Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The End is Nigh

If you follow publishing, you know the first self-pubbed author to sell 1 million ebooks, John Locke, just signed a print deal with Simon & Schuster. But it's a unique one. Locke keeps all of his erights. His agent, Jane Dystel (who is also my agent) brokered the deal.

And make no mistake. This is an important, landmark deal. One that no one could have predicted.

Well, no one except me sixteen months ago.

This is an important deal, because up until now publishers steadfastly refused to give up erights.

But now they have. And there is no turning back.

Here are some things we'll see happening soon.

Big authors will fight to keep their erights. They can make 70% on their own vs 17.5% through a publisher. They have the leverage, and will use it. If Locke, whose print sales numbers are unproven and open to speculation, can demand to keep his erights, Stephen King and James Patterson will make the same demands. They're watching Locke, and Pottermore. If enough Big Authors follow suit, the Big 6 won't be able to recover.

Publishers will start offering better royalties for erights. They have to. But they'll never be able to offer better than 70%. As I've stated for years, the value of a publisher is their lock on print distribution. When print distribution doesn't matter because print sales are so tiny, there will be no reason for any author to sign with the Big 6.

Print sales will dwindle even more. Ebooks already outsell print. After this holiday season, watch for more bookstore closings.

Publishers will start folding. It's inevitable.

What S&S did with Locke was a ballsy move, but also a desperate one. It's desperate, because they are hastening their own demise, and are just trying to make a few more bucks before it all falls apart. Not to get all Godwin's Law here, but there is a Vichy French analogy to be had. S&S is going to try to make a few bucks from Locke, whose business model is ultimately going to put them out of business.

There is going to be a window where publishers cherry-pick self-pubbed authors and sign them for various rights. This is happening right now. I believe it is a mistake to sign with a Big 6 publisher, because the money an author can earn on print through the Big 6 is tiny compared to the money they'll lose on ebooks through the Big 6. Now, if you're offered a huge amount from the Big 6, take it and run--just try to get that money upfront.

Another window will have established authors abandoning publishers. This is also happening right now. More and more midlist authors are wading into the self-pub pool and finding the waters to their liking.

The first window will eventually close. The second will only open wider.

Publishing can't survive. It just can't. It is no longer necessary.

Now some may say, "But the Big 6 are professionals! We need professionals! We need gatekeepers! We need vetters! We'll all suffer without them!"

I say: Wikipedia.

Encyclopedias used to be big business. Professionals were hired to write about topics, and many a family (including my parents) were coerced into buying large, bound volumes of information.

But Wikipedia showed that regular people are happy to share their expertise, and constantly update it, for free. The professionals weren't needed anymore, and Wikipedia has become the goto place to learn about stuff.

Writers don't need the Big 6 to release good books. We can do it without them, and make more money.

As I'd anticipated, print has become a subsidiary right. A niche market. Publishers will try to milk a few last drops of profit from it, and then they'll go bye-bye.

At least, the old school publishers will.

New school publishers, like Amazon, are primed to exploit this brave new world. They now control the distribution network. Watch as Amazon becomes the biggest publisher in the world.

But even the mighty Amazon has something to fear.

This week, Blake Crouch and I will post a dialog about the future of publishing. About who really has the power.

It might surprise you.


jeroentenberge said...

Can't wait to read the conversation. Hope Luther pops in to share his thoughts on the matter...

Rob Cornell said...

You tease!

Rob Cornell
Author of Darker Things

Anonymous said...

If wikipedia is your idea of crowning success, then the future of ebooks is a bleak one. The information there is sketchy and unvetted. It's often wrong, and even, on occasion altered intentionally by someone who thinks it's funny.

If anything wikipedia shows the futility of that open system.

Jake said...

Disintermediation & Creative Destruction are terrible forces to behold


Shelly Thacker said...

The future may be bleak for the Big 6, but it gets brighter for authors every day. We have so many options now, there's never been a better time to be a writer!

Edward G Gordon said...

I couldn't agree more but I'm shocked to hear that John has gone traditonal. I thought he was firmly against going traditional.

I'm hoping to be self published soon and I have no intention of subjecting myself to the demands of a publisher or his accountant. (Even if I was successful enough to warrant such an offer)

I'm looking forward to reading your "mystery" conversation post. It sounds interesting. Don't keep me waiting too long lol.

Mashiyyat said...

The power will be in the hand of the readers when all is said and done. That is how it should be though, don't you think? I really need to stop staring at a blank page or wordpad and get my ass up to.. uh... sit down and start writing. There is more and more bright news to offer hope of a nobody to come out of nowhere and make it i really got to stop wasting time.

Jim Thomsen said...

Ugh. John Locke hasn't "gone traditional." The S&S deal is all about print DISTRIBUTION. Locke hasn't given up his rights at all. According to everything I've read, Locke, not S&S, controls the rights and therefore has final veto power on every aspect of design, layout and production.

Locke, as he has always done, simply exploited an inefficiency in the market and took advantage of it to the hilt. It's brilliant. The risk is all Simon & Schuster's.

I'm pissed off, but not surprised, to see how this is being spun. The L.A. Times ran a blog item yesterday, widely linked, with the headline: "SELF-PUBLISHING PHENOMENON GOES TRADITIONAL."

Bullshit. This deal is ANYTHING but traditional.

Nancy Beck said...

I couldn't agree more but I'm shocked to hear that John has gone traditonal. I thought he was firmly against going traditional.

He was firmly trad...until he turned the terms to his advantage. If S&S refused Locke's demands that he keep the e-rights, the deal would've been DOA.

Kate Avery Ellison said...

This deal with John Locke (I always think of LOST when I say or type his name, hehe) is a really interesting development.

I have tons of questions now, like:

How will (physical) book distribution change if the publishers became obsolete--ie, school reading lists, libraries, brick and mortar stores? These things will have to significantly change. Do you think they will become more open to accepting indies? Will the concept of an indie become obsolete as well due to everyone becoming one, or will we see the rise of some kind of hybrid compromise that replaces the publishers we have now but still distributes physical books in a way most indie authors cannot? Is everyone just going to end up having an ereader at some point?

I'm fascinated to see how this all turns out.

I don't necessarily think a decision like John Locke's is a bad one ... he retains all his e-rights, which a lot of people think is the future anyway, and through print distribution he gets added exposure for now, until the big publishers crumble (or if they don't ... then he's still in a good place since he has a deal with them).

JA Konrath said...

If anything wikipedia shows the futility of that open system.

And yet billions of people a day disagree with you.

Wikipedia has shown that people can manage information on their own, and then access it, and vet for themselves.

YouTube has shown that people can upload and watch video, and vet for themselves.

Ebooks are just more of the same. You can lament it all you want, but it is the future, and it ain't going away.

Ellis Jackson said...

I really can't wait for it to happen. Yes, it's tough for a first timer like me, but it's better to earn a few bucks here and there for my work (and hope that one day the few bucks become many bucks) than to beg and scrape for some jumped up publisher with perceived power to say "yes". Locke hasn't "gone with" a publisher, he's convinced someone to pay him to sell paper books. his e-rights aren't affected at all, so for him there is literally no risk. he gets an advance, he could get more but he loses...nothing.

There is an article in the UK's Guardian today which theorises that all e-writers will end up giving their wares away for nothing. What would you rather read: a poorly spelled, badly written and edited free book, or a good book, with an exciting storyline and tight editing for $2.99? the answer is simple.

Mark LaFlamme said...

Pretty sure I remember Joe predicting the 8-23-11 earthquake, too. And an eloquent quatrain it was, too.
'The future of publishing' has an ominous ring to it. Looking forward to the dialogue.

JA Konrath said...

I don't necessarily think a decision like John Locke's is a bad one

Bad? It's a terrific deal for him.

For print pubs, not so much. They're trying to sell a few more drinks before the Titanic sinks.

Kelly DeWitt said...

I see traditional publishing being turned into the vanity press of the future - hardcovers and paperbacks will still be issued for the hardcore collectors, people who love to have books in their hands, or something to display on shelves. (I still buy quite a few books for the dust jacket artwork alone - my version of a mini-gallery. =) I figure as eBooks become the common version of the way people read, the traditional publishers will switch to fewer, but higher priced "special" editions to satisfy that market. So I don't see traditional publishing disappearing, but if smart, changing their model to suit the ironic flip to the other side of the coin, to author-power from publisher-power.

Gerald said...

HaHa! It's win/win for Locke. As he freely admits, he's primarily a marketer, not a writer, and therefore he is not swayed by the traditional write / submit / reject merry-go-round. And good luck to him.

