition.

This is basically saying why should we let Amazon have a monopoly because we like the monopoly that the Big 6 already holds over our heads.

You saying that a monopoly is bad for the consumer is exactly right. That is why there is laws against it which is why the big 6 is facing the charges they are now. At least Amazon is offering competition to a market that had none for years. If they do eventually gain a monopoly and abused their power, they would be dealt with just as the big 6 is being dealt with now.

So what's the argument? Get rid of Amazon and we eliminate a potential monopoly? Wrong. We already have one the if anything Amazon is only serving to alleviate. Try again.

Anonymous said...

I take it you've heard about Terry Goodkind self-publishing his next book? http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/52532-terry-goodkind-to-self-publish-next-novel.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly%27s+PW+Daily&utm_campaign=a90416b58a-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email

Michael McClung said...

"I take it you've heard about Terry Goodkind self-publishing his next book?"

Writing in the same genre as Mr. Goodkind, I can only say I wish he'd stay with traditional publishing. His writing is offensively bad, and liable to give fantasy self-pubbers a bad name.

Al Norman said...

Blogger kept eating my post, probably because it was too long, so apologies for the multiple posts.

Anonymous said:

“But it isn't happening. The Big 6 is doing better than ever.”

False. Revenues are down for all but I think HarperCollins, although profits have risen. Shareholders look at revenues much more than profits because increased revenues means a company is growing. This is why Amazon, which had its profits drop in the most recent first quarter by some 30% but had its revenue increase by some 30%, saw its stock jump after the earnings announcement. Likewise, when revenues did not meet what analysts predicted in the fourth quarter, Amazon’s stock fell by a large margin. If your company is not increasing revenue, you can hardly say you are doing better than ever.
Eventually ebook growth (as a percentage of overall book sales) will taper off. Once those sales results are compared against an equal previous sales result, where ebook sales as a percentage of total sales are close to equal, then we can determine the publisher stability. This digital transition has thrown a wrench into true comparisons until the numbers stabilize. But unfortunately for most businesses, the people who get paid from the profits (in the case of publishers--authors, editors, accountants, etc) tend to look at how much money the business made (profits), rather than how much the business sold (revenues). Expect those folks to want a bigger piece of the pie if this ebook transition keeps leading toward higher profits. Also expect shareholders to expect a dividend if profits remain high. And don't forget about taxes, which nail profits hard. In other words, high profits for a publicly traded company are hard to sustain.

Al Norman said...

“But that isn't true. Evidently, they're not. The Kindle Top 100 is packed with high-priced e-books. All the multi-hundred-days-in-Top-100 (sometimes thousand-plus) are full-price Big 6 books.”

This is a hard statement to judge since I’ve yet to see what is considered a high price, probably because high price is subjective. And there is no such thing as absolute price sensitivity. When you deal with lower priced goods--low as opposed to a car or a house--people are less frugal with their money, as in the opportunity cost is low. However, there is adequate evidence that low prices drive customers to make purchases they might not otherwise make—this is a basic economic principle. I can even point to two examples fresh in my mind that are relevant to this discussion. Ed McBain books and Open Road books. Back in January, Amazon priced the Ed McBain books at 99 cents each. In that week, 37 of those books were in the top 100, and when Open Road put its titles on sale a few weeks ago, it landed 20 or so in the top 100. Now that those books are regular price again, how many do you see in the top 100?

If you seriously wish to argue that consumers are not price sensitive—even on ebooks—you are going to be debating several hundred years of economic theory.

“None of the above protects paper; and if publishers could transition painlessly to an all-digital world, they would.”

Of course, you’d need to define painless. And I’ll disagree with you that publishers would want an all-digital marketplace. Why? Because their current system allows them a wide distribution network, e.g., a vast array of brick and mortar bookstores and a few online bookstores. Remove the brick and mortar, which really deals (vastly) with print only, and the publishers move from several intermediaries to just a handful, e.g., Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. If I asked any publisher if they’d like to hand 60% distribution to Amazon, would any answer with a yes?

Then you’d also have the problem of increased competition. E-publishing is cheap. Anyone can outsource editing and cover design. And the question doesn’t become what can the Big 6 do that these other E-publishers can’t; the question becomes what WILL the Big 6 do that the other E-publishers can’t?

Print distribution is an advantage for the Big 6, not a hindrance. In business, you don’t give up your advantage. Ever. Why on earth would publishers want to level the playing field for themselves?

www.thepainandthejoy.wordpress.com said...

There you go again, Konrath, using facts and logic to mess up a perfectly good fantasy. How the hell do you expect those New York agents and publishers to pay their confiscatory monthly rent in Manhattan?

G D Tinnams said...

