Friday, June 18, 2010

The Time Is Now

I'm releasing two original novels on Kindle next week.

I was thinking about the perfect time to release these novels. After all, print novels have release dates. Shouldn't ebooks?

During my reverie, I realized something pretty important: The term "release date" is now archaic and no longer applies.

Print books traditionally have a coop period--which is a length of time the publisher pays the bookstores to keep them on the shelves. Then, once the period ends, most or all of the unsold books get returned.

If you're lucky and have sold enough copies, or your publisher made a deal with the bookstore, a few books will stay on the shelf for a while. But most of the time, they won't.

This meant release dates were important. Both competition, and timing, played a role in when a book came out. So did pre-publication buzz. Galley copies needed to be sent to blurbers and reviewers. There needed to be a press release, and perhaps a laydown date for the book launch.

But with ebooks, none of this matters.

As I mentioned, I'm releasing two original novels on Kindle next week. They're Jack Kilborn horror books, called TRAPPED and ENDURANCE.

This is a big deal for me, because both of these books had traditional print offers. The big boys in NY offered me $$$ to publish these. But I turned them down, and I believe I'm the very first author to do that and self-publish as ebooks instead.

I was considering waiting until the 70% royalty rate comes into play before releasing these books. Amazon is switching from 35% to 70% on July 1. On the surface it makes sense: wait until I can get more money per copy.

But beneath the surface, it makes no sense at all to wait.

I've really struggled with wrapping my head around this concept, so let me try to explain.

My ebooks have been steadily selling more copies each month, since April 2009. This is not how it works in print publishing. In print, you sell a lot the first two months, then sales drop off. In a print model, it would make sense to wait, because I'd make more money if I waited until the royalty rate got better in July.

But in the case of ebooks, if I can count on each month outperforming the previous month, then the longer I wait, the more money I lose.

This is no longer a case of only X number of books being sold. Ebooks don't go out of print. They can technically keep selling forever.

The sooner "forever" begins, the more money the author can earn.

Get it?

If I wait until next month to publish these, I'll miss two full weeks of sales. Money that could be in my pocket.

Why would I defer that until later?

Yeah, I'm still struggling with the logic here myself. My head is so stuck in the old ways, that these new ways still don't make much sense.

Except that they do make sense.

Here's an analogy, to help better explain it.

Let's say you want to get some free electricity, so you build a windmill. Next month is when the high wind season begins, and once that happens, you'll be getting twice as much electricity as you would if you built it now.

Does that mean you should wait a month to build the windmill? No, because you're missing out on all the wind--and electricity--that you could be getting right away.

In this scenario, strange as it seems, waiting is a loss.

So when should you list your book?

A soon as it's perfect and ready. Waiting for a future date means losing sales.

As the walrus said, the time has come. Each day you wait, is a day you could have made some money.

So what exactly are you waiting for?


Anonymous said...

Do it Joe!

I'm struggling to figure all of this out myself; the traditional print model is outdated and traditional publishers can't keep up with today's technology.

This year and last year, I co-wrote and published a 750-page book on taxation, and I did it three months. I had to-- tax law is only good for a year, so the sooner I got the book out, the sooner I started making money. I use POD and I don't carry inventory. Next year I'll do it all over again.

What traditional publisher would do that?

What you're saying makes perfect sense. Publish now, and watch the sales increase every month.

Do it now, because we're all gonna die in 2012 anyway! Might as well go out like a rich bastard than a poor one.

Stacia Kelly said...

I'm so glad you're doing this all for us...and setting out the path. Not only for writers/authors...but also as readers. I do more eBook downloads lately than I do print book purchases...1)because of shelf space and 2) for convenience. I still go out of my way to get the print copy of the FIRST book, so I can get it signed.

But damnit.....I want to read it when I want to read it. And if that means downloading at 11pm at night, I'll do it.

You. As always. Rock.

with whiskey

Jenna said...

Joe, I think you should take me on as a pet project. C'mon, I'd make a good pet. ;)

Zoe Winters said...

You are so right on the money here, Joe. This same thing occurred to me, too. Even in a lot of self-publishing guides talk about the importance of release dates, but increasingly I believe ebook release as soon as it's ready, followed by a print release makes the most sense. Rather than the way the big pubs do it. Their entire business model is the Titanic, and I'm certainly not going to emulate them.

I think when there are no release dates you also have no reason to procrastinate. I work a lot more steadily knowing I have readers waiting, and that I don't have to come up with some convoluted "release date." Or worry about releasing on the "wrong date." Sure, I may release at a time when romance sales are lower. Like I know summer is the best time for romance sales, but the opportunity doesn't disappear, it just gives me some time to build some momentum before the rush hits.

Also if you release before July, you can release it on sale like 99 cents or $1.99 to get a good influx of sales and get your ranking well-positioned, then raise it to the $2.99 rate and hope ranking holds. If you start out at $2.99 it'll take longer to climb. Maybe.

Stacia Kelly said...

Hey, PS..GO YOU.

Aaron Patterson said...