The end won't be a precipitous cliff, after which there is nothing: more a gradual decline, with some steep drops every now again when one publisher after another goes out of business, or "changes their business model". Watch out for huge publishing layoffs.

Nice post, as always, Joe.

JA Konrath said...

It's worth noting that a year ago today I got roasted by Publishers Weekly for signing with Amazon Encore for Shaken.

Publishers Weakly

I called the move a game changer. And I was right, the nay-sayers were wrong. Now Amazon is signing a lot of midlist and bestselling writers.

This Locke deal is another game changer, and it will mean more of the same.

Jim Crigler said...

There may be an analogy with the movie industry. Originally, studios owned all rights, vertically. I.e., the studios owned production, distribution and theaters. The monopoly was broken up in 1949 by the government.

Of course, the analogy is imperfect because the breakup of the Big 6 is due to market forces vis-à-vis government decree, difference in creation and production costs, etc., but the result will be similar (if you paint with a broad enough brush).

Amy said...

While I do agree, there are some ironies here. The one thing that publishers have been able to offer is EDITING. Not just one round of editing, but multiple rounds and then a final copy edit with a different editor (fresh eyes).

Now plenty of indie authors are paying for editing services (including me), it's difficult to pay for multiple rounds of editing and then a second/different editor for the final proofing.

And then there is the cost of getting a professional cover.

Hence so many "services" springing up that offer editing, covers, etc. Which are, in effect, doing what publishers used to do for authors. The difference being one-time fees versus a continual bite out of your paycheck, ad nauseum.

I have a day job in the computer industry and there are so many parallels here. We started with mainframes, then went to LANS, now the big deal is virtualization, which is essentially mainframe-like systems hosting things. So we've gone full circle only goosed it up/morphed the services a bit.

Same with publishing. As this e-book thing matures, authors are having to shell out one-time fees to get the same services they used to get from a publisher, in effect, recreating the same model with a few morphs, mostly in the areas of money flow.

I can see a time coming when services flourish to cater to these requirements. They won't be called "publishers" but they'll do most of the services of a traditional publisher, except the money flows out of the pocket of the author and not into it. The vanity publishing model on steroids. Whether the author then makes any money on his/her ebook is a matter of luck and how much handwaving, "Me! Look at Me!", they can stomach.

Not that I'm negative about this--hey, I think it's great and offers amazing new opportunities. But I'm also aware that there are costs to producing a quality product. Costs that someone has to bear. Now, it's publishers. In the future...well...I guess it's the authors.

Wow--this turned out to be a lot more negative than I wanted it to be. I'm happy about the changes, believe me. Although I don't want to see publishers go away. And I think they may still stick around for some types of books.

Changes, both good and bad, are definitely working their way through the system.

Unknown said...

But won't publishers just change their stripes and become book marketers like Iuniverse? What about people who publish specialized technical or medical books? I think there will always be publishers of some sort just like there a still a few folks who make horseshoes

Joshua James said...

I'm not surprised this has happened, but surprised it's not a bestselling print author making this type of demand (no offense to John, of course) first ... is it possible some of them already have but haven't spoken of it publicly?

Adam Pepper said...

Hey Joe,

There's finally someone more hated by the Big 6 than you: The corporate suits at S&S!

Congratulations to John Locke. This is a great deal for him and without a doubt, a sign that the gates are really coming down! Any writer not doing everything they can to connect directly with an audience is simply a misguided fool.

. said...

Awesome post. As a self published author, I too saw this coming. The rules are changing.

Angela Brown said...

So much is changing in the publishing industry that it's a wonder the Big 6 still insist on a 12 to 18 month process for releases.

Corey W. Williams said...

I was really surprised when I heard the news about John Locke, just because of how fantastic the deal was for him. It's definitely a symbol for how much the business has changed in just the past few years.

One thing is for sure though: I think we can all look forward to a future where authors have more options and more control than they ever could have dreamed. They already have a lot of options now and it's just gonna get better for us. I'm personally very glad to be self-publishing at such a significant time, and I think the next few years are going to be very interesting for writers.

David Wisehart said...

Most of the big publishing companies will survive...but not as publishing companies.

Sure, they'll still be publishing some books, but not in the volumes of the past.

Mostly they'll be distributors.

Great for writers. And great for readers.


Brett Battles said...

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I love this move. The dam has cracked, and no amount of patching will stop what's coming.

Caroline Gerardo said...

A year ago I said the parallel lies with the music business.
It is an amazing time to be a writer. Can't wait to turn the next page, oh, click

Sharper13x said...

Another genie out of its bottle so soon. This is happening fast, isn't it?

If traditionals are forgoing ebooks altogether (which this deal has more or less committed the whole industry to doing, eventually), I don't think that means they necessarily go away. But absolutely they will get SMALLER, real fast. The consolidation and lay-offs coming in an industry that will no longer be able to justify its payroll (or pay it) will be devastating.

With the fact that ebooks now outsell print, by giving up on ebooks, they are essentially cutting the traditional business in half (more or less). And whatever that percentage for print is now, it will only shrink.

This Industry, and all involved it it, are white water raft to the future.

my word verification is "phings," which I believe is British for "things."

frank palardy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Johnson said...

It's been moving in this direction for some time. My only concern is the quality of editing we'll see outside the Big 6. I not only write, I read a hell of a lot, and I have spent good money on books that looked interesting only to find I couldn't read them because of sloppy editing. Good grief, I need a professional editor or my books will look like the rest of the junk out there. Good editors don't come cheap!

David Gaughran said...

@Edward G Gordon

John Locke hasn't "gone traditional". He hasn't even signed over any rights. He will remain the publisher of the print editions. Effectively, he is hiring Simon & Schuster to distribute and sell the books. There is no "publishing" contract, there is a distribution contract.

That - for me - is what is truly amazing about this deal. Not only has he got a major publisher to do what they said they never would - a print only deal - but he has done it without signing over the rights. Amazing.

I.J.Parker said...

Well, OK, some of this is true.

Wikipedia is amazingly reliable on those subjects that get a lot of vetting. It's not so good on others, and in those areas it must be verified from scholarly print sources.

The deal with S&S happens only to star authors. Most midlist authors, the ones who suffer most from publishing houses and their treatment of authors, will not get those deals. They'll have to choose between print publication or e-pub. And print publication is still a good thing, as long as there are readers who want books and reviewers who refuse to read electronic versions. Somehow they'll end up shafted again.

James Piper said...

Great post. Interesting & major development in the biz.

James Piper
Author of The Protectors
Twitter: @JamesPiperCA

Dustin Scott Wood said...

Wow. This is a seismic move on the part of a publisher. Could it be that S&S have felt the wind change direction and are trying to get ahead of the storm? This could be something of a test run for them to see if it could work with other sucessful indie writers thereby opening a potential new business model.

At any rate, congrats to Locke!

tmastgrave said...

Wow, this is a huge step! I have to admit that I'm looking forward to the future. I like wikipedia, and other wiki's that I've used. They can be a good source for general information. However, I constantly have to remind my students that wikis cannot be used as academic sources.

Michael E. Walston said...

It appears that a lot of us saw this coming. Honestly, why would anyone give up their e-rights?

Mary Stella said...

I can't agree about Wikipedia as a reliable source of information -- not when anyone can go onto a page and input information without citing sources or verifying that what they've posted is accurate.

I have reminder alerts set for twice a month to check the Wikipedia page for the company where I'm employed so that I can correct mistakes in what other people not affiliated with us have posted.

Yes, this means that I'm vetting the info. However, the Wikipedia user has no way to know whether, at any given time on any day, they're absorbing correct information. It all depends on whether they read the page before I did.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Yeah, I couldn't help but notice that something is changing, Joe. Before 2010 I was making less than $300 a year from my books. Total.

In 2010 I earned $4,743 from Kindle sales alone. For the first seven months of 2011 I've already earned $20,633.

The balance of power is shifting. Big time. ;)

Gary Ponzo said...

The John Locke deal will create an opportunity for well established authors to garner higher percentages for their ebook rights. The publishers are losing their leverage with every Kindle that's sold.

hendrik said...

On this blog or in an interview, I believe you said you admired Cormac McCarthy's work. What should the new Cormac McCarthy's of this world do in the present state of publishing chaos? How does a reclusive writer who abhors quotation marks and cannot be pigeonholed in a genre get noticed?

I am such a writer. And there are many more out there as bemused as I am.