E-books aside, amazon is clearly causing environmental issues by giving us too much choice and so selling more books. Surely the less books sold, the less demand for paper, the better for the environment, hence by keeping book choice to a minimum the big publishers are promoting the buying of less books and therefore saving the Planet.

Edward M. Grant said...

"Because they would rather write than tweak cover graphics, formatting or editing. Because some writers would rather maximize their writing time than handle every aspect of publishing, promotion, and distribution, even if they are capable of doing it themselves."

You can hire a good editor, a good cover designer, a good formatter and a good 'upload to Amazon and everywhere else' person for a few thousand dollars. You can even hire someone to manage it all if you want. There's no need to pay 75% of e-book royalties to a publisher to do so.

So that only leaves print books and promotion, both of which are certainly beneficial at this time. But print is becoming less important and the trade publishers' stranglehold over book store distribution is declining, and promotion is expensive. Throwing thousands of books out with no promotion and hoping that a few will become best-sellers is much cheaper than trying to make every book a best-seller.

I suspect Hocking could have bought more and better promotion from the royalties on her books than she's getting for the amount she's paying the publisher to do it for her. I certainly haven't seen any promotion for her lately, though I haven't been into a book store in months; she seems to have disappeared from the Internet other than her twitter posts.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ these comments have gotten boring and long-winded. I wonder what the indie ebooks of these folks are like...

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anonymous said, Jesus Christ these comments have gotten boring and long-winded. I wonder what the indie ebooks of these folks are like...

Wow, that was a needlessly snarky and pointless comment. But then I guess you got what you wanted: attention.

Bittermac.com said...

God is Love

Love is blind

Ray Charles is God

Anonymous said...

Edward M. Grant said..."I suspect Hocking could have bought more and better promotion from the royalties on her books than she's getting for the amount she's paying the publisher to do it for her. I certainly haven't seen any promotion for her lately, though I haven't been into a book store in months; she seems to have disappeared from the Internet other than her twitter posts."

She isn't getting any that I can tell, except perhaps a paid spot on a table/endcap. There are no fancy cardboard displays at B&N or BAMs around here. She had a regular face-out spot mid-aisle at the local Targets (same as all other books, it's how they display everything in their limited selection).

I actually sought them out locally because I really was curious to see what the publisher would do for her. Even the cover art on the Trylle series is an amalgam of stock photos (credits to the stock photos are even included). They didn't even spring for a true artist, which would have been okay for someone who was expected to sell so many copies and who writes fantasy (although for some reason the YA fantasy market, unlike trad fantasy, likes photos instead of drawn/painted art).

In short, yes, if she had been willing to manage the contractors, she could have done better for herself and kept more of her profits. Or hired a full time manager to do it for her.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone written a good book that didn't get a traditional publishing deal?

Seems like ebooks are largely crappy and that might be because like ebook writers churn them out like spam.

Surely they are in the main written by people who couldn't get a traditional publishing deal. Now the slush pile is online and downloadable at slush pile prices. Fair enough if you are into reading slush.

But I don't think there's any question that the better quality books will be the ones you find on the bookshelves of your high street bookstore. All properly edited, proofed, designed and approved by someone who could actually read.

Amazon is a good way for the few who got missed by the traditional publishers the first time around to get noticed. But the moment they are noticed they'll sign a deal.

The Kings and Grishams of the world will stay with their publishers. They've got better things to do with their time that format mobi and epub files.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anonymous said, But I don't think there's any question that the better quality books will be the ones you find on the bookshelves of your high street bookstore. All properly edited, proofed, designed and approved by someone who could actually read.

Yes, you're right, of course. I've been dying to read that Snookie book. I hear wonderful things about it. A true masterpiece. There are a few other masterpieces I could name, but I'm not interested in insulting the publishing houses or the authors involved.

Here's the thing: there's good and bad in both indie AND traditional publishing. To make the argument you're making is simply mean spirited and disingenuous.

The wonderful thing about the ebook revolution is that now the READER ultimately decides who they want to read and who they'll throw into their trash folder

Rob Gregory Browne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Simon said...

Has anyone written a good book that didn't get a traditional publishing deal?

Says a troll on Joe Konrath’s blog. I guess Our Host’s self-published books are all crap, right? And I guess it doesn’t count when Barry Eisler TURNS DOWN $500,000 from a traditional publisher. Or maybe that book magically became crap when he refused the money, I dunno. Maybe logic works that way on your planet.

Seems like ebooks are largely crappy and that might be because like ebook writers churn them out like spam.

Or it might be because you’re operating off of prejudice — which is a lot easier to confirm by picking ebooks at random than by doing what most readers do, which is to follow the recommendations of friends and reviewers they can trust, and to keep following authors who show they can deliver the goods.