Agreed. I have seen a good 100-200 book climb each month and wondering where the top is. I hope there is not a top and that it keeps going up. I am a part of a publishing Co that scares most publishers and some authors. We not only publish E-books hard but we just made a deal with Apple and B&N to upload direct. And further more we publish all our titles as a e-book first 2-6 months before the print run. That way we can see the demand and add some excitement for the print copy.

The other thing you got going is the low price. People want a good price, just look at Apple and what they did to the music business... this is a new world and the future is .99 music and book downloads. As authors we just have to bend our minds around this idea and force the big publishers to change their way of thinking or pass them by.

Great to see a author that gets it and one not afraid to do it in the face of unwilling publishers. I thought I was alone... lol


Anonymous said...

The thing I like about the release date is I know I can get the book on that date. You said a while ago the books were coming out this month(May) then there was a next week comment (a couple weeks ago). Now I wouldn't blame you for waiting till July when the royalty rate goes up but just say that. Don't leave your fans hanging for a month. It takes the polish off the book! Pick a date and release it already.

JA Konrath said...

Don't leave your fans hanging for a month.

I had to wait for the publisher to sign the addendum to revert the rights.

Jack Kilborn was tied up with Grand Central getting the next book. Breaking a NY Publishing Contract is one of the 7 Circles of Hell. It is impossible, takes forever, and is excruciatingly painful.

These books were ready to rock 4 months ago. But I needed to wait for legality to be on my side...

Anonymous said...

Me again. Contracts. What are you going to do? I hope you know my impatience is only because i loved Afraid so much. Do you know how hard it is to find a good book these days?

Moses Siregar III said...

I think the issue here is that your most loyal, diehard fans will buy it right away, so instead of making $2.09 on those sales you'll make considerably less from them. I'd wait until June 30th, but that's JMO.

Nicole said...

My excuse is I'm re-writing it :) Then its making sure I have enough people in the know about it. Working on a variety of concepts for that. Make sure you do an official announcement when they're available so we can link our blogs through!

Moses Siregar III said...

In defense of release dates, I think one valid defense of them is from a marketing angle. If you have people looking forward to the book, you can build anticipation for its release that way. You see internet marketing gurus doing this sort of thing with countdowns for their products.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I wonder though if you should hedge your bets, as they say. Write something for the publishing houses that show an interest in your work. Yes, you would lose revenue, but you would gain goodwill. If something unexpected should happen a few years from now, and the bottom drop out of the e-book market, that good will would be worth the revenue it cost you.

Anon 2

Zoe Winters said...


I give a general tentative idea. Like I've said Save My Soul is probably coming out sometime this winter. (Though if I'm lucky I should be able to get it out by Halloween.) I know people like to have a general ballpark idea but I can't say definitely "this date" because it might be a little later, or it might be earlier. It'll be out when it's done.

I'm trying to "overestimate" time now though. But then I worry that makes me procrastinate on work. But maybe not, cause, like Joe says, the longer it takes me the longer I'm going without making the money. And the money is starting to get nice enough that that's an actual psychological threat.

Linda Acaster said...

I think the question that pops up here is the marketing. Joe especially, but Zoe and Aaron too, have loyal fans waiting, ie they have your sites bookmarked/alerted and their credit card standing by.

Those of us who are just climbing aboard the ebook train need to find creditable people to review ours. I can shout as hard as I like that my books are the best things sliced bread, but I know all I'll get from that is a raised eyebrow and a "Yeah, right..." because that's what I do myself.

Joe has always laid it on the line how much legwork he put in for his print books, the blog tours, the cons. For him, this is where it all pays off. I'm still buying a sturdy pair of trainers.

Hostage of the Heart
Torc of Moonlight

LMPjr007 said...

Now is the best time to release your product, no matter what it may be.

Jude Hardin said...

Congrats and best of luck!

I'm curious as to why you're not releasing these under J.A. Konrath, since the other books are doing so well.

CJ West said...


Isn't it a good idea to coordinate buzz for ebooks just like we do for print books? Isn't a strong launch and a climb up the Kindle sales ranks worth that time to coordinate reviews and prmos?


Ruth Francisco, author said...

I got reversion of rights last week for two of my titles, "Good Morning, Darkness", and "Confessions of a Deathmaiden". You're right, Joe, it did take a while, lots of follow up, bitching, and moaning--about six month's worth. I'm excited. Both books had small advertising budgets when they first came out, so I'm hoping to reach a whole new readership. What's even better, is since the books are now in my control, I can change a few things that the editor insisted I put in the book. Now I have control! Yippeee! "Good Morning, Darkness" should be up next week!

JA Konrath said...

@Jude - Kilborn is a different brand than Konrath. That said, even though they are Kilborn books, I listed Konrath as a co-author.

Here's the first one:


PV Lundqvist said...

I got stuck in the old ways, quite by accident. My book was released first as an ebook, then in print.

Some of the major journals refused to review me because they 'don't review already published books'. Even though the print copy wasn't out yet. And they only review off of print copies.


Patrick Downey said...

Is waiting two weeks actually going to cost you sales or simply postpone them for 14 days?

Publishing before July 1, guarantees you will cut profits by 50% for 14 days.

