Thursday, December 15, 2016

Konrath's New Year's Resolutions for Writers 2017

Every December I do a post about resolutions for writers, and every year I add more of them. They've changed a lot; after all, when I began this, there was no Amazon Kindle, self-publishing was a bad idea, and this blog was for writers eager to find agents and land deals with the Big 6.

But a lot of the advice from a decade ago still holds true, so take these resolutions for what they're worth to you.

2006

Newbie Writer Resolutions
    I will start/finish the damn book
    I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth 
    I will attend at least one writer's conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers  
    I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to  
    I will join a critique group. If one doesn't exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library  
    I will finish every story I start  
    I will listen to criticism  
    I will create/update my website 
    I will master the query process and search for an agent  
    I'll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something  
    I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy
Professional Writer Resolutions 
    I will keep my website updated  
    I will keep up with my blog and social networks  
    I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I'll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner  
    I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won't send out more than four a year  
    I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how  
    I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher's  
    I will stay in touch with my fans 
    I will contact local libraries, and tell them I'm available for speaking engagements  
    I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford  
    I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion  
    I will help out other writers  
    I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy 
    I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic  
    I will do one thing every day to self-promote  
    I will always remember where I came from

2007

    Keep an Open Mind. It's easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no "next big thing" unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone.  
    Look Inward. We tend to write for ourselves. But for some reason we don't market for ourselves. Figure out what sort of marketing works on you; that's the type of marketing you should be trying. You should always know why you're doing what you're doing, and what results are acceptable to you.  
    Find Your Own Way. Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn't work, don't be afraid to ditch it.  
    Set Attainable Goals. Saying you'll find an agent, or sell 30,000 books, isn't attainable, because it involves things out of your control. Saying you'll query 50 agents next month, or do signings at 20 bookstores, is within your power and fully attainable.  
    Enjoy the Ride. John Lennon said that life is what happens while you're busy planning other things. Writing isn't about the destination; it's about the journey. If you aren't enjoying the process, why are you doing it?  
    Help Each Other. One hand should always be reaching up for your next goal. The other should be reaching down to help others get where you're at. We're all in the same boat. Start passing out oars.

2008


I Will Use Anger As Fuel


We all know that this is a hard business. Luck plays a huge part. Rejection is part of the job. Things happen beyond our control, and we can get screwed.


It's impossible not to dwell on it when we're wronged. But rather than vent or stew or rage against the world and everyone in it, we should use that anger and the energy it provides for productive things.


The next time you get bad news, resolve to use that pain to drive your work. Show fate that when it pushes you, you push right back. By writing. By querying. By marketing.



I Will Abandon My Comfort Zone


The only difference between routine and rut is spelling.


As a writer, you are part artist and part businessman.


Great artists take chances.


Successful businessmen take chances.


This means doing things you're afraid of, and things you hate, and things you've never tried before.


If, in 2008, you don't fail at something, you weren't trying hard enough.




I Will Feed My Addiction 

Life is busy. There are always things you can and should be doing, and your writing career often comes second.


So make it come first.


Right now, you're reading A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Not A Newbie's Guide to Leading a Content and Balanced Life.


You want to get published and stay published? That means making writing a priority. That means making sacrifices. A sacrifice involves choosing one thing over another.


If you can't devote the time, energy, and money it takes to pursue this career, go do something else.




I Will Never Be Satisfied 

Think the last resolution was extreme? This one really separates the die-hards from the hobbyists. 


While an overwhelming sense of peace and enlightenment sounds pretty nice, I wouldn't want to hire a bunch of Zen masters to build an addition on my house. 


Satisfaction and contentment are great for your personal life. In your professional life, once you start accepting the way things are, you stop trying.


No one is going to hand you anything in this business. You have to be smart, be good, work hard, and get lucky.


Every time you get published, you got lucky. Don't take it for granted.


When something bad happens, it should make you work harder. But when something good happens, you can't believe you earned it. Because it isn't true. You aren't entitled to this career. No one is.


Yes, you should celebrate successes. Sure, you should enjoy good things when they happen. Smile and laugh and feel warm and fuzzy whenever you finish a story or make a sale or reach a goal.


But remember that happiness isn't productive. Mankind's greatest accomplishments are all tales of struggle, hardship, sacrifice, work, and effort. You won't do any of those things if you're satisfied with the status quo. 


Who do you want on your team? The kid who plays for fun? Or the kid who plays to win?


If you want this to be your year, you know which kid you have to be.




2009

This year I'm only going to add one resolution to this growing list, but if you're writing for a living, or trying to write for a living, it's an important one.

I Won't Blame Anyone For Anything

It's tempting to look at the many problems that arise in this business and start pointing fingers. This is a slippery slope, and no good can come from it.


Do agents, editors, and publishers make mistakes? Of course.


You make mistakes too.


Hindsight is 20/20, so we can all look at things that didn't go our way and fantasize about how things should have gone. 


But blaming others, or yourself, is dwelling on the past. What's done is done, and being bitter isn't going to help your career.


So try to learn from misfortune, forgive yourself and others, and make 2009 a blameless year.



2010

I Will Be Wary

The medium in which stories are absorbed is changing in a big way, and it will continue to change. 2009 will go down in publishing history as Year Zero for the upcoming ebook revolution. Writers should explore this new territory, but we need to understand that Print is still King, and any goals and dreams a writer might have regarding publication should be focused on getting into print.


That's not to say that ebooks shouldn't be explored and experimented with. They should be, and in a serious way. Erights are a very long tail--one that can potentially continue long after our lifetimes.


Don't forsake print for ebooks without understanding what you're giving up, and don't give away your ebook rights to get a print deal.




I Will Be A Pioneer

Remember the old saying about how to recognize a pioneer? They're the one with the arrows in their backs and fronts.


I've tried to be forward-thinking in my career, rather than being content with my role as a cog in a broken machine. Your best chance for longevity is to question everything, test boundaries, experiment with new ideas, and be willing to change your mind and learn from your mistakes.


Your job is to survive, by any means necessary. So pull out the arrows and forge ahead. Discover the difference between determination and stupidity by being an example for one or the other or both.


Though this may seem at odds with the previous resolution about being wary, it's actually quite simpatico.


Q: What do you call a wary pioneer? A: Still alive.




I Will Read Books

I'm surprised I haven't mentioned this in previous years. If you're a writer, you must be a reader. I don't care if you read on your Kindle, or on stone tablets. Reading, and giving the gift of reading to others, is essential. Period.




I Will Stop Worrying 

Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It's also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn't the way to get ahead.


You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.


2011

I Will Self-Publish

Just twelve short months ago, I made $1650 on Kindle in December, and was amazed I could pay my mortgage with ebook sales.

This December, I'll earn over $22,000.


The majority of this is on Kindle. But I'm also doing well self-pubbing in print through Amazon's Createspace program, and will earn $2700 this month on nine POD books. I'm also finally trying out B&N's PubIt program, which looks to be good for over $1k a month, and I'm doing okay on Smashwords, with Sony, Apple, and Kobo combining for another $1k.


This is nothing short of revolutionary.


The gatekeepers--agents who submit to editors who acquire books to publish and distribute to booksellers--are no longer needed to make a living as a fiction writer. For the first time in history, writers can reach readers without having to jump through hoops, get anointed, compromise integrity, or fit the cookie-cutter definition for What New York Wants.


I'm not saying you should give up on traditional publishing. But I am saying that there is ZERO downside to self-pubbing. At worst, you'll make a few bucks. At best, you'll make a fortune, and have agents and editors fighting over you.


