Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Should E-Books Be Cheap?

Let's look at a recent Time Magazine article about the Amazon Kindle.

Here are the two things I picked out:

First, Amazon is selling ebooks at $9.99 for Kindle, and is taking a loss on this because publishers are charging them standard hardcover rates.

Second, according to small press publisher Dennis Johnson, nobody can make a book that sells for $9.99. You can save on shipping and printing, but that's only a small fraction of what it costs to make a book.

Now, at the risk of annoying print publishers everywhere--and print publishers have been very good to me and I consider myself grateful to have worked with some wonderful publishers--I'm going to politely disagree with the above statements.

The music industry, for all who have been paying attention, has never recovered from the digital mp3 revolution. I doubt the skewed tales of loss from the RIAA are accurate, but I have heard that iTunes is now selling more music than the Walmart, the world's largest music retailer. I also know, anecdotally, that my friends with iPods have managed to fill them with music, and very little of this music was bought. Rather it was borrowed, shared, or stolen.

There are several causes for the profits being down in the music industry. CDs cost too much money, especially when consumers often only wanted one or two songs on a disc. iPods and digital equipment have replaced stereos as the preferred method of music delivery. When fans set up distribution networks, like Napster, to share music, the RIAA tried to shut down these networks rather than learn to use the new technology to their advantage.

Apple finally figured out that 99 cent songs and no DRM is the way to go. But it took them way too long to get to that point, and as a result, we have a healthy, active piracy community. In fact, 13 of the top 100 most visited websites are file sharing sites, and that doesn't include Usenet, Limewire, or eMule.

So let's recap on the things the music industry did wrong.

1. High price.
2. Not adapting to the new method of delivery.
3. Not adequately dealing with piracy.

Hmm. Now if we look at what publishers are doing, we can draw some parallels.

First, in this economy, $27.95 is too much for a hardcover work of fiction. Why do they cost this much?

I've done other posts about the cost of books, and why publishing uses an archaic business model. To recap:

1. Only one out of five books makes a profit (two break even, two lose money.)

2. A fifty percent sell through (books printed vs. books actually sold) is considered by many to be the industry average.

3. The books that don't sell are remaindered (sold at a loss) or destroyed.

4. Retailers take books at a 40% to 60% discount. (we'll include the distributor cut in here as well.)

5. The author earns between 10% and 15% of the cover price.

6. Printing and shipping and corrugation (making boxes and displays) can cost 10% or more of the cover price, depending on the number of returns.

7. Marketing, advertising, and coop all are factored in to P&L.

8. Books have certain set up costs; typesetting, line editing, artwork, etc.

9. That means a publisher earns perhaps 15% to 20% of a book's cover price, and they have to run their entire company on this small amount.

So it seems that maybe it is impossible for publishers to lower their prices.

And yet...

No printing, no shipping, and no distribution (warehousing) costs, along with no returns, actually can save a big chunk of money. The way these costs are broken down make it seem like this is a very small part of a book's price. But, in fact, these are the only set costs, and these are the costs that all other costs are based on.

All the other costs are negotiable.

Publishers make money on paperbacks, which sell for $6.99 to $10.99. So it isn't about price, it's about profit per unit.

Print publishers are basing ebook prices on the profit per unit figures of print books. They have to do this, because if they sell ebooks for less and don't make up for the loss in volume, they will lose money.

But if a major publisher switched completely to ebooks (which may be what the future holds) a new pricing and profit structure will evolve. Costs to the publisher will be much less, and the cost of running a company will be much less.

When the cost of printing, shipping, and warehousing is eliminated, a lot of jobs are eliminated. This saves money.

When the cost of returns no longer figures into a book's profit margin, this saves money.

When books no longer go out of print, this earns money. In fact, every book, rather than one out of five, can be profitable.

When gigantic marketing and advertising budgets aimed at moving print books are slashed, this saves money.

No coop in bookstores, no author book tours. This saves money.

"But what about author advances?" publishers may ask. Tell you what--double my royalty rate for ebooks, I won't take an advance.

What we actually have isn't a situation where ebooks cost as much as print books. It's a situation where publishers must charge the same for ebooks as they do with print books if they want to keep their infrastructures intact.

But the fact is, consumers don't care about publishers, or their infrastructures. They care about books. And they want to pay less for ebooks.

They also want to be able to get ebooks without copy protection, just like they want their songs without copy protection. ITunes dropped DRM because their customers hated it. Will publishing adopt a similar stance?

I just got this newsletter from a large publisher:

We have engaged Attributor, a leading anti-piracy protection service, to monitor the web for instances of unlawful use of its authors’ books and content.

How much do you think that is going to add to the cost of ebooks? And how well do you think it will work, considering DRM and Macrovision and RIAA lawsuits and every other form of anti-piracy protection has failed miserably? And of course, Attributor will be used in conjunction with DRM.

I'd love to see Attributor take on Usenet, which has billions of illegal downloads per day and no way to track them. Or Rapidshare, which is based on password-protected private uploads and downloads using encrypted file lockers. Or any torrent tracker, for that matter. Pirate Bay and Mininova have been sued a gazillion times to no effect. And the private trackers are invite-only---good luck Attributor in getting an invitation.

Do you really want to know how to get rid of piracy? Here's how:

The rules of supply and demand don't work in a digital world, because the supply is unlimited. You don't fight piracy with weapons. You fight piracy with cost and convenience.

Let me state that again, because no one seems to get it.

The rules of supply and demand don't work in a digital world, because the supply is unlimited. You don't fight piracy with weapons. You fight piracy with cost and convenience.

If there were a central hub, where you could easily search for ebooks and get them at a reasonable price, there would be no need to pirate books.

Amazon is not that central hub. The Kindle is too expensive, their ebooks are too expensive, and the Kindle uses DRM and a proprietary format that is difficult to convert. Proprietary exclusive formats don't work. That's why Betamax and DAT failed.

Publishers, if they truly were looking toward the future, would make themselves into these hubs, eliminating the need for Amazon. But they're still focused on dead trees.

Here are some possible future scenarios:

--Publishers learn from the mistakes made by the music industry regarding digital content, and lower the prices for digital books. This could result in more inexpensive digital books than expensive print books being sold, leading to a decline in print sales, and an overall drop in the gross profit of the industry, even if there are a greater number of books sold. But they would survive, and after restructuring, possibly thrive.

--Publishers keep the price of digital books high, in which case more and more people boycott expensive books and support newer and cheaper authors. Readers also begin to illegally download books in larger numbers, as they do with music. Publishing dies.

The goal is to figure out what readers are willing to pay for the ease of downloading a book at a central distribution hub. Will they pay $5.99? Will a percentage of them buy it from another site for $2.99 and then convert it to their desired format themselves? Or will some of them just pirate it?

--Publishers realize their business model is based on printing and distribution, and they radically alter their companies in order to succeed in a digital world. That means becoming their own stores/distributors like Amazon, offering exclusive content.

Wal-mart has proven that “one stop shopping” is what America wants. Why go to a mall, with 50 stores, when one store carries everything from milk to tires to pants to books?

And yet, Green Day didn’t release their latest CD with Wal-mart, and it was still a smash hit. People will go elsewhere for exclusive content if they want it bad enough.

If I were a publisher, I’d consider what books I have under contract, and figure out how to sell them without splitting the money with a distributor/retailer such as Amazon.

--Authors realize that they don’t need publishers. Why should they split revenue with a publisher when they can upload it to the world themselves?

Currently, I'm making $110 a day on books NY publishing didn't want. That's not a lot of money, yet. But the average advance for a novel is still $5000. Between April 8 and June 30, I'll have earned $5000. And my numbers are going up.

--Amazon realizes it doesn’t need publishers, and deals directly with authors. They've already begun publishing print titles, and they've allowed for authors to publish print and ebook titles on their own. Eventually, Amazon is going to start getting some big download numbers for their ebooks, and they'll approach a big author with an exclusive royalty deal.

--A third party ereader is created by a company to compete with the Kindle. It will be inexpensive, able to read a variety of ebook formats, and have upgradable software and memory. This will lead to ereaders becoming as commonplace as iPods, and be the beginning of the end of print.

--Ebooks will become multi-media experiences like DVDs. Books will have author annotations and interviews, be bundled with audio versions, and contain extras such as short stories, early drafts, dictionaries and glossaries, and be directly linkable to forum discussions and book groups. Who would still want paper?

There's a lot to consider when it comes to e-book and the future of publishing. And I may be dead wrong on a lot of these predictions. Hell, I may not know what I'm talking about. Even with the economy, and bookstores losing money, and revenue down, publishers are still alive and kicking, just like they have been for hundreds of years.

But I do think e-books are the future. And I don't think print publishers know how to handle that.

There was a recent announcement that Simon & Schuster was joining forces with Scribd, an ebook download hub, and offering their catalog of ebooks for 20% off print cover price.

I wish S&S much success, but I don't predict it. 20% off the print price is a insignificant discount. Maybe if they slashed prices to a few dollars each title it would catch on, but I don't believe Scribd is a big enough hub yet, and it doesn't get nearly the traffic Amazon does.

But because I'm a cutting edge early adopter who can predict trends (ask Barry Eisler), I offered my ebooks on Scribd 15 days ago, at the same price they are available for on Kindle, less than $2 each.

In 15 days, I've sold zero books. Compare this to over a hundred books a day I sell on Amazon.

Scribd is not the future of epublishing.

If I were Simon & Schuster, or any big publisher, I would digitize my entire backlist and sell it on my publisher website for $2.99 a book, splitting royalties 50/50 with the author, and advertising the hell out of it in print, radio, and TV. Scribd, Amazon, and other e-tailers could have the titles for slightly more, factoring in their mark-up.

I would also invest heavily in new ebook reader technology, perhaps partnering with Apple or Google or Sony, to make a cheap, better competitor to the Kindle.

But I don't predict either happening anytime soon. Publishers, like oil tankers, take a long time to change direction. That doesn't mean publishers aren't smart--they're some of the smartest folks I know. But being smart, and being willing to scrap a business model you've used for fifty years, are two different things.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds. But as an author, I'm emboldened that with enough titles under my belt, in the future I might actually be able earn a living uploading my own books digitally, rather than depending on someone else to sell my books for me.

And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who believes this.


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T. M. Hunter said...

Good stuff...and if only the major publishers would agree with you, I think there might actually be some good that could come from it all.

The publishers that survive (as is the case in any business) will be the ones that figure out how to utilize the new technologies and improve themselves. Those that stick to old (and as you pointed out, costly) methods are going to die a painful death in the business world.

I do have to agree with you in that publishers setting e-book prices at $10 are not going to cut it. May just be the cynic in me, but it's almost like they're out to prove to everyone, "see, no one really wants to buy e-books."

People like e-books, and they like them cheap. There's a reason Fictionwise has done so well...they sell e-books cheap, and discount them quite often.

And as an author, I take every chance I get to plug my book when they do discounts. People like free, but in the absence of free, they like cheap...and considering e-books have a higher royalty rate than print, it doesn't hurt as bad as one might think... :-)

Rick Grant said...

You know, you bring some of the clearest thinking yet to this subject and I thank you for it.

There is one area in which major publishers can start making money for not much effort; I'm thinking of their backlists.

I have long been a fan of several authors of the 20th Century who are just about unobtainable, despite the fact that they were world wide bestselling authors in their day.

I'm thinking of Nevil Shute, Gavin Lyall, Hammond Innes and others.

I own many of these authors' works in print but I travel extensively so I like to carry a library in a handheld computer and on my smartphone.

I am forced to either download the few available from the various pirate sites or spend time physically scanning fragile copies into electronic format.

Surely it wouldn't cost much for a publisher to take the backlist, which must exist somewhere in something other than bound copies and scan them.

It wouldn't take long.

If they had to use a bound copy then it would just take longer and wouldn't require the destruction of the the book.

If I want to risk damage to a 40 year old Pan edition of one of Geoffrey Jenkins' works it takes me a little over an hour to convert it to straight TXT. (Full instructions for doing this quickly and without book damage are available all over the net)

A publisher, especially one willing to further abuse their unpaid interns by putting them in front of a scanner, could pump out hundreds of titles in short order for pennies.

If they sell at $1.99 through Amazon, that's great, and it is money that would never have come the publisher's way.

If some don't sell at all, the actual production loss is minimal or perhaps nonexistent. (Publishers can download beautifully proofed pirated versions of many works now, and in most cases those versions contain the publisher's original copyright and publishing details just as when the book rolled off the presses)

There would surely be an upfront cost to those authors or families who hold the electronic rights but that is fair and their right but your idea of a 50/50 royalty split sounds like a deal maker to me.

But please, please, let's see the end of DRM. There isn't one that can't be hacked and it just makes people angry.

Rick Grant

John McFetridge said...

I believe you're right about the price being a big factor in piracy (personally I don't care about DRM, but that's just me).

Maybe publishers should look at online piracy as the same as bookstore shoplifting.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you discuss what publishers should or shouldn't do to be a part of the future, because lots of authors will be by-passing publishers altogether. Phrased differently, publishers are no longer a necessary middleman. The author can easily by-pass them to present the book to the world digitally. And, as far as print goes, authors can easily arrange for POD production, which has recently become cost effective through such things as Amazon's Create Space.

JA Konrath said...

Anon--In the absence of printing and distribution, publishers still do have things to offer:

1. Their backlists.
2. Their marketing and advertising contacts and budgets.
3. Their vetting process. There will be a lot of crap released as ebooks in the coming years. A publisher's brand may indeed work like a seal to separate the professional from the lousy.

But you're correct. In a fully digital world, do writers need publishers or lit agents?

But I don't foresee this happening for several years...

T. M. Hunter said...

In a fully digital world, my guess is that readers will take over the role originally garnered by agents and publishers...just as they have in the music industry. People like what they like, and scorn the crap they don't...

Jude Hardin said...

Hi Joe:

For my money, the vetting process is the main advantage traditional publishers have. Self-publishing is still self-publishing, whether as an ebook or POD. I won't buy either, at any price, or even download for free (unless it's an author I'm familiar with), because I don't waste my time reading rubbish. I'm sure there are some diamonds in the rough out there, but I simply don't have time to sift through the dreck trying to find them. With a traditional publisher, at least I know several professional eyes have seen and greenlighted a project before it hits the shelves. I still might be disappointed, but the odds are better that I won't.

JA Konrath said...

Jude--Amazon has a free preview feature. So you can read the first few chapters before committing to buy the ebook.

I agree that the majority of self-pubbed stuff is crap. But over the years I've encountered over a dozen authors that aren't crap.

Ultimately, it's the readers who decide.

Stacey Cochran said...

Two things. In the time it took to read this blog post, I sold 11 e-books on Amazon Kindle.

Know how many print copies I sold?


Second thing. You wrote Amazon realizes it doesn’t need publishers.

See Amazon Encore (hopefully this link will work). They've just launched their own publisher.

Excellent post, Joe. As always.

Jude Hardin said...

It's tempting to jump on the self-publishing bandwagon, seeing some of the initial numbers, but I don't think those numbers can possibly be sustained. Like Joe said, it's the readers who ultimately decide, so I'm predicting the Kindle sales for self-published titles will cool off pretty quickly and regulate itself once the reading public discovers what crap most of it is.

I have a manuscript with an agent that's gone through several incarnations over a couple of years, and it appears now that it's not going to sell. It would be very easy for me to write up a product description, have a cover mocked up, and try to sell it on the Kindle store. I've put some serious thought into it, and (for now--never say never!) I've decided against it. To me, it would feel like giving up, like I'm not good enough for the big leagues, so I'll settle for this. I'm not ready for that. If I can't get a genuine book deal, maybe I'm just not good enough to play the game at all.

Stacey Cochran said...

self-published titles will cool off pretty quickly and regulate itself once the reading public discovers what crap most of it is

Jude, with all due respect, you're missing the point of a community approach to books. The problem with traditional publishing is that an extremely small number of people decide what millions and millions of people read. Literally, there are 25 editors in major NY publishing who will consider thrillers.

What Amazon and Kindle has shown is that a community of readers (literally thousands) decide what is good fiction.

If a book sucks, no one will download it, no one will write reviews for it, and it will go nowhere.

Kindle readers can tell in a heartbeat by looking at a free Kindle sample whether the book is any good. And believe me a poorly designed, formatted, and written book will not do well.

What Kindle (and now Amazon Encore) is going to do is it gives the readers the say in what should be published.

I personally think this break-through is long overdue, and it's nice to see (after 3,000 rejection letters and twenty years of writing to traditional publishers) my books are hitting bestseller lists.

Anonymous said...

I recently read a study about what the music industry is losing money. It has nothing to do with downloads. In fact, people who download illegally actually buy more in the long run (they are into music). An examination of where discretionary income is being spent revealed that what people spend their discretionary income on has shifted-- money that used to be spent on music is now being spent on computer games. This may also account for some of the decline in the revenues of book publishing.

Anonymous said...

You've hit the nail on the head, Joe. I'll always prefer reading from paper, but I've recently begun to realise the many advantages of the ebook. The main thing stopping me joining the digital revolution is that they often aren't that much cheaper than the printed books, in which case I'd rather have the paper version. If they were only a fraction of the price, then - with the amount of books I buy - commonsense would cause me to switch.

Unknown said...

As a currently unpublished writer, something I'm looking forward to the most is going on book tour. Your prediction that they will be obsolete makes me kinda sad.

Oh course, I actually love the feel of a book in my hands and doubt I'll be transitioning to an ereader in the future.

Karen from Mentor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen from Mentor said...

Great informative posting Joe,
I hope publishers are listening...on the other hand, I hope the FBI is not....cause if they are, in my crystal ball I see this subpoena in your future...."Dear Sir..kindly submit a list of your friends for review by this panel for the charge of piracy..."


carl brookins said...

Joe, I'm surprised you haven't been censored by the publishing world.
Most of your points are valid, as are those of earlier commenters.
Backlists are not that easily handled. Contractual rights are often limited. Google aside, the digitizing process is still far from perfect. I agree a lot of people will try to write and sell their own stuff directly but that's a business model that has yet to be fully developed. I don't see books in paper disappearing in your lifetime, but I won't be surprised to see major upheaval in the publishing business.

Now, about that model release.....

Jack Holbrook said...

This is an excellent review of the issues and I feel there is something of a consensus building around this type of conclusion about what the publishing industry is doing wrong right now.

One of your scenarios is, "Authors realize that they don’t need publishers." In fact, I've been doing some experiments lately in how you can publish, sell and even market an e-book for absolutely no cost at all (on sites like Smashwords, PayLoadz, and Lulu - I tried Amazon too but, not being American, they won't let me.)

So far, the experience is that it is very easy to set up an e-book in multiple formats and have it sold through multiple e-commerce sites at zero cost. I'm only a few days into this but have yet to receive a single visit on any of the sites I'm using - let alone make a sale.

It's early days yet, of course, but it looks like marketing is where it all falls down.

JA Konrath said...

but I don't think those numbers can possibly be sustained


See, I think the numbers will rise.

As of right now, 6:42am on June 18, I've sold 2066 Kindle books since June 1.

That's two thousand books, out of over 1 million Kindle owners--and that doesn't count those with iPhones and iPod Touch who can get the Kindle ap.

That means, in June, I've only sold to .002% of Kindle owners.

Even if we assume only ten percent of Kindle owners like thrillers, and only ten percent of those will buy my books, I still have a lot of books left to sell.

But my guess is more than ten percent like thrillers, and more than 1 million Kindles and Kindle aps have been sold, with more on the way.

This could be a very long tail.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Joe. Good stuff.

Increasingly I think we're going to see authors taking advantage of the "direct to consumer" model via such outlets as the Kindle store where they can cut out the middle-men (both publisher & agent), reduce costs, and thereby increase profit.

There is, however, an issue re quality with this approach. In my mind, the biggest reason to buy a published work as opposed to something self-published is the (somewhat loose) guarantee of quality--that a work is structurally correct, not riddled with misspelled words, bad grammar, etc. However, with customer reviews and the ability to view a sample of the work in question, you at least get some piece of mind that an 'unpublished' work from the Kindle store meets some minimal quality standard.

It's going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

I don't own a Kindle (yet). But when the price comes down...

JA Konrath said...

I recently read a study about what the music industry is losing money.

Can you point me to the study?

Jude Hardin said...


I'm sure your numbers will continue to be impressive, because you have a good following. But, you know, ten percent of the thriller market is a pretty huge slice. If ten percent of all the people who like thrillers had bought your print novels, for example, you'd be posting numbers similar to Dan Brown's and you'd be kicking back on your own island with a cold one about now. :)

I'm mostly talking about the average unpublished bloke like me, trying to hawk a manuscript that didn't make it in NY. I think agents and editors are an intregal part of the process, and I think by-and-large they do a pretty good job. I think my book is good, but it would be unrealistic and egotistical to believe that it couldn't be improved with some professional editing.

It would be interesting to hear from some agents and editors on the subject. Nathan? Neil? Where are you? Tell us exactly why it is we need you guys.

Stacey Cochran said...

It would be interesting to hear from some agents and editors on the subject.

I spoke with an agent earlier this week who is extremely interested in the Kindle phenomenon... particularly as a vehicle to market his agency's authors.

Additionally, I spoke with a Random House editor on Tuesday who voiced equal interest.

I think most people who know understand that this sea-change will be permanent and lucrative.

Again the major point is that Amazon is creating a system through which their readers are voting with their wallets and reviews, which novels are well-written and should receive marketing, publicity, and (with Encore) publication.

This is one of the major aspects of this change that is so innovative. It gives the power to readers to decide what they want.

JA Konrath said...

If ten percent of all the people who like thrillers had bought your print novels, for example,

That's the thing, Jude. Ten percent of people didn't buy my thrillers because they don't know they exist, because they didn't have massive print runs, marketing campaigns, and distribution.

If I've only got three hardcovers, spine out in section, and Dan Brown had 50 hardcovers face out at 30% off on the New Release table for six weeks, I can't compete.

JA Konrath said...

I allow people to comment anonymously, so if there are editors or agents who would like to chime in, you can do so without getting into trouble. :)

Also, I would like to be told if I'm missing some piece of the puzzle, or if I'm not grasping some bigger picture. I tend to admit when I'm wrong, and change my views accordingly.

