Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Interview with James Rollins

I haven't blogged in a week, due to attending BEA, and now that I'm back I have three things I need to blog about immediately.

First, many of you may have heard about my friend Barry Eisler signing with Amazon for his next Rain book. Barry and I did another 10k word dialog about that, and some other publishing stuff. I'll post it complete tomorrow, but if you can't wait, Barry has already posted the entire conversation on his blog (he couldn't wait either.)

Second, I have a book coming out today. it's called Timecaster, and my publisher is charging $7.99 for the paperback, and $7.99 for the ebook (ugh.) It's a sci-fi thriller filled with humor, sex, over-the-top violence, and Harry McGlade. The hero is Jack Daniels's grandson. I love this book, and so will my fans. It's easily the craziest thing I've ever written, and loads of fun.

This fall, I'll release the sequel myself for $2.99. I'm also working with Brilliance Audio to release both books as audiobooks for extremely low prices. Stay tuned.

Finally, my friend James Rollins has released a 99 cent short story on Kindle. When a big NYT bestseller starts releasing inexpensive ebooks, it is time to ask questions.

Joe: It's great that you're putting out a 99 cent short story. Why did you do it through your publisher, rather than solo?

Jim: I initially was going to self-publish this story. And I naively thought that my publishing house would have no problem… heck, it’s only a short story. But when my agent approached them about this, they were adamant that I must not do that. And while I certainly could have refused, I also had to respect the fact that HarperCollins had done a great deal to brand my name out in the marketplace, and I couldn’t blithely ignore that, nor trample roughshod over their wishes.

We did come to a compromise, though—moving this story into the gray world between self-publishing and legacy publishing. William Morrow (my house at Harper) and I are co-publishing this book, which means we split all royalties beyond the cost of this book’s production. I’m personally curious to see how this all plays out in the marketplace. Yes, I’m losing half my royalties, but Harper has deeper pockets and more marketing connections to hopefully help get his story some attention. Plus they are more personally invested to use this story as a vehicle to promote this summer’s book (The Devil Colony).

As you well know, it’s a new world out there in publishing. Paradigms are shifting all over the map. So this co-pub deal is yet another experiment, a possible compromise between the old world and the new. But is it the best of both worlds or the worst? Only time will tell.

Joe: I'm a big fan of your Sigma novels, so it's great to read a short featuring those characters. How does writing a short story vs. a novel differ?

Jim: A couple of years ago, I wrote a Sigma short story, titled Kowalski’s in Love It appeared in an anthology edited by James Patterson and explained how Kowalski (who first appeared in Ice Hunt) became an adopted team member of Sigma. I found that a short story is a great vehicle for filling in “gaps” in the Sigma universe. And that’s how this story came about. In this summer’s book, The Devil Colony, the mysterious assassin Seichan arrives on Gray’s doorstep with a package of information. The Skeleton Key explains how she acquired that bit of intelligence.

I also wanted to write this story for those readers who have never read a Sigma novel. So I crafted this thriller so it could be enjoyed by anyone new to the series. Confined to one character and restricted to a self-contained adventure, I hoped this story could serve as a “sampler” for any reader interested in the series but too daunted by a full novel.

As to writing a short story versus a novel, they are definitely two different vehicles in which to tell a tale. While both vehicles need a beginning, middle, and end, a short story requires writing very tightly, sticking to one character and really getting into their head, under their skin. Seichan has always been a bit mysterious. The Skeleton Key gave me a chance to reveal more about her.

Joe: How do you like writing in a shorter format?

Jim: It was a daunting task. I think my mind is too wired to think of “story” in a longer format. To restrict this tale to one character, one setting, one goal was a challenge. I wanted this story to “feel” like a full Sigma international thriller. So I did my best to make Paris come to life as a character. I threaded in a bit of its mysterious history, added a smidgen of strange science, and crafted a larger danger looming over the more intimate threat. I hope this story captures the essence of a Sigma novel in a tight, little package.

Joe: You're also releasing one of your previous novels, Black Order, today as an ebook for $1.99. Your idea, or your publishers?

Jim: It was theirs… and I have to give them credit. It think it’s a great program. They did it last year with Map of Bones, and it was a resounding success and introduced a slew of new readers to my books. And in this new ebook world, this is another area of consternation and confusion: how to price an ebook?

