Saturday, December 28, 2013

Konrath's Publishing Predictions 2014

So way back in 2009 I made some predictions about the future of publishing. I was right about quite a bit. In fact, it's hard to believe those predictions were considered wild at the time, because many are now taken for granted.

I've been looking to the future, wondering what is going to happen next, and I've got a few equally wild ideas.

1. The end of Barnes & Noble as we know it. In 2014, paper book sales will no longer be significant enough to sustain the nation's largest bookstore chain. There may be bankruptcy and restructuring and the selling of assets (like the Nook), but ultimately it will result in many stores closing, and possibly the demise of the brand.

2. Libraries will have the opportunity to buy ebooks at a fair price, with fair usage, directly from authors. Namely me and those who join me via a new company I'm starting. I'll be making an announcement soon, but in short, I want to give libraries everything the Big 5 are denying them, and I want all authors who control their rights to enroll in a new, innovate, and extremely generous way for everyone--including libraries--to profit from ebooks.

3. Permafree will be monetized. The ebook library company I'm starting will help fund another ebook company I'm also starting, one where authors will earn money via free ebook downloads. More soon.

4. Indie bookstores will need to start selling self-pubbed books, or perish. Paper isn't going away anytime soon. But there won't be enough of a legacy supply that will keep the necessary number of diverse titles on shelves to make indie stores a worthwhile destination for shoppers. If indie bookstores deal directly with self-pubbed authors, and print their own copies to sell in their stores, they can build inventory and cut out the share normally taken by publishers. I outlined how to do this years ago.

5. Visibility will become harder. As more ebooks get published, and virtual shelf space expands, it is going to become harder to find eyeballs. Ebooks aren't a competition--readers buy what they want to, without limits, even if TBR piles become impossible to ever finish within a lifetime. So someone who buys my ebook will also buy yours; there is no either/or. But only if the reader is aware of both.

The future will be about actively cultivating a readership. So far we've been lucky. With KDP Select and BookBub, authors have been able to get visible without reconnecting with longtime readers. There have always been enough new readers to sustain sales. But I believe maintaining a fanbase is going to become increasingly more important.

That means having an up-to-date website, making it easy to sign up for your newsletter, staying active in social media, and regenerating your brand with new titles and continued promotions.

My prediction: self-pubbed authors who don't focus on their current, core readership will see sales diminish.

6. Self-publishing will witness a new support industry grow around it. According to Amazon, there were 150 KDP authors who sold more than 100,000 ebooks in 2013. That's 15,000,000 ebooks sold outside of legacy publishing, and those are just the top 150 sellers. It isn't a stretch to believe tens of millions of self-published ebooks are being sold annually.

So far, the only companies interested in working with self-pubbed authors are predators trying to take advantage of them.

We don't need self-publishing services. We don't need to pay Kirkus or PW for reviews. We don't need writing organizations (MWA, Authors Guild) who don't look out for our interests.

Here's what we need:

a) An independent journal that reviews and recommends self-pubbed titles to readers and libraries. One that doesn't charge authors anything.

b) A writing organization and annual conference where indie authors get together to share information and help one another. Something that gives us leveraging power in the industry. Something with imprimatur, that will let readers know they are guaranteed quality.

c) New third party ways to make self-pubbed titles visible. There are methods to find eyeballs that no one has thought of yet. Someone is going to figure out a new way of introducing ebooks to readers, and that person will make a fortune in the process.

d) Agents who specialize in estribution, foreign markets, and TV/movie deals for clients as paper deals occur less and less.

7. Big 5 mergers and layoffs and bankruptcies. As the publishing cartel loses its quasi-monopoly on paper distribution, there will be no way to support its infrastructure. Manhattan rent, in-house employees with benefits, length of time to publish, and the temptation for authors to avoid legacy and self-pub, will bring down the industry. There is too much waste, their share of the pie is getting smaller, and when B&N disappears there will be no way to recover.

8. Interactive multimedia. I've blogged about this before, and I'm still ahead of my time. Once I launch the library company and the free ebook company, this will be my next endeavor.

The publishing biz has become a tech biz. You don't win at tech by playing catch-up. You win by innovating.

9. Amazon will continue to blaze trails. They're smart, they're determined, and they're willing to take chances. In 2013 I watched Amazon expand into different countries and markets, and try different programs. As ebooks go global, Amazon will be the dominant global player.

If they continue to treat authors like they treat customers, this will be a good thing.

But if Amazon ever starts to treat authors like we're interchangeable suppliers who will take whatever we're offered, things could get dicey.

I'm looking forward to selling a lot of books with Amazon in 2014, and I hope Amazon continues to work with writers in a mutually beneficial way. There are billions of people on the planet, and only Amazon has the power to reach that many, which will be a boon for everyone involved.

10. Legacy will fight back. We've seen some push-back from those invested in the legacy industry. The collusion, the Authors Guild, the AAR, Patterson and King and Russo. But these were all just warning shots across the bow. They're afraid, and rightfully so, but not desperate yet.

Desperation will eventually settle in. And I don't expect it to be pretty.