I've been following your blog, and others, for more than a year and consider you by far the clearest-eyed prognosticator on the future of publishing. But the fate of so-called literary writers or genre writers who are not, and do not want to become, entrepreneurs is rarely, if ever, addressed.

There are writers who have much to contribute to literature, but for whom entrepreneurship is not an option. It would be sad indeed if their contributions are lost because their voices cannot compete with the loudest barkers in the carnival.


Anonymous said...

wikipedia is free to the reader - is this the future of enovel?

Lee Child said...

Joe said: "When print distribution doesn't matter because print sales are so tiny ... Ebooks already outsell print ... "

Just a minor point, but this isn't my experience. I do OK with e-books (in fact I made it to the Kindle Million club well before John Locke) but for my latest title (which has been out 10 months, through hardcover, premium mass market paperback, digital, etc, etc) I'm selling 80% print and 20% e-book - in the U.S., that is, with correspondingly fewer e-book sales in foreign territories.

I think 10 months is representative of the current market, and a decent window to examine. Obviously e-book outsells print for me during the first few hours of release, but then it balances out to 50-50 in the first week or so, and then print pulls away thereafter.

So I think John's move is smart - I certainly wouldn't want to pass up 80% of my U.S. sales.

JL Bryan said...

I'm already looking forward to the Konrath/Crouch post later in the week...

Graham Strong said...

Hi Joe,

You are at the vanguard of this movement, and you are naturally one of its experts. However I disagree that at this point anyone can say that it is "inevitable" that all publishers will fail. Here are three reasons why I think this:

Paper-based books aren't necessarily dead yet -- Yes, the trend is towards ebooks, but it is still early days. It may well be that they do disappear completely, but I don't think that model has been completely tested. I know a lot of people who prefer "real" books to ebooks. Unless (or until) real books meet there demise, traditional publishers will have a role.

Publishers still have time to change -- Big corporations by definition don't change quickly. But there is still a chance that publishers will create their own ebook delivery model and skip Amazon altogether.

Amazon *is* a publisher -- you point out yourself in this post. Therefore, the Big 6 could meet its demise, but there can (and will) be something there to replace it. For example, Amazon might start weeding out weaker books, putting increasingly greater restrictions on "self-published" authors (this is already happening), and promoting books it feels will bring more money for them -- in short, everything a traditional publisher does within its own walls today.

You might be spot on Joe, and it certainly looks like that's the direction we're headed. But I think it's too early to tell with any certainty.

I'm looking forward to the dialog with Blake Crouch you've hinted at.


Anonymous said...

What I find amazing is how all the readers of your blog (and a good deal more I'm sure) are obviously very well aware of the impact the ebook industry is having in the world of books, and it's easy to take for granted that everyone in the world is as aware as we are.

Frightening, then, to realise that there is still a great deal of people, readers and writers, who either seem oblivious to ebooks or believe this revolution is nothing more than a fad.

Thus, "The End is Nigh" and may be coming a lot quicker than expected as everyone else catches up, as it were.

Christopher Hudson said...

The publishing world is changing fast, for sure, but it still comes down to marketing ... no marketing, no $$.

Anonymous said...

One thing I was unclear about the Locke deal is the article said he would retain editing rights, but I didn't know if that was only for his ebooks or also the print books. -- does anyone know?

Michelle Muto said...

This is huge! Every month or two it seems there are changes within the publishing world. It used to be that changes were MUCH slower - or am I not recalling these milestones correctly?

Can't wait to read your next post, Joe.

Larry Kollar said...

I'd bet S&S is still thinking "eBook = flash in the pan" and figured giving up the eBook rights was a cheap price to pay to secure a proven winner.

Looking forward to the dialog…

Gary Ponzo said...

Pretty nice having Lee Child chime in, huh? I wonder who else is lurking out there with their finger in the air testing the winds of change.

Gary Ponzo said...

And by lurking, I simply mean following Joe's blog. That sounded sinister somehow.

Adam Pepper said...


Forgiving the fact that you have come out of nowhere and compared yourself to one of the most brilliant writers on the planet, what makes you think that reclusive, literary types who arent great at selling themselves and their work are faring any better with trade publishing?

Anonymous said...

John Locke sells .99 pulp ebooks. These will not be successful in print. His star will soon fade on Amazon, and S&S are fools.

Kathleenshoop said...

NYT best-selling author CJ Lyons was having less success selling her indie books and then she dropped her price to .99 and voila--she's number 2 in kindle top 100. She still has trad. Pubbed books along with others.

From what I read it was when she changed her approach to be more along the lines of what indie authors have done that her sales have taken off on kindle. That's just what I read. Maybe Lee is not selling in ebooks as well as his print for some other reason than people still primarily buy print???

Either way he sells huge numbers!

Anonymous said...

I just looked, and most of Mr. Child's books are $9.99, with one or two exceptions. His forthcoming novel is priced at $13.99 on Kindle, which is only .74 cents less than the hardcover price. What is cool, though, is his $1.99 short story now ranks #4 in the entire Kindle store. I'll wager that if he controlled his catalog and could sell in the $2.99-$3.99 range, his numbers would be amazing.

Romain Combes said...

Joe, when I first read the title of your post, I thought you were talking about this article from the Guardian :

It is entitled "Are books dead, and can authors survive?", and the author presents a completely dark vision of the future of publishing and self-publishing. Reading your article right after this one provided an interesting perspective to me.

Michael said...

Are the big six goners? Some, yes, some, no. The smart ones will adapt and continue to make money. The others who are less flexible, they won't be around. The marketplace changes but there is always someone at the top.

I imagine many indie authors will find that they can make a comfortable living on their own, but others, those who just want to write and leave the rest to *professionals, they will find publishers waiting to offer their services.

As long as everyone gets fair treatment and fair monetary compensation, who cares if there is a big six, a big three or a big ten?

Anonymous said...

"John Locke sells .99 pulp ebooks. These will not be successful in print. His star will soon fade on Amazon, and S&S are fools."

Of course he won't be successful in print. Neither will Amanda Hocking. But that's not the point. In Locke's case, he retains full control over the side of his business where he makes the bulk of his money. S&S will just handle the print side, and he walks away with whatever advance they paid. It's a no-brainer deal for him.

Hocking, on the other hand, signed away the rights for all of her 'Twilight-esq' books and is about to see what life is like when you're no longer a $.99 impulse buy.

Hocking mistook her $.99 success to mean she was a good writer and could hang with the pros. Unfortunately, reality is about to come knocking.

Locke knows he's just a marketer and doens't seem to have an ego. I'm sure he realizes his books are crap, but that doesn't matter. He saw an opening, and he took advantage of it. This new development is yet another brilliant move by someone who knows exactly where his place is in this new publishing world.

hendrik said...

Adam Pepper,

I am no Cormac McCarthy. The fact that you interpreted my post in that way proves it. My apologies to all for the implication.

As for your question, that's my point. If the end is nigh for legacy publishers, what happens to the Cormac McCarthys of the future?

Anonymous said...

"Hocking mistook her $.99 success to mean she was a good writer and could hang with the pros. Unfortunately, reality is about to come knocking. "

Who are the pros? Stuart Woods? David Baldacci? Brad Meltzer? So much crap is published in NYC that the Big 6 have to start a new pile everyday.

David Gaughran said...


I haven't read John Locke's books. But if I had, and wasn't fond of them, I wouldn't be so arrogant as to extrapolate some kind of objective quality from my subjective opinion.

For the record, Hocking shifted a huge amount of books at $2.99 too.

And to proclaim that both will be a failure in print is laughable. They have sold a couple of million e-books between them when around three-quarters of the market can't buy their books.

Ignorance and disrespect is quite a combination.

Anonymous said...

@David Gaughran

Hocking might get some traction. Locke will not. He cannot sell his print books for .99. If he changed his ebooks to even $2.99 he would slide very rapidly.

Adam Pepper said...


Sorry if I was taking a shot at you. My point is that what makes you think all the great writers are being discovered in the current system? There are many worthy writers that are going unnoticed. As someone who's toiled away for years and hasn't broken through the traditional way, I have to believe there are many writers out there who may have the talent, but havent caught a break. Could be bad luck. Could be the writer has the talent but not the drive. Could be a wide variety of reasons. I've come to believe the Cormac McCarthy's of the future have a better shot working on their own than they do trying to rise up through gigantic slush piles read by unpaid interns who are overloaded with other tasks and generally treat slush with equal parts dread and humor. It's a tough road any which way. If the work is truly special, I think readers are every bit as capable of spotting it, and perhaps even more eager to than overworked, underpaid editors.