JA Konrath said...

I think my book is good, but it would be unrealistic and egotistical to believe that it couldn't be improved with some professional editing.

From what I've read of your book, it is good. I'm sure your agent agrees.

While being accepted by agents and editors is a rightfully deserved badge of honor, and while surviving the vetting process and being professionally edited does say a lot about your book's perceived quality, publishing still is fallible.

Editors rejected Harry Potter. In fact, just about every published book was rejected by some industry pro. Only one book out of five makes a profit, and these were all professionally vetted.

Editors and agents have tastes, there are trends and the economy to consider, as well as past successes and failures and the current condition of their companies.

If the system were perfect, every book accepted by it would be a huge success.

Yes, the vaaaaast majority of self-pubbed stuff is crap. And yes, landing a big publishing deal is still the equivalent of getting into the major leagues. That's why I never self-pubbed.

And yet, I'm getting fanmail (and have been, for years) on novels that NY publishing rejected. People ask me for sequels on books I've never traditionally sold.

Is it because the books suck? Or because the books were unlucky?

Stacey's comment that readers are now able to vote with reviews and their wallets is an apt one.

For years, three network TV stations told us what to watch. For years, were were limited to the radio stations in our home towns. And for years, publishers decided what the public should read.

But with the Kindle, the public now has a wider choice. It offers the opportunity for writers to be read.

Now, in the early stages of this new technology, is the perfect time to build a fanbase. Because if my predictions come true, within a few years all ebooks will be $1.99, and then I'll be in the same position I've always been in; competing with publisher coop and brand names.

But perhaps I can gain enough fans in the interim to become one of those brand names.

amberargyle said...

This gives me hope. After waiting for 9 months for the traditional publishers to make up their minds, my agent and I might be facing a no-sale.

At least this way, I have another option.

Jude Hardin said...


I'm sure when ebook readers really catch on, the market will be huge. So, of course agents and editors will be interested in a share of that. What we were discussing, though, is the difference between a novel that has made it through the vetting process and a novel that has not. The difference is, and always will be, huge, I think, and I believe it's only a matter of time before the buying public figures that out. A decent cover and some sensational flap copy might score an initial sale, but return business is where it's at. Most of the self-pubbed titles I've read just didn't hold up, so I doubt if I'll ever read those authors again. And I don't think I'm much more discerning than most readers.


Some good points, and thanks for the compliment.

Yes, almost every book goes through rejections before it finds a home. Some books that we consider great classics were rejected multiple times. So, should we therefore assume that there are mass quatities of undiscovered gems out there, just waiting to be mined by the reading public? I don't think so. There are some, for sure, but who has time to pick through all the rubble to find them?

Anonymous said...

Kindle is in it's infancy and Kindle owners are still a bit naive as to what is in the Kindle store. Many believe that it's the digital equivalent of BN or Borders, and that a book there is similar to a book on the shelves of their neighborhood store. They don't fully appreciate yet that the Kindle store is loaded up with self-published books that would never make it to a brick and mortal bookstore.

As they get burned by crapy books, they will get smarter and realize that not all books in the Kindle store are created equal. They will begin to review the product pages more carefully to see if there is a publisher, an ISBN, book reviews from credible souces, etc.

As time goes on and Kindle buyers get smarter, the ease of selling crap will dissipate.

In the Kindle store as elsewhere, the good books and authors will eventually rise to the top and the rest will sink. Right now, however, things are still shaking out.

Jim said...

The great thing about Kindle is that it levels the playing field and gives good authors access to readers, and vice versa, in ways that never existed before.

My books are selling very well, priced at just under $5.00. I usually have at least 2 books in the top 25 of the legal thriller category. Right now, for example, NIGHT LAWS is at # 7. They also rank very high in the hard-boiled category. My profit this month will again be somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000.

It seems to me that the new digitial revolution is creating some anger among traditionally published authors who resent the fact that other authors (historically labeled as inferior) are now players and, in some cases, better players than they are.

It's an exciting time that allows readers to vote without publishers and others getting in the way.

Stacey Cochran said...

In September, I will be paying my mortgage on my house with the royalties I earned this month from Kindle.

By all means, stand on the sidelines and watch.

Maybe that agent will sell the novel next year.

William Sackett said...

Ever check out The role-playing game community has jumped onto the download and PDF bandwagon.

I haven't studied it closely, but I see variations on some of the trends you discuss:

1. No DRM
2. PDF versions generally half the price of print version
3. Old and out of print games coming back in PDF-only format (nothing ever needs to go out of print) from the creators, not the original publishers
4. Independent creators becoming successful though strong web presence, good word of mouth, and creating interesting, experimental, and darn-fine products.

It hasn't killed the print publishers, but has created a thriving independent culture with its own stars who easily wander back and forth between work-for-hire for the print companies and their own independent projects.

Seems like this is a group that has learned from the failings of the music industry (and the success of open source software) and might be someone the print publishers should look to as a model.

Lyn Cote said...

Hi Jack,
I hear you. I just read The Spider and the Starfish The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Orfman.

You have the right ideas. Just try to convince other authors!

This is No time for author-ostriches!

JA Konrath said...

@Jude - I've said it before and I'll say it ad nauseum; most self-pubbed titles aren't good.

I had the distinction of being a judge in several self-publishing contests, and it scarred me forever.

That said, I have read some quality self-pubbed books--books that are at least the equal of or superior to some traditionally published books.

But as I've said before, ad nauseum, "quality" and "good" are subjective after a certain baseline standard is established. I've labeled that baseline as "it functions as a narrative with a conflict, rising action, and resolution."

If you agree that reputable literary agents are able to tell "quality" from "crap" (which is something I believe) and you realize that an agent may sell less than twenty percent of the projects she reps, then that means there are a lot of good books out there without print deals.

@Anon - I agree. But if you look at the Kindle bestseller lists, you won't find what I'd consider "crap." You've got mostly name authors, and a few self-pubbed books. In the Kindle Bestseller Top 100 for Horror, there are only 8 self-pubbed books, and three of the eight are from authors with print deals (me, Lee Goldberg, John Rector.)

So where exactly is the crap? Only 8 out of 100 bestsellers are self-pub, and three of those are from print authors with agents. That leaves 5 out of 100 who are unknown self-pubbers--but I don't actually know if they are actually unknown--they may also have agents and print deals, but I didn't recognize their names.

I'd say the good books and authors already seem to be rising to the top, at least as far as the readers are concerned.

Time will tell what stays on top and what doesn't.

@Jim - I'd consider dropping your price on one or two of your titles to $1.99 see how it sells. If it makes up the lost profit in quantity, you may be able to hit on a perfect price point. If you try it, keep us posted.

@Stacey - Congrats, but play nice. We all have different paths for are careers, and there is no right or wrong way.

I don't truly know if I'd put a book up on Kindle if I hadn't ever sold to traditional print publishers, so I partially agree with Jude.

On the other hand, a Kindle reader is a pure way to test whether a book is "good." Editors often have their hands tied, and may want to acquire books even though they can't. Being traditionally published isn't necessarily the only indicator of a "good" book.

I'd say that if the majority of the people who read a book like it, I'd consider it a "good" book no matter who did or didn't publish it.

It's a popularity contest. Majority rules.

But the majority won't ever have a chance to rule if they never see the book. That's why I spend so much time marketing.

I believe I've got a salable product. I just need to make people aware it exists, and convince them to try it.

The Amazon Kindle is really a pure testing ground for this. And I think it will help authors get discovered that mainstream print publishing missed.

JA Konrath said...

@William - Thanks for chiming in and bringing that up. It seems like such an obvious business model.

Jim said...

Joe, a little experiment never hurt anyone. The third LAWS thriller, FATAL LAWS, is currently #28 on the legal thriller list, priced at $4.76 (after Amazon's 20% discount).

I just lowered the priced to $1.99. We'll see if the new price makes the book outsell the other books in the LAWS series.

JA Konrath said...

Jim - Keep track of how many copies it sold and how much it earned in the last 18 days, then in 18 days from now do a comparison.

I'm sure you'll sell more copies, but will you make a larger profit?

Very curious to see how this works for you...

John said...

I was in the music business a dozen years ago when Napster first caught on. I did an informal survey among kids who were downloading songs and they all expressed great frustration with Napster. They all said they would have been willing to pay a dollar or two to be able to go to a record company site and download a song from a good, solid and stable server.

I spoke to the record company executives that I knew, and to a man and woman they all said they had no intention of digitizing their catalog. They said they were going to put a stop to downloading.

We've see how well that worked. Joe, I agree with you that finding the price point, and finding where to put works where customers can easily find them are the keys to success.

Sophie Playle said...

Great article. The price point about combating piracy is so true.

Stacey Cochran said...

Fair enough. Though I should say that my comment comes from a place of compassion.

I've seen so many hundreds and hundreds of authors like Jude hold onto a dream that Big Publishing is going sweep them off their feet, give them a book deal, and make them a star.

And in nearly every case (even with an agent), it never happens.

My whole message has been on point for five years: take control of your own career, make the sales, build the readership, and make publishers come to you. Not the other way around.

Now, the truth is newbie authors can use both new technologies like Kindle and traditional publishing in tandem.

That's the smart approach, I say!

Blake Crouch said...

First off…a stunning evaluation of where we’re headed, Joe.

A couple comments:

Writers who have landed agents and are pursuing real publishing contracts and established writers who choose to publish their work in print with the editorial, marketing, subrights, and publicity bang of a major New York publishing company (even if they aren't a lead title) are hardly watching from the sidelines and shouldn’t be disparaged. I still don't know why anyone would self-publish a full-length work on Kindle rather than first pursue the maligned traditional route. If you don’t have a name, you might sell a 1 or 2 thousand copies if you’re lucky. That does not a career make. Ebook publishing is still only a small slice of the entire pie, which is a properly published book. The ebook audience is certainly growing and not to be discounted but it isn’t the only game in town, nowhere near the biggest, nor the most important, and seems (disconcertingly) at the moment to be driven by consumers looking first and foremost for inexpensive products. The dollar menu, so to speak.

For the sake of argument, isn’t it a concern that we are now, in this thread, assigning a value on a full-length novel at $1.99 or less? It’s very possible that that price is exorbitant for much of the crap that gets uploaded, but what about for excellent, engaging stories, such as AFRAID which was $1.99 for a month. I think AFRAID is worth a lot more than $1.99. Take away the trimmings of hardcover/audio/paperback (the cost of making a book) that superficially inflate the price. How much is a well-told story worth? Certainly more than $0.80.
More than a song on iTunes. Or a junior cheeseburger. Isn’t there the threat of the devaluing of well-told stories, in whatever form they take, with this eBook revolution?

JA Konrath said...

Isn’t there the threat of the devaluing of well-told stories, in whatever form they take, with this eBook revolution?

That's an excellent point, Blake.

But what if I were to take the stance that many authors are overpaid?

Heresy, I know. But the six and seven figure contracts some authors get really does cut into what newbie authors can earn. Publishers only have so much money to spend, and I could argue that paying huge advances is hurting the industry.

How many bestselling authors have earned out their advances? How much money was spent on marketing to make sure these authors sold a lot of books?

Would I love to make a million per book? Of course.

But if I could make $100,000 with a book that sells for $1.99, I'd be thrilled with that.

Is that devaluing the book?

I'd say no. If the magic price point for ebooks winds up being two bucks, and a bestselling ebook can sell a few hundred thousand copies, the author can actually earn more on a $1.99 ebook than on a $7.99 paperback that sells the same amount.

If the whole industry restructured in this way, it could mean that the huge mega-bestsellers would no longer get million dollar advances. I'm not sure that's delvaluing books as much as it's indicative of an inflated market collapsing under it's own weight, much like the Dow Jones did.

If I could sell 100,000 copies of a $1.89 Kindle book, I'd make $82,000. That's more than I've ever been paid for a print book. And with a strong backlist, and two books a year, a savvy author could do quite well.

As good as James Patterson or JK Rowling? No.

But enough to make a damn good living doing what I love. And a better living than I've made so far in the print world.

Jude Hardin said...

I've seen so many hundreds and hundreds of authors like Jude hold onto a dream that Big Publishing is going sweep them off their feet, give them a book deal, and make them a star.

Actually, you don't know anything about me, and I doubt you know much--if anything--about hundreds and hundreds of other authors, so that entire sentence is a bit presumptuous, if not downright insulting. I don't really need any compassion, because I'm going about finding my way in publishing the way I think is the right way.

My whole message has been on point for five years: take control of your own career, make the sales, build the readership, and make publishers come to you. Not the other way around.

LOL. How often you reckon that happens? I'm sure the odds of getting an actual book deal are way better by submitting to publishers through an agent or submitting directly to publishers who accept unagented submissions.

David Chaudoir said...

Joe, I like your humor, your practical approach, and your reasoned arguments. I started buying your books (print) because I enjoyed your blog. One thing to mention in this discussion: It's your talent that makes people buy the next book, and the next book. You've got oodles of that whether in electronic or print formats.

Jude Hardin said...

Isn’t there the threat of the devaluing of well-told stories, in whatever form they take, with this eBook revolution?

Excellent point, Blake. And the way it's set up, where anyone can publish anything, I think there's a danger of the Kindle Store becoming the flea market of the publishing world, with every NaNoWriMo hack in the world vying for his/her fifteen minutes of fame.

Anonymous said...

"with every NaNoWriMo hack in the world vying for his/her fifteen minutes of fame."

Lots of anger and insult there. Chill out dude and let people live. And stop insulting self-published authors as if your some type of superior being.

Blake Crouch said...

Joe – First, just a point about your logic on the pricepoint: because making $100K off 50,000 or 75,000 ebooks is good for you, that doesn't mean that it still isn't devaluing the book. Certainly having a raft of self-pubbed crap available on Kindle isn't good for readers, writers, or humanity. Do you think the average Kindle owner, when they download a 99 cent self-pubbed book with a made-up publisher name has any idea they're buying a product that has never been vetted and is very likely inferior? And then they think, wow that wasn’t very good, maybe these ebooks aren’t worth more than 99 cents as a rule. And are these Amazon reviewers qualified to really tell people what is and is not a quality product? No. Whether you agree with him or not, when you read a review in the Chicago Sun-Times by David Montgomery, you're getting the perspective of a professional reviewer who is well-versed in the field of crime fiction, and who does have a sense of what is good and what is not. That holds weight. That these self-pubbed books are mixed in with books by professional writers and that fact isn't made blatantly known to the Kindle audience is, I think, a little deceptive. And right now, that is devaluing the book on kindle. When you set a price point of $1.59 or whatever for one of your unpubbed books, that is still ultimately a marketing tool to bring readers to your frontlist, what you have the potential to make the most money on. That’s the larger purpose. There is real danger in having the Kindle audience equate a $1.59 bargain deal from Joe Konrath and a $1.59 self-pubbed tome by nobody knows who, someone with no track record, real publishing history, or cred. One thing is not like the other, but there is no way for the Kindle readers to know.

So, until the field of ebooks gets sufficiently weeded out, perhaps in something like you proposed where publishers make their entire catalog available online, we really cannot have a grasp on what legitimate ebooks are worth. Right now, the field is skewed, and readers are being confused and misled by the unvetted junk.

Just my $.02.

Jim Huang said...

Great discussion!

I don't find anything to disagree with, but I think we're missing one thing. We can't forget that the production of e-editions still costs something. The digital distribution infrastructure isn't free; cheap, but not free. The technical skills to properly format and prepare a file aren't free; cheap, perhaps, but not free.

And then there's everything that goes into getting the words right in the first place, including editors. Editors still have a role in a digital publishing future. Good editors aren't cheap, and probably never will be.

I get the appeal of putting a lower "cover" price on an e-book. But there are real costs, costs that have to be recovered at some point. E-publishing will be part of our future -- if not part of our present -- but it can't be built entirely on a cheap end product. Right now, when the bulk of the costs of prepping a work for "publication" are covered by the print version, it's easy to price low for the e version. At some point, though, that model for accounting for costs will have to change.

JA Konrath said...

Certainly having a raft of self-pubbed crap available on Kindle isn't good for readers, writers, or humanity.

LOL Blake. It's neither good nor bad. It's simply the result of an open market system.

Do you think the average Kindle owner, when they download a 99 cent self-pubbed book with a made-up publisher name has any idea they're buying a product that has never been vetted and is very likely inferior?

Kindle books are previewable, and 100% returnable. Let the buyer beware, but also give buyers a little bit of credit.

And are these Amazon reviewers qualified to really tell people what is and is not a quality product? No.

Everyone has an opinion, and all opinions are valid. Learned opinions are only valued more if people find them useful.

You and I have over thirty 1 star reviews on SERIAL, and over fifty 4 and 5 star reviews. Each reviewer is correct in their subjective opinion. And no reviewer--even if they get paid for their reviews--can be fully objective.

It's always a question of personal taste, not of anything inherent in the story itself.

That these self-pubbed books are mixed in with books by professional writers and that fact isn't made blatantly known to the Kindle audience is, I think, a little deceptive.

You're making an assumption here. The Kindle bestseller lists posit the opposite: the books that sell, except for a small percentage, are all known authors.

There are over 7000 free books on Kindle, and over 65,000 books under $2.99. But if you look at the ones that are selling, you won't find a high percentage of "self-pubbed crap." In fact, well over 95% of the bestsellers are from big houses and name authors in this price range, and that percentage goes up as the price goes up.

If the cheap self-pubbed crap were selling the most, the bestseller lists would be skewed toward cheap or free books, with very few books priced over $5.00.

Yet there isn't a single self-pubbed title in the top 100 Kindle bestsellers, and more than 60% of them are over $6.00.

Only 32 books out of the top 100 are less than $2.00, and these are either freebie classics like Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes or free/reduced titles that publishers are pushing.

The rest of them correspond to the regular print bestseller lists, regardless of price.

We can't forget that the production of e-editions still costs something.

That's true, Jim. But how much of that needs to be done by a publisher, and how much could be done by freelancers for a set cost rather than a percentage of the gross?

For their work and their risk, the publisher earns more per book than the author does in the print world. This is fair. They made the discover, they invested heavily in it.

But that's not the business model anymore.

Jude Hardin said...

In fact, well over 95% of the bestsellers are from big houses and name authors in this price range, and that percentage goes up as the price goes up.

Hmm. It seems those numbers confirm that the vetting process works, and that the best books are still from big NY publishers. Of course, people lean toward buying what they're familiar with...

Zoe Winters said...

Wow, Joe, lots of good stuff here. The thing about Scrib'd is, it's a culture of "free." At least it seems that way to me. It seems that those who go to Scrib'd are used to reading there for free and so they're a little resistant to paying money.

I've found Scrib'd to be good for exposure on a free ebook. I uploaded my novella for free about 17 days ago on scrib'd and I've had close to 4,000 page views and roughly 1700 downloads. (plus however many more from the people who re-uploaded my novella at Scrib'd. I have no idea what the point of this is, but as long as they follow my creative commons attribution rules, I don't care. Though it's easier to track downloads if people just leave it alone.)

If I'd put a price tag on it, I would probably still be at zero sales.

It seems, at least to me, that Amazon is a place people go to in a warm open-to-buy mentality, and Scrib'd isn't, because they added a bookstore later. Sales were an afterthought.

I think it may be awhile before ebooks are all there is. For awhile I think E will be merely another format like audio books. It'll appeal to a certain sector of the population more than others.

Cory Doctorow has said that books are like fetish objects. With music, the experience of listening to music on an ipod is not different from listening to a CD via a walkman. So while that digitizing happened very fast, there was no real resistance to it because it didn't really change the listening experience.

But reading a book on an e-reader is a pretty different experience from reading it in a paper format.

I'm all for E as a format to sell, but for my own personal experience, (the thrill of being able to read "dirty books in public on an e-reader" aside), you'll rip my paper from my cold dead hands basically.

As for hardback prices, I agree that $27.95 is too high in this economy but who is really paying that? It's way less for most books on Amazon, and I just bought the new Charlaine Harris book in hardback from Walmart for $17.95 (list price $27.95)

You may be right that print runs may dry up, but I don't think print will go away. If anything we'll just move to print-on-demand technology. Even Hardbacks can be made w/ POD now. It's insano expensive, but it can be done.

Maybe there will be a day when hardbacks even printed via POD will be some kind of status symbol. Or maybe they'll still be gift items or special collector editions.

How do you get your favorite author to sign your ebook? Seriously print isn't going away. There is too much sentimentality attached.

It's possible that E would become like the new mass market paperback (only hopefully cheaper) since MMPB is considered sort of a "throwaway book" and then print would be something you get for books you LOVE.

Anyway, that was longer than I meant to ramble.

Patrick Gabridge said...

Great post! Thanks for laying it out there so clearly. (And your previous post, as well.) Congratulations on your success with e-books (I sure wish I was selling e-books a day).

My sense is that genre books are probably a little easier to sell as e-books. I'm curious to see how literary fiction can fare as e-books, and how lesser known writers can find a way to reach a substantial amount of readers in the e-book format.

Jude Hardin said...

Lots of anger and insult there. Chill out dude and let people live. And stop insulting self-published authors as if your some type of superior being.

Well, I didn't insult anyone in particular, only "hacks," and the true hacks don't even know they're hacks, so I don't think my statement should have offended anyone.

And I certainly don't feel like any type of superior being. All I've gotten for my efforts so far are rejections. My solution isn't to self-publish, though, but rather to write a better book.

It's tempting to jump on this Kindle thing and see what happens, but my goal isn't to sell enough copies to make next month's mortgage payment; my goal is to become a published author.

Zoe Winters said...


Self-publishing is no more "giving up" than opening a flower shop is giving up. It's starting a business. If you don't want to do it and it's really important for you to have a traditional publisher, that's fine.

What's important to many of us is to share our stories and be read. If that means 500 people instead of 50,000, hey, so be it.

I think the more serious indies who put out good work, the more the average reader will jump on this whole idea, just as the average person jumped on the idea of indie music and indie film.

This isn't going away, and while you may hope we all drown in a sea of suckitude (I possibly made that word up), I don't think it's going to happen. All around me I see savvy indie authors upping their game, not lowering it. And five years from now I expect my game to be light years from where I'm at right now.