We'll see more auctions of entire backlists, demands for government bailouts, and restructuring that will involve a whole bunch of lawyers. Everyone always assumes that after a revolution, things will improve. But I don't see that happening. I see chaos and confusion and no real way to rebuild things once the legacy industry implodes. Those being liberated will feel like they're being screwed. Those being screwed will wish for the old ways because at least they were familiar. Lots of people will point fingers and place blame, and lots of people will be worse off.

Change is hard. It's also inevitable. The best thing you can do right now, as a writer, is look to the future and try to find your place in that future. That might mean you'll need to forget the past. It also might mean you'll have to learn to accept, and forgive.

In my wildest dreams, I never thought ebooks would come so far, so fast. But in just five years, I believe we're on the verge of a true paradigm shift. Once the revolution hits a critical mass--which could happen in 2014--there is no going back.

The way to succeed in this future is to live and think in this future. That means continuing to innovate, experiment, and refuse to be satisfied.

Happy new year. Now get back to work.


Bob said...

Pretty much agree with all.

Stand still and you'll get run over.

It's a different business than it was just a year ago and will continue to evolve.

My focus in 2014 is on my core group of readers. The market has become saturated and readers have more options than they ever have before. Authors have to stay relevant to those who pay their salaries: readers.

Louis Shalako said...

I think you're entirely correct when you say that finding eyeballs to look at our pages is the real challenge. As to how that's done, don't ask me.

Commenting on blog posts might be the new way. (lol)

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Bob.

Konrath is describing what will happen, whether it is in 2014 or later.

Multiple avenues to the reader is a key element. Just like me finding your work, it took a connection on Twitter.

The lesson is I'll have to make sure I use as many paths as I can find for my own work, when the time comes. And, I'll need to put the time in to get it done and leverage the connections I have to expand my reach.

Anonymous said...


The Skeptical Spouse said...

I know (correspond with, comment on blogs of) several authors of successful long running genre series who seem happy as the proverbial mollusk to continue getting advances and publishing one book a year with one of the big 5.

What do you think will happen to these kinds of authors? Does their publishing model persist at all? Is every author going to be forced into self-pubbing?

Amber Dane said...

Great post, Joe. Happy New Year. And off I go back to work :)

Anonymous said...

Have to agree. Personally, I'm looking for the connection to TV for my series and not finding it.

Friend Grief said...

Terrific list, all of which seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Sign me up!

Unknown said...

Our library system, Douglas County Libraries, (voted the number one library system in the country) is already dealing directly with self-pubbed writers and carrying both eBook and hard copies of their books. The director (Jamie LaRue) also talked to Mark Coker from Smashwords about adding libraries as a distribution channel for authors. Though I don't yet self-pub, I think it's an amazing time for indie authors! Happy 2014!

J. R. Tomlin said...

I can't find a thing that I'd disagree with.

Christy said...

I agree with you. The only question is -- how do we join you!

Jill James said...

I saw the shift in my own family this Christmas. My mother-in-law who swore she didn't want an ereader, didn't know what to do with an ereader, asked for an ereader for Christmas!! Then she asked how sales were going on my Christmas boxed set and I got the joy of her dropped jaw from what is possible in this brave new world.

Unknown said...

Thanks for another insightful post. One of the things I'm struggling with as a new self-pubbed author is finding readers in ways that I can currently afford. Advertising is very expensive. I'm also still learning how to get more titles out there while increasing my social media and marketing to my new readers. There doesn't seem to be enough time in the day or even month! This past year, I've made a lot of mistakes, but ones from which I've learned. Thanks for taking the time to provide information and insights into the self-pubbed world. You are one of the reasons that I decided to self-publish. I'm also heading up a panel at RT this year with a group of self-published authors. Self-publishing has been an exciting--and scary in a good way--experience and one I wouldn't have had if I had waited for someone to finally take a chance on me. I appreciate you being such a great advocate and blazing the way for others.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Joe, are you planning to continue your exclusivity with Amazon? Having any doubts?

Unknown said...

IN the world of indie publishing no one understands the trends better than you JA but I disgree with you on:
1. The end of Barnes & Noble as we know it.
BN is so healthy founder Leonard riggio wants to buy it back without the Nook division of course. BN got into Nook way late in the game and dumped too much money just as tablets were coming into their own. You will see BN dump Nook in 2014- sell off manufacturer of ereader devices to Google or other who already have tablets and need a supplier for the hardware. BN will be the last brick and mortar store as all others fall to Amazon. BN may scale back, do smaller stores and Kiosks but BN not going anywhere anytime soon.

Carl Hose said...

You could change shit in the publishing world drastically, for the better. Your ideas are on the money. Indie authors need to get on board with you pronto. Good job, man.

Unknown said...

5. Visibility will become harder.
Almost impossible for an indie author to make even a small ripple in the vast ocean of indie authors/titles. If you are an indie author you need to understand this. Your goal should not be to sell a vast amount of books online- you won't. Your goal as an indie author should be to sell just enough to atract the attention of a traditional publishing house like john Locke and Amanda Hocking did. The Kindle Bubble has burst. Those who got in on the ground floor made their money. Indie publishing is back to being a "vanity publisher." But it is the only way you will ever get noticed as traditional publishers will not publish an unpublished author or unagented author and guess what kiddies? Most agents won't even talk to you unless they can see something you've written. Also know this- in 2014 and years to come thousands more wannabee authors will flood the market with poorly written crap. The vast majority will be amateurs- not professional writer's and making that vast ocean of titles even vaster. Don't quit your day job and don;t starve for the sake of your craft. Today, even A-list authors are finding it harder and harder to sell their books. Even Stephen King cannot rely solely on his name alone. You have to be an awesome writer. Then there's the new restrictions ebook publishers are placing on aspiring authors like joing KDP Select and other bullcrap. It's a business- not a hobby. If you haven;t a tough business skin you'll never make it in this business unless you hire someone who does. Good luck!