I see that this is still unsettled in the self-publishing world. There seems to be two camps. Price a new novel at $2.99. This seems to work well when an author has the cushion of several books. But I see another school of thought at setting the price point at $4.99. This seems to be the course with authors with their first book or with only a limited backlist.

As to the $1.99, this is purely a promotional price to encourage someone to sample a new author. I believe it’s not so much done to move volume and make money, as it is a loss leader to draw in new readers.

Again I’m curious where this “price point” issue will settle in the marketplace. As I’m sure you are, too.

Joe: You write in your author’s note that the apocalyptic cult, the Order of the Solar Temple, really existed. How did you stumble across this in your research, and what made you decide to feature it in a short story?

Jim: I wish I could say there was some mysterious connection, but it was basically Google. I researched various cults operating around Paris and stumbled upon the Order of the Solar Temple, which believes the Knights Templar are still alive and well and manipulating history. This cult’s suicidal and apocalyptic stance was perfectly suited for the story I wanted to tell.

Joe: What kind of research or travel did you do for The Skeleton Key? Have you visited the catacombs of Paris?

Jim: I did visit those catacombs. As an avid caver myself, I longed to explore beyond the boundaries of the tourist areas. Those catacombs delve beneath half of Paris, encompassing two hundred miles of tunnels and caverns. While I couldn’t go there myself, I learned of amateur explorers who secretly venture into those unmapped sections of the catacombs (they call themselves cataphiles). This story allowed me to become one of them for a short while—and I wanted to take my readers along with me.

Joe: What did you find most interesting or surprising to learn as you mapped out the plot to The Skeleton Key?

Jim: I think it was how fragile those catacombs are. A cave-in back in 1961 swallowed up an entire Parisian neighborhood, killing scores of people. And even today, sections of those tunnels collapse every year, damaging parts of the city—which, of course, made the writer in me wonder: what if something MUCH worse happened?

Joe: The Skeleton Key follows the adventures of Seichan alone, as she is separated from the rest of Sigma Force. Why did you decide to feature Seichan’s point of view?

Jim: I always wanted to feature her in a solo adventure. Being a loner, she was perfectly suited for her own tale. This vehicle also offered me the opportunity to explore more about her, while allowing new readers an entry point into the series. Plus her story allowed me to fill in a “gap” in the backstory to The Devil Colony.

Joe: Do you have a favorite Sigma Force character, one whose point of view you especially enjoy writing?

Jim: I enjoy writing them all. Each has their own unique flare: Gray’s intensity, Kowalski’s humor, Monk’s good nature, Seichan’s internal conflict, Painter’s craftiness. They are like an extended family, and I enjoy visiting with each one of them.

Joe: Without giving away any secrets, will Seichan—and the answers she finds in The Skeleton Key—have a major part to play in the upcoming Sigma Force novel The Devil Colony?

Jim: Indeed. What she discovers in Paris is vital to the plot of the The Devil Colony. It will begin to expose the true identity behind the shadowy organization called The Guild. And trust me, there are some MAJOR surprises coming up in this next book.

Joe: Do you plan to write more Sigma Force short stories?

Jim: In one word: yes. To tell more would ruin the fun.

Joe: Will you ever self-publish?

Jim: Yes. I have some non-Sigma Force short stories that I’m planning on releasing as fundraisers for the Humane Society of America. When it comes to such a cause, I’m not willing to split royalties. Plus I’m starting a new cause to help animals at risk called “Sigma to the Rescue.”

Joe: Where do you see the future of the industry heading?

Jim: I think we only have to look at the music industry to fathom that answer. Publishers will need to adjust, evolve, and transform to survive. If they don’t, the industry is in trouble. As it is, I think we’re heading into a further round of consolidation and winnowing of houses. Will there still be physical books out there? Sure. But the writing is on the wall as a majority of sales move from books to ebooks.

Joe: How are your ebook sales compared to your print sales? Percentages?

Jim: As The Devil Colony is the first new book from me in two years, I can’t personally attest to where the market is at the moment. In just those two years, the publishing world has drastically changed. I did hear from a New York Times bestselling author that the sales of his newest book are split about 70% ebooks and 30% hardbacks. That’s a new world indeed.