Zoe Winters said...


I think it's a good idea to put something out there for free on some larger sites that get a lot of traffic and downloads like Scrib'd and And just look online for people who might review your book or let you guest blog, or whatever. At first only teeny tiny doors will be open to you but then more doors will start to open as people respond positively to your work.

I'm not sure what genre you write in, but I think in some ways it's been a lot easier for me since I write romance. You can't throw a rock online without hitting a romance book blogger.

And you're so right about self-promo. Me running around saying I'm awesome sauce will just create a lot of eye rolling. It's only when someone ELSE does it that it starts to matter to people. Someone asked me why I go on about sales numbers more than my actual work, and it's because sales numbers are hard facts. You can't argue them. They just are. But anything I say about the quality of my own work is going to be meaningless coming from me.

JA Konrath said...

Is waiting two weeks actually going to cost you sales or simply postpone them for 14 days?

Waiting won't cost me sales in the long run, because eternity is a very long tail. But it will delay sales.

If an ebook averages 10 sales per day, waiting 14 days means I missed 14 days of sales, or around 140 bucks. But I expect the new ebooks to sell a bit better than 10 per day. :)

Rusty James said...

Congrats on the new two, Joe.

Bit of a typo (an extra TO)on your Amazon review/synopsis:

"The bed and breakfast was hidden in the hills of West Virginia. Wary guests wondered how it could to stay..."

Is the book a slasher or ghost, or both? ;)

L.J. Sellers said...

Once again, you've inspired me to create my own path. I'm updating an older story to e-publish on my own, and I'm encouraging my publisher to get my future contracted print books in digital format NOW.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for catching that, Wolf.

Is the book a slasher or ghost, or both?

I don't want to spoil anything, but the reveal, when it comes, is pretty wicked.

Frank Zubek said...

In this new world of eBooks, your situation can be likened to films. True film buffs know that there's no longer any specific "time" for a good movie to be released. If a film is good, word of mouth will give it the legs it needs to survive.

There are a dozen examples in the past ten years alone when a film came out that would have traditionally played in the Summer, or in the Fall. And yet the film makers released it early (or late).

In many cases because the traditional time was overcrowded with other material and the film might have been lost in the shuffle.

I don't think this rush to go to 3-D films is such a big deal either. Just put a good story on the screen and people will respond.

Same with books.
Put a good story out there and people will find it. And as you said, if it's ready- why not get it out there so it can start making money for you. Especially since YOU already have a built in fan base thats hungry for new material from you.

I myself have a horror story collection I'm polishing up that was going to be released in September (when stores would be hauling out their Halloween decorations)
And even though I don't have the name factor that you have, I still think these stories of mine will find an audience.
Good stories (on film or paper (or in digital bytes) are needed all year, because "The right time" is right now!
Thanks for continuing to be an inspiration to the rest of us.

Ellen Fisher said...

I'm greedy. Since it's only two weeks, I think I'd wait and get the higher royalties, since as someone said, your avid fans will all snap it up in the first few days. That being said, you gotta do what you think is best, and your fans probably appreciate getting it two weeks earlier:-).

Jude beat me to what I was going to say, which was that it might be smart to change your author name to J.A. Konrath, despite branding concerns, since your Konrath books are selling so well. However, if you're using Konrath as a co-author, that should cover all your bases. Seems like the best solution all around.

Karen Cantwell said...

Good choice, Joe. Entertain your readers as soon as you are able!

Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing your knowledge and experience. I'm not sure I would have pursued this route if it weren't for your blog.

Good luck with the new releases!!

Mark said...


Is Amazon the only site you plan on offering these books?

Rex Kusler said...

I'm baffled by everything I've seen in that Kindle store. Reminds me of the stock market.

JA Konrath said...

Is Amazon the only site you plan on offering these books?

In short time they'll be on Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, Sony, iTunes, and iPad.

Selena Kitt said...

In the short term, it makes sense. In the long term? I don't know. The ebook market is new and growing now. But what happens in the future? Will the bottom drop out, as someone mentioned? Or will it keep growing and plateau? If the media is correct, and only something like 5% of books are currently now purchased in electronic form, then the market has a long way to go and there are a lot more sales - a great deal of the marketshare - to be had.

And you'll be earning 70% on all of that in just a few weeks. So sure, go ahead and release it now... take advantage of the high royalty rate and the growing market.

But I'd put a lot of that $$ in the bank (or some sort of interest-bearing something-or-other) in the meantime, because there's no telling what this market may do in the future. Predicting it is like predicting the weather - probable outcomes only.

Scath said...

Go, Joe! :)

JA Konrath said...

But what happens in the future?

This is actually predictable. We have precedents with other digital media.

The trend it to move toward intangible media downloads and streaming. Music, movies, and TV are already doing this. Books will follow, because it is what the consumer wants.

In the future, I believe all school children will have ereaders. Ereading devices will be as common as iPods. It isn't a question of "if". It's a question of "when."

And the worst thing an author can do is let someone else have their rights.

Christina Katz said...

I think my question has been answered. It's do the e-books you've already published on Amazon go to the new royalty automatically after July 2nd?