But remember: even if you are being fought over, you still have a choice.


DO NOT take any deal that's less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you're selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.


It blows my mind to think that way, let alone blog about it. I got a $34,000 advance for my first novel, and even less for my last few.


Currently, I have seven self-pubbed novels, each earning more than $24k a year. In six years, at the current rate, I'll earn more than one million bucks on those.


But I don't expect them to maintain their current sales.


I expect sales to go up.


Ebooks haven't saturated the market yet. But they will. And you need to be ready for it. Which leads me to...



I Won't Self-Publish Crap


Just because it's easier than ever before to reach an audience doesn't mean you should.


I can safely say that I'm either directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of writers trying out self-publishing. The majority of these writers aren't making the same amount of money that I am, and are scratching their heads, wondering what they're doing wrong.


Luck still plays a part in success. But so does professionalism.


Being a professional means you make sure you have a professional cover (http://www.extendedimagery.com), and you have been professionally formatted for ebooks (www.52novels.com) and for print books (http://yourepublished.blogspot.com.)


Being a professional means you're prolific, with many titles for sale, and that you diversify, exploiting all possible places to sell your work (Kindle, Createspace, Smashwords, iBooks, iTunes, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Borders, Android, and no doubt more to come.)


But most of all, being a professional means you won't inflict your shitty writing on the public.


Self-pubbing is not the kiddie pool, where you learn how to swim. You need to be an excellent swimmer before you jump in.


If your sales aren't where you'd like them to be, especially if you've done everything else I've mentioned, then it's time to take a cold, hard, critical look at the writing. Which segues into...



I'll Pay Attention to the Market


To say I'm excited about the ebook future is putting it mildly. But that doesn't mean I have carte blanche to write whatever the hell I want to, and then expect it to sell.


Yes, writers now have more freedom. Yes, we can now cater to niche tastes, and write novellas, and focus on more personal projects.


But if you want to make a living, you still have to understand your audience, and how to give them what they want.


Self-pubbing is not an excuse to be a self-indulgent egomaniac. On the contrary, it's a chance for you to learn what sells.


For the very first time, the writer can conduct their own real-world experiments. By trying different things, learning from mistakes, and constantly tweaking and improving, we have more power than ever before to find our readers.


A lot of folks know how much money I'm making. But how many know:


I've changed or tweaked cover art 45 times.

I've reformatted my books five times each.
I've changed product descriptions over 80 times.
I've changed prices on each book two or three times.

Unlike the traditional publishing world, where published books are static, self-publishing is dynamic. If something isn't selling as well as you'd like, you can change it. The work doesn't end when you upload your ebook to Kindle. The work is never-ending, and vigilance is mandatory.


Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow. This means you MUST try new things.


2011 is going to be a turbulent year for publishers and bookstores and editors and agents. Change is coming, and many of the stalwarts of the industry aren't going to be around for much longer.


But savvy writers will be safe from harm. In fact, they'll thrive like never before.


For the first time in the history of publishing, we have control. Embrace that control, and make 2011 your year.



2012


Hard to believe this will be my sixth year offering New Year's Resolutions to writers. Even harder to believe is how much the publishing industry has changed during that time.

When I first began this blog, it was about helping authors find an agent and a legacy publishing deal. And once they did, it was about working with your publisher to sell as many books as possible by understanding how to self-promote and market.


Now, writers are much better served learning how to upload their work to Kindle and write a product description than learning how to write a query letter or do a successful book signing.


So is there still anything left for me to say?


Yes. There's plenty.




I Will Experiment

Don't let fear prevent you from taking chances and trying new things. I'm talking to all of you who refuse to raise or lower your ebook prices. I'm talking to all of you who pass judgement without any experience to back up your position. I'm talking to all of you who insist that your way is the right way without ever having tried any other way--or in some cases, knowing nothing about the path you want to take (I'm looking right at you folks still chasing legacy deals.)


The goals you set should constantly be adapting and changing as more data comes in. But don't be a lump, expecting data to come to you by surfing the net, or reading this blog, or praying Santa Claus helps you out.


You need to be the one actively trying different things, taking different directions, and learning through trial and error.


In the past, there were a lot of gatekeepers who could hold you back.


Today the only one holding you back is you.




I Will Help Other Writers

If you learn something, share it. If you have some success, show others how to follow your lead. If you fail miserably, warn your peers.

Writing and publishing were once solitary, private matters, and everyone played their cards close to their chests. No one knew how much anyone else was earning, or how many books they sold, and this suited the publishers just fine. The dark ages are all about being kept in the dark.


Well, let there be light.


The more we share, and help one another, the more our collective base of knowledge can grow.


Self-publishing is an open source project. Add to the database.




I Will Control My Fear

There will always be doubt and uncertainty, because luck plays such a big role in success. I know there are writers who are doing everything right, who still haven't found readers.

But don't let fear own you.


It is easy to get frustrated.


It is easy to get envious of those doing better.


It is easy to dismiss the success or failures of others.


It is easy to worry about the future.


It is easy to ignore good advice. It's also easy to take bad advice.


It is easy to make snap judgments and quick dismissals.


It is easy to make predictions without evidence.


It is easy to give up.


BUT NOBODY EVER SAID SUCCESS IS EASY.


Yes, it is the greatest time ever to be a writer. But no one owes you a living, and no one promised that even if you write a great book and promote the hell out of it you'll get stinking rich.


Not to get all Yoda here, but fear leads to doubt, and doubt will take you down the wrong path.


Controlling fear is easier than you might think. Just accept that failure is part of the process.


Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. All major success stories are filled with setbacks and mistakes and bad luck. But all successful people persevere.


We've all heard that luck favors those who are prepared. So be prepared, and stay prepared, for as long as it takes for success to find you.


Remember that. You don't find success. Success finds you.


This is especially important when you realize this truism:



What Goes Up Must Come Down


I've had a lot of writers email me that their sales are down. Mine are, too. Because ebooks are so new, no one knows what this means, and it is easy to let fear cause doubt.


Here's a mantra for you to help you get over it.


1. Ebooks are forever, and shelf space is infinite. Once you're published, you'll always be selling.


2. Ebooks are not a trend. They are the new, preferred way to read, and mankind will always have the need and desire to read.


3. Ebooks are global. Doing poorly in the USA? That's okay. There are plenty of other countries where you can make money.


4. Sales fluctuate. Always. And there is often no logical or discernible reason why. Riding high in April, shot down in May, that's life.


5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You're a writer. You're in this until the day you die. As long as you continue to write good books, you'll find readers.


2012 is going to be a very interesting year. We'll see unknown writers get rich. We'll see big name writers leave their publishers. We'll see more and more people buy ereaders throughout the world. We'll see some companies go out of business. We'll see other companies start growing market share.


We're part of something big, and it's going to get even bigger. And while everything that goes up must come down, we've got a very long time before that happens with ebooks.


And when it does? That's okay. Formats and gadgets come and go.


But the world will always need storytellers.


Have a great 2012.



2013


I've lived long enough to see my advice become obsolete, and that gives me hope for the future.


Back when I began, this business was all about finding an agent, finding a publisher, then doing whatever you could to promote yourself.


This blog spoke at length about social media, and book tours, and partnering with your publisher.


Things have changed. 


I have 10,000 followers on Twitter, but I only use it occasionally  Facebook? Haven't been on there in eight months. I witnessed the rise and fall of MySpace. I've opted out of Google+ because I saw no benefits. LinkedIn? I can't even remember my password.


