Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ebook Predictions Redux

Eight months ago, I made some predictions about the future of ebooks. Let's see how I'm doing.

1. Ebook readers will be available in stores for less than $99.
Probably. We're on track for this. Kindle just went down to $139. By the holidays, I'm still confident we'll hit $99. I also said that they'll be available in retail stores, and I was correct. Best Buy and Target are selling ereaders, and others will no doubt follow suit.

2. Amazon will adopt Epub standard format.
Maybe. Hasn't happened yet. But I am trying to talk them into releasing SHAKEN as an epub. They've already decided to release it without DRM, which is a huge milestone.

3. Ebook readers will improve.
Yes. The new Kindles boast 50% better contrast, and Nooks have a color touch screen bar. But one trend also seems to be the opposite of my prediction--many ereaders are devolving, losing 3G capability, in order to cut the cost.

4. Ebooks will go multimedia.

Yes. Besides the Vook, a reader just pointed me HERE.

5. A third party etailer will rise to prominence.

Probably. The industry is still dominated by the big three, Amazon, B&N, and Sony. But Kobo and Borders are now in the game, and Smashwords is growing. In fact, I just got my second quarter report from Smashwords, and learned I've sold over 2000 ebooks (1500 of these on the Nook.) And this hasn't even begun to hit its stride yet. I predict earning an extra $20,000 a year from these new platforms.

6. Estributors will become common.

Yes. Andrew Wylie, anyone?

7. Print publishers will get savvy.
Maybe. Haven't seen any real evidence of this yet, though. However, I recently sold the audio rights to many of my self-pubbed ebooks, so certainly the audio publishers are getting savvy.

8. Ebook bestsellers will emerge.

Yes. Lots of indie authors, me included, hit the bestseller lists.

9. Print books will be packaged with an ebook version.
Maybe. Hasn't happened yet, but might. I have released one on my ebooks, THE LIST, in print. We'll see how it does.

10. Exclusivity.

Yes. I've done it. Wylie's authors have done it.

11. I'll continue to pay my mortgage with ebook sales.

Yes. But my prediction was too weak. I'm paying all of my bills with ebook sales. In fact, in the last six weeks, I earned $21,000 on Kindle.

That's not a typo. That's $3500 a week. At that rate, it's $182,000. Add the $20,000 from other platforms, and we can call it an even $200k.

As for my predictions, I was right on 6 of 11, and I'm sure the $99 price point will hit. That puts me at about 63%. Not perfect, but better than anything the print industry has predicted. Plus, there are still five months left in the year, so perhaps my percentage will go up.

Armed with information garnered during the last eight months, I'm ready to make some new predictions.

1. A bestselling author will self-publish an original ebook novel.
This probably won't happen in 2010, but it will happen eventually. Someone is bound to give it a shot.

2. Bankruptcy.
Some major print publishers and booksellers will go out of business. This is sad, but it will happen.

3. The media will catch up.
Kindle and iPad have been media darlings for a while, and the news wire is buzzing about an ebook future, but there really hasn't been much talk about ebook authors. The only real acknowledgment by the publishing industry--who should be paying attention to what I'm doing--was a poorly researched article by Publisher's Weekly structured as an attack piece.

That's slowly changing. In the past few weeks, ebook authors (including yours truly) have been written about in the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and most recently, Newsweek.

4. Print Publishers Won't Get Savvy.
I admit, my prediction that they would get savvy was more of a hope than an actual feeling. But these last eight months haven't shown publishers improving their game. In fact, they seem to be making more mistakes than before. The agency model was an epic fail. High prices are an epic fail. Trying to grab ebook rights not specified in contracts is a big box of fail.

Recently, the publisher for my Jack Daniels novels told me they were going to package them as an omnibus edition, all six in one ebook. I got excited about this, thinking they were finally getting with the program, telling them that six novels for $9.99, or better yet, $7.99, would really spike my sales.

Then they told me the ebook omnibus is going to retail at $34.99.

(Head slap, then sigh) Isn't any of the Big Six reading my damn blog?

5. E-pubbed authors will jump to self-pubbed print.
Both Lee Goldberg and I are using Amazon's CreateSpace to release some of our ebook bestsellers in print, and by Fall all of my ebooks will be available in dead tree versions, priced at $12 for a trade paperback. While I don't see this as being a huge cash cow (I'll still earn more from a $2.99 ebook sale than a $11.99 paperback sale), I find it interesting that the stigma of self-publishing is fading fast.

In the recent past, I've consistently come out against self-pubbers, because POD usually resulted in an expensive, inferior, non-returnable product, and once an ISBN gets attached, those low numbers follow you via Bookscan, making it even harder to land a big book deal with a major publisher, or get your book into brick and mortar stores.

These days, I don't care about landing a big book deal with a major publisher, and am fine with low print numbers. Print has become a subsidiary right.

How will I do on these new predictions? Check back in eight months, and we'll see.

In the meantime, I'm working on several new super-secret ebook projects, including a horror novel with three other bigshot authors, an eighth Jack Daniels book, and a spy novel, among other things.

I've never been busier as a writer. And for the very first time in my career, I'm able to make a decent living at it.

Life is good.


Peg Brantley said...

I believe Thomas Nelson published a print/ebook combo. If that's correct, at least there's been some movement on your prediction #9.

David Tanner said...