Surely they are in the main written by people who couldn't get a traditional publishing deal.

Dangerous assumption, bubbellah. Books generally are written by people who can’t get a traditional publishing deal. Sometimes it’s because they have been blacklisted for content, or for making life difficult for a publisher (such as by insisting on good contract terms and correct royalty statements). Sometimes, yes, it’s because the books are lousy. But you are not God; you do not possess the information to make an a priori judgement about each individual book. ‘In the main’, even if true, does not invalidate the exceptions — which is what you are using it to do. Logical fallacy: return to Step 1 and try again.

Michael McClung said...

"Amazon is a good way for the few who got missed by the traditional publishers the first time around to get noticed. But the moment they are noticed they'll sign a deal."

This quote shows a woeful ignorance of how the publishing world actually works. You make it sound as if publishers are actively searching for talent. They're not. Years ago they turned that function over to agents. Are agents actively searching for talent? They are not. They are actively turning talent away. There are far, far too many stories out there about struggling authors for this quote to be anything other than delusion or willful ignorance.

As for "the moment they are noticed they'll sign a deal," well generalizations are a dime a dozen, and worth about as much. I squeezed in the door of traditional publishing once upon a time, and didn't have such a rum time of it. If a deal was offered to me now, I'd take it if it was six figures, simply because the money would make sense and I can always write other books. If I went back to the traditional way of getting published, the best I could hope for would be a five figure deal after months if not years of waiting and trying. Screw that.

In summary, your comment was a lot of foolishness and lazy thinking.

Edward M. Grant said...

The Kings and Grishams of the world will stay with their publishers. They've got better things to do with their time that format mobi and epub files.

According to the Wall Street Journal, King only licenses his books to his publisher for a few years, and they split the profits 50:50. I suspect most trade-published writers would be happy with a deal like that, but can only dream of getting one.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

"The idea that all self-published books are sub-standard is erroneous,” says literary agent Jenny Bent, founder of The Bent Agency in Brooklyn, New York. Will Clarke, one of Bent’s clients, self-published his first two books, "Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles" and "The Worthy". After Simon & Schuster republished, Bent points out, “he got a full-page rave review for both of them in the New York Times Book Review.”

From http://indiereader.com/2012/05/sticks-stones-the-changing-politics-of-the-self-publishing-stigma/

Sasha said...

Anonymous (Which one? Pseudonyms! What's wrong with pseudonyms? I'm using one)said, concerning the promotion that Amanda Hocking is getting from her Big 6 publisher:

"She isn't getting any that I can tell, except perhaps a paid spot on a table/endcap. There are no fancy cardboard displays at B&N or BAMs around here. She had a regular face-out spot mid-aisle at the local Targets (same as all other books, it's how they display everything in their limited selection).

I've read that big publishers regard placement, especially prominent(ish) placement, in bookshops in and of itself as promotion. I'm wondering how effective that is, compared to all the stuff that self-publishers can do who don't have print books in stores.

As someone who one day will have to make the choice of trying to get a publisher who most likely wouldn't lift a finger to do any active marketing other than putting some books in a store, versus self-publishing, I'm wondering how effective this one thing we can't do ourselves is.

Michael J. Sullivan said...

I don't understand all the "Amazon Hate and Fear" that is running around. I buy a ton of books from Amazon, I sell a ton of books from Amazon. It's "possible" that if they squash all competition they might change their stripes, but there is no evidence to that will be the case.

Amazon has probably done more for authors (self and traditional) than any other organization I can think of including the "so-called" writer advocacy places like Writer's Guild. Who denounces Amazon.

Publishing is changing, and you can either embrace the changes or die...I'm hoping for the former.

Michael Sullivan, Author of The Riyria Revelations
Need writers for 2012 Writing/Publishing Survey

Tom Maddox said...

Michael McClung Said:

"This quote shows a woeful ignorance of how the publishing world actually works."

But how can that be? Anonymous (assuming it is the same one) is a publishing insider. How do we know that? Because they said so.

Which makes me think that for Joe's next post I will be posting my comments anonymously and I will be an astronaut.

No wait, I think I want to be a lead guitarist for a very popular classic rock group from the 70's and 80's.

And you will all have to believe me because I said so. You obviously won't be able to prove me wrong because I will be posting anonymously.

Michael J. Sullivan said...

@Michael McClung said..."You make it sound as if publishers are actively searching for talent. They're not. Years ago they turned that function over to agents. Are agents actively searching for talent? They are not. They are actively turning talent away. There are far, far too many stories out there about struggling authors for this quote to be anything other than delusion or willful ignorance."

