Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Self-Pubbed Author Beware

Right now I'm looking at the Top 10 Kindle bestsellers in occult fiction.

Every one of them is self-pubbed. In fact, there are only three legacy authors in the Top 30. I count only ten legacy pubbed in the Top 100, and most are brand names.

That's... staggering.

It also doesn't bode well for legacy publishers.

Long ago, I said ebooks aren't a competition. But that only applies when they are affordable. Once an ebook costs over five bucks, readers become choosy. The above list is proof. There are ten ebooks on that list priced more than $4.99.

Bet you can guess which ones. Hint: none of the self-pubbed.

At the moment, legacy publishers seem to be content with their ebook sales. They boast how ebooks are exploding, while print sales slip more and more.

And yet, they obviously aren't pricing ebooks competitively. I'm outselling King, Harris, and Preston & Child. That's odd, since they kill me in paper sales. But it doesn't matter, because bestselling authors sell at any price, which publishers are aware of.

Midlist authors do not. Midlist authors right now are getting screwed by their publishers, earning far less than they could. It's bad enough they're only getting 17.5% of the list price; when the list price is ten bucks it is leaving a lot of money on the table.

So why aren't legacy pubs pricing their midlists and backlists competitively? Are they still trying to preserve paper sales? Or have they crunched the numbers and figured out $7.99 to $14.99 is the sweet spot for profits?

Whatever the reason, it is misguided. Here's a look into the future:

1. Amazon is the #1 ebookseller in the world. Its bestseller lists are prime real estate, allowing browsers to peruse genres and discover new titles to buy.

2. Free and cheap greatly improve a title's chance of getting on a bestseller list, which leads to more awareness and more sales.

3. Publishers keeping ebooks at high prices hurts their authors, because they aren't getting this prime real estate. The days of browsing a bookstore for midlist titles are fading fast. A midlist book published now has very little chance of breaking out, because it isn't where people are browsing.

4. Midlist authors (the ones who make up the majority of a publisher's catalog) are going to figure out they're being screwed, and will stop taking contracts. Right now, publishers are doing fine because of quantity. They have a few bestselling names that sell at any price, and even if their midlist authors only sell a few copies each, there are so many authors that the publisher can make money on the long tail. (To wit: a publisher with 2500 titles at $9.99, each selling 5 copies a day, is earning $65,559 per day. But the author of one of those books is only making $8.75  a day.)

Publishers don't need to sell a lot of a particular title. But authors do. And authors will eventually wise up and self-publish.

5. When they start losing authors, publishers will have to find new ones. And where do you think they'll look?

Where they've already been looking. At Amazon Kindle authors who are doing well.

I'm writing this post to warn authors about this, because it is going to happen more and more. I've seen several authors who have done well self-pubbing, then taken a legacy deal. If you can get a big chunk of money upfront, go for it. But it has to be walking-away money (meaning never expect to ever get your rights back or earn another penny.)

I've been watching the self-pubbed authors who have signed legacy deals. Watching their Amazon rankings. Watching the bestseller lists. While I'm not privy to details of their contracts, I haven't seen any of these authors do better with a legacy publisher than they were doing on their own.

Keep that in mind when the Big 6 contact you, saying they discovered you on Kindle and are proud to offer you a contract. Other than a huge advance, I can't see any allure at all to a legacy deal.

Granted, I've had legacy deals, so I understand what they entail. A newbie author doesn't have the experience that I do. That means, if you're offered a deal, take time to think it over. You're allowed to be flattered. You're allowed to have book signing fantasies, and imagine the radio interviews and reviews in major periodicals. But once the excitement wears off, it's time to crunch numbers and make a business decision based on your goals. Money should play a major role in this decision.

As for the luster of legacy publishing, read my blog. Book signings are hell. Radio interviews are work. Most book critics for major periodicals are self-important pinheads. And the Big 6 are AWFUL at selling ebooks.

 If you don't want to take my word for it, ask any author who has had, or does have, a legacy deal.

We've all read stories about successful self-pubbed authors signing with the Big 6. Have we heard any stories about authors who once had a Big 6 deal, then went to self-pubbing and found success, and then WENT BACK to the Big 6?

I haven't heard any. And there's a good reason for it. Once bitten, twice shy.

If you're a newbie author, save yourself some grief and don't get bitten the first time.

And if you're a newbie author whose agent is currently submitting your book to major houses, I hope you realize you just missed the biggest 30 day sales period in the history of ebooks.

A bird in the hand is always worth two in the bush. Especially when your bird is healthy, and those two in the bush have avian flu.

As I've been saying for years, understand the difference between your dreams and your goals. Learn all you can. Make your decisions based on logic, not emotion. Understand why you want what you want.

And above all, beware. That longtime fantasy of having a major publisher call you up might be closer than you think...


TK Kenyon said...

"Most book critics for major periodicals are self-important pinheads."