On the print ebook combo front, Joe, science fiction and fantasy publisher Baen Books has been doing this for years. Actually, their new hardcovers come with not only a digital copy of the book you bought but a several other books so that you get a look at other books they publish. Also the have the Baen free library. It's essentially the drug dealer model of publishing: they get you hook and keep you for life (it helps that their books are really good too.

John Callahan said...

Hey Joe, your comments give hope to every author who is betting/praying this digital publishing thing is about to blow through the ossified publishing business model like a dreaded category five hurricane. There is a huge amount a talent that is about to be discovered. I have been on the bleeding edge of technology change for the past 20 years in marketing and PR including working with inventors and Nobel Prize winners who have made this possible through advances in silicon, software, networking and information technology. Now the fruits of this long-term high tech cultivation are about to be harvested. May I add one more modest prediction? Several new digital-only authors will enjoy significant success between now and Dec. 31. Keep up your good work!

Neil Crabtree said...

Check this out, from

An "enhanced eBook" for a print house:

T. B. Wright said...

Nice to hear it's still going strong for you, Joe. By the end of the year I am hoping to have my first novel out (depending on how long revision takes). I am still undecided if I want to go straight to eBook yet, but seeing all the noise the market has been making lately and the general death throes of print publishers, I'm thinking it would be a smart idea. I am certainly going to try to get an agent, however.
Anyways, in response to your post. #4 of your new predictions seems to be the most near at hand. Print publishers have proven again and again, most recently with their public avowal to murder Wylie in his sleep, that they will not and can not change. I don't really blame them. For - how long? A hundred year? More? - they have been the 'gatekeepers' of the industry. Now, that is being forcibly taken away from them, rather quickly as well. It's only natural that they would attempt to attack those who are taking that control away from them.
Buuuuuuuut at the same time it's their own damn fault. They could change. They could make eRights better for authors. They could downsize and increase author control and royalties. But no. They are sticking to the outdated, obsolete business model.
Good riddance, I say.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks, Neil. Just fixed my blog entry. :)

Anonymous said...

Now, that is being forcibly taken away from them, rather quickly as well. It's only natural that they would attempt to attack those who are taking that control away from them.

They still own 90%+ of the book market. My guess is they will move when the money moves.

Anyway, Joe is a great example of what is possible with diligent work and great products.

Very few indies will achieve this level of success, but I suspect a great many indies will make hundreds of dollars a month, which helps pays bills and is more than many could expect from traditional publishing.

JA Konrath said...

@ Steve - Point me to a Baen title where the hardcover includes a free ebook, and I'll update my blog entry.

Scott Daniel said...

I echo the thoughts of many here, Joe, in that your blog and your example give us all hope.

At the start of 2010, I was about two-thirds of the way done writing my first novel. I had to set it aside for work-related reasons until May. The only thing was, when May got here, I couldn't work up the motivation to pick back up because I knew, no matter how much I wrote and re-wrote and edited, it would most likely never get published. Why bust my nuts for zip (I know I shouldn't look at it that way, but I'm human).

Anyway, re-discovering your blog has re-kindled (pun intended my fire.

Thank you.

Esther said...

Though not novel length, Stephen King published Ur as an original Kindle ebook. On Amazon it's still only available in Kindle or Audio editions. I remember back then he got a lot of flack for "selling out."

Robin O'Neill said...

I'll be publishing my next novel within days. What's taken the extra time is that I decided to go with enhanced content ie adding "illustrations". Yes, it's an adult novel. First I had to become somewhat competent with Photoshop and the learning curve to that has the profile of the Matterhorn. Extremely valuable these days.

This was an interesting moment for me. A few months ago I withdrew a manuscript from the tradpub that was considering it. Last week I had the opportunity to talk to an editor there and showed her the ecover for the book. She loved it.

We can be just as competent, just as professional, just as artistic as they are.

Tuppshar Press said...

We're a small press that deals mostly with literary erotica and erotic romance, and we got our start with POD books. We moved into e-books last year with the thought that they might supplement our main business.

They have since become our main business, because we can price ebooks at 2.99 and earn nearly as much as we do on a print book, but with a lot more sales.

How much more? This month, ebooks accounted for well over 90% of our sales, and our ebook sales are doubling every month. If the major print publishers want to commit business suicide (new prediction #4), we're happy to be there to give readers an alternative.

In a way, we're the reverse of your new prediction #5.

What's key here, though, is not merely the availability of ereaders and ebooks, but the way that Amazon has made them easy to find for readers and easy to promote for publishers, including those like us who don't have big promotional budgets. So where Barnes & Noble and the major publishers continue to operate using the old model of controlling what is available to readers (and thereby holding prices artificially high whenever possible, partly to support quarterly profit reports at the expense of their long-term business and partly to maintain an expensive infrastructure), Amazon has created a new one where they can still make a profit while paying authors and publishers 70% of the sales price of a book, and by making their website not only a bookstore, but an online reference for books. I predict that they will succeed because they have become the go-to guys for both books and information about books, even if you aren't looking for a specific book but rather a type of book.

And for a small press or an independent author, that makes them your best friends ever...

The Daring Novelist said...

I still see some (outside) hope for the big publishers getting it. All it will require is that ONE of them tries something right (perhaps by accident, perhaps to appease rioting authors). When they succeed at it, the scales will start to tip. The question is whether it happens before the foundation crumbles.

Anonymous said...

Something that was brought up briefly in the last post's comments: If the agent (Wylie was the example) does not sell the e-rights to a book, why have the agent arrange the e-publishing? The writer can do the upload themselves and keep all the money; they do not need the agent.