Joe: How did you react to Barry Eisler's decision to decline the contract St. Martin's offered and sign with Amazon?

Jim: Barry must have balls of steel (or maybe even admantium). Someone had to strike out first. I know every published author on the planet is watching to see what happens. And I’m no exception. My prediction: he’ll do fantastic. Then again, I’m prejudiced: I love Barry and his books.

Joe: Wouldn't you like to live in a world without deadlines and appearances?

Jim: Of what fantasy world do you speak? What is this mythic landscape? Okay, I get your point, but I think self-publishing has its own headaches. And to be honest, I need deadlines. I’m a deadline sort of writer. If left on my own, having to set and stick to my own deadlines, I’d probably still be a veterinarian.

And while book tours are often hard, I also like meeting readers. Yes, I facebook and tweet. But there’s something about meeting people in person. When you get the right mix of people—all likeminded readers—in a one room, sometimes it’s magical.

Joe: What's next for you?

Jim: I’m working on my third Jake Ransom novel (of my kid’s series), while researching and putting the final touches to the next Sigma novel. Speaking of deadlines…I’d better get back to writing. Otherwise, all this talk of publishing—self or otherwise—is moot, because ultimately if you want to be a writer you have to write. Of course, nowadays that’s the easy part.

Joe sez: The Skeleton Key is classic Rollins, and well worth the 99 cents. If you haven't checked out Black Order for $1.99, that's another great read and a steal.

Both were released today, and both rankings are dropping quickly. Kudos to his publisher for understanding that you sell more ebooks for low prices.

Which naturally makes me wonder why Morrow is releasing Jim's latest, The Devil Colony, for $14.99 on Kindle. Ouch. I can already see the dozens of one-star reviews from annoyed fans who won't pay that much, which is unfair to Jim, and to the book. Plus, guess who is going to be pirated like crazy?

Note to Morrow: The way to fight piracy is with cost and convenience. High cost encourages piracy. No one will pirate The Skeleton Key, or those that do wouldn't have bought it anyway. With The Devil Colony, fans who otherwise would have bought it will become pirates, due to your pricing.

Windowing is useless in a digital world. Ebooks are forever, and there is no longer a shelf life, so we shouldn't be forced to pay a higher premium for things just to experience them sooner.

Buy a hardcover for $25 on the release day, or wait a year for the $7.99 paperback. That's always been unfair, in my opinion, but you are getting a better, higher quality version with the hardcover.

But with ebooks? $14.99 now, or wait a year and it'll go down to $8.99 for the same exact version? Or wait a few years and it will go on sale for $1.99?

There are only two reasons for pricing so high. 1. To encourage and protect hardcover sales. 2. To make as much money as possible before the industry collapses.

Ebooks have zero costs to print and ship. They shouldn't be $14.99. And The Devil Colony should be a #1 Ebook bestseller. Perhaps it will be. But it would be one for much longer at a more reasonable price.

Jim will make $2.23 on each $14.99 ebook sold. I make $2.04 on each $2.99 ebook sold, which is why all of my ebooks are outselling his, even though he's a much bigger author than I am.

Now he's getting big advances, and his house is taking care of all the uploading and marketing. If I had a chance to switch careers with him I'd be tempted. Except for the book touring. Meeting fans and booksellers is a noble, worthwhile thing, but travel is exhausting and cuts into my writing time, and I make my money by writing, not by jetting around the world.

If ebooks are really outselling hardcovers by that large a margin, I have to wonder how long it will be before bestselling authors begin to realize that even with large advances, they're losing money long term...


Anonymous said...

Wow. I was reading "Black Order" just before I read this blog!

Megg Jensen said...

Okay, I'm going to be a huge dork, but James Rollins is one of my all-time favorite writers (I even mention that my blog

Thank you, Joe, for featuring him.

This is a fascinating look at what's happening in the traditional world. I'm so happy to see James at the center of change.

James - consider publishing more fantasy under the Clemens name. I always wondered if New York told you "no" or if you just didn't want to write them. The e-book world (and I) would certainly welcome more!!!

Okay, I will try to stop shaking and go back to editing my next release.


