Monday, July 16, 2012

Zero Sum

I've blogged about the so-called Race to the Bottom before, a few times.

The argument du jour seems to be that if publishers do collapse, then all the current bestsellers will have their ebooks available for $4.99 or less, and that will be the end of self-publishing. I've blogged about an eventual bestseller shift, which we can argue is happening, has happened, or will happen, depending on which stats you want to support.

But now I think it's time to put them together, as well as do some Q&A.

1. Ebook sales aren't a zero sum game. A sale of one ebook doesn't preclude the sale of another, because this is a burgeoning global market with hundreds of new customers introduced daily, and people naturally horde more than they need. 

Let's say there are currently 100 million ebook readers, and 1 million ebook titles on Amazon. In ten years, there will be billions of ebook readers (following the path of mp3s). But there won't be a corresponding 100 million ebook titles available--there aren't that many people writing ebooks, and never will be.

If I can currently sell a few hundred ebooks a day in the US alone, what will happen when ebooks become popular in India, China, Japan, Europe, Russian, and South America? There will be a bigger demand than unique supply, and I believe my position will improve.

2. Legacy bestsellers now may not be bestsellers in the future. If all Lee Child ebooks were $3.99, an avid reader could buy and finish them all in a month. Then what? Wait six months for him to finish another, and not read a thing until then? I think not.

Let's say the reader then went on to other bestselling thriller writers in the same vein as Child. How many current NYT bestsellers write series thrillers? I have no idea, but I'd guess a few dozen, tops. But does likign Child mean liking all NYT thriller bestsellers? I'm sure there are readers who love Child but don't like Brad Thor or Vince Flynn, but even if all an avid reader read was bestselling thriller authors who did a book or two a year, they would eventually run out of books to read.

BTW, I know a few avid readers. They lust for more authors to discover, and get excited when they read an unknown gem and find out that author has twenty more books in the series. I'm one of those types. I've read all Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, and still managed to find new gems by Jeff Shelby, Brett Battles, Harry Hunsicker, and Jude Hardin, written in the same vein and style. 

If bestsellers like Child and Thor came down in price, it wouldn't matter to me much, because I already have read all of Child and I don't care for Thor. But if Child were $3.99 instead of $12.99, I can easily see myself buying his latest AND a few others. The money I'd save would be spent just the same.

Ever go into a store to buy a big ticket item, expecting to may more than you did? Let's say you research an over and find it for $699. When you go to the store, it is on sale for $499. And they also have a great toaster oven for $99. You probably wouldn't have bought the toaster oven originally, but now that you're saving money on the oven, the toaster oven becomes attractive.

If all ebook prices came down, more ebooks would be sold across the board.

3. The reason bestselling authors are bestselling authors is because of distribution. Nora Roberts is available EVERYWHERE books are sold. So, by default, she sells a lot, because readers wanting that particular type of book have no other choice--they buy her, or nothing.

When publishers collapse, Nora will have the exact same amount of shelf space and exposure as any indie author. Sure, there will be some name and brand recognition for a while, but that will fade when not being constantly reinforced by massive print distribution.

It also remains to be seen how Nora will price her ebooks when her publisher goes bankrupt. Will she stay at the $9.99 price point she's selling at now? If so, I predict fewer sales. If she does price reasonably, then the reader with $9.99 to spend can buy one of her ebooks and one of my ebooks with change left of.

The market is getting bigger. People with ereaders tend to buy and read more. And authors can make a very nice living selling 100 ebooks a day for $2.99 each. Across multiple platforms, on a global scale, I see this as not only possible, but likely for decent, prolific authors. 

And as far as bestsellers go, they tend to fade when distribution changes or dries up.

Mickey Spillane (whose books I love) has sold over 225 million books. 

Check his Kindle ranking now, only six years after his death. Lots of indies are outselling him. Even though Al Collins is doing a great job continuing the Mike Hammer series. 

Check ranks on some Louis L'Amour titles. He sold over 300 million books. Mediocre kindle sales.

Sidney Sheldon has sold more than Stephen King. Look at Sidney's rankings on Amazon these days. He also is still producing books after his death, via ghost writers, but he's nowhere near the powerhouse he once was.

Harold Robbins has sold 750 million books. More than twice JK Rowling. And many of his Kindle titles are less than $2.99. Check his rankings. Mine are better in many cases. One of the best selling authors of all time, but he isn't in the paperback racks anymore, and that means no more bestsellerdom.

4. There is already a tremendous abundance of choice, not only with media in general, but ebooks in particular. I believe Amazon has over 1 million Kindle titles for sale. Yet people still find me, and I was hardly a bestseller in print.

If bestselling authors all dropped their prices, I believe I'd sell more ebooks, not less, because more people would buy ereaders and have more money to spend on content. There's enough room for 300 cable TV channels, and four billion videos on Youtube.

Sure, some YouTube videos won't be watched, just like some ebooks won't be read. But quality does seem to eventually find an audience. Maybe not to smashing success, but authors don't need smashing success. They need 100 sales a day at $2.99 to live very well.

What do you need to do to reach that 100 sales a day?

1. Write good stories. As many and as fast as you can. They should be edited, proofed, and well formatted I use www.52novels.com for formatting, and they do better work than any of the Big 6. The more you have out there, the better you'll do.

2. Make sure you have a great product description and a professional cover. My cover artist, Carl Graves, has 24 new covers on sale on his website for $200 each. A bunch of them are awesome, and $200 is a great deal (he charges me $500). Check them out, first come first serve, at http://extendedimagery.com/predesignedcovers.html.

3. Find the sweet spot between price and quantity sold, where you make the most profit. Currently I'm $3.99 for novels, $2.99 for novellas (over 10k words) and story collections, and 99 cents for short stories. But this isn't set in stone.

4. Experiment with different ways to promote. Some things I've tried to varying degrees of success are giving away free ebooks to get reviews, announcing sales on ebook websites, having sales, making titles free for a limited time, partnering with different platforms, and guest blogging.

What don't I bother with?

1. Advertising. It doesn't work on me, so I don't use it on other people. That's a cardinal rule of mine. I only use something or believe it works if I do it as a consumer.

2. Social media. Occasional tweets of Facebook announcements are fine. At most, once a week. Maybe once a day if you have a new release, but end it after a few days. Otherwise people get sick of you.

3. Publicity. I've already blogged that getting my name in the press doesn't lead to sales. You probably don't need a publicist. 

4. Spamming. I have a newsletter, and use it a few times a year. I don't use it everytime I upload something new to Kindle. And I don't pimp my work on other peoples' blog or forums unless invited to do so, or there's a section for it.

I want to end this blog entry by telling writers: Don't Be Afraid. Yes, the future will be different. Yes, things will change. But there will always be a need for storytellers, and if you hold onto your rights, you'll be in a good position to exploit those rights no matter what the future holds.

286 comments:

1 – 200 of 286   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

Joe, I can tell you that as an avid reader, I agree with you 100% - I did some quick math since I got my Kindle 1.5 years ago - I spent over $500 on eBooks, more than I ever spent (in the same time frame) on paper books, and frankly, a lot of that mullah went to you, Barry Eisler, and Blake Crouch, because you have been able to make yourselves know to me outside of traditional publisher marketing circles, and I am forever grateful for it.

Keep up the great work!
Hugo

Bob said...

I agree. I just got back from Thrillerfest where it was business as usual in NY and the fear was palpable.

I've changed some things in my business model. Yes, advertising is pretty much a waste of money. And I've retreated from social media for two reasons: one is I"m putting my time into content. Content is what pays my bills, not social media. Second, I actually think there can be a negative tipping point in social media where you do too much and it backfires on you.

So back to producing content.

Joe Konrath said...

Thanks, Hugo.

Bob, I agree with your social media tipping point idea, and I recall reading a blog about it. Was it you? If so, got a link?

E. Zachary Knight said...

On the social media thing, I am of the opinion that people who follow you on Twitter, like your Facebook page or Google+ page are not really there to receive announcements of your work but rather to follow you as a person. If all you are doing via social media is advertising, then yes, people will get burnt out on it. But if you are posting as an interesting person, then you will have a much more dedicated following.

I do agree that when you do post as an advertisement, do a few interesting things that point people back to your work and then move on after a few days or a week.

Andrea said...

Like Bob, I've discovered, due to my own mistakes, that I don't need to do advertising or social media. I stay active on Facebook and Twitter when I want to, but not because I'm trying to get sales.

Now that I've been doing this for a year, I've finally reached a point where I'm happy - really happy - with how things are going. I've got five books available. Seems to be the magic number. :-)

And I try to tell other, newer authors that the only thing that guarantees better sales is putting out new, good material. And it takes time and patience. They don't have the patience, and they learn from making mistakes and wasting a TON of time. Some don't learn at all.

Thanks for your post - just read it to my hubby (and partner in crime).

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Amen, Joe. Amen.

With social media, which I use a lot (facebook), I find it's best to only hype the work once in a while and stay human. Social media actually keeps me sane, so I guess my motive for using it has little to do with selling books.

gniz said...

Good post, Joe.

Although as ebooks go global, I imagine it will be difficult to sell so many more books unless you deal with translations which could be cumbersome and expensive.

I suppose there are plenty of English speakers and readers in, say, China--but I don't know that it will make an enormous difference sales wise. Looking at my Amazon sales in Germany, Italy, Spain--for me they've been paltry at best...

However, in general I've found that it's mostly about being damn fast and willing to "genre hop" if necessary, to work in the medium where I'm likely to get the best sales.

With over 100 titles available right now (many of them shorter works), I'm doing much better financially than I would ever have imagined.

It's a great time to be a writer. Thanks for keeping us abreast of the changes, as always.

T.J. Dotson said...

" And authors can make a very nice living selling 100 ebooks a day for $2.99 each. Across multiple platforms, on a global scale, I see this as not only possible, but likely for decent, prolific authors.."

This is already happening, for a fact 100%. My pen name generates $400 a month regularly. This is just with six stories and two Novellas.

I know of other authors with 30 plus titles (mostly $2.99 shorts/novellas) who are making thousands of dollars a month. In fact a few of have quit their jobs and live entirely on their writing income.

Hardly any of these folks (including myself) are on any best seller lists. If you are prolific and release professional quality work.. you will make money. You may never get a publishing deal or be in the top best-sellers.. but you will be living your dream!

Dustin Scott Wood said...

Thanks for this, Joe. Your spot on about Twitter. I have several self-published tweeps on there and one in particular tweets about their book about five times a day. It annoys me. This author doesn't write in a genre I tend to read, but even if I did, that amount of constant marketing would turn me away from it.

People like entertaiment and information. If I want to take in commercials, I can just record everything on my DVR and skip over the substantive parts of the shows.

Pale Rambler said...

Must agree on the social media tipping point. I have befriended several indie authors only to end up blocking their news feeds due to daily (or even multiple times daily) spamming of their books. Desperation is never a good thing to let show, no matter how desperate you might be.

Mark

Jude Hardin said...

I'm honored to be mentioned among those authors, Joe. Thanks so much.

Great post. I especially liked what you said at the end, although I think it's okay to allow a publisher to control a book's rights if the contract is one you're happy with. Royalties for self-published books might fluctuate in the future, so with a contract at least you're assured a certain rate. And of course advances are nice, and promo, and not having the up-front expenses of cover art and editing etc.

So I would urge authors to do what they think is right at the time for them, but to never dismiss one route or the other entirely. Having a bunch of different eggs in a bunch of different baskets is probably best.

bettye griffin said...

I agree that producing a stready stream of work has the potential to lead to a nice income, whether main or supplemental. My goal is to release something new every 4-6 months. I'm now going on 4-1/2 months since the release of my last eBook, and after a glowing review in USA Today and three months in the Top 100 Bestselling Multicultural Romances, those once-brisk sales have slowed (meaning it's time to publish a new or backlist title, which I will soon be doing). But because I have five full-length novels and one three-book bundle out, even sales of just 4-8 copies per day will result in about $650 in earnings.

A.G. Claymore said...

I think I've mentioned my titles maybe three or four times in the last year on social media. 99% of the time, I just post whatever amuses me EG: getting lost at the Ikea and having to eat my trusty guide (he did get me lost, after all...)

The constant invites to Goodreads 'Events' are a turnoff as well.

The industry is changing too fast for 'conventional wisdom' to exist anymore. It use to be conventional wisdom that you had to get an agent, get a publisher and get a part time job if you wanted to be a writer. That held for decades. Now, you're lucky is the latest and greatest new idea lasts for more than a few weeks. John Locke may have used twitter to sell a ton of books, but that was months ago. Others used freebies, but now Amazon is flooding the market with free books.

Somewhere out there, someone is hitting the enter key and the next hot new idea is about to get us all buzzing...

ryllina said...

I used to read every new release Nora Roberts book, but now that I mostly read ebooks I had to stop. I couldn't justify spending $14.99 on an ebook (what her newer ones were selling for) when the paperback was selling for $7.99. Especially when I could find indie romance novels for $.99-4.99 that were often much better.

I don't buy paper books at all anymore (with a very few exceptions) and I do all of my reading via my e-reader and library books. I also have noticed that I was spending more money and reading more books after buying my Kindle, which is why I had to taper back some and get a library card. Now I read both!

Love your blog! Just started reading your books (read The List last night) and so far I am very impressed. Will be buying more :)

Sasha said...

People are concerned about legacy authors publishing backlists as ebooks and wiping everyone else off the board. However, whereas Lee Child's writing style hasn't dated (he's only been going 15 years or so), I had to give up on Ed McBain's "Killer's Wedge" (1959) because it just didn't keep my attention like more modern writing (great dialogue notwithstanding). I think there's only so far back a backlist can go before it runs into that problem. All the less competition for new writers.

Adrian said...

My wife has kept a tally of her reading for the past 10 years. She typically read 110+ books per year for many years. But then I got her an e-reader, which she loves, yet her book rate has dropped to about 80 per year.

Why? Given the quantity of reading she does, she usually opted to get the majority of her books from the library for free. But library books on an e-reader are a pain. They are absurdly constrained in availability, and they require crummy software on your PC to get the book to your reader.

So the net is good for authors: Even though she reads significantly fewer books, she purchases vastly more than she used to. If prices came down further, I'm sure she'd buy more.

I, on the other hand, am constrained by time. I get through about 15 books a year--all purchased because, at that rate, I'm pretty cost-insensitive. About half of the books I read are ebooks and the rest are paper.

David S said...

Great points! I'd only like to suggest that things like "bestsellers" can only exist within a framework or paradigm that limits exposure and availability somehow.

The NY Times can only review so many books. Book publishers can only publish so many books. Distributors can only warehouse so many books. Book stores can only stock so many books.

In the end, it becomes a symbiotic relationship: reviewers dictate what will be on shelves, what publishers will invest most of their time on, what distributors will stock, and how much shelf space book sellers will allocate to various titles.

Backlists STILL generate the largest steady profits for print publishers; "bestsellers" are almost aberrations in their marketing models, and are predictable only to the extent that any given author can continue to crank out books that are worth reading.

In a world of infinite shelf space, infinite reviewers and reviews, and infinite availability of published content, the notion of "bestseller" will accrue to anybody who can create a little more noise above the din and attract more visitors, more sales, more reviews, and more referrals than somebody else did last week or last month.

The print publishing industry is experiencing its last dying gasps of breath. They have refused to embrace the future not because they failed to see it coming, but because their business models won't allow them to invest in disruptive technologies that will, over the long-run, inevitably kill their existing cash-cows.

I'd say that 90% of the publishing industry is built around physical product creation, distribution, and sales. When the physical component is removed, their business models disintegrate.

What's left? A TON of stuff! Authors, editors, reviewers, typesetters, formatters, publishers, distributors, marketers, publicists, ... in short, everything but the books!

Sasha said...