If yes, I get the why wait?

If not, I think I'd wait.

Thanks, Joe!

Rex Kusler said...

The only sure thing is that paper books have no future. I think it is a safe bet to publish in e-book format only, and wait for all of the book-buying public to transition over.

I was at Costco last night and saw a paperback about Satchel Page, which I was interested in. I didn't look at the price, but I'm sure it must have been about $6. Instead of buying it there for less, I waited. I just downloaded it to my Kindle for a few dollars more. The thought of having to deal with a paper book is too much for me. My sandwiches are huge. It takes two hands to eat one. I've spent too many years trying to hold a book open with my elbow while eating lunch.

Kathryn Rose said...

Great thoughts, Joe! Also, your reference to "The Walrus and the Carpenter" inspired me! :D Hope you don't mind I linked you...

Alexa said...


Do you copyright first, before e-publishing?

Thouroughly enjoyed Afraid. Looking forward to reading your new releases.


Anonymous said...

I forgot about the royalty increase for the Kinlde sales. Jude has a point. I might wait for June 30th, but sometimes being greedy backfires.

I think that in the grand sceme of things, it will be just a few hundred bucks either way and the books will sell really well over the long term, so it doesn't matter.

JA Konrath said...

Jude has a point. I might wait for June 30th,

Think about it. I'm having trouble grasping this myself, but waiting means losing money.

Let's say I would have made $200 between now and July 1. It's easy to assume that if I waited, those same people would have bought the ebook after July 1, and I would have made $400 from them rather than $200.

But this is incorrect. Because my sales are steadily rising, and because I believe I'll sell at a steady rate for a very long time, it makes sense for that steady rate to begin sooner than later.

The ones who discover my ebooks July 1 may not be the same ones who discover them today, just like the ones who bought The List today weren't the ones who bought it last week, or last year.

If we were to assume a finite number of ebooks sold, then it would make sense to wait until the higher royalty rate. But if each week a new group of people discovers the book, then the sooner the book is listed, the more money it will make.

Here's a better analogy. Let's say you want to get some free electricity, so you build a windmill. Next month is when the high wind season begins, and once that happens, you'll be getting twice as much electricity as you would if you built it now.

Does that mean you should wait a month to build the windmill? No, because you're missing out on all the wind--and electricity--that you could be getting right away.

In this scenario, strange as it seems, waiting is a loss.

Anonymous said...

Joe: congratulations on your success. But a couple of qustions.

1. How is horror fairing on the kindle?

2. Other than economics, wouldn't it be best to stagger the releases, even if just by a couple of weeks?

Zoe: Listened to your podcast. Loved the thin-mint cookie rant!

Selena: Now those are some book covers. And the oral copulation blogs!!!

bowerbird said...

someone said:
> I think I'd wait and get
> the higher royalties,
> since as someone said,
> your avid fans will
> all snap it up in
> the first few days.

why in the world would you
want to take advantage of
"your avid fans" that way?

joe is doing the right thing
by giving his "avid fans" a
chance at a lower price, to
reward a prompt purchase
and their ongoing loyalty...

having said that, i've found
that many new writers now
release their books too soon.

they're eager to get 'em out,
and they rush the process...

they do it because they can,
and they have no discipline.

they finish a book today,
and publish it tomorrow.

or set some date in advance,
and feel they must live with it,
even if the book isn't "ready".

you need to let your book
sit for a month or two, and
then go back to it, and if
you are still happy with it,
without making any change,
then (and only then) is it
ready for release. but if
you feel an urge to edit it,
even one word, then it's not.

and if you do make edits,
it's back in the drawer for
another month or two...

the other thing that _new_
authors need to do is to
create a buzz for the book.

i'm not talking about hype
aimed at total strangers
(which rarely is worth it),
just informing your friends
so when the book does hit,
it doesn't sit and do nothing.
because that is frustrating...

you want some sales to
happen right away so the
snowball will start rolling.

thus, a "release date" can be
a good focusing mechanism.

now joe is well-seasoned,
so he knows to let a book
marinate, and he has fans,
so he can release a book
without doing much notice.

(but if you pay attention,
you can see that joe _is_
giving notice, by using his
blog here, which is likely
the best mechanism he has.)

but if you don't have joe's
considerable advantages,
another approach might
serve your needs better...


Linda Pendleton said...

Actually you are not the first author to turn down a NY publishing deal and then to publish your manuscript as an ebook. Prior to my husband Don Pendleton’s death, Donald I. Fine was going to publish our crime novel, ROULETTE, but we did not like the changes Fine (as editor) wanted in the manuscript. East Coast vs. West Coast--it was almost the difference between NY old thinking and CA progressive thinking. So we turned it down. Ten years ago, I published ROULETTE as an E-book and in 2001, it was an EPIC finalist for Best Thriller novel (then titled, ONE DARK AND STORMY NIGHT). In 2002, I published it as a POD with other E-book platforms and with the new title, ROULETTE. A few months back I added it to Kindle.