Megg Jensen

Ken Lindsey said...

Great post! I love to see how all of these legacy authors are dealing with the changes in the industry.

Makes me glad I chose the route I did!

Just 1 Writer

Blue Tyson said...

The other problem with them of course is that neither of these works mentioned are buyable, except presumably in the USA.

Kowalksi's In Love is a great short story, and is why I started to get his other work.

So would really like to get this new one, but can't. Usual story for Australians though. Hence downloading for free extremely popular, in all media.

This is a Rollins problem that Konrath and Eisler will not have.

Bob Mayer said...

Pretty interesting. I'm looking for to Thrillerfest where there will be a lot of conversation about all these changes. In just the past month I've seen sales exploded, to where I'm selling a thousand books a day across the various platforms. What's interesting is that one of my series, Area 51, is kicking ass on PubIt, while my other series Atlantis, is doing the same on Kindle, in the top 5 in science fiction both in US and UK. I would assume that eventually the streams will cross, and not in a Ghostbusters type way.
I predict more traditionally published authors will reach out to self-publishing with short stories or books that might be a little off the beaten path for their usual fare.

Stuart said...

If you need deadlines, one way around that in the self- publishing world is to annouce to your fans that your book is coming out on a certain day. Then your fans become your accountability.

I do this with my free fiction blog. My readers expect a new chapter every weekday. It has upped my output significantly. Check it out. http://www.fiveaweekfiction.blogspot.com

MUSCLE: The Cheatin' Security Guard said...

I agree with Joe. If I had the marketing muscle of a big publisher and a hefty advance I would be hard-pressed to stay with them too. That's if I was a 'big-time' author, which I am not.

I can also see James Rollins' point that having deadlines, and essentially people you must be accountable to, can help you stay motivated.

I turned down an agent who wanted to work with me but I haven't had a publishing house knock at my door so I don't know how I would respond (if the offer was good enough).

JA Konrath said...

is to annouce to your fans that your book is coming out on a certain day.

I've also done this with Amazon, where they've helped me put up a preorder page with a release date.

I'm sure they'd do something similar for Jim.

TK Kenyon said...

You know, considering Rollins is giving half his royalties to HC, probably because they own his brand, I think I would be terrified to sign a contract with a DTP right now.

He was very nice about it, very mature, but it did sound like they had put some sort of pressure on him, anything from lawyers to "we wouldn't want your next book with us to get buried now, would we?"

All those other writers out there: I'm posting writing prompts that help you with your WIP at Dr. Kenyon's Writing Apple on Facebook .

Jeff Kay said...

I enjoyed this. I've heard of other legacy publishers agreeing to 50/50 revenue-share deals on ebooks and audiobooks. It's an interesting development.

Erica Sloane - Author said...

Great read. Really interesting to get his take on where the industry is heading.

However, as others have already mentioned, I also try to set deadlines for myself by posting what's coming next, and when. It helps keep me on schedule.

David Gaughran said...

Hi Joe & James,

I really enjoyed this interview.

Further proof, if it were needed, that self-publishing is not an either/or proposition.

Also further proof that the rise in self-publishing improves the lot of ALL writers. James Rollins was able to use the possibility of self-publishing this short to gain a much better royalty split.

Thanks for this,


Brian H said...

I am currently reading The Devil Colony for a review. I about halfway through and I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say this may be the best Sigma book yet.

I will have to stop for a bit so I can read the new short. Damn it.

Is it wrong to wish for full color photos of Seichan? Lots of them?

Thanks for sharing the interview Joe. Spot on as usual.

Review will be posted in a few weeks.

jtplayer said...

Great post Joe. I've never read James Rollins, but based on that interview I'm gonna check his stuff out.

It's nice to see the different angles in all this, and in particular a big time author who's willing to try it a different way, while not completely severing ties with traditional publishing.

arsenio ball said...

I really enjoyed this. I am still a fairly new reader to the thriller genre - Joe, you were my introduction ! - and the Sigma series sounds like it's right up my alley.

Additionally, I follow the blog pretty closely but completely missed that you had a book coming out! I particularly love the cover, and it sounds like it's right up my alley. I'll be buying for sure (after pay-day!)

arsenio ball said...