By the way, bestseller John Sandford hasn't got his backlist Kindled. Presumably he's not the only successful legacy author to do so? Anybody know why they're not rushing to cash in?

The Daily Brass said...

This blog, among other things, helped push me to self-publish, but so far I've struggled to get noticed. It's especially hard since I write across genres, and I don't feel like I fit in with any particular community. I've published three children's books, a mystery/thriller/courtroom drama that took me three years to write, and a book of short, weirdly funny stories. I'm giving them all away for 99 cents but so far that hasn't had an effect.

I decided to take some more advice from the site and get creative. The writing genre that comes most naturally to me is parody. I decided to use my author page to give away my parodies for free in hopes of building a decent platform. Right now my site features free chapter books including a romance and a sci fi novel parody, but I also take shots at the so-called literary writers like Dave Eggers, Franzen, and Cormac McCarthy. Keep in mind that just because I make fun of someone doesn't mean I don't like them.

Anyway, so far this approach has made absolutely no difference on anything, possibly because there is no market for parodies. Then again, maybe I haven't given the idea enough time. If anyone wants to share their thoughts about this let me know. http://dailybrass.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Joe Konrath: "I believe Amazon has over 1 million Kindle titles for sale. Yet people still find me, and I was hardly a bestseller in print."

People find you because Amazon promotes you. They promote you because you bring them long-tail writers through this blog and because you were in first when there were no other self-publishers to speak of, so now you've got an ebook brand.

Not to mention you're signed to Amazon(!Duh). You're not self-published, you're Amazon published, end of story.

But the 99% of the writers aspiring to be you (my God, no offence but imagine taking a low-level genre toiler in the cliche mills as your ideal), are just pixels in an ocean of pixels and will not be noticed by anyone except their families, who are being kind and blindly supportive in the American manner.

I mean, Mr. Joe, have you seriously looked at the NY Times bestsellers lists lately? This week there is one - one -- self-pubbed title. All the rest are NY houses. This time last year there were five or six or more -- the writing is on the wall.

Ebooks are just the new slush pile. When there's a glint of gold in the reeking compost heap, NY will pick it up and start coining. Look at 52 Shades, prime example. Look at reality. (Stephen Leather, your ex-guest post has it right: do not underestimate publishers.)

As for race to bottom, I think you're full of it. In the first place you believe that ebooks are headed for free and will need paid ads to survive. If that is not a race to the bottom of the bottom than nothing is! It's an admission that ebooks will destroy all value from literature, as something that people are prepared to pay for.

Fortunately the folks who run Amazon are not as stupid as that. They've already figured out that NY is good at fostering value for literature. Economic case study equivalent: De Beers diamond monopoly. Diamonds have no intrinsic value. In the early part of the last century, diamond prices started to go into freefall. De Beers countered by restricting supply and building cachet through brilliant advertising.

Literature, like diamonds, has no intrinsic value. It's just words, which are free. What you fail to understand is that publishers have been the people who have, for centuries, carefully built up the cachet that surrounds literature, the cultural capital that gives it its importance. The aura that drives the whole thing.

What you seem to think is that Amazon is going to destroy all of that market value in order to take on millions of self-pubbed so-called writers. But you're obviously wrong.

An NY bestseller can generate a 100 milion in sales. (That's why someone like you might outsell Mr. King but he'll make 30 million where the DIY chap will make 300,000.)

Yes, your self pubbers might overtake a franchise writer in mid-list rankings by sellings a knock-off for 2.99 but Amazon's not going to let that process destroy the 100 million value franchise -- they'd be idiots to do that.

You see the evidence in the (best seller, frontlist) charts right now. No more self-pubbers. Admit it-- it's changed, Mr. Joe.

Amazon and the publishers are going to work together to keep those 100 million dollar hits rolling. There will be self-pubbing, of course, to a certain extent the midlist will be taken over by the ebook crowd, but let's not get too insane in our predictions.

Love the blog -- do keep them coming. Great to be alive in interesting times, confounding the Chinese curse.

-Henry

P.S. Power said...

Here's something I've been wondering about. (Keep in mind I'm willing to go to the idea of conspiracy when it comes to large companies with the same percentages and basic contracts...)

Doesn't it make sense that, as the big six go down, which they clearly are right now, they'll try to survive by lashing out at the perceived threat to their business?

It wouldn't shock me to find out that a lot of the rules that change in the next few years happen because the big six go to B&N, Amazon and the other main online booksellers and tell them that they'll pull all their products if rules aren't put in place to slow or stop Indie's from getting a solid foothold.

We may also see outright sabotage once people start doing well. Fake bad reviews and what not. Probably not for everyone, but get a few bestsellers in place on your own and they may just be tempted to "punish" you.

I think this almost has to happen in some way. Maybe not the way I described, but companies and businesses, especially large ones, tend to be loss averse, just as people are.

To their minds we're taking their money form them by selling out own work. They probably can't help it.As the Indie market grows and more stars show up, the big six has to respond with fire in their eyes.

The problem is two fold here. Amazon will probably work with them and B&N will, almost certainly. (Since they have to be feeling similar pressures at the moment.)But it's clear that a threat to pull all books from Amazon is a false threat.

It would kill their business by too much and they can't afford to take the hit. So while they may use the threat to apply pressure, it isn't a real one.

That means the attacks will probably come at the Indie's themselves. A campaign of attack most likely. A covert one, because doing it openly would harm them in the long run.

How much of the negative backlash that we've seen already is being driven from that quarter? I have no idea. It might be none, but I keep having a sense that some of the people talking the Independent Market down may be more connected than it seems.

Ken Lindsey said...

I'm still very new to the marketing bit of all this. I just had my first KDP Select free weekend, and although I'm pretty happy with the results, I'm not sure that all my social networking over the weekend made much of a difference. I'm pretty sure the majority of folks that found the book, did so organically.

And to be honest, I felt shitty pushing it all weekend. I don't like hitting my friends up like that. I'm fairly certain that if they're readers, they probably had my book already. Oh well, live and learn. (if only this post had come last week!)

When I get closer to the end of my exclusivity, I'm going to run my last free days without the networking push to see how it works out. I'm not real worried about sales right now (I only have one book out anyhow) but I love that so many people now "own" my book. Maybe I'll even get some readers out of it.

Thanks for the discussion, everyone!

Joe Konrath said...

People find you because Amazon promotes you.

Really? Care to show me all that promo they're doing for me?

I thought not.

Amazon has promoted my titles that they've published, like they've promoted all the titles they've published, which is why I signed with them. If they've gone above and beyond that, it is because I've got a proven track record on my own, not ice versa.

I mean, Mr. Joe, have you seriously looked at the NY Times bestsellers lists lately?

No. Why would I? They're a dinosaur. An unhappy, irrelevant dinosaur, who reports according to bias. I know several people who sold enough and quick enough to make the NYT list, and didn't appear. It stands for nothing but archaic nepotism, and I won't cry when it is gone.

It's an admission that ebooks will destroy all value from literature,

Really? I admitted that?

Oh, wait. I didn't. You're just confused over what value is, even though I've said it dozens of times. The value of a book isn't the cover price, it's how much the book earns. If a free ebook earned the author $300k, I'd call that valuable.

You see the evidence in the (best seller, frontlist) charts right now.

No I don't. In fact, I refuted that BS in my post about Simon Lipskar and his skewed numbers. Go reread it.

What you fail to understand is that publishers have been the people who have, for centuries, carefully built up the cachet that surrounds literature, the cultural capital that gives it its importance.

At best, publishers are nearsighted, stupid, and incompetent. At worst, they are exploitative and intentionally pricks who treat authors like second class citizens. Either way, we're better off without them.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

It's food for thought when you say selling 100 books a day will provide a pretty good living - I suppose the good stuff will eventually find an audience but the lesser stuff will vanish.

Joe Konrath said...

I suppose the good stuff will eventually find an audience but the lesser stuff will vanish.

Nothing will vanish. Ebooks are forever. But true crap probably won't sell well.

Good books, however you want to define them, have decades to find that word-of-mouth buzz and a sizeable fanbase. Thsi didn't happen in the legacy world, because a book that didn't sell within a few months was returned, never to see a bookstore shelf again.

My Timecaster books sell poorly. But I think those books will eventually find a fanbase. It may take time, but I have time.

Joe Konrath said...

It wouldn't shock me to find out that a lot of the rules that change in the next few years happen

Don't fear the future. Lots of things could or might happen. While it is good to be prepared and have your options open, it is silly to be so afraid it prevents you from acting now.

I don't live my life expecting that an asteroid will hit the earth, even though it could.

Jacob Chastain said...

I think that one of the key points to be made is simply, that no one knows. Sure, there is common wisdom about not spamming and constantly telling people about one thing, but only an idiot would do these things. Media used tactfully and planned, now that is another story.

Of course with that said, content is king. Nothing will ever change that.

Wayne said...

The NY Times bestseller list doesn't include eBook data from Amazon from what I understand. I'm not sure if it even includes B&N though I expect it does. Without Amazon they are lacking a large section of the eBook market.

If you look at Amazon's eBook list you'll see a number of self published in the top 100 like Colleen Hoover. There's others like Sara Fawkes who is published by Fawkesfire (for some reason I'm guessing that's her own imprint).

You'll also see that Amazon's Montlake and Thomas and Mercier imprints are up there. They have been siphoning off a lot of self published talent.

Naja Tau said...

Joe, you're the best. That's all I have to say. ;)

T Ludlow said...

Konrath: If all ebook prices came down, more ebooks would be sold across the board.

This chimes with my own experience. When I was in my teens (a while back now) a paperback was pretty good value and I'd often walk out of my local bookstore with a stack of new books two foot tall (literally). But prices kept going up and up and up. Now a paperback might cost you $15 and I just don't think they're worth that. I resent paying so much. I often visit bookstores to browse, but I rarely buy unless something is on sale. Instead I'll go to the library, or see what I can pick up in a thrift shop.
If a paperback is $15, the result is 'no sale'. But show me a store that sells new books for $5 each and it'll take me about a minute to spend that $15 and I'll probably be back the next day and the next.

Good point about Twitter. I signed up to a few accounts that did little more than but spew out promotional material, often dozens of Tweets a day. It was like reading the world's longest begging letter. I soon lost patience and any respect I had for them. They rapidly got ditched.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I have to admit that I'm completely ignorant about the NYT bestseller list. How many sales over what period of time constitutes a bestseller? Does anyone know?

I did a little research and found a blog by Tess Gerritsen in which she reports that bestseller Joe Finder told her (after speaking to an editor in the know) that it takes about 5,000 copies of a book sold in one week to reach the NYT top 15.

If that's the case, then by rights, Joe, me and many other indie authors I know should be on that list.

So what happened? ;)

T Ludlow said...

Henry: Literature, like diamonds, has no intrinsic value. It's just words, which are free. What you fail to understand is that publishers have been the people who have, for centuries, carefully built up the cachet that surrounds literature, the cultural capital that gives it its importance. The aura that drives the whole thing.

This is the most bizarre thing I've read in a long time. It's publishers that make literature important? They've been pulling the strings have they? Carefully building things up all these centuries? (What is this, a Dan Brown plot?) I like Patrick O'Brien novels and am prepared to pay for them because Harper Collins and the like have carefully built up a 'cachet'. It's driven by an 'aura' you say, not my willingness to invest money to enjoy a well-written story? News flash: publishers are nothing but middlemen. The carrots do not taste better because they come from a store, if I got them from the farm they would be just as nice. Jeez.

Wayne said...

Kris Rusch has a good entry from earlier in the year on bestsellers.

http://kriswrites.com/2012/01/18/the-business-rusch-bestseller-lists-and-other-thoughts/

LJ Downs said...

Actually T. Ludlow YOU'RE WRONG.

If you get the from the farm they probably taste better and have less pesticides.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I don't live my life expecting that an asteroid will hit the earth, even though it could

That's it I am spurred to give up my job as a high class rent boy and become Stephen King. LOL - seriously inspiring words.

Anonymous said...

"If you get the from the farm they probably taste better and have less pesticides."

Not unless its an organic farmer (a niche market in farming). The vast majority of farms North America are in contract with distributors to stores and must show they use chemicals in order to provide reasonable assurance of crop production. Its actually also in a basic farmers insurance policy as well as the contract they have with distributors.

My uncle has been a farmer for 50 years and this is what he tells me.

Jon

Tiffany Dow said...

Thanks for sharing your "what I do" and "what i don't bother with" lists.

I've been writing for years in the non fiction genre self publishing on my own sites with great success, and just recently headed over the Kindle to begin that journey.

I've published a couple of non fiction titles and I have a subscriber list of loyal customers for those but now I'm preparing to go into fiction (lifelong dream) and that scares the shit out of me.

I have no clue what to do promo wise and I hear conflicting information. Even John Locke's book touted social media, list relation building, etc., then someone sent me to a recent interview he did that said he was wrong - it was just good writing that did it for him :/

Oh well, I'll find what works for me - but people like you being willing to share your insight are much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

PS But I agree with you LJ they the are organic they do dang taste better .

My uncle says chemicals are expensive! He would love it if all the customers came to him directly and wanted organic *and* he could cut out the middle man. This thing happened recently in Greece. The stores (because of the financial problems of the country) raised prices and so did the distributors. So the farmers drove supply trucks into various towns and sold their produce directly to consumers. Cutting out the middle man!


Sorry getting off topic! But this cutting off the middleman re publishing is such a thing of beauty I hope it can spread to other industries as well.

PPS Joe I spent about $850 on ebooks in the last 2 years and got at several times the books I would get when I bought paperbacks. Im one of those fetishists that looove paper but once I got my kindle ALL my money went to kindle books --it overpowered my lust for paper. 'It' being 'story'.

I estimate about $300 of that went to yourself and it was worth every penny. STORY over paper lust won out and Im a guy with a library of 20 000 paperback books. (planning a big flea market sale btw).

Jon

Joe Konrath said...

If that's the case, then by rights, Joe, me and many other indie authors I know should be on that list.

I've sold 5000 in a day. Actually, quite a bit more when my ebook hit #1.

P.S. Power said...

Some people keep saying that all of Joe's success comes from getting help from Amazon and being a Legacy author.

Joe says that isn't so, but it's hard to prove to some people, because there are some signs that could be taken to say something different.

So, as much as it pains me to do this (and it really does. I cringe every time I talk about myself at all. Shy that way.) here's my story.

1. Total newbie to being a professional writer. Some small work decades ago as a magazine editor. Not a legacy or big six person at all.

2. Started writing books 20 months ago. So no huge backlog or decades of books waiting to go up.

3. I've done no advertising, blogging, tweeting, facebooking or anything else of note for my books. The only one I've done anything with at all, as a test, is my latest book, which has been out one week.

(Unrelenting Terror is the title in case anyone wants to look at it.)

4. In that time, without any advertising, without friends pushing for me (I don't think most of my family even knows I've written a book to tell the truth.) doing almost nothing but writing and editing, I've gone from getting about a hundred sales per month to over seven thousand. (Should be eight to ten for this month, but ten is pushing it and a bit of wishful thinking.

*So a real nobody without any of the supposed benefits that a Joe Konrath supposedly came bundled with and yet I seem to be doing alright.

Sure, that could change, but so far I've noticed that with every book I release, my sales increase by ten percent over all.

Even my latest, which isn't selling as fast as some of my others, and certainly isn't responsible for that ten percent rise by itself (not even close!) caused everything else to do better.

But my point is, I'm a nobody. I was never rejected by a big six publisher, because, rebel that I am, I couldn't be bothered to jump through their hoops and knew it from the get go.

So I'm not even the rejected author that people talk about.

But there you go, selling more than enough to live on and do it well.

So far I've never had a book do better than about thirteen hundred in sales rank on Amazon. So it's possible to do all this without being a top one hundred best seller.