I'll never do another book tour. I doubt I'll ever do another official booksigning. I've stopped speaking in public, stopped attending events. Once it was important to meet fans and network with peers. Now I can do that just fine via email. 


Partnering with your publisher? Why would you do that, when they offer so little? 17.5% ebook royalties with them, vs. 70% on your own. 


I haven't blogged or Tweeted in months. I've been busy doing what writers should be doing: writing.


And guess what? My sales have remained constant. 


Many times this year, I took industry practices to task. I saw stupidity, or unfairness, and I did my best to discredit it. I fought, tooth and nail, for what I believed, and wasted untold hours arguing with pinheads.


Which brings me to my resolution for 2013.



Get Over Yourself


I have turned off Google Alerts, and don't Google my name or my pen names.


I don't go on message boards.


I don't read my book reviews.


I don't care what people are saying about me, good or bad, in blogs or on Twitter or in the media.


There will always be people who don't like you, and don't like your books.


Ignore them.


Trust me, it is liberating to be free of the opinions of strangers. We all need to focus on our writing. Because the millions of readers out there don't care about your blog. They aren't searching for you on Twitter and avoiding your books based on the comments of others. They aren't taking one star reviews seriously.


It's very easy to obsess in this business. But I haven't seen a single shred of evidence that obsession helps careers.


The thing that I have seen, over and over, is people finding success by writing good books.


I really think it is possible to make a very nice living by writing and not worrying about anything else.


We all want to believe we're doing something good for our careers, so we abuse social media, buy ads, rigorously defend our good name, cultivate media contacts, make appearances, and celebrate our own very minor celebrity.


Let it all go. Spend your time working on your books. That's the only thing that really matters, and the only thing you have control over.


I hope everyone reading this has a very successful 2013. Happy new year.



2014

I'll get all of my real-life shit together.

That means:

1. Incorporating and paying quarterly taxes.

2. Creating a will, including a living will.

3. Making sure the will includes provisions for your literary properties.

4. Keeping accurate track of business expenses.

5. Getting regular doctor check-ups so you don't die from something avoidable.

6. Remembering that future goals shouldn't come at the expense of enjoying every single day.

7. Appreciating the people you care about, and making sure they know it.

With luck, we'll all die very old and very rich.

But I've always said that luck favors those prepared. It's very east to get caught up in writing and promotion and ignore the stuff that only becomes obvious when you're in a life-or-death scenario.

Don't wait for the life-or-death scenario. Take care of it now. It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 108, death and taxes are unavoidable. The more you do now to prepare for them, the less painful they'll be.

If you die tonight, will it be with regrets? If so, sort that out immediately. Don't leave loose ends. Don't leave things unsaid. Don't leave a mess for others to clean up.

Now go take care of business, and have a great 2014.



2015

I skipped this year, and did this post instead.



2016

I'm boiling my resolutions down to the essence:

WRITE.

It's so easy to get caught up in different aspects of a writing career. I've had phases where I tried to help other writers, started my own company, blogged, collaborated, fought the publishing world, evangelized, experimented, promoted, tried to figure things out, and spent a whole lot of time doing stuff other than writing.

I'm happy I did all that. But it has taken me away from the thing I like most.

I might be a blogger, and a teacher, and an innovator, and a pundit. But first and foremost, I'm a writer.

And writers write.

So for 2016, I'm going to write more than I've ever written before. I'm going to finish those stories I've put aside, I'm going to break new ground, and I'm going to get back to my roots. I've spent a lot of time tending to my career. And for good reason. A backlist is a garden that needs attention to grow and prosper.

But now I'm going to spend the lion's share of my time planting more seeds. 

I'm looking for 2016 to be my most productive year ever.


2017

I've been writing resolutions for writers for eleven years. What's left to say?

How about:

Change with the times.

Keeping with this resolution, I'm about to sign a three-book publishing deal with Kensington, the largest independent publisher in America.

Many longtime readers of this blog might be thinking I'm crazy, a hypocrite, or got a giant paycheck, since I've been preaching for years to never give up ebook rights.

Actually, I'm not crazy or a hypocrite, and I didn't get an enormous advance, either. I'm also thrilled with this development.

Party because Kensington has a good chance to hit a homerun with the deal. But mostly because I kept my ebook rights.

Kensington will publish THE LIST (on deck for 2018), along with two other backlist titles of mine, in paper-only.

This is going to be a fascinating experiment for me, and for Kensington. THE LIST has sold over 200,000 ebooks. How will it do in paper?

I've always known that I'm leaving money on the table because my books aren't in brick and mortar stores. There are a whole lot of readers who shop at bookstores, airports, department stores, and convenience stores, and I'm not available in those outlets. My POD titles are $13-$17, which is pricey compared to my $4.99 ebooks. Wal-Mart won't ever carry me. Neither will B&N.

This Kensington deal will let me reach an audience I haven't reached since 2009.

So is this a portend of things to come for self-pubbed authors?

Kensington has shown themselves to be nimble and forward-thinking. I have yet to see any evidence that the Big 5 are smart enough to try something like this, save for that big Hugh Howey deal years ago. Writers waited for more opportunities like that (me included), and none happened. 

But if THE LIST and other novels from my backlist do well, maybe we'll start seeing successful indie authors signing print-only deals with Kensington, and the Big 5.

Until that happens, Kensington has a head-start on the competition. And kudos to them. Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on focus groups and surveys and samples and test screenings and trial runs trying to guess what consumers want. 

I've had over 17,000 Amazon reviews. Readers have vetted my backlist, and I've sold over two million copies worldwide. Seems like a no-brainer to get some of my books into stores, right?

So, when Kensington approached me, I was all for it, even though 2/3 of this blog has been dedicated to criticizing publishers. 

During my decade of blogging, I've gone from pro-publisher, to pro-indie, to anti-establishment. I've championed Amazon and criticized the Authors Guild and Authors United, and then went on to doing a panel for the Authors Guild and watching as Authors United disbanded.

I got my first rejection in 1989, got my agent in 1998, signed my first book deal in 2002, self-pubbed in 2009, and got my rights back from three publishers in 2010. Now, in 2016, I'm signing with a publisher once again.

The only consistent thing about this business is change. And make no mistake; this is a business. It isn't an ideology. It isn't a philanthropy. It isn't a hobby.

In 2007, I began my yearly resolutions with "Keep an open mind."

"Changing with the times" falls under that credo, and it is something for all writers--indies, hybrids, and those with publishing contracts--to keep in mind. As we head into the new year, writers have more opportunities than any time in history. We can reach other countries. We can produce our own audiobooks. We can publish nonsense just for fun. And maybe this Kensington deal will be the start of a new kind of deal that will become standard. 

What was once an inclusionary club run subjectively (and often nepotistically) by gatekeepers is now open to anyone with a computer and a dream.

Now go write something. And make sure it's good.

67 comments:

Annie B said...

As a data point... the big 5 are smart enough to try this. I got a print-only deal with a decent advance attached for my Twenty-Sided Sorceress series with Saga (the SF/F imprint of Simon & Schuster) just this year. So some are still testing it out, even with people who aren't big names.

Congrats on the deal. Good luck in 2017!

Sonya said...

Happy to see you're still alive, Joe. :-) Congratulations on the print deal!

T. M. Bilderback said...

Congratulations, Joe! Glad to see you're still chugging along!

EC Sheedy said...

Well done, Joe. I was published by Kensington a few years ago. They're a good bunch of people. I hope you'll keep us posted and let us know how it goes. (NYT Bestseller would be nice, for you and Mr. Z.)