MT Nickerson said...

With such a title as "The End is Nigh" I find my willpower is not equal to holding in the impulse to contribute, "Resistance is Futile".

(Sorry, not constructive and I really tried to add something useful earlier, but resist- yeah, I know, overkill)

I'll go back to lurking (in a non sinister manner, so no worries Mr. Ponzo).

Sean McCartney said...

Joe, What about those of us with better than average print and ebook deals but need the type of distribution to get the name out there. I am speaking from a YA/MG perspective. Wouldn't it help to be with a big publisher? It is difficult to promote to kids in 4-6 grade even if they have the technology.


Jude Hardin said...

I'm selling 80% print and 20% e-book - in the U.S., that is, with correspondingly fewer e-book sales in foreign territories.

Interesting, Lee! But you have to remember you're in a completely different league than most of us. As a whole, the industry is headed toward a flip-flop of those numbers, I think, making ebooks where our marketing energies should be primarily focused.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Locke knows he's just a marketer and doesn't seem to have an ego. I'm sure he realizes his books are crap, but that doesn't matter. He saw an opening, and he took advantage of it.

I haven't read any of John's books, but book publishing guru Mike Shatzkin has convinced me that I want to. Mike is always talking about the latest Locke book he's read and how much he loves it.

hendrik said...

Adam Pepper,

I agree that luck has always played a large role and that many deserving writers are overlooked. But I do believe that the current system still harbors a small cadre of dedicated people -- most probably Brown & Vassar interns -- who scour the slush piles for the next Faulkner and occasionally rescue one.

My fear is that with the demise of legacy publishing challenging works by real talents will become more orphaned than they already are, that it will lose its last champion, and that it will be all genre all the time. This thread in this blog is an example. Yes, it is a blog by a genre author primarily concerned with genre matters. The ebook revolution itself seems to be genre-centric and therein lies the rub. Of all the commenters to this blog and many others, you and I appear to be the only ones who mourn.


David Gaughran said...


I am not dismissing your concerns, but I think you should have a little more faith in readers' ability to find the diamond in the rough.

The e-book revolution only seems genre-centric because those are the readers who switched first. (In fact, a few years back, you could have said that the e-book revolution was romance-centric, but I digress.)

The first self-publishers to start making decent money all seemed to be writing romance or thrillers (or erotica). The next wave seemed to be fantasy and science fiction guys.

This makes sense, as these were the readers that switched to e-books first.

Non-fiction readers haven't switched in numbers yet. Either have literary or historical readers. But they will. And then those writers will enjoy their day in the sun.

I think you might be overplaying the importance of an ability to market in relation to the ability to write a very good book. Marketing is important, yes, it helps those first passionate readers find you who then do the heavy lifting in terms of spreading the word.

But if you don't have a good book, that word won't spread far anyway.

Conversely, if you have written a great book, but have no ability or inclination to market, I believe that word will eventually get out - if the book really is that good.

Readers love "discovering" great new writers, and they love sharing those discoveries with their friends.

In fact, that process is the only thing that has every really sold books: word-of-mouth.

I think it's easier for that word to spread today. I think the future is very bright.

Simon Haynes said...

It sounds like a good move by Locke. There are still two markets out there, print and ebook, and if you're selling in ebook only why not take some extra cash from the other side?
This does illustrate the problem of picking someone and making them an unwitting poster child of the revolution. I've seen a few comments saying how could he?, I thought he was anti- big 6, etc, etc, when the truth is he's allowed to make his own decisions and change his mind when he needs to.

Jude Hardin said...

But I do believe that the current system still harbors a small cadre of dedicated people -- most probably Brown & Vassar interns -- who scour the slush piles for the next Faulkner and occasionally rescue one.

What's stopping the next Faulkner from self-publishing or striking a deal with Amazon or whatever? With ebooks, s/he will probably find a wider audience and make more money than they would with a traditional contract.

The ebook version of The Sound and the Fury ($9.99) is currently #3,905 in the Kindle Store; the paperback ($8.75) is currently #2,265 in books. Basically neck-to-neck, so it's not just genre fiction that sells well digitally. Ebooks are the future across the board.

hendrik said...

@David Gaughran & Jude Hardin

Thank you for the encouragement, the optimist in me has taken a beating lately, but your words are heartening.


Melissa Douthit said...

Good post, Joe! Looking forward to your next one!

Rex Kusler said...

I work for a high tech company in Silicon Valley. The world leader in our field. I asked the project manager I was working for at the time about a new process we were developing equipment for. He brought me a printout about it from Wikipedia.

Jonathan said...

"Hocking mistook her $.99 success to mean she was a good writer and could hang with the pros. Unfortunately, reality is about to come knocking."

As opposed to, say, Stephenie Meyer, who will surely win a Pullitzer some day soon?

Beyond a certain minimum standard, quality of writing seems to have little to do with success. And in Hocking's case, hers is a traditional publishing deal. She'll have help from editors.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why everyone holds Hocking up as their default for a bad indie writer traitor, but she is a good story teller. She's got the goods to pull it out and she's young which means we've got a long way to go before you've seen the last of her. Also, she's already proven herself on the indie field, it doesn't matter if this book deal works or does not work -- she's done it once and she can do it again.

Everyone's old cynicism/envy is really getting tired.

Anonymous said...

Jeez. What to think? I'm the person who works at Costco & only yesterday was reading the in-house magazine blurb about the Costco Book Buyer"s Best Picks." They seem to have cut a deal with J. Patterson to feature his book in this internationally distributed magazine and sell it at a high discount all over the globe. What SP process could compete with that? Would Justin Cronin have gotten three million for yet another, good god, vampire book, without an agent and publisher willing to send him on a monster publicity tour?
Will Amazon offer this kind of promos to SP'ers? Don't see how.
Not to mention the captive audiences in airports and big boxes for cheap copies of legacy press's superstars and their current and old books.

wannabuy said...

"More and more midlist authors are wading into the self-pub pool and finding the waters to their liking. "

Not all by choice. Either way, this is pulling their reader base to ereaders. :) Most readers read more than one genre which pulls more authors to ereaders which starts the cycle again.

@DavidG:"The e-book revolution only seems genre-centric because those are the readers who switched first. "

Exactly! What is dangerous about John Locke's new deal is people will buy and read his print books and then discover he was an e-book sensation... Gee, why wouldn't they buy an ereader or tablet to expand? Great books will find a market...

I feel for bookstores. I loved spending time in them. But I love more what ebooks are doing for reading.

BTW, loving the Google cloud reader! I left my Kindle (I'll get it back Friday) because I couldn't put my book down and err... I put my book down. But I have my laptop! :) :) :) This is now a must have feature (HTML5 access to books).


Jim Bronyaur said...

Wild times yet again. And they'll just keep getting more and more wild.

The bottom line is that authors have more options and the smart ones, the good ones, are finding ways to explore all those options and demanding what's best.

No longer do authors beg for publishers... publishers will beg for authors.

And I agree with some comments here - perhaps the big publishers will stay, but they won't be real publishers. They'll be partners is the book creation process (helping with all the little annoying things we do all the time) for a small cut.

I'm okay with that.

And congrats to John for his deal. He has not "sold out" or gone "trad" - he found a distributor. Kudos to him.


wannabuy said...

@Josephenewade:"Everyone's old cynicism/envy is really getting tired."

Yep. Locke and Hawking will do very well.

Just think, if Amanda or John had tried to go traditional the old fashioned way, the *best* they could have done was to have their print books come out when they are... Without all that icky ebook income. ; )


Marie Simas said...

As opposed to, say, Stephenie Meyer, who will surely win a Pullitzer some day soon?


Beer shot out my nose!

JA Konrath said...

Obviously e-book outsells print for me during the first few hours of release, but then it balances out to 50-50 in the first week or so, and then print pulls away thereafter.

Hi, Lee. Always good to hear from you.

You know that you're one of the ten authors in the world who has numbers like that.

I've sold about 400,000 self pubbed ebooks in 18 months. That's not too bad compared to you, but I doubt I've sold 500,000 print in my entire career, and you have no doubt smoked that number.

As print becomes a smaller overall market, and more bookstores close, you too will see your ebooks outselling print. But when that starts to happen, I have no doubt you'll be prepared for either a long talk with your publisher about much higher royalties, or keeing the erights for yourself.

But for 99% of writers, a print deal that includes ebooks will wind up being a bad deal. Locke's deal is extraordinary in that regard.