I wouldn't have mentioned all this, but I'm getting sick of hearing how it's only about Joe's contacts and special perks or that all his friends that are doing well are getting a hand up from similar things.

Real people are getting real results too.

(Now I'm just going to blush about all the Spam I just dumped out above and hope that the people making fun of me do so gently.)

Rob Gregory Browne said...

P.S. Power said, I wouldn't have mentioned all this, but I'm getting sick of hearing how it's only about Joe's contacts and special perks or that all his friends that are doing well are getting a hand up from similar things.

Congratulations on your success!

Jason said...

I've emailed Carl to do a book cover for me, via his website and he never got back to me...

Mike Fook said...

Carl Graves charged you $300 per cover in the past - didn't he? He's raised his fee by $200 for you now? I find that odd, especially since you're promoting him like crazy on your blogger site.

Jason said...

It was about an original.

P.S. Power said...

"Congratulations on your success!"

Thank you!

The real point is that if I can do it, the field is wide open for everyone. It really isn't some secret "old boys" network or anything.

What Joe is saying here is true and can work for anyone. That doesn't mean it will work for everyone equally, luck is a factor. but it's worth trying to do your best on.

We have an open window right now. It may close, but the better you do right now the greater the odds of being successful on the other side of whatever changes may come.

Jude Hardin said...

Rob and Joe,

You both would have been on the NYT bestseller list if it were based solely on units sold. From what I understand, it's based on how well your book does in a given week compared to all other books across the board in all outlets. So it would be very hard, if not impossible, to make it onto the list when your numbers are coming from a single retailer.

I suppose that's one of the ways the NYT prevents gaming of the system. If it were based solely on units sold, any of the huge retailers could run specials and promos to get the books they want onto the list.

Vincent Zandri, Noir Author said...

I was also at Thrillerfest and it was and I agree with Bob...the fear was real. But I had the best, most optimistic time with my Amazon Publishing crew...The social media thing is certainly on the outs for now...

Joe Konrath said...

I suppose that's one of the ways the NYT prevents gaming of the system.

Heh. Jude, all the NYT does IS game the system.

They choose which books will appear on the preprinted list via some unknown relationship with publishers, and then bookstores write-in what sold during a particular week by filling in numbers without any proof of sales.

It's easily manipulated, very skewed, and I've heard of instances of rigging. That's why it differs so much from USA Today, which uses Bookscan. But Bookscan is hardly comprehensive.

Walter Knight said...

My goal is to out sell God, and I'll cut prises to do it.

David L. Shutter said...

P.S. Power

It was great reading that summary of your writing career thus far, congrat's on everything!

Considering the number of Kindle titles, breaking into the top thirteen hundred, from complete unknown, is quite the accomplishment, I think.

You definitely aren't a "nobody".

Robert said...

Joe, in the guest post I did for you back in November I mentioned I was averaging over $1,500 a month. Since the beginning of the year, I've been averaging over $5,000 a month, though some months are higher than others. Before this month, all my novels were priced at $2.99, and I was averaging over 100 units a day, so yeah, someone definitely can make a modest income based on that price point and number of sales. I'm beyond thrilled. This past month I raised the prices of my novels to $3.99, and so far I'm still averaging over 100 units a day, so fingers are crossed that the trend keeps up.

In terms of the NYT bestseller list, Gregg Hurwitz's novel THEY'RE WATCHING made the list this week. It's currently a special promo at $2.99, so you can see how the price helps.

On the flip side, Jamie McGuire's novel BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, which was a NYT bestseller and in the Kindle top 10 for several weeks and which she recently sold to Simon and Schuster -- the price was raised from $2.99 to $7.99, and it's currently #59 in the Kindle store. Whether the ranking will go back up or not it impossible to say, but the point is obviously the price increase of five bucks has affected its sales.

Which really shouldn't be surprising ...

Joe Konrath said...

Carl Graves charged you $300 per cover in the past - didn't he? He's raised his fee by $200 for you now?

Carl charges everyone equally, me included. Fees on his website. And his fees are very reasonable--he charges higher for publishers than for indie authors.

Jude Hardin said...

They choose which books will appear on the preprinted list via some unknown relationship with publishers, and then bookstores write-in what sold during a particular week by filling in numbers without any proof of sales.

I was talking mostly about the ebook list. This from the NYT website:

E-book rankings reflect sales from leading online vendors of e-books in a variety of popular e-reader formats.

E-book sales are tracked for fiction and general nonfiction titles. E-book sales for advice & how-to books, children's books and graphic books will be tracked at a future date. Titles are included regardless of whether they are published in both print and electronic formats or just one format. E-books available exclusively from a single vendor will be tracked at a future date.

The universe of print book dealers is well established, and sales of print titles are statistically weighted to represent all outlets nationwide. The universe of e-book publishers and vendors is rapidly emerging, and until the industry is settled sales of e-books will not be weighted.

Among the categories not actively tracked at this time are: perennial sellers, required classroom reading, textbooks, reference and test preparation guides, journals, workbooks, calorie counters, shopping guides, comics, crossword puzzles and self-published books.


I had forgotten about what I highlighted in bold. So if you're self-published, or if you're sold from a single retailer, you're not even being tracked at this time.

I had the numbers to make it onto the list when Pocket-47 (which is available in all ebook formats) was the Kindle Daily Deal, but I didn't have the numbers across the board in the outlets other than Amazon.

Jay Allan said...


An NY bestseller can generate a 100 milion in sales. (That's why someone like you might outsell Mr. King but he'll make 30 million where the DIY chap will make 300,000.)


I've seen so many examples thrown around using "top of the sales heap" authors. Is that the best reason someone can offer for traditional publishing? That you might win the lottery and become Steven King? Because surely you are not suggesting that any significant percentage of traditionally published authors make that kind of money.


Amazon and the publishers are going to work together to keep those 100 million dollar hits rolling. There will be self-pubbing, of course, to a certain extent the midlist will be taken over by the ebook crowd, but let's not get too insane in our predictions.

First, I'm not so sure that Amazon's business model needs bestsellers as long as gross sales are maximized. They have a lot more leverage with a legion of smaller authors and publishers, the appeal of which should be apparent when you consider some of their recent squabbles with publishers. Huge bestsellers are helpful for a publisher to leverage their bloated costs and for economies of scale in printing and distribution, again, less of an issue for Amazon. Don't forget that Amazon sells a gazillion things. Everyone who buys a 0.99 e-book transacts with Amazon, and their business model is definitely to play into their customers' lives as frequently as possible.

But apart from all of that, I'm not sure Amazon couldn't create their own bestsellers easily enough. As per an earlier post, Nora Roberts is everywhere. Walmart, train station, airport, newsstand, etc. What could Amazon do with the same nuclear saturation treatment online? That bestseller display looked good when you were heading to your four hour flight, but you don't need a newsstand to grab a new book on your kindle.

What would not surprise me would be Amazon coming up with a program with enhanced marketing in exchange for exclusivity or an adjusted royalty rate. Would you take 50% and a year of exclusivity in exchange for meaningful promotion from Amazon?

My basic point is that the paradigm that created bestsellers is in the process of changing in a profound way, and no one knows how that will shake out.

But to use Nora Roberts as an example again, what would happen if every one of her books was taken off of every front table, rack, newsstand, etc., and thrown on the shelves spine out. What happens to her sales? Yes, the name is a brand, but what percentage of sales is loyal fans and what is ease of access?

Conversely, take some midlist author of a popular genre and instead of 5,000 copies with one or two buried in the store, print a million of them and plaster them everywhere so people see them ten times a day. What happens to those sales? No brand name, but do you think the guy still sells only 5,000?

Jude Hardin said...

Conversely, take some midlist author of a popular genre and instead of 5,000 copies with one or two buried in the store, print a million of them and plaster them everywhere so people see them ten times a day. What happens to those sales? No brand name, but do you think the guy still sells only 5,000?

The exposure would increase sales, but there's no way to predict by how much. Big print runs=big risk, unless you're dealing with an author who's already well known.

Sara Fawkes said...

I'd have to disagree with you about writing off social media, at least for the budding writer. There are few better ways to establish an initial fanbase than via Twitter and Facebook; readers love it when an author interacts with them and form a bond. Perhaps for those writers who are established or have a larger catalog of books it's not quite as useful and may seem a drain on resources, but I credit my "Tweeps" and Facebook fans for helping me get where I am today. :)

Sara Fawkes

Rich Van Gaasbeck said...

"Ebook sales aren't a zero sum game. A sale of one ebook doesn't preclude the sale of another, because this is a burgeoning global market with hundreds of new customers introduced daily, and people naturally horde more than they need. "

It's not a zero sum game, but there isn't infinite demand either. I think the economists call it decreasing marginal utility. I might want to pay $2.99 each for ten books, $0.99 for 100 and only a penny for 10,000. There's only so much time in a day to read regardless of how cheap something becomes.

If today an author is competing against 10 similar titles and tomorrow thousands, that would make a difference.

"If I can currently sell a few hundred ebooks a day in the US alone, what will happen when ebooks become popular in India, China, Japan, Europe, Russian, and South America? There will be a bigger demand than unique supply, and I believe my position will improve."

How many Bollywood movies have you seen? I think I've seen two. Entertainment is pretty culture specific. I would think that humor would be a particularly hard sell. Lots of English speaking ebook markets opening up would be good, and translations would help in the ones that are not, but I doubt the penetration rates would be near US rates.

Rich
"Way Outside the Box"

Joe Konrath said...

It's not a zero sum game, but there isn't infinite demand either

I'll sell a million ebooks to people who haven't even been born yet.

It may not be truly infinite, but to an author it might as well be.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I'm not sure I totally agree about advertising. While it may not work on everyone, I have known authors who used it successfully in selective venues. It is something to consider.

For social media, 90% of the times I tweet about what interests me. It that helps sales (I doubt that it does much) fine. If not, oh, well...

I'm not sure how much we will see a total collapse of publishers but whether we do or don't, we're well placed to go forward.

And yes, content. We can't sell unless we produce. They rarely buy blank pages.

Mack Mulluncey said...

"I want to end this blog entry by telling writers: Don't Be Afraid. Yes, the future will be different. Yes, things will change. But there will always be a need for storytellers...."

For me, the changes in the industry are scary in a great way. After years of sitting in a closet collecting dust bunnies, I've been able to release a novel that no publisher or agent wanted anything to do with. Who knows what will happen with it, but now that I have gone through the process on my own, I know it's possible.

I'm going to begin working on my next novel in a couple of weeks. I feel like my love of storytelling has been reborn, thanks to being able to get this book out there. And that would not have been possible but for the changes in the industry.

Michael McClung said...

At the end of the day my experience is that marketing at best gives you a short term boost in sales. Yes, it's nice to have say 50 extra sales because you got featured on a facebook site, but this is a long game. In the long run, there's a whole lot of hustle that just doesn't do anything for you but chew up your time and attention.

My personal take is to focus on the writing and be as widely distributed as possible, because you never know what's going to happen next. Two years ago Amazon had 90% of the ebook market; now estimates are they're down to 60% of a rapidly expanding pie. My own sales have never come from Amazon in any appreciable amount. iTunes has been much kinder to me.

But who knows? next year it might be Diesel that's putting butter on my bread. Before you scoff, they recently did a deal that will see ebooks offered as member rewards:

http://news.yahoo.com/diesel-ebooks-koinz-media-team-add-over-500-070025304.html

The point is, you just don't know. Nobody does. So it's prudent to put it out there as far and wide as possible, and focus on getting more good stuff written.

My $.02

Ian McCormick said...

In academic publishing *diminishing* returns are already a reality. It's not uncommon to receive a 3% royalty on a $60 book, or even worse, 2 free copies of your own work. In reality I'm now earnming three times more on my epubs compared to paper. Piracy is also a fear, and a reality, as many students (and libraries) won't pay those prices. E-books are democratising the market, and it is my belief that they may now be the best route for quality fiction, as well as scholarly factual works. But being a bestseller will always be a dream for the majority (logically, not everyone can be a mass-market winner!). That said, may writers would be happy with several hundred sales. And that's more in fact that a specialist academic hardback where the typical print run for a leading publisher is now less than 200. Kindle and Smashwords appear to be viable option for the aspiring writer - and may in time offer a bridge to traditional paper publication. The latter, of course, can also be achieved at no cost through Amazon's Print on Demand Service, Createspace. I agree that if you want to generate more impressive sales than your immediate friendship circle you will need to master basic promotional and marketing skills. But you could see that as part of the fun? Good luck!

Sasha said...

Wayne wrote: Kris Rusch has a good entry from earlier in the year on bestsellers:

http://kriswrites.com/2012/01/18/the-business-rusch-bestseller-lists-and-other-thoughts/

Thanks for posting that, Wayne - I recommend people have a look. I was amazed to find, for example, that publishers can buy the top slot in a bestseller list in a store. Unbelievable. And I trusted WH Smith! To think that they've been lying to me all these years...

RD Meyer said...

Honestly, I'd never heard of JA Konrath until I found this blog. Then I bought his books, and damn if he didn't have another fan.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Great post - and I've bookmarked 52Novels.

I do wonder, however, if there will actually be 100 million ebooks one day - everywhere I turn, someone's self-publishing. It's a good and positive thing for the author, but so much choice for the reader! Perhaps I'm just being overly pessimistic?

Anonymous said...

In regard to social media, since I rarely read any of the tweets I don't understand why anyone would read mine.

I've checked out the amazon chart ratings of people with 2000 followers plus, and they don't seem to be doing so well.

Get the feeling a little more oomph than twitter and facebook is required.

Ian McCormick said...

In response to Annalisa Crawford said... "I do wonder, however, if there will actually be 100 million ebooks one day - everywhere I turn, someone's self-publishing." ---

I think what this digital abundance means is that more emphasis will be placed on those who are trusted to curate or select the best materials (individual bloggers, for instance).

Also we will see more crowd- or mob- based schools of criticism (depending on your point of view?)

But we can be sure that the old hierarchies and orthodoxies are feeling threatened by the emergent writers. That's why they are dismissive, or take on a fighting attitude.

Jim Crigler said...

Haven’t had time for the comments (which appear to have been lively), but the article is spot on for economic analysis. Thanks, Joe.

Sasha said...

David Gaughran has an interesting post on his blog, concerning getting his books translated from English using a royalty-share rather than flat-fee model for translators, here:

http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/the-profit-sharing-translation-model-first-title-released/#more-2280

I agree with the poster who wrote about a lot of readers' taste in books being culture-specific, though. It doesn't mean it all is, however. French Amazon on its main drop-down menu of departments has "Books in French" and "Books in English and Foreign Languages". US and UK Amazon don't have the equivalent and we readers don't consume foreign-language books in such numbers. Being an English speaking author has big advantages.

Frank R. McBride said...

I am not entirely sure if Joe phrased that as a fact or possibility - but I don't think publishers will go extinct. When Napster came or after iTunes launched, the music industry cried about losing revenue and what not. Yet the big labels still exist, if only they have smaller revenues.

The same will be true for publishing houses. There will definitely be some houses that go bankrupt, but I doubt it will be the big conglomerates. They'll survive. Maybe the landscape will look different in a few years, but it is not like there is an asteroid heading for NY and the dinosaurs are going extinct.

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

Henry: People find you because Amazon promotes you.

Joe: Really? Care to show me all that promo they're doing for me?

I thought not.

Okay I'll show you -- here are your own words from previous blogs:

I made $100,000 in three weeks from people who have no idea who I am. If they knew who I was, they would have bought those titles years ago. Because they've been available for years.

Don't get me wrong. I know I have fans. I know I have some name recognition. But the sales they bring are paltry next to the marketing machine which is Amazon.

How do I know this for sure?

Because all of my other books were (until recently) on other platforms, where they did mediocre.