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

May it be all you've ever wanted in a paper deal.

And more.

You've been missed; glad it's been productive for you - and whenever I needed something to read, the archives were there.

Anonymous said...

The Irony is strong in this one. The worlds biggest critic of big publishing signs with Kensington.

And after years of telling everyone that Amazon wont screw indies, when they finally do... radio silence!

For the record I don't think page flip is the issue. I think it is much more sinister. On the next author earnings report I think we are going to see a big swing towards Amazon Publishing.

Seriously though Joe, good luck with the books. You are correct, you do need to change with the times.

Anonymous said...

Maybe self publishing is simply a young dog's game. Joe's finally realized you can't hustle in depends. Time to hang up the old 'stick-it-to-the-man' tie dyed shirt and walker and swallow that bitter Legacy Publishing pill. That mashed sweet corn ain't gonna heat itself up.
Glad to see you back on the blog Joe.

Joe Konrath said...

And after years of telling everyone that Amazon wont screw indies, when they finally do... radio silence!

Screwing indies how?

I had a long talk with an Amazon rep at BEA about page counts in KU. Indies weren't being screwed. It isn't zero sum when payouts are decided after a pay period ends. How hard is that to understand?

I've released three novels and a novella this year, all enrolled in KU. My numbers have been consistent with these new releases, and the promos, that I've done. I haven't noticed any drops in page counts, or income.

But I average between 50k and 100k page reads per day. It would take a lot of effect a number like that. I wouldn't notice any fluctuations +/- 30% or even greater.


Has some new evidence been uncovered about indies getting short-changed? Can you point me to it?

And has anyone thought that--just maybe--Amazon had been over-reporting page reads (as indies have been complaining about for some time) and these fewer page reads since October actually reflect more accurate numbers?

I don't know one way or another. I've been dealing with things other than publishing for the last few months, and have been out of the loop. All I can say is that I've talked to Amazon, and I haven't noticed a drop in my numbers.

If I blogged about everything that people complained about on Kboards, I'd never have time to do anything else. That's hardly radio silence.

When Data Guy analyzes it, then I'll weigh in.

Joe Konrath said...

Time to hang up the old 'stick-it-to-the-man' tie dyed shirt

This blog was never about sticking it to anybody. It was about informing writers so they could make the best decisions for their careers.

The times I have stuck it to people or groups is when they were harming writers.

A legacy publisher offering a print-only contract is the opposite of harm.

Amber D said...

Congratulations on the deal, Joe! Always appreciate your posts.

Anonymous said...

You are one of the few that haven't noticed a drop since September. Lots of authors are down 30 to 90%. i don't think Amazon are short changing anyone. I think the playing field is no longer level. I am down 70% from 200k reads a day overnight and releases that I would have bet my house on have flopped. This is a hot topic and not just at kboards. I will watch with interest when data guy does his thing.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Joe on your deal with kensington. Can you say what you negotiated in terms of how long they get to publish your books?

The big five and other medium sized presses have published us with print on paper only and no foreign rights, no erights or any other rights. We first pub'd that way in 2011, meaning the contract was made in 2010. The publisher, a mid size one came back near publication in HB and asked if we would reconsider giving the erights for more money. We declined.

The other book will be pub'd by Randy Penguin in early 2017, same deal. No erights, no foreign rights. The foreign rights on prior books over the years are so lucretive, dont want to give thoseto a current pub to take lion's share. Esp British rights.

Kevin Riley said...

Congrats! I hope this deal works out great for both of you. I really feel that the price point through POD is too high for most people and therefore independent paper books aren't competitive. Hopefully this is the start of more opportunities for publishers and indies to work together to best supply the readers.

Joe Konrath said...

Lots of authors are down 30 to 90%.

First, you're anonymous. I allow anonymous comments, but I can't take people who won't sign their name to their posts as seriously as I take those who stand behind their words.

Second, where did the 30% to 90% number come from? Has there been a controlled, scientific study? Has there been a poll of 1000 indie authors? Or is it just a few dozen people chiming in on various websites speculating on why their numbers have gone down?

Third, has anyone considered that numbers have gone down because Amazon those numbers have previously been over-reported by Amazon?

Fourth, has Amazon said anything about this topic?

I am down 70% from 200k reads a day overnight and releases that I would have bet my house on have flopped.

No offense, but this claim doesn't mean much without any evidence. Will you post a screenshot of your KDP 90 day page read graph? Will you share what your titles are that were contributing to 200k per day?

I've done over 100k per day, when I have a new release or a BookBub ad, and I have a backlist of over thirty books. Again, I'm not calling you a liar, but your credulity is strained without any proof.

I don't doubt that some indies are confused, scared, and that their numbers have dropped. Amazon initiated some sort of change. In the past, Amazon has done a few things that have negatively impacted indies. They made erotica harder to find, and banned some of it. They deleted legitimate reviews. They lowered royalties on ACX.

But when it comes to paying authors for KU, I talked with an Amazon rep at length back at BEA. They were aware some writers were gaming the system, and made sure other writers weren't monetarily penalized for that. And they made an announcement a few months back that reporting for KU was slow, but that supposedly rebounded and no one lost money.

Zon is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to sharing information with authors. They have been accused of harming authors over and over and over, and aside from the three times I've mentioned above--all of which were justifiable--I haven't seen a case where writers were being screwed.

I'm open to the possibility. But I'm also not going to start yelling j'accuse without some proof.

Joe Konrath said...

Can you say what you negotiated in terms of how long they get to publish your books?

We're past the deal memo and announcement stage, now I'm waiting for the contract.

This is for world English print rights. I kept foreign language.

William J. Thomas said...

Hey Joe, so nice to read a new blog from you. Keep 'em coming! I had to laugh when I clicked the link for the adult coloring book...I never thought I'd see a ranking worse than the short e-book I self-pubbed back in 2013, so thanks for that.

The Kensington deal sounds like a win-win. Keep us in the loop for how all that goes. Keeping an open mind and not giving a crap about what others think of how you run your biz is priceless.

Peter Spenser said...

@ Annie B.

…the big 5 are smart enough to try this. I got a print-only deal with a decent advance attached for my Twenty-Sided Sorceress series with Saga (the SF/F imprint of Simon & Schuster) just this year.

Well, at least one of them is: your Simon & Schuster. They were the ones who also did the print-only deal with Hugh Howey that made the news back in December of 2012. Further, they seem to realize that there are readers for whom a $9.99 (or higher) e-book just ain’t gonna fly. I regularly receive a newsletter featuring a choice of numerous $1.99—$2.99 e-books from them.

gniz said...

Joe,

Good to have you back online, man. Seriously, this place used to be my NYT and having it be silent for so long has hurt a little.

Not gonna lie.

Hope you keep talking and posting a bit more frequently now, especially because the industry does seem to be changing at a rapid pace.

My data tells me page reads and algo's at Amazon have changed substantially. I'm anonymous but I've offered in the past to privately share my numbers with you to prove I do the kinds of sales I claim to do.

Anyhow, this comment you made stuck out to me:

"Third, has anyone considered that numbers have gone down because Amazon those numbers have previously been over-reported by Amazon?"

I do think that this could be part of what's happened, although I doubt it explains all of it. I think that page counts have definitively dropped, and I have the amount of volume and books published (hundreds) to know this for pretty much as close to a fact as I need to be convinced. That and reports from many other authors point to this being true.