I'm so glad you said this. I've had glowing, starred reviews, and I've had bitter, nasty, personally derogatory reviews, on the same book.

People act like it's a great honor to be reviewed by Kirkus, but it's not. I know several guys (and the folks I know are all guys) who write for Kick-us, and they're all, well, profoundly impressed by their own MFAs and output of 3 short stories per year.

TK Kenyon

Tweet with me on Twitter

Jitterbugging With The Bomb

Rebecca M. Senese said...

Great advice, Joe. Not only should they crunch the numbers but also look at any potential noncompete clauses. Some traditional publishers add these in and it can mean you no longer have the ability to self-publish any work.

If considering a traditional contract, take it to an IP lawyer. Be smart as well as flattered.

J.L. Murphey said...

Having gone from Big 6 to self-publishing at times I wonder if I haven't made a mistake (with all the additional marketing hats) until the royalty checks come in and then it's a quite hit to the forehead for the DOH! moment. I deserve every penny of it.

I've read why the likes of Amanda Hockings went with the big 6, but the newness will wear off with time. I mean she made her first million with self-publishing...it's like shooting yourself in the foot to go standard, but that's my opinion

Mark Terry said...

I think the bigger legacy publishers have a blind spot. As far as I can tell, their thinking goes something like this: More and more people are buying e-books, so we'll be in the e-book market, but we don't want e-books to compete with our paper sales, so instead of making our e-books cheaper (or even the same price) as our paper books, we will now INCREASE the prices of our e-books. This will drive readers to our paper sales for a while longer.

Blind Spot: There are a lot of high-quality self-published e-books for very low prices that are competing for readers. So if they're fed up with higher priced e-books...

Many readers will flock to try authors they haven't heard of before simply because, Hey, this guy's book only costs $2.99, while Patterson's latest e-book costs me $14.95.

And I frankly just can't see legacy publishers offering e-books for $2.99 on principle. Maybe I'll be surprised, but I'm having a hard time seeing them routinely do that. (And they're still offering their authors 10% royalties on it, so as an author I'd probably be screaming my head off, too).

Ellen Britt, PA, Ed.D. said...

Excellent post Joe! Your advice to newbies to not let the "flattery factor" from a legacy publisher overwhelm them into a bad choice is very well taken.

It is the marketplace who will decide who is successful. Critics, legacy publishers and agents have now seemingly outlived their usefulness.

Jude Hardin said...

It seems to me those genre lists don't really prove anything.

During Amazon's Sunshine Deals last summer, Pocket-47 cracked the top 1000 overall. Yet, amazingly, it wasn't on a single one of Amazon's bestseller list. Why? Because the publisher didn't list it in any subcategories. I wrote to them and asked that it be narrowed to >thriller>hardboiled, where it would have probably been in the top 20, but they never did it. If I had self-published the book, it would have been a "bestseller" because I would have narrowed its category.

That's one reason you're seeing so many self-pubbed titles in "occult," for example. My horror novella regularly appears on the "ghosts" bestseller list by selling three or four copies a day. So it's not really a bestseller, it's just selling better than the others listed in that subcategory that hour.

Ruth Harris said...

Heed Joe. And heed the words of a prominent publishing lawyer who told me: "They got ways to screw you you haven't even thought of yet—"

Let me (start) to count the ways: lousy cover, awful blurb, pathetic print order, no coop, forget a tour & if you do get one be prepared to be exhausted & sick—and worst of all not to sell enough books to warrant the misery of being on the road. Then there are impenetrable royalty statements, revolving editors and management that leave you & your book orphaned, an ad budget that turns to gossamer and a publicity dept that views you & your book as a Royal PITA.

Been there, done that. All of it. Trust me, it's no fun.

So just remember the misery of Answered Prayers and make your decision very very carefully.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I think I remember a "rule" where if you got an agent and got published and then did not sell at least 5,000 copies, you were done and basically could not even mention the previous novel when shopping a new one.

Unknown said...

I have seen stories about self-pubbed authors being offered major advances because of their prior digital sales. The two biggest examples took completely different paths.

Author #1 turned down the offer, then went on to sell a crap-load of books the moment their latest book went on sale. Easily making more money than the advance offered.

Author #2 took a deal that sounds like walking-away-money and gave some interesting reasons for it: not wanting to look for editors, layout/cover designers, time promoting, etc. I'm sure that this author could have easily eclipsed the amount of their offer within a year. But, I'm not so sure that the amount of time saved emailing editors and designers is worth the offset in long-term sales. (As you keep reminding us, ebooks are forever.)

Obviously, both authors have large followings and their readers will know the moment their newest book is published (that takes care of promotion.) Covers and layouts aren't even an issue. There is a long list of designers that would happily have their names associated with either of those authors, because it means more work for them. Some of them are conveniently list on your blog, where I've seen posts from both of these authors.