Yes, there will always be crap, but there is traditionally published crap as well. Lately I have trouble getting past page 250 of a lot of the commercially published books I read, because the middles sag. Then I start skimming til the author picks up the plot again. This isn't all NY pubbed books of course, but as a reader who has read a lot of books, it's disconcerting for me to see so much getting through the vetting process that probably could have been edited down more.

The cream rises to the top. And it is risk free for readers with the kindle since they can return things. I've had a VERY low return rate. (about 8 books out of close to 1500 sales)

As for not being good enough to play the game if you don't get a genuine book deal? Are you forgetting the books that started out self published that later *got* book deals? If those authors had sat on their work, we likely still wouldn't know about it. Yes, that's not the most common scenario but I believe it will become more common as this plays out.

I have nothing against your personal goals for publishing, but I fail to see why we have to go on about how most self-pubbed work sucks. (I'm sure a lot of garage bands suck too, but no one's going on about that.)

Walt Whitman self pubbed Leaves of Grass and set the type himself. Was he not a real author? Poe self pubbed some of his work, as did Twain, though Twain lost his shirt in the deal, still no one looks down on him now for the effort.

I'm proud to self-release my work Most of my indie friends feel the same way. We aren't ashamed of what we're doing and we don't consider ourselves in any way second-rate.

To Joe: regarding kindle book prices: I say the longer big publishing/Amazon insists on charging $9.99, the better for me. It makes it easier for me to compete as an unknown and I need all the leverage I can get while it's still there to have.

Right now my Kindle book is in the top 100 bestseller list of Romance: Vampires (number 89) out of books, not just kindle books. And you're right, most of the books alongside me are trad published books with known names in my genre. I fluctuate in and out of that bestseller list on a daily basis. I think highest I got was 49. Must have been a slow day for all the other books.

I'm a complete unknown, and probably a slightly different breed of self-publisher. I love being my own publisher and doing my own thing and I'm releasing my first print release late this fall. I have no traditional publishing contract and at this time have no interest in a traditional publishing contract. Time will tell if that remains true over the long haul. I honestly don't have any idea how I'll feel about it 5-10 years from now. But it seems important to me to build my own platform on my own timeline.

I just want to say (and sorry for my novel-length posts, I've yet to discover the art of brevity in people's comments sections) that I really admire your respect for the free market and trust in readers to separate the wheat from the chaffe whether other gatekeepers ever step in or not.

Stacey Cochran said...

How often you reckon that happens?

Actually, the book that I'm currently under contract for to Macmillan/St. Martin's came about because the publisher approached us.

Mid-five figure deal. No agent. Publisher came to us.

My first book deal in this business.

Jude Hardin said...


Now it sounds as though you're trying to equate self-publishing with legitimate indie publishing. Surely you know that the two aren't even remotely related.

Jude Hardin said...


I think I remember you mentioning that before. Isn't it a cookbook or something?

Congrats on the deal and all, but what I'm really talking about here is fiction.

Zoe Winters said...

Jude, what is it with you and this "legitimate" business?

Do you truly, deep down, in your heart of hearts believe you aren't a real author until a major corporation backs you? Is this what you're telling me?

And incidentally indie publishing is independent publishing outside the world of corporate share-holders, while this has long been a label for smaller publishers, it applies equally to a micropress. And there is no rulebook for publishing that says you can't also be the author of some or all of the work produced by your publishing company.

What qualifies one as being a publisher is setting up an imprint and buying a block of ISBN numbers. I've already done that. It's not like being a doctor or lawyer. There are no "real publishers" and "fake publishers." Anyone who publishes something is a publisher. Since I'm running my own circus here, I'd say that qualifies as independent... i.e. indie.

I continue to stand in awe of writers who forsake the dictionary definition of words. Author doesn't mean "published by an approved publisher" either.

Many indie imprints that you would consider "legitimate" do their own editing or cover design or interior layout because one of the owners happens to be skilled in that area. Why is the writing part so different? Why is this little worm dug so deeply in your brain? I do not grok it.

But I didn't say "indie publishing" anyway, I said indie author. An indie author seems pretty straight-forward to me, an independent author self-releasing their own work. Just like an indie filmmaker or indie musician.

I know it's nicer to be able to sneer and say "self published writer" but alas, we're developing better PR and more cachet for ourselves. The label "indie author" is starting to catch on. Though I have noticed that those most virulently against self-publishing hate the term indie author primarily because it makes us not all look like dog turds.

Jude Hardin said...


I suppose you can call yourself anything you want to. If you think "indie" sounds more hip than "self-published," then go for it. Still, it is what it is, and it only muddles the language. So now, everyone in the free world with access to a computer is an indie publisher. Cool!

It's only a matter of time (if it's not occurring already) before some of the self-pubbed writers on the Kindle site start calling themselves bestselling authors, LOL. Whatever. All that does is render that word meaningless as well.

Blake Crouch said...

Jude - stay strong....great writing and great storytelling and psychotic persistence find legitimate homes and that is no bullshit. There is no greater thrill than finding someone willing to plunk down the big $$ to get your work out to the masses. It IS NOT THE SAME THING as getting a block of ISBNs and calling yourself a publisher, no matter how much people want to believe it is. That's like wanting to get married, striking out, and buying a blow-up doll instead and saying you're married. It's still just you alone in the room with some plastic. I've been where you are. Konrath's been where you are. It's called paying the dues, and if you get your writing and storytelling to the level it needs to be (certainly a big if, no question), it can happen for you. But there aren't any shortcuts that I can see that don't require enormous amounts of self-deception.
Great luck to you. I hope you land a book deal. Blake

Zoe Winters said...

Alright, Jude, have it your way. (And I don't mean that in a snide way. It's hard to convey things properly in text sometimes.)

Though I think mentioning you're in one of the bestselling categories on Amazon while being specific and not over-inflating it is totally honest and in no way renders the definition meaningless, but we've gotten into it before over the topic of self-publishing and I don't expect you to change your views.

I just hope if you ever decide to self-release some of your work, you do it while the window of opportunity is open, because as time passes more and more good writers are going to get on the indie train. (That influx has already started.) And as they do so, it's going to make it far more competitive. The opportunity here is now.

And I believe you are letting it pass you by, by having such a rigid view of what makes you "real" and "worthy." But that's my 2 cents and you have yours.

I don't feel like a writer should ever turn down an opportunity to start building the all-important platform.

What happens if you get a publishing deal but you don't sell well enough and they drop you? A large percentage of writers are one-book-authors. They sell once to NY, get dropped, and never sell again (or if they do it's under another name.)

My goals are bigger than that. I refuse to play in the majors unless I know I can stay in the majors. Until then, I'll happily self-release my work and build my little platform one reader at a time.

Jude Hardin said...


Thanks, man. I'm definitely going to keep trying.

Zoe Winters said...


I'm sorry, I understand possibly in your world you can't understand the love of the act of publishing itself. But I refuse to let anyone tell me I can EITHER be an author OR a publisher. No. I want to be both. And hey, this is America, home of the American dream, so I'll just do both.

And if I'm going to be both, well it makes a lot more sense to publish my own work. It's both more economical and more time-saving.

I love publishing. I love the minutiae of it. One of my friends called me a publishing geek. I love agonizing over font choices and deciding on details like line spacing.

I understand most writers don't feel that way and therefore naturally don't "get" that love for the act of publishing itself, but please don't denigrate those of us who happen to not want the same things you want.

Not all human beings want or value the same things. If Jude wants trad publishing, fantastic, I wish him luck. But not everybody has the same dreams or goals. Not everybody is going to fit into your mold of what a "real writer" should be or want.

For me, the only people that matter are the readers. They are the people who vet me. I don't "care" what another publisher thinks about it. I respect their process and that they are making business decisions, etc. But I don't need their financial backing to produce my books and I don't need permission to publish. That's not where I find my validation.

Your mileage may vary and it's okay if it does.

Zoe Winters said...

That last post "a girl" was me. Forgot to put it in under name/url. Stupid blogger account.

Jude Hardin said...

What happens if you get a publishing deal but you don't sell well enough and they drop you?

I'll still die happy, because I reached my goal of becoming a published author.

Stacey Cochran said...

It's actually a book on writing...

Although there's a ton of money in cookbooks now that you mention it. And some actually do improve people's lives, too.

I just don't know if being so completely picky about how you gain entry into this business is a wise strategy.

I sincerely do wish you all the best, and I'm happy to buy you a drink anytime we're at a conference together. I'd love to talk writing and craft or whatever else.

We're all in this together, man. All finding our way.

In fact when your book sells -- and I know it will -- I'd be honored to do an interview with you about it! That would be very cool!

Author of The Colorado Sequence for 80 cents

Blake Crouch said...

"If Jude wants trad publishing, fantastic, I wish him luck. But not everybody has the same dreams or goals. Not everybody is going to fit into your mold of what a "real writer" should be or want."

I don't mean to speak for Jude, but I have a feeling what he wants is to see his book on the new release shelf in B&N, reviewed by major newspapers, maybe slaughtered by Kirkus and condescended to by PW (it happens), have a foreign sale or two, get picked up by a book club, have film rights inquiries that go nowhere, make an audio sale...make an honest-to-God splash into the world of publishing without some weird adjective in front of it. Probably wants to be read by more than three or four hundred people. If you want that stuff, then you have to endure a lot of shit to get there, so please understand why it's probably frustrating to him, as is to me, that you equate self or indie or whatever- publishing with the soul-crushing, utterly demoralizing journey it is to find a, sorry, legitimate publisher who can put your work out into the world in a big way.

Zoe - don't know anything about you or your work, so I really don't intend for this to come across as a personal attack. I'm just growing tired of hearing aspiring writers who are in it for the long hall lectured to and disparaged by people who uploaded their self-pubbed works onto Kindle five minutes ago.

Jude Hardin said...

I'd be happy to do an interview when my book sells, Stacey. Thanks.

Zoe Winters said...

Jude, then I wish you the best of luck, if that's what you want. I don't fully "get it" but then you don't fully get what I want either. Just proof we're very different people with very different wants and needs.

Blake, so far I've had over 7,000 readers of my novella and climbing. It's been out for 6 months and I haven't gotten started yet. Nor have I been nearly as good about marketing as I should be. A lot of it has been word-of-mouth.

If it's a soul-crushing journey, why go on it? Why not do something that makes you happy?

I have six novels that I have written and will never put into print, they weren't ready, they were practice novels. I have written seriously for over 15 years. I am not taking a "short-cut;" I am on a different path.

I'm not sure why it has to be us vs. them. I'm not sure why it's necessary to put down those who self-publish. How does it affect you and what you're doing? Do your thing, be happy about it, but don't expect everybody else to value the same things for their lives that you value for yours. It's not a judgment call on you or Jude, but merely an acknowledgment that people want different things.

I am in this for the long haul. I'm not sure why every author who self publishes is automatically assumed to be on the "insta-author" mentality.

I have a 10 year plan. In 10 years I plan to have 10 books out, in POD and several e-formats. I intend to build a platform, and I intend to make some decent money in the process by building that platform and having the ability to keep my entire backlist in print.

If I ever do something wildly impressive on my own and a publisher wants some of my rights, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, but for now, that is not what I want for myself. But just because I don't personally want something right now at this juncture in my life, doesn't invalidate or seek to invalidate anyone else's goals. I just don't get that excited about NY publishing in general.

Further, I haven't once "equated" what I'm doing with what Jude or you are doing. I consider these two very different publication paths, but I don't consider those who choose to self-release their work to automatically be second-rate writers or trying to cut whatever line it is the rest of you have formed.

Many indie authors work hard to produce good work. We care about cover art, we care about interior layout, we care about editing and marketing. We aren't just slapping something together, tossing it up on Lulu and thinking we're gonna get rich. That's a stereotype that isn't true for any serious indie I've spoken with, and I've spoken with many.

All very intelligent, business minded, talented and forward-thinking. Not the caricature so often painted by others.

Blue Tyson said...


Good stuff. Can you talk Charles R. Saunders into digital publication? :)


People who buy books regularly are nowhere near as mindlessly undiscerning as you suggest, to be 'fooled' by stuff like that.


Remember that the US has cheaper books than the rest of the anglo publishing world, so lots of people that like hardbacks will be paying that much, they can't get free shipped reduced price Amazon books.

A good point about flabby too long books though - being able to do what Mr. Konrath has done here may allow some people that only produce shorter novels in general - that publishers won't buy now - a greater chance to sell them. For example an author who might have published bunches of 60,000 word books 20 years ago, but no-one wants them now, printwise.

Generally - on the numbers given here - the Kindle thing is very popular, it would seem - so imagine if they open it to the rest of the word, so any phone or PC can buy a book. That will add a fair chunk to the sales of Mr. Konrath and others.

To the grumpy, there's a lot of self-published rubbish. However, the majority of people trying to get published the traditional way are also rubbish.

JA Konrath said...

Everyone has their own path to follow, and I don't think it's right to compare one to the other. In fact, you shouldn't ever compare yourself to any other writer no matter how they got published.

That said, I treat my rejections and failed novels as badges of honor, and I admire people who try to do the same thing I've done and break into print.

But I also know people who didn't struggle at all to break into print. They had it handed to them.

Does that make my journey more significant because I struggled longer? No. And I'm qualified in saying this, because I've struggled, and worked harder to succeed, than anyone I've ever met.

No one deserves success. It's all about luck.

We all have different goals, and we try different things to improve our chances.

But there is no "us" and "them."

Am I happy to be part of the traditional print publishing world? Absolutely. I'm living my dream.

Would I abandon the print world if I could make more money self publishing? Absolutely.

Being part of the club is great. Seeing my books on bookstore shelves is great. Everything Blake said about being a traditionally published writer is true.

But if I could reach more readers, and make more money, doing it some other way, I would.

I don't envy my peers or compare myself to my peers or think I'm better than anyone or that my way is the only way. I also don't care about what my peers think of me, except for a small circle of my friends.

Print publishing is flawed. So is self-publishing. So is e-publishing.

But there aren't any shortcuts that I can see that don't require enormous amounts of self-deception.

It depends on what your goals are, don't you think?

My goal is to sell as many books as possible. That's why I do all the crazy things I do.

But I can't expect every author to visit 200 bookstores, or visit 100 blogs in a month, or mail 7000 letters to libraries, or stay at a signing for nine hours and sell 100 hardcovers. I don't think anyone who doesn't do those things is somehow lesser than I am.

I'll still die happy, because I reached my goal of becoming a published author.

It's the best feeling in the world, Jude. But it wears off. And when you're between contracts, the depression is much worse than any rejections you had before you ever had a contract.

We're all in this together, man. All finding our way.

I agree, Stacey. And you're working your ass off, and good on you for doing that.

And as they do so, it's going to make it far more competitive. The opportunity here is now.

You're right that it will get harder, Zoe. But it's pretty much always hard, no matter what route you choose to take.

All books sell one at a time. Ultimately, the writing is what counts. I don't see that it matters much anymore who publishes what. A royalty is a royalty, a fan letter is a fan letter.

It's human nature to defend our actions, our choices, our ways of thinking. Unfortunately, it's also human nature to think less of others who don't agree with us.

This isn't a competition. It's a journey, and everyone has their own path to follow.

Less judging, more doing.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Blue Tyson,

That's a good point, I hadn't thought of that. Just cause I have Amazon and Walmart doesn't mean everybody else does, lol.

And yeah I'm with you on shorter books, please please bring back shorter books, I want to wish there was more, not skim the last 100 pages.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Joe, that last post is exactly why I respect you, trad pub, self pub, I don't care. You're a class act and I hope you get ridiculously rich and famous.

And you're right, it's always hard, lol. I think it was Alice (from Lewis Carroll) that said something about believing 6 impossible things before breakfast. Writers are probably all attempting to DO 6 impossible things before breakfast.

I think we all need an impossible goal.

JA Konrath said...

I'm not sure why it has to be us vs. them. I'm not sure why it's necessary to put down those who self-publish. How does it affect you and what you're doing? Do your thing, be happy about it, but don't expect everybody else to value the same things for their lives that you value for yours.

LOL, we crossed posts, Zoe. I just said the same thing.

Keep in mind though that human nature dictates once someone has chosen a path, it is natural to be critical of others who take different paths. We're a confrontational species, which is why we like sports so much.

To the grumpy, there's a lot of self-published rubbish. However, the majority of people trying to get published the traditional way are also rubbish.

True. But I'd say that the majority of traditionally published books are better written than the majority of self published books, for many reasons. The winnowing and vetting process is tougher in trad pubbing. More professionals have input (agents, editors, line editors, art directors, etc.) There is a learning curve.

Anyone can self publish. Not anyone can get traditionally published.

But here's the qualifier: not everyone can self-publish successfully.

If someone takes the self-pub route, and can actually make it work for them, they are probably working their butts off, because it's damn hard to do.

Aim said...

Joe, just wanted to let you know I haven't forgotten about doing the Fuzzy navel review on my blog. I have this thing called school...LOL> Anyway, downloaded Serial today. I'll let you know how it goes. I neve did finish Afraid. Creapy stuff, man!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Jude and Blake on this one, even though I don't see anything wrong with self-publishing or Indie publishing or whatever you want to call it (it's all the same).

Think of it this way... Let's say you're a kid who grows up idolizing the great baseball players and your goal is to do what they do. Now, you can go to Dick's Sporting Goods and buy a bat and a ball and a glove and go out to the park on the weekends and play in a local league, but it's not the same as standing behind the plate in Yankee Stadium and deep down inside you know it.

Some people are happy playing the game down at the park while others aren't, and even though technically both people can be called baseball players, only the ones in the major leagues can be called professional... Just like only novelists with major contracts can be called professional novelists (with a straight face, at least).

Anonymous said...

"only novelists with major contracts can be called professional novelists"

Just out of curiosity, are you a "professional novelist?"

Anon 2

Ty said...

Let met add another perspective to this ...

I was always one of those writers who swore and swore and swore that I'd never self publish. In fact, I still feel guilty about self-publishing my novel "City of Rogues" on the Kindle, as well as a couple of small short story collections.

But one big factor pulled me to "the dark side."

I am a former newspaper journalist. I repeat, a "former" newspaper journalist. For twenty years I watched my once-beloved industry take hit after hit. Now it's nearing death, mainly because those leading the industry did not know how to adjust to the changing technology and the changing market.

I refuse to follow that trend further, and so far I see it happening in book publishing, too. I've already lost my career, and I see no reason to sit back and watch others move ahead while I'm sitting still. No longer.

I still feel the stigma of self-publishing, but it doesn't sting as hard as the stigma of a slow death.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, are you a "professional novelist?"

Not yet... I'm also not going to lie and tell myself that if I throw down my own money to print my own books that it'll be the same thing as being published, or even close, because it's not. ANd all but the most deluded out there know on some level that this is true.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I've wanted to comment for two days, but I'd have to write a book to tell the story of my experiences in the publishing/ebook industry, and if I write another book I'd like to get paid for it. (Short history: My first book was published by an imprint of AOL Time Warner, iPublish, as a POD and eBook. iPublish went under a month after my book was released, shortly after September 11, 2001. AOL Time Warner was trying to revolutionize the publishing industry, but they, and I, were victims of very bad timing.)

I do want to ask this: Joe, are you giving 65% of your sales like the rest of the indie publishers are? Does anyone but me think that's what is driving up the cost of Kindle books, not the publisher setting the price so high? How can justify taking 65% of the sales price? They're already making money hand over fist on their sales of Kindle devices, and then they want a huge cut from the publisher. What's left for the author in this deal?

I self-published my second book recently, mostly because mainstream publishers don't publish the genre it’s written in anymore. (It's a romance, but neither steamy nor inspirational. Just a love story in the tradition of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.) I wrote it to fulfill my two book contract with iPublish, and then they went under and never published it. I had originally thought if it did well I’d maybe write more novels in the same vein and give up on the publishing industry for good. I feel like Joe: If you can get paid to write books and you’re a good writer, why shouldn’t you support yourself with your craft? And if you’ve found a way to do so that doesn’t involve making 10 cents an hour, then you’ve found a good thing.

However, my book isn’t earning me the kind of money Joe’s is, and the amount of time and effort involved in self-publishing is massive. (I did not just release it as a Kindle book. I released it as a Print-on-demand, as well, and it’s very time-consuming to get a cover and book file print-ready. I also released it in other eBook formats, and had to convert the book into the different file formats.) So I’m beginning to wonder if the additional time spent on publishing chores added onto the original time spent writing the book is worth it. I’m probably making about 2 cents an hour, and I’ve only just recouped all the money I spent on buying those pesky ISBN numbers, registering my company, etc. etc.

Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent again, but my original question remains: If you’re giving 65% how can you afford to price your Kindle book at $2? Are you selling full-length books for only $2? I’m wondering if I priced my book too high, but I felt I had to with taking such a large percentage of the proceeds. And don’t you agree that if Amazon really wants Kindle books priced lower they should take a smaller percentage of the proceeds?

Suzanne Allain said...

Sorry, I wasn't trying to be mysterious by posting anonymously. I'm the formerly iPublished, now self-published author. I just neglected to type in my name on my last post.

Zoe Winters said...


I will thank you to not define my thoughts for me. I am neither deluded, nor do I know "deep down" that trad publishing is somehow empirically "better"

There may be more money in it if you get properly marketed, but if you are a one-book-author, there goes your career. Doesn't it make sense to build your platform first?

What I find amazing is the people who scream the loudest against self-publishing are the unpublished writers.

You mentioned major-league baseball. Well, you don't start off in major-league baseball. You climb UP to that point.

Some indie authors still have a NY dream and an intent to climb up that high, others are content to run their own businesses. (Just like some mom and pop restaurants are happy with their business as it is without the need to franchise it doesn't make them lesser restaurant owners.)

Indie authors will gain ground, as a movement, as a concept, as a legitimate form of publishing. Just like indie musicians and indie filmmakers before them. (yes, those groups were derided once upon a time too.) Indie musicians and indie filmmakers are both considered "professionals."

The only thing I can think is... that especially in this economy, unpublished writers feel so disenfranchised that they feel they *have* to strike out at someone.