Last Author Earnings report, for the first time, showed a decrease in indie revenues and that was BEFORE this major algo/page reads switch up occurred (timeframe appears to be September/October when folks began seeing the drop off).

I also think that apart from the page reads being less, there has been some kind of adjustment on Amazon's part so that it's now more difficult to stay sticky in the rankings after doing promos with mailing lists and Facebook ads, etc.

I used to be able to definitively launch just about any book I wanted straight into the top 100 and stay there for a bit, then hang just outside the top 100 for a few weeks...

Now I'm lucky if I break into the top 100 for a few hours and my books tend to sink into the 500s within a day or two.

Again, these are shifts that are clear and I've noticed it across many, many releases.

So--something has changed over at Amazon. This has happened before with KU, and then KU 2, and other times as well (such as dungeoning erotica etc).

Not saying we need to panic but this is a real thing, whatever it is--which I still can't quite figure out myself. I will say that Amazon has a habit of forcing me to work harder than I'd like, and I think that is an intentional strategy. They like to push the treadmill speed up and up and force you to work harder than you were five minutes ago.

-G

Joe Konrath said...

Now I'm lucky if I break into the top 100 for a few hours and my books tend to sink into the 500s within a day or two.

I am seeing the same things. But this whole Amazon Rank algorithm situation has been up and down for years. As authors, we tend to be stuck on ranking and its relationship to sales. They're always tweaking things, and sometimes it winds up being worse.

I remember when they first allowed free ebooks. I made a fortune making ebooks free, because then they bounced immediately over to the paid bestseller lists once the free period ended. A glitch, and I made out like a bandit.

What this may be a case of is normalizing the sales of some authors who are earning money because of an imperfect system, like my instance above. KU1 was a version of this, with short stories making more than novels. And then the whole "skipping to the last page" debacle.

Amazon doesn't have a history of screwing authors. They have a history of overpaying authors.

I once wasted a BookBub because the Amazon Ranking froze for three days. So I never hit the bestseller list and got that boost, even though I sold thousands of books in a day. I understand how awful it is to see numbers go down, without explanation.

So, we can roll with it, we can opt out, we can complain and hope Amazon listens, or we can form a union. But this is never going to be a perfect system. And Amazon accounting remains a fuck-ton better than Big 6 accounting.



gniz said...

Joe, agreed.

Even with the "downturn" my business is very much thriving.

The trend-line does make me a little nervous because in some ways it's going very much in the wrong direction, and I've had a couple of "bombs" recently, when before that I would have considered those bombs surefire hits. And I used to, for the last year or two, pretty much be able to guarantee that my books would do better than that.

And this comes through years of refining my process, building my mailing list and figuring out and spending lots of money on FB ads. So when a book tanks now, despite all of my thousands of subscribers being pushed to the book and lots of money spend on FB ads, it does tell me something has shifted majorly.

That's okay. As you say, this is what Amazon does and those who roll with the punches and survive typically end up in a better place down the road.

That's been the case with me, historically.

However, each new change, each new shakeup comes with the chance, however small, that maybe this is the one Amazon "tweak" that takes my whole business with it...

Joe Konrath said...

And I used to, for the last year or two, pretty much be able to guarantee that my books would do better than that.

Hmm. I've never been able to predict sales. Ever. This goes back to 2004 when Hyperion published my first novel. Never had any noteworthy ROI with Amazon ads, Twitter, Facebook, Google, or BookBub's new pay-per-click program.

I can't predict how a new title will do, or how well a BookBub ad will work, though I know both will give me a sales boost. Countdown deals also give boosts, even if I don't pimp them on social media.

I've written things I thought would be more successful, and have been surprised by the success of things that I had no hope for.

I know that I know nothing.

gniz said...

I couldn't ever predict which of my titles would hit big versus which ones would do decently.

But generally I could bank on hitting at least a certain amount of revenue based on pushing my mailing list subscribers and then using fb ads, etc. When you put out that many books and you know your audience, you can make some fairly decent guesstimates when things are stable.

So, no, I couldn't predict a ginormous breakout hit, but I was able to avoid any real bombs for a good long while.

The fact that I've had some big bombs recently along with books generally underperforming and having tougher sledding making their way up the ranks, as well as a hit series dwindling at a pace that surprised me...

It all adds up to some shaky feelings around the stability of my business over at Amazon right now. So I work harder and experiment more and do what I've done in the past. But I can't get over the feeling that we could always be on the precipice of some gigantic new shakeup that will truly decimate even the most stalwart indies.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

We've missed you, Joe! Thanks for chiming in. Good stuff in your 2017 resolution... brief as it was.

I hope you'll find time to continue the conversation. You don't owe it to us, and you're a busy man, with a real life (I trust!), but even the dialogue in these comments is useful. There aren't many voices talking about these issues that are worth listening to.

Carry on.

Patrice

gniz said...

BTW, I realize I probably used a bit of hyperbole when I said I would consider certain books "surefire hits." A better way to have said it would have been books that I could usually tell would perform to expectation and earn out and make a decent ROI. Many of those kinds of books also would tend to hit big often enough for me to feel confident in that prospect.

But the thought that such a book would flat out bomb, based on the system I've been developing for the last six years, would not have seemed at all likely to me. Until lately, when I've had multiple bombs in just a couple months...

Joe Konrath said...

But the thought that such a book would flat out bomb, based on the system I've been developing for the last six years, would not have seemed at all likely to me.

If I recall correctly (correct me if I'm wrong) you found success with niche short erotica.

Could your idea of a "bomb" have something to do with certain genres temporarily waning in popularity? Publishing does have trends, just like movies or toys. Westerns and horror had boom years and bust years, and erotica has definitely waned since 50 Shades.

Chasing trends, or writing in "hot" genres to make a buck, is always going to be risky. Not saying that's what you're doing.

gniz said...

Joe said: "If I recall correctly (correct me if I'm wrong) you found success with niche short erotica."

That was one of the genres I worked in early on. The classification has gotten a lot muddier over the years, but I'd say I've firmly crossed over to the major romance category and have been selling well there for a very long time with a diverse array of titles.

Many of my books are full-length, 50k and up, and I have titles that range from short to very long. I've been selling well and earning bonuses fairly consistently since the advent of KU and I've been generally seeing success since 2012. Each year my business has gone up in earnings (save for perhaps one year).

I don't think my issue has anything to do with a particular niche waning. It's definitely more complex than that, although I think KU has served to make books and romance in particular more "fungible." But that's probably a broader conversation.

Anonymous said...

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,242225.0.html

Anonymous said...


Yeah, I want to remain anon. Sorry
You keep mentioning reporting. I was quite clear from the first post that I didn't buy into this page flip theory. If there was a problem with that Amazon would have had it fixed in 24hrs.
I am certain something has changed over at Amazon. I have seen many ups and downs but this is different, more sustained. I know Amazon want to sell books so where are all the sales going? The only logical explanation would be Amazon Publishing. But this is all just conjecture. Let’s see when the author earnings report comes out.

John Ellsworth said...

You say you want data? We've got data, everyone.

http://authorearnings.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/201610-unitsales-trend.png

As we can see from Author Earnings most recent report, ...most of the lost indie market share seems to have instead gone to Amazon Imprints, who have gained a whopping 4% in market share.

From May thru October 2015 APub grew from < 9% to almost 15%. This is huge by anyone's interpretation. Which begs the observation: if overall ebook sales shrank (which they did, according to AE) then APub's sales came from other than a growing reader base. Now maybe we non-APub publishers can have a clearer idea on why our sales and reads are evaporating.