If money and sales are the goal, then both of these authors have already won. But longterm, sticking with self-publishing is the way to go.

J. Eathen
The Vanguard Society

Todd Trumpet said...

Doing the "glam tour" with a legacy publisher reminds me of a common saying in Hollywood:

"The first day you're on a movie set is one of the most exciting of your life. The second day, one of the most boring."

Be careful what you wish for.

Rationality better advises.


John Barlow said...

Vintage are doing Jo Nesbo's ebooks at 3.15 UK Pounds on amazon.co.uk. Lee Child's old stuff is pegged at a similar price. They are learning...

Re royalties, the word in London that I've heard is that the small and medium houses will capitulate (to 50% of net for authors) this year, and the biggest will have little alternative but to follow suit.

I had kidney stones too (worst pain of my life), but I also had the most amazing pain-killing drugs (best of my life).

Alyssa Ast said...

Great post! Definitely sharing it!

Piotr Kowalczyk said...

I've just released a report on top self-published Kindle books of 2011 http://bit.ly/selfpub2011 and the fact is that self-pub'd books got hit by price competition in the second half of the year.

There is a downward trend in both the average price of the self-pub'd book in top 100, and, unfortunately, the number of books. December was the worst month of the year. Yeah, I know it can be explained by Christmas activities of legacy publishers. We'll see what will happen in the next months, but I'm pretty sure the record from March/April/May is not gonna happen.

Price competition. It's not only about Kindle Daily Deal and other offers like Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less, but also books from legacy publishers, priced below $3. And there are more and more such books in top 100.

At the beginning of 2011 if the book was $0.99 or $1.99 it was self-published almost for sure. Now you can find $0.99 books from HarperCollins Ebooks.

Unknown said...

Like usual, a spot on blog post. Up until KDP Select, I was one of those hoping to be discovered by a publisher or agent because of my sales. It didn't happen, but now I'm so glad of that. I was able to take my first book to #1 in Political thrillers between Christmas and New Year's Day, ahead of Thor and Flynn, all because I was able to schedule a few free days just prior to that. While sales have slowed, my second book has started to outpace the first--which is exactly how I want it because it shows people are coming back to buy after getting the first for free. With my 3rd on the way, I am extremely excited. I even took some vacation time from the day job to try and get things moving faster.

bettye griffin said...

What I want to know is what's up with publishers charging more for eBooks than they do for print? A book I wanted to download was $7.99, and then I noticed the print version was only $5.99. Is this their attempt at stalling the eBook revolution, by making consumers pay more for the convenience of a download? I can't think of any more expenses for an eBook that they don't have for print, aside from formatting...and surely that doesn't warrant charging an extra two bucks per book!

Insight, anyone?

Sarah Woodbury said...

Great post, Joe. That's an interesting point about no formerly traditionally published authors returning to that world. I have a friend who got what she thought was walking away money for a trilogy (6 figures). Four years later when the last book finally came out (late), it didn't feel that way, and now those books are gone forever. She focuses on her indie books and pretends her trilogy doesn't exist.

By the way, I know you keep telling the Big 6 houses what they should be doing (pricing their ebooks lower), but I really hope they don't listen ...

Peter L. Winkler said...

Excellent post, sage advice.

Unless you get a six-figure advance or something awfully close, there won't be reviews in major periodicals or radio interviews, or book tour. Unless the publisher put big money upfront, your book'll be still born.

I recommend M.J. Rose's article on the distinction between being printed or published.


Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel

Walter Knight said...

The 'Big 6' is saying that if an E-book is not overpriced, then it must not be any good.

Some readers actually believe that when shopping.

Peter L. Winkler said...

"Simon Lipskar, a literary agent with Writers House Literary Agency suggests that when a publisher has paid a modest sum to publish afirst novel, it's foolish, no matter how great one's fantasies, to hopethat the publisher will print 50,000 copies in hardcover, run anexpensive (and often pointless) ad campaign, send the author on anexpensive (and often pointless) author tour, etc."


Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel

Trance St. Croix said...

I'm one of those authors who did well on Kindle, got contacted by NY, inked a deal and ended up with a HC book sitting in the new books section of BN stores, which is something I've always wanted. That part of it was very good, as were library sales both as HC and as library eBooks distributed through OverDrive.

I expected there would be major lift to my other self-published books. As far as I can tell, there has been no favorable spill-over effect at all.

The deal was OK because it was only one of many books I've written. I can afford to throw one away. If it had been my only book, though, I would have definitely come out short on the $ side versus self-publishing and might very well be regretting the decision.

Ramon Terrell said...

To me, it seems like the only reason to take a legacy deal is if one were in a position like Amanda Hocking. St. Martin paid her ($2 million?) for her trilogy. Of course she will never get those books back, or likely ever make a dime on them again, save movie rights, but she has other titles and is still writing.