Russell Blake said...

I'll offer one more prediction: There will be more authors most have never heard of earning truly big money than ever before.

One opportunity for trad pub, though, that I believe smart trad pubs will embrace: the challenge is not to increase the number of home runs a house has, but the number of midlist authors that do better than just okay. Trad pub is excellent at taking something that's breaking big and making it huge. It's not so good at spotting the next big thing. Consider the number of books it signs and shotguns out there every year, taking all the risk in the hopes some will convert into hits. I believe the opportunity is to cull the ranks of the better selling indies and offer them good deals - not the crap ones they try to offer, but actually decent deals - enabling the publishers to increase their hit rate of ground doubles, which is where they're losing money now. If a trad pub releases 1000 titles, it's lucky if 10 go big (maybe more, maybe less - point is, it's a small number). It's the 990 that don't do a lot that costs them. So logic would dictate that a good business would try to improve the performance of a decent chunk of that 990. The only way to do that is to get authors that already have good followings.

But those will be expensive, because they're already likely doing quite well, so they won't sign a crap contract. So the smart trad pubs will have to reconsider their business model, and pay more to offset their risk. An author who can bring 50K or 100K sales for a title is flat out worth more than a flyer on an unknown. The flyer approach is much the model record companies use - sign 100 bands, give em all a video and studio time, and then wait to see which 2 hit. That's an old paradigm that the publishing industry can't afford any more.

Whether it figures it out in time is a different issue. But there's clearly an opportunity to make money when industries are in turmoil - it just requires some innovation.

A.C. James said...

#2 & #3<<<This is something exciting that I would love to see happen. One of my favorite places as a child and as a grown-up is the library. And they definitely don't get the funding they need to remain viable for generations to come. I think the current system for e-lending for libraries is ludicrous. I'd love to be a part of this, if you're allowing shameless smut peddlers on board.

gpstberg said...

Good observations, I'm sure many will come about in one form or another.

Libbie Hawker said...

Fantastic predictions, Joe! Some a little dark and worrisome, but I believe you are correct about them.

I'm excited to learn more about your library program and your permafree earning program!

Liliana Hart said...

Hi Joe,

I pretty much agree with everything you've said here.

I think that visibility is going to get harder, especially for new indies who jump in without a business plan and don't have multiple titles. I do agree that cultivating your newsletter list is going to be more important than ever, especially with the changes Facebook is making.

I also think it's going to be important to have a continuing series. I've always thought that was important, but I think it's going to be important to hook readers with the series and then continue to get as many books out in that series as possible. The goal for 2014 is to get more readers and hold on to them, because I think it's going to be a very volatile year.

I definitely agree about indie bookstores. I've talked to several lately who are "boycotting" Amazon by refusing to order my books when customers ask for them. They won't host signings for me, even though I consistently sell 100+ books at every signing I do. They're going to boycott themselves right out of business by being stupid. They need to open their eyes and think like businesspeople.

You mentioned that 150 authors sold more that 100,000 copies on Amazon. I did plus hundreds of thousands more. But you've also got to take into account other vendors. Apple is a very strong player. They're not going to overtake Amazon, but I sell almost as much there as I do at Amazon. I think 2014 should be a year for indies to really get serious about getting in the game. They need to distribute directly to all vendors so they can see and control their sales and money. Places like Smashwords and D2D, while they make things easier, they're not good for the business side of self-publishing. They take away control, and that control is going to be very important in 2014.

As far as a writing conference directed at indies, that's basically what the NINC conference has become. All the vendors/retailers attend and the workshops are geared toward business minded people.

It's going to be an interesting, and challenging, year. It's going to be important for indie authors to remember that it's all about the reader and the product you're providing them. Success will happen organically if you remember who you're writing for.

JA Konrath said...

@ Robert - For the moment I'm all exclusive with Amazon.

@ Kilburn - I stand by my B&N prediction. If you decide buy stock, lemme know how you do 3rd quarter 2014. But I advise against it. ;)

@ Kilburn - Selling enough books to attract the attention of a legacy publishing house is like saving up to buy a ticket on the Titanic. Bad idea.

@ Russell - Smart publishers would follow your advice, but I don't know any smart publishers. Most are dumping their midlist, rather than expanding it. There is opportunity here for them, but I'd be surprised if they took it.

Rob Cornell said...

But for those of us who haven't solidified our base of readers, how can we reach them? I seem to be loosing as many as I gain and I can't figure out what's going on. In 2014 I plan on focusing on producing more stories more consistently to keep readers with me instead of straying to another author.

Guess we'll see.

Unknown said...

I only started reading this blog two days ago, but I have to keep getting up from my chair to pace around the room.(And yes, buying a walking/writing treadmill is one of my future goals.)
Thanks for letting us look into your crystal ball.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

"5. Visibility will become harder.
Almost impossible for an indie author to make even a small ripple in the vast ocean of indie authors/titles."