It will be interesting to see how he does in print, but ultimately it doesn't matter. Print has become for him, and for most of us, a subsidiary right.

S. M. Boyce said...


*Fades to black*

You're really inspiring, Konrath. Thanks for these posts.

Melissa F. Miller said...

@Lee Child,
Your numbers are skewed toward print because your publisher charges too much for your ebooks. And I say this as a HUGE fan. I've read every Jack Reacher book and have purchased several in hard cover.

Those hard covers are pricey, but when I finish the book, I lend it to my husband, then my aunt, and then donate it to my library.

I can't do that with a $13.99 ebook (which is the cost to pre-order The Affair). For 75 cents more, I can preorder the hard cover. And I likely will, damn you! ;)

Conversely, the only ebook of yours I own is Die Trying, because I had somehow never read it and I was stuck in an airport. But it made me a little bit ill to shell out ten bucks to read it on my phone.

It was a great read, to be sure, but for that price I'd rather get the paperback.

Wow, is this long. Short version: I bet you would probably sell a bazillion ebooks (they'd have to make a new Kindle Bazillion Club just for you) and pick up lots of new fans if your backlist was available at $5.99 or lower.

Simon Haynes said...

It is difficult to promote to kids in 4-6 grade even if they have the technology.

You don't have to. Market your MG book to parents and teachers with a low price ebook, and price the print edition as usual. If they enjoy the ebook and think it'll fly with the kids, they can order a print copy.

This is the strategy I'll be pursuing. 9-12 year olds don't tend to haunt bookstores for new material, not in large numbers. They find it at school or are introduced to new books by adults or friends.

Damin J. Toell, Esq. said...

How much does pricing affect Lee Child's ebook sales? For $9.99 per ebook, I'd just buy a print copy. But if his novels were under $5 via Kindle? Maybe then I'd go for the ebook. $2.99? I'd definitely go for the ebook.

It seems to be no surprise to me that his sales are skewed towards print, when there's nothing about the ebook sales strategy that would attract a solid ebook fanbase.

Claude Nougat said...

Great post, as always, and the comments are fascinating!
On thing strikes me: John Locke as far as I understand it, HAS KEPT THE PRINTING OF THE BOOK FOR HIMSELF: Simon & Shuster merely keep the books in a storehouse and distribute them to bookstores. That's it.

So how much of a game-changer is that? Not that much in my opinion.

Also the controversy about Lee Child seeing his print sales exceed e-book sales is very interessting.It clearly shows that as long as publishers keep to their "agency model" and maintain e-book prices near or above paperback prices, the market cannot function properly.

When will the Big Publishers ever learn? Now there's a class action against Apple on this point and we might see the "agency model" quickly disappear. That will undoubtedly give yet another boost to Amazon.

Amazon as the Next Big Publisher is something I've blogged about recently and I'm convinced this is true. Just as I'm convinced the Big Publishers will learn their lesson and turn their ship around in the digital storm (surely none of them want to end up like the Titanic!)

So our future is not a clear black and white: no more publishers and only indies. Wikipedia is not the only encyclopedia around: the others have survived and will continue to survive because they hold the ultimate authority. That Wikipedia works and is very useful on a daily basis is absolutely true, but it too occupied a niche: that of daily practicality as against that of authoritative reference.

Which is why bricks and mortar bookstores won't disappear, and neither will the Big Publishers: they will all have to change and adapt, but they will still be around for a long time to come.

Joe, the world isn't black and white: it's grey!

But many thanks for your post, very enjoyable as always and I'm looking forward to your conversation about what is threatening Amazon!

Stobby said...

Is it fair to say the limitation to ebooks will become the cost of the e-reader?

Books, with an e-reader, are much more cost effective but some people will question their ability to afford it when they just got their two week pay cheque for $300 and they're hesitating over the price of latest Danielle Steele novel for $12.99.

E-readers are entertainment devices but unlike the television, they are personalised, and therefore more likely to be bought as holiday gifts.

But if I'm wrong, and the ereader goes on to do for books what ipods did for music.... it will also propel a mass illegal downloading of books. Are musicians making the same profit they did before the ipod? Before iTunes?

Perhaps print is better?

Paolo Amoroso said...

With this deal, a large traditional publisher gets only a few crumbs and becomes a sort of glorified CreateSpace. Brilliant.

Big Publishing will soon start experiencing rejections, as writers always did. The sky is not just falling, it's turning around.

Margaret Yang said...

I am really, really looking forward to the new Konrath/Eisler dialog. I always learn a lot from your conversations.

chris said...

@anonymous: wikipedia is free to the reader - is this the future of enovel?


But not exactly.

Your data is valuable. Not so much your words as a writer. More the data of 'you' as a reader.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia - really?

Between the content wars, the continual fights to edit and re-edit pages to skew them one way or another and the fact that no academic body will recognize them as a respectable source for information...


Anonymous said...

Both wikipedia and youtube are free. The long term result of content going digital and moving to the web will be the same for books.

So better make hay while the going is good.

Jon Olson said...

Nice insights, Joe. I think you're right about bookstores. Who needs one, even for print books.

Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone

David Gaughran said...

I don't really understand the position that all books will be free in the future.

While I can see (and am seeing) some writers increasingly using "free" as part of an overall strategy to gain exposure, there is no reason why writers with established audiences will want to, or be compelled to, give their work away for free.

This view - I feel - is a misunderstanding based on the assumption that books are interchangeable products. People aren't going to avoid Joe Konrath's book because it is $2.99 and pick up Joe Thriller Writer's book instead just because it is free. They are not identical alternatives.

Readers can't get enough of their favorite writers. Writers can't write quickly enough to keep up with the demand. That's why readers are always seeking out new writers.

It won't matter if in the future that all writers need to give their first book away for free to get noticed, because readers will never abandon their favorites if those writers keep producing books of the same quality.

Nancy Beck said...

But the fate of so-called literary writers or genre writers who are not, and do not want to become, entrepreneurs is rarely, if ever, addressed.

@hendrik – First, if you’ve self pubbed (you don’t mention anything), congratulations! You are in business.

Whether you call that entrepreneurship or just making money makes no difference. “A rose by any other name is still a rose” works here. The moment you put a monetary value on something you upload is the moment you become a business, even if you don’t like it or are afraid of it.

It took me a while to come around to set myself up as a sole proprietor, but I was finally convinced after reading Dean Wesley Smith’s series “Think Like a Publisher.” (Click one of the tabs at the top of his site.) Was it easy to do, especially for an introvert like me? No, but I summoned up the courage (and the cash, lol) and made the trip to the County Clerk’s office.

Enjoy writing what you’re writing; if you didn’t enjoy it, why bother doing it, right? But you have to remember this is a business, and the sooner you come around to that, the better off you’ll be. Is it easy thinking about a million and one things at once (cover, blurbs, pricing, etc.)? Of course not. But what is easy in this world?

Again, I’ll direct you to Dean Wesley Smith’s series if you haven’t already checked it out. (And head over to his wife, Kristine Rusch’s, site,for more ideas and help.)

Of course, if you’re putting up all your stuff for free, none of this applies.

Good luck to you! :-)

Changing Faces

JA Konrath said...

You wikipedia haters are missing the point, big time.

It is one of the most visited sites on the internet.

When you let the lunatics runt the asylum, they do things like wikipedia and youtube, and billions of people visit.

Ebooks are more of the same. Lament it all you want. It's the future. Deal.

JA Konrath said...

I don't really understand the position that all books will be free in the future.

I solved this one three years ago.

All ebooks will be free, and contain ads. Writers will be paid by advertisers.

And now, here comes the slew of anti-ad rants, to go along with the anti-wikipedia rants and "race to the bottom" rants. But wait and see, anonymous ranters. I had anonymous ranters years ago too, when I talked about ebooks outselling print, and writers making a living by self-pubbing.

chris said...

I don't really understand the position that all books will be free in the future.

Yep,see Joe above: advertiser pays. Though, I doubt you will be running these yourself. A platform provider will take care of that and they will take, oh, I dunno, 30% perhaps of revenue.

Revenue to authors paid on page views. Ads charged out on CPC and CPM basis. Think of it as Facebook or Admob or Google Adwords(or whoever sells ads) for ebooks. Don't fret though, we're at least a year away from that!! ;)

Great thing about this is that the more popular your book the richer you'll be. And yet, no reader pays... well, except with their personal details.

But, hey, we already do that with Facebook.

Summer said...

Another case of corporate executives padding their own golden parachutes by squeezing every last drop of blood out of that stone.

Once again leaving the worker bees twisting in the wind.