Here's AE's concern. But for us, it’s the drop in indie author earnings that triggers the most questions. In May 2016, verified self-published indie authors were taking home nearly 50% of all US Kindle author earnings. Now, as of early October 2016, the indie share has fallen below 40%. What happened?

So, have you lost your share of the 10% that has disappeared? Some say no, some say yes and even more than 10%.

The light begins to dawn. APub is crushing it and there's no reason to think market share won't continue to grow over there. Does this mean market share for indies will go down? Well, how good are your plans for making organic growth happen over the next 24 months? I believe this will be the key. We all need to be looking as we once did at how we can increase sales, from the new perspective of, How can we keep from losing our market share, our piece of the pie.

A very smart guy once said, it's not a zero sum game. Well, maybe now it is.

gniz said...

Great post, John.

I see your lawyer skills are still being put to good use, and not just in your books!

Great seeing/reading your thoughts again btw.

Aaron

John Ellsworth said...

Thanks AN. Long time no see and it's really good to hear what's up with you, altho the circumstances certainly could be cheerier. Best to you and yours for the holidays.
John

John Ellsworth said...

One more and I'll shut up and sink back beneath the surface.

It's been common for indies to fear the day when Amazon cut their royalty rate in half much as Audible did in going to 40%. Well, if you aren't watching closely, that has, in fact happened with Amazon too. Except they didn't cut your rate or my rate. No, instead they gave the cut rate to authors willing to take it in return for becoming an APub writer. APubs (correct me if I'm wrong) get far less than the indie's 70%. I have heard as much less as 35% and I have heard they get maybe 50%. So Amazon didn't have to cut your royalties and start WW III. They just gave the 35% to someone else, creating a new class of authors who would be willing to write for half price in return for the possibility of selling more books than they would on their own.

Now I'll go quietly away and harbor my dark thoughts someplace else.

gniz said...

Another EXCELLENT post, John! Dang, you're on fire today, and I do believe you've cleared up some of my confusion about what I've been seeing in the market lately.

You've explained the reason, if not the exact mechanism for what's happening. But the mechanism is easy enough, just by doing a bit less promo for one group and a bit more internal Amazon promo for another.

I said it over on TPV but my basic summation is:

Shit rolls downhill.

But to be clearer, if the reader base continues to contract, then there can be no other result but blood in the streets.

Buckle up.

Data Guy said...

Hi, All,

In absolute terms, Amazon’s overall US ebook sales are not down at all.

Sorry if the October AE report left anyone with that impression -- I should have made the distinction clearer.

Our most recent data actually shows Amazon selling slightly more ebooks per day than they were at the same time last year. Only the relative *mix* seems to have shifted: i.e. how those ebook sales now get divided up between books by different categories of publisher.

Best,
DG

Data Guy said...

Objectively, the numbers also don’t support the idea of widespread, deep KU-count drops affecting a significant percentage of indie authors.

See: ku-page-count-and-payout-history.png

Other than that anomalous 7% spike in August, which *may* indicate increased KU fraud that month, and the subsequent return in September to prior levels, there really haven’t been any big shifts in pages read. Since September, we’ve seen 2-3% monthly drops that are completely consistent with the overall drop in indie market share, period, on Amazon — a factor which affects non-KU indie titles as well.

There are always authors each month whose sales suddenly and inexplicably fall off a cliff; that’s simply the reality of having so many authors, both tenured and brand new, relying on a single retailer’s behind-the-scenes merchandising algorithms for most of their new-reader discovery.

Page-count/page-flip oddities almost certainly affected some authors back in August. David VanDyke blogged about them here:
https://teleread.org/2016/10/08/amazon-kdp-select-authors-are-losing-page-reads-apparently-due-to-software-glitches/

But while problematic for the individual authors affected, the overall KU numbers point to these page-read/page-flip issues being a lot less widespread an issue than many authors think.

It’s worth keeping in mind that we rarely hear from those authors each month whose sales suddenly ramped up, or just continued to climb slowly and steadily. But for the overall page-read count to be as relatively stable as it is means that in any given month, there are nearly as many authors whose sales are rising as falling.

What’s really going on, I think, at the larger scale, is that sometime mid-year Amazon twiddled the dials on their merchandising algorithms to start prioritizing indie books a bit less, and traditionally published ebooks a bit more. At this point, that’s a very logical move for Amazon. They spent 2016 gobbling up print market share, and now want to move those new online-print buyers to digital editions: something they can’t do via price, because agency. So they are tweaking their merchandising algorithms to do so, instead.

In about 3-5 months, when traditional-industry metrics groups catch up with where we are at and start reporting Q4 ebook numbers, you can expect them to announce with surprise that traditionally published ebook sales “rebounded” while print sales “stalled”

And we can also expect another slew of illogical media stories attempting to explain why *that* happened, too. ;)

Best,
DG

gniz said...

My mind= blown

Now I'm just going to sit back because I can't even believe how much I still don't know about this industry.

Thanks DG!!

John Ellsworth said...

DG:

I cannot and would not argue with your data. After all, you are Data. But I would say this about your comment that Zon may be prioritizing traditionally published books a bit more. You could very well be right. But those of us who see APub books looming large in the top 20 of any of Zon's best seller categories also might guess that not only did trads get dialed up but APubs did also, allowing Amazon to accomplish two things with one twist of the dial. After all, what you're saying does not in and of itself--if it is true--exclude the possbility that APubs have gotten the same prioritizing favor. In fact, your finding of their growth to almost 15% would seem to support this.

Data Guy said...

Couldn't agree with you more, John.

Even long before this recent tilt toward traditionally published ebooks, Amazon has been steadily turning up the merchandising heat behind their APub titles.

It's a rare month nowadays where we don't see the overall Top 10, Top 20, and Top 100 dominated by APub titles, and there's no reason to expect that trend not to continue.

If I were Amazon, I'd be slowly shifting about 33% of the market to APub, with the goal of eventually leaving 33% of it indie, and 33% of it traditionally published. But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Data Guy,

John Ellsworth said...

So our friend JAK, who is looking beyond the ebook market for room to grow his sales, is absolutely 100% spot on: we all should want to grow outside of ebook sales if possible. Smart move, Joe, and when I saw last night what you had done with this, I immediately wrote to my own agent and asked her if we might not do the same. The same could be said for improving other areas too, such as audio, foreign etc. I see where you retained your foreign. Smart stuff.

Joe Konrath said...

How can we keep from losing our market share, our piece of the pie. A very smart guy once said, it's not a zero sum game. Well, maybe now it is.

Hi, John.

The whole concept of "market share" is tricky, because ebooks don't conform to the rules of a free market and supply and demand, because supply is unlimited and demand is no long a function of money, but rather of time.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/03/value-of-ebooks.html

KU allows readers to consume all they can, for one fixed price. There is no longer the problem of "I only have $30 this week for entertainment, do I buy an Ellsworth hardcover or a Konrath hardcover?" Or, more likely, two Patterson hardcovers, since they are co-opped 50% off.

Instead, if a reader reads as their main form of entertainment, they can read my backlist and yours and still be voracious for more. No zero sum.

No one is entitled to a piece of the pie. The competition, if it exists, is for readers' attention and time. This isn't a new problem. Even for those with no money, libraries have always forced readers to choose. The Internet, netflix, cable tv, radio stations, pandora, et al have more media than any person could consume in a lifetime.

It comes down to; how can we be discovered?