I hear this a lot. How much easier is it in traditional publishing? Not. At. All.

The myth of trad pub discoverability is just that. A myth. Selling books is a black art that nobody really knows how to practice.

Phyllis Humphrey said...

Joe: As usual you are right on. I've said for the past four years that bookstores need to carry self-pubbed books. I hope they listen to you. I also applaud your plans to put self-pubbed books in libraries. I'm also following your advice to write more books. My latest rejection from a trad house has pushed me into self-publishing my cozy mystery series. So thanks in advance for a great 2014.

Russell Blake said...

Joe: Then that's an opportunity for smaller pubs to belly up to the bar and eat larger publishers' lunches. Because at one point all those big conglomerates weren't big.

In crisis comes opportunity. Perhaps Amazon will adjust their strategy to creating some out-of-the-park hits from the midlist. My point is that the big boys have no idea how to create more hits than they do every year, and if they can't create more, they need to focus on making the mid-range pay way better. This focus on only shooting for the multi-million sellers is self-defeating. And in truth, many of the next million sellers could well come from the ranks of indies who have honed their chops.

In the old days, an author like Dan Brown could go four books before hitting big. The publisher kept him and allowed him to mature. That wouldn't happen now, because of the emphasis on signing the next big hit, rather than signing the next generation of hit writers. I believe when they signed writers rather than titles, they enabled good authors to develop into popular and great ones. The shortcut is obviously to reduce the risk associated with signings by going for those with established chops and followings. But they'll have to do way better/more equitable deals, which will require a paradigm shift in the way they do business/view the talent.

The smart ones will adjust. The not so bright ones will bemoan their industry collapsing around them.

Either way, I'll still be writing, and my audience will still be reading. So it's all good.

Congrats on a great year. May 2014 be even better.

Terry Odell said...

What we need (b) -- the annual NINC (Novelists, Inc.) conference does this. It's not exclusively for indie publishers, but they're well represented and not considered 2nd class citizens. The 2014 meeting is in St. Petersburg, FL.

Anonymous said...

Great post Joe, some enlightening points made that I look forward to hearing more about. Also, thank you Terry for providing more info on NINC. I'm going to Google now. Are there any other indie writers' conferences that you (or indeed anyone) could recommend? Thank you. :-)

Geraldine Evans said...

Interesting predictions, Joe.

I'm certainly noticing the difference that all those extra wannabee writers are making to my sales compared to a year ago. I'm considering various options, but the No 1 priority is to get more books written and out there.

Come the New Year, I'll be writing flat out.

H.M. Ward said...

Totally agree with you. I started reading your blog two plus years ago and never ever thought self publishing would be so awesome. Well, guess what-it is. I sold over 3 million books this year BY MYSELF. No publisher, no publicist. I had the #1 KDP and CS bestseller, and 11 NYT bestsellers. The point isn't to say look at me - it's to say it wouldn't have happened if I didn't self publish. Joe, thanks for your blog and blunt advice. Hope I get to meet you one day, shake your hand, and say thank you.

darrensapp said...

How will Half Price Books be affected over the next few years? I've seen them increase their new titles over the last couple of years and it seems that used books have sustained them?

Joe Flynn said...

I like your concepts for libraries and permafree books, Joe, but how will they work in practice with KDP Select's demand for exclusivity? Going exclusively with Amazon has worked out very well for me.

Jeff Shelby said...

You had me at monetizing free...

Ewolfe357 said...

I'm so glad you said this: "Something with imprimatur, that will let readers know they are guaranteed quality."

I proposed an idea like that recently saying that we need an organization like the Independent Author Matrix to (among other things) set a standard for indies that will serve them and the readers too. An author would submit to their book to the organization to make sure it meets certain quality standards in plot, formatting, publication, etc.

If the organization finds it lacking in an area, then the author is told what needs improvement and directed toward assistance. (The assumption being that wannabe writers won't want to put in the effort, but real writers will.)

Once the author's manuscript is of professional quality, it earns the organization's stamp of approval by way of a logo that he/she is now authorized to put on the cover.

This logo communicates to potential readers that this is a QUALITY indie book, approved by a peer group of professional indies.

This can become well known and make the difference between an unedited piece of crap and a really good book that one would expect from the big 6. (or is it 5 now?)

My proposal fell on deaf ears, and that's why I'm so glad to see you talking about something similar since you've got an audience and are qualified to have an opinion.

I'm glad to see that you're taking it to another level, Joe. You've reached the success you've worked your ass off for and now instead of sitting back and rolling in the dough, you've got your eye on the future for yourself and all of us in the industry as well.

You rock, Konrath.

Rob Cornell said...

Ed, I don't think that is at all what Joe meant. That sounds like a terrible idea. It takes us a step back to the legacy publishing stone age, where writers were told their work needed a stamp of approval in order to reach readers.

I'm sorry, but fuck that.

I don't need some self-important group telling me if my book "meets certain quality standards in plot, formatting, publication, etc." Some of those elements are purely subjective anyway. It's nonsense.

That's probably why you got the deaf ears treatment. It goes against everything an indie writer represents.

And further more, what the hell defines a "real" writer vs. a wannabe? Do you make that call? Ha!