And you always have the warm comfort of being able to say: "Yeah, but at least I didn't sink so low as to self-publish my work."

Everybody who has ever done anything worth doing was once sneered at for doing it. By the time it becomes socially acceptable though, everybody is doing it.

Here is a video posted by Seth Godin, you may have seen it elsewhere:

Guy 3

When it comes to this whole independent author thing... I am part of "guy three." I see you as about guy 300. You "may" jump on board if it becomes your last option, but only if it's sufficiently socially acceptable.

Some of us actually chose to self-release our work because that was what "we" wanted. I look around me and see the state of the publishing industry in flux right now and I think... "okay, this is a bad time, why don't I do my thing over here, while they try to figure out what they're doing over there."

I shake my head and wonder, why do you care more about corporations than the readers? I get fan letters almost every day now as well as subscription requests to my newsletter for more of my work. These people aren't "special readers" who just read self-pubbed work and don't know any better. They read me alongside bestselling trad pubbed authors. My work rises or falls on it's own merit with these people.

Meanwhile you're wrapped up in what an editor in NY thinks. Which is fine, but it's not the only way to live your life as a writer. Nor is it the only "legitimate" way. No matter how loud you scream it.

I'll never say NY isn't a worthy goal, and I'll never say I would never consider it ever, but I will say it's not for me right now, or for the foreseeable future.

Pamela Aidan is a woman who wrote and self-published novels based upon Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. She did so well for herself that Simon and Schuster started courting her. She turned down three offers from them before finally accepting.

(clearly not someone who deep down desperately wanted a trad publisher if she turned them down 3 times. They could have called her bluff and stopped making offers)

She chose to self-publish because she figured out how to reach her audience and felt it was a smarter business decision "for her."

If she hadn't gotten the offer she would have remained happily self-publishing. And so will I.

There really is no need to denigrate a path you aren't on. Just don't do it if you don't like it.

Anonymous said...

It always amazes me when people can only see the past and not the future. JA has gone to great lengths, in this post and prior ones, to explain and detail how the digital revolution is changing the face of publishing and standing the industry on it's head.
He's detailed the incredible opportunities out there for those with the courage to pursue them.

Some people, though, can only see the world through myopic, historical goggles, and cling to an outdated concept that the only real publishing is done by NY houses and the only real authors are the ones associated with those houses.

Some people go even farther by calling the peers names and snearing at them as "hacks" and the like.

All I can say is, JA, at least you tried.


Anonymous said...

What I find amazing is the people who scream the loudest against self-publishing are the unpublished writers.

You're not screaming against it, and you're just as unpublished as I am.

I agree that there are different levels. There is an ocean of unpublished writers out there, some choose to pay to have their bbooks in print, but that doesn't mean they're all of a sudden on the same level, or even playing on teh same field as someone who went through the vetting process of traditional publishing. All they did was go to a printer.

I have no problem with an unpublished writer printing up their work and selling it or passing it around to whoever wants to look in the hopes of creating enough interest to attract a real publisher... Actually, that might be smart, as long as the work is good enough, which unfortunately for most people who subscribe to the vanity press idea, it's not. But publishers do make mistakes from time to time, and maybe they did with your work. Then again, maybe they didn't and your book is just bad and you refuse to accept it. In that case, what the hell, pay someone to print up copies and run it up the flag pole. You might not attract attention from the majors, but enough people might salute to where you don't feel bad about the book.

However you reach your goal is up to you. What bothers me is when a vanity published author compares their work to that of someone who was actually good enough to be publshed.

Now THAT is insulting.

Ty said...

Anon, it's no more insulting than being fed garbage by that professional vetting process that's supposed to know better.

We all know novels that have made it huge, but the books suck. And it doesn't just happen every once in a while. It happens very, very often.

Anonymous said...

Okay Ty, but it's all just excuses and I hope you see that.

Because of technology, sub-par writer's now have the opportunity to pay to print their own books, and that's all they're doing. They aren't published, no matter how much they like to think they are. That's just a fact, sorry.

Believe it or not, I really don't care. The only thing that bugs me is the self-delusion that seems to follow the investment. The industry isn't going to "catch on" to self publishing because 99.99% of the time, there's a reason those books aren't published, no one made a mistake, so deal with it and stop comparing your vanity project to an actual published novel.

I realize publishing is hard, and it's hard to accept the fact that your best doesn't cut it, but I think it's a mistake to go to a vanity press.

That's my last word on this thread. There's no use arguing a point with folks who refuse to see reality.

Ty said...

Anon, actually, I agree with pretty much everything you said in that last post.

Yes, self-publishing will lead to a lot of bad books being published. But that's going to be the wave of the future, regardless. Generally, the good stuff will rise to the top.

I also agree with you that the industry isn't going to suddenly accept self-publishing. But you know what? It's not self-publishing that will be going away. It's the industry. Okay, in all fairness, the traditional publishing industry isn't likely to go away, but it's going to change even more drastically in the near future. And I'll repeat, I say all this as a former newspaper editor who has already seen it happening in my old profession.

I guess I can see your disgust with comparing vanity publications to traditional published books. I feel it myself, and I'm recently a self-published author (through Amazon's Kindle). I still feel that stigma, and there are times I feel I've let myself down after years of trying to go through the traditional channels. But I also see the rising wave of the future, and this time I'd rather be part of it or ahead of it than looking back five years from now saying, "Oh, why didn't I jump on the bandwagon back then?" Frankly, if anything, I'm afraid I've already jumped on too late. And I console myself somewhat with the fact I've had short stories published in more traditional venues, so at least someone was willing to pay for my work.

Zoe Winters said...


You consider me unpublished, so my book doesn't exist then? Publishing is not defined by "who" publishes you. Publishing is a process whereby a work is prepared, and distributed to a wider audience.

You make a wild assumption when you say maybe publishers made mistakes with my work. As if I struggled and struggled to get traditionally published and when that didn't work I self pubbed.

Actually publishing my own work was my first choice once I got to the point where I felt my work was ready. (though I hope to continue to improve) I'd spent about 4 years researching and amassed several hundred dollars worth of books on the topic before I got the courage to jump in and do it.

The work I have out currently, I submitted to 1 publisher. One. And while it was out waiting on a reply I got up the courage to self publish. I was actually hoping for a rejection because I knew I wasn't ready for that treadmill, and might not ever want on it. (Don't know, can't tell the future here.)

The rejection was a very nice and supportive rejection with a lot of personal tips from the editor which I took when revising the work further before self-releasing it.

You really don't "get it." For me, this is an exciting way to reach an audience and build something that belongs to me. But that's okay.

Because I would guess that the vast majority of unpubbed writers who sneer so much at self publishing actually are very good writers and would give me a run for my money if they ever joined the game I've already joined. So the longer you keep your work under your bed, the better for me and others like me.

Again, not once have I derided your goals and ambitions, I merely ask for the same respect. Respect flows both ways.

You talk about the insult of me equating myself with a "real published author" as if I'm "just as good." Well, I am just as good. (And you know what? You probably are too) I am in no way an inferior writer, and I didn't slip through the cracks of big publishing. I just chose to go a different way, because I determined it was smarter "for me."

I'm also wondering if you think a writer published by a very small but "legitimate" publishing house is a "real author." And given that such a publishing house likely doesn't have the funds to do more for me than I could do for myself, why should I be penalized with lesser money just to be "respectable" when I can do my own thing and keep all the profit?

A small pub can't do a thing for me I can't do for myself and a large NY pub won't do the only thing I'd want them for unless I had a LARGE platform to begin with. So why would I do things any differently than I'm doing them?

Give me some logic besides respectability and legitimacy, please. Because image and appearance wears thin with me after awhile as a primary motivation to do anything.

In ten years we can re-discuss this and see if I was right. In every other form of creative endeavor, believing in your work enough to put your money behind it and self-release it is honorable. It shows initiative. Publishing is one of the most backwards areas I've ever seen. Initiative is only rewarded socially in publishing if you show the initiative to get in line with everybody else.

Well I'm not a follower. I do my own thing.

There is no line. There is only the market, and now I can reach that market directly. And it'll take as long as it takes, but at the end of it, I intend to have built something worth doing.

From my perspective the reason there is so much disgust, derision and just plain insult toward indie authors, is because what many unpubbed writers have built their hopes and dreams validation-wise on, has started to erode in the face of lesser overall stigma and more popularity for self-publishing. If what I'm doing becomes fully acceptable then you'll feel what you're doing has less cachet.

Well, I'm sorry about that, but don't poop on me and others like me because the world is changing, please.

Stacey Cochran said...

Hey, folks, we talked at great length this evening on Dawson Vosburg's Blog Talk Radio show about the specific discussion on this blog post.

We had Jon F. Merz with us, and we talked about the back-and-forth that we've seen here the past few days.

Might be good listening if you're just browsing the web.

Stacey Cochran said...

Also of note, I did my first Skype video call author interview today.

This may be the first interview like this ever done with an author.

If you're an author and would like to do an interview on Skype, I'd love to talk with you about your book.

Drop me a note.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anonymous 3rd from the bottom!!! You have a logical mind. Does anyone on this thread have a brain at all? What do you think will happen when more and more self pubbed manuscripts make it to Kindle? Do you think you will be famous? Make a living? Create an audience? And that other famous overly used phrase I've heard uttered too many times: branding?
According to Joe's math you will make 100K if you simply write 20 manuscripts. Or if you keep your peak sales throughout the year you will eke out $32k. What big name author sells consistently throughout the year? The answer is -- no one! Like the movies its all front loaded. Nothing stays on the shelves long enough to have the same sales 6-8-10 months down the line as it did the first few weeks; just go to your local CVS or Costco and you will see loads of relatively new hardcover books screaming to be bought for $4.99. Why would a virtual book shelf be any different when there is no hurdle stopping any writer at any skill level from posting their work?
As for Joes comparisons, again you are lost. CD's are not expensive at all; they cost pennies when you are printng up 50-100k copies. They got expensive (retail) because the record companies got even more greedy!! And they have been screwing artists since your parents listened to Elvis and went to sock-hops! Apple was able to make a move on the piracy because they have NO artists to deal with. Sony became a huge, lazy company, but they also had a label to run and artists to deal with; thus their slow move to deal with those issues.
As for Zoe, there is nothing wrong with defining your success. If you want to go with a small house and have realistic sales/profit expectations, then good luck to you. But it seems to me to be like the salmon swimming upstream. Books need to be edited, cover art created, promotion, and the all important distribution! Criss- crossing the country and hitting 500-600-700 book stores hasn't made Joe a NY Times best seller. And making a ridiculous bat puppet video with terrible pink blood spewing across the walls to impress your sales force didn't work either; actually I don't know how that didn't totally scare them off. And even if you have all this in place, you still can't make people like your book; even if you whore it for $2!!

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Stacey,

Just listened to the podcast, great job! I agree that it really doesn't need to be a contentious issue of indie vs. trad. It's complementary.

Many like Joe are doing a little bit of both, which is awesome. Some are more interested in one than the other. It really should be each individual author figuring out the method of publication or the combination method of publication that suits them personally and what they want, and their temperament, etc.

It's a very exciting time for authors, and if something isn't for someone that's cool too, they don't have to do it. But there are a lot of options. And it's not necessarily "either/or" it can be "both/and."

Zoe Winters said...

Most recent anonymous:

A readership is built one book at a time, one sale at a time. But if you have nothing in front of readers, you can't even begin to build that readership.

I'm choosing what I believe is a smart road, that allows me the room I need to play, experiment, and explore without a big NY career being on the line. I don't need that kind of pressure in my writing life right now.

To me that's just good sense. Your mileage may vary. I personally would never take a NY contract without a strong platform already built underneath me.

Ty said...

Oh. Well, I guess the answer is to just sit back and do nothing. Meanwhile, whether someone else likes it or not, all those bad manuscripts are going to be self-published anyway.

The last anonymous, you sound very familiar to me. You sound just like all the newspaper publishers and top editors from the last five years I've worked with. What you don't get is that you can scream against it all you like, it's still going to happen. It doesn't even matter if you talk someone, or a hundred someones, out of self-publishing on the Kindle or elsewhere. It's still going to happen. The traditional publishing industry needs to find a way to deal with it or be brushed aside. I know the feeling. I've been there. Not this time.

David J. Montgomery said...

Every self-publishing success story ends with: "And then I got picked up by a major publishing house." Nobody ends the story by saying: "And then I kept self-publishing."

So if the goal is still to be published by a major NY publisher, the question then is not "Is self-publishing good or bad?" but rather "What is the best pathway to getting published by a major house?"

From all that I've observed and learned during my time in this crazy business, I do not yet believe that self-publishing is the best pathway to getting published by a major house. In most cases, I believe, it's a hindrance, not an advantage. Therefore I do not believe that it is the best way to achieve the type of success that most writers are looking for.

However, if you're looking for different things -- or you just want to roll the dice -- then it's entirely possible that self-publishing is a possible pathway to those goals. As long as you're realistic in your expectations and know what you're getting into, go for it.

(By the way, one of the posters above mentioned that she just wants to share her work with readers. If that's the case, just post it for free on your website like Joe does. If you want to make money from it, then your primary goal is NOT to share your work.)

Susan said...


Thanks for listening to last night's show. Maybe you would like to join us next Friday at 8:20 PM EST for the call-in discussion. We're planning to get several authors together, and we'd love to have you join us, Zoe.

I'm sure we'll be talking about some of the same issues we've been discussing here.

What do you think?

Stacey Cochran said...

Last post was from me, Zoe.

Apparently my wife logged into Google on my computer this morning.

At any rate, we'd love to have you next Friday.

Anonymous said...

There sure is a lot of advice here on self-publishing and traditional publishing from people who have never done either, much less succeeded at either.


JA Konrath said...

I go away for a few hours and miss all the fun... :)

@Zoe - I LOVE that video. I'm Guy #1.

If you’re giving 65% how can you afford to price your Kindle book at $2?

When I sell a $6.99 paperback, I make 56 cents. When I sell a $1.89 ebook, I make 82 cents.

Some people, though, can only see the world through myopic, historical goggles

There is a name for those people. The "overwhelming majority."

What bothers me is when a vanity published author compares their work to that of someone who was actually good enough to be published.

But here's where it gets strange. Let's say a self-pubbed author gets picked up by a major publisher. The book itself hasn't changed--the only difference is that the NY publishing world has anointed it.

Doesn't that mean a book is a book, regardless of who publishes it?

It's not self-publishing that will be going away. It's the industry.

That's a smart observation.

According to Joe's math you will make 100K if you simply write 20 manuscripts. Or if you keep your peak sales throughout the year you will eke out $32k. What big name author sells consistently throughout the year? The answer is -- no one!

Actually, I make a nice amount of money on royalties, and my first novel remains my biggest seller because it keeps selling a certain number of copies year after year.

Mein Kampf sells 50,000 copies per year. Many classic and backlists have very long shelf lifes.

With Kindle, I think there is even greater potential for this, because it doesn't require a book to stay in print.

More and more people will buy Kindles and use Kindle aps and switch to ebooks. More and more people are being born every day who will one day read ebooks.

I don't think this is a scenario where once a book sells 10,000 copies on Kindle, its earning potential is lost.

On the contrary, I believe books can actually sell in greater numbers over time, as more people adopt and embrace this technology.

The first month I start Kindle, I was earning $30 a day. At the beginning of June, I was earning $90 a day. The past week, it's been $110 a day.

And I don't think my books have actually hit their stride yet.

What you don't get is that you can scream against it all you like, it's still going to happen.

Ty, I have friends in the newspaper world, and I understand your point completely.

But it is human nature, and business nature, to cling to past successes, even as the ship sinks.

JA Konrath said...

Every self-publishing success story ends with: "And then I got picked up by a major publishing house." Nobody ends the story by saying: "And then I kept self-publishing."

A very astute comment, David. And I agree.

But... :)

That model may not be valid very much longer. In total candor, if I was suddenly making more money with ebooks than in print, and I was forced to chose between the two rather than do both (like I'm doing now), I would choose where I made the most money.

Your statement, on June 20, 2009, is true. But it may not be true in 2012.

Criss- crossing the country and hitting 500-600-700 book stores hasn't made Joe a NY Times best seller.

That wasn't the goal. The goal was to sell books and meet booksellers. I reached that goal, and that's one of the reasons I believe my books are still in print and earn decent royalties.

And making a ridiculous bat puppet video with terrible pink blood spewing across the walls to impress your sales force didn't work either; actually I don't know how that didn't totally scare them off.

Some people "get" it. Some don't. I still get fan mail from that video.

Everyone has an opinion, and all opinions are valid. But to disregard something you dislike is foolish.

you still can't make people like your book; even if you whore it for $2!!

Wow, lots of anger here.

I'm not sure you have a grasp on the point here. It isn't about making anyone like your book--the book will do that on it's own. It's all about making people aware your book exists, and giving it a try.

A low price is one way to get people to try it. A funny video is a way to get people's attention. A cross country tour is a way to spread information and good will. A blog about publishing is a way to get people to discover me.

The books are either enjoyed, or they're not. From the amount of money I make, and the amount of email I get, I'm pretty secure in knowing that a percentage of my readers are enjoying my books.

But writing a book is just the first step. The next step is getting people to try it. There is nothing inherent in a book that makes it sell.

And that other famous overly used phrase I've heard uttered too many times: branding?

What beer do you drink? What deodorant do you use? Shampoo? Breakfast cereal?

You're brand loyal. We all are. We're creatures of habit, and return to the things that give us comfort, that we enjoy, and that work well for us.

Branding is important, because it facilitates return customers, and intrigues and informs potential new customers.

Now, you don't have to agree with anything I've said, and I'm fine with that. But it does make me wonder why you're reading my blog...

Anonymous said...

to keep things straight I will be Anon4.0!

Ty, I'm fully aware of what is happening. And I'm fully aware that you will jump right in; as will 100's if not 1000's or tens of 1000's will. And Ty, you sound like a hippy who thinks he will change the world. Nothing will brush the quote "old" model aside.

All that will happen is people like you will create a continental divide that will make the traditionally pubbed author more viable.

Also, why would you pin your entire hopes on one gadget? Do you think there will be 20-30-40 million Kindles sold? Have you not been to Amazon lately? Have you seen how many people are pissed at Amazon for charging high prices for Ebooks? Do you think everyone whop's bought a Kindle loves it? I've met people who read one book and the Kindle is now collecting dust with previous incarnations of Ereaders.

Did Satellite radio revolution the world? Did podcasting revolutionize the world with the 150k podcasts? How about Youtube? Did that kill television porgramming? What about Myspace and its 5 million music pages?

Your line of thinking is so faulty it's ridiculous. Please, go ahead and let this happen. And jump into a world with 100,000 choices. What do you think will happen when this occurs? A Revolution? When you create a giant wall of white noise where the customer has a tidal wave of choice foisted upon him/her what do you think happens? Do you think they will navigate through the sea of choices or just go with an already known entity?

I simply can't see the logic in the $2 whoring of work. And the public at parge wipes their rear ends with free/cheap. I have yet to se anyone transfer free/cheap into a real paying audience that appreciates your product. I've heard arguments from other writers about getting 50,000 views to a short story posted on the net. How many of those 50k went on to pay for future works. Maybe half a percent. Maybe none. I've also heard people thump their chest because such and such writer "only" sold 2,500 copies of their book but their audioblog got 20,000 hits.

Zoe, what the heck are you talking about? A strong platform. What are you going to do start a TV show? a Radio program? That's the only platforms publishers would be interested in. You are either apart of the machiones or your not. And when you are not, your distribution isn't the same, and the promotional opportunities are limited to say the least. It naive to think you can do all of this one your own and have any meanigful success however you define it.

Blake Crouch said...

"Every self-publishing success story ends with: "And then I got picked up by a major publishing house." Nobody ends the story by saying: "And then I kept self-publishing."

Game. Set. Match.

Joe is no doubt the hardest-working self-marketer in publishing, traditional, self, indie, or other. But I defy anyone to tell me that if Hyperion hadn't published his Jack Daniels series and if Grand Central hadn't published Afraid, and gotten his books mass distribution, that any of us would be on this blog discussing this topic. No one would know who Joe Konrath is. And SERIAL wouldn't have been read by many people (a) if Grand Central hadn't gone nuts promoting it and (b) if Joe and I hadn't been published by a major publisher previously. Konrath is selling his unpubbed work on Amazon as successfully as he is because he as a name that came about because a major publisher got behind him.

I keep hearing how the industry is dead, and maybe it is dying, or rather on the verge of undergoing some forced evolution, but can anyone name a self-pubbed/indie writer who anyone has heard of, who achieved great success but has never been published by a major house?

We all write because we ultimately want to be read. Some of us also want to make a living at it and other things Freud would probably be interested in. Self-publication can get you read, and in some decent numbers on the internet. But it is still only a means to an end. Perhaps that will change, but I think what'll happen instead, is that publishing will and must change.

A question for Zoe and various anons--do you honestly believe that gatekeepers and screeners (agents and editors) serve no purpose? No one's saying they don't let a lot of crap in the door, but aren't they capable of getting truly remarkable work to the masses as well, where it belongs? Something self-publishing cannot efficiently do.

Omnimystery said...

Nice analysis. But I have a related question. If your favorite local mystery bookstore wants to link to your ebook, do you offer them a commission if a sale is made? Or does your pricing model assume you take all responsibility for promotion, marketing, and sales? Amazon, for example, has eliminated all commissions on sales of Kindle books by its affiliates, which gives affiliates absolutely no incentive whatsoever to help them sell these books.

Imp said...

Awesome post & follow-up discussion! As an epublished author, I am lovin' the 40-50% royalties, monthly paychecks, and short turnaround between submission & release. I really don't see ANY reason to (a) pursue a contract with a big house or (b) share my royalties with an agent. This model's workin' just fine for me. I've no doubt I could catch a dinosaur if I decided to chase one, but why bother? I'd rather let the market catch up with me.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this has been mentioned already, so apologies if this is a repeat, but neither the Amazon Kindle nor its iPhone application are available in Canada.Therefore , we are unable to buy any Kindle books up here right now. This will most likely change in the future but it might take awhile. Just a thought in regards to how and where authors upload their books.