Great article Joe - thank you again for shining the light into the dark corners.

Summer Daniels
Brand new author and big fan!!
Summer's Journey: Volume One - Losing Control

chris said...

@Lee Child:

I'm reading Gone Tomorrow right this moment (just started so I'm not sure if it's a terrorism thriller or a tale about traditional publishing companies!).

Anyway, I'm watching your Kindle Short with interest and can't help wondering when you jump into a deal like Locke's. I know paying for the returns would suck... but you do already anyway.

Could be an amazing money spinner. 30-40% of cover price. Minus offset print costs. Stipulate only big box stores for first print run: WalMart, Amazon, B&N, Tesco, WH Smith.

Come on, Jim, you know you wanna! ;)

David Gaughran said...

@Joe & Chris

It's an interesting idea, for sure. I guess I'm more skeptical about how books could be monetized in that way.

Google ads work because they are served billions of times a day, and they are targeted based on an ever-changing set of customer-entered keywords.

The relevance of the ads is what makes them useful. The fact that you don't see the same ads all the time is what makes them effective - they are tailored to what you are searching for.

On top of that, reading a piece of fiction is a far more immersive experience than googling something. I don't mind clicking on an ad for a product when I am searching for a product.

I can't see myself clicking on ad in the middle of a book. I'm not looking for anything then other than an immersive experience in a great piece of fiction.

Ads in books aren't new. Guidebooks and the like have always had ads for travel insurance etc.

Now, don't get me wrong, I can see it happening. I can see product placement happening, as well as straight-up ads.

I'm just extremely skeptical that they could provide $90bn in revenue to replace the global book trade, or even a significant percentage of that.

What I think we might see is some kind of subscription model emerging where readers pay a an amount for unlimited reading for a fixed period. Like the ad-supported Kindle, there could be a cheaper plan where you will be subjected to advertising as part of the package.

But I don't think that advertising revenue alone could come anywhere close to generating enough income to replace paid-for books. And I don't think all future bookselling will be under a subscription model.

Subscriptions could be part of the mix (and I'm surprised publishers, with their mountains of content aren't thinking this way), but I don't think it will capture all the market, or even a majority of it.

Interesting idea though.

chris said...


It won't be subscription. It will be ads. Well, that's my opinion. The layout of the ads is debatable. An ideal model will eventually appear.

And don't worry about ad relevance, that's already here. Notice any ads following you around the net lately?

We just need data. You being on Joe's blogger site is already providing that. On Robin's site too. Google already knows you like self-publishing... and let's not start on what Amazon knows!

There's currently an ongoing debate about whether web pages display/reveal who 'cookies' you when you visit a site. So, yeah, relevant ads are the easy bit.

Also, remember that there is a massive internet marketing force comprised of third parties bidding for your page views on ad platforms (ie, google, facebook, etc). These guys know their game. Trust me, you will be clicking on ads. And you will like what they are advertising simply because they are leading you to things you already like.

'Tis the future my friend. And if you have some good writing to add ads on (!) you will make a motza!

It's all about the eyeballs.

chris said...



I'm just extremely skeptical that they could provide $90bn in revenue to replace the global book trade...

David, you're thinking is wrong here but it is not uncommon. You're not trying to replace a $90bn publishing industry ... you're entering a $500bn global advertising industry.

There's no cash shortage. Far from it.

chris said...

Seriously, Joe. Are you deleting my ad revenue comment?!

chris said...

I'm cool with the deletion if I'm treading on any similar ground to your 'Future of Publishing' post.

Gimme a heads up though, Whiskers! :)

David Gaughran said...


I don't doubt there will be ads - what I do doubt is that the ads will generate enough money to replace the paid-for trade in books.

The ads that follow me around the net are based on my browsing history. They know what I am interested in (online at least).

However, they don't know what I want now. That's why Google ads have much higher click-through rates, and generate much more revenue.

The act of inputting a search term shows Google what I want now. The ads can reflect that by advertising products which may fill that need.

Even Google doesn't generate enough ad revenue to displace the $90bn trade in paid-for books, and it won't in five years either.

Ads in books will be far less effective than search advertising, and will generate far less income.

That's why I think it will be a part of the mix, but a small one.

Anyway, interesting debate, but I think I've derailed this enough already :)

chris said...


I'll jump off this topic too.

But just remember the book trade figure isn't author revenue.

Thanks for the chat.


JA Konrath said...

@chris - I don't delete comments without warning. Blogger just sucks.

@David - Ads won't be a bidding system, like Google or Facebook. They'll be based on demographics, 2 cents per impression.

JA Konrath said...

48 comments either awaiting moderation or in the spam filter. Thank you Blogger for making my life more difficult.

Walter Knight said...

How about authors having two publishers, one for E-books and one for paper?

For example, I published through a small press and most sales are E-books. But I would like to publish the same book in paper with a big publisher so I can get into bookstores.

My small press could even be my agent.

Werner said...

It sounds like a classic story of the fall of an Empire and the rising of a new one.

Cathryn Grant said...

I agree there will be more ads in books, similar to MM books today.

But I agree with David that readers will still be willing to pay for the content they love.

Wikipedia and YouTube provide one type of content. I visit Wikipedia daily, but I still seek out (and pay for) books, documentaries, etc. on subjects that interest me. YouTube is great entertainment, but it hasn't replaced my willingness to spend money on movies. YouTube hasn't given me anything like Dexter or Mad Men. I eagerly pay for those.

I've paid $12.99 for an ebook by one of my favorite writers. I don't like it, but I wanted her latest in digital. I would spend $5 on my favorite writers' ebooks without a second thought.

KL Mutter said...

I think the examples of wikipedia and youtube get too much of an alarmist reaction. Personally, I liken the ebook to these things in the sense that you can sample for free.

If the next in a series that I love comes out for $10 in ebook, I'll pay it. Just like I'll see the new Batman in the theater.

KL Mutter said...

Cathryn - I hadn't seen your comment when I posted mine. Chalk it up to synchronicity.

Cathryn Grant said...

@KL definite synchronicity!

Robert Bidinotto said...

Fabulous post, Joe. As always.

I don't think "The End is Nigh" for the New York houses -- not quite yet. The reasons are several.

First, they are going to morph. I like what one of the commentators here said: that they'll become like "CreateSpace." Except that they'll have better distribution to bookstores and other retail outlets, which aren't going to disappear and/or stop selling print books overnight. That will happen eventually, but not within the next year.

Second, top-tier authors such as Lee Child (whom I interviewed a few years ago, and whom I respect enormously) have sound reasons for remaining with the Big 6, at least for the time being. That 80/20 print/ebook split Child cites means that he still makes most of his income from print. Consider the fact that he's in the "Million Ebooks Club" even at ebook prices of $9.99 (or north of that). Even with a presumably less-than-stellar royalty share on ebooks, he's selling them in numbers comparable to or ahead of John Locke, and his ebook royalty income per sale is also much better than what John Locke is getting on his 99-cent ebooks. So, what logical incentive does Lee Child have to jump ship go indie right now?

This is likely true of other top-tier authors, too. For them, ebook sales are still the chump-change side of their royalty splits.

Because they are the people whose decisions will lead the big changeover that we all know is coming eventually, I figure that the Tipping Point from trad publishing to indie and ebooks is still a year off, maybe as many as two. Before that happens, several more big name authors of the stature of Lee Child will have to go indie.

But when it does happen, it will be like dominoes falling, and the change will come fast. In the meantime, those of us who are prepared will be best positioned to reap the benefits of going "vigilante."

Mark Darley, Author said...

I didn't see the prediction you spoke of in the other post, but maybe I misunderstood. Anyway, I hope the Big 6 has a plan. Like the music industry, they resist change. It took an outsider (Steve Jobs) to change the business model.

Amazon began pulling the rug out from under the Big 6 and now it's a runaway train. But obviously there's still some value in traditional publishing or Locke wouldn't have done it. An author needs to leverage both ebook and print to reach the most people.

Christina Garner said...

I look forward to the conversation!

In the meantime, I love stopping by your blog--it always gives me the boost I need. A few months back I published my Urban Fantasy, Gateway,. I didn't even attempt to go with a publisher, not b/c I thought I couldn't get one, but b/c I really believe my novel has what it takes to succeed and since I have been writing in Hollywood for years and have relationships with editors, proofreaders, etc., I figured, why not just hire contractors and keep the lion's share of the profits?

It isn't as easy as that, of course. I find it challenging to market my current book while writing 6-8 hours a day on its sequel. And, I admit, I enjoy writing more than promotion. But I'm happy with my decision and believe it will pay off.