Paul Draker said...

I'm with Rob 100% on the "imprimatur" bullshit.

Sounds like Orwell's Animal Farm. Why the hell would we want to recreate the useless gatekeepers of the publishing industry's obsolete past?

How about this, instead?

Why don't we actually trust our readers to figure out what they like and what they don't?

EC Sheedy said...

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of this self-publishing thing, Joe gives me more to think about.

Only prediction I'm not sure about is the demise of B&N, a shape-shifting I can see, an imminent interment, I do not. (Or maybe that's wishful thinking on my part. I do love bookstores...)

MikeAngelGumshoe said...

And Joe, I predict weather in 2014--a lot of it.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Exciting list, Joe, and you've been dead-on with some of your predictions in the past.

I have been talking about producing an Indie Conference for a couple of years... I'll see if I can get commitments and build the schedule around some major names. It will happen.

Just in case you have time to join us, I'll buy you a beer. P.S. Whatever happened to your beer adventure?! I thought there was going to be a movie or something...

Unknown said...

If you want to stay in the game you need to focus on continuing to write and publish good books. I didn't make the 100,000 mark, but 2014 is another year. I did quite well and spent time interacting with my readers and will continue to writer the series they love. Advertising is important and it's how I sold all the books that I did. No this isn't easy when you have a low budget, but without doing that, readers will have a hard time finding you. I did cheap ads until I could afford Book Bub. What I hope is that in the future there will be more worthwhile places to buy ad space for.

Ewolfe357 said...

Rob and Paul, I think you guys are looking at it wrong. It wouldn't be an oppressive gatekeeper organization.

It would be proud indies banding together, supporting each other and showing that we can publish better than the trads can.

Right now "indie" means "wannabe" to a lot of people and every time an indie publishes something not ready for primetime, it reinforces that image.

And it wouldn't be taking us back to the stone-age because anyone who wants to publish their unproofed first draft that Aunt Bertha says is a great story is free to do so.

But if they want the badge that informs the reader, "This book is verified as a professionally published ebook" then they can join up and ask the group if it passes muster.

I find it odd that you guys see that as oppressive and limiting.

I know a LOT of authors who had no one in the "indie business" to turn to when they first published and they suffered for it. The reason why is there IS NO indie business.

Setting up a group to help represent and aid indie authors who are interested is empowering.

I'm sorry you don't see it that way and I'd like to see what Joe meant by his statement.

You say that readers should decide what is shit and what isn't. Okay, but how does that happen other than through trial and error - and every error gives all of us a bad name.

I never suggested that I would be the arbiter of quality. Any three members of the group would be able to review a book upon request and be able to see such things as typos, bad formatting, a shitty cover or a story that just doesn't make any sense or hold anyone's interest past the 2nd paragraph.

Maybe my idea fell on deaf ears because people don't think ahead about what can be done to make improvements to benefit everyone, nor do they want to be involved in putting in the effort.

Fine with me. I'd rather be writing anyway. But I help writers turn their books into professional quality books regularly when I'm not writing my own. It would be great if there was a group to help any and all indie authors all the time.

Every kick-ass indie book benefits all of us. But think about what Joe said about getting eyeballs in the sea of self-published books.

My idea serves multiple purposes that serve the writers and the readers.

JA Konrath said...

Why the hell would we want to recreate the useless gatekeepers of the publishing industry's obsolete past?

Awards sell media.

Actors are touted as Oscar winners, Blu Ray boxes have those little wing halos on the front and back touting what festival award the movie won, blurbs and reviews and star ratings adorn every sort of media available for sale.

The publishing industry is very good at patting itself on the back, getting itself reviewed, giving itself awards, putting itself on bestseller lists. And all of that helps sell more books.

Edgar Winner! NYT Bestseller! PW Starred Review!

It exists because it works.

As self-pubbed authors, we can remain at the mercy of an industry that wants to exclude us. Or we can create a parallel industry and do all those things for ourselves.

I'm all for trusting readers. I'm also all for giving readers more information about my books so they can make a more informed decision before buying.

A legitimate indie review journal, or writing organization, or award, or conference, can bring positive attention to our work.

A respected logo could do the same thing. The Good Housekeeping Seal of approval. Consumer Reports. EnergyStar. AHA Certification.

The upside is more visibility.

The downside is that books will be excluded, politics will come into play, and the organization will eventually become corrupt according to Pournelle's Law.

Weigh your opposition to an imprimatur run by gatekeepers against the opportunity for greater exposure and sales.

Then realize it's going to happen anyway, whether you want it to or not, because that's how human beings function. We assemble, organize, rate, discuss, and recommend.

The fact is, we have no organization to represent us, improve our public image, fight for us, or even recognize us.

I don't like gatekeepers. But I wouldn't mind having the power that comes with being part of a large, organized group. And once organization happens, imprimatur, awards, conferences, and review journals will follow.

Christopher John Chater said...

The library system today is byzantine and outdated. They often require a reference or a review from an accredited journal, and the journals want a manuscript or galley six months before the book is published! Who waits six months before publishing a book anymore?
I have long thought that self- pubbers need a place that will review books. It's long overdo. is one of the few, but the exposure they offer isn't super great. just released their top ten books of 2013 and not one of them was self-pubbed, yet many people commented that self pubbers should have been included or that a separated list for them should have been released. Its only a matter of time before the mainstream has to let us in. So far the best exposure is Amazon ranking.
If you have an idea to reach libraries, I'm in.
Thank you and Happy New Year

Ewolfe357 said...