No special relationship with Amazon? Just an inexplicable anomaly in the marketing universe? Lol.

James Patterson is selling well on Kindle, but he's also selling well on Sony and Kobo and Apple and B&N. On Kindle, I'm outselling many Patterson titles. That isn't the case anywhere else.

Again, we wonder why. So strange. Lol

So it isn't my name or my past that is responsible for this success. Nor is it any marketing efforts I'm doing now, because I'm not doing any. I haven't visited my Facebook page in six months. I have a fan page but don't know how to use it. I've never bought an online ad. I've got Twitter followers, but they're writers, not fans.

Wait for it . . .

When Amazon made Stirred a Kindle Daily Deal, it hit #1.

It was better than anything I've been able to do on my own, even though I have some name-recognition.

No kidding.

Come on Joe, it's obvious that Amazon is in your corner, you've made that clear above. And that's just what you've made public.

The question is why Amazon would pick you. My answer is:

1) You were in early, proving the success of their system and so they know who you are and have made you a poster boy for KDP.

2) This blog and your profile as pro-Amazon anti-NY activist to other writers serves to promote Amazon's broader interests (ie, milking the long tail, hurting the publishers).

3) You're signed to them, for God's sake.

None of these conditions apply to the vast majority of other writers. There are tens and tens of thousands putting their stuff up on Amazon and nobody knows they exist -- that's the reality.

Personally, I've never yet read the first few pages of a self-pubbed book that are even remotely good. By good, I don't even mean literature good, I just mean genre good. Someone as good as Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy, for example. I mean it's not ever been anywhere close -- that's just my experience.

So I'm not surprised when I see discussions on the Kindle boards of people wanting Amazon to identify self-pubbers so they can avoid them because they've wasted time and money on crap. As a reader, I incline towards agreeing with them; seems to me, now more than ever in an ocean of crap, the seal of an established publisher with an illustrious history on a work is a guarantee of at least minimally literate standards, and will increasingly become more so.

As for the NY Times bestseller list being inaccurate, that's doesn't affect my point. My point is a relative one: there were many self-pubbed titles in the lists last year, that number has fallen dramatically. This is a relative indicator of some change or trend, and can't just be shrugged off.

Also, you didn't address my 52 shades point which is probably the most important. What is clearly happening is that as soon as a self-pubbed ebook starts to break out, it is picked up by an NY publisher and taken to the next level. I suspect many of the rather sycophantic commenters here would sign an offer from a NY publisher so fast the ink would burn.

Regards,
Henry

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Henry said, Come on Joe, it's obvious that Amazon is in your corner, you've made that clear above. And that's just what you've made public.

Other than his Thomas & Mercer titles, Amazon isn't promoting Joe any more than they're promoting me.

Believe me, I would LOVE it if Amazon were promoting me, but it just isn't true. They aren't promoting any of my friends, either, and we're all doing very well in sales. Not as well as Joe, but close.

I know there's the tendency to want to try to explain away someone's success as something nobody else can achieve, but the truth of the matter is that the potential is there for ALL self-publishers.

Will all of them get there? No. But it's possible to do quite well even without a shred of Amazon promotion.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Henry said, Someone as good as Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy, for example. I mean it's not ever been anywhere close -- that's just my experience.

You won't find that in traditional books, either. These two guys, and others like them, are exceptions. Extremely gifted writers. Very few writers in any venue achieve that kind of excellence.

Anonymous said...

"Let's say there are currently 100 million ebook readers, and 1 million ebook titles on Amazon. In ten years, there will be billions of ebook readers (following the path of mp3s)."

I'm sorry Joe, but this doesn't ring true. Comparing ebooks with MP3s is a false comparison. People consume more music than they do books and it is not because of price but time. You can listen to an MP3 player while doing other things: working, driving, walking the dog etc, the same isn't true of reading. Also, some people read just one or two titles a year and some people never read. According to surveys (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/21/AR2007082101045.html) 1 in 4 never read a book ever, and it is not price that prevents them; reading is just not for them. Low prices will sell more books, sure, but people who read a book a year or don't read any are not suddenly going to start buying dozens of e books because they are cheap, so why on Earth would they buy an e-reader?

Anonymous said...

Henry,

I agree with some of the points you make, but you need to read Hugh Howey, Joel Arnold, Michael Lamendola, Keith Blackmore, Nick Cole or Rob Cornell (to name a few). Incredibly talented writers who self-publish. Howey is still self-publishing in the US and using a traditional publisher elsewhere. This "mixed" deal seems to be pretty common with breakout self-publishers (Hocking and Locke signed similar deals). There's a reason they continue to self-publish a portion of their work. Howey said self-publishing in the US was still a better deal for him than the traditional publishers offered. Oh, and Howey sold the movie rights to his "Wool" series to Ridley Scott. Hard to do that with crappy writing.

Don't get me wrong, there is self-published crap, but to say it's all crap is a disingenuous and self-serving argument. Amazon makes it easy to find quality work and I seem to have no trouble at all finding it, so it's puzzling why it's so difficult for you to do the same.

Brian

Sasha said...

Rob Gregory Browne said, "Other than his Thomas & Mercer titles, Amazon isn't promoting Joe any more than they're promoting me."

and Joe (acc. Henry) said, "When Amazon made Stirred a Kindle Daily Deal, it hit #1."

I've only been following your blog for a few weeks, Joe, and there's a lot of backstory to read. Do you have a summary you can link to of what events have happened that might be considered Amazon promotion and what impact it had on sales? I'm not familiar with how Thomas & Mercer books are promoted, if at all - do they do anything? Put you on some list that readers would consider prestigous just because it's T&M? Wouldn't you consider Amazon putting your book as a Kindle daily deal as promotion? Anything like that might be expected to boost sales of books not in the promotion if new readers like your work.

Sasha said...

Anonymous 10:27am said: "Low prices will sell more books, sure, but people who read a book a year or don't read any are not suddenly going to start buying dozens of e books because they are cheap, so why on Earth would they buy an e-reader?"

It's people who read a lot who are going to buy e-readers. Whether e-readers can become cheap enough to expand the market to a billion people any time soon remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

"...it's possible to do quite well even without a shred of Amazon promotion."

While I do believe this is true, Rob, it never hurts to get a Kindle Daily Deal promo. :)

Brian

Joe Konrath said...

Again, we wonder why. So strange

Don't you read my blog?

I was referring to Amazon's marketing machine as the machinery in place to allow ebooks to succeed, which anyone can do. They weren't giving me special treatment. Lots of authors used KDP Select the same way.

The only time they did give me special treatment was with my Encore and Thomas & Mercer titles, which Amazon publishes, and which I already mentioned. Thomas & Mercer does that for pretty much all their titles.

The question is why Amazon would pick you.

I answered that question back in 2009. I'll recap:

Amazon Encore began republishing self-pubbed ebooks that were doing well, and they contacted me to ask if I'd like to do it with one of my recent DTP titles. I replied, "You have no idea who I am. Google me." They did, and said they didn't realize I was traditionally published. So I made them an offer. I said instead of reprinting some of my self-pub title, how about I give them a brand new title in a series that has an existing fanbase?

At this point, the seventh Jack Daniels book had been accepted by a publisher, and I'd been offered a contract. I refused that, and signed SHAKEN with Amazon Encore. I was the first author they published who had any legacy books. Now, as you know, they've signed many former legacy authors, and have imprints specifically to find new books rather than re-publishing self-pubbed stuff.

Amazon did well with both SHAKEN and its sequel, STIRRED, and they have outsold any of my previous Jack Daniels titles.

But guess what? My self-pubbed novels The List, Origin, Endurance, and Trapped, have outsold Shaken and Stirred. None of these were ever a Kindle Daily Deal, and none of them hit #1.

What is clearly happening is that as soon as a self-pubbed ebook starts to break out, it is picked up by an NY publisher and taken to the next level

I've seen newbies do this. But let's see someone with a legacy track record have a huge self-pubbed hit and then go back to legacy publishing.

Newbies don't know any better. When me or Bob Mayer, or Barry Eisler, or Blake Crouch, takes a legacy deal, then that'll be something to talk about. But even then, if someone paid any of us enough money, we'd take it. This is a business. If Random House wanted to give me two million for a book, I'd be an idiot to say know.

Less than two million, I'd be an idiot to say yes.

Joe Konrath said...

People consume more music than they do books and it is not because of price but time.

I have more books than CDs. My guess is I'm not alone.

but people who read a book a year or don't read any are not suddenly going to start buying dozens of e books because they are cheap, so why on Earth would they buy an e-reader?

Technology trickles down and becomes widely adopted. Household items that every home has were once luxuries that people lived without. But now everyone has a microwave, a cell phone, a computer, a mp3 player, etc.

We'll see if ereaders get added to that list. Methinks yes.

Shelby Cross said...

"Ever go into a store to buy a big ticket item, expecting to may more than you did? Let's say you research an over and find it for $699. When you go to the store, it is on sale for $499. And they also have a great toaster oven for $99. You probably wouldn't have bought the toaster oven originally, but now that you're saving money on the oven, the toaster oven becomes attractive.

If all ebook prices came down, more ebooks would be sold across the board."

I have to disagree with the point you're trying to make here. The economy is down. People are hurting. They are strapping their belts--yes, for how much they are willing to spend on books, too.
If I'm able to buy a vacuum for a couple hundred dollars less than I originally planned, I don't go buy the toaster I don't need, I put the money away for something I do need. More importantly, next time I need a vacuum?
I budget less.
Books will be the same. If I know I can buy quality books for $3.99 or less, there is no way I'm going to be willing to spend ten bucks on a single book. And as the prices go down, my willingness to take a chance on a higher-priced book diminishes.

Ty Johnston said...

We'll see if ereaders get added to that list. Methinks yes.

I would think it would already be the case, actually. Maybe not dedicated e-reading devices (Nook, Kindle, etc.), but considering every computer and tablet, and nearly all new phones and handheld devices, can act as an e-reading device ... I'd say we're there, or darn near it.

Not that the market is completely saturated. I don't think it's the hardware that still has to catch on as much as it is the notion of e-reading itself, and that still has plenty of room for growth.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

Hi everyone,
I wanted to thank Joe and the regular contributors to the blog.

Reading your comments has taught me about framing a point of view and expressing it in a cohesive way as well as how to respond to those that have a very different perspective.

I was just interviewed and those tools came in really handy!

Thanks again,
Veronica

Jill James said...

I love the idea of not hitting everyone over the head with "I've got a new book". Think I will get back to writing now.

Anonymous said...

Henry: What is clearly happening is that as soon as a self-pubbed ebook starts to break out, it is picked up by an NY publisher and taken to the next level

Joe: I've seen newbies do this. But let's see someone with a legacy track record have a huge self-pubbed hit and then go back to legacy publishing. Newbies don't know any better.

Well, off the top of my head, I can think of two examples, Stephen King and Stephen Leather.

King was a pioneer in self-publishing, as I recall, putting out The Plant (could be wrong on title) years before the ebook revolution. I think at the time he described it as a "licence to print money". Yet he went back to his traditional publisher.

Stephen Leather is a best-selling UK thriller writer who appeared as a guest post on your blog. He was a pioneer on Amazon UK, made a lot of money self-pubbing there. He still self pubs some titles, I believe, but he has signed a recent deal with his publisher.

He posted his thoughts on his blog, he's not counting publishers out and would rather work with them than self-pub even though he certainly knows how to do it and has been incredibly successful at it.

I'm sure I could find other examples if I searched . ..

I also wrote: The question is why Amazon would pick you.

To which you reply: I answered that question back in 2009. I'll recap:

Amazon Encore began republishing self-pubbed ebooks that were doing well, and they contacted me . . .


Well this is exactly what I said -- you were one of the earliest writers to start self-publishing w/ Amazon (and probably one of the only - if not the only - real writers, in the sense that you had been publishing for years before). Good for you, yours is a success story and that's great. But it does seem to me undeniable that you have a longstanding relationship with Amazon that is to the benefit of your present sales.

If you were to start publishing for the first time with KDP right now, your titles would be emerging into a far more competitive environment - not so? And might they not therefore have a tougher time gettng noticed the way they did back then?

@Brian - I'll happily check out any self-pubbed title you care to suggest. But so far I haven't been impressed.

Thinking about my buying patterns, I have often bought books based on reviews or articles from publications that I think do a good (ie professional) job of reviewing.

For example, I went out and bought Matterhorn (novel of the Vietnam war) based on a review in the NY Times. It was excellent, more than worth the price to me, and I'm glad I have it on my shelf. To me, Amazon star reviews by amateurs are fairly useless guides to what I'll enjoy.

I also love to browse in bookshops -- it's one of my favourite things to do. I've picked up lots of great work that way over the years.

I cannot say that the experience of browsing can be replicated on the screen by Amazon. Instead all I'm shown is a little strip with a few allegedly similar books (bought by others who bought the book I'm looking at). So there is no way to serendipitously discover a random treasure. If Amazon were to put a random button on the page I suspect you would get random garbage (all the hundreds of thousands - millions? - of DIY titles swamping out everything else) and the function would be useless.

But a bookstore, using publishers to vet the titles down to a manageable number, does a much much better job of exposing a reader to random wonderfulness, in my view.


Regards,
Henry

Joe Konrath said...

I'm sure I could find other examples if I searched . ..

King never quit legacy publishing. Neither did Leather. Find someone who gave it up, began writing novels expressly to self pub, then went back to legacy.

As I said, if a legacy publisher offers a boatload of money, take it. But for the most part, those who leave legacy are happy to do so, and I don't know anyone who left and then came back.

But it does seem to me undeniable that you have a longstanding relationship with Amazon that is to the benefit of your present sales.

How? Explain what they do for my KDP ebooks that they don't do for others?

If you were to start publishing for the first time with KDP right now, your titles would be emerging into a far more competitive environment - not so?

There's no competition. it isn't zero sum. And ask Robert Gregory Browne if it is possible to have a hit in this environment without having used KDP before.

He's one of many.

T Ludlow said...

People consume more music than they do books and it is not because of price but time.

Then again people will listen to a music track many, many times over their lifetime; in contrast, for most people most books will be a one-off experience.

A 12-hour audio-book equates to 180 'listens' of a four minute track.

Evens out the time element a little.

Sasha said...

Henry said: "For example, I went out and bought Matterhorn (novel of the Vietnam war) based on a review in the NY Times. It was excellent, more than worth the price to me, and I'm glad I have it on my shelf. To me, Amazon star reviews by amateurs are fairly useless guides to what I'll enjoy."

I think there's an interesting discussion to be had on how readers these days can quickly find a good book (if it hasn't already been had). I go first by professional reviews in the press and then check the Amazon reviews for those books that interest me. If there are articulate, well-reasoned reviews praising the book, that's encouraging. If the distribution of ratings has a peak at a high rating, particularly if the book has been out for a while so it's not just the author's friends reviewing it, great. But if the distribution shows a trough (lots of 5s, dipping in the middle, lots of 1s) then that suggests to me that it's fundamentally rubbish but that the author either has a lot of friends or has enough redeeming features to appeal strongly to some.

Sounds like Dan Brown? Oh, yes. Check out the ratings distribution of Digital Fortress:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Digital-Fortress-Dan-Brown/dp/0552159735/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342549838&sr=8-1

and The Da Vinci Code:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Vinci-Code-Dan-Brown/dp/0552149519/ref=pd_cp_b_3

and, most spectacular of all, Fifty Shades of Grey:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifty-Shades-Grey-E-James/dp/0099579936/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342549947&sr=1-1

Sasha said...

In reply to: "But it does seem to me undeniable that you have a longstanding relationship with Amazon that is to the benefit of your present sales."

Joe Konrath wrote: "How? Explain what they do for my KDP ebooks that they don't do for others?"