Why give the agent 15% for something the writers can do themselves? If the writer is that bad at HTML, he or she can hire someone for a few hundred bucks to do the upload for them. That is far cheaper than paying an agent 15% so the agent can pay that someone a few hundred bucks to do the upload.

TL Pouliot

JA Konrath said...

That is far cheaper than paying an agent 15% so the agent can pay that someone a few hundred bucks to do the upload.

If I never had to worry about the business end of things--cover, formatting, uploading, etc--I'd consider paying an agent or estributer a percentage.

My goal has always been to write, not run a small business.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is an extremely successful author. I spoke with his agent recently, who is also a friend. I asked him if he would rep me. He said: "No. But I recommend you skip the agent and the publisher and self publish on the internet."

Joe, you have made me believe. Thanks!

Question: When I publish my out of print books on-line, do I use the ISBN number for paper, or, since I will update the copyright (a la Kindle), do I need an ISBN at all on the "new" publication?

Jim Toombs

JA Konrath said...

No ISBN needed. Amazon does and ASIN, and Smashwords does an ISBN for free. You can't use print ISBNs for ebooks. Each different format is a different #.

Anonymous said...

@Anon They don't even need to pay someone a few hundred bucks. Amazon will format the manuscript for free!!

Only if you have a lot of illustrations and maps do you need someone's help. :)

A.P. Fuchs said...

(I'll still earn more from a $2.99 ebook sale than a $11.99 paperback sale)

If this is true, then I'm really sorry to hear that. Is that Createspace? What discount are you offering? If online sales will be your primary sales outlet, then I would just short discount it, man. Amazon'll fulfill your order regardless of what you give them.


Verilees said...

I have a couple of Baen hard covers that came with CDs in the back tha contained digital copies of the books. The first of the Roberta Gellis/Mercedes Lackey trilogy-- This Scepter'd Isle. Published 2004. Don't know if this would count or not, but there it is. Check Amazon to see all the used copies reporting a missing CD.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Joe, if you are pricing your CreateSpace books at $11.99, then I assume you are NOT opting for the Expanded Distribution (which makes your print book available from B&N and other stores) since you would be forced to give a 60% discount on those sales. This would give a negative royalty, which of course, you cannot do.

Did you decide to sell your CreateSpace books exclusively through Amazon? Or am I missing something?

JA Konrath said...

I did opt for expanded distribution, which gives me a 26 cent royalty on books sold outside of Amazon. :)

Through amazon, I make about $2.50 per book.

My goal for print books is to make them available, and affordable, for fans who want them. $11.99 is the lowest I could go, and it's comparable with other trace paper novels.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

@Joe - Yeah, I guess that makes sense, as long as the bulk of your print sales are via Amazon. ;)

But clearly, you're going to make most of your money from ebooks anyway.

I think you've just convinced me to lower the price of my CreateSpace books. Thanks.

Stephen Prosapio said...

It's happening before our very eyes. I haven't seen this rapid of a momental a shift since email all-but-replaced faxes in the late 90s.

Thanks to you Joe for speaking out and providing a beacon for the rest of us. Since following your blog, I've released my first eBook, gotten it favorably reviewed, and into the hands of my readers. In just two weeks it has risen to respectable rankings on Amazon. Having my work in the hands of readers who are loving it is amazing. For that, "thank you" doesn't begin to convey my gratitude.

My prediction 3 months ago was, and still is, that by 2012 50% of all books sold will be eBooks.

Keep up the good work!

PS - it still tickles me that Amazon links people who've bought my novel to "The List".

Not Totally Anonymous said...

"Then they told me the ebook omnibus is going to retail at $34.99."

OMG. It just hit me. The Big Six are acting just like my dad buying Christmas presents! They're not giving "their children" what we want. They're giving us what they WANT us to want!

A.P. Fuchs said...

I don't know if you're tied to Amazon regarding self-publishing your own stuff, but if you want to up your $2.50 to $6+ and still sell for the same price (and same amount of work you're doing now), let me know.

A.P. Fuchs said...

I should also add-and no slight to Joe, by any means--but if $2.50 a book is the best you can get for a $12 list price, then, yeah, Createspace is just a hidden subsidy thing like I've said all along. They just get their big chunk of change out of each sale instead of an upfront fee by the author. Overpriced printing is overpriced printing, even in the POD arena.

JA Konrath said...

Overpriced printing is overpriced printing, even in the POD arena.

That's the thing, though. They aren't over priced.

Buying my own book only costs $4.50 a copy. That's damn cheap.

It's just that Amazon takes a big cut.

A.P. Fuchs said...

Your books aren't overpriced retail-wise, just to be clear.

It's just that Amazon takes a big cut.

That's what I mean. Did you short discount and/or put it on the lowest discount possible?

Anonymous said...

Add the $20,000 from other platforms, and we can call it an even $200k.

You're officially making more than me, Joe. My projections were off-- my overall sales have dipped; last year June was my biggest month and this year the sales have been steady but decreasing. I found my textbook on some torrent sites and ebay and I think that's affecting sales.

Oh well. There's no joy (or profit) in chasing the torrent monkey.

It's still going to be a good year, better than last year, so I'm thankful.

The multi-media reader looks fantastic, by the way. I knew it was coming eventually, but it's years ahead of my estimates.

I really have to try and get my ebook published soon.

Anonymous said...

Did you short discount and/or put it on the lowest discount possible?

CreateSpace is not LSI. It does not allow the author to set the discount.