Thank God someone has the same vision.

And as for readers, they will always decide in the end. Nothing can change that when we're talking about books.

But there could also be a Reader's Indie Choice award, sponsored by the indie book association.

Someone has to create this parallel industry to make these things possible for us. We can sit around like the bastard children of the literary industry, or we can show that we're serious sons of bitches. Not only do we have the talent and the intelligence to write our own books without the golden gatekeepers, but we can create a better industry as well.

Paul said this goes against everything that being an indie writer represents. I say this is the indie spirit that founded America and every other successful venture that ever happened.

The reason I recommend the name Independent Authors Matrix is partly because of all of the talent pools that would be involved, but it also creates a nice acronym that defies the snobbish attitude that indies aren't "real" authors.

It says IAM.

France Forever 24/7 said...

24/7 in France: In the sea of self-publishing, it's about staying afloat & being seen - merci for your great post!

Paul Draker said...

Joe & Ed,

I get where you guys are coming from.

I just wonder if there's any advantage to self-branding as indie. From what I've experienced so far (5 months in, 15,000 books sold), no reader cares a whit who a book's "publisher" is, or even notices if a book is indie-published or not... as long as it's well-written, well-edited, professionally packaged, and above all entertaining.

Maybe my perspective differs because I have zero history with the legacy industry. Maybe it's because I come out of another industry (mobile games & apps) where indies have already elbowed the traditional publishers aside and own the best seller charts.

When I started writing two years ago, I never once considered querying, getting an agent, etc. It didn't make any kind of business sense then or now. And I don't feel like I'm at any disadvantage competing with big publishers or traditionally published books, either. If anything, as an indie, I feel like I have advantages that traditionally published writers don't.

And I think traditional publishing's own legacy awards and badges are up for grabs to indies anyway... if not now, then very soon. Many indies are already NY Times bestsellers, USA Today bestsellers, etc. If a writing award is shortsighted enough to continue limiting itself to traditionally published authors, then readers will learn to ignore it within a couple years. Why?

Because by the end of 2015, more than 50% of the most popular, most-talked about-bestsellers will be indie-published.

Call me overly optimistic. But if I am, then it's mostly your fault, Joe ;)

Unknown said...

I believe Joe when he says this isn’t a zero sum game. Rather than see other indies in the same genre as competition, it would be much better to band together with them and grow an audience together. I look at what Joe has done with this blog – even before the Jack Daniels collaborations – and it inspires me. The only reason I’ve read Scott Nicholson and Blake Crouch is because I heard about them here, now they are two of my favorite indie authors. There’s no reason other like-minded indie authors couldn’t do the same, forming little micro-brands together that help amplify sales and reach. It’s almost like Konrath belongs to a cool little club, and I want to be in a cool little club, too. It could even take the form of starting a small press publishing house together, or simply sharing resources, ie. Cross-blogging, co-writing, advertising promos together, and putting together box sets that feature multiple indie authors in the same niche. An “Indie Organization” that has a “seal of approval” might work, but there’s no reason we can’t join forces with a little circle of friends and achieve some of that on our own.

And speaking of niches, here’s an observation/prediction: Genres will shatter. They already have. Readers’ can now hone in on the niche they love best, and whatever the niche, no matter how obscure, they will have plenty of books to read. Love werewolf porn? There’s enough out there to keep you busy for the rest of your life. Horror used to mean all kinds of horror, it was all sort of lumped together – now there are people who will only read zombie survival, or people who just love vampires. It’s not my style – I’ve always been a dabbler, a little of this, a little of that – but many readers seem to have narrowed their scope, simply because the increasing number of titles in each sub-niche allows them to do so. They don’t have to read a thriller while they’re waiting for the next werewolf orgy book to be released. There is now a seemingly endless supply of werewolf orgies, and some writers make very good names for themselves by picking a specified niche and sticking to it. I am currently working on a trilogy about BDSM chupacabras. It’s the next big thing. I can feel it.

Anonymous said...

Joe, I don't see any mention of small, independent publishers who offer great services and terms. I'm a writer; I really don't want to be a publisher. I don't want to do all the things that publishers do, and I'm happy to share the profit form my books with an e-only publisher that gives me a fair deal. I think I've found one. What do you think of: 60% royalty of receipts from retailer; publication within three months; good rights-reversion terms; excellent promotion (publisher has extreme marketing and promotion expertise; that's his "thing". Obviously, editing, proof-reading, uploading, marketing etc are all paid for by the publisher.

Anonymous said...

Me again... one other thing this small publisher offers is a low price. We'd do KDP select, bookbub, etc (he'll pay of course!)

adan said...

#'s 2 & 3 - surprised and pleased, look fwd to future info, thanks joe :-)

Anonymous said...

Regarding item #6, the indie romance world already has a FANTASTIC review magazine, InD'Tale Magazine, which is run by a dedicated editor who formerly worked for RT Reviews. It's truly revolutionary what they've done for indie authors, and the magazine continues to grow. Having your book reviewed by them is technically free, although they as $10 to include your book cover with the review. But $10 is practically free compared to what PW or RT charges.