Also, clearly today the phrase "right up my alley" is just... well, right up my alley.

I'm going to go drink more coffee now.

Cathy Titus Neumueller said...

This fall, I'll release the sequel myself for $2.99. I'm also working with Brilliance Audio to release both books as audiobooks for extremely low prices. Stay tuned.

Yeah! I really appreaciate titles available in audio. Can't wait to read Timecaster.

Also going to check out The Skeleton Key

Kendall Swan said...

Short stories rock exactly for the reasons mentioned in the post. You can give bite size back stories related to longer works or stand alone stories that don't need 60k for the telling.

I've always loved short stories as a reader and I love them even more now as a writer.

Thanks for the post, James and Joe.

Kendall Swan
NAKED Housecleaning - a 99c short story

Kendall Swan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Stroud said...

As a long-time reader of James Rollins, I do admit I was a bit surprised to see a 99-cent short story appear on Amazon.

However (and certainly not to dismiss you, Joe), I want to personally say to Jim: I love your work. I love the fact that you are a veterinarian (animals are my passion, particularly dogs). And I love Painter Crowe.

Rebecca Stroud
Zellwood: A Dog Story

Michelle Muto said...

Wow. The tides truly are shifting! For me, it's truly an exciting time to be an indie.

It's about time that publishers are starting to take notice of the value of short stories in digital format and how that can promote writers. I'm glad to see it.

I'm also curious to see where this goes with publishers agreeing to 50/50 split between publisher and writer.

Thanks, Joe & James.

Anna Murray said...

It's great to see publishers offering more creative terms like the 50/50 split. Maybe the old dog CAN learn new tricks.

Darlene Underdahl said...

Wow! Got Skeleton Key!

James, you remind me of our friend, Al the Vet (veterinarian). He's always doing nice things for animals.


Cyn Bagley said...

Good to see you back. I am really excited about seeing how Barry does with Amazon. And it looks like some publishers might be seeing the "writing on the wall?"

I am always excited after reading about your featured authors.

BTW I have found that I really love making my own covers after I finish a book. Does that make me sick?

SBJones said...

Pricing an e-book is a interesting subject. The sweet spot in my opinion is the $2.99 price point. That is where the 70% royalty commissions kick in at B&N and Amazon. The only reason to go lower is to 'sell a series' Charge 99c for book 1 to get people to buy sequel books for $2.99. Or if what you are publishing just isn't worth $2.99. Like a short story.

Right now I can not see ANY reason to go above $2.99 for any work of fiction regardless of who the author is. Non-Fiction is different.

You are right. Other than the fictitious costs of storage and bandwidth, there is no real cost involved in publishing an e-book other than the time it took the author to create the content. Price too high and you will find yourself a price gouging money grubber.

Jacklyn Cornwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacklyn Cornwell said...

Jim, I noticed a couple of reviews on Amazon and both were ones. I guess some of your fans feel that you have abandoned them with the move to Kindle because everyone doesn't have a Kindle. Do you think this will hurt your fan base or will it eventually help when fans realize they can download the Kindle program to their phone, laptop, desktop, etc. for free?

Moving from one format to another is difficult for most people. They do like to cling to their comfort zones. How do you feel moving to ebooks and self publishing, or even pricing ebooks at a more reasonable rate, will affect your core fan base?

Nancy Beck said...

Okay, I get your point, but I think self-publishing has its own headaches. And to be honest, I need deadlines. I’m a deadline sort of writer. If left on my own, having to set and stick to my own deadlines, I’d probably still be a veterinarian.

LOL about the veterinarian part; not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)

Why doesn't Jim set up his own production schedule? Dean Wesley Smith suggests that in his series, Thinking Like a Publisher (right here, as a matter of fact).

Simply print it out, stick it on your computer monitor or whatever, and voila...the deadline is right in front of your eyes. :-)

Nancy Beck said...

I agree with Joe. If I had the marketing muscle of a big publisher and a hefty advance I would be hard-pressed to stay with them too.

@Muscle, Just remember that most (if not all, at this point) advances are not one big lump sum. (Don't we all wish? :-))

Usually it's 1/3 upon signing, 1/3 when you turn in your edited ms., and 1/3 on publication. Although I've also read about the monies being strung out even longer.