I think the point being made is not what they're doing now but what they've done in the past which may have given you a fanbase from which to build without needing further promotion from Amazon.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Sasha said, If the distribution of ratings has a peak at a high rating, particularly if the book has been out for a while so it's not just the author's friends reviewing it, great. But if the distribution shows a trough (lots of 5s, dipping in the middle, lots of 1s) then that suggests to me that it's fundamentally rubbish but that the author either has a lot of friends or has enough redeeming features to appeal strongly to some.

Interesting. The way I decide is I just click on LOOK INSIDE THIS BOOK, read a few pages and if it seems like something I'd enjoy, I buy it. The exact same way I bought in bookstores when they still existed.

I know too many people who love books I don't and don't love books I do. So what someone else says about it really means nothing to me, five star, one star, or anywhere in between.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Sasha wrote, I think the point being made is not what they're doing now but what they've done in the past which may have given you a fanbase from which to build without needing further promotion from Amazon.

I didn't have that fan base and Amazon didn't do a thing for me, yet I've sold thousands of books over the last month and a half.

What did it was a KDP Select giveaway that introduced me to 46,000 new readers and put me high in the free rankings (#2). Now, technically, I guess you could say that's Amazon's doing, but it's what they do for EVERYONE, not just me or Joe or anyone else who isn't published directly by Amazon.

Sasha said...

Rob Gregory Browne said "The way I decide is I just click on LOOK INSIDE THIS BOOK, read a few pages and if it seems like something I'd enjoy, I buy it. [...] I know too many people who love books I don't and don't love books I do. So what someone else says about it really means nothing to me, five star, one star, or anywhere in between."

I tend not to trust the first few pages - I think too much can stuff up on a more macro scale further down the line, though I agree it can reassure about basic writing style.

I also know a lot of people with opposite tastes to my own and postively avoid books if certain friends recommend them. But if a book on Amazon has a lot of reviews (say 30+) then I have some confidence in the average opinion, a la "wisdom of crowds".

Anonymous said...

King never quit legacy publishing. Neither did Leather. Find someone who gave it up, began writing novels expressly to self pub, then went back to legacy.

Seems a bit silly to me. There's no dividing line, a new contract is offered and the writer either signs or self publishes the ms.

Regardless, the publisher will still be putting out the backlist, so unless an author starts out 100% self pub, it's going to be a mix. (Suspect that's true of you too.)

You could argue writers are too fearful or ignorant to leave their publishers for the green pastures of self pub.

But my examples are of writers who have done very well self-pubbing, yet still have chosen to stay with traditional publishers. Why is that?
What's in it for them, if self-pubbing is such a no-brainer, as you seem to see it.

I don't mean that question sarcastically, I'm really curious as to what you think.

Is it because paper is still king (no pun intended)?

Or is it out of a sense of loyalty or a relationship with a particular editor?

Or is it because a traditional publisher still offers something that self publishing cannot.

Regards,
Henry

PS - had a great vacation in Chicago recently. Two thumbs up on Honker's Ale.

Sasha said...

Rob Gregory Browne wrote: "I didn't have that fan base and Amazon didn't do a thing for me, yet I've sold thousands of books over the last month and a half. What did it was a KDP Select giveaway that introduced me to 46,000 new readers and put me high in the free rankings (#2). Now, technically, I guess you could say that's Amazon's doing, but it's what they do for EVERYONE, not just me or Joe or anyone else who isn't published directly by Amazon."

That's great that you've had success and I think that's very encouraging for everyone. I wouldn't call that promotion - but it sounds as though Joe has had promotion through Amazon and that that may have contributed to him doing so well. Just because others have done well with no promotion doesn't mean that promotion hasn't helped him.

Anonymous said...

Rob Gregory Browne said "The way I decide is I just click on LOOK INSIDE THIS BOOK

Yes, but how do you find the book in the first place?

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Yes, but how do you find the book in the first place?

In the old days, I haunted the section of the bookstore that had the kind of books I preferred.

That hasn't changed. Only I do if virtually. And if a cover and a description grab me, I check inside.

In studies done they've found that most readers rely not on reviews or covers or blurbs, but on word of mouth.

Kmars said...

I was the first author they published who had any legacy books.

I thought John Rector was the first. Or maybe he was the first to turn down a big 6 contract to publish with Amazon.

Sasha said...

Those studies showing word of mouth works better than reviews always amazes me. My friends mostly hate the books I recommend and vice versa. Maybe there's just something horribly wrong with my taste.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Just because others have done well with no promotion doesn't mean that promotion hasn't helped him.

Of course Amazon promotion helps, but he was doing quite well before Amazon got involved, if I remember correctly. And I'm pretty sure Amazon signed him BECAUSE of that success.

I could be wrong. But the point is this. Some people want to dismiss Joe's success as an anomaly based on some kind of special boost. But the success of many other authors, who never had a lick of promotion from Amazon, proves that it isn't.

No one knows why one indie author succeeds and another doesn't. Timing, luck, whatever. But to suggest that someone's success somehow doesn't apply because "he or she got something no one else gets" is silly.

Wayne said...

Anon/Henry,

Check out another of Kris Rusch's articles on publishing about why bestsellers stay with publishers.
http://kriswrites.com/2012/05/16/the-business-rusch-the-brutal-2000-word-day/

I linked another of the blogs above related to bestseller lists. The overall series is worth reading. Both her and her husband Dean have a lot of years in various positions in the publishing chain.

Sasha said...

Hi Rob - if someone did indeed get something that others didn't then it seems only logical, rather than silly, to say that their success doesn't generalise. There seems to be a bit of confusion over whether Joe has had what most would consider promotion from Amazon or not. If he has, his case may be an anomaly that we can't generalise from. Your experience, and that of other unpromoted authors, on the contrary, would be experiences that we can generalise from.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Sasha said, if someone did indeed get something that others didn't then it seems only logical, rather than silly

You're right, and I should have added that "if" in my comment. But in this case, I don't believe Joe's success has anything to do with Amazon promotion. As I said, I'm pretty sure he was successful well before Amazon started courting him.

Sasha said...

Thanks, Rob - I'm hoping Joe might provide a link to a timeline of what promo/quasi-promo he got and sales, if he's got such a thing. It would be very interesting. This whole topic is fascinating.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Sasha, since I was first published several years ago, there has always been the question—and I think this is true for all writers—why is so-and-so selling better than me?

We often try to attribute it to, "Well, of course, he got more co-op," or "Well, the guy has a face that makes women's legs tremble" or "He was featured in the New York Times" and on and on and on.

And while these things surely CAN help an author, they don't ALWAYS help. Selling books is a black art that nobody understands. And why co-op or ads or good looks work for one author and don't for another is one of those things that just can't be explained.

But because we want desperately to understand it, and we're all desperately insecure about our own work, we always assume that "Oh, well, he got help. Of Course that's why he sold better."

It's a defense mechanism that we're all prone to, based largely on envy. And it's the kind of thing that can eat you up.

That's why when those same thoughts start creeping into my own mind, I try to shoo them away. As I said earlier, I'm not in competition with other authors. I'm only in competition with myself. And the only real control I have over the whole process is writing the book (and now, designing the cover, etc.).

As frustrating as it might be, whether or not the book becomes a success is largely out of our hands. We just have to do the best we can and hope the readers eventually find us.

The Daily Brass said...

I've spent the last 15 years honing my craft. I shelled out student loan money for an MFA. I published my stories in little journals that paid me in contributor's copies. After abandoning my first novel, I spent three years working with an agent in whipping my next novel into shape while all the while book stores were closing, publishers were taking fewer chances on emerging authors, and paying less and less to those they did.

Meanwhile, there is this explosion in self publishing with people having complete control over their work and making money doing it. My choice seemed pretty clear.

And now Anonymous tells me there aren't any good self published authors. The same could easily be said about new traditionally published authors. I don't think he's looking hard enough.

poetsforpeanuts said...

All I know is that a year ago, as I finished my English degree, the thought of getting an agent and having my book in bookstores seemed like an impossible, long-term, lifetime goal.

But now, thanks to Amazon, in as little as 7 months I am already making $1000/month off of my books... and that is a humble little sum compared to what many Kindle authors are doing!

This whole "doomsday publishing armageddon" scenario seems misplaced to me. Common sense tells me that, as long as Amazon retains an open market, writers have a shot at living off of their craft and not having to "prove" anything to anybody. Talent (with a bit of promoting) will rise to the top, no strings attached.

Maybe indie authors will never have the prestige and recognition that an acclaimed "bestseller" NY Times pretentious wonder-baby will have... but honestly, I'm not interested in that. I just want to live off of my writing. And now, thanks to ereaders, I CAN.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

We need a "like" button for the last two comments.

Sasha said...

Hi Rob - I very much get not wanting to overanalyse what factors outside your control might help others to be successful. The luck has to fall somewhere, even among people getting no promo, because the world has lots of randomness in it. You have done well to be successful in such a difficult environment.

Glenna J. said...

One thing I'd love to hear you talk about, Joe, is the profits most of the Big 6 are making, assumably off ebook sales, and how that's going to affect the future. It seems to me that the big six and the publishing industry are a long way from collapse, and what they need to do is continue to adapt to these new ways of selling books.

I noticed a couple months ago that St. Martins lowered the ebook prices for several of their books to $2.99. This immediately sent these books racing up the charts. Sophie Littlefield is one author that comes to mind. Her first novel made it in the top 100 after the price drop, and her other books climbed in rank, too. It seems like these publishers are seeing the writing on the wall, and they're experimenting. This makes me think they'll be around for a long long time.

I went to thrillerfest for craft fest this year, and spend a lot of time talking to people in the industry. I have to disagree with Bob. They didn't seem all that scared. They were still indifferent to self publishing, but if anything they seemed like they felt like everything was going to be fine. Denial, or is it possible they know something we don't?

Sasha said...

The Daily Brass wrote "And now Anonymous tells me there aren't any good self published authors. The same could easily be said about new traditionally published authors."

I made a comment last week, in a somewhat lead-balloon manner, that the lack of a quality filter for self-published books, other than the author's own judgement, means that self-pubbed books as a group will have a longer tail of egregiously awful books than legacy books. However, what a quality filter doesn't do is restrict high-quality books to legacy publishers. Good authors can go where they choose and they'll go where the best deal is.

Lee Child, at a conference I attended, said (if I remember correctly) that he wrote the end of 61 Hours as a cliffhanger because he didn't feel confident that he would get his contract renewed. He said that publishers sometimes got rid of high-selling authors because they were expensive and wanted to make room for new authors who they wanted to develop. I wonder what he, and other bestsellers like him, will do when their contracts come up for renewal in these days of KDP, etc. Since a lot of authors seem to be on two- and three-book deals (I think), quite a few of those might be coming up.

Anonymous said...

"It's people who read a lot who are going to buy e-readers. Whether e-readers can become cheap enough to expand the market to a billion people any time soon remains to be seen."

I think the real weakness in the expanding market argument is that there is a limited number of people who enjoy reading enough to buy books.

You could give away Kindles to millions of people who would have little interest in using them, unless you gave them a Fire and then they could game on it or watch a movie.

I don't see it as an ever-expanding market, though I don't know what that will mean in terms of pricing and the income self-publishers will make.

In fact if the e-readers of the future tend to be more like the Nook Tablet, Kindle Fire, Google Nexus, and the rumored 8" iPad then I even wonder if that might hurt book sales. People may be more inclined to use their devices for things other than reading.

trentevansletters said...

Sasha,

I must respectfully disagree with your characterization of this as a "competition" The title of this post says it all. This isn't a competition; a purchase from writer A does not result in one less purchase for writer B. It's natural to think this of course, which is probably why Joe posted about it.

I do agree with your post about dated backlist though. For some writers, this will never be an issue. For others though, it can be an experience akin to watching an 70s/80s action movie that you loved as a kid, but upon watching it again it leaves...much to be desired:)

Xeis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T Ludlow said...

Sasha: But if the distribution shows a trough (lots of 5s, dipping in the middle, lots of 1s) then that suggests to me that it's fundamentally rubbish but that the author either has a lot of friends or has enough redeeming features to appeal strongly to some.

I always check out the review history of a selection of five-star reviewers. Quite often you'll find that it's their only review and that all the other high-scoring reviews are the same ie one-offs. Pretty much a smoking gun for a fix in my opinion.

I recently came across an ebook with lots of five star reviews from reviewers with long histories. Trouble was that all the reviews from these people were all five stars and all for ebooks published by the same indie epublishing house. It's easy to abuse the Amazon review system, but a little checking pays dividends.

Sasha said...

Hi trentevansletters - I don't think that either extreme view of competition between books for available spend is likely to be true. I agree with you that one book less bought from A is not one book less bought from B; I think the market has more room for expansion than that. But I don't think that that room is infinite. So I think there may be an element of competition but I wouldn't like to say how big it is and whether it's likely to have practical effects.

I was really trying to make the point that indie authors shouldn't fear legacy bestsellers' backlists quite so much, but perhaps my point about competition was irrelevant (and as you point out, that point was not all that convincing).

Actually, perhaps indies should welcome bestseller backlists in their genres. Readers who grow to love a genre because they're reading the best writing in it will sooner or later run out and want more, and that's all the more market for other writers.

Sasha said...

T. Ludlow wrote "Trouble was that all the reviews from these people were all five stars and all for ebooks published by the same indie epublishing house. It's easy to abuse the Amazon review system, but a little checking pays dividends."

Yeesh. Maybe this is why people like series books so much. You know where you are with them.

Kira Wilson said...

As two of those newbies, my husband and I will be taking this advice to heart. Please keep it coming, Mr. Konrath! Your blog has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for us!

evilphilip said...

"One thing I'd love to hear you talk about, Joe, is the profits most of the Big 6 are making, assumably off ebook sales, and how that's going to affect the future. It seems to me that the big six and the publishing industry are a long way from collapse, and what they need to do is continue to adapt to these new ways of selling books."

This is correct. Book sales are up across the board. The rise of the Kindle and the nook benefits the big publishers more than it does the indie authors since they are still charging a premium for new novels and every book they sell at $9.99 gets them tons more profit than a $24.95 hardcover.

They have the established pool of talent to draw from and those "name" authors are what readers are looking for -- even if that means on the Kindle or the nook.

They can use their money to influence Amazon into doing promotions for specific books, driving them up the bestseller lists.

That isn't going to change as we move away from print and into digital.

Even Amazon knows which side of the bread gets the butter -- as evidenced by their changing the weight of their Top 100 lists to push higher priced books higher up the lists -- since those are the books Amazon makes more money from.

There is an indie revolution going on, but it is mostly confined to authors who never would have risen above the mid-list in the first place.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anonymous wrote, I think the real weakness in the expanding market argument is that there is a limited number of people who enjoy reading enough to buy books.

Actually, I think that studies have shown that the Kindle is generating MORE interest in reading, especially among young people. If that's not fruit for an expanding market, I don't know what is.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Quite often you'll find that it's their only review and that all the other high-scoring reviews are the same ie one-offs. Pretty much a smoking gun for a fix in my opinion.

I think that's a natural assumption, but I found that with TRIAL JUNKIES, several of the 5 Star reviews come from people who have only reviewed the one book. But those reviews were completely unsolicited.

Some people simply get enthusiastic about a book they like and post a review.

But this is why I use the sampling method. To my mind, you can tell in the first few paragraphs whether or not this is an author you're going to want to spend time with.

David L. Shutter said...

They have the established pool of talent to draw from and those "name" authors are what readers are looking for

And an ocean of backlist content, locked uner under 50 page, bible print contracts...in perpetuity.

Just out of curiosity, because Nora the Great is mentioned so often, I went to look at just how many books she had. Arrived at more than a few Amazon reviews of recent releases that said: "read this in 1980's as a teenager, has new cover and title, feel cheated."