We can get them from places like Fictionwise, however.

Ty said...

After a quite long and thought-out post, I've decided against it.

But to keep things somewhat topical: Joe, I read Serial a few days ago. Loved, loved, loved it. Took me back to my splatterpunk reading days.

And you've turned me onto Blake so much (hey, that didn't sound quite right) I'll be reading something more from him soon.

Jim said...

"After a quite long and thought-out post, I've decided against it."

Ty, you've let the nay-sayers and can't-doers squash your dreams. Really sorry to see that, especially given the fact that JA's initiatl post is about the opportunities for dreamers to succeed, given hard work and talent.

"Every self-publishing success story ends with: "And then I got picked up by a major publishing house. Nobody ends the story by saying: "And then I kept self-publishing."

Actually, that statement's not true.

Ty said...

Jim, thanks. You made me chuckle. No, they've not quashed any dreams of mine. Just didn't feel like wasting any more of my time.

I'll keep doing what I do and they can keep doing what they do.

Jim said...

"Just didn't feel like wasting any more of my time."

I used to argue with them too before I realized you can't change prejudice.

Now I spend my time writing books and having a ball. Best of luck to you.

Zoe Winters said...


Actually that's not true. You just don't "hear" about the self publishers who happily stay self published. Connie Shelton has self published her Charlie Parker mystery series happily under her own imprint for years. (She eventually picked up other authors as well.)

I consider her successful.

Not everybody measures their yardstick of success by NY. Just like not every owner of a Bed and Breakfast wants to franchise, and not every flower shop owner wants to create the next 1-800-Flowers, and not every bookstore wants to be

Not everybody wants to be a giant corporate megalith or part of one. Success is not always defined by "bigness."

Seth Godin has a book called:
Small is the New Big. (I'm a Godin Fangirl. I'd want to have his babies, but I'm planning to have Spock's Vulcan babies.)

I'm not sure if you're speaking about me when you said a poster earlier said they just wanted to share their work, but if you are, I didn't actually say that. I said I wanted to build a platform. I also want to make money. And I want to build what I can on my own AND make money. (and if it's such a silly goal, just sit back and let me fail, jeez people.)

If I can make a decent amount of money over the long haul doing this (and many self-pubbers do, they just aren't vocal about it and started their own imprint and you don't know they are self-pubbed), then I may or may not want to go higher if/when a NY publisher shows any interest.

i.e. if I did something impressive enough on my own, at some point a larger publisher would probably come courting. And I truly have NO IDEA if I would take such an offer, it depends on too many variables. My "motivation" for self-pubbing is not to "attract a NY publisher."

But if I did attract one, the only reason I would be interested is if the offer was "good" (IMO), and the only way I would get such an offer to determine interest on my part would be if i had a "big" platform underneath me. I don't expect something for nothing. I'm fully willing to do all the grunt work and build an audience on my own. And I'm also happy to self-publish indefinitely if that's how it shakes out.

I feel that publishing period is a huge crap shoot and I absolutely refuse to sit on my work for possibly years and years on the off chance that I'll get into the "hallowed gates" of NY publishing. Especially when I don't even know yet if I want that.

If I have "it" whatever "it" is, then NY will notice when the time is right. If I don't have whatever "it" is, then I'll just keep doing my thing and building my little reader base. I already know some people love my writing. I don't know if it's enough to interest "NY" nor do I care at this moment in time. I may or may not care if I interest NY in 5-10 years. We'll see when the time comes. NY may be totally changed in 5-10 years (note I didn't say gone.) I'm not even going to try to jump on a ship that is in the midst of this much change, I'd get swept away in the sea.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Stacey, that sounds fabulous! I'll need to set up a skype account but I should be able to do that. You can click on my name to go to my site and send me a message on the contact me page at the top to send me details, thanks!

Anon: I'm currently self publishing. We'll talk about my success or failure in ten years. I'm on a ten-year plan as I've said several times. You don't get to cash in any sooner on it than I do. I also heavily studied the topic for 4 years before taking the plunge, and am heavily involved in the indie author community. I'm not some boob who hasn't really thought about all the implications of this. While you and others may disagree with my thought process or my conclusions, I'm not exactly under-informed here.

I'm sure if I'd read a lot on brain surgery, you wouldn't want me taking a scalpel to your head, but fortunately for us, this isn't brain surgery. It's just publishing, we're not talking about donating a kidney here. This is not world-in-peril stuff, but you'd think it was for all the freak-outs about what the little self-pubbers are doing.

IMO life is about trial and error, you have to experiment to find out what works for you. If everybody followed the herd we wouldn't have electricity.

Zoe Winters said...

LOL yes, Joe, you ARE guy number 1, and that's why you rawk so hard.

Anon 4.0 you clearly are not aware of Scott Sigler or JC Hutchins who both built reader platforms of tens, even hundreds of thousands of fans with podcasting, by their own little selves. And yes, I'm seriously considering podcasting.

Blake, you can't use the argument for success based on self-pubbed authors “that anyone has heard of” because plenty of people out there have never heard of you or Joe. Anyone I'd mention you'd say you hadn't heard of them as if no one has.

I want to know why this is such a bug up your butt. I have NEVER said that NY agents or editors serve no purpose. I simply have no interest in being a part of that cattle call. There are outlets available to me to build a strong reader base. I may not be the paranormal romance Scott Sigler or anything that dramatic, but I'll be damned if I don't see exactly what I can do on my own. Why naysay me? Just let me do my thing. If you think it's a silly little sandbox I'm playing in with no hope of a future, so be it.

I do not personally want the pressure of a NY contract and “career” on my hands right now. This doesn't "invalidate" you or what you are doing.

A strong parallel is... in my own genre there are a lot of ebook authors who work for a few well known (in my genre) epubs. They actually make good money on their work. Many of them started there to build a platform before the pressure of NY. Many of them are there and have no interest in going on to NY.

Really, not everybody wants NY. And as for me I dont' know if I want it or not, but I know I don't want it right now. And I think it's far better for a writer to be self-aware enough to know that about themselves, than it is to take a contract too soon from a large publisher before they are emotionally or strategically ready to best capitalize on that.

JA Konrath said...

Nothing will brush the quote "old" model aside.

And nothing will ever replace buying music CDs at a music store.

Oh wait... there aren't any music stores anymore.

I simply can't see the logic in the $2 whoring of work.

Really? Do I need to explain it again?

On a $2 ebook, I earn more money than on a $8 paperback. And a $2 price allows people to try me for pocket change, which is pretty much zero risk. A percentage of those people will buy the rest of my books.

I have yet to se anyone transfer free/cheap into a real paying audience that appreciates your product.

Google "Seth Godin."

How many of those 50k went on to pay for future works. Maybe half a percent. Maybe none.

I'm curious where you're pulling your numbers from. Your ass?

I've gotten dozens of emails from people who have read my free books and then go on to buy my other titles, and since a small percentage of readers actually email authors, I can assume they represent a much larger group than just a few dozen.

Whenever I publish a short story, my book sales get a bump. Since starting this Kindle business back in April, all of my books have been selling better.

Being exposed to a new writer and enjoying the writing leads to sales. This is a no brainer. Ask anyone who reads. This is why fans seek out everything written by their favorite authors--once they get a taste, they get hooked.

The best advertisement for your writing IS your writing. The more people who read you and like you, the more books you'll sell.

It naive to think you can do all of this one your own and have any meanigful success however you define it.

You're kidding here, right? You've got to be.

If a person sets a goal, and reaches that goal, they were successful. Period.

It may not be your definition of "meaningful" or "success" but why should it have to be?

I've often said that goals should be reachable.

"Getting traditionally published" isn't a goal. It's a hope that depends on other people.

"Writing a book and sending it to ten agents by July 10th" is a goal, and a reachable one. If you set that goal and reach it, you are successful. If the goal had value to you, it is meaningful.

Zoe Winters said...


I'm relentless in my willingness to waste time repeating my points ad nauseum until people agree to disagree, LOL.

Sometimes I like to argue.

Anonymous said...

I have not read any of the comments yet, because I did not want my answer to be skewed.

I have seen this debate before, so I am going to comment on some assumptions

Come on people this is not one or the other! This is about choice. If you don't like eBooks, fine then don't read them, but don't keep pissing our corn flakes to boost your own self-worth. You are failing. You pretty much just look bitter.

I am a published author, by several small presses, and I am a publisher. I own Echelon Press. Been in business for over 8 years, not an easy thing for an indie in the economy, but I've done it.

There simply is no comparison between the printed book and eBooks, nor should there be. They are apples and oranges. Yes, they are both books, but they generally sell to a different target audiences. Yes, there are those of us who choose to read both formats, for a variety of reasons.

I love reading eBooks. In a lot of cases, it is simply more convenient for me. I also love publishing them.

Can I make money on printed books? Sure, not much, but I set up my pricing and marketing structure so that I do make some money on each printed book. I also have to take into consideration that an author with us may not earn out their advance or sell-through, of course those books are a loss. But I plan for each book to do both so that I can make money on each book. There are those authors out there who think they are too good to sell their own books, and they usually fail and lose me money. But I have more good authors.

Now, on eBooks, I make considerably more money on each unit sold, no matter where I sell it. This cost of the eBook production is calculated into our original model. For the most part, Echelon's books are released in both paper and eBook so they rely on each other for income. Because the work is done initially for the paper format, I automatically have the PDF format, easily converted to html, and then with a few other programs that cost under $30 each I can format into a variety of other formats.

Fictionwise, for a minimal cost I can get each of our books into (I think) 14 different formats, something to please just about everyone.

Am I looking to push the paperback or printed book out of the industry? Of course not, don't be reediculous! What I am trying to do is to supply a viable product to those people who value what I have to sell. Printed books and eBooks. I sell both.

Do I want to sell more of one than the other? Sure, I'd love to sell more eBooks because I make more money per unit. But I am as pleased as a tick on a dog's butt to sell every paperback I can. You bet your bippy!

And because our readers are so important to us, I feel good about keeping our eBook prices low because it is in fact a bonus for us to sell them when the work was pretty much done when we went to print. I love making readers happy and if that means selling an eBook for 50% off the price of a paperback, then so be it.

I just hope that those of you who do enjoy eBooks will check out our catalog and give our books a try.

Karen Syed

JA Konrath said...

Konrath is selling his unpubbed work on Amazon as successfully as he is because he as a name that came about because a major publisher got behind him.

Maybe, but I'm not so sure.

There are a handful of other authors selling just as well or better than I am on Kindle, and they've never had print deals.

Are they the exceptions or the rules? Too early to tell. But if I had to pick a reason for why my books are selling well on Kindle, I'd say price is the main one, combined with other things such as genre, the writing itself, covers, previews, reviews, and book descriptions.

but aren't they capable of getting truly remarkable work to the masses as well, where it belongs? Something self-publishing cannot efficiently do.

I agree with this. Print publishing is currently the way to get the widest distribution and reach the most people, and the gatekeepers (agents, editors) are good at improving books and keeping out the awful.

I have no doubt that the Kindle will be flooded with crap. And I also know that self-pub will lower the average quality of books across the board.

But I do think readers will ultimately decide which books are successful, and which aren't. This really isn't the case in print publishing, because the airport bookrack only holds 12 different titles.

People buy what is available to them. But when the choices are unlimited, I expect some authors may begin to sell well based on things other than large marketing campaigns and print runs.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Karen,

I agree, they are just two different formats. And they do appeal to two different groups (with some overlap.) In 10-20 years it's possible that print will be more of a subsidiary right like audio, but right now ebooks are sort of in the audiobook camp as far as popularity level. But it shouldn't be either/or. It's wisest IMO to have a book in as many formats as possible and as many places as possible because it gives you far more chances to reach readers that don't all shop in the same ways or buy the same format.

For your print versions do you do trade paperback? And if so, do you do offset print runs, or use Lightning Source? Because if you do print runs you might find LSI useful for helping keep upfront costs down.

Algot Runeman said...

"...who has time to pick through all the rubble to find them?"

I am a reader. I do write, but it doesn't count (in this context) because it is blogging and the short entries and forum posts on sites such as

However, people like me read books. I read a moderate amount, two and sometimes three a week if they are shorter fiction. I mention what I thought of the reading on my own Web site (though doubt if many people read it). The comments made on and may get read more often.

It also may be that traditional book readers are not mavens of the Internet, but those traditions will change. Reading blogs and their comments has become a bigger part of my reading schedule recently (Sorry, it IS cutting into my paper book fiction reading time!).

I have the habit of buying untried authors' books after reading one of the books borrowed from the local library. That habit could change because of the Web. If I read a few comments from others whose "reviews" have worked for me before, I will be inclined to follow up. There are an amazing number of print authors out there whose work I have not tried. I still may.

I do buy books through Amazon. I also go to the local Barnes and Noble (other sellers have disappeared from my neighborhood). Kindle isn't "it" for me. The Rocket didn't do it. My Palm Zire didn't do it. I am SURE an e-reader will come along that meets my needs.

Authors, in the words of the plant in "Little Shop of Horrors", "Feed me, Seymour." I am a reader. It doesn't matter if it is hard cover or soft, short or long. Write it well. I will decide if I like what I read. If I do, I'll be back for more, again and again.

Anonymous said...

Zoe, I am a PROUD supporter of LSI's PRINT on Demand technology. I am sitting here looking at my taxes for last year and I spent TOO much money on offset runs which are currently languishing in my warehouse. Should I be saying this publicly? Probably not, but I LOVE POD (check out my column "The Color of Publishing" on POD at currently spotlighted on the main page-sorry lost myself in self congratulations there) I have titles that I did offset runs and those authors are no longer with me but several thousand copies of their book are. Am I happy? Not so much. Am I smarter? Hell yes!

As to other comments previously posted...

The success of a book is determined solely on the author. How they wrote it, how they edited it, how they promote it. Every single one onf Echelon's books gets the exact same distribution and yet, those authors who actually go out and do what Joe does are selling 4 or 5 times more than anyone else at Echelon.

Joe is NOT doing as good as he is because he got on with a big house. I couldn't even tell you who his publisher is! Joe is succeeding like a madman because he PASSIONATE about what he does and what he writes and because he doesn't sit around wishing he'd get a big house deal, he went out and MADE it happen. He also doesn't sit around talking smack about people, authors, and publishers, and others who he doesn't know. He is out every day promoting his work and making sure that every person he meets knows he has books. Whether they buy is not Joe's concern, his concern is MAKING SURE THEY KNOW HIS PRODUCT AND HIS NAME. Is Joe on the top of the NYT best seller list? Not yet, but he damn sure is a HUGE SUCCESS. I for one am proud of him. That may get him a pack of gum with a buck, but he probably doesn't hear it enough.

And there certainly are successful self-published authors out there who CHOOSE to continue to self publish and reap the rewards of their hard work. A perfect example is Bobbie Hinman ( She is coming out with book number three in her children's picture book series. Her first two books have sold nearly 20,000 copies and she they have won a combined total of 13 awards (might be more now, I haven't talked to her ina couple days-her awards seem to multiply like rabbits. But as a friend and fellow author of hers, I resent the hell out of all you goobers who feel it is okay to lump extraordinary people like her into categories with those doofused who choose to self-publish POORLY! Not all self-published authors make that choice. So just stop raining on everybody's parade and get a clue.


Anonymous said...

And for those who tout the wonders of the NY houses, I have a shelf devoted to books from the likes of Random House, Warner, Harper Collins, etc, that I have never finished that are absolute SHIT!

Crappy stories, crappy writing, crappy editing, really crappy covers, crappy binding, and yet you say...ppssshhaawww.

Shit is shit no matter who publishes it. And shit falls everywhere not just in the eBook and self-published arenas.

Robert said...

I'm late to the party, and while I've skimmed over the 100+ comments, I hope my input hasn't already been said, and if it has, apologies, BUT --

As Joe has said before, what works for Writer A doesn't necessarily mean it will work for Writer B. In fact, most times it won't. It's about hard work and perseverance, of course, but it's also about luck and being in the right place at the right time.

In terms of self-publishing, I've never seen anything wrong with it, just as long as writers aren't deluding themselves thinking they'll be able to quit their day jobs. There are some self-publishing success stories, but they're far and few between.

Right now I have no intention of self-publishing a novel of mine (I leave those in the hands of my agent), but I have no problems self-publishing something smaller, like a novella I posted online two months back. I created a site where people could read it for free or donate 99 cents for a PDF of the novella that includes a bonus short story. My intention wasn't to make money but to try to get my writing out there. And while a few people have donated 99 cents and I've gotten decent traffic, it's nothing to be excited about.

I also uploaded the novella to the Kindle Store and priced it for 95 cents. A friend of mine made a kick ass cover for the thing too, and I included advance praise from some established writers who said very nice things. And so far? Only a handful of units have sold.

What does this mean? Could I be promoting this novella more than I already am (which I'm not, to be honest)? Would that make a difference even if I did?

Who knows. Again, what works for one writer doesn't mean it will work for another.

Maybe in a month sales will pick up. Maybe it will take a year. Two years. Maybe it will never happen. As is the case with everything in life, putting the novella out there for free online and for a small amount on Kindle was a risk. As long as you know that going into it, you shouldn't be too surprised or disappointed if it happens to fail.

Now in terms of digital content, once nearly everyone has the chance to own e-readers, then yes, the tide will of course change and yes, the prices will be competitively low ... though I wonder how many people will think that the more expensive an ebook is, the better it must be, and vice versa?

WV: pungente

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Karen,

Oh me too me too! I love LSI. Using them for my first print release. I'm giddy about it. And have a great cover artist lined up. Giddy about that too.

And I will certainly check out your column!

I hadn't heard about Bobbie Hinman before, that's fabulous!

I too have read plenty of NY pubbed crap, it's nothing against the NY model of publishing, but sometimes I have to wonder if this got through the gates should they really be the standard-makers? There are far too many poorly edited books with too many typos, grammatical errors, continuity errors, and saggy middles making it onto bookstore shelves.

I find that borderline offensive, since a self-pubbed author will be practically crucified if they make any errors at all. There is most definitely a double standard at work, among writers at least. Readers don't care. Hell I didn't even know who Stephen King's publisher was til last week. Does anyone really think most readers know who publishes who? No one is as obsessed with this topic as other writers.

Zoe Winters said...


Precious few trad published, even NY pubbed authors can quit their day job either.

If you want to support yourself and a family, writing is not for you, lol. At least not as a viable career move. Most fiction writing careers don't make career-level money. Most writers need either a supporting spouse or something else to fall back on. Pubbed or not.

Anonymous said...

I'll be anon 5.0

I don't mind self-published books as long as the writer knows how to write and can put out a decent book without an editor.

Unfortunately, 99.9% of the time, this isn't the case.

Go over to Amazon and check out some of the reviews a few of the posters on this thread are getting. If possible check out a sample of their books. When you do, I'm sure you'll see how pointless this discussion is with the players currently involved.

It sounds like people are actually excited that the wackos are taking over the asylum, and I can't figure out why. Who in the world wants to wade through book after book of unedied garbage in the hopes finding the one kernel of corn in the shit heap?

I'm glad a bunch of writer's who haven't had the chance to publish (whether through bad luck or lack of talent) are finally getting their chance to put their books out whee people can grab them, but eventually there's going to be a demand for quality, and when that happens, it'll be right back to the slush piles.

This is not the revolution.


Jude Hardin said...

I might be more willing to embrace self-publishing if the quality of the product itself (on the average) were anywhere near what we see from traditional houses. It's not, though, and it never will be. When you really think about it, how could it be?

And I disagree, Joe, that "good" is entirely subjective. I can read the first few pages of most self-pubbed titles and tell you exactly why that author never landed an agent, much less an actual book deal. As someone who has judged some contests, I'm sure you can do the same.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Anon 5:

What is with this cloak of secrecy you all have going on? There are almost enough of you to start a guild of anonymous blog commenters now.

I don't normally plug my stuff on other people's blogs, but this seems really apt to this conversation. It's a satirical blog post I wrote: Why Self-Published Music Sux:

If you read that you'll understand exactly how most of your arguments sound to me.

As for editing, please don't assume that because I'm self-pubbed I edit my own work. Every writer edits their own work as a FIRST step. Editing is a skill available on the free market just like every other, and I had many many eyeballs on my work offering editorial guidance in story continuity, fact checking, plot, character, etc, as well as copyediting. And no, those eyeballs were not friends and family, they were editors. They weren't NY stationed editors (there really is nothing mystical about living in the state of NY, really), but they were the same calibur of editing services your average quality small press would use.

Now is the work perfect? No. But I challenge anyone to show me a piece of fiction that is perfect (anything written by JK Rowling isn't eligible since I think she's a magical elf, and it isn't fair to us mere humans.) But is the editing standard up to the general standard of most NY pubbed books? Yes, I honestly believe so. I believe my reviews and sales reflect that. (I have much higher goals for Kindle sales rank, but my rank isn't too shabby right now)

Neither bad luck nor lack of talent is why I chose to self-publish, but I understand a false dichotomy is easier to defend.

As for readers wading through crap, you seem to have it in your head that a reader is just inundated with thousands of bad books they can't wade through, and that is not the case. When you do a search on Google, normally the best and most relevant links show up in the top 10 results. Why? Because Google has set up an algorithm and filters. And while there may be a billion pages on any given topic, anything past page 3 is irrelevant to most surfers and never gets seen at all.

You don't NEED publishers to filter everything. (Note this doesn't mean I think they are “bad” or “useless” only that this filter job is less and less needed on a place like the interwebz.) has it's own search and reccomendation filters. Many sites like GoodReads and Shelfari and LibraryThing are also seeking to do the same type of thing. When you have all this online you automatically have filtering systems cropping up. It'll be fine, relax. Most truly crappy books, most people won't even ever see.

Ty said...

Couldn't pass it up ...

"who wants to wade through book after book of unedied garbage in the hopes finding the one kernel of corn in the shit heap?"

Yeah, I know what you mean. That's pretty much how I feel when I go to the book stores or library nowadays.

Zoe Winters said...


Yeah but why is the average what you base things on? What is wrong with judging each book on the merits of that book?