And wholesale copies are cheaper through CS than LSI.

It's a fantasy to think that you can set your short discount at 20% and expect your book to end up in bookstores easily.

Plus, unlike LSI, I think that CreateSpace might be giving Joe some personalized attention.

Robert W. Walker said...

So it would seem I need to place all my Kindle titles on Smashwords as quickly as possible and do the same with CreateSpace; I believe that is what your secret coded message here (predictions) are telling your dearest, oldest friend, right Joe...the one you love the most, the one who polishes your shoes, makes breakfast for you in the morning,carries your bags to all your conferneces, sees to pressing your pants, doning your socks. Damn it but I mean to ingratiate myself a all costs.... Oh and thanks for the secret coded messages you continue to send me via your blog. Makes a great front...OH man, is this mic on?

Chris Bates said...

21 grand!!

Fantastic. I bet that has made life a little more stress-free?!

I definitely agree with you that bestselling authors will trial the self-pub route.

It's inevitable that once someone is published their career becomes less about the 'tag' and more about business. Certainly - for me - Amazon's recent eBook sales press release signaled the inevitability of bestsellers going it alone on ebooks within the near future.

If Patterson, an ex-adman, doesn't do it within a year I'll eat his entire backlist.

I'd offer to eat yours, Joe, but I think you might actually be out-pacing Patterson these days!

Hey, wait a minute, Konrath ... you're not employing ghosts with that cash are ya? ;)

Becca said...

Baen has included a cd with just about all David Weber's backlist with the last few Honor Harrington books that I know of. I bought Mission of Honor in hardback specifically to get the cd and the backlist in e-format.

Scathach Publishing said...

Have to start calling you Nostradamus, huh?

As to the ebooks devolving, some will consider this a good thing. Kindle in the UK is on the 3g network (just called 3, actually) which is a mobile phone network.

They tack $1.49 on to the price of every e-book. Which is a big reason they've not really caught on over here yet. In fact, I was waiting and hoping for a wifi kindle before I bought one. Think I'll leave it a couple of months for the price to drop, then buy one.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Joe, do you have any predictions about how B&N's version of a DTP type system is going to treat independents? Is it going to be more fair, or still treat us as second class citizens?

If you search the Kindle Store for "suspense series" all four of the books in my Greg Tenorly Suspense Series appear on the very first page.

But if you do the same search on B&N's site ("suspense series" in ebooks) my books are nowhere to be found---even though my books have higher rank than many of those. But the difference is that every one of the those books they list ahead of mine are published by one of the Big 6.

On Wednesday of this week, one of my books, Hideaway Hospital Murders got a flurry of sales and suddenly it was #69 in the Romantic Suspense Top 100. It went in and out of the list for several hours. This could not possibly happen for me on B&N, since the big guys get priority.

How can independents hope to sell anything on B&N when they treat us this way?

So, what is your prediction, Joe? Are they going to make things more fair when they roll out their new DTP type system?

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Oh, and by the way, Joe, I don't think it's about a lack of tagging at B&N, since all of my Greg Tenorly books have the words "Suspense Series" in the title.

Mary Stella said...

Joe, a commentor on the blog of Ken Levine, a very funny Emmy-winning sitcom writer and baseball announcer, linked to you at this post:

Your fame is spreading far and wide.

I disagree with that commentor saying that Ken is a much better writer than you. You're both terrific.

Selena Kitt said...

I really like the idea of giving away the e-book with a print book. I wish CreateSpace would offer that option. I'd be happy to give away the e-book if someone bought the print one. As a reader, I'd love to have both, the print and e-book version. Wonder if that will ever catch on?

Anonymous said...

Unless he is restricted by an exclusivity deal, I think James Patterson wio\ll be the first BIG author to self publish a full length novel. he is really embracing the format (and ever expanding).
Rick Askenase

Anonymous said...

"I'd be happy to give away the e-book if someone bought the print one."

Agreed. This is actually what I would prefer, and I'm surprised that it's not an option with LSI or CreateSpace. I don't know why they haven't figured out a way to make this work.

Jason said...

Hey Joe, great post. Of all your predictions, I find the one suggesting Amazon will switch to epub to be the most surprising and seemingly unlikely. All the kindles out there now would need updates, which is do-able, but more than that they would be allowing their users to buy from competitors. From everything I've heard, corralling readers into just buying books from them is the Amazon's core intent. Interesting thought though, and we'll have to see what happens.

Coolkayaker1 said...

You’ve dashed my dream, Joe. Even as a child, I dreamt of writing a book, seeing it with a huge, bold cover on the shelves of (then) WaldenBooks at the local mall, and opening it up to see my monochrome photo with a blurb about my wonderful life on the back flap, the smell of dried tree pulp wafting through my nostrils from every page.

You’ve stomped on my dream—you and all your e-book, $2.99 bestselling Kindle-monger disciples. You may think your spreading knowledge with all your talk about making money and paying mortgages from e-books, but what about us Johnny Dreamers, the future Margaret Mitchells and James Mitcheners? You’ve left us smashed like a Ming vase on a museum floor.

Waa. Waa. I wanna see my name on a book! Signed, Convinced and Crushed

Marcel said...

Joe: "Point me to a Baen title where the hardcover includes a free ebook, and I'll update my blog entry."

Here's the latest example -

Unknown said...

I'm still SHOCKED that no one has included a free ebook download with their hardbacks. Or a micro SD with the book and some bonus chapters from similar novels. How are they passing up this stuff??