So much money, to me, would be worth it. She would have made more in the long run, but her other books still sell and her next books will also.

Aside from such a favorable scenario, I can't imagine taking a Legacy deal.

Fat Elvis said...

Thanks for all the information and advice you put out on your blog Joe.

Sorry if this in an obvious question you get asked all the time, but I truly am a newbie. Your point about the biggest thirty day sales period for ebooks got me wondering, have you any information regards what might be considered busy periods for ebook sales throughout the year? Traditionally i have only ever seen offers on books around christmas. I'm on the verge of self publishing my first novel and it would be valuable for marketing efforts to know when would be good to introduce promotions, obviously christmas and new year are huge then, but are there other sales spikes in the calendar year?

I'll be using my first effort to do a lot of experimenting over time to find what might work best, your blog has been a huge help to me, especially since you proved we can all get rich quick and easy ;)


Fat Elvis

I.J.Parker said...

I've just been fired my my agent for self-publishing some short stories. Mind you, I haven't had a print contract in years.
How did you manage to keep your agent, Joe?

Anonymous said...

Jude you hit upon a great point:

As a self pub author you are smart enough to know/learn how to categorize your books within Amazon to maximize sales.

But, your 'traditional' publisher who's been in the business for decades? They are not.

You, as a self pubber, can log on at anytime and immediately edit these category selections when desired.

Yet, you have to continually email your trad publisher to do the same, and they ignore you.

I believe this little anecdote tells us much of what we need to know.

Susan said...

The numbers for what authors make when publishing with Legacy publishers are stunning.

Gary Ponzo said...

And whatever you do, don't sign any legacy deals without going on a 30 day beer diet first. It cleanses the mind of any unneccesary thoughts, like food and shelter.

David Tribble said...

"The deal was OK because it was only one of many books I've written. I can afford to throw one away. If it had been my only book, though, I would have definitely come out short on the $ side versus self-publishing and might very well be regretting the decision." by St. Croix.

Just amazing. Traditional publishing is really becomming throw away your rights and be prepared to loose money.

Cyn Bagley said...

I keep thinking and saying wow when I look at your blog Konrath. (I say Konrath because I was in the military and you always called people by their last names - sorry.)

So this post made me smile. Even if the BIG 6 came my way, I couldn't accept the offer. Just too much stress for my body and health. But, it is nice to dream. ;-)

Yours, Cyn or Bagley if you prefer

Monica Shaughnessy said...

I. J. - Sounds like your agent was short-sighted. I've heard of many published authors whose agents *encouraged* them to self-pub when their manuscript didn't sell.

If you land another agent, make sure to include an addendum to the contract that excludes self-published materials. You'll know pretty quick if they're open to the idea.


Dan_Luft said...

I am surprised when legacy publishers sell older books for up to ten bucks. Charging much money for Murder on the Orient Express is stupid when a reader can get a free copy from any old lady on the street.

I.J.Parker said...

Thanks, Monica. I'll keep that in mind. I've always had a good deal of admiration for agents, and my agent in particular, but this is just so depressing, when I've been trying for the past 18 months to get them to work with me on e-pubs.

Candice said...

Love this blog and I appreciate how much you care about authors, Joe. What I'm wondering after reading this post - do you think the same thing applies for middle grade authors? Are kids (0-12) really reading e-books? Or is this a case where publishing with a legacy might be a better idea?

Nebris said...

Just wanted to thank you for sharing your hard earned advice here. Believe me, I am paying attention.

Nancy Beck said...

@FatElvis - No numbers or anything like that, but if I were you, I would concentrate on getting more books uploaded before attempting any sort of promo or marketing.

With more books up, you have a better chance of being noticed.

Dean Wesley Smith has pounded that into my head at his site. :-) Why don't you check out his 2 series, Think Like a Publisher and Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing? In fact, check out the entire site; you'll learn a lot (like I did).


(Sorry, too tired to do the html thing, just paste the above in your browser.)

Rebecca Burke said...

Great post. Amazing, given what day you must be into on your beer diet, Joe. :-)

For more on legacy publishers' days of dread, read a fascinating email from an anonymous publishing industry insider, found here: pandodaily.com/2012/01/17/con…

Joe Flynn said...

JK speaks the truth. The only book signing I ever enjoyed was the one where I met science fiction titan, and really cool guy, Philip José Farmer. I contributed a chapter to a book — Naked Came the Farmer (not Phil) — that benefitted the Peoria Public library. That was cool, too.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jude Hardin said...

As a self pub author you are smart enough to know/learn how to categorize your books within Amazon to maximize sales.

But, your 'traditional' publisher who's been in the business for decades? They are not.

Actually, this particular publisher has only been in business since 2006. But I hear you, The need to get with the program.


Patrice said...

I'm listening, Joe.