Thanks again for maintaining such an informative blog!

I.J.Parker said...

As Walter Knight points out, there should be a way that we can handle e-rights separately. In my case, my agent withholds audio and foreign rights from negotiations. Of course she claims publishers won't give me a print-only contract. Still, someone may step into that opening if the big 6 are too big to consider it.

Mark Edward Hall said...

Still plenty of naysayers posting comments on your blog, Joe. It seems the flat earth society is alive and kicking.
There are still tons of folks who would rather be spoon-fed what they believe are truths by gatekeepers whose motives are dubious at best, than live in a free and open society where reasonable and intelligent people make learned choices. Go figure.

Archangel said...

Joe, a question... what was it you said before about you might be willing to pay an agent or other person/outfit, for packaging your ebooks, doing all formatting etc. I've been trying to find it in your posts. Did you say you'd be willing to give 15-25% if an agent of other did all covers, layout, formatting, uploading, updating as new tech came along, and other items I now cant recall?? Or did i dream you said that not too long ago?

I wonder if that applies to ebooks you own rights to, but a publisher still owns the print rights on same books? Would that be a deal to pay an ebook packager/agent a certain percentage then? Cant recall the percentage.... think it was 15 or 25?

thanks Joe

Alan Tucker said...

The music industry is going through these same changes/naysayers as the book industry but few people seem to see the parallels. There's been an explosion of "Indie" artists — bands and singers who play small clubs or simply produce in their garages — the past few years since the advent of iTunes and MP3 players. Remember when we used to go to record stores to buy music? Who does that now?

Many people still buy music on CD, but where do they get it? Big Box Stores (i.e. Walmart) for the most part. The same will/is happening for books. The Huge authors (Patterson, Childs, and others like them) with massive, broad appeal will be available in those stores. Everyone else will be POD (Print On Demand) if you want a paper copy of a work.

Joe, I just shake my head at some of your commenters who try to deny what is plainly in front of their faces. Ostrich -> Sand.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

A subsidiary right. Wow.

(Can't wait to see what your predictions are.)

I'm still re-orienting my mind to the new landscape, but it seems to me that print has to evolve too, not just die. A subsidiary right gets at that - print looks like it's heading for boutique status (probably sooner than we think, as most things seem to go in this e-revolution).

Watcher said...

I disagree that all ebooks will be free. There will always be people like me who refuse to accept ads, and will pay the money for the content. ie, I avoid TV and hulu in favor of buying things on DVD. So perhaps there will be two models - free and ad driven, and paid content (as per today)

chris said...

I don't delete comments without warning. Blogger just sucks.

And here I was thinking you were being a little too sensitive... even for an author!! :)

Ads won't be a bidding system, like Google or Facebook. They'll be based on demographics, 2 cents per impression.

Personally, I think you are wildly wrong here. Firstly a lot of major ad platforms already base their ads on bidding for a demographic. Not just FB and GOOG.

And secondly, 2 cents ($20 CPM) is achievable but only on the right demographic... thus the auction process.

The platform that sets the standard business model in free ebooks will, first and foremost, have tons of content, and secondly they will have a killer ad dashboard. That alone favours GOOG, Apple and Amazon.

Unknown said...

You called it. Can I take a peek into your crystal ball? ;-)

JA Konrath said...

And secondly, 2 cents ($20 CPM) is achievable but only on the right demographic... thus the auction process.

I know. I already figured out how to do it, years ago. Couldn't find any angel investors.

No bidding needed. The idea will make someone rich, which is why I'm cagey about how much I reveal. After I buy a new house, I'll probably create it myself.

T. Roger Thomas said...

The guy from Lost sells ebooks?

Bob said...

It's about the math. The tipping point is coming for major authors. I was talking with a NYT #1 author last week and I laid out the numbers to her and she got it. She sees her royalty statements. She already sells more eBooks than print.
I'm making more now with my eBooks than I ever made with my traditional publishing as my sales continue to climb well over 2,000 eBooks a day with seven more titles coming out in the next month.

Barbara Morgenroth said...

Legacy publishers offer editing?
Not so much. I sent the 3rd book in my series to Berkley. It came back in galleys. No editing. It went to print just the way I wrote it.

This is a freaking myth that they can edit better than we can or create covers better or market better or whatever better. It was true once upon a time. It is no longer true. It hasn't been true for at least 20 years.

Kiana Davenport said...

As usual Joe is stunningly accurate with his predictions. John Locke's 'coup' is just more writing on the wall. Here is another example of print publishng's current hysteria and paranoia. Since January, 2010 I've been under contract with one of the Big 6 for my next novel. As a follower of Joe's, I already knew I was giving up most e-rights when I signed the contract. But I was desperate for upfront money. The novel was Scheduled for hardback pub Aug. 2012, paperback 2013.

Recently that Big 6 publisher discovered I had self-published two story collections as ebooks. They went ballistic. I was accused of breaching my contract (I did not) but worse, of 'blatantly betraying them with Amazon, their biggest competitor.' In short I was not trustworthy. I was sleeping with the enemy.

My lawyer immediately pointed out that the first collection, HOUSE OF SKIN, PRIZE-WINNING STORIES,
was e-published before I signed the contract with them. So they immediately targetted the second collection, CANNIBAL NIGHTS, PACIFIC STORIES, Volume II, just published July 25th. (Both collections had been submitted to the Big 6 previously, and re-jected as 'too regional, too exotic, too dark.'

Here's what that print publisher demanded. That I immediately and totally delete the collection, CANNIBAL NIGHTS, from Amazon and all other platforms. Plus, that I delete all Google hits mentioning me, Kiana Davenport, and CANNIBAL NIGHTS. Currently that's about 610,000 hits. (How does one even do that?) Plus, that I guarantee in writing not to self-publish another ebook until my novel with them is published in hardback and softback.

In other words, they were demanding that I agree to be muzzled for the next two years, that I sit silent and impotent as a writer for that period, that I kowtow to other of their outrageous demands, OR they would immediately terminate my book contract with them. The editor, and the VP and Publisher of that house called my agent, offering extra little sweetmeats if I would just capitulate and 'adopt the right spirit going forward.' It was crystal-clear to me that the issue was not a breach of contract, but their lasar-leaping fear of Amazon.

Since my collection, CANNIBAL NIGHTS, in no way 'resembles' or would 'injure' sales of the novel I sold them (entirely different subject matter) I was not in breach of my contract. Call me crazy, but I stood firm. I refused to capitulate. Last week I received from their lawyers their official letter terminating their contract with me, and demanding back the $20,000 they had paid as partial advance. Till then this publishing giant is holding my novel hostage. A book that took five years of my life. I promise you, I will get it back.

I look at this fiasco two ways. CANNIBAL NIGHTS is my best, best writing. Maybe its worth $20K to finally get it published and out in the world. For that, I thank Amazon. Or. Maybe it's worth $20K for a writer to discover who she's really in bed with.
Sleeping with the enemy? Perhaps. But now I know who the enemy is.
Kiana Davenport

JD Rhoades said...

I'm shocked to hear that John has gone traditional. I thought he was firmly against going traditional.

He's firmly in favor of making a living.

Hey, with this deal, Locke can have his Kate and Edith too. What's not to love?

John Locke sells .99 pulp ebooks.

For those of us who used to love those cheap pulp books (often marketed under the now defunct classification of "men's fiction"), this is not actually an insult.

Donna Ball said...

@Barbara--same here. Readers report more editorial errors in my Berkley published books than in my self published ones.
@Joe-- doubt I will be surprised by your conversation (since I've recently decided no one holds the power over my career but me) but I can't wait to read it!
@Kiana-- my heart breaks for you! I recently had an agent virtually fire me in the midst of similar circumstances, only I did not go so far as to sign a contract. I am now SOOOO glad I didn't. Contact me privately via my website if you need some hand holding:(

JD Rhoades said...

Legacy publishers offer editing?
Not so much. I sent the 3rd book in my series to Berkley. It came back in galleys. No editing. It went to print just the way I wrote it.

Yeah, this is what happened with three out of my four legacy published books. The fourth had only minor edits. I always thought it was because I was such an awesome writer.

JD Rhoades said...

Kiana: Holy shit. Do they ever point out where in the contract it says you can't e-publish anything else during the production process?

Ask for chapter and verse or they can go whistle for their damn money.

Selena Kitt said...

Wow, Kiana. What a ride. Made me breathless just to read it. I hope you make that 20K back in a month on Amazon. I'll buy it. Your short story collection is sublime.