Also, Walgreens is advertising an e-reader in their latest circular. Freaking WALGREENS. haha

Keep up the madness, Joe!

Check In To The ROUS Motel!

Mary Anne Graham said...

Joe -

My thoughts/feelings about DRM are as steady as a drunk sailor on the Titanic. I think one thing.....and then the other. So far, I have DRM on Kindle but - of course - not on SW.

Do you think DRM/No DRM affects sales?

JA Konrath said...

You’ve dashed my dream, Joe.

My dream was once to see my name and book title in a library card catalog.

Scathach Publishing said...

If you publish through Smashwords you have the option to use vouchers to discount the price of your ebook. Publish your printed copy with the voucher code and a link to smashwords at the back.

Admittedly, I don't know if Smashwords offers a one-use voucher code.

Anyway, free ebooks with print books.

Michael Prescott said...

"Some major print publishers and booksellers will go out of business. This is sad, but it will happen."

I don't think it's sad, at least as far as the publishers are concerned.

I had a 20-year career with a major print publisher, and made a fair amount of money for them. Then they decided to focus on vampire romance novels and stop publishing pretty much everything else. Nearly all of their longtime midlisters, myself included, were bidden an unceremonious farewell. There was not so much as a "Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish." It was more like, "Get lost, and don't let the door hit you on your way out."

The way I look at it, they showed me no loyalty, so I owe them no sympathy. I won't cry when they close their doors - an event I fully expect to witness. Maybe I'll feel a twinge of nostalgia for the good ol' days, but that's about it.

Meanwhile I've started e-publishing. I don't expect to make the kind of money Joe makes, or much money at all, but it kind of keeps me in the game. My first self-published ebook, a thriller called "Riptide," was originally offered for $9.99. But after a few weeks I saw the wisdom of Joe's low-price approach and dropped the price to $3.99. (I couldn't quite bring myself to go down to $2.99 for some reason.)

It's exciting to me that some writers are finding ways around the NYC publishing monolith, even as the monolith crumbles. I've long looked forward to the day when Manhattan's monopoly on what the rest of America reads would be broken. Remember, these self-styled elites are the same geniuses who rejected Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It" because "it had too many trees in it."

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Joe, you're so inspiring! Thanks for sharing everything you do! I've currently taken to publishing my first novel on my blog in small portions to drum up interest and hope to have it available in the future on Amazon and Smashwords. In fact, I'll probably contact your guy to format it for me. It seems like you've had nothing but success! Congrats!

onaka said...

Re: "A bestselling author will self-publish an original ebook novel."

Murakami Ryu, one of Japan's best-selling authors, has just self-published his ebook "The singing whale". No dead-tree version, afaik, and he's not doing this through his publisher.

He's also including music and video to add value, like in prediction #4.

JA Konrath said...

Michael (and also Doug and Brian), you could be making a minimum of $3k a month, to start, if you got your backlist up on Kindle. I've loved your books under all of your names, and so will a whole new generation of readers, once they're available again.

I can easily see you pulling in six figures a year if you do a bit of internet promo,

Michael Prescott said...

Thanks, Joe! Some of my older books have come out as ebooks, through E-Reads. I haven't seen any sales reports yet. Maybe I'll re-release some of the others, in time.

Keep up the great work!

JA Konrath said...

Just bought Riptide. Great deal at $3.99.

I know nothing about E-Reads, but they seem to link directly to Kindle. What's their story? Are they a liaison between Kindle and authors? What % do they take?

Anonymous said...

I had a 20-year career with a major print publisher...Then they decided to focus on vampire romance novels and stop publishing pretty much everything else. Nearly all of their longtime midlisters, myself included, were bidden an unceremonious farewell.

Nice to hear from someone who actually has lived through something like this and is now considering the self-publishing route.

I mentioned this before-- I did a talk last month at a local writer's org and at least half the people in the room were layoffs. I'm sure all of them had a lot more writing talent than me, but I already had 4 years of self-publishing under my belt, so these industry veterans were coming to hear me talk. It was sad and really upsetting for me in the end.

I understand the publisher's point of view-- they are trying to cut costs everywhere, and the first place is always salaries and other forms of compensation.

The bright side of this is that I think that more of these people are going to pick themselves up and start offering more author's services for people who want to self-publish. My editor is independent and she is turning away work because she is so busy.

Anonymous said...

Michael Prescott posted: 'The big Publishing Houses rejected Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It" because "it had too many trees in it." ' ?? Hilarious. And sad.

Another example of a work the Major Houses deemed 'not good enough': they rejected "A Confederacy of Dunces", by John Kennedy Toole, which was eventually published by a University Press, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.

Likely they were preoccupied with chasing the 'hot' trend of the time. The moral is, the Publishing Houses do not look for good writing, they look for what they feel is marketable, and in a way that is understandable, but it means a superior book will be rejected in favor of an inferior book that is perceived as more marketable or trendy.

TL Pouliot

Anonymous said...

@MichaelPrescott Good for you for not jumping on an already overfull bandwagon of "Paranormal Romance" The publisher that is focused "only" pubbing this will find themselves lost in a year or two. The trend has already reached its peak.

All good things come to an end, and this thin guise of horror tropes redone as romance novels will go bust.

@AnonTL I said that in a previous post. Readers might be looking for good writing, plot, etc etc etc. But publishers are only interested in the botom line, as they should be; they are a business. But you would think they could do so without killing off every other genre.

wannabuy said...