Legacy publishers have become sort of like a cult -- cutting writers off from the self-publishing world, telling stories about how horrible it is "out there," and claiming they control the only route to legitimate success.

After all these years of wanting in, it's hard to abandon the brainwashing.

Patrice Fitzgerald, author of best-selling political thriller RUNNING


Kiana Davenport said...

Joe, re self-pubbing... what about authors like yourself who are also published by Amazon Encore, their new print house. So its OK to work both sides of the street, but how do we decide WHEN?

2) I'm one of the self-pubbed ebook authors who missed 'the biggest 30 day sale in the history of ebooks' because i couldn't understand the require-ments and details of the KDP Select program.

3)They will have another sale, so can you please explain the Program to us, or direct us to your blog post where you already did explain? Somehow I missed it. Thanx

Fat Elvis said...

@NancyBeck Cheers for the advice, I totally agree. Getting more books out there will be key to finding my spot in the market place, thanks for the link, I'll be checking it out.

Walter Knight said...

Selling thousands of E-books online just isn't the same as seeing your book on a shelf at Barnes & Noble.

I want to do both. But, I guess I have to settle for E-books and take the money Amazon forces on me.

Matthew Lee Adams said...

Joe -

I've been reading your blog since I came across it a year ago. It reinforced the perception I was having about the industry, as well as explained a lot things in very candid detail - which I and I'm sure many others appreciate.

I had planned to go the traditional route when I began working on the novels. But I began to get the distinct impression that midlist authors were not exactly being developed anymore.

Granted, there have always been instances where a talented or well-regarded author hasn't been allowed to find their niche. Steven R. Boyett comes to mind, as an example from a couple decades ago - although he's recently self-released after a long hiatus.

But it seems like the trend has become wider.

As you've pointed out on many occasions, there aren't a lot of advantages a publishing house can give a midlist author. Distribution to bookstores sounds nice - on paper - except the fact that getting into a bookstore is no guarantee of remaining there long enough to develop a following.

Granted, doing things yourself requires a learning curve and extra effort, but the efforts pay off by making subsequent work easier once you know how.

I'd never even used Photoshop before, but I think my covers are a heckuva lot better than many traditional-originated ones. I've noticed a trend toward uninspired cover design and a heavy reliance on stock images by the publishing houses' art departments. Even some authors who sell well aren't terribly happy with the covers they're allotted, from what I've read.

In any event, I chose to self-release all four novels I had ready. I'm happy with the covers, the layout, and the overall effort. We'll see what happens. I still have a lot more work to do, and I've been working on another novel as well as plan to release a couple short story compilations as well.

So thanks for the much-appreciated advice and observations, because it definitely helped sway me.


Ryan Schneider said...

December was my biggest month yet. January is shaping up to be equally as big.

But let's all remember that amid the craziness of legacy vs. self publishing, first and foremost we are storytellers, and we love to write. So that's what the bulk of our energy should go towards: writing.

Don't do it for money. Do it because you love it and because you can't NOT do it. The money will come.

David L. Shutter said...

Very sound and pertinent advice as indie e-pub becomes the new slush pile.

Oddly enough, Big 6 CEO recently came out and said their business model was broken and needed fixing in 2012.

Interesting article here

Surprised Joe didn't jump on this one as well.

Writing Trip

J S said...

One of the small press publishers showed on a post yesterday how their data, based on usa today figures that include ebooks, is showing how 'the indie game is about over' since legacy guys are pricing $1-$3 over the holidays and their increasing % of ebook sales. Then your data shows a very positive spin here the other way. There is still a race to the bottom of pricing.

Amazon likely won't be the only game. There are some interesting things going on in Asian electronic publishing that will pose a hurdle for Amazon.

Overall, it still seems like the time to be writing and publishing your own.

JB said...

First off I'd like to say that your 30-day beer diet is insane.

As an aspiring author who's self-published two titles, your blog is an invaluable resource.

It's the same old story, self published, not making any money, and considering giving up.

I just wanted to ask what you think of self published comic books? The process for creating and formatting e-comics is a lot different from books that are purely text. Are comics profitable on the ebook/epub market?

Jude Hardin said...

One of the small press publishers showed on a post yesterday how their data, based on usa today figures that include ebooks, is showing how 'the indie game is about over' since legacy guys are pricing $1-$3 over the holidays and their increasing % of ebook sales.

Got a link, JS?

Word verification: phizedl

Christina Garner said...

I think the word you used--staggering--is right on the money. It is staggering. And inspiring for those of us about to release our second ebook!

Thanks for the info, Joe.

Unknown said...

@Candice, as the mom of an eleven yo, I can tell you that dressers and tablets are popular and now affordable. I have spent more money on my daughter's books than on my own. I'm so happy that she loves to read, that I have a herd time saying no. Series are the way to go with them.

Rex Kusler said...