Back in 2009, indies could guarantee visibility with lower prices. Also, there was value in being on a bestseller list; it lead to increased sales in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I haven't seen the value of bestsellers lists in several years. Maybe I'm unique, but I don't find ranking to be the path to discoverability it once seemed to be.

Amazon has published five of my novels in the US, and eleven in Germany. The US books do alright. Amazon continues to promote them, which is great.

The German books are big hits.

Amazon Crossing pubbed me in France as well. The sales are dismal.

Why?

I dunno. There has to be more to this than just promoting stuff, because all of my A-Pub is promoted, and sales vary wildly.

I predicted, many years ago, that legacy publishers would catch on and lower their prices, and that would result in lower visibility for indies. But that doesn't explain the KU page read issue, because last I checked trad publishers weren't in that program.

Here's something that no one seems to discuss, and I'm not directing this toward you or anyone in this comment thread, but I'll bring it up:

Maybe some writers are experiencing fewer sales because quality overall has gone up, and readers are passing on books.

There is no longer any barrier to entry. While we never devolved into the tsunami of crap that some predicted, certainly there are a lot more mediocre books being published now than any time in history.

No writer--me included--will ever admit that their writing is what is halting their sales. On the contrary, writers who had 2000 page reads per day and now only have 100 are looking for something to blame, but they aren't blaming their prose.

I'll put it even more bluntly; if you're in jail which has a library of 1000 books, that ain't much of a choice, and mediocre books will be checked out regularly. But if that jail had three times as many books, a lot of them quality books, the mediocre books won't be read as much.

Now, perhaps "quality" is the wrong term. I think TIMECASTER is one of the best books I've written, and it is one of my poorest sellers. Am I deluding myself? Or is something else at play here?

I dunno. Just posing some possibilities that aren't related to Amazon rigging the system.

Anonymous said...

Joe says-Just posing some possibilities that aren't related to Amazon rigging the system.

Of course they are rigging the system. Just go into your local supermarket and look at any shelf and the answer is staring you in the face. What’s at eye level? Home brands and big names that pay for shelf position. And where’s that honey that you like from that small producer. It’s never in the same place, oh there it is on the bottom shelf half hidden by the support post.

Yeah, you have to change with the times. I am going to try a few new genres and maybe open a juice bar.

John Ellsworth said...

For the record, I don't believe Amazon is rigging the system. I believe Amazon is maximizing profits out of its own system and it is 100% entitled to do that and I have no right to complain. What I do have the right to do, and what I've been doing for about thirty days now, is whine to my wife and my assistant about lost revenues because "something happened." But I and many others will get over that and we'll figure a way to get back what was lost and probably much more. Then Amazon will twist the dials again and there will be more whining and gnashing of teeth and adjustments will again be required. That's the business side of what we do and that will never be static. But the writer part of what we do is something I can control, and one thing I said today on another forum was that for me it is time (in the first of the new year) to step back, read some good craft books, read some of the top sellers (in my genre at least) and try to see how I can improve my own product. Maybe I can, maybe I can't. But doing the same thing over and over and expecting sales to increase is probably happy thinking at best.

So glad you're back--or whatever this is.

Joe Konrath said...

Of course they are rigging the system.

Amazon has an uncanny understanding of anti-trust law. That's why they weren't ever in any trouble during the Hachette debacle.

Back in the day, the DOJ forced movie studios to sell the theaters they owned, because; monopoly.

Amazon.com and Amazon Publishing are separate entities. Because of this, A-Pub doesn't get automatic product placement. They pay for it, competitively, bidding for the same space as legacy publishers.

If they didn't, they'd get into legal trouble. You can't give yourself deals.

One of the early discussions I had with Amazon was why they didn't promote their own publications more. Amazon divisions compete with each other, and with other publishers, for marketing opportunities. Otherwise they'd have an unfair market advantage.

I'm unaware of any laws that govern product ranking. Amazon is free to rank products however they want to, just like they're free to censor books (erotica) and delete reviews. If they were rigging the ranking system, why isn't every Top 100 book in every category an Amazon title?

Anonymous said...

It isn't zero sum when payouts are decided after a pay period ends. How hard is that to understand?

You'd be shocked, Joe. I still see indies in places like Kboards not understanding the very basic concept that Amazon DECIDES at the end of the month how much they want to pay. You still have people trying to assign reasons why the pay rate went up or down every month to various things. I have given up trying to educate them. There are reasons why some people are not cut out to own a small business, and make no mistake, self-publishing is a small business -- at least if you want to be a success at it. (Then again, I still see clueless indies asking how people are coming by the rates. Apparently division is not their strong suit. Gods.)

Also, I'm flabbergasted authors are talking about lawsuits over 500-1000 page reads that are supposed to be missing. If all I'm getting are 500-1000 page reads a day I would prioritize WHY I'm only getting those petty numbers instead of trying to get Amazon to pay it. 1000 is basically $5 a day. If that's all you're making off your writing, it's time to either call it quits or bunker down and figure out WHY.

Finally, re: people living in constant fear of what Amazon MIGHT do tomorrow. Tomorrow you could get hit by a bus or a meteorite might kill us all. TOMORROW is for tomorrow. Right now if you're making money off KU you'd be an absolute moron to pull out. If you're not making money off KU, good luck, but I can assure you that the money ain't gonna be out there in "wide." If you can't sell in an easy-peasy platform like KU, why in the world do you think it'll be easier out there? Wake up.

Anonymous said...

hi

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joe for your reply

"We're past the deal memo and announcement stage, now I'm waiting for the contract.

This is for world English print rights. I kept foreign language."

-------------------
"Congrats Joe on your deal with kensington. Can you say what you negotiated in terms of how long they get to publish your books?

The big five and other medium sized presses have published us with print on paper only and no foreign rights, no erights or any other rights. We first pub'd that way in 2011, meaning the contract was made in 2010. "

Joe Konrath said...

You'd be shocked, Joe.

I wouldn't be shocked.

Writers today don't even have a concept of what a rejection is. I had over 500 rejections before landing an agent, and she couldn't sell the first three novels I wrote for her.

Some indies self-pub their first novel, do their own cover on MS Paint, and wonder why their sales dropped from 5 books sold per day to 1.

Not all indies. But I've seen this, firsthand.

When something that was once difficult (publishing, starting a fire, travelling 500 miles, hunting and gathering food) becomes easy (self-publishing, matches, cars, grocery stores) it fosters a sense of entitlement. The path from keyboard to consumer was once a very long, complicated venture where the author kept very little of the money. And there was still no guarantee the book would do well.

Self-publishing isn't a gold rush. It's a business. A few mediocre writers may make some money for a short while, but it will ultimately be the good books that develop loyal fans and continue to sell year after year.

Gardens need tending. We must keep improving cover art and book descriptions, perfect editing and formatting, continue advertising and sale prices, participate in social media, develop newsletters, and produce regular new content that is high quality.

You can make a buck ignoring the above. But I wouldn't stake a career on it. Long term success in this business means putting out a consistently exceptional body of work. Good isn't good enough. You have to be great. And even great is no guarantee of success. Luck always plays a part.

But don't tempt luck by being mediocre. And if some algorithm devastates your income, change your gameplan. I've changed mine more times than I can count.



Joe Konrath said...

We first pub'd that way in 2011, meaning the contract was made in 2010.

Did you sign an NDA to prevent you from sharing this with the world? If not, why aren't you shouting this from the mountain tops so more authors and agents are aware deals like this exist?

I was one of the first authors to share data. Sales figures, profits, comparisons between legacy and indie publishing. Prior to me, the only talk you'd hear about advances were the big ones announced in Publishers Lunch, and the hushed conversation over beers at writing conventions.