Christy said:
The bright side of this is that I think that more of these people are going to pick themselves up and start offering more author's services for people who want to self-publish. My editor is independent and she is turning away work because she is so busy.

Publishers are in for a perfect storm of their own making. What was their last innovation since the 1950's mass market paperback? Starving the talent that makes the difference (and then laying them off to be your competitor) is not a viable business plan.

I estimate that after the Chinese new year, enough e-readers will be out there to start driving book sales. Without the 'tyranny of shelf space,' readers will still be left the option of other genre.

I've posted before (in different words), it takes 20% revenue share for a new technology to get legs. It will take some time for e-readers to get there. I hope for the predicted $99 e-reader to push us there.


Michael Prescott said...

Thanks for buying my book, Joe!

Regarding E-Reads, here are their terms:

They get world English print and e-book rights for 10 years. The ebook royalty payment is 50% of net receipts (list price less the retailer's discount). At a list price of $8.99 (standard for them), the royalty is about $2.25 per download.

The royalty on a POD book (usually $19.95 list price) also works out to about $2.25 per copy.

They charge production costs of $250.00 per book against royalties
and pay an advance of $250.00,
bringing the total charge against royalties to $500.00. There is also an annual $12.00 maintenance fee per book charged by the POD press, debited against royalties.

Is this a good deal? It depends on whether E-Reads books sell better than self-published books. So far I don't know; it's too early to say.

JA Konrath said...

Is this a good deal?

It depends.

You could have hired a cover artist and a formatted to upload to Kindle for a flat fee of about $500.

Then you could price the books at $2.99 and keep $2.05 for every download. No sharing royalties. No more out of pocket expenses. No other costs at all.

Granted, it's a bit more work doing it this way, but I think you'd make a shitload more money.

Moses Siregar III said...

I too have a prediction.

Joe Konrath will try an experiment: He will raise the price of all of his ebooks to $3.99 for just one month and then discover that he is making a crap-ton more money that way.

Okay, maybe it won't happen. But I think it should, because it could be a great thing for our esteemed host. And hey, if it doesn't work, you could always go back to what you were doing :-)

Moses Siregar III said...

Here's a new one for you, Joe. Authors selling direct to customers. Got barbecue sauce?

This is pretty interesting, actually.

Lakisha Spletzer said...


"My dream was once to see my name and book title in a library card catalog"

Here in Citrus County, Florida, our library system has created an ebook library where patrons can go and virtually check out ebooks to read.

@Scathach Publishing
"Admittedly, I don't know if Smashwords offers a one-use voucher code."

Depends on what you mean by one-use. If you mean do they allow you to create various individual unique one-use codes to expire after one use, then the answer is no.

Coupons/Vouchers are used to discount your ebooks and bring readers to you. You can specify an expiration date on the codes so that if you wanted to run a special one day only promotion, the code you create for that will work only on that day and then it expires at midnight.

As for me, I smiled at all your predictions because I can see them coming true. Also, I took your advice and lowered the prices on my two novels in the middle of July and made more sales in two weeks than I had since I e-published them They were priced $4.99 & $5.99. I lowered them to $1.99 and $2.99 respectfully.

I've been sending other fellow authors and unpublished authors to your site. I hope they gain knowledge and wisdom from this blog like I have.

jruschme said...

Regarding: "1. A bestselling author will self-publish an original ebook novel."

Someone pointed out Stephen King's UR. King had an earlier experiment back in 2000 when he published a book called The Plant as a serial. Unfortunately, the voluntary payments did not meet the level that King required, so the work was put on the shelf.

Anonymous said...

@Moses- I just checked out OpenSky and though it seems interesting I don't know how it would help ficitin writers? It seems they are able to tie nonficition with products a little better.

Does anyone at all see the advantages to the YA market of the Kindle?

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Jon VanZile said...


I write MG fiction myself, and as far as I can tell the market for MG (and to a lesser extent, YA) fiction on Kindle and e-books is negligible. I can't see anywhere that kids are using dedicated e-readers, and in talking to kid's books authors, I haven't heard anybody saying they're selling decent numbers of copies in e-books. I think for now, the e-book market is pretty narrowly focused on adult genres, especially thrillers and erotica. This might change later, perhaps after Christmas when kids get e-readers as presents, but just based on my own observations, the kids' market is much smaller.

Anonymous said...

Jon- I agree but I can't help but see that the potential for kids reading on the Kindle is unbelievable, espcially kids who are reluctant readers. I write for MG/YA and my book is on Kindle and sits low on the Amazon ranking but I can't help but feel that the next trend will be kids reading with the Kindle and with schools needing to cut money using the Kindle, in the long run, would save them $$$.

Just some thoughts.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Selena Kitt said...

"the kids' market is much smaller."

It is, currently. BUT, an ereader, I've found, is a GREAT device for dyslexic kids, because you can increase the typeface, contrast, etc, and there's a dictionary right there at your fingertips!

And I've been reading chapter books with my kids on the Kindle and it's great. My Kindle goes with me everywhere, so we can read at the doctor's office or waiting in line or wherever. There are lots of great kids chapter books out, classics and otherwise. We read The Lightning Thief and my daughter is now into the Anne of Green Gables series.

The possibilities are endless. Not sure if the LITTLEST kiddos will benefit from ereaders until they're full color. But middle school crowd and up? Yep. And soon!

Jamie D. said...