Mikaela said...

I love that publishers discount e-books for promo. What I don't love is that it 90% of the time is US only. sigh.

Bob Mayer said...

Setting up a production schedule and publishing dates is key, even for the self-publishing author. I try to make them coincide with something I can use for promotion, such as the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, where I blogged here, or my next book on the 4th of July, the 185th anniversary of the deaths of Jefferson and Adams, which is the opening scene of the book.
I think this blog and what Rollins has to say is a clear indication of the massive shifts in publishing.

Unknown said...

Sorry Joe, I understand that you can not leave links to Amazon. I know.

Unknown said...

Joe, thanks for introducing me to another author! James, I've never read one of your books before but they sound like a good read. I'm starting in on the first book of the Sigma series right now. :)

David said...

"There seems to be two camps. Price a new novel at $2.99. This seems to work well when an author has the cushion of several books. But I see another school of thought at setting the price point at $4.99. This seems to be the course with authors with their first book or with only a limited backlist."

This seems backwards to me. Is it a misprint? If not, why would a new author price his/her books above that of an established author? I plan on pricing my first thriller at $0.99. I suppose it might reduce near-term profits, but it seems like a far better way to build a reader base from scratch.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interview Joe.
I is strange how a short story can make everyone so uptight. When publishers are that concerned over a single piece of property (and a small piece at that) then it shows some serious nerves.

I guess the old adage of 'never let them see you sweat' isn't the way of the publishing world right now.

I did like the information about the Paris catacombs. I knew a little about them, but was nice to learn more.

James Rollins said...

Wow. I leave here for a couple hours and so much has happened:

Siebendach: I hope you like Black Order

Megg: Clemens, who? Actually I am secretly writing Book 3 of Godslayer on the side. That will be self-published (as he genuflects before the Altar of Joe).

Blue: Skeleton Key will be coming to the UK and Australia very, very soon. Had to jump through some legal hoops. Complicated reasons why.

Bob M: Do you miss Maui? I do.

All those deadline comments. Yes, I concede that setting a deadline on-line might work. That's a good idea.

Brian H: I owe you a beer for those generous comments about Devil Colony (Joe would perhaps suggest MEAD, wouldn't you, Joe....)

Cathy: I read an early draft of Timecaster: It's great, demented, and all but insane (definitely a Joe K production).

Kendall: Naked Housekeeping? you had me at "naked". I'm going to have to check that out.

Rebecca: THANKS!

Michelle and Anna: 50/50 is the only way publishers have a chance to keep authors in house. I think they're starting to slowly get that. (I hope)

Darlene: Thanks for checking out Skeleton Key. I hope you like it.

J.M.: yes, i saw those one-star reviews too. Sigh. There's no way to please everyone, I guess. I did facebook and tweet about how you don't really need a Kindle or Nook to enjoy the short story. That if you have a PC or Mac that there are free download versions of those apps.

Nancy: my current book's "advance" is divided into 5 payment: 1/5 on proposal, 1/5 on ms delivery, 1/5 on hardback pub, 1/5 on paperback pub, and 1/5 a year after that paperback (though how on earth that last payment can ever be defined as an "advance" is a mystery)

Christopher John Chater said...

50/50 is great if they keep the price of the book low. My grandmother has twenty four books on Richard Curtis' site (50/50) but they don't do very well at 9.99.
At least that's what we're being led to believe...

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

Great interview with good info. Thanks! I'm just going to chime in and say that even though my indie publisher priced my first novel at $2.99 for e-books, it was still pirated and on torrent sites multiple times. Frustrating for a first time author.

Love your blog posts!


Rebecca Knight said...

James, thank you for sharing about SKELETON KEY as well as giving insight into your new deal with the publisher. Fascinating stuff :).

The $14.99 pricepoint for an e-book made me cringe, but I'm happy to see traditional publishers getting creative to try to keep writers like you.

It will be fascinating to see what other creative options crop up in the next year or so.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Joe-- thanks for two things:

Doing an interview (and not just this one, but other rcent interviews) that are not exclusively about e-publishing, bashing traditional publishing and ranting about how much money to make and how to price books. Looking back on your blog A Newbie's Guide...over the past six or eight months, one would think the depth of the advice on here was limited to: get shelf space and throw as many books on there as fast as you can, and price them at 99 cents each. It's lovely, truly lovely, to read about the craft of writing, such as this interview with Mr. Rollins.