I agree with you that publishers aren't watching Amazon Bestseller Lists and contacting authors...but if you are successful self-publishing, and then go through a standard 'traditional' submission - they sit up and take notice. Publishers don't like risk, and signing someone with an "audience" reduces risks. My big-six contract was significantly higher than it would have been if I had no self-publishing under my belt.

As to agents, there are a few that are indeed trolling the lists, and offering representation. I've heard from several "indie" authors that are getting tapped in this way.

Michael Sullivan, Author of The Riyria Revelations
Need writers for 2012 Writing/Publishing Survey

L. Margaret Martin said...

Please don't compare Amazon to Walmart. Two different species. The Big 6 would like us to see this comparison as as true so we will consider traditional publishers to be the persecuted mom-n-pop's who are only trying to make a living giving us what we need to read.

Amazon is not Walmart. Unlike Walmart, who can eliminate competition geographically and close smaller local shops by keeping prices on local necessities low until the competition is eliminated (been there, seen it happen), Amazon operates in the ethers where a storefront can be a warehouse in Benton, AR or a laptop in some soccer mom’s knitting room.

Amazon has to (and can) stay nimble and lithe, bending with the times and offering up what others refuse or are unable to do. Industries like Walmart depend on a physical presence, stuck in a time when people were limited the boundaries of their town. With a younger generation suckled on iPads and approaching full consumer power, who know the world is at their fingertips, businesses with the Walmart mentality will come full stop. They may rule the physical business infrastructure of towns but the owners of the same shops that were closed ten years ago can now open a new store, on the cheap, on the net.

The Big 6, stuck in their skyscrapers, are experiencing the same fate. They ruled the publishing world. They were the guards at the gates of a community that did not know their readers were willing to go off brand. Hell, the readers didn’t know it until a few indie-authors slipped through and startled the masses with their genius ( www.hughhowey.com, anyone?).

Walmart and the Big 6 are grandpas bitching about commies and hippies.

I have stopped checking to see if a book was published by a recognized name and started checking covers, reviews, and downloading samples. If I like, I buy. ‘Nuff said.

Lillian Archer said...

I am waiting for the day when the publishers move away from their lockstep pricing to be more competitive amongst themselves. Want to attract a great author? Offer something different than the other five players on the field.

Michael J. Sullivan said...

Lillian Archer said...
I am waiting for the day when the publishers move away from their lockstep pricing to be more competitive amongst themselves. Want to attract a great author? Offer something different than the other five players on the field.


The lockstep on royalty sharing bothers me more than lockstep on book pricing. Hey DOJ when are you going to investigate why ALL of them are 25% of net on ebooks?

Michael Sullivan, Author of The Riyria Revelations
Need writers for 2012 Writing/Publishing Survey

Merrill Heath said...

Michael, I follow Robin's write2publish blog and haven't seen a new article since late Feb. Hope she's doing okay. Maybe you guys at Ridan are just keeping her busy keeping up with all your book sales. ;-)

Michael J. Sullivan said...

Merrill Heath said...
Michael, I follow Robin's write2publish blog and haven't seen a new article since late Feb. Hope she's doing okay. Maybe you guys at Ridan are just keeping her busy keeping up with all your book sales. ;-)


Thanks Merrill, I'll let her know you're thinking of her. She has a bad back and when she takes meds can't work. So she's doing all she can to keep up with Ridan stuff - but she's hoping to be back to her blog sometime soon.

Michael Sullivan, Author of The Riyria Revelations
Need writers for 2012 Writing/Publishing Survey

Anonymous said...

Fifty Shades of Grey is a good example of how ebooks are giving new authors new opportunities both in the digital marketplace and the traditional marketplace.

Fifty Shades of Grey occupies the top three places in the Kindle 100 Best Selling Books.

Its popularity led to a traditional publishing deal. All within a year it seems.

The author did not turn that deal down. In the same way they won't turn down the movie deal that inevitably follows.

Other publishers are now digging out erotica from their back lists, republishing and digitizing them in an effort to emulate the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

This is one advantage that the traditional publishers have, a back list they can capitalize on when they detect a trend. That's if they can move fast enough.

Meanwhile you can be sure ebook authors are busy committing their furtive imaginings to digital devices in the hope of becoming the next Fifty Shades of Red or whatever.

Kindles. No one knows what you're reading. Hence the success of erotica.

Edward M. Grant said...

Other publishers are now digging out erotica from their back lists, republishing and digitizing them in an effort to emulate the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Meanwhile, the smarter publishers are scouring Amazon for self-published 'mommy porn' books that they can buy and have on the market under their name before the bubble bursts.

This is one advantage that the traditional publishers have, a back list they can capitalize on when they detect a trend. That's if they can move fast enough.

And one advantage that self publishers have is that we don't have a back list; we just keep our books up for sale forever.

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 260   Newer› Newest»