Re: #9: I'll be including a dedicated email address in my print books to request a voucher for a free digital copy for those who will send me a copy of their invoice. An inelegant solution, to be sure (and not one I could handle if demand got too great), but for now, I think it will work to get free digital copies to those who buy the print book. I intend to encourage people to share my books once they buy, so I'd like the invoice as "proof of purchase".

Sounds like a lot of us are looking at doing similar things with packaging print/digital...very exciting. :-)

jtplayer said...

Kindles for kids?

Are you people nuts?

Between lost DS's and PSP's and misplaced games and chargers, not to mention cell phones that turn up missing or are never charged or get dropped in the water, I've been through it all with my two kids.

And now you want them to read on an electronic device?

Not for me. My kids do just fine with good old fashioned paper books.

I can't get over the glee some of you express over the demise of books as we know them.

And for what? So you can have access where previously denied and make a few bucks along the way?

Not a good thing in my mind.

Anonymous said...

There is no So what was that anon comment about? The fabled big writer whose agent says to self-publish? Who is pushing this idea now?

JA Konrath is a mid-list author who had a following and who could make more self-publishing than by finding another publisher. An unknown unpublished writer who self-publishes his first book on the Internet is a very different beast.

I mean, what would happen at this point if a good (and non-genre) writer took a good manuscript and self-published it on Kindle, bypassing agents and editors and publishers ... has anyone done this yet? What happened?

Prof. Hex said...


Not only will kids read on the Kindle, I predict that within five years there will be a version of an Ipad that kids can read picture books on in color and it will cost less than $100.

And who cares what format kids read on as long as they read? The kiddie ebook revolution is coming too (when the reader prices get low enough and they figure out picture quality.)

Anonymous said...

Prof Hex- I agree. Especially with schools needing to save money. I like old fashioned books also but if it helps kids who don't like reading suddenly perk up and start I am all for it.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Coolkayaker1 said...

My prediction based on Joe's predictions:

Joe: Big publishers go under, authors publish with e-publishers like Amazon, Apple, Smashwords, etc. for profit.

Joe: Authors increasingly self publish e-books to pay mortgage and make handsome profits, equal to or better than with traditional paper publishing.

coolkayaker1: E-publishers (e.g Amazon) understand leverage, and when print pubs bankrupt, gradually increase shareholder profits by squeezing author's reimbursement from current 70% (while they try to gain market share and implode paper publishers) to new model with 33% authors cut, 66% e-publisher.

Authors complain, especially with influx of 99 cent garbage from competing writers; e-publishers laugh.

jtplayer said...

Re: "And who cares what format kids read on as long as they read?"

Well, I do for one.

Sorry prof., but if the enticement for kids to read has to be an electronic device, then things have gone seriously haywire.

And this is a parent speaking.

I've encouraged both my kids to read since they were able to. I've done that by taking them to bookstores and browsing (you remember bookstores, right?), spending time in the little kiddie areas at B&N and Borders, reading to them, sharing my books with them, stressing the importance of reading and the value of books.

One of their favorite things to do has been ordering books at the annual school book fair. They absolutely love the entire process from sampling the books to picking out their choices and placing their orders, to anxiously awaiting their arrival.

It's all good. And for this reader and father I don't see how this electronic "revolution", if you will, will make any of it better. In fact, in my mind it will make it worse when all the bookstores go out of business. Just like the record stores. You remember those, don't you?

IMO, it's a bad trend. But of course, I'm definitely in the minority around here. And I realize I'm starting to sound like a broken record to boot.

Oh know what they say about opinions.

evilphilip said...

"Someone pointed out Stephen King's UR. King had an earlier experiment back in 2000 when he published a book called The Plant as a serial. Unfortunately, the voluntary payments did not meet the level that King required, so the work was put on the shelf."

This is a common internet myth, but it is not true. The Plant was previously published by King as small chapbooks that he sent out to people as Christmas cards (you can occassionally find them for sale on Ebay).

The Plant didn't fail because people didn't pay -- it failed because he ran out of text to publish.

He then lied about the percentage of people who were paying for the project vs. downloading it for free as an excuse to discontinue the project -- a project he couldn't continue without writing more text.

He did admit that they had made a significant profit on the project vs. the advertising money they put into it.

And that was a project with voluntary payments. If he tried the same project right now with's Kindle he would probably make millions.

I don't think you can look at UR and decide how King would do for the sales of a full novel. UR launched when the Kindle launched so the audience was only a few thousand people.

evilphilip said...

"I predict that within five years there will be a version of an Ipad that kids can read picture books on in color and it will cost less than $100."

You don't know much about Apple do you?

In 5 years Apple will be rolling out the 3rd version of the iPad with a higher resolution screen. (The same screen in the iPhone 4 only bigger.)

It will run the same $850.00 that the iPad costs now.

That is how Apple makes money -- they put out new versions of their hardware at the same premium cost as when the hardware launched and then slightly discount the earlier versions or the lower quality versions.

The iPad is an amazing product, it is well worth the $850.

ASUS has a nice black & white E-reading coming out next year, but I disagree with Joe's prediction that there will be a $99 E-reader this year.

For an E-reader to be a viable product it can't just be some slapped together handheld that reads books in the ePub format. It has to have the backing of major publishers or retailers or it is a hunk of hardware you can only use to read a few dozen pdf's and nothing else.

You might see a $99 E-reader in 2011 or 2012, but not before the end of the year.

dr.cpe said...

@evil phillip
"He then lied about the percentage of people who were paying for the project vs. downloading it for free as an excuse to discontinue the project -- a project he couldn't continue without writing more text."