Everyone was in the dark, so no one knew what the best route was.

Sharing is caring.

Amanda M. Lee said...

My September to December stretch is always lower and I combatted it this year with multiple releases under my main name (Amanda M. Lee) and pen name. My numbers have pretty much been exactly where I expected them. I average between 400K and 600K on page reads a day. I hit the high end when I have a popular new release and the low end about thirty days out from those releases. I'm a member in several groups and I've found those complaining about lower numbers to be less than 20 percent of the entire author pool on those boards, so I think there was a shift but nowhere near the shift other people are proclaiming. Personally, I think Amazon instituted a fraud filter and they're going after big collections and bonus books next, but I have no proof of that. It's just a gut feeling. I can say that my numbers are exactly where I would expect them to be this time of year and I'm all in with KU so ... that's just anecdotal but that's where I'm at.

Joe Konrath said...

600k a day? Go Amanda!

I'm quitting thrillers and writing about witches. :)

Annie B said...

@ Peter Spenser

Hugh has signed four more print-only deals in the last year according to his blog, none of those with S&S I don't think (he didn't have a positive experience with them, from what he's shared publicly).

My deal was North American print rights only, btw. It was one of the things that made the deal work for me, very limited rights.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

I would love A-pub - but they are even less approachable than traditional publishers, at least in principle, because the trad pub allow submissions. Assuming you can get an agent, and all that.

Other than Kindle Scout, is there an avenue for indies? Or is Amazon Publishing the new gatekeeper?

PS I found a way to contact Little A, made an approach, received a form 'sorry, we don't accept submissions' reply.

Jill James said...

Joe, glad to see you back on the blog.

David VanDyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David VanDyke said...

My recent box sets are still underperforming on a sales vs. page read basis.

For example, Apocalyptic Fears II was published in November 2015 and soon averaged roughly 600-900 page reads PER SALE (out of the capped 3000 KENPC) until the present, day in, day out.

AFIII, published 1 October 2016, functionally quite the same (good mix of authors, same series, same genre, same theme, same cover, same price, same promotion strategies) sold about the same in retail (red line, 99c sales) but the page read average (blue line) is about 200 page reads per sale. AFIV is about the same.

This is an indication, though not proof, of a severe algorithm change, and it seems to be based on when the books were released.

My old books, especially my single-novel titles, seem unaffected or only mildly affected. My newest single-novel title, launched on December 6, seems unaffected. But those two big box sets continue to be anomalous. It's simply weird. My working theory is that there is some sort of suppression factor now in the algorithm, either for capped box sets, or for multi-author box sets.

Mir Writes said...

Happy New Year to you, Joe, and I'm looking forward to see how your new venture succeeds.

Alexis said...

Just wanted to say THANK YOU for your continued generosity to new writers, speaking as one of them, I have learned so much from you over the years!

Anonymous said...

I wrote: 'we first pub'd that way in 2011, meaning the contract was made in 2010.'

Joe, you wrote: "Did you sign an NDA to prevent you from sharing this with the world? If not, why aren't you shouting this from the mountain tops so more authors and agents are aware deals like this exist?"

I did say speak, saying indies who lean toward wanting to do both, trad and indie, approach mid and big pubs. I dont have a blog writers come to, and I spoke of our negotiations on some other people's blogs where leave comment on occasion. The response was sort of 'good for you' but 'that's not the way it works... because whosits or whomever said so.'

I think the trope was already out there somehow mountainously strong that trad pubs wont pub you if you dont give them erights and your next year's tax refund. I wondered at the time if there was something like what's called a perseveration wherein some people cant take in news that differs from their belief. sort of like being warned away from author solutions but jumping for the crack bait anyway.

I think indies can do the same kind of negotiations and not sure since Im not an acquisition editor, but I can see indies keeping british, foreign, ebook, film rights as/if they display a track record of some sort, or as in the good old/bad old days, the work is written compellingly, and acquiring thinks there's a market for it.

We'll be looking forward Joe to seeing you succeed in your latest venture. You have many creative ways: novels, coloring book, co-authoring, exploring licensing characters I think? and pub with Amazon and your old trad pub several books and now this too. Good luck.

Scott Nicholson said...

Sweet deal. Kensington treated me fairly, but that was a totally different era and it eventually faded. Hope it works out for you both.

BRYAN HIGBY said...

You're alive! Hurray! I thought something had happened to you Joe. Blake said you were still kicking but I wasn't convinced. Congrats on the new 3 book deal and happy to see you back blogging! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Adam Rose said...


I did say speak, saying indies who lean toward wanting to do both, trad and indie, approach mid and big pubs. I dont have a blog writers come to, and I spoke of our negotiations on some other people's blogs where leave comment on occasion. The response was sort of 'good for you' but 'that's not the way it works... because whosits or whomever said so.'

you did great job dude. amazon kindle always boss for me. always recommend this.

Andreas said...

Welcome back Joe! Been missing your posts here for a while. Congrats on the Kensingston deal! Sounds like a smart move, and the kind of collaboration between writers and publishers that may lead to new opportunities for both parties. Hopefully it will be a success for both, and we'll see more of these kinds of deals in the future.

Lou Cadle said...

I'm glad to see you back. You were sorely missed.

I think you're right in that there is a different perspective with people who lived before indie, know rejection, and know that nothing lasts forever in this industry. I want to say to some indies with declining sales: sometimes, you know, it's not your turn any longer. It's the next guy's turn. I'm happy I got a turn at all (and it's nowhere near the level of success John, Amanda, or several others posting here have had, but it's plenty satisfying for me). I'm still grateful to Zon for starting and initially funding this revolution.

I suspect there are more changes coming at Zon in 2017 (I even have a few WAGs). I can't control that. I can only control what I can control--what I write being most important. I find it self-defeating to get apoplectic about that which I can't control.

I don't see your PB deal as at all contradictory with your previous posts. I signed an audio deal myself because they can do a far better job of production than I can, and I really don't need the extra admin burden that ACX would bring.

Steven Zacharius said...

As the CEO of Kensington, we are thrilled to be publishing Joe in mass market. I read the book that he suggested, The List, and it was a fascinating concept for a thriller. In fact, three of us in the office read it, and all enjoyed it. We're hoping Joe's popularity and great stories will translate well into print even though the ebooks have been out for a long time now. This will be a great experiment. Ideally we would work towards the releasing a new book in print at the same time the author would be releasing in e. This sort of arrangement only has the potential to work with authors that have sold very high levels of ebooks otherwise it would not be worth the risk for the publisher to only publish it in print. We've already heard from a few big romance authors who are interested in talking to us as well. So hopefully this all works. But I'm glad our first test is with Joe since he's always been an outspoken supporter of indie publishing. I'm glad he was willing to try this and I'm hoping for great results.
Happy Holidays to all.

Steve Zacharius

BRYAN HIGBY said...

Great comment Steve. I'm not as of yet a bestseller but I have a large back list and was one of the initial authors accepted into Joe's fold of writers who helped to expand the Jack Daniels franchise to Kindle Worlds. Since I currently am not a bestseller but I have three polished manuscripts making the rounds would Kensington be open for me to submit to them on the merit that Konrath not only liked but agreed to publish my work? Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Kiana Davenport said...

Welcome back, Joe. Huge congrats on your Kensington deal! You are right. Stasis is Death. Change is Life. Nothing is set in stone in this biz. Please keep us posted. Alohas, Kiana Davenport