I also dig the fact that your publisher, at least, is going to publish your latest book at a fair price for an author with forty books out there, rather than rolling around in the pricing basement with all the new scribes. The book, as you summarize it, sounds wonderful. We don't need every sales report of every pricing point you and your pub ever try for it--let the Wizard stay behind the curtain. Let's just see how good a book it is. And I'm sure it is. --Sven

jeroentenberge said...

Wanted to buy The Skeleton Key from Amazon but it is not available in the Asia and Pacific region. Any way of getting around that?

Bill Riddell said...

Joe and James, I wonder if you would care to shed any more light on titles being unavailable in countries outside the US on kindle - as Blue Tyson has already mentioned.

I'm an avid reader from Australia who is constantly stopped from purchasing titles available on kindle.

James I notice your comment saying Skeleton Key will be coming to the UK and Australia - that it was complicated to arrange this. Why?

After reading this interview I was ready to buy The Skeleton Key. I'd have read it today and afterward, in all likelihood, I would have purchased Black Order or Map of Bones straight away or at least added one to my wishlist for future purchase - just as was hoped by you James to introduce someone to you series.

But all of those titles are legally unavailable to me. So unfortunately James, thanks to publishers distribution rights or whatever, its going to be a wait till I purchase any of your titles.

This is yet another instance where traditional publishers are hampering sales. There is no such problem with Joe's self-pub'd short stories that have given me a low effort/low cost introduction to his work.

P.S. Before hitting 'send' I checked and a different edition of Black Order is available to me (Orion; New Ed edition - Sept 18, 2008), which will most likely sit on my wishlist for months.

Bob Mayer said...

Yeah-- they screwed Maui up but perhaps we can get something similar going-- we've had meetings about doing it-- Brooks, George, Saul, Wiggs, etc.

Bob Mayer said...

Yeah-- they screwed Maui up but perhaps we can get something similar going-- we've had meetings about doing it-- Brooks, George, Saul, Wiggs, etc.

Jimmie Hammel said...

The publishing world is in such a state of upheaval right now. I find it fascinating.

Legacy publishers have been dealing hands with a stacked deck for years, then Amazon came in and tossed all the cards in the air. Now authors, publishers, and distributors are all scrambling around and trying to make the best hand that they can.

In the end, the people who will win are the ones who are able to create the best (and most convenient) product for the least amount of money.

This is capitalism at its finest.

T. Roger Thomas said...

Good luck with the new book!

Selena Kitt said...

Ooooohhh! A new-to-me author... $0.99 story... apocalyptic cults!? Parisian catacombs?! Oh noooz! Must one-click!

Damnit Joe. You better stop with these guest blog posts. I'll never meet my danged deadlines at this rate! :P

Skeleton Key will be coming to the UK and Australia very, very soon. Had to jump through some legal hoops. Complicated reasons why.

That's one good thing about self-publishing. Immediate world-wide rights with no territory restrictions. :)

Shéa MacLeod said...

First, I heart James Rollins (In a writer/reader way, not an I'm going to stalk him way.). I've been a huge fan since the day I discovered Sandstorm in the library. Thanks for featuring him, Joe.

Second, I am irked that Amazon won't let me purchase The Skeleton Key (I'm in the UK.). Not even a pre-purchase. Annoying.

Finally, I would love, love, LOVE to buy The Devil Colony for Kindle. But $14.99? Are they freaking nuts? There is no way they're going to convince me that $14.99 is a justifiable price point for an ebook. And believe me, I've bought Rollins novels in Hardback. I'm that kind of fan. Thank you, no. I'd rather give James Rollins the $2 he'd be missing out on and wait for the paperback on Amazon. Though I would never give a one star review based on price. That's just mean.

What I HATE is that it's the writer (and in some ways the reader) that suffers from this stupidity of pricing.

Brandon Wood said...

"I have to wonder how long it will be before bestselling authors begin to realize that even with large advances, they're losing money long term..."