I'm not knocking Mr. Roberts at all, just saying that with a massive warchest of backlist name brand material, there are susbstantial options for NYC to build sales off of in the long term.

evilphilip said...

"Personally, I've never yet read the first few pages of a self-pubbed book that are even remotely good. By good, I don't even mean literature good, I just mean genre good."

Send me your E-mail address and I'll gift you a copy of one of my stories.

Joe Konrath said...

One thing I'd love to hear you talk about, Joe, is the profits most of the Big 6 are making, assumably off ebook sales, and how that's going to affect the future.

I am 100% positive the Big 6 will not be able to keep paying authors 25% royalties. If it doesn't go up, they'll be gone in a few years.

Here's the problem for them, though; if they pay authors more, they won't be able to make overhead. And I don't credit them with enough brains to effectively restructure.

So I pretty much see the majority of publishers gone by 2018.

evilphilip said...

"And an ocean of backlist content, locked uner under 50 page, bible print contracts...in perpetuity."

I agree with your comments above. I don't see the backlist as something most authors should be looking at turning into new Kindle/nook/Kobo content. There are very few people who I want to read their old titles.

The people whose backlist I want to read -- their backlist is still in print because they are the big name authors.

I think most people should be focused on putting out new content. I know of a horror author whose work I really enjoy and he has been so busy the last 24 months putting his backlist up on the Kindle that I haven't seen a single new book from him. I don't need to read his backlist, I own it.

It's just a feeling, but I don't think backlist is the way for people to go, even those reputable genre authors who have a big backlist.

New, new new. Focus on new work.

evilphilip said...

"So I pretty much see the majority of publishers gone by 2018."

Six years? You see the majority of big publishers as being gone in six years???

That isn't going to happen. They still have way too many big name authors and authors who are obsessed with being in "print" for that to happen.

evilphilip said...

"So I pretty much see the majority of publishers gone by 2018."

I didn't mean to throw that out there like an insult without qualifications.

What I mean is... why would any of the big publishers fail when book sales are up and profits are up?

Jude Hardin said...

I am 100% positive the Big 6 will not be able to keep paying authors 25% royalties. If it doesn't go up, they'll be gone in a few years.

Here's the problem for them, though; if they pay authors more, they won't be able to make overhead.


I don't know. Shouldn't overhead be a lot lower once ebooks are firmly established as the dominant format?

Adam Pepper said...

Rob Gregory Browne,

Well put! Envy is so destructive and we see so much of it. Ive come to realize if anything is standing between me and success, it's my own shortcomings. I need to work harder and be more productive, rather than wasting energy on begrudging others for their success. I'm more productive for it. I'm pretty sure a few of the commenters here would be better served to work harder, rather than take shots at Joe. The end result of that anger hurts the commenter and not the target.

Rob Cornell said...

I agree with some of the points you make, but you need to read Hugh Howey, Joel Arnold, Michael Lamendola, Keith Blackmore, Nick Cole or Rob Cornell (to name a few).

Hey, Brian. No idea who you are, but I love you, man. :) Thanks for that.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I don't know. Shouldn't overhead be a lot lower once ebooks are firmly established as the dominant format?

Doubtful. I think much or probably most of the overhead comes from staffing, office space, and marketing. And last time I was in New York and had lunch with my editor, we didn't eat at McDonald's.

Printing is an expense, of course, but I don't think it's the biggest expense and I don't think there will be a huge reduction in costs when it's gone.

Then again, I could be full of shit.

Joe Konrath said...

What I mean is... why would any of the big publishers fail when book sales are up and profits are up?

Because when ebooks are dominant and print is niche, no author will accept 17.5% royalties from a publisher when they can get 70% on their own.

Joe Konrath said...

Shouldn't overhead be a lot lower once ebooks are firmly established as the dominant format?

You are giving publishers credit for being able to run a smooth, streamlined, cost-cutting business with little waste. Which they have been incapable of for the past 75 years.

Jude Hardin said...

Printing is an expense, of course, but I don't think it's the biggest expense and I don't think there will be a huge reduction in costs when it's gone.

There's the cost of the paper itself, the printing process, shipping, warehousing, paying for co-op space in bookstores, the cost of dealing with returns, printed catalogs, travel expenses for marketing reps, travel expenses for authors and their media escorts on book tours...

It seems to me a lot of expenses will be eliminated once ebooks are the dominant format. Some of that could go to pay authors higher royalties.

Jude Hardin said...

You are giving publishers credit for being able to run a smooth, streamlined, cost-cutting business with little waste. Which they have been incapable of for the past 75 years.

They should make me CEO! ;)

evilphilip said...

"Because when ebooks are dominant and print is niche, no author will accept 17.5% royalties from a publisher when they can get 70% on their own."

You might be willing to take 70% of a few thousand copies, but I still suspect the Stephen King's will prefer their 17.5% of a few million copies.

17.5% of 1 Million copies at $9.99 each is $1,748,250. 70% of 100,000 copies is $70,000.00.

If you play the numbers game the big publishers still win out for the big name authors. As long as they have the big name authors under their belt then the "Big 6" aren't going anywhere.

A lot of what the big publishers bring to the table will continue to be important in the future. Look at the massive amount of marketing push John Scalzi has been getting from Tor for his novel Redshirts. You can't do that on your own. I've read Redshirts, it's a terrible novel. It never would have sold if it had to stand on its own. The marketing muscle Tor was able to push behind that novel made it a success.

Scalzi's 17.5% of a few million copies is way better than the handfull of copies the story would have sold on its own once word got out how terrible it was.

As other people have pointed out -- the move from print to eBook benefits the big publishers as much as it does the indies. Without printing, warehousing and shipping costs they can put more money into those things that they ARE good at (editing, covers, marketing, etc.).

And while eBooks are 20% of all books sold, what didn't happen is that the increase in the number of eBooks sold didn't cannabalize the sales of print books. Sales of print books are up.

You constantly push this idea that the big publishers are hurting and are on their way out. Your conclusion isn't based on any facts -- the numbers don't support it.

Michael McClung said...

Quite often you'll find that it's their only review and that all the other high-scoring reviews are the same ie one-offs. Pretty much a smoking gun for a fix in my opinion.

There's a reviewer on Amazon who has reviewed almost all of my titles, glowingly- and nobody else. They are also almost the only person who has reviewed my stuff.

I've no idea who they are, and I know exactly what it looks like. But what can I do? Ask Amazon to delete the reviews? That way madness lies...

Casey Moreton said...

A couple of things.

1) Terry Goodkind has just released a self-pubbed full-length novel title The First Confessor. Goodkind is a huge brand in legacy publishing, but he has clearly seen the writing on the wall. His new book is currently #127 in the Kindle store at $8.99.

2) After the success of The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris had it written into his contract that he was to receive no editing from his publisher on his next book. They published it exactly as it came to them in the mail. So for Hannibal and whatever came after, the books were never touched but anyone but Harris himself.

Taken from EW, May 7, 1999. Regarding Thomas Harris...He cooks, he paints, and — slower than his fans would like — he writes. (And when he's done, he's done: Harris refuses to entertain any editing suggestions.)

Joe Konrath said...

You might be willing to take 70% of a few thousand copies, but I still suspect the Stephen King's will prefer their 17.5% of a few million copies.

Think it through.

If B&N closes, and print becomes niche (a certainty) then print runs will drop dramatically. As ebooks take over, all places where books are sold (airports, grocery stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, drug stores) will stop selling books because they will want shelf space for things that do sell.

So Steve won't sell a million in print. He'll be left with ebooks.

And what to publishers do to promote ebooks?

Nada. They simply take a big cut of the profits. For what? Editing? Cover art?

Do you really believe, when there are 500 bookstores left in the US, and books are no longer sold at Walmart or CVS, that King will be okay with 25% royalties? 50% royalties?

Casey Moreton said...

From USA Today regarding the publication of Hannibal:

His contract (two books for $5 million) calls for no editing, which helped speed Hannibal into print.

Anonymous said...

1.) You said you write this blog so you have an opportunity to learn things by having people come to you, instead of you going to them, because it's easier that way.

2.) You say publicity doesn't matter. So the millions of hits per year this blog gets doesn't matter.

3.) Your blog fans aren't wht drive you sales numbers.

4.) Skill, luck, distribution, and pricing are what sells books.



So Mr. I-Like-To-Learn, why don't you try an experiment...

An experiment that will settle the controversy...

SHUT DOWN THIS BLOG FOR A FEW MONTHS, take the blog completely off line so your blog fans can't access it.

Zero traffic, and zero views.

Then see how well your sales do without this blog as a promotion tool.

Walk the walk, or is it all just talk?

Casey Moreton said...

SHUT DOWN THIS BLOG FOR A FEW MONTHS, take the blog completely off line so your blog fans can't access it.

Zero traffic, and zero views.

Then see how well your sales do without this blog as a promotion tool.


Blah blah blah.

I don't have a blog, and I do NOTHING to promote my books other than the occasional tweet which I really think is basically useless. And guess what? For most of this past spring and summer most of my Kindle titles have been ranked higher than Joe's (no offense, Joe, just trying to make a point ;)
I have no idea what Joe's sales have been, but I can ballpark it. This of course will shift and change as the year rolls on because it always does. The tide rises and falls. Just ask CJ Lyon about the difference in her sales now compared to a year ago.

Joe has made the point a million times that this blog is read by industry people and writers, not readers. A year or more ago I might have sang a different tune, but I'm now convinced this blog doesn't drive business to his books, at least not more than a few dozen copies per month. His books sell because of interesting premises, great covers, good descriptions, timing, and of course....luck.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

You might be willing to take 70% of a few thousand copies, but I still suspect the Stephen King's will prefer their 17.5% of a few million copies. 17.5% of 1 Million copies at $9.99 each is $1,748,250. 70% of 100,000 copies is $70,000.00.

Self-publishers on Amazon only need to sell a fraction of that to make $70,000, while charging only $3.99.

But say Stephen King self-pubs and has a million downloads (which WOULD likely happen.) @ 70% of 9.99, he would make nearly 7 million dollars, unless my math is wonky.

Kind of a no-brainer, don't you think?

Rob Gregory Browne said...

SHUT DOWN THIS BLOG FOR A FEW MONTHS, take the blog completely off line so your blog fans can't access it.

Are we back to this again?

There are many authors out there making even more money than Joe at self-publishing. Where are their blogs? What are their platforms other than their books?

Joe is NOT an anomaly. Why don't you GET that?

P.S. Power said...

"Joe is NOT an anomaly. Why don't you GET that?"

Remembered when I warned everyone about how I can easily see conspiracies where massive companies in obvious collusion are involved? (They all just "happened" upon 17.5% royalty rates? Really?" No one does 15.6 or 19.2 %? Not for a certain class of book at least.)

Well, I think that calling for something like closing a blog that speaks out about the wrongs of the publishing industry and how they're fading might just be related to that.

I can't prove it, but it seems a bit strange to me. Especially if it's a theme that people keep bring back up. Let me ask this... The people saying that, do they tend to be anonymous?

Jay Allan said...


I tend not to trust the first few pages - I think too much can stuff up on a more macro scale further down the line, though I agree it can reassure about basic writing style.


Funny, because I tend to feel just the opposite. I am highly distrustful of self-appointed gatekeepers telling what to like and what not to like.

What is a professional reviewer anyway? Perhaps a "professional" can pass judgment on grammar, but what qualifies one to determine what I (or anyone else) would enjoy? I hate this notion that people need to be followers, looking to a few wise people to condescend and tell us what we should do.

I don't like raisins, and I don't think a professional food critic or chef or nutritionist telling me they are delicious would change my mind.

I agree that an individual review on Amazon (or in the Times for that matter) is probably next to useless, but I actually think the "amateur" reviews are better, as they are written from a perspective other than wanting to get invited to the hot cocktail parties, and certainly, a trend among numerous such reviews is far more useful to me.

evilphilip said...

"But say Stephen King self-pubs and has a million downloads (which WOULD likely happen.) @ 70% of 9.99, he would make nearly 7 million dollars, unless my math is wonky."

Publishers are what cause the 7 million sales. Without the publishers you aren't going to see millions of sales -- you are going to see thousands of sales or hundreds of thousands. (Yes, I know there have been 2 exceptions, but those authors sold their books at a discount.) That is more than good enough for the people who want to self publish, but I'm saying that the fact that people can self publish doesn't mean that there is going to be some massive shift in the industry where the top earners suddenly turn to self publishing en masse and the Big 6 agencies suddenly go out of business as Joe flat out said. That's a ludicrous suggestion not even partially based on facts or current trends.

It's a fearmongering catch phrase. A majority of the big publishers will be out of business in six years? I have to call bullshit on that on.


"If B&N closes, and print becomes niche (a certainty) then print runs will drop dramatically."

That is a pretty big IF and it isn't one that can be predicted at this point. We are at 20% eBook to 80% print right now and the growth in eBooks didn't come at the cost of print sales.

Right here in 2012 while B&N is still doing good-to-average and eBooks are only 20% of all books sold. It's way too early for doom and gloom predictions.

"And what to publishers do to promote ebooks?"

As long as we are playing What if? then the answer to your question is simple -- the same things they do now to promote print books. They will pay Amazon.com and B&N.com to push their books out to customers in newsletters & e-mail blasts and pay to have those books pushed on the front page of Amazon.com and B&N. They will pay to make sure that their books place higher on the Amazon.com best seller lists. (Something I suspect is already happening.) They will pay to make sure that those limited number of print books that remain make it into the grocery stores, Walmarts and big-box stores.

They will take out advertising in the New York Times and/or other print media. They will (as they did with John Scalzi) pay to push advertising for their book in the New York Times iPhone App and/or pay for advertising on prominent websites -- and in Scalzi's case they pushed the living hell out of his book at the San Diego Comic Con. That certainly is showing a good knowledge of the market for his book.

The venue might change, but the strategy would remain about the same.

evilphilip said...

"Kind of a no-brainer, don't you think?"

If it is such a no-brainer, why isn't he doing it???

Rob Gregory Browne said...

If it is such a no-brainer, why isn't he doing it???

Who says he won't, eventually? We're in the infancy of this movement. JK Rowling is already doing it with the Harry Potter books, why not Stephen King?

Give it time.

evilphilip said...

"JK Rowling is already doing it with the Harry Potter books, why not Stephen King?"

Rowling was a huge exception, her books were never available as eBooks and she is still splitting her money with her publisher. We don't really know if her percentage is any better than 17.5%. We assume it is, but there isn't any way to know that considering the huge investment it was to set up Pottermore.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Publishers are what cause the 7 million sales. Without the publishers you aren't going to see millions of sales -- you are going to see thousands of sales or hundreds of thousands.

By what logic do you come up with that? Amazon has millions of customers and sells millions of books. If Stephen King posted a book on Amazon, you don't have to be a genius to know that at least a million people would by the book, and probably much, much more.

Would this happen with anyone else? Doubtful. But it wouldn't have to. At 70%, a big name would have to sell far fewer books to make a LOT of money.

If Joe's doing 100K in a month (and I have another friend who regularly does six figures a month), that's nothing to sneeze at.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I didn't finish my last thought.

If Joe's making that kind of money (as are others), a superstar could easily make much, much more.

evilphilip said...

"Amazon has millions of customers and sells millions of books. If Stephen King posted a book on Amazon, you don't have to be a genius to know that at least a million people would by the book, and probably much, much more."

King is always going to be an exception... because he's the King.

Look at the example I used above of John Scalzi. He is a semi-popular mid-list SciFi author. Tor gave his novel Redshirts a MASSIVE marketing push and the novel was burning up the best seller lists prior to being released.

It isn't a very good novel. In fact, it's terrible.