Kiana Davenport said...

@Donna Ball...thanx so much or your offer! Actualy, I'm doing fine. Just mad as hell. And want my novel back so I can publish it myself. But will check your website anyway. Mine is

Am writing a longer blog about it, a cautionary tale to other authors.

@JD Rhoades...No there's nothing in the contract about e-publishing other stuff, especially stories that have been published before in earlier anthol-ogies! My agent said this is going to change the way contracts are written. If your still in print publishing, BE CAREFUL. Get permission in writing if your under contract, and self epubbing simultaneously. I did all this in innocence and stupidity, I thought it would garner new readers for the next novel. LOL... Kiana

JD Rhoades said...

My agent said this is going to change the way contracts are written.

Well, the key is the way THIS contract is written. If it doesn't say you can't do it, then invoke the ancient legal principle of futue te ipsum, i.e., tell them to go fuck themselves.

wannabuy said...

@David Gaughan:"Readers can't get enough of their favorite writers. Writers can't write quickly enough to keep up with the demand. That's why readers are always seeking out new writers. "

There are millions of free books on Amazon. No reader must buy a single book. Yet more and more authors earn a living on Amazon. :) Fans want their authors doing ok so that they have the time to write.


wannabuy said...

@Kiana:"Here's what that print publisher demanded."

Wow. Just wow. Going through that is not worth $20k. I wish you luck. Stand your ground. But since you didn't violate contract, can they cancel? I realize the copywrite is in limbo unless you pay them back...

I hope you have a good lawyer.
I wish you luck,

Patrice said...

Hey, JD, above: That's hilarious. I'm a lawyer (recovering) and I'll have to add that to my faux Latin collection. Along with "illegitimi non carborundum" and "sempre ubi sub ubi."

Joe, you really know how to get the conversation going. Thanks for your blog and thanks for your eye-opening prognostication.

I'm a brand new eBook author, and I'm planning to have a new short or novel out each month for the next year (not all mine; some I am publishing for friends who are happy to give me a cut in return for editing, covers, formatting, and just doing all that for them). So even if I don't have any huge sellers, eventually I will make money.

My concern is that Amazon will pull the rug out from under us once they get all the power. What's to keep them from changing the formula? They don't have the only platform, but they definitely have the dominant one. Will Jeff Bezos wake up one morning and say... hey... 70% is WAY too much... and the brilliant dawn of indie publishing will give way to storm clouds?

Anonymous said...

Ms. Davenport:

You are a tough and gutsy woman. What you did makes complete sense, but many writers would not have the guts to hold firm if it meant losing a contract with a prestigious publisher.

As Norman Mailer said, the character of the novelist is imprinted on everything he or she writes. And so, based on this little glimpse into your character, I will go seek out your work because it must be good.

Thanks for sharing.

- Z

Marie Simas said...

Kiana; I'm so sorry about your situation. Seriously, how can someone so talented have so much fucked-up luck?

But you're a visionary. I mean that. Your writing is so good that it makes my stomach clench. It's kept me awake, and made me cry.

Just keep writing-- your fans will lift you up. They did for me, and I'm basically faking my way through everything with a beer and a coconut bra.

But then... maybe we should all give thanks for your publisher's betrayal. Claw back your book, Kiana.

Claw it back, take back all your sweat and tears. Those words belong to you, they aren't on loan to any vultures. Just bought Cannibal Nights. I'll be sure to leave a review.

You're going to make it. There are just too many diamonds in your dirt.

Jane Devin said...

I used to believe that major publishers were "gatekeepers" or that they separated the good writers from the bad. Then came Snooki and Bristol Palin and Theresa Guidice. The whole generation of reality TV that made even reputable agents begin salivating over -- then demanding -- "proven platform" from real writers who then scrambled to build up blogs, Twitter followers and Facebook fan pages in order to try to catch up.

It's not about the talent anymore and it certainly isn't about the quality. Simon & Schuster will pay Snooki a $250K advance, see her book flop, and then offer her another deal, while choking real authors with tiny advances and 4% royalties.

If publishing dies, it's by their own ethics.

Archangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Archangel said...

dear Kiana, write to me if I can help. I just dragged back one of my books erights from a big 6 who NEVER had the erights but insisted it was "implied" in contract and that they would do x y and z to me if I tried to upload my own ebook they had already pub'd in ink. Also have one book still held hostage by another big 6 for advance payback, but have good plans for rescue... So, learning the really really hard way, and no longer so naive and trusting, I have some have insights and some things that definitely work re agents, lawyers and publishers. I'd be happy to help you if I can. I can be reached here. I think Selena will vouch for me:

bettye griffin said...

I went to your blog and tried to post. After 3 tries I recognized it was hopeless. I didn't notice any other responses, so you might want to do something to make it easier for folks to post.

Anyway, your publisher is being terribly unfair, vindictive, and just plain mean. I hope you make a mint with your independent projects! And good luck. I don't see how they can enforce anything that wasn't in the contract.

I've wondered if the editor who so quickly responded to my query and then did not respond to either my or my agent's repeated requests for an update was instructed not to because I had published some projects on my own...I thought that was childish and inexcusably unprofessional behavior...and I made sure to keep a copy of the letter I sent to her withdrawing the project after six months of silence from her. That soured me on traditional publishing forever.

Mark Edward Hall said...

I'm so proud of you, Kiana. CANNIBAL NIGHTS is another wonderful book by an extremely talented author.
Your publisher is a fool. They just let a big one get away.

Jussi Keinonen said...

Joe, not that I disagree about the blog, but you often say e is outselling print, although that's only on Amazon, I believe?

Pedantry, I know.

Melissa D. said...

This is a great topic and a lively debate. I think both sides have great points, but there are a couple of things that we're forgetting. Even if self-pubbed authors do get signed by one of the Big 6 and get a ginormous advance, they don't really get to keep all that money until the publisher makes back the amount that it put into the book/campaign. Which means if the book flops, guess who doesn't get to keep his/her advance?

Also, we may be heading in the direction of Wikipedia, but that doesn't mean there's no call for professionals. Editing, fact checking, and overall professionalism is almost MORE important with indie authors than with traditional ones because it's on you, the author, to make sure you create a professional product. Translation: if your book isn't up to industry standards or hasn't been edited in any way, your book reviews (and ultimately sales) are going to show it. No matter which track you go with--indie or traditional--there is something to be said for professionalism.

Werner said...

@Joe Konrath: I don't delete comments without warning. Blogger just sucks.

Use Wordpress. Set up is easy and can easily import every post, comment and pic from blogger

Selena Kitt said...

I think Selena will vouch for me...

110% without question.

Definitely get in touch, Kiana. Lots of help in that direction!

And much luck and good karma to you, sweetness. Holding space for the absolute best for you!

Tammy Bleck said...

Will be waiting with baited breath. Great post, nicely done.

Wodke Hawkinson said...

Well said. The gatekeepers were so busy watching the front door, they forgot about the back and side entrances. Good writer got in. lol.

Kiana Davenport said...

@Archangel...I'm going to email you and compare notes.

@ Bettye Griffin...pls. try my blogsite again.
or website there's a contact number there. I don't want to take up more space on Joe's blogsite. You are dead-right about the editor. They saw you were self-pubbed and freaked.

Sam said...

Wow, I'm hoping more authors can get terms similar to Locke's!

Best wishes to you Kiana-- I already enjoyed House of Skin ... now buying Cannibal Nights.

Mac1 said...

Are all you guys self-published authors ? Looks like I really need to get my butt into gear and write a book, now I don't have to worry about slush piles, rejections slips, book signings, rubber chickens etc... just got to find out if I can write.

bettye griffin said...

Are all you guys self-published authors ?

Mac, I did 16 traditionally published novels before jumping into the indie pool!

Unknown said...

"They're trying to sell a few more drinks before the Titanic sinks."

Wonderful, powerful image, Joe.

And it rhymes!


Raymond Embrack said...

The end is near and our job is to bring it sooner faster and better. The big six can always find work in the car wash industry.

Robin Sullivan said...

I agree this deal is big and I'm so glad to see it happen as it it great for writers. But I don't think that it will spell the end as we know it. Sure if you sell 1,000,000 copies you have some clout on what you can ask for but a mid-list author? I don't think they'll be able to get a similar deal. I'd like to think that this is the start of things to come - but I think it will be isoloated for only the "top performers" so for the majority of writers it won't really be an issue.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for the info. I want to stay informed about these things and this is a big help.