Publishing “tradition” is giving in to the new. And as far as I am concerned, doing it our way, the way we choose, is empowering...and we don’t have to answer to anyone. We are making our own publishing tradition that will take us forward into this new and exciting paradigm.

Ellen Fisher said...

"why in the world would you
want to take advantage of
"your avid fans" that way?

joe is doing the right thing
by giving his "avid fans" a
chance at a lower price..."

Perhaps I'm misreading, bowerbird, but I didn't get the impression that we were discussing lower cover price here (Endurance is currently priced at $2.99). It doesn't matter at all to the avid fans whether Joe gets 35% or 70%; they'd still be paying $2.99 either way. The only difference is that for two weeks, Amazon gets a much bigger cut of each sale. So waiting two weeks wouldn't take advantage of readers, as far as I can see.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice how all the people who are doing well in ebook publishing on the kindle are the ones who started a year ago?

The writers who've pulled in traditional contracts or registered huge sales numbers (more than 5000 copies sold of a single title) were the ones who noticed the trend ahead of the masses. Correct me if I'm wrong, but has there been anyone after Karen Mcquestion who has done anything other than sell a few hundred copies per book?

I'm sure it feels nice to kid yourself into thinking this is the new publishing model where everyone, regardless of talent, can play in the sandbox, but that's not the way this is going to play out.

If you're thinking you have a chance to break through, or start a indie career, or even be able to call yourself a published writer after uploading your manuscript to the kindle, then you're delusional.

The opportunity to break into traditional publishing through the kindle has passed.

Youre indie career will be limited to moving a few thousand copies of your manuscript at the most.

Just because you figured out how to upload your typing onto a website doesn't, and never will, make you a published writer.

Also, keep in mind that Joe's primary goal is to sell books, and everything he does or has ever done is geared toward that goal, and that includes acting as a self-publishing messiah to the hopeful and the hopeless alike since you guys buy a lot of books.

He's a smart guy, and he's riding your hopes and dreams all the way to the bank.

Just a small dose of reality.

Jude Hardin said...

Jude has a point. I might wait for June 30th,

I never said anything about waiting.

But I admit I was thinking it. ;)

Unknown said...

What you just posted what had been running through my head in May as I queried agents. I felt like I was missing the boat while waiting for agents to reply. That was when I knew that self e-publishing was what I really wanted to do.

I published my book two weeks ago. So far, I'm happy with the decision.

Ellen Fisher said...

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but has there been anyone after Karen Mcquestion who has done anything other than sell a few hundred copies per book?"

I started re-releasing my books as indie books in February of this year. Four of them have already passed a thousand downloads per. One of those is about to pass 1500.

Zoe Winters is for sure outselling me (we're in the same category and even when I was doing great with on ebook she was kicking my butt in rankings). One of her books has been on Kindle for a while, but two are brand new, and they're way up in their category. One brand-new writer I've seen also kicking my butt (and everyone else's) is Vicki Tyley, author of THIN BLOOD, which is currently a very impressive #14 in the Kindle store.

I do think it's getting a little tougher to stand out from the pack, as there are clearly more indie authors out there now. That doesn't mean it's impossible by any means. I do think it's important for indie authors to know that not everyone is going to sell hugely. But frankly, I think most people realize that going in. Nor do I think Joe is saying this is the best path for everyone. He's been pretty clear about the need for a very good product before self-pubbing.

Debbi said...

Excellent thinking, Joe. There's no good business reason to wait at all.

Even so, I think your timing is good. I've noticed a significant uptick in my ebook sales lately. I've been wondering if this would happen -- with graduations, anniversaries, vacations, etc., people may have reasons to purchase more Kindles and e-readers, leading to more ebook sales. It's merely a theory and I have no solid evidence to support it -- just my gut instinct.

Anyway, none of this seems all that astonishing to me. Probably because I'm coming at this whole thing (relatively) free of the old notions of how publishing is supposed to work.

Zoe Winters said...


You said:

"And the worst thing an author can do is let someone else have their rights."

You and I are singing the same tune now! I think we both see the writing on the wall. Publishers have proven they will only mismanage e-rights, and that's the one right you don't want a publisher to mismanage right now.

If you and I maintain the kind of Kindle ranks we've been maintaining, then we will both be well-positioned for when things get really interesting. Which I think is just around the corner.

Zoe Winters said...

LMAO, Robert! Thanks! I see you made it through my wacky twang unscathed.

Anonymous said...

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but has there been anyone after Karen Mcquestion who has done anything other than sell a few hundred copies per book?"

So . . . you have access to Amazon Kindle store sales numbers, and you know this to be a fact?

Too funny. I'm after Karen McQuestion and I've sold over 5,000 of my leading title. Oh, and my newest titles are selling hundreds a MONTH.

"The opportunity to break into traditional publishing through the kindle has passed."

Who needs a traditional publishing contract? I'm making plenty of money with ebooks, more than I would have made in traditional publishing, and I'm just getting started.

"Youre indie career will be limited to moving a few thousand copies of your manuscript at the most."

Uh, did you read Joe's post? An ebook NEVER gets pulled from the shelf. It is there forever, so the long tail from sales goes on and on and on. Kinda like the energizer bunny.