By the time it's too late, I imagine. Not that you can ever be "too late" in the world of indie publishing, but you're probably going to be kicking yourself in the ass for a while when your publishing house (a) screws you over (b) went bankrupt a while back and you haven't seen a check from them in a loooong time (c) keeps getting your money for your hard-earned work years after they have stopped promoting, editing, packaging, etc etc the book.

Can I rant for just a moment? I listened to a podcast of traditionally published authors talking about indie publishing, and they focused heavily on how authors are going to make money in this new world of publishing. They were bitching and moaning about how authors in indie publishing lose out on advances, and talked about ideas of how to continue getting advances in the e-publishing arena. Now, congrats to you, Joe and Barry, for your Amazon book deals that included advances. That is wonderful and I am not the sort of person to begrudge someone else's success. That said, it pissed me off that a group of writers in that podcast were sitting around complaining about how they were going to survive without their huge advances. Um, I have an idea: how about you try writing more than one book every few years and actually, you know, work like the rest of us have to? Besides, Dean Wesley Smith has done the math on his blog and, more likely than not, your advance isn't going to be much more than you'd make doing it yourself, and you could in fact wind up earning less money when all's said and done.

Tyson Adams said...

James - it is tough being an Aussie fan of yours. Your new short story, Black Order and Map of Bones aren't available on Kindle to us Aussies. Can you give the guys at Harper a shove?

Jacklyn Cornwell said...

Even with advances, even from the small boutique publishers, there is no guarantee of getting paid in a timely fashion. Quarterly to some publishers means sending out a quarterly statement 6-9 months after the quarter ended. I'm still half a year behind on my quarterly payments from my publishers, but don't have that problem with the book I just self-published. Those funds turn around fairly quickly and *gasp* on time without the usual accounting shenanigans and excuses about too much to do and too little time to do it in.

Christina Garner said...

I'm so interested to know how this royalty split works out for the author.

I'm also anxious to read the story! I did the underground in Naples, but didn't know it existed at the time I went to Paris. I'll def check it out on my next trip.

Megg Jensen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shéa MacLeod said...

Now James Rollins' new short story has completely disappeared from the Amazon UK site. ???

TremoluxMan said...

Just read all three parts of your discussion. Truly an eye-opener. I'm a first time author, but it's something I've wanted to do for a very long time. The point that stands out through it all is that writers have to think on their feet and not deal in absolutes when it comes to publishing and marketing. Our primary goal with our work is to get it into the hands of readers and make money in the process. To that end, we should want to find ways that accomplish those goals in the shortest, most efficient ways possible. Like you say, nothing should be an 'either-or' proposition. If the fastest way is epublishing, then I'll do it. If there's some sort of hybrid deal, then I'll go with that. I'll go with whomever gives me the best and fairest deal and the most return for my efforts.
My problem is that at the moment, I write in a genre that has a fairly limited market, Westerns. I suppose I could come up with an androgynous vampire cowboy wizard romance, but I can't really get my head into it. Maybe I can build a following with the quality of my writing and historical accuracy.

TremoluxMan said...

What an idiot I am. My comment above was meant for a different discussion. Is my face red or what?
*slinks away all embarrassed*

Jacklyn Cornwell said...

Don't be too embarrassed, Tremolux, because there is one point to clear up. Westerns always sell and people always want good western stories. No need to jazz it up with wizards, vampires or other paranormals. Just write the best western you can.

Kiara Ashanti said...

Hello Joe. Since reading your blog, it has inspired me to get off my duff, a little bit. I say little, because I always wanted to write a novel and other books, but had not really done so. Now I have co-authored a non-fiction book, that is now up for sale via Nook and Kindle. It's not the grand novel yet, but it is a start. I plan on releasing two other NF books, and then knocking out a fiction novel. Thanks for the kick in the rear that you didn't know you gave me. lol

Kiara Ashanti

norm cowie said...

I'm really glad you highlighted James Rollins. Besides being an awesome big-time writer, he's a class guy who, even with time constraints, does his best to help the little guys.

I'd never met him and he still wrote a fantastic blurb for my YA book Fang Face.

So it's not surprising in the least he raises money for The Humane Society.



horror and suspense said...

Profit margins for authors of paper format books are indeed low. It only makes sense for writers to drift towards ebook publishing