I never really had an opportunity to develop my writing because I was always waiting. So I gave up on it. Now I feel like Amazon Publishing is waiting there for ME. I think in a few years or more it could pay off for them beyond my expectations (not that it hasn't already). I could be one of those authors they brought up out of the muck--just by being there willing to publish my work. I'll be 60 next month and my best work is still further down the road.

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks so much for another informative blog. It is such an exciting time for writers, and I truly appreciate all the information you provide.

Jonas Saul said...

What's your price? Didn't you say a while ago that the publishers could shut you up for a price? Wasn't it, like ten million or something?

I suggest they pay it, because you're preaching gospel here.

You are bang on. That is what will happen as it already is happening as publishers are getting scared.

Well said


susanne said...

Excellent post! I have been trad published and been with three different publishers here in Ireland, got the advance, done the book tours, interviews, etc. Hard work and very stressful. After that, the publishers sat on their hands and didn't plug my book(s) when they should have.

Now I am self-pubbed and have 9 e-books (having taken back all my rights) selling really well and am 100 times happier and better off financially. I'm really pleased not to have to deal with publishers and agents anymore. It's hard work in a different way to do your own publishing but so satisfying. Many thanks for this post and for all the others too.

Susanne O'Leary


Kristi said...

Yes, Joe. We know, you're right everyone else is wrong. Everyone who doesn't ePublish now is a total idiot. You're making tons of money. Yes, we get it. This is the same message that you give in every single post you make. Can you say something else, please?

There's so many other factors in ePublishing that you could cover. People look to you as a leader in the ePublishing revolution and they want fresh insight. Why not cover the how to's? How to market your book effectively, what works what doesn't? And if you say that you don't do any marketing, fine. Then find one of the hundreds of other successful ePublished authors to discuss what they do that works.

Why not talk about how to land an agent after you've ePublished and how they could be used to sell foreign rights or movie rights after you've sold enough copies?

Why not discuss how to get your rights back from traditional publishers if you want to ePublish? And if you don't know how, then bring on a publishing attorney who could guest blog about how to do that?

I mean, there are so many other things that you can blog about to give us a fresh information. People want to hear from you but they'll grow tired if you're saying the same thing, over and over again.

I say this not to be critical, as I am a fan of what you have done but please, give us variety dammit!

JA Konrath said...

This is the same message that you give in every single post you make. Can you say something else, please?

Perhaps some people need to hear it, over and over.

Perhaps some people haven't heard it before, and it is their first time.

That said, though I often blog about this ebook revolution, the idea that midlist authors will start actively leaving their publishers, and publishers will begin actively mining KDP to replace them, is a new idea I haven't focused on before. It hasn't happened yet. But I'm betting it will.

JA Konrath said...

Wasn't it, like ten million or something?

It was a million. For a million I'd stop blogging and erase this blog.

Terri Reid said...

As one of the other authors in the Top Ten Occult Fiction List - I second what Joe has written. I have been AMAZED at the increase of sales in January and the potential for this coming year. Personally, I pray that legacy publishers never catch on and keep those e-books at $5+ because it does open the door for indie authors.
That being said, I do have an agent who is trying to find a "deal" for me - but I modified the contract so he is only looking for a print deal, I keep all the rights to my e-books. I know I've been passed on by a couple of big publishers - but there are still a couple more who are considering my books. This is an e-mail I sent my agent last week - January and December were excellent months on Amazon for the Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery Series and I just wanted to give you a quick update.

Loose Ends – A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery has been in the top 100 Kindle Books Sold for 15 days. It currently has 103 reviews – 70 5-star reviews and 24 4-star reviews. It is #52 in the top 100 Fiction Kindle Books sold, #13 in the top Romance Kindle books sold and the #2 book in the Best Sellers in Romantic Suspense genre – this is the book category, not the e-book category. Final Call – A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery is the #10 book in the same list.

In the Mystery Category – Loose Ends is the #2 Book in the Kindle category, Women Sleuths, right under Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money. Three more of the Mary O’Reilly Series (Good Tidings, Never Forgotten and Natural Reaction) are also in the top ten in Women Sleuths and another one (Darkness Exposed) is the #12 book.

In the Mystery and Thrillers Category – Loose Ends is #23 and in the Best Sellers Mystery Category – Loose Ends is #2.

Natural Reaction – my newest book - is the #16 book in Mystery & Thrillers Hot New Releases. The #15 Book is Gun Games: A Decker/Lazarus Novel by Faye Kellerman and the #16 Book is Breakdown by Sara Paretsky. Natural Reaction is the #1 Hot New Release in the Mystery Category and the #1 Hot New Release in the Women Sleuth’s category. (it was released on December 19th.)

This is a wonderful time to be a writer! Terri

Bob said...