Write a good story. It will sell. That's all you have to do. Timing (being in first or by a certain date) is irrelevant. If being first is what mattered then new indie musicians might as well throw in the towel too, right? Yet people still find and play and purchase their music. Same with books -- if you write a good one they'll find you. Online or otherwise. Karen McQuestion isn't the last great ebook writer, and neither is JA Konrath.

It's just beginning.

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon (who called Joe a self-publishing Messiah),

I don't think Joe is doing that at all. I've watched his mind slowly change on this blog. I think he looks at it like a lot of us who are doing well look at it, that we don't want to see someone miss an opportunity that could benefit them.

When I started this a bit over a year and a half ago I said "do it now before the biggest opportunity passes" but a whole bunch of people said, "I'll just wait and see how you do first." Now a lot of those people are jumping on board.

I don't think the opportunity is "gone" but I do think it will be harder for anyone who doesn't already have an established ebook buying fan base to rise up in the ranks. But writing a great book, packaging and editing it well, getting it out there, strategic partnerships with writers already doing well, these things all count.

My friend Kait Nolan who also writes paranormal romance, is consistently under 2k in the Kindle store, and sometimes under 1k. And she just released her first ebook a couple of months ago. We cross-promoted each other's books in our description section. Just a simple line: "If you like Zoe Winters, you may also like Kait Nolan". And she posted the reverse.

There is never a time when all opportunity is gone and all the success to be made has already been had. Those who think that way are making excuses for not taking action. The excuse starts out: "I'll see how you do." And it ends up, "Well, the opportunity is gone now."

But we should recognize what it really is: An excuse not to step out and take an action you're afraid to take. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Something. But it's not rational. There is always a way to get found and get read. It gets harder and more competitive the more people who do it, but just like in traditional publishing... if you're doing things right, about 90% of your competition is just noise.

And sorry for the fifty billion posts. People just keep saying stuff I feel compelled to reply to and... yeah.

Anonymous said...

"Youre indie career will be limited to moving a few thousand copies of your manuscript at the most."

A few thousand copies, coupled with Amazon's royalty structure, could easily be $4,000. That's very close to what traditional publishers pay a new author as an advance.

There are a lot of people out there who would love to have an extra $4,000 bucks.

By the way, this argument is designed to pop the baloons for fiction writers everywhere, but I'll tell you that if you write non-fiction, a "few thousand" books can be a full-time salary (it is for me).

So either way, it's a WIN for fiction writers and a WIN for non-fiction writers.

Jason said...

Finally made it over here after seeing you around on kindleboards. I definitely agree with your logic, that the sooner you start the clock the better, but I'm curious if you think there should be any special consideration for subsequent books in a series. Is it better to let the first one take hold a little bit before dropping the second?

I'm still in my first month with my first release, and I'm very curious to see if the steady growth everyone describes actually takes place. Let's hope!

Author Scott Nicholson said...

I slept through the Kindle revolution last year, doing the old waiting game with agents and publishers. Actually, I snoozed for two or three years (though I now have a stack of novels). While I do think there will be fewer Boyd Morrison stories, different stories will emerge--last year, it made sense to leverage Kindle into NY. Now, writers are trying to do the opposite--leverage their trapped work from NY back to themselves. If I had all my out-of-print novels, I'd be close to making a living. Something Joe hinted at but didn't get into deeply--NY carefully controls product to THEIR benefit, not the author's. They are only too happy to dump you off the shelves to sell the next fresh product faster (and, really, you can hardly blame them.) It's like building a career on sand.

I've got two more novels to put up before I begin getting more of my rights back, and Joe's right, there's no reason to wait, except to make sure the books are the best they can be.

I'm not worried about the flood of low-quality ebooks any more than NY is worried about me--I'm fine with readers making their choices, building the authors they like, and letting the rest fall by the wayside. Democratic, working-class literature is fine by me.

Scott Nicholson

Author Scott Nicholson said...

Someone mentioned Vicky Tyley's Kindle success--her agent advised her to self-publish it and it sits at #14 overall. I've heard of other authors whose agents have encouraged this. So it's definitely not just an "Us vs. Them" game anymore. Clearly Vicky appeals to an vast audience, yet NY failed to see it. I wouldn't assume a handful of editors controlled by corporate boards are the best protectors of American literature or the best ones to decide what ebooks are "worth."

Ebook sales as reported by APA declined each month this year (but those numbers don't include indie sales.) To me, the data shows not that ebook sales are declining, but that NY is shooting itself in the foot with high ebook prices. However, paper sales did increase, so maybe their short-term strategy worked. And let's be real about the corporate goal: a good quarterly report. THIS quarter, not four years from now.


Anonymous said...

Zoe: Yes, I got out unscathed. And I liked your southern twang. I was just waiting for you to say, "kiss my grits." Maybe for the next cast. LOL

Since I got your attention and not Joe's. Perhaps a substantive discussion on short stories and novellas with the new 2.99 model just around the corner as the next blog subject?

Joe: I don't think I was clear in the previous post. Since you are separating your brands, I was wondering if you are tagging the straight horror novels as such?