On its own the title and description might have made him quite a bit of money. It's a cute concept and the first chapter is pretty good (it goes downhill really fast).

I could see him selling 100,000 copies over a period of time on his own. With Tor pushing and pushing and pushing that novel you know it is moving copies (Scalzi has said that early sales were really good).

That is the power that publishers bring to the table and the power they will continue to weild even when more eBooks are sold than print copies.

Unknown said...

Jon, this site feels like a lifeline. In the past two weeks I've been eating up what you and other like-minded e-pubbers have said and it gives me hope. I have a Very Big Agent who hasn't been able to sell my first book, is meh on the second one, and I can't stomach the thought of trying to write another book... for HER tastes (how many here have written something with your agent in mind?)

So I'm going to e-publish in September, after I feel like I've done enough research to do it right. I'll have two titles, and one more by xmas. But. But.

From what I've read, the stars of epublishing either write series or in genres that I don't write in, like paranormal, scifi, thriller, true crime, etc. I don't have a series (though I might in the future), and I don't know what my "brand" might be. My first title is realistic YA, the second is a quirky, black comedy mystery (not YA), and the third will be a YA caper/comedy. I'm hoping someone here can tell me not to worry about not selling.

Or I could just decide not to worry. But it would be nice to hear some success stories too. Thanks, all.

Larry Buhl said...

That above comment was mine. I hate being called "unknown," especially given my comments about fearing being, you know, unknown.

Wayne said...

I read a while back some publisher claiming that authors are their biggest expense, think it was a link on Passive Guy's blog. They were justifying why eBooks are so expensive and that the loss of paper wasn't saving them much. So if they offered higher advances or royalties they would be hurting more.

Frank R. McBride said...

Think it through.

If B&N closes, and print becomes niche (a certainty) then print runs will drop dramatically. As ebooks take over, all places where books are sold (airports, grocery stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, drug stores) will stop selling books because they will want shelf space for things that do sell.

So Steve won't sell a million in print. He'll be left with ebooks.

And what to publishers do to promote ebooks?

Nada. They simply take a big cut of the profits. For what? Editing? Cover art?

Do you really believe, when there are 500 bookstores left in the US, and books are no longer sold at Walmart or CVS, that King will be okay with 25% royalties? 50% royalties?


No offense Joe - but this is just silly. 6 years for everything to go down the drain is not gonna happen. There will be publishers that have to close, but houses like Random House, who have a massive international conglomerate behind them, will still exist.

What makes you think that publishers will just let print die and not shift their effort to e-books? Just because in your opinion they are not doing enough right now?

Print is still King - so that is why publishers focus their effort there. And as much as you want to deny it, publishers are putting out ebooks. Most of the bestsellers are ebooks put out by publishers.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I too believe the big six with continue in the new eWorld. And as much as they appear to hate Amazon they must admit that Amazon sell a heck of a lot of their books and will continue to do so.

Frank R. McBride said...

That last sentence reads a little wrong - should be:

Most of the ebook bestsellers have been put out by publishers.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you're right, Stephen King probably won't sell a million copies of his self-pubbed ebook...

He'll probably sell a LOT more than that!

Think about it....much less known writers, such as Bella Andre and Marie Force are already on track to sell over a million copies of their books this year. They're averaging 70-100k copies sold....per month.

Am guessing someone with the brand name recognition of Stephen King could at least do the same....if not much more.

It really is a no-brainer.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

That is the power that publishers bring to the table and the power they will continue to weild even when more eBooks are sold than print copies.

But how often does a publisher do that, and when they do, how often do they succeed? In the scheme of things, not very often.

Their "power" is selective and dependent on the same timing and luck we all depend on.

C R Myers said...

Thank you, Joe. Great insight, as usual. The world of writing and publishing has changed. It was changing long before the Kindle or other e-book readers hit the market, and now it's at a dead run. Keep telling it like it is.

Cat :D

Joe Konrath said...

You said you write this blog so you have an opportunity to learn things by having people come to you, instead of you going to them, because it's easier that way.

That's one reason. Another is because it helps me coalesce my thoughts.

You say publicity doesn't matter. So the millions of hits per year this blog gets doesn't matter.

The majority of my sales are from people who have no idea who I am. They discover me while browsing Amazon.

There are hundreds of authors selling well on Kindle without a popular blog. You do know that invalidates your argument, right?

You know I have a pen name Jack Kilborn, and his books outsell Konrath? Kilborn doesn't have a blog.

SHUT DOWN THIS BLOG FOR A FEW MONTHS

Do you work for the Big 6? Years ago I made the Big 6 an offer. I said I'd quit blogging forever for a million dollars.

They should have paid me. This blog has easily cost them that many times over in lost revenue and bad publicity.

Until that happens, I'll keep blogging because it benefits me, and it benefits others as well.

Joe Konrath said...

What makes you think that publishers will just let print die and not shift their effort to e-books?

Of course they will shift their efforts to ebooks.

But no author with half a brain will stick with them.

Authors will destroy publishing. I predicted this years ago.

In 2009 there were a few authors like me.

Now there are thousands.

More and more midlist and bestselling authors will begin to self-pub. Each one that leaves the Big 6 is one more loss of income to publishers. How many have to leave before they can't keep the lights on?

Anonymous said...

We keep missing the mark here: the real impact of self-pub is on the mid-listers like Joe - or the never-been-published group like me.

Similar to a few others on this thread, I wrote for 4 years and accumulated 500+ rejections.

I self-pubbed 16 months ago and have since sold 90,000 copies, most at $3.99. I have 11 offerings, none of which have ever been ranked higher than 1200 overall. All in a genre that agents told me was dead.

My blog averages 82 hits a day, yet I earn $10k+ each month. However, I am quite active on FB and Twitter.

My long tail seems to be 10 copies a day, that is where all my books seem to settle. At an avg price point of $2.99 I make $600 per book per month after they've been out there for a year plus. Try finding that with the Big 6.

For what it's worth...

Henry said...

T Ludlow said...

Henry: Literature, like diamonds, has no intrinsic value. It's just words, which are free. What you fail to understand is that publishers have been the people who have, for centuries, carefully built up the cachet that surrounds literature, the cultural capital that gives it its importance. The aura that drives the whole thing.

This is the most bizarre thing I've read in a long time. It's publishers that make literature important? They've been pulling the strings have they? Carefully building things up all these centuries? (What is this, a Dan Brown plot?) I like Patrick O'Brien novels and am prepared to pay for them because Harper Collins and the like have carefully built up a 'cachet'. It's driven by an 'aura' you say, not my willingness to invest money to enjoy a well-written story? News flash: publishers are nothing but middlemen. The carrots do not taste better because they come from a store, if I got them from the farm they would be just as nice. Jeez.


Okay, I see my analogy doesn't fly with you. Let me put it another way, see if I can get my point across.

Let's say Prada makes a handbag. Designed in Italy, manufactured in the far east. With the Prada label on it, it retails on 5th Ave. for $2,000.

Same bag gets made in same factory, looks almost identical. Call it Wada instead of Prada. Wada sells for 250 bucks downtown.

There is nothing physical to distinguish the bags. What Prada has (like diamonds) is an intangible cachet, a sense of quality that draws a certain clientele. It doesn't matter if I, or you think that that's bullshit, that's the way it is.

Now -- in literary terms, the big publishing houses are like Prada. The handbags they make sell at a premium. And the self-pubbers are the cheap knock-offs.

Konrath guys come along, say I can make a bag just like that. They start selling their knock-offs of King and Grisham, etc. for a huge mark-down and they're doing really well.

Good for them.

But the question for Prada is this. Should we reduce our prices in orders to compete with Wada?

The answer is No! That would be asinine! If you start cutting prices you'll just look cheap yourself, you'll sap all the perceived value out of the brand. The one thing you should not do is try to look as cheap as the knockoffs.

No, if you're Random House and you own Vintage with an illustrious history of publishing Nobel Prize winners, of publishing the finest literature on the planet, that goes back over a century, you do not squander your cachet by getting down in the alleys with the $2.99 hawkers.

So I disagree with those who say publishers should discount to move ebooks. Publishers, like De Beers, are in the business of marketing a premium upmarket product and they have to use their advertising and marketing to reinforce that brand and to do everything they can to differentiate themselves from the penny dreadfuls.

If I were advising them (ha ha), I'd say you then create discount lines under separate labels, ie. Random House RedBlood Books and then you sell for .99 with the REDBLOOD label featured more prominently than the writer's name. Much more prominently. The label will ensure basic literate quality so that the consumer can be assured they won't be getting complete crap. You then start to take market share from the indies while preserving your upmarket titles on the high end. Selling diamonds in the front and crystal look-alikes out the back of the shop, if you like.

Regards,
Henry

Joe Konrath said...

Now -- in literary terms, the big publishing houses are like Prada.

Not even close.

Name five authors and who their publishers are.

The author is the brand. Not the publisher. The author's words indicate quality, not a Big 6 imprint on the spine. That's why, if someone hates the latest Brad Thor book, they stop reading Brad Thor and not Simon & Schuster.

Publishers are the travel agents of 2012. They are being disintermediated. Readers and writers don't need them anymore.

Duane Spurlock said...

Battle for Japan's e-book market to commence

http://news.yahoo.com/japan-online-retailer-rakuten-launch-e-reader-191236603--finance.html

Joe, how do we self-publishing ebook authors take advantage of this opening (and potentially huge) market?

Henry said...

@Joe,

Please do NOT shut down this blog (not that you needed my vote).

This is an awesome place for outspoken opinions in a world of euphemistic corporate speak. Whether I agree or not makes not a damn bit of difference as visiting here always triggers new thoughts and often introduces me to new data that makes me change my mind. I like the way you answer with logic and facts -- a lot of the time.

But in the case of predicting the end of publishers by 2018 I think you're verging into crackpotism.

There's a saying I've heard about techno change. People tend to overestimate the short-term impact of technological change and to underestimate (vastly) the long term impact.

I think long term you are right -- the world is going digital. But short term, you are way too premature.

Let's look at music as example. There is no difference between a CD and an MP3 to the consumer, a song is just a song. And even years and years after the digital onslaught, the big music companies are still very much making tons of money, and still selling a shitload of CDs.

A book and an ebook, I would argue are NOT the same.

Unlike listening to a song, reading a paper book is a different sensory experience to reading an ebook. It may be a subtle difference but it is there -- to me a paper book is a higher value product. If I really love a particular book I want to own it in hardcover. If it's just a breezy beach read, I could care less. So I think the market for paper will endure for a long time.

That sensory difference between paper and digital is also rooted in my second point.

Unlike CDs, books have a history behind them that is unparalleled. For century after century the printed book has been the standard unit of our entire culture -- all learning, all religion, all everything has been rooted in paper books. Records and CDs on the other hand are just mere passing gimmicks by contrast.

The long powerful history of the printed book will ensure its place at the cultural apex for decades to come, I believe. If not just because of the ingrained preferences of middle-aged and older readers.

And as long as the printed book endures, so will the publishers. Whether they will still be at the top in all-digital universe is a separate question.

But yes, I agree eventually the digital tide and advancing technology will likely put paid to the book, but I think it's going to take a whole hell of a lot longer than six years.

Then again, I may be underestimating the pace of exponential change.

Regards,
Henry

Rob Gregory Browne said...

They start selling their knock-offs of King and Grisham, etc. for a huge mark-down and they're doing really well.

Sorry, this is one of the biggest flaws in your theory. We aren't writing knock-offs. Knock-offs are cynical exploitation.

There's a movie company called Asylum that regularly makes direct to video movies (and bad ones, too) that mirror whatever mainstream movie is currently playing. For example, one of their latest is ABRAHAM LINCOLN vs. THE ZOMBIES.

THAT'S a knock-off.

Indie publishers are writing books that, for the most part, are a labor of love, with characters they create and stories they need to tell. They aren't copying anyone. They aren't trying to be King or Grisham.

To call them knock-offs of King and Grisham is extremely insulting. But maybe that was your intent.

Anonymous said...

Again with the AD HOMINEN--trying to take down the man instead of taking down the man's argument.

I don't question the motives of all the PRO-KONRATH-ANONYMOUS posters or the PRO-KONRATH-PSEUDONYM-USING posters. Are they really Konrath laying praises on himself and touting how good his books are (some of the PRO-KONRATH posters are usually saying they liked this or that Konrath book etc.)? No I don't harp on that kind of motive questioning, I like everybody else assume that they are truthful THIRD PARTIES.

Yet all the DISSENTING-ANONYMOUS posters are questioned as to who they work for and what their motives are. THANKS FOR THE DOUBLE STANDARD.

ALSO, I NEVER SAID SHUT DOWN THE BLOG FOR EVER...

JUST FOR A FEW MONTHS--THEN SEE IF YOUR SALES DROPS.

Your sales are supposedly NOT DEPENDENT ON THIS BLOG--SO YOU LOSE NOTHING, make a handful of books out of the thousands you sell per month.

Oh but wait, a few months is just tooooo much, the Konrath fans would go into withdrawal.

Funny how publicity doesn't matter, but the big 99 cent summer sale was announced on this blog--would the 99 cent summer sale have been as successful if it was not advertised on this blog?

AND since publicity doesn't matter and this blog doesn't drive your sales--WHY IS THERE A PROMINENT LINK TO "Joe's Ebook Store" with a picture of your books and a caption that says "I now sell ebooks on my website for all popular ereading models. Click on the above picture to view."

So this blog is set up to make ebook sales for you, YET THIS BLOG SUPPOSEDLY DOESN'T DRIVE YOUR SALES AND THE MILLIONS OF HITS PER YEAR IT GETS DOESN'T MATTER.

There is also a link for:
"Hire My Ebook Store Builder"

With a caption that says "Hire xuni.com to create an ebook store for your website, so you can sell ebooks directly." So this blog is set to tell people to sell ebooks on their websites. YET PUBLICITY DOESN'T MATTER so why should website traffic matter.

Jude Hardin said...

Some interesting stats in this article.

Especially that ebooks have risen to 25% of total revenue in trade publishing for the first quarter of 2012.

Henry said...

Now -- in literary terms, the big publishing houses are like Prada.
Joe:

Not even close.

Name five authors and who their publishers are.


I don't have to. It's a simple fact that the publishers are asking for and getting premium prices for their books, be it 15 dollars for an ebook or 25 for a hardcover.

In that sense, they are Prada.

And whether you agree or not, your product has been selling because readers want something similar to their favourite franchise author between titles and you offer a knock-off. That is why genre fiction does well as ebooks, IMO. Or you could do an experiment and charge what the big houses charge, see if your sales will continue to hold up to theirs and - more interestingly - to the new releases of their new authors, that have no brand names of their own. And if not, why not? No cachet?

I do agree to an extent that publishers have squandered the opportunity to build their brands over the authors, but I don't think that they are totally irrelevant either.

Try this as another experiment. Get a non-writer to tell strangers they are publishing a novel. Observe the reaction if they say they're self-pubbing versus if they say that they have just sold a book to Random House.

Publishers do have cachet. People know what Random House means. They understand what it takes to get a story in The New Yorker, versus putting a story out on Amazon yourself.

I think this is also part of the equation.

Regards,
Henry

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Try this as another experiment. Get a non-writer to tell strangers they are publishing a novel. Observe the reaction if they say they're self-pubbing versus if they say that they have just sold a book to Random House.

While self-pubbing doesn't have the same stigma it used to, I agree with this in part. But I'd also add that most people have no idea who Random House is.

When I got my first Big 6 deal, I didn't even know who the Big 6 were and I'd been reading books voraciously since I was ten years old.

Now, with all the imprints from the various publishers, plus the independents, there's a flood of publisher names that few people can or care to keep up with.

If you're self-pubbing, obviously, because of the bias, you don't walk up to strangers and said, I'm self-pubbing. In fact, I doubt the subject of WHO is publishing you will even come up.