No one is asking you to shop on or go out of your way to buy or read self-pubbed work. Just... you know, if you see a book that looks decent and you like it, don't freak out if the author happened to self-release it.

That's all.

I don't buy "publishers" I buy authors. Many brand name publishers have put out books that I found to be horrible. But I didn't go: "Damn, I'm never reading another Avon book again." I'm not going to punish every author of a given publisher because the publisher sometimes puts out books I don't like.

Each author is responsible for their own work, not any other author's. Why is this standard different in self-publishing?

What every other self-pubbed writer in the world is doing has nothing to do with me. I'm also not making my life decisions based on the mediocre baseline average.

Who cares if 50,000 self-pubbed works have covers like look like their neighbors dog puked on it and are barely literate? What does that have to do with anything?

It's like what you're saying is: "Because a lot of other people suck at this, you shouldn't even make an effort to be better."

JA Konrath said...

And I disagree, Joe, that "good" is entirely subjective.

I've said before (it might even be in this thread) that good is subjective once a minimum level is achieved. That minimum level isn't subjective--it's narrative structure.

But if we both agree that this minimum standard is met by traditionally published books, then it comes down to taste what is "good" and what isn't.

In the self-pubbed contests I've judged, the large majority never made it up to that minimum level.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4.0 here again.

Blake, that's the entire point. The "publisher" got his book mass distribution. All of this other stuff is ancillary and trivial. I don't think it adds up top that many sales, and certainly not worth wasting 40-50-60 days on the road. A comedy/horror (and really what is horror these days? is it all B-movie camp? torture porn? thinly veiled pseudo-erotic vampire tales?) book has a specific niche audience that isn't going to grow much past that point. On another note, how well did Desert Places do in the market place?

Joe. I'm not angry. As for getting your video or not getting it. What exactly am I supposed to "get"? That you are a bad comedian? Maybe you never wanted to be taken seriously. If that's the case, my bad. So how is hermes doing these days?

Wow. Deflecting once again. How could you possibly compare yourself to the most contrversial historical figure of the 20th century?? You aren't a classic either so I don't know how this debunks my argument.

I will give you credit for posting numbers. But how can we know they are true?

Some people, though, can only see the world through myopic, historical goggles

There is a name for those people. The "overwhelming majority."

Your anecdotal information on how your friends Ipods get filled is the same path you want books to go? Really, you want to open pandora's box?

As for the newspapers going under, the online versions aren't making enough of a profit to stay afloat.

Alessia, what exactly are your royalty rates that make you so happy? Who is paying 50% royalties?

Zoe, have you never heard any self-pubbed horror stories? How will you distribute it. How will you promote it? How will you print it? How will you edit it? This all costs money!!! No matter how you define your success, it will cost you money. So the question really is at what cost will you feel satisfied in your efforts?

Anon 4.0 :)~

Maria said...

Please introduce me to a publisher who pays authors 10% to 15% of COVER price.

I've written 71 books, several of which became bestsellers and I get 8% to 20% of WHOLESALE price. For the 20%, I do layout, too, thus saving the publisher that cost.

Ty said...

Anon 4.0, you still don't get it. Pandora's box is already open.

It's been opened in the music industry, the movie industry, newspapers, and now it's coming to book publishing.

And I'm NOT taking up for all self publishers. I'm not suggesting it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. I realize there's a lot of self-published garbage out here.

I am saying that it's happening and it's going to keep on happening in greater numbers. There's nothing that can be done to stop this.

Zoe Winters said...

Anon 4: On Kindle I've had close to 1500 sales. You can choose to believe my numbers or not. I think my Kindle store rank makes it obvious I'm not pulling that out of my butt. There is me on Scrib'd. Where I was listed through no action of my own as both featured and hot. I also have my work on several other places including my own site. All my downloads (I don't count page views on Scrib'd just downloads) from all places where I can track it add up to over 7,000, probably closer to 8,000 now because I haven't done a tally in a bit.

Now that many readers may not be gee golly wow, but it's also not the tiny little number I'm supposed to have access to either. I get fan letters nearly every day as well as newsletter subscriptions. Since I don't have anything yet in print at full price (that will be released late this fall) I do not yet know how it will translate into print sales.

I am not so na├»ve to believe I'll sell 7,000 or 8,000 print copies in my first year. Though I do have a goal of 3,000 – 5,000. (A “tough” goal, but I don't do “easy” goals, what's the point?) If I reach the higher end of that with my higher profit margins, I'll have made close to a teacher's salary for the year for one book.

The problem with me trotting out my numbers is it makes it look like I think I'm the mack daddy sh*t, which I absolutely do not. However, in order to combat ridiculous assertions about what a self pubbing author can do, I have to trot out what I've done so far And as far as goal posts go, we're about at rung 2 of a 100 rung ladder here, so I most certainly don't think I'm any kind of “it thing.”

The point of mentioning all this is just to say: “This is the internet, welcome to it.” On the internet you have unlimited reach. I do social networking, and blogging both on my own blog and as a guest elsewhere. I promote in much the same way most authors do.

As for costs involved, I already have a cover artist lined up (who is both quite talented and quite affordable, a lucky break for me in my genre is we still have many talented cover artists due to the popularity of a few e-pubs, who are affordable to work with.) I do my own interior layout/typography because I feel that's a learnable skill and I can do that to satisfy Lightning Source's requirements plus it allows me more opportunities to catch typos and grammar problems when i'm working with the text in a different way. I've got several people lined up to help with editing.

Let's keep in mind that many authors spend some or even much of their advance for their first few books on marketing their own work, so the rule that the money flows to the author is only true until publication, then it flows right back out of the author's pocket again. I know authors who spent their entire advance for their first few books to market their book. Will you also question them on how much money they're willing to spend to succeed?

I'll have many e-formats, including but not limited to the Kindle. I'll do my printing through LSI. They do print-on-demand for major publisher backlists, small presses, university presses, and authors who set up as their own micropresses and own their own ISBN blocks. LSI has many distribution channels including B&, Ingram, Baker and Taylor as well as several others, AND several distribution channels in the UK, which will allow me to sell both here and abroad. As an LSI customer I'll be eligible to take advantage of every one of those distribution channels.

I'll offer some freebies: ebooks, and podcasts to help build a readership as well.

And of course I've heard of self-pubbed horror stories, folks like you never tire of sharing them with me. Believe me, my eyes are wide open, I know how hard this is. Why do you think I'm doing it? Don't you ever wake up one morning and want to climb a mountain? I do.

Zoe Winters said...

And apologies to people for turning this into the zoe-show. I know seeing long spork-out-your-eyeballs post after long post with my name on it is tiring and annoying, but I can't answer a simple question simply when I feel like the question is loaded.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4.0 signing in again. I'm glad I'm stirring it up.

And speaking of shit. Yes, Karen and Zoe I totally agree that the big houses put out shit. I never wrote that all published books are inherently masterpieces. Nor did I write that occassionally a self pubbed book has been a success. But you have to agree, that self pubbed gems are very rare. And that if you have this huge unvetted glut then you have to agree with Anon 5.0 that it is no revolution.

I do get it, Ty. But why do you defend it? Why would you want it to be that way? Why do you accept it? I for one am glad that Youtube is forced to take down copyrighted material. I support the artists I like; I want them to keep on doing what they are doing.

I wouldn't make any comparisons to movies because the big studios are making a HUGE profit even with the piracy compared to anytime in movie history.

Zoe, as for Scott Sigler. Pllleeeaaaassee. His books got rejected because they couldn't market them. They are a clusterfuck of genre's. I never like writers reading their own works; that goes for Thomas Harris and Stephen King. Also, why would you pay for a book you listened to for free?

Jude Hardin said...

I've said before (it might even be in this thread) that good is subjective once a minimum level is achieved. That minimum level isn't subjective--it's narrative structure.

I think we have to accept the fact, though, that a "minimal level" simply isn't good enough in today's climate, in the real publishing world. Especially for someone trying to break in. In today's market, you have to have something pretty special, I think, to even stand a chance.

Zoe Winters said...

Well Anon4, I don't know, but Sigler is now a NYT bestselling author, so whether you like his work or how he did it, there it is. And lots of people who listen to podcasted novels buy the print copy too. You might not, but clearly many do. And we were talking about success models not your personal taste in fiction. ;)

I've never denied that a lot of self-pubbed work is crap, what I don't understand is this fixation on that issue. (and what it has to do with any individual author deciding whether or not it's the right path for them. Educate yourself, test market, get some editing. It's not rocket science.) Most crap doesn't rise far enough to the top for most people to see it anyway.

When you go to the Kindle store and you browse by bestselling in the various categories, most of what is at the top is STILL well-known authors, and the few self-pubbers who make some of the lists *aren't* the crap.

And no matter how much self-pubbed crap gets put in the kindle store or Amazon in general it is STILL going to be that way. It's not like all the crap gets together and sticks together into this borg-like book entity that suddenly drowns out the good stuff.

i.e. this is no threat to you, to readers, humanity, society, common decency, etc. It's irrelevant if no one sees it.

The self-pubbed books that rise to the top may be crap according to your personal reading tastes, but enough readers disagreed with you to make it somewhat successful.

It's like Twilight. Whole bunch of people think Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a damn, including Stephen King, but... that didn't stop her from selling, so at that point it's subjective.

Something that I'm getting from all this, and it's something that's niggled at me forever is... a part of me believes a lot of writers don't trust the reading public to decide. They fear if a NY editor (who apparently is magically gifted with the ability to see all good fiction and validate you) isn't there to vet them, that the readers might not like them, because readers can't be trusted.

Why would you write in the first place if you trust your audience so little? And if I'm assuming something that isn't true (that you don't trust the readers) please tell me I'm wrong and why.

Because there are plenty of filters either already in place or being constructed so readers don't ever have to "wade through crap."

Jon F. Merz said...

I'll chime in and reiterate a few things I mentioned last night on the podcast with Stacey. For those who have no idea who I am, I had my first four novels come out with Kensington back in '02-'03, got dropped, struggled in writer purgatory, got hired on to write eight novels in the bestselling Rogue Angel series (not my best work I'll freely admit, but fun at the same time), co-wrote two non-fic books for Penguin Putnam and a smaller outfit, and have had a few short stories pub'd (most notably in the From the Borderlands antho). I've had 3 agents (my latest is *finally* the one I've been searching for) So I've had some years of experience with traditional publishing - both good and pretty bad.

I finally waded in ebooks in late March by pushing out my novel Parallax as a direct buy from my blog and also on Amazon Kindle. I've since pub'd another novel Vicarious and two short stories as ebooks.

My numbers are nowhere near what Joe's have been, but then again, Parallax was also the first novel to come out under my real name in about five years. In many ways, it's like starting over again. And while I've accumulated over 11,000 followers on Twitter and thousands more on Facebook and my Facebook fan page, it has been tough converting those friends, fans, and followers to sales.

That said, I find the evolution of ebooks as part of this industry very exciting indeed. Yes, there is total crap out there. But I've certainly read my share of traditionally pub'd novels and said, "who in God's name greenlit this?" Just as I've seen bad TV, bad film, heard awful music, and eaten bad food at supposed five-star restaurants. In any creative endeavor, there will always be stuff that doesn't measure up. I've written apparent stinkers, myself.

But there is also good stuff out there. And I think that's pretty cool.

Speaking for myself, having stuff published as ebooks is great. While I haven't earned near what Joe has, so far this month, I've earned about $150 bucks just on Amazon. It's not huge money, but if I keep on pace, I should break about $250 for the month. Even if my total stays about the same for the rest of the year, that's $3,000. All of it passive income.

I'm not going to lie and say that I got into writing for anything but making a buck. Oh no. I am in it because I love telling stories, but I also want a nice paycheck. So the money matters to me, something I know some people will have a conniption fit over (deal with it, I happen to like buying things for myself and my family and enjoying the better side of life)


-Jon F. Merz

Jon F. Merz said...


My naivete when I first started showed in the belief that I thought once I had a pub deal, my books would stay in print forever, earning me a constant stream of paychecks. Then reality showed up and knocked me flat. Finances for a writer are this weird up-and-down of "I have money! I have no money!" Not the best way to go through a career.

But ebooks represent a fundamental change in writer finances. No longer do you necessarily have to rely on advances checks and the (hopeful) royalty check. Amazon's checks come in regularly and you've suddenly got the appearance of a steady gig. Not bad.

Better is the fact that you can have your backlist of material (some of it unpub'd perhaps) out there earning for you *all the time*! You're not relying on a pub house to keep your stuff in print. You control your destiny. It's great.

Am I still in the Honeymoon phase with Amazon? Certainly not. I happen to think Amazon's royalty needs to improve. I'm wary that Amazon will rapidly gain a position of too much control over too much content, and several other concerns as well.

But there are good things happening for writers and readers who want that content. And I'm excited about it. I'd much rather connect with the end user of my product directly than have to go through three layers of middle men.

Just my thoughts on the matter for those who might be interested.

I'd be very interested in hearing more direct and concrete methods for marketing this stuff once you get it on to Amazon. Because I would love to see my sales numbers jump up!


-Jon F. Merz

Zoe Winters said...

Jude, if you have to have something special to even stand a chance, then why is crap still being published by NY houses? If this were true then every single book published by NY right now should be a gem. But it still isn't.

Certainly the bulk isn't as bad as the bulk of self-pubbed work (though this is apples and oranges), still it's not all gems. Not even most of it is. Half the books I read that are NY pubbed, aren't that great, IMO.

Ty said...

Anon 4.0, I'm not defending self-publishing for everyone.

I don't necessarily want things to be this way, but I don't bash others who do and I don't understand why it matters so much to those within the traditional industry.

If I put out a crappy e-book, it'll sell a few copies then it'll die. End of story. How does this in any way affect the traditional publishing industry and those involved?

If I publish an e-book and it sells 10,000 copies, then all the better for me. It still shouldn't affect the trad pubs. Right?

If self-publishing does somehow affect the traditional market (and it does and will continue to do so in larger margins), then I'm arguing that the trad market needs to deal with it instead of just mouthing off about how awful self-published books are. Self-publishing is not going away no matter how much it's railed against. Just think how much self-publishing has grown in the last 20 years. Now think of today's technology and where it's headed. Self-publishing is here to stay. It's time to deal with it in a productive, hopefully economically viable manner instead of just spouting "it sucks and anyone who does it must suck, too." That's no answer. That does not deal with the situation.

That's what I'm arguing. I've mentioned elsewhere the only mainstream publisher I've noticed so far that really seems to know what it's doing when it comes to e-publishing is Baen, and I've found that pleasantly surprising after Jim passed away a couple of years ago. Baen as a company gives me some hope that the traditional publishers can survive and thrive in this new market that's growing every day, even without the company's former figurehead at the helm.

Why not defend it? It won't be the complete picture in the future, but self-published e-publications are going to be a part of the future, maybe a big part.

And I'm not sure of your linking copyright and Youtube to self-publishing. That I've seen, no one here has talked about a lack of copyright protection. Traditional publishers don't grant copyright protection. I don't see how suddenly millions of self-published books tossed into the market will weaken copyright protection; it just means there's going to be a lot more stuff to protect, even if much of it is junk.

The gatekeepers in many industries are often falling by the wayside because of today's technology. Those who have survived and made a profit are those who have accepted the new possibilities, not those who have screamed against the future.

Why does this issue frustrate so many people from the traditional publishing field if there's nothing to fear? The esteem of the industry? Give me a break. Just because someone is a prettier, higher-priced whore doesn't mean they're not a whore.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Jon,

I totally agree with you on Amazon having too much power and their royalty rates royally sucking. Probably nothing can be done about it but yeah. I'm grateful for that distribution channel but I'll never say I think Amazon is a cute and fluffy puppy.

As for marketing, I participate some on the amazon and kindle discussion boards. Though it's possible I may repel as many people as I attract lol.

One of the problems about sales conversion is the percentage of your fans who even *have* a Kindle. i.e. they may be perfectly willing to put a little money in your pocket for your stories, but they just don't have a Kindle. That's the major downfall of Kindle is that it's tied to such expensive hardware that percentage-wise probably very few of your fans even have yet. (or they may have another type of e-book reader)

You could also put it up on Smashwords and try to drive some traffic there and see what happens. It offers multiple formats, you set your own price, and get either 80 or 85% of proceeds. I don't get much action there because I don't really promote myself there. I want to drive people to my site or Amazon. But if you were actively driving people to Smashwords you *might* see a little more fans/followers convert to sales. It's free to put it up, so can't hurt to try.

JA Konrath said...

That you are a bad comedian?

That you don't think I'm funny is subjective.

That you are a coward who posts anonymously is objective.

I allow anonymous posts for people who don't want to get in trouble by using their real names, not as a license to be a dick.

I don't know how this debunks my argument.

You don't have an argument. You have an ill-informed opinion.

Your anecdotal information on how your friends Ipods get filled is the same path you want books to go?

I've researched Internet piracy and the music industry. Have you?

40,000 songs can be stored on a 160 gig iPod. That's $40,000 in iTunes.

Do you actually think there are a lot of people with $40,000 iPods? Or perhaps some sharing is going on?

Wow. Deflecting once again

Wow. Being a dick once again.

Reread my posts. My logic is sound, and I'm not deflecting.

Reread your posts. You're being a dick.

I like confrontation. But man up and own it.

I don't think it adds up top that many sales, and certainly not worth wasting 40-50-60 days on the road.

And you know this because...

Oh, wait. You don't know this.

I will give you credit for posting numbers. But how can we know they are true?

And I'll give you credit for--you guessed it--being a dick.

Here's a screenshot of my numbers.

I recommend you either sign in under your name, or try to act like a grown up and stop with the insults. It devalues your points.

Zoe Winters said...


Prettier, high-priced whores, prefer the term Call-girl. Just sayin'

And good stuff. :D

Jude Hardin said...

Hi Zoe:

The books hitting the shelves right now were acquired a couple of years ago. Things were tough then. They're exponentially tougher now.

Blake Crouch said...

@JA "I'd say price is the main one, combined with other things such as genre, the writing itself, covers, previews, reviews, and book descriptions."

Okay, using all the info you've gleaned on price point, book descriptions that work, etc., upload something on Kindle using a name no one has ever heard of, like Tom Schreck, and see how many you sell. (kidding, Tom - he's a great writer folks (Duffy Dombrowski mystery series - but he made fun of a shirt I was wearing last time I saw him, so I have to give him shit every chance I get). Post the results of your unknown Kindle story, then reupload it to reflect JA Konrath or Jack Kilborn as the author. Let's see what happens.

@anon4.0 "On another note, how well did Desert Places do in the market place?"

Well enough to fight another few rounds, which means, for me at least, getting a shot at writing a breakout book.

@Zoe "I want to know why this is such a bug up your butt."

Zoe - first off, I think you really do express yourself and what you're trying to do very well, and I will agree with you that being content in your own creative process is the most important thing. Having read your comments, I do think you've chosen your path very intentionally, and I might not agree, but I do respect it.

Okay, why this is a bug up my butt, the only reason I care about this, is because I worry for the writers who are reading this who are trying to get an agent, or who have an agent and are trying to get a publishing deal. It's a tough process, and I wouldn't want them to toss in the towel on that path and go the self-pub route, if trad publishing is their dream. Very few people have the inclination or skillset to do what you do in terms of self-releasing and the chance of being successful at it is minimal, i.e. the success stories are the exceptions that prove the rule.

@JA "That minimum level isn't subjective--it's narrative structure."

Boy, that is absolutely right on the money.

@Zoe"I feel that publishing period is a huge crap shoot and I absolutely refuse to sit on my work for possibly years and years on the off chance that I'll get into the "hallowed gates" of NY publishing."

Totally agree on the first part.

Unfortunately, NY happens to be very good at getting large quantities of books into the market. Whether they get purchased once they're there is a whole other topic, but traditional publishing does give you the best shot at being read by a lot of people and making money in the process. If those are your goals, makes sense to go that route. As an aside, you'd probably be surprised to hear trad published writers' uncensored, alcohol-infused discussions on the topic of NY.

JA Konrath said...

Post the results of your unknown Kindle story, then reupload it to reflect JA Konrath or Jack Kilborn as the author. Let's see what happens.

That's one of the first experiments I tried, Blake. The poetry collection was up under a pseudonym for a few weeks, and didn't sell a single ebook.

Once I put "Konrath" on there, it began to sell, but the numbers are still terrible--probably because no one buys poetry.

Here's something interesting, though. I was selling 8 copies of DISTURB per day, using my crummy cover art. A publisher, Bell Bridge Books, kindly offered to do a cover for me.

Since then, I've been selling 16 copies a day.

So naturally now I'm going to get some new covers for all of my ebooks.

Zoe Winters said...

Okay Jude, I'll wait a couple of years to see if NY pubbed books get a lot better. I'm not holding my breath, but I'll wait before rushing to judgment on the issue.

Blake, TY, that means a lot to me.

And I agree with and understand your position about authors trying to get an agent and go the trad route, to those authors I wouldn't ever discourage them from giving up on what they want. If they have more than one thing available, they could always release one of those things for free as a podcast to try to start building a readership, while shopping the other thing with an agent. It doesn't have to be “either/or.”

Or frankly I think you overestimate the number of people who are going to try to do what I'm doing just from reading my comments, lol. I mean probably I turned a few people away who wanted to self pub. They probably saw my long spork-your-eyeballs-out posts and thought: “Holy crap, that's insane, I'll just stick with the whole agent route man. That Zoe chick is crazy, that's way too much to have to deal with.”

But I get where you're coming from. I come from the opposite side of the fence in that I know (because I have many friends who are this way), there are many writers who don't have the same dreams as others and they'd really like to self pub, they'd like to learn how to do it right, but everywhere they hear either a simplistic easy peasy “just go to” explanation of the process, or they're being dissuaded from it because other people think they know better than they do about their goals.

When I was first considering this, I had a lot of well-meaning people coming out telling me they didn't think it was a good idea for me to do. (but I'm really happy doing this) Almost all their arguments had nothing to do with what I, Zoe, can or can't do but with what “most people” can or can't do. But everybody's success is built on their own effort/skill/talent. What other people can or can't do have nothing to do with it.