Rusty James said...

My bro is an actor and played in a film where he's the perv motel owner spying on his guests.

One of his favorite roles.

Creep is good.

David Bergsland said...

The same purchase cycle for printed books is true also. As far as I can tell, my non-fiction ebooks are triggering later purchases of the on-demand version in print. On-demand print never goes off the shelf either.

Zoe Winters said...


I don't "get" trad publishing as beneficial to authors when they have other options, for the reasons you mentioned. Publishers only benefit authors to the extent they HAVE to, to keep them in line. And how can an author gain traction when most of their backlist isn't even available new? That's insanity.

NY is so short-sighted. (quarterly report) Really exciting news for Vicky, though! Seeing indies succeed like that inspires me.

@Robert haha thanks! (I secretly like my twang too.) I think I'm going to talk about discounting strategies on Kindle for the next podcast.

JA Konrath said...

1. How is horror fairing on the kindle?

Seems to be doing well. Origin has sold over 10,000 copies. Endurance is currently ranked #183.

2. Other than economics, wouldn't it be best to stagger the releases, even if just by a couple of weeks?

Why? I don't think it will be an either/or decision for buyers. If they like Kilborn, the ebooks are cheap enough that they can buy both. I don't see a reason for waiting.

Anonymous said...

One point about staggering releases, if I have read a book I really like I want the other books by the author NOW. And I'm very disappointed if the books aren't available whenever I want them, be it 2am or 11 am.

As for Ruth Francisco's Good Morning Darkness and Confessions of a Death Maiden-- I bought them in hard copy but had to buy them used.


Anonymous said...

Sorry if it sounds "old-timey" but I was just thinking of reader burn out.

And for your sake, writer burn out.

You're right. For the price, it really isn't an either or proposition.

Selena Kitt said...

@ Robert Christopher

"Selena: Now those are some book covers. And the oral copulation blogs!!!"

I aim to please! *grin*

@ Zoe

so what happens, do ya think, when it gets "interesting?" :)

Zoe Winters said...


I think the whole paradigm will flip on it's head. I think we'll have more and more indies hitting the top 100 Kindle list, and I think we may have some "big names" eventually come out of this IF ebooks end up becoming the primary delivery method. I think it's all about being well-positioned to ride the wave when it gets here. i.e. having good enough sales ranking in the Kindle store to keep floating higher and higher.

Selena Kitt said...

Anyone know what Amazon ranking is based on? Is it current sales? All sales through the life of the book? Or some secret algorithm of both?

Thomas Brookside said...


As far as I can determine, each sale you make is like getting a little bit of uranium.

That uranium has a half-life. It decays over time. The farther away you get from the moment the sale was made, the less credit you get for it.

So that means that recent sales vastly outweigh old sales, but that old sales still count a little.

Anonymous said...

For newbie authors, I'm wondering if keeping the price to $.99 or at most, $1.99 will be a great idea when the royalties change?

I think most authors will be moving to $2.99 to get the 70%, so presumably a cheaper price means more visibility and perhaps more sales?

Thoughts Joe? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

I have some advice as a reader. Do NOT publish your book until it is have been thoroughly edited and brushed up.

Until you've done this, the time is not now.

It makes no difference what the price is -- a 99 cent poorly written and poorly edited book feels like a ripoff.

Just read reviews of indie books and you can see a lot of very bad reviews of books that were cheap but also poorly done.

A string of bad reviews will kill your writing career right now.

So the time to publish is when it is polished, not rushed to upload thinking you're missing out on money. Publishing too quickly will cost you a lot of sales as soon as those lousy reviews pile up.

I don't think I'll buy anymore indie books at any price, so many are a total waste of time.

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon, I'm leaving all three of my novellas at 99 cents, but future books will be longer and $2.99, but even so, I'll run a introductory 99 cent sale so fans get an extra benefit. (Especially those following my newsletter or twitter who will hear about it in enough time to "cash in")

@the other Anon,

That's unfortunate. I agree no one should rush crap out the door and I think Joe said the same thing. You may or my not read my genre, but if you do read it, I think you're missing out. My reviews and my sales ranking stand behind the fact that I put out quality work. Judging a book by it's publisher is as silly as judging a book by it's cover.

You might do it as a form of shorthand, but you're missing some good work.

Everybody's opinion is subjective about what is "good" and what isn't as far as personal taste, but as far as quality of editing, story continuity and narrative structure, I would put my book next to any trad pubbed book as matching in quality.

Going indie was a choice because I refuse to get mixed up in the current publishing climate with a traditional publisher who would only mismanage my e-rights, not market me, and then drop me when I couldn't work against all the obstacles they put in my way by being morons.

Do you refuse to eat at Mom and Pop restaurants because of one bad experience with one? Indies are all independent entities. We shouldn't be judged for what other people are doing. I can't control the quality of other people's work. I can only control mine.

Zoe Winters said...

And wow, I had some typos in that last post. I don't have an editor that follows me around on the Internet for blog hopping. But I do have multiple editors who go over my work.