I'll be blogging on my numbers later this month, but my success on my own dwarfs anything that ever happened with NY. I'm watching successful indie authors sign with trad houses and I'm wondering if it's working. There's no denying print is still a big market, but a shrinking one, while eBook is growing.
I think the greatest concern is right's reversion. As Joe says: once you sign, you're never going to see that book again. When a publisher says they keep rights with 300 sales over two reporting periods (ie a year), forget about ever having reversion.
The key is to think long term, rather than grabbing the immediate cash. I lived from book deal to book deal for 20 years with trad publishing. Now I plan out five years in advance and make my decisions based on my career.

dawn said...

I owe you a lot. I mean, seriously. I love what you said about difference between dreams and goals.

My e-sales have taken an upturn. I hope I can see some "Konrath-like" numbers...
...but the bottom line is I think what you've said a lot of times before. A lot of folks see these "overnight success" writers and think that they really ARE overnight success. But what they do not see are the years of years of writing since seventh grade, enough rejections to wallpaper your bathroom with (particularly one from Simon and Schuester whose tone was basically like "you want what? No serioulsy. What?"

Sorry, I'm rambling now. I'm excited. I haven't had much sleep.

Anonymous said...

I've gone so far as to change my blog URL because I'm tired of reading writer's blogs of those who desperately submit their work to literary agents.

It doesn't seem like traditional publishers will have to worry about grabbing self-published authors from Amazon, there are so many desperate writers out there begging to be traditionally published. It's sad.

I just read a blog post the other day about a writer who took an eBook only traditional publishing deal. What an idiot! That's right, a publisher offered her a contract to only sell her books as ebooks, no paper book publication in the contract at all! I mean, this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of in my entire writing career.

Terri Reid said...

@Susan - I can't believe that author did that! So, did the publisher lead with the line, "Hey, you want to me take 85% of your income and do the same thing you could do on your own?"
Unfortunately, some of the same things that make us great as writers - make us pretty poor at seeing our own self-worth. I have a close friend who has traditionally published mid-list - she had two excellent books - and then there was nothing. A mutual acquaintance of both of us mentioned that she had encouraged my friend to try and get the e-publishing rights back and my friend said, "That's not really being published."
Okay - ouch!!! But...as the lovely checks from Amazon come rolling in, I can live with a little ouch. ;)

Terri Reid said...

Sorry - Suzanne - not Susan... how rude of me!

David L. Shutter said...


The fact that someone (presumably) smart enough to write something marketable rushed into that deal without a second thought (or 2 sec of research, which seems apparent) shows the need for validation is still very much alive and well.

I honestly don't think legacy publishers will ever want for newb foreheads to stamp in exchange for 70-85%.

What's your new URL?

Unknown said...

Very cogent advice!

Brian January

Unknown said...


You may have read all of this too many times, but for many, it's their first time. I just today had a friend of a friend contact me about self-publishing. This is one of the sites I sent her to for info. It'll all be new to her. Yes, she could look up old posts, but I know for myself, if I see a post older than a year, I'd wonder if it the info was still accurate and true. Things change so quickly, so I have no problem with this message being repeated every so often.

Anonymous said...

@Terri, I'm familiar with the snobbery of traditionally published author friends of mine. They like their names in lights, rather than actually earning money from their writing.

@David, my new URL is: http://dashoffthedraft.blogspot.com


David L. Shutter said...

I'm familiar with the snobbery of traditionally published author friends of mine. They like their names in lights, rather than actually earning money from their writing.


Joe posted awhile back about a mystery writers group that wouldn't let indie pubbed authors in. Traditional pubbed members, with mere hundreds of sale a year, looked down their noses at indie authors with thousands of sales a month. W/o a legacy deal they were, of course, not real writers.

I think pretenses like that are one of many things we'll see change this year.

David L. Shutter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heidi Ruby Miller said...

Thanks for this tonight, Joe. It was your visit to Seton Hill which put me on my current path, and it has been a good one.

I needed to be reminded about taking the emotion out of the business. I always feel good about putting my own work out there until I'm around my writing community and see all the NYT Bestsellers who don't feel comfortable giving me a blurb or even the small press authors (who I'm selling more than) looking down their noses at me.

In my head I know it doesn't make sense to go the agent/publisher route again, but I slip into that ego sometimes where I wonder what it would feel like "to be accepted" in more ways than one.

Dave Cleinman said...

A great article as always, Joe. I think new authors, such as myself, see the world of publishing as Goliath, yet cannot seem to see ourselves as Davids.

I agree with the money idea... unless a legacy contract is financially lucrative from the getgo, just walk away. And, if it is, make sure the pub company will play by your rules. If they are coming to a self-pubbed author, instead of us going to them, we are in the driver's seat. They need us, we don't need them.

Best of luck to all Indies!

Michelle Hughes said...

Thank you for a wonderful article Joe. I can't see the benefit of trying to do anything but self-publish. I've looked at the numbers myself, and it just makes more sense to do it yourself. The only publishing house I ever submitted a manuscript to was Harlequin, and that was for nostalgia reasons.