People often use what “they would do” as a yardstick to try to inform others on what they “should” do. I will be the first person to say that I don't think self pubbing is right for most people. Not because I think they are lesser mortals but because it's hard work, there is a steep learning curve, and most writers are not passionate enough about the publishing process itself to find any joy in it.

But I say the stuff I do for that small % of people who are like me and who could do this, fully understanding they probably won't “make it big.” Because if those people who are suited to self pubbing gain the courage it took me four years to gain by something I've said, then that means something to me.

By the same token, if another writer decides “oh HEYELL no, I'm doing the trad way” that's great too. It's hard being a writer, no matter how you do it.

I agree NY still has better distribution but they also have far crappier odds to even get in. I've always been someone who doesn't accept the idea of needing permission to play the game. Win or lose is fine with me, but I'll play, even if it's in a smaller pool.

But the odds are pretty bad to get a NY publisher, especially in this economy. Arguing from a hypothetical publishing contract (with really bad odds for getting a second one) doesn't wash with me when I'm actually “doing” something now that feels far more productive (for me.) I have readers, I've made sales and a tiny bit of money, and I intend to just keep chugging along and growing that. Sure, NY has fabulous distribution, but without a platform I couldn't take full advantage of such an opportunity which would raise my odds of being a one-book-author, and I'd have to “get there” first.

I've got a whole post on my blog (click my name it's the first non-sticky post) of part of why I chose to self pub on the money/sales front. I'm not the first self pubber to self pub fiction as a personal business decision.

Zoe Winters said...

Joe, I designed the cover for KEPT, but I'm really excited to be getting a professional level cover for the print release (and kindle release of that.) I'm interested to see if that helps improve my sales.

I don't think "my cover" is horrendous, but a professional could definitely look at it and tell a pro didn't design it. My biggest weakness is cover fonts. I have no talent with fonts on covers, eeesh.

Ty said...

Oh, hell, Zoe, I knew you were crazy right off. But that doesn't deter me. ;-)

Imp said...

Anon 4.0 said:

"Alessia, what exactly are your royalty rates that make you so happy? Who is paying 50% royalties?"

My royalty rate on ebooks is 50% [and on paperback (which, incidentally, is entirely print on demand), it's 20%] of net. So, for sales through a retailer, like Fictionwise, I earn 50% of what is paid to the publisher. Gross equals net on direct sales from the publisher's website

My publisher is Phaze Books ( I primarily write novella-length, so ebooks are a wonderful venue for me. And, with each release, my backlist sales increase.

I apologize if I missed anyone else's response to my earlier comment. The conversation is difficult to track.

Zoe Winters said...

hahaha Ty: good crazy or bad crazy?

Ty said...

Zoe, good crazy, I think. But I've just got back from a pizza parlor and I've had a few beers, so it's kind of hard to tell. :-)

Zoe Winters said...

LOL yeah beer always makes me seem good crazy. It makes other women appear prettier and my crazy seem more endearing. :D

Anonymous said...

Anon 4.0 at your service!

I'm not frustrated at all Ty. I know full well what this business is. No stars in my eyes.

Yes Zoe, the houses still put out junk because people are "buying" it. Good is irrelevent. That's why crap is continually put out. The name authors know people will buy it, even if they don't like it. And the houses know this too!

What did King say about Stephanie Meyer? Those are YA books marketed to girls/females, which I presume is a majority of her demographic.

How am I being a dick? And I'm not trying to be a dick at all. Your making bold predictions. I didn't prepose that I could make millions or 100k or 32k. You were the one. You are the one predicting that this is the wave of the future. Not me. You are the one making it seem like this is a license to print money.

What are you Rod Blagojevich? Political double talk answers are all you've given. What does a full 160 gig Ipod have to do with comparing yourself to classics? or Mein kepmf? Another non answer.

And I still don't know how Hermes is doing!

When you actually reach 32k and not just suppose that it can happen if sales stay the course, then I no longer have an argument. And you'd be proven right. But as of right now, no one can say one way or the other.

Blake what does well enough mean? selling 75% of a 20k paperback run? Over 5,000 hardcover? Ball park figure.

Actually Zoe, I believe you.

With out the .jpg I actually believed Joe too. I wasn't questioning his current numbers. They seemed reasonable, and he even said himself that his book Serial got a big push from the publisher. What I was refuting was the belief that it would grow exponentially forever.

Ty I'm not bashing. It's outrageous to think you can be a millionaire through publishing by any means! 32k, maybe. But remember JA is traditionally pubbed too. Some of his recognition has come from that.

Jon, I'm glad you're making some extra dough. Right now everyone could use a little extra. :) I actually listened to one of those Rogue Angel audio books once. Nothing wrong with what you are doing, but you seem to be realistic about the whole thing.

Maybe it is an apples and oranges thing. Maybe its just an adjunct to the other sales.

For Joe (smoke spewing out his ears) I was a frustrating Dick. To Ty, Jon, Zoe, Blake, and the others I at least hope I was thought provoking. ;)

Anon 4.0 over and out.

Zoe Winters said...

Anon4: I didn't call you a dick, that was Joe. You may be addressing him, but it sounds like you're talking to me.

And yeah Stephen King said Stephenie Meyers couldn't write worth a damn and it was a whole big thing, and everybody turned into drama llamas over it. It was popcorn-worthy.

I think I'm pretty realistic in my goals too. They may be high for an "indie author" but i see no point in making teeny tiny goals for myself.

On the exponential growth thing... at some point an author reaches about where they're going to settle sales-rank wise. They'll pretty much hover and won't climb any higher but don't tend to drop much lower.

But who knows when you reach that point? And also when you release new stuff and pull in new readers you can get a surge from those new fans checking out your backlist.

I'll admit the whole thing mystifies me.

Like right now I'm averaging about 350 new Kindle sales a month. Which hey that's not amazing or anything, but it's enough to keep me in a decent sales rank. I'm always mystified by where these people are coming from. Are they all finding me on Amazon somehow? Did they hear about me somewhere else first? Is it word of mouth? How is it that I keep getting almost these same numbers every month?

What will it take to push me even higher (cause the higher you get the more you start showing up for more searchers in more categories. I want to get on the first page of Romance: Vampires. Right now I'm on the second page. And I want to get under 1000 in the Kindle store and freaking stay there. I hit 756 one day for like 30 minutes.)

These are like mysteries of the universe to me and I may never figure them out,but I can tweak and experiment and watch my rankings like a hawk and see if I can ascertain what is working and what isn't.

Jude Hardin said...

Okay Jude, I'll wait a couple of years to see if NY pubbed books get a lot better. I'm not holding my breath, but I'll wait before rushing to judgment on the issue.

Who knows if they'll be better or not, but the fact is NY editors (the ones who still have jobs) are more choosy than ever. In the current climate, it's nearly impossible for a newbie to break in. My agent says he's not having any luck selling anyone's fiction right now.

But I'll keep trying, because my goal is to be a published author. Having my books printed or uploaded and then listed for sale on the internet would, indeed, be tantamount to giving up.

Zoe Winters said...


They have to start buying eventually. Good luck.

Stacey Cochran said...

I just published an interview with Kindle author John Rector.

John is an excellent example of why self-publishing on Kindle is a great thing to do. His novel The Grove became a hit on Kindle, and just two weeks ago, Allan Guthrie sold his latest novel to Eric Raab at Tor/Forge.

Certainly the momentum of The Grove didn't hurt, and at the very least, John is building a base that will embrace his Tor/Forge novel The Cold Kiss when it comes out next year.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Stacey, I replied to you way back up in the comment thread when you mentioned the podcast.

JA Konrath said...

Thank for being civil, Anon 4.

Political double talk answers are all you've given. What does a full 160 gig Ipod have to do with comparing yourself to classics? or Mein kepmf?

I invite you to point out my doubletalk.

As for the iPod 160, I think I misunderstood you. I thought you were inferring that people aren't filling their ipods with stolen music. Rereading your statement, it seems like you're talking about stolen ebooks, and if that's what I want.

Ebooks are already being pirated. If ebook prices stay high, the pirating will get as bad as it is in the music industry. It doesn't matter if I want it or not--that's the direction we're heading.

My original blog post stated the way to fight piracy is cost and convenience.

As for comparing myself to the classics and Mein Kampf, I'm disproving your statement:

What big name author sells consistently throughout the year? The answer is -- no one!

This is 100% wrong. Certain titles continue to sell in high numbers, year after year. I used Mein Kampf as an example because I read somewhere it sells 50,000 copies a year--that's impressive for an old book written by a psychopath.

You are the one making it seem like this is a license to print money.

That's exactly what this feels like to me right now. I'm amazed I'm actually paying my bills selling books I've been giving away for free for years, books that were rejected dozens of times.

I had zero expectations putting my books onto Kindle. I certainly didn't think I'd make $3000 a month, which I'll hit by the end of June.

My predictions for sales continuing to stay strong is based on the number of Kindles already sold, and the numbers of iPods and iPhones.

There are over 37 million iPhone and iPod touches that have been sold so far. Will all of them download the free Kindle ap? Of course not.

But between the Kindle buyers and those with the ap, I have a customer base of several million. And it's growing.

Assuming the vast majority don't buy my books, I can still sell quite a lot of them.

I'm predicting steady sales thought the year based on watching my numbers consistently rise for 11 weeks.

Is 11 weeks a long enough study? No. But it's all I have to work with, and I'm optimistic. Especially since I plan on adding more books.

For Joe (smoke spewing out his ears) I was a frustrating Dick.

No smoke. Just a mild annoyance that you had to punctuate your statements with cheap shots.
You don't have to agree with me, you don't have to like me, but in my house you do need to show some respect, or else you're free to go and play at someone else's house.

Blake what does well enough mean? selling 75% of a 20k paperback run? Over 5,000 hardcover? Ball park figure.

You won't post your real name, but you want Blake to post his sales figures? That's silly.

"Well enough" means he's still getting contracts, still in the game.

I'm always mystified by where these people are coming from. Are they all finding me on Amazon somehow?

Here's what mystifies me, Zoe: the consistency.

I not only wonder where people are finding me, but why it seems to be the same numbers, with little variation (except a slight escalation) day after day.

I mean, I would think there would be spikes and dips and irregularity day after day. But I seem to be chugging along at about seven bucks an hour during regular hours, and three bucks an hour during the late night/early morning.

That's just weird. Why doesn't the number go way up or way down? Why haven't I had any off days or off weeks?

It's actually predictable. I'll check my numbers, then check back in three hours figuring I made another 20 bucks, and I actually made another 20 bucks.

JA Konrath said...

Please introduce me to a publisher who pays authors 10% to 15% of COVER price.

For my hardcovers it's 10% of the cover price for the first 5000, 12.5% for the next 5000 sold, and 15 for anything over 10,000. I beleive this is industry standard.

Mass market paperback is 8% of cover price.

If your favorite local mystery bookstore wants to link to your ebook, do you offer them a commission if a sale is made?

I'd have no idea how to do that, and no idea if any bookstores would want to do that. If any bookstores would like to offer my ebooks for free on their sites, they're welcome to email me and we'll set it up.

Having my books printed or uploaded and then listed for sale on the internet would, indeed, be tantamount to giving up.

I hear you, Jude. And I agree. But that doesn't mean we're right--we're just doing what is right for us.

When I was struggling to get published, I made a lot of mistakes. I used to think that I could probably teach writers what I'd learned so far. But I never tried to teach anyone anything until I landed a pub deal--I felt it was disingenuous. So I didn't teach, didn't blog, until I was published.

I wouldn't go the ebook route if I hadn't ever been in print, but I don't think people that do are wrong.

The funny thing is, the only reason I began to give away free ebooks on my website because fans requested to read them. The only reason I put them on Kindle was because fans requested them. But in each case, I realized it was helping me sell my print books, helping me find new fans, helping me establish a brand.

I never do anything thinking "this is going to work out great." My goal is to try things that seem like they might work, and keep the ones that do, discard the ones that don't.

When I did the Tequila for Sheila experiment, I didn't think I'd sell very many. At this point, I've bought a replacement for Sheila, and also fixed Sheila, and have money left over.

I didn't think I'd make any money on Amazon, and certainly not 3k a month, especially since the books are still on my website FOR FREE.

Weird business. Weird world.

Zoe Winters said...

Joe, OMG I know! The consistency wigs me out too. I was trying to express that but couldn't find the right words haha.

Though February was a bad month for me, but then February was a bad month for everybody I know who has a Kindle book out. I don't think you were doing it then were you?

Wait til next February, I think it's some kind of weird dip in the sales cycle for everyone or something... like in honor of chocolate candy and lingerie people take a vow of illiteracy in February. Who knows, it's bizarre, but February were some LOW numbers.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Joe,

I'm glad you've posted your numbers/sales, because you seem to be ranking on some books around 500 in the kindle store or better, and a lot of the time I run around 1200 in the kindle store. And it's good for me to see the VAST difference in sales numbers going on for those two different sales rankings, because it shows me a little bit of the potential of kindle sales as far as the market.

Seeing how high I was overall in kindle rank, without having an idea of how much HIGHER sales are where you are from where I'm at gave me a better idea mathematically. I find that encouraging rather than discouraging because there seems to be a lot of potential. And of course it's growing.

Also I'm not sure how I wasn't aware there was a kindle app for the iphone. I'm sure I heard it and it went in one ear and out the other, but that makes things interesting too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4.0 back again.

Joe. I apologize for being a dick. I was too harsh. :(

Zoe, I know you didn't call me a dick. And I never knocked you, or your choice. I was just outraged at the claims of making millions. ANd honestly your cover isn't all that bad. May not be optimal. but it isnt horrible.

I wasn't trying to be a dick. The cheap shots were how you worded your statements. You said people get it and some don't. I wasn't trying to cheap shot you. I just asked what was I supposed to get? You have to admit you went a tad overboard with that video, no?

You also have to admit that some of your claims are a bit outlandish. Like i said, when you reach (whatever number) in sales for the year. Then you can state that as fact. All I was disputing was the fact that it would grow exponentially. But I might be wrong. We can pick-up this debate again in 10-11 months from now when you have much more data and a longer time frame to cull data from.

If digital book files are already being pirated then why would you want to put all your eggs in that basket? And why would you want it to be an all digital book world?

Yeah, to clarify the Mein Kampf thing. I meant current authors recent releases. I went to Costco and other similar places and have seen Hardcover books by Robert B. Parker, Harlan Coben, and Patterson in a giant bin praying someone would buy them for $4.99. These titles ranged from 6 weeks after their intial release to a few months after release, but no later than a year; Parker is like Patterson with like 7 titlesd out in a year. The exception was Evanovich. They still had her #9, 10, and 11 titles hoping to be sold. And one Twelve on top. These books have Zero shelf life.

I was only specific with Blake because the other posters had defined what their ideal success was.

But Joe, you have to admit for being a Dick I got this thread rocking! when I posted this afternoon it was at 79 posts. 14 hours later its at 164. ;)

Zoe where can I found this King Meyer feud?

I think a better question concerning success is do you want to be a one time big sale like "The Lovely Bones"? Her 2nd book tanked hard. Or do you want toi pound out a career?

As for authors being over paid.. the only opnes being overpaid are the celebrity books that never earn out their advances. Is anyone pissed at Tina Fey? 5 million advance. George Bush? 7 million dollar advance.

ANon 4.0 civial and calm. ;)

Zoe Winters said...

Anon4: Thanks on the cover. With the pro cover artist I'm bringing in for my next release, I should have a cover that can hang better with pro covers. I'm interested to see if it helps sales.

I'm not sure right now that many people look at the current cover and go: "Oh noes! Self-pubbed! Run away!" But a few might, you never know.

Anything that helps me compete better is a good thing, like a pro cover.

You should find the king/meyers thing if you google "Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer"

That will most likely bring it up.

JA Konrath said...

I just asked what was I supposed to get? You have to admit you went a tad overboard with that video, no?

Fair enough.

A large publishing house can release several dozen to a over a hundred books per quarter. When sales reps are pitching their book to their accounts (and their accounts can be broken down by region, or by typem such as indies, chains, big boxes, libraries, etc.) they can spend an average of 25 SECONDS pitching a particular title.

That's not a lot of time. Reps are so busy, very few have time to read the books they're pitching.

So how can one author make an impression on the reps and stand out?

The Hermes video was an effort to be noticed among many, many other books that quarter, and it was filled with gore and humor, like my Jack Daniels books.

I'm on the record saying my publisher didn't "get" it. But that's the point of this blog--I relate things I've tried and whether they worked or not.

You also have to admit that some of your claims are a bit outlandish.

I'm the first to be surprised by my results so far with this experiment. My claims are based on my data.

If digital book files are already being pirated then why would you want to put all your eggs in that basket? And why would you want it to be an all digital book world?

I've been saying for a few years that ebooks are the future, based on what I've noticed in the music and newspaper industries. That doesn't mean I "want" to put my eggs in that basket. I don't see that writers will have a choice.

I went to Costco and other similar places and have seen Hardcover books...

Here's what one of my bestsellling friends says about hardcovers: "They're advertisments for the paperback."

Hardcovers are for fans and the library market. Paperbacks are geared toward the casual users, the impulse buyers, which is why they sell in much greater numbers. Paperbacks are we're you'll have your steady sales, year after year. Paperbacks are the books that have a shelf life.

As for authors being over paid.. the only ones being overpaid are the celebrity books that never earn out their advances.

Actually, most books don't earn out their advances. I've blogged about "earning out" before. A publisher can still make a profit, even if a book doesn't earn out, but earning out is a good indicator that the book has some staying power.

Take a bestselling author that makes 3 million on a two book deal.

How many books would they have to sell in hardcover and paperback in order to earn out? A whole frickin' lot.

But publishers are worried that authors will go to another house, so they pay these large advances that can take a decade to earn out--if ever.

Publisher can make money off their frontlist (new) books. But the backlist (continually selling titles) is what keeps them in the black. Certain hit titles can sell year after year, and this gives publishers the capital to pay the large advances, hoping for a big hit.

And it's good for me to see the VAST difference in sales numbers going on for those two different sales rankings, because it shows me a little bit of the potential of kindle sales as far as the market.

There is a huge difference. SERIAL, and AFRAID, were being downloaded at over 1000 times a day to reach the top bestseller spots.

In contrast, THE LIST fluctuates between the top 100 and 300 spot, and it is selling about 60 copies per day.

That's a massive difference. And it shows how many people are interested in genre thrillers, which goes toward my predictions.

THE LIST may never sell anywhere near 1000 copies per day. But I do know there are are over 40,000 people and counting who are interested in that type of book as written by me.

Omnimystery said...

I said: If your favorite local mystery bookstore wants to link to your ebook, do you offer them a commission if a sale is made?

You said: I'd have no idea how to do that, and no idea if any bookstores would want to do that. If any bookstores would like to offer my ebooks for free on their sites, they're welcome to email me and we'll set it up.

I think you missed my point. Just as there are writers who love to write, there are booksellers who love to sell books. I'm sure there are lots of booksellers who would be interested in selling your books. After all, that's what they love to do. But there has to be some incentive to do so. Set aside for the moment the mechanics of how that would work. What I'm asking is, in your model, do you envision the author being the sole source for the marketing, promotion, and sales of their books? Is the sole method for buying their books? Or, and this is my point, would you see authors networking with booksellers to help sell their ebooks with some sort of revenue sharing involved (i.e. commission). I suppose the bottom line is, if you can sell N books on your own but N + M books through a network, would you pay a commission on the M books? (I don't want to get bogged down in how this might necessarily work, or even commission amounts, but your thoughts on going it alone versus working with others.)

JA Konrath said...

@Omni - Naturally, I want as many booksellers to sell me, and make money from my books, as possible.

But I think a business model does need to be thought of first.

Ebooks will potentially ruin the print industry. I don't envision any bookseller willfully contributing to their own demise. A bookseller makes about 40% of the cover price of a book. So how interested would they be selling my ebooks, earning 80 cents per copy, rather than making 3 to 10 bucks a copy on my print titles?

If they were interested, I'd love to explore how it could work.

Do you envision the author being the sole source for the marketing, promotion, and sales of their books?

Marketing and promo, yes. Sales will be at various hubs on the net. Booksellers with an online presence might very well play a big part in that future.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Interesting.... !

Zoe Winters said...


Are you saying you feel brick-and-mortar bookstores will die, and if so, what will be the distribution benefit of publishers then? Advertising dollars to bump one higher on Amazon's Distribution in Walmart and Costco? (the latter assumes a much stronger tightening on the belts of publishers to even larger selling books.)

And none of these questions are asked snidely, I really want to know.

I see a value in publishers for most authors even without a wide distribution channel if for no other reason than most authors either don't know how or don't want to deal with all the different facets involved in publishing their own work. (which is understandable especially since most fiction writers, even published fiction writers have a day job. If I didn't have a husband paying the bills you better believe I wouldn't have the energy to write, let alone publish fiction.)

If the main distribution arm in the future will be online except for the really strong sellers that get wal-mart space (though this still leaves some genres out, since Wal-mart will never stock erotica) then won't authors pretty much have to fend for themselves anyway? i.e. most distribution channels anyone would be able to get into would be open to most.

And although there are some sites that only accept books from certain publishers (a problem easily formed when authors form a co-op and publish under one imprint together), there are other sites starting up that only accept quality work from indie authors, so it's not like both group can't have websites. I would prefer it if it didn't become the Sharks vs. the Jets, but it probably will before it all shakes out.

LSI offers many distribution channels and works with authors (as long as they follow the file creation guide and have their own ISBN numbers.)

Most online stores just aren't going to restrict what books are allowed because good or bad books still make them money. They could charge a listing fee, and of course they make a part of each sale. Filtering mechanisms in their store such as recommendation and bestseller lists would allow cream to rise to the top and drek to fall to the bottom, never once threatening society with too much garbage.

If/when that happens... what then? In your opinion. In the future I just don't see a large benefit for any author not in the very top strata of a publisher's list. And I see more and more publishers wanting a "sure thing." Right or wrong, publishing is becoming like American Idol and the readers are voting on what the publishers publish. We're seeing this with things like Authonomy, as well as the increasing number of indie authors and podcasting authors who have gotten larger deals.