Sometimes I read a post I've made once before I post, and sometimes (like now), I'm in a hurry. But that is not the case for my fiction which is read multiple times both by myself and a team of beta readers, crit readers, and editors.

Some errors will still make it in inevitably in that much word count, but no more than in any NY pubbed book, and probably less.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zoe,

I'm the first Anon :)

Thanks very much -- do you think the 99 cent price was the main driver of your sales?

I think that starting at 99 cents is smart to generate sales, then consider upping the price.

Had you mentioned blogging about pricing? If so, let us know I'd like to read it.

Zoe Winters said...

Hey Anon,

I think 99 cents is "one" factor, but it can't be the only one since a low price isn't a guarantee of great sales. There are plenty of 99 cent ebooks on Kindle not selling squat.

I was thinking about podcasting about price, but I might blog about it too. Either way though, you should follow me on twitter because I can't just pop over on Joe's blog and start announcing stuff. I already get too self-promotey here already.

On Twitter I'm @zoewinters

bowerbird said...

ellen said:
> Perhaps I'm misreading, bowerbird,
> but I didn't get the impression that we
> were discussing lower cover price here

you're absolutely right, ellen. i was wrong.

and i caught my error after posting that,
and was gonna do a retraction. _but_...

first i realized that my primary point
-- you shouldn't "take advantage" of
your primary fans -- was still sound.
so even if you will "make less" money
by giving 'em the product a bit earlier,
like 2 weeks or so, you _should_ do it.

second, and more important, i realized
that since it is amazon who's making
more money from the earlier release,
that shouldn't bother joe that much,
seeing how amazon has been so good
to him lately. it's the least he can do...

wouldn't you agree? :+)


Cheryl Tardif said...

Great post, Joe. Thanks for sharing your views on this.

I'll admit, I'm not sure I agree entirely that we shouldn't spend some time pre-launch promoting our upcoming releases. I come from a marketing background where time and preparation goes into a successful launch. But I get where you're coming from. We don't HAVE to wait if we don't want to. And we certainly don't have to wait a year and a half, which seems to be the average time frame from the time a publisher accepts a work and the time the book sees print. Sometimes even longer.

Pre-promotion and creating buzz has been the way of marketing EVERYTHING for years. Movies release trailers months in advance to build buzz. Products are buzzed too well in advance. Just look at the iPad, Kindle, Kobo etc. After the pre-buzz, everyone wanted one. Or all of them. :-)

But your post and thoughts on this did spur me into action. I'd been holding back on publishing a novelette and a collection of "creepy" short stories. I was waiting to find time to edit them, while preparing for a major launch of a romantic suspense (Lancelot's Lady) in September. THAT one I want to build buzz for.

After reading this post, I decided I wouldn't wait for the "right time". I finished formatting the novelette--Remote Control. And I'm now working on final edits for Skeletons in the Closet & Other Creepy Stories (think Stephen King's older collections).

I'm very excited now to have 2 upcoming releases. Remote Control will launch July 1st on Kindle and Smashwords (to start) for $0.99. (It's a novelette of 10,000 words.) Skeletons in the Closet will launch as soon as I have the editing done and get it formatted. I expect by August.

Yes, I'm still holding back Lancelot's Lady. Its September 27th launch will give me the opportunity to study the results of having books out with no pre-buzz and one with major buzz. And I'm all for studying this exciting new world of publishing.

So thank you, Joe, for the little nudge. :-)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling Canadian author

Cheryl Tardif said...

Anonymous said: "I have some advice as a reader. Do NOT publish your book until it is have been thoroughly edited and brushed up.

Until you've done this, the time is not now...I don't think I'll buy anymore indie books at any price, so many are a total waste of time."

Anonymous, I hear ya. Really. I'm an indie published author AND a traditionally published author. It saddens me that a reader would lump me into a group that doesn't bother editing. I have a rule that I WON'T publish one of my indie books unless it has been thoroughly edited. And not just by me. I'm anal about my own editing but after I'm done I have at least 2 other editors who know what they're doing edit my books. It is worth it to me to have a solid product.

I also have a handful of early readers who read my book and offer feedback--as readers. They sometimes catch the odd typo that slipped through the cracks. And since I'm dyslexic, it happens and I might not see it.

Few books are perfect--even the traditionally published books. Last one I bought from a New York Times bestseller was riddled with errors. One book I read a while ago actually had the character names wrong halfway through the novel.

But I get what you're saying. And you're right about reviews. I've seen too many authors rush out a book only to get negative reviews chastising them for all the typos and incontinuity errors. I just spent $5 on an ebook that has typos and errors on nearly EVERY page--not at all what I expected and I DID feel ripped off.

Anonymous, I hope you won't lump all indie authors under the umbrella of crappy edit job. I invite you to check out my novels. I'm confident you'll be satisfied that not ALL indie books are poorly edited. I don't think I've had one review that has mentioned any errors though a few coupld have gotten by the editors--but I did have a Booklist reviewer mistakenly identify the wrong state as the setting. And another reviewer had both my main characters' names wrong. Jeesh!

One final note: A writer who is the only editor for his/her work is not a very savvy writer, especially if they want a career in this biz.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling Canadian author