How do we verify that he 'lied'?'

Justin Jordan said...


"And for this reader and father I don't see how this electronic "revolution", if you will, will make any of it better."

The ability to have your kid's entire library of books on them at all times?

The ability to get books cheaply and instantly if they're recommended?

The ability to sample any book available?

Don't get me wrong - I love bookstores, and ordering books from the Troll catalog when I was a kid was one of my favorite things, as was when they brought the cabinets of books to buy.

But saying that there are no advantages to ebooks just smacks of willful contrariness.

I like books. I run a library program. I understand.

I don't own an ereader (for one thing, that kind of access to books would bankrupt my ass) but there's no particular reason to look at them as the devil.

BriteLady said...

#9 (packaging ebooks with print) may not have hit the big time. But I've bought tech books for the day job that come with e-book download. We're talking manuals for software developers here, which is a natural market for the e-books (technology + time in front of a computer + searchable + no one wants to lug 1000 pages of manual in a laptop bag).

And when you go to download your "free" ebook from the publisher, you are required to provide your email address. That is an instant mailing-list builder of your target audience.

So, not here for fiction. But it's coming.

jtplayer said...

Re: "But saying that there are no advantages to ebooks just smacks of willful contrariness."

I never said there were no advantages.

Besides, it's all a matter of personal opinion anyway, so if a person feels there is no upside, how is that "willful contrariness"?

And those three examples you gave? You really think kids care about any of that? Parents maybe, kids no. IMO.

No, I don't look at ereaders or ebooks as the devil. I just don't have use for one in my life.

Maybe when they get real cheap I might go for it.

I do have Kindle on my Mac and PC and iphone, and have been sampling various things just to see what this is all about.

So far, virtually all of the self-pubbed stuff has been less than stellar. Even at .99 or 1.99 or 2.99, the stuff I've sampled is not worth my time or money.

Eric said...

For all those talking about Baen books putting ebooks with hardcovers.

Yes, they do that. But they do NOT put an e-book of the hardcover you're buying on that CD, which is what Joe is talking about. The closest I've seen is the latest Honor Harrington book which includes a copy of the ARC on the CD, but not the final version as you buy it in print.

evilphilip said...

"How do we verify that he 'lied'?'

He lied from the very beginning. The Plant wasn't a new story where he was 'writing' each new section if people paid for the previous section. It was an old story. I knew it was doomed from the begining since the story wasn't new and wasn't being written based on the original idea that he would continue the story if people paid for it.

The Stephen King encyclopedia is your friend.

There were a lot of other problems with what he reported about The Plant. Basically, the idea made gangbusters money, but nothing compared to what he could get from a print novel so he dumped it.

Techquestioner said...

If you don't think e-books will be aimed at kids, I just saw a fill-page magazine ad for a new game cartridge with digitized text for 100 classic books for the Nintendo Gameboy DS, with a selection of two text sizes. Kids will be the next big target market.

dafaolta said...

Regarding #9 on your list. Beginning with the Hardcover publication of War of Honor by David Weber, Baen publishing bound a CD in with the occasional HC. The CD always contains ebook versions of the title it comes with as well as however much more of the Free Library Eric Flint seems to have been able to cram onto it. War of Honor, for example had the main title as well as the previous titles in the 'Honorverse' as well as copies of Almost everything Flint had written up to that time.

When I say versions I mean versions: HTML, RTF, MOBI are the ones that stuck out for me because I was using a Palm as an ereader at that point and these were the formats I could tweak to get them on it.

Not only did they includes the ebooks with the hardcovers, they would include them with the ebook purchases as well, whether single book or Webscription Month purchases ($4-$6 for the single book or @$15 for the whole month's releases).

When Jim Baen died David Drake, the author he had 'assigned' to write his obituary, noted that Baen made more money off ebook sales than they did off sales to Canada.

Just saying ...

David Tanner said...

Alright, so I felt guilty that I'd gotten busy and hadn't had a chance to post more about Baen but came back and found that others had done it for me. Thanks everyone!

@Eric-I'm confused. Every Baen hc that I have that has a cd with it has a copy of the that hc. I checked the cd listing at fifth imperium ( just to see and all the ones that I looked at had the ebook for the listed hc. Did I miss something? Not trying to be arguementative, just a little confused. My brain is mush right now from lots of work and writing so I could have missed something.

Rex Kusler said...

Here is my plan:

Punctured will always be priced at 99 cents (or discounted). This is an introductory price for the first book in my Las Vegas Mystery Series to get people to try it, and see if they like it. It has done well so far, selling almost 10,000 downloads on Kindle in the first six months it's been available. That's pretty good, but it doesn't tell me much since the price is so low. Most customers probably haven't even read it yet. It's had some good reviews that are encouraging, especially the one from, but there are only a handful of those. Most people apparently don't like to post reviews. I can't blame them; I don't like doing it myself.

I can't judge my own work, so I'll let the numbers do it for me. Ashes To Dust, the sequel to Punctured, will be priced at $3.50 (always). Sales at that price will probably be mostly return customers who enjoyed the first book and want to read the second. If it sells at least 2000 copies in the first year at $3.50, that will be incentive for me to write another.

If not, I'll turn my energy to collecting rocks, or something...

Cameron Chapman said...

Just a heads up: Kmart has an ebook reader available for $99. It doesn't have an epaper display, but I tried it out the other day and it looks pretty good. Definitely worth the $99.