Thanks for a great post! So true!

Joanna Penn said...

I would also add that indies will start to earn a lot more from foreign sales, now the US market is flattening out - but the global market begins to grow.
Germany, India, Brazil, the Philippines are just some of the opportunities - for both books in English and translations.
I hope we'll also see the book distribution sites like Smashwords do foreign currency pricing like Amazon and Kobo - there's no point in using USD price equivalent in India.

Exciting times! Thanks Joe.

Unknown said...

Excellent posts! You pretty much nailed it! I do want to say in regard to #6, the romance genre already has the independent review magazine and the convention.

InD'tale Magazine is a wonderful e-magazine produced monthly that supports indie and self-pubbed authors. They produce a high quality PDF that is emailed to subscribers monthly (free of charge). Their reviews and articles are intelligent, well-produced, and helpful for both readers and writers.

The organization with a annual conference that welcomes indie and self-pubbed authors right along with those who are traditionally published is the Romance Novel Convention held in Las Vegas. (In fact, Bob is scheduled to speak there this year - definitely looking forward to that!)

Because the romance industry is so large, if these organizations can get off the ground and gain momentum, more will follow suit and I do agree we need more of this!

Kathryn Loch

Dan Holloway said...

Excellent point about new readers being what has sustained many so far and the importance of cultivating long-term fanbases - ultimately it is that which will drive up the overall quality of the landscape.

point 6 makes me nervous - I fear that a conference and organisation that has sufficient clout would be dominated by authors who are perceived to have clout, which means those with high sales. As a result, we will simply have a mirror of traditional publishing in terms of content and, from a readers' and cultural perspective, we will end up with the public-facing diversity of the self-publishing landscape greatly diminished.

Anonymous said...

what's your opinion on Scripd, the Netflix version of books?

jack wallen said...

As usual, I agree with you completely. I would add one thing. It would seem to me as the deluge of new writers come on board the train, many writers who have tried, and failed, would be giving up and jumping off. I don't think it will balance out equally (as more will join than will leave), but hopefully the rush of new writers will be somewhat quelled by those who realize there aren't millions to be made overnight and give up.

Robert Pickering said...

I tend to agree with a lot of what you say. As an indie writer who is more or less just getting started, I find the ebook landscape pretty desolate. There is a lot of crap out there. I buy ebooks frequently and often find myself disappointed by just flat out bad writing. Although some traditionally published smash hits like 50 Shades of Gray are equally bad.

Elisabeth Zguta, Author said...

Happy New Year - thank you for your insight, looking forward to more about your efforts in a new kind of library service.

Traveling Ed said...

On point #2 what about what Smashwords already does, of allowing authors to price their books cheaper for libraries. Not that I see much action there, but the accessibility is there.

Paul Draker said...

Hi Joanna,

About the US ebook market "flattening out"... don't believe it. Objective measures indicate ebook sales are still growing rapidly.

It now takes more sales/day to hit the Amazon Top-100, Top-1000, etc. than it did even a few months ago.

This factually wrong meme about "ebook sales flattening/declining" we see bandied about by the talking heads of publishing comes from a deeply flawed survey by the American Association of Publishers. But their methodology only measures traditionally published ebooks, which are indeed flattening or declining.

Overall ebook sales are still growing at a healthy clip, but indies are growing their share of that market even faster.

The AAP is blindly measuring their shrinking trad-pub slice of the pie and confusing it with a shrinking pie.

Unknown said...

Working at Barnes and Noble, I've kind of wondered about their future as well. You can feel it happening even in the store. They are taking desperate measures to sale anything, and it's really just making the work environment less enjoyable and costing man hours. They don't seem very savvy in their approach. Instead, they cut corners and make these minuscule changes trying to save a buck, when really, they're just costing the company more money. It's really kind of pathetic. I also have supported Amazon because I'm an independent author, but I have to go where the future lies, which is my writing, and hoping the long, hard work, and the passion comes straight off the page. Peace! And thanks for the blog!

Karen Cantwell said...

Your new companies sound exciting, Joe. And visionary. I can't wait to see as you roll them out.

You are right: Change is hard and it is inevitable. Those who understand that axiom and keep ahead of the game will thrive.

Have a great New Year, and as always, thank you for championing the independent spirit.

I.J.Parker said...

I rather like # 6. Getting attention for deserving books is the most urgent need now and will become desperate next year.

One should not have to game the system to become successful.

Adrian said...

I definitely see the B&N bricks-and-mortar demise coming. But if Nook Press dies, I'll be quite disappointed. Nook accounts for 22% of my ebook sales--I would be disappointed to give up that slice of the pie. I've never even been tempted to go exclusive with Amazon, since they account for only about 60% of my sales. (I don't think I even know anyone personally who owns a Kindle.)

I also question the presumption that people purchase giant TBR lists that they'll never get to. Why would you purchase a book before you're ready to read it? If you think you might want to read it in the future, why not just add it to a wishlist (e.g., on Goodreads or your favorite ebook retail site)? You might not even use the same device or format six months from now. Right now, I have dozens of books on my TBR list, but only one that I've actually purchased.

Unknown said...

There's nothing left to say; everything's been said.