I get to write my books, do it my way, and answer only to myself for success or failure. I don't think they can compete with the way we can price our books, and I just don't see any positives. I'll get my ego boost from having readers who love what I do and not because I signed with some well-known group.

Catherine Bybee said...

Perfect timing. I currently have the number one selling Romance on Amazon and it's been there for nearly three months. Amazon's press release stated: December’s #1 best-selling Kindle Direct Publishing book “Wife by Wednesday” was also the #5 overall best-selling Kindle book in December and has appeared on both the USA Today and Wall Street Journal best seller lists.

All of this because a big six turned me down and I didn't want to sit mid list with a small press any longer. Best decision I've ever made.

I've pulled a MS that has been sitting on a bix six desk for over a year to self publish next fall. I have another MS in edits with an editor to be released soon. And yeah, I've received offers. I haven't turned them all down as of yet but I am crunching numbers and doing the math.

I write romance. There aren't going to be many reviews from the New York Times for me. Not that I care. I think even Nora can count on one hand how many reviews she's been given from these people.

I wanted readers and competitive price delivered them to me. I can make my money at .35 to $2.00 at a time thank you very much.. and afford to send my kids to college.

Looking forward to seeing you at RT in Chicago, Jo.

Cliff Ball said...

Personally, I've never wanted to publish through the Big 6, I always wanted to be independent. I just had to wait until technology caught up with my desires to do everything myself. If I ever have a traditional publisher contact me, I'd probably have a heart attack, but my first and only impulse would be to tell them no.

Glenn McCreedy said...

I can see the appeal of a trad deal to a writer who heretofore has only self-published. For someone who has dreamed of such a deal, made it a life goal, to have it become reality is strong catnip indeed. And there may be some psychic value to have reached that goal. But to sacrifice your financial future and security for that, unless the trad offers big money, could be tragic.

J. Carson Black, whose thriller THE SHOP will be published on 2/6 by Amazon's Thomas & Mercer, had been burned multiple times by the trads. Before self pubbing THE SHOP, Black said she would only accept "walking away money" from the trads, having been tossed off the merry go round all too often by them with earlier books. Fortunately, the eBook boom and the T&M deal made that scenario become irrelevant.

Edward G. Talbot said...

The major "new" point you make here is that publishers will have trouble signing new authors. And I agree that this is the single biggest variable in how ebooks will go from here. They can milk the current bestsellers for another decade or so. That's absent a game-changer, which seem to come every year or so.

In any case, the issue is how will they replace the bestsellers when the time comes? If paper were to remain king, I would think they could manage it. But paper is dying. Unless they can maintain the kind of market dominance that they had with paper, they'll be hard-pressed to attract the writers who will be the next Patterson or King in ebooks.

Add to that the fact that their battles with Amazon - which has somewhere between 60 and 80% of the ebook market depending on who you believe - mean that Amazon will not allow them to maintain the same dominance as paper even if they lowered prices some.

The problems I'm talking about are a decade off, however. The current names will last them at least that long. Unless - and I remain convinced this is the only short-term threat to the Big 6 other than maybe Amazon going after them more - some of those current names actually give up the large advances and jump ship.

If I were a betting man and not on a beer diet for a month, I'd guess that we won't see those huge names jump ship this year. But I'd love to be proven wrong.

Author David Brown said...

Thanks, Joe for your continued candidness. The current business model for the Big 6 is unsustainable in today's digital world. The only way for them to compete and survive is to try and entice those very same self-published authors whom they (gatekeepers)told were not worthy of being published in the first place. What goes around does indeed come around!

Christopher John Chater said...

Avian flu LOL! Hilarious.

erica said...

Think your message is a bit skewered. I'll grant that genre writers can find success with the Kindle. But it will never happen for serious titles or hoity toity high literature. The system in place now is necessary for literary fiction to survive. And we need it to, for that's what makes tomorrows classics.

Rosemary Fryth said...

Joe, what are your thoughts about other authors who either are legacy published, or dreaming about being legacy published, dismissing self-published authors as being somehow 'illegitimate' or not being 'proper' writers or authors? Do you believe that legacy publishers/agents are pushing the meme that their way is the only way and other authors are believing them?

p.s. My first ever novel and Kindle fantasy trilogy (self-pubbed 17 Dec, 2011) has had up to today 345 actual sales. Somehow I don't think I would have had that sort of immediate success if I had been taken up by a 'proper' publisher.

Anonymous said...

Great read! Thanks for sharing. --- Cattt

Unknown said...

I just got done reading your article, and really enjoyed it, thank you. You can see some fun self-published books at www.fun2readbooks.com where they are in paperback, digital and audio also now. all of them are indie and self published, any questions or help, please ask me, I do this full time and would love to help anyone that needs help or advice, thank you, Vince Stead.