For awhile NY has only really focused on platform for nonfiction authors, but it seems now with social networks and various mediums for writers to garner a platform online that platform as a requirement for a NY deal is going to become the norm in the next 5-10 years. Not just "does the author have a blog/website, could he/she theoretically market" but PROOF that he/she can market, i.e. numbers/fans/readers= platform.

In which case, what I'm already doing, "right now" would be the kind of thing a larger publisher would actively look for.


Zoe Winters said...

One other thing that has been squiggling around in my brain:

I totally totally get the "NY has great distribution" argument. Totally. And I would never dissuade someone from following their dream, BUT things are a little bit different for an author with a proven track record and fanbase, already "in" NY publishing, as opposed to the unpubbed writer.

The unpubbed writer is arguing about the great distribution of NY from a hypothetical place, not a place of actually "having" it. That's like me saying what I'm going to spend my lottery winnings on. Even if I'm buying lottery tickets every week it doesn't mean I'll win. Even if I'm a mathematician and have studied the statistics of various number strings, it doesn't mean a lot.

But when people speak of the fabulous distribution and sales potential of NY vs. someone like me, to me that's almost like someone arguing the great money you can make from the lottery, as opposed to working in a gas station selling the lottery tickets. Well yes, but for all but a few, the gas station money, though not a lot, is actual money and the lottery money is imagined hypothetical money.

I guess to me this is a case of a bird in the hand vs two that may or may not be in the bush, and that won't be in the bush for the vast majority of writers, even as they up their game, because the publication slots are narrowing, not widening, as authors continue to become more savvy and go to workshops and conventions and writer's groups and etc. etc.

i.e. just because one writer is improving and upping their game, doesn't mean about 10,000 others aren't doing the same thing. It's just getting more and more competitive, i.e. the odds get worse, not better. Yes, odds are still better for you if you write well and polished and what's commercially marketable, than the total noobs off the bus who sent in their rough draft, but more and more people are joining the savvy group.

It's a long shot for everyone. Especially in this economy. So while I "get" someone who doesn't want to self publish. I don't get when unpubbed writers won't podcast, or put up anything at all for free, to start trying to build and garner readers which may help them stand out from the crowd.

Many writers cling to the first rights of their manuscripts like they're gold or as if they don't plan on ever writing anything else. It's more of that hypothetical money stuff. I'm not saying it's "wrong" just that I don't feel it's very competitive behavior in the current climate.

David J. Montgomery said...

172 comments and counting! Damn. Nothing gets the hit count up like a good fight over self-publishing. :)

Fun stuff.

If anyone wants to actually see the differences between traditionally published books and self-published books, just spend a few years as a book critic. Obviously we're talking about generalizations here, but they're generalizations based on a considerable amount of evidence.

Regardless, it always comes back to this: educate yourself, determine what your goals are, and then find the best way to achieve those goals. The universe of writers is large, and one size does not fit all.

Amie Stuart said...

Ty AMEN!! (RE: Publishing going the way of newspapers). There is so much good food for thought here!!

As far JA's comment about why some books make it to NY and some don't:
>>Is it because the books suck? Or because the books were unlucky?

Here's my thought. Some books just aren't NY material. Its big business, they have a bottom line and shareholders to report to. At this point, its in their best interest to think narrow--for lack of any better word. The beauty of e-publishing (whether with an epublisher or independently) is that there are no constraints. I'm NY published, I'm also e-published and I know I will write stories NY won't want to gamble on and I"m okay with that! A backlist regardless of format only helps to build my readership.

My biggest concern is the % that authors are giving NY for those e-rights. Maybe I'm naive or uneducated but if it costs so much to make e-books why are e-publishers not just surviving but THRIVING.

Maybe this is an entirely different discussion but I believe taking a smaller percentage now will hurt today's print authors in 5-10 years down the road as well as set an ugly precedent for future authors.

Zoe Winters said...


I think the point though is... a truly successful self-pubbed book does all the right things (though admittedly you can do all the right things and still fail, that's life), so it's a bit of a strawman to take a pile of self pubbed books (which you likely found based on them LOOKING self-pubbed or being on lulu) and compare them against a pile of NY pubbed books.

The reason I think this, is because self-pubbed books ARE the slush pile. That's why the gems are so few, you're comparing our out-in-the-open slush pile against the "cream" NY picked (which even then not all of it is cream.) Their slush meanwhile stays hidden and buried away from public view.

But in a sense ours does too since cream rises to the top and most never see most of the crap to begin with. Welcome to the free market and the internet.

So it's more fair at least quality-wise to take the GOOD self-pubbed books (the majority of which don't look self-pubbed, and though mine still does look a bit that way, that wasn't my "debut book" that was test marketing I tossed up on Amazon. My first print release will look like a "real book")

i.e. you won't be able to look at my book and go "That's self-published"

Increasingly the good self pubbed work can't be called out on sight, that's why it's the good self pubbed work.

But we're talking about two totally different systems here and measuring them against one. I'm in a debate regarding Romance Writers of America elsewhere where the debate is over the fact that RWA has this bizarre policy where they only consider publishers who pay an advance of at least $1,000 to be "legitimate and recognized" publishers.

Let's forget how sad it is that the bar is that low for "career-minded" authors. The fact is, epublishing can't operate on an advance model. So even though there are some VERY good epubs in romance like Samhain where many of their authors earn in excess of $1,000 for a book, RWA considers them not a "real publisher" for a "career-minded author" because they don't fit the print business model.

That's the exact same thing I see when you take the Self Pub slush pile where there is a DIFFERENT vetting method (i.e. the readers and quality) and compare it against already vetted NY work instead of their slush pile.

It makes you look right and self pubbers look lame, but it's still an unfair argument. And has nothing to do with anything.

When I talk about an "indie author revolution" I'm talking about the self pubbed work that doesn't look self pubbed, that doesn't read self pubbed, that is guerilla marketed and building a readership, however long that takes. I'm not talking about a set of poems someone's barely literate 14 year old published on lulu. The influx of that has nothing to do with anything as no one not looking for it sees it. It doesn't impact the world.

But I'm betting that GOOD quality indie work rising to the top, WILL impact publishing in "some" way, in the next 10 years. Arguing from our slush pile obscures my points.

Zoe Winters said...

Amie: I totally agree with you re: NY sucky royalty rates on E.

Authors aren't making a noise about it because it's such a small percentage of their sales, but that may not always be the case. Lack of bitching now sets a precedent for unfair pay rates in future.

Later when E is bigger, authors may not be able to get higher royalty rates on it from NY pubs. Though I can't imagine how a NY pub could have a better distribution model for their e-books than already established epubs, so NY may have to adapt or die on that front.

David J. Montgomery said...


You're making my point for me: the average traditionally published novel is better than the average self-published novel, due to the vetting process of professional publishing (i.e., agent/editor/publisher).

The problem for the consumer -- not the author, but the book buyer -- is that there's no way to tell which is the rare self-published novel that's worth their money and which are the majority that are not. That is a fundamental problem of self-publishing.

However, with an e-publishing model, where readers can sample before they buy, consumers have a better shot at avoiding the obvious losers. That, I think, makes the model more feasible and thus is a step forward for self-publishers.

Stacey Cochran said...

Hot off the press!

I just learned that another Kindle author has entered into negotiations with a major publisher based on his Kindle self-publishing success.

This from Boyd Morrison at

People have started to notice that my books are no longer on Amazon, so I thought I post a short note here for now. I took my books off Amazon and my web site because I'm in negotiations for a book deal. That's all I can say at this time. I'll let you know more when I have something concrete to report. Thanks again to everyone!

Stacey Cochran
Author of The Colorado Sequence for 80 cents

Zoe Winters said...

David, I'm not making your point for you. You and many others seem to have this idea that the market is going to get glutted with all these self pubbed books that the poor helpless reader has to be defended against lest they get swept away in a sea of crap.

But that's not true. Most people don't even "see" the crap. How many normal people do you know who shop for books on Lulu? Come on.

Of my peers, I do not know a single indie author who isn't offering something for free, be it a sample, a free ebook, or a podcast. I've never met a savvy indie who didn't know the importance of free, and sampling.

Further, everything on Kindle can be sampled (and is refundable)

Everything I publish in print will have the "search inside this book" feature on as well as any other online venue that allows sampling.

People read a book and like it, and they tell others. I've had many completely unsolicited amazon reviews, as well as reviews on various blogs.

A filtering system is already in place and starting.

Further, in places like Amazon, you start getting integrated in the system and people start finding you.

Readers aren't morons. If a book looks good, if it's got good reviews, if you read a sample and you like it, then that's enough to be reasonably certain that the odds are just as good that whatever book you're looking at will be just as satisfying a read as a book vetted in another way.

Further sites like are being formed to give the quality indie books a place to shine. If it's successful, there will be other sites like that. I'm not against "vetting," I'm merely against anyone acting as if there is anything wrong with allowing a free market system to actually work how a free market system works. i.e. if you want to open a hardware store you can do it, and you are unlikely to get any flack based on some other boob who started a hardware store that sucked.

What about all the bad indie music and film? There are BAD indie films and indie music out there. No one is bitching about it. Because it doesn't matter, it doesn't rise to the top. The only reason this self pubbing thing is treated this way is that it is somehow a threat to the status quo, if it wasn't, people would point, mock, and move on.

Sites like Shelfari, LibraryThing, and Good Reads are all a reader vetting system whereby the cream rises to the top via a recommendation system. That's all books, but indie books are not somehow "shut out" of the system.

Most readers buy books that weren't directly recommended to them in the same fashion: They look at the cover, if they like that, they look at the back, if they like that, they read an excerpt, if they like that enough they buy.

This is the process you go through for any book no matter who published it. Any reader who can't go that far before purchase deserves the reading experience they get. Almost no reader has "who is the publisher?" as part of their shopping litmus test.

I have no idea what you're even arguing. Your argument makes no sense to me and doesn't reflect the reality of what I see around me.

We've already established the crap sinks to the bottom. But the good self-pubbed books do have a chance to rise to the top and be bought by readers who go through the same process they do with any book.

About half of the NY pubbed books I read, I can't get through. The plot sags too much by page 250. The NY vetting system isn't giving me any personal confidence in a satisfactory reading experience. So I have to rely on the *authors* I trust. It's a crap shoot for me as a reader any way I go. (indie or NY reading)

And speaking directly to other normal, regular readers, they don't care who the publisher is either. They just want a satisfactory reading experience. The self-pubbers who can provide that will rise above the crap and in the general reader's mind if they even realize they are self-pubbed...they won't care.

The only people who care about this are other writers.

Zoe Winters said...


One more thing:

It does not *matter* if the average self pubbed book is worse than the average trad pubbed book. Who cares?

No one.

They don't care because most people don't see that many self pubbed books in their shopping experience, because crap sinks to the bottom.

The bottom line is... the vast majority of work submitted to trad publishers sucks and doesn't get published. The vast majority of self pubbed writing sucks and doesn't rise above the crap to gain a readership.

IMO these odds are really about the same. I'm not sure why more people don't see it this way.

(Maybe this should have been my original and full response to you. This is the cliffs notes.)

JA Konrath said...

Are you saying you feel brick-and-mortar bookstores will die, and if so, what will be the distribution benefit of publishers then?

If print dies, bookstores will either have to morph into something else, or die as well.

Let's say ebooks really take off, and I own a bookstore. Perhaps, to draw people into my brick and mortar store, I host author events, where people can meet the author and buy an instant download for that author's book at a discount more than they could get online.

So instead of books on shelves, bookstores would be WiFi hotspots with encrypted pay-per-downloads that were cheaper than online books. Then they could sell coffee, and continue to be places where people hang out, while still being in retail.

Or perhaps Barnes & Noble decides to pay Stephen King (or me) for an exclusive ebook, available only through their stores.

Or maybe bookstores will have print copies on the shelves, but not for sale, like carpet samples. You decide which book you want by perusing it, and then you can scan a bar code and buy an electronic version, or have one printed for you while you wait.

Anonymous said...

King, of all people, who doesn't need any more money could leave the Master of NY and still make millions with Ebooks. That would rock the boat and shake things up, but it wont happen, not yet anyway. As long as the faithful fans keep buying his books he could drool on paper and it will sell!!

I'd also like to see him get an editor with guts. As well Nelson Demille.

Anon 4.0 :)

Zoe Winters said...


Or they could incorporate the Espresso Book Machine as well if/when it becomes more affordable. I don't think print will ever totally go away, but I think we might get more into a print-on-demand model for print. But unless bookstores changed how they operated, they couldn't sustain themselves brick-and-mortar wise with POD without something like the book machines.

To me having my ebook signed by my fave author even if there was some electronic way to do this, would not be the same at all.

Anon4: I think King has had a few little self publishing experiments with E already. I think they were pretty successful. (der, lol)

The thing is, nothing would get "truly" shaked up on a massive scale until someone like King said: "Hey, I'm just going to set up my own publishing company, hire freelance editors, etc, publish myself under my own imprint and make all the profits."

Even some editors at NY houses have said things like: "If folks like Stephen King figure out they can do this on their own and make more money, we're toast." (paraphrasing cause I don't know where the link to that article is.)

But that probably won't happen because Stephen King makes bucket loads of money as it is, He's unlikely to start his own imprint just to exponentially increase his profit margin. I mean how much richer than God does he need to be?

I think a more likely scenario will be: As midlist authors are dropped by their publishers, especially those dropped mid-series, the fans will keep pressing for more, and those midlisters will self-release to the fan base they already have. Then the lines will start to blur a little bit more.

Zoe Winters said...

I wish I had a blog comment editor to shorten my posts by about 1/2 and fix my grammar. "shaked up" *facepalm*

"Shaken up."

I promise folks, I'm literate. I just type faster than my brain thinks sometimes.

David J. Montgomery said...

"I have no idea what you're even arguing."

I didn't realize we were arguing...Just thought we were talking about books here.

JA Konrath said...

It does not *matter* if the average self pubbed book is worse than the average trad pubbed book. Who cares?

In the 1980s, Atari was the fastest growing company in the history of the USA. They made billions with videogames.

Then the videogame industry collapsed completely, and Atari went broke.

The problem was that tiny companies with zero talent, eager to cash in on the industry, began producing shitty games by the truckload. The customer base for Atari suddenly had too many games to choose from, and the majority of them were awful.

Consumers simply stopped buying games, all because the average quality went down.

Once self-pubbers really embrace the Kindle, the quality average will go down. I've heard that there were more self pubbed books than trad pubbed books for the last few years, but these books are mostly kept out of bookstores, where consumers could find them.

Not so on Kindle. They're right next to the trad pubbed books.

I have nothing against self-pubbing. I know over a dozen folks who do it well. But I also teach writing, and I've judged national writing contests, and the majority of amateur writers are amateur for a reason.

I believe Kindle owners will be able to distinguish between good and bad, with previews and reviews and minimal bad experiences. I don't think it will be a repeat of Atari. I think the good will rise to the top, and new stars will be born, and the crap won't sell well.

But there is a precedent for this, and it crashed an entire industry.

Zoe Winters said...

LOL David.

I considered us debating points. Not arguing in a mean/contentious way. I mean you didn't call me a poophead or anything. :D

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Joe,

I didn't know that was what brought down the Atari, that's interesting. My husband still laments the downfall of the Atari, lol.

I agree that I don't think self-pubbing is going to bring down publishing/books because of the way the internet is set up to filter things. I also think when a reader has a bad experience with a self-pubbed book they'll start being more savvy about how they shop. (i.e. cover, back cover, first few pages, reviews, recommendations)

In a physical marketplace it is different. Today I went to the bookstore to buy some books for my dad (got one of yours, would have gotten more of yours, but Fuzzy Navel was the only one on the shelf.) I walk into a physical bookstore and I'm overwhelmed by the choice in front of me. Even though there are far more books on Amazon I don't feel overwhelmed there. I'm not going to see ALL of those books, just a tiny fraction and it's based on what *I* put in the search box, or how I browse.

John Rector said...

Stacey, thanks for the interview, and I wish I could say the Kindle played a part in the Tor deal, but unfortunately it didn't. The Tor deal had been in the works for months, long before I put The Grove up for sale.

However, the Kindle has proven to be a great promotional tool for the next book, which was actually my original plan.

Unfortunately, I have to wait a year before I can see if it worked.

Anonymous said...

Well there were alot of factors. It was more like the fastest growing in the early 80's. It was an explosion in 78-79-80-81 but by 82' the handwriting was on the wall as Colecovision really brought home the arcade experience; the Donkey Kong was really liek playing in the arcade.

The Atari 5200/7800 never really caught on in any big way. And the 2600 had to deal with huge disasters like E.T. (6 million copies got buried in the desert) and the 2600 version of Pac-Man was horrendous.

But true, there was a glut of poor quality 3rd party developed games. But even if the quality was maintained Ninentendo was already on the way.

There are many questions before quality of manuscript comes into play. Will Kindle grow? Is it a fad? Will the price come down?

The Atari analogy is apropos. Will Kindle go bust in a year or two?

Anon 4.0

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Anon4, even if Kindle doesn't make it, there are other ways of distributing/selling work even in E. A lot of them are a little less user-friendly and "easy" but if the fear is all the bad work, it being a little more difficult to jump over the wall could be a good thing.

Kindle certainly won't be my only e-format/distribution channel, though I have to figure out exactly what I *am* doing on that front. As well as if it's worth the hassle to form a co-op to get into some of the more difficult places.

Anonymous said...

Zoe, Do you realize Penguin is snapping up almost EVERY book they see in the vampire romance genre, and you don't even need an agent to submit.

As long as your book is semi-coherent, you might want to give it a try. No matter how much you love to self publish, having your book in stores around the country, is a much better way to build a fan base.

Something to think about if you haven't already tried them.

Zoe Winters said...

LOL Anon: Where do you get your information? Vampires are still hot on the shelves but from everything I've heard in paranormal romance werewolves and demons are what they're looking for right now. (Because they have gotten too much vampire stuff. They're backlogged on vampire, trust me.)

Either way, I'm not even submitting. I really wouldn't want that kind of pressure right now. I need to play and do my own thing. I know to you it's like "ZOMG missed opportunity!" But not to me.

Also, KEPT isn't really a vampire romance. And the story description makes that clear. It's a cute/campy romance between a sorcerer and a werecat. But fans have tagged it as vampire maybe because of one minor character in there. He's the hero of the second novella, but this one surely isn't a "vampire romance."

But hey, if Amazon wants to rank me there I'll take it. And people seem to like the vampire. Which is good, if they didn't like him I'd be screwed on the next story.

The first print release is three novellas combined that introduce this world I'm creating. And I can tell you even if I was interested, no publisher publishes 3 novellas by the same author when the author is an unknown.

The first full-length novel in the series is a demon romance. I don't get to vampires again until the second full length novel.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I thought it was a vampire romance.

In that case, you definitely made the right choice. Self publishing is much less stressful. No point subjecting yourself to rejection after rejection when you can sell a few copies on your own over the internet.

Zoe Winters said...

paranormal romance is pretty hot right now, period.

Though pretty much every agent that sells it has said no more vampires. They're selling more werewolf and demon stuff right now.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Why Bad Books Get Published

I remember the enthusiasm with which writers greeted the introduction of POD services around 1997. POD and the internet were going to "disintermediate" publishing, too, only it didn't happen.

Most self-published books produced with POD technology sell about 150 copies. admits that most of their titles sell 1 copy! The Kindle and ebooks lower the cost of self-publishing for an author, but otherwise don't alter the other conditions that control the miniscule sales of self-published books.

There is nothing wrong with publishing yourself. It's not illegal, immoral or unethical. It just isn't an effective method for nearly every writer who hopes to attract a considerable audience and generate even a subsistence income.

Self-publishing has existed alongside commercial publishing for decades with no discernible effect upon traditional publishers. They know the score. If ebooks begin to supplant paper books, traditional publishers will follow suit. It's a silly fantasy to imagine them all ending up like mastodons in a tar pit.

The transition in the recording industry from CDs to MP3s didn't destroy the major record labels, either.

Here are two informative posts about self-publishing by an astute lawyer who specializes in intellectual property:

Zoe Winters said...

There really isn't an effective method to make a living writing fiction, there's too much luck all the way around, for anyone, no matter what route you take, IMO. NY isn't exactly a "route" when the odds are like the lottery for most writers to get a contract.

I get what you're saying, but I still see a big shift happening. People have talked about how ebooks have been predicted to change the industry but it hasn't happened yet, but it might this time. Things are different this time. Dedicated e-readers and the market is growing quite rapidly.

Weird economy issues. Increasing numbers of less crappy writers self publishing and podcasting in a more organized internet where there are better places and ways to build a readership, social media, etc.

To me it's all very different from 1997 when comparatively almost no one was on the internet and Amazon wasn't making this kind of splash.

Just saying. You may still be right, it may be another "false alarm," but it seems different.

Zoe Winters said...

Though I don't think NY publishing will *die*

Peter L. Winkler said...


I said that POD became available in 1997. There were already millions of people on the internet then. I know, because I analyzed the online market for a book proposal I wrote back then for an internet directory.

The numbers didn't stay fixed at 1997 levels, but ten years later the revolution prophecied by many starry-eyed writers stll hasn't come to pass.

You haven't shown one reason why the Kindle and ebooks will make self-publishing a better option for writers than before. Cheaper, but not productive of robust sales.

You keep trying to equate things that aren't equal. The time, effort and money needed to self-publish a novel so as to produce a book that appears as professional and attractive as the traditional publisher's product is considerably greater than that needed to pursue representation by a literary agent, and the rewards offered by being published traditionally are far greater than those recieved by all but a handfull of self-published writers.

Even a $5,000 advance and a fast shuffle off to the remainder table from a traditional publisher is far preferable than beseeching your friends and family into buying your book and ending up selling 100 copies or so, especially if you've spent months of your life and hundreds or thousands of dollars to get there.

If indeed it's all purely a lottery, as you've said, it only makes sense to buy the cheapest ticket with the biggest possible prize.

David J. Montgomery said...

The odds of getting a book contract are not like the odds of winning the lottery. Nobody could possibly misunderstand statistics that much.

Hell, even Konrath got published. KONRATH, for God's sake!

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