Why? Because MOST people, most readers, don't care.

All this said, I'm not sure I agree with Joe's prediction that the Big 6 will be gone. But then I've underestimated his powers of prediction before.

Bottom line, is that I'll just keep writing and do what feels right for each book I write.

Henry said...

@Rob Gregory Browne,

Point taken. I didn't mean to insult self-pubbers. I'm using knock-off in the broader economic sense.

To me any genre writer (self pubbed or publisher pubbed) is working in a cliched form and is in that sense is a knock-off.

That's not to say that an outstanding writer cannot transcend the form, but from the reader's perspective, if she is searching for a romance novel she expects certain things from it. Those things were at one time original but have long long ago ceased to be, so any writer recreating them is recreating the original work of someone else, hence knock-off. A work that meets preconceived expectations.

Those are my personal literary opinions that don't really have a place on this blog, which is about the business of ebooks, but I'm putting them up just by way of explaining what I meant by knock-off.

Regards,
Henry

Joe Konrath said...

AND since publicity doesn't matter and this blog doesn't drive your sales--WHY IS THERE A PROMINENT LINK TO "Joe's Ebook Store"

I sell around 10 ebooks a month on that store.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Henry, I've always been of the opinion that it's the writer's VOICE that's most important. Not what "category" of books he's writing.

Freshness comes from the WAY he tells his stories, because, let's face it, pretty much every story has been told a few million times. Even in non-genre books.

Cormac McCarthy is a good example of voice transcending genre. Because books like The Road and No Country for Old Men are basically genre books.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Joe, my apologies. I feel as if I've suddenly begun to flood your blog with my own unsolicited opinions and have probably been commenting far too much.

I'll go back to writing now. :)

Joe Konrath said...

And even years and years after the digital onslaught, the big music companies are still very much making tons of money, and still selling a shitload of CDs.

Last I checked, the music industry was bemoaning losses. I've blogged about the parallels between mp3 and ebooks many times.

But there is a big difference. CDs still sell because they are digital. What's the first think someone does when buying a CD? Rips it to play on their mp3 player.

The CD is a physical object that contains the digital media. When was the last time you saw a portable CD player? They are now selling cars without any CD player at all, just an input for iPods. Try to find stereo components for sale other than at a specialty store.

Record companies are still needed, because it is hard for indie artists to get songs on the radio and TV. But I've bought a lot of music where I found the artist on YouTube. Look for Jon Lajoie and Nice Peter. Awesome. I've bought dozens of their songs, and they don't have labels.

Paper books will never disappear. But those who make their living as an intermediary--publishers--are no longer needed. Writers can reach readers without them, and make more money by doing so.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, my apologies. I feel as if I've suddenly begun to flood your blog with my own unsolicited opinions and have probably been commenting far too much.

I solicit all opinions. That's the reason I have a blog.

What you might consider doing is taking your more salient points in your comments, writing an essay, and doing a guest post here, because you say a lot of smart stuff.

Henry said...

Cormac McCarthy is a good example of voice transcending genre. Because books like The Road and No Country for Old Men are basically genre books.

Disagree big time. It's not the voice (alone) that's transcending it is the story that surprises, disappointing the genre-expecter.

No Country shapes up to be a cop chasing bad guy flick (we can use the movie as its virtually identical to the novel, originally written as a screenplay, BTW) but very quickly veers into a vehicle for metaphysical meditations.

The mainstream audience doesn't get the ending it expects. Tommy Lee doesn't have the showdown with the bad buy who just goes on killing and getting hit by random events. Instead he, the sherrif, conveys a bleak vision of the human condition. Similarly, there's a higher purpose pervading the entire work that serves to thwart conventional expectations at every turn in the narrative . . .

Same process for Blood Meridian which is a complete subversion of the western form. McCarthy is playing off genre to create a counterform . . .

The Road, I grant you, is the most conventionally structured . .

But I could go on blah-blahing in this vein ad nauseam when it's time to get to work! Cursed interwebs.

Regards
Henry

Rob Cornell said...

What you might consider doing is taking your more salient points in your comments, writing an essay, and doing a guest post here, because you say a lot of smart stuff.

Agreed!

Matt J said...

Thanks, Joe. I needed that. Been tough lately. A good pick-me-up but full of practicality.

MJRose said...

Lots of great points I totally agree with!! And I do feel like a broken record but I must go on the record and say that what works for one writer doesn't always work for another and visa versa - Joe has gotten and gets a ton of direct marketing from Amazon - they send out direct mail about his books - that most authors don't get. People need to hear about your book somehow and there is marketing and PR that works. You need to be smart and careful about what you do - but remember anecdotal info is not proof. For everyone who says something doesn't work there is someone who says it does.

Sasha said...

Hi Henry - if you hadn't been describing indie books as knock-offs (a term which means cheap, inferior copies), I think your argument would have been more accurate - let's just say "genre", as you've clarified.

I think publishers do add a cachet. Whether they should or not is another matter but people can be confident that they're not buying an illiterate pile of rubbish if a book has been trad pubbed. They act as a quality filter to exclude the dreck. But they don't guarantee quality, and that's why the author him/herself is the important brand. The publisher is more like an upmarket department store than an upmarket brand like Prada. If something is in the store, you can reasonably expect to have at least some confidence in it but you could go to the independent artisan baker next door and get something brilliant. But you're taking a risk on the baker, especially if they're new.

Jude Hardin said...

Joe has gotten and gets a ton of direct marketing from Amazon - they send out direct mail about his books - that most authors don't get.

I don't understand why some of the folks commenting here seem to feel this is somehow unfair. Success breeds success. That's the way it works. If your books sell a bunch, you too will get extra promo from the retailer.

Jason said...

Henry said:
Unlike listening to a song, reading a paper book is a different sensory experience to reading an ebook. It may be a subtle difference but it is there - to me a paper book is a higher value product.

I disagree. I think an ebook is a higher value product. It's "up to date" technology-wise, which usually = higher value for me. For example, while reading I can look up a word in the ereader dictionary, or highlight a certain passage very easily for future reference. And there is no losing my page like when the kids steal my bookmark or knock the open book off the couch.

I can read the same book on my PC at work/home, on my iPhone, or on my Nook. This is so much easier than lugging around a hardback book everywhere, and having to remember to grab it. That's another reason ebooks are a higher value product to me - the story is accessible at all times since I'm always near my iPhone, PC, or ereader.

Joe Konrath said...

but remember anecdotal info is not proof. For everyone who says something doesn't work there is someone who says it

Agreed. My opinion is hardly the be all/end all. Everyone needs to experiment and figure out what works for them.

T Ludlow said...

Evilphilip: As long as we are playing What if? then the answer to your question is simple -- the same things they do now to promote print books.

Most of a publisher’s clout lies in their ability to place physical copies in bookstores. It’s their only USP. We’ve all seen the promotions, the stacked tables, the books shelved so we can see the cover (this has a name, which I forget) to attract the casual browser. Without physical bookstores much of a legacy publisher’s influence evaporates.

They will pay Amazon.com and B&N.com to push their books out to customers in newsletters & e-mail blasts and pay to have those books pushed on the front page of Amazon.com and B&N.

Sounding expensive. And there’s not much room on a front page. Any significant presence could get quite pricey, quite fast.

They will pay to make sure that their books place higher on the Amazon.com best seller lists. (Something I suspect is already happening.)

Really? Why would Amazon expose themselves to charges of fraud and destroy years of work building up customer trust?

They will pay to make sure that those limited number of print books that remain make it into the grocery stores, Walmarts and big-box stores.

By ‘pay’ do you mean they will offer the retailers massive discounts as often happens now? It’s not sustainable. Profit margins are tiny and focusing on a small range of titles is risky.

They will take out advertising in the New York Times and/or other print media. They will (as they did with John Scalzi) pay to push advertising for their book in the New York Times iPhone App and/or pay for advertising on prominent websites -- and in Scalzi's case they pushed the living hell out of his book at the San Diego Comic Con.

Starting to sound expensive again. How many of these promotions can they budget for in a year? The main cash cow of the legacy publishers is its mid-list back catalogue. Right now they can offer what no-one else can, shelf-space in physical stores, but what happens when that leverage disappears? Beyond inertia and fear what will bind the mid-list authors to legacy publishers when that happens? The assumption seems to be that habit will continue to drive new authors to seek out the Big Six, but it’s not much of a business plan.

Also I have to say it’s unlikely that Stephen King is cackling and rubbing his hands over a 17.5% take on his books. I'm guessing the big names can demand a significantly higher cut. I’ve heard figures in excess of 50% bandied about.

T Ludlow said...

Frank R. McBride: houses like Random House, who have a massive international conglomerate behind them, will still exist.

Massive international conglomerates stay massive international conglomerates by making sound business decisions. If the leg's going bad, get out the bone saw.

T Ludlow said...

Henry: There is nothing physical to distinguish the bags. What Prada has (like diamonds) is an intangible cachet, a sense of quality that draws a certain clientele. It doesn't matter if I, or you think that that's bullshit, that's the way it is.

If it looks like a Prada, smells like a Prada, feels like a Prada and wears like a Prada....Then it might as well be a Prada.

And as others have pointed out we know of brands because millions are spent supporting them, the Big Six don't market themselves in that way.

In essence your argument appears to be that self-pubbed ebooks are intrinsically worse than those produced by legacy publishers. I've gone on, at length, in a previous post about the poor quality of many indie books, but that's the bottom of the barrel; the top tier of indie authors produce books that are easily the equal of comparable titles from the Big Six.

Legacy publishers add value in terms of editing, copy editing and the like, but these services are easily sourced by the indie author (too few appear to do so, but that's another point). I don't know anyone personally who looks to see who published a book. I might look out of interest but I wouldn't base a decision on it. If it's an indie I'll read the book description and if that's well written, I'll read a few pages, perhaps look at a few reviews. Then decide.

T Ludlow said...

Michael McClung: There's a reviewer on Amazon who has reviewed almost all of my titles, glowingly- and nobody else. They are also almost the only person who has reviewed my stuff.

I've no idea who they are, and I know exactly what it looks like. But what can I do? Ask Amazon to delete the reviews? That way madness lies...


I didn't mean to insult every one-time five-star reviewer. I'm sure many are legit. You can often tell a lot from the way they're written: some scream sincerity; others not.

Edward M. Grant said...

You might be willing to take 70% of a few thousand copies, but I still suspect the Stephen King's will prefer their 17.5% of a few million copies.

Believing that big names get the same crappy deals as unknown writers selling their first book seems to be a common mistake.

King doesn't get 17.5% of the cover price. According to the WSJ, he gets 50% of the profits from his books, presumably with a decent contract to ensure that the publisher can't charge irrelevant junk to his books as distributors do to movies. So if he has the same deal for e-books as print, he'd be getting about 37.5% of the e-book price.

If every author received a contract where they leased the books to the publisher for a few years and got 50% of the profits, as King apparently does, most would probably be quite happy to stay with trade publishing. But the publishers can't afford to do that and still keep paying the rent on fancy New York offices.

Edward M. Grant said...

Why would Amazon expose themselves to charges of fraud and destroy years of work building up customer trust?

Bingo. Amazon isn't a book store, it's a search engine for stuff. They don't care what we buy, so long as they get their percentage when we buy it. This is why they're doing so much better than their competitors who think they're still a big building with shelves of books.

You'll know Amazon is going downhill when they start accepting cash for pushing any old crap, rather than recommending the books that they know from past purchases I'm likely to buy.

Edward M. Grant said...

It's a simple fact that the publishers are asking for and getting premium prices for their books, be it 15 dollars for an ebook or 25 for a hardcover.

No, the writers are getting readers to pay those prices.

Do you think people wouldn't pay $25 for a self-published Stephen King hardback? I've read plenty of King books in the past and I don't have the faintest idea who his publisher is.

There are very few people who go to a book store and say 'hey, where's the new Random House book?' because they're buying stories from writers, not publishers.

The exceptions are a few genre publishers who have a well-established reputation for pumping out 'the same story only different' so readers know exactly what they're getting.

Edward M. Grant said...

Look at the example I used above of John Scalzi. He is a semi-popular mid-list SciFi author. Tor gave his novel Redshirts a MASSIVE marketing push and the novel was burning up the best seller lists prior to being released.

It isn't a very good novel. In fact, it's terrible.


I thought publishers were supposed to be guarantors of quality? How could they possibly release a 'terrible' novel?

That is the power that publishers bring to the table and the power they will continue to weild even when more eBooks are sold than print copies.

So the power of publishers is that they can take a 'terrible' novel and make it a best-seller through marketing?

And that's supposed to encourage readers to ignore indie books and buy from publishers? How many people who read that 'terrible' novel will rush out to buy the next one from the same publisher?

Merrill Heath said...

Readers don't care who the publisher is. Most readers can't tell you who the "Big 6" publishers are, much less who published the last book by their favorite author. The author is the brand, not the publisher.

I love Elmore Leonard. I've read everything he's written. I could not tell you, nor do I care, who publishes his books and I'm sure most readers feel the same. What I do care is about is what books by EL are available, where they're available, what the format is, and how much they cost. That's where the publisher comes in. The publisher is the distributor.

I have some of EL's books in hardback, some in paperback, and some as ebooks. I don't value one more than another because of the format and I certainly don't think one is better than another because it was published by Random House instead of Penguin. If he were to self-publish his next book, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I would not think, "Uh-oh. This one can't be any good because it's self-published." I'd think, "Hot damn! Another new book by Dutch. Gotta get that one."

And when I'm scouting for a new author I start looking for books that sound interesting within a specific genre. Then I look at the volume of work by the author. If he's written a series or has numerous books available, that's a plus. If I like him then I have more to read. If something catches my interest I read a sample to see if I like the writing style or if the story grabs me. Sometimes I listen to recommendations by friends and relatives and sometimes I read the reviews; altough, I don't pay much attention to reviews. Lastly, I look at the price of the book. I NEVER base my purchase decision on the publisher.

Sasha said...

In reply to "Look at the example I used above of John Scalzi. He is a semi-popular mid-list SciFi author. Tor gave his novel Redshirts a MASSIVE marketing push and the novel was burning up the best seller lists prior to being released. It isn't a very good novel. In fact, it's terrible."

Edward M. Browne wrote: "I thought publishers were supposed to be guarantors of quality? How could they possibly release a 'terrible' novel?"

I've been arguing that publishers act as a dreck filter and having just read the first 4pp of Redshirts, I thought that filter seemed to have been set pretty low but then I checked out the reviews on Amazon and saw it's supposed to be a parody (as opposed to the unintentional parody I was taking it for). Reviewers (nearly 200 of them) are also big on it for and I wouldn't dismiss them. The Da Vinci Code was in many ways terrible but I sat up til 4am two nights running to finish it because in many ways it was great. Maybe Redshirts is one of those.

Even if it wasn't, I've never argued that publishers are perfect filters - but even imperfect filters do a better job of keeping out the dreck than no filter. I would certainly agree that they're no guarantee of high quality, just against abysmal quality and I don't think Redshirts looks like that. But I haven't read it so maybe I'm wrong.

Kiana Davenport said...

@Edward M. Grant...some good points, but King is an uber-author. He can dictate any terms he chooses. The rest of us are still struggling, and can't demand our own terms, so your thesis doesn't quite compute.

Re Joe's blog today, he has said most of this before, but we need the repetition. Also, its a good reminder to acknowledge our formatters, editors, and cover designers. So...

A big salute and mahalo! thank you to Karen Valentine, of Valentine Designs for the beautiful cover of my new book. OPIUM DREAMS, PACIFIC STORIES, VOLUME III.

PS...Regarding social media overload, in a much earlier blog Joe said if we can only do two things, make it Twitter and Blogging, and save your juices for the writing. Amen.

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