Count me in!

Walter Knight said...

I predict the greatest potential for growth of E-books are readers you use non-Kindle reading devices. People reading on their phones or pads are a huge market.

I've already dropped KDP because of the exclusivity clause. Sales are hurt a bit because Amazon is the current leader of E-book sales, but in the long run I expect a net gain.

Unknown said...

Good article, Joe. As the CEO of San Francisco Book Review, we've been reviewing books from big-name publishers since we started the magazine in 2008. We've always supported the indy/self-published authors.

One thing I do take issue with that was one of your talking points is mentioning that authors shouldn't have to pay companies like us, Kirkus, etc., to review their book(s). While we don't have a policy that we need to be compensated to review an indy book, if an author would like to GUARANTEE that their book is reviewed by us, we do have a sponsored program in place for that. We receive upwards of 600 titles a month, and have a staff of about 120 reviewers + more than 80 children reviewers (reviewing for our new magazine Kids' Book Review). We can't possibly get to review ALL of the books that land in our office.

Also, we have payroll and office rent and the cost of producing a magazine. Unfortunately, we don't have a Money Fairy on staff. We need to generate money to produce a magazine of our quality. That comes from advertising (and we all know that the economy is in the toilet these day) and publishers or authors who want to guarantee that we'll review their book.

I just wanted to offer your readers a viewpoint from the other side of the coin.

Ah, also, your point about authors keeping their website current and active --- I can't tell you how many times we've tried to find an author, and they have no web presence. I had an author just today finally get in touch with me about her book review that she paid us to do back in the summer. She never responded to the many emails we sent her, asking her approval to run the review we wrote of her book. Authors --- check your emails. This happens more than we'd like it to.

Heidi Komlofske, CEO
San Francisco Book Review
Kids' Book Review

Me said...

Great blog post Joe. Another part of the industry that I believe is about to implode as well is the higher education textbook market. My former colleagues in the industry refuse to believe what I've been telling them for the last few years, but paid and open source ebooks are going to turn that industry on its head soon as well.

Me said...

@Kilburn Hall

"BN is so healthy founder Leonard riggio wants to buy it back without the Nook division of course...."

That's not necessarily true. B&N has been quietly closing more stores than they've been opening and that trend looks to continue this year. Riggio also just sold 2,000,000 shares earlier this month, at a loss. The stock has been downgraded to "sell" again by several analysts. Riggio also has his finger in several other businesses- not just B&N. It's not his only interest.

While I don't think 2014 is the year of the demise of B&N (sorry Joe), it will probably come in the next two or three. A company that size will flail around for a few years trying to save itself before giving up. Look at Borders as a model- they struggled for years before finally filing for liquidation bankruptcy.

Anonymous said...

I see huge potential in point 6d. Also a book/blog explaining how to do all that myself.

evilphilip said...

There are only about 6 books in the Top 100 on Kindle that are from independent authors -- and two of those are giant 5+ book compilations and all of them are at a discount price.

I wouldn't spend a lot of time predicting the death of the Big 6 publishers or even any difficult times for those publishers. They have proven that they can weather the rise of eBooks and dominate eBook sales the same way they have always dominated the industry.

They are making more money than ever and are riding the wave away from physical books to eBooks like an expert surfer catching the big curl.

Amazon has provided a platform for independent authors. Take advantage of it and enjoy it.

Keep in mind that even Joe made almost all of his money in the last few years from $.99 books. The indie books you see popping up into the Top 10 in any category are almost always discounted to $1.99 or $.99.

That's the place where indie authors can squeeze into the market and build their readership and platform.

Paul Draker said...

Not sure what Kindle Top 100 you're looking at, evilphillip :) It sure ain't Amazon's.

#30 - $5.99 A.G. Riddle - The Atlantis Gene
#51 - $0.99 Penelope Douglas - Bully (Fall Away Series)
#56 - $2.99 Penelope Douglas - Until You (Fall Away Series)
#59 - $0.99 Rosalind James - Just For Now (Escape to New Zealand)
#61 - $2.99 Samantha Towle - Trouble
#64 - $4.95 A.G. Riddle - The Atlantis Plague
#67 - $4.99 J. Sterling - The Sweetest Game
#69 - $0.95 Nashoda Rose - With You
#75 - $0.99 Russell Blake & others - 9 Killer Thrillers
#79 - $0.99 Ellie Campbell - When Good Friends Go Bad
#80 - $2.87 Nashoda Rose - Torn From You
#81 - $0.99 Randi Alexander - A Naughty Little Christmas
#88 - $2.99 Kelly Elliott - Broken
#100 - $0.99 Diane Capri - Twisted Justice

It does however look like the big-5 made a big holiday marketing push. Instead of the usual 21-28 indies I've counted in the Top-100, the last several times I checked, now I only see 14.

But do check the Top-100 again in 2-3 weeks. It'll be back to 25% indie once again, if not more, because old-school publishers will have drained their holiday marketing budgets.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Let's not forget that the Big 5 tend to bring out their big guns during the holidays, plus they've been doing heavy discounts and promos of backlist during the last few months.

When you consider the number of indie authors in the Top 100 at any given time, the prognosis is not good for traditional publishing.

Change always happens slow.

One thing I'm interested to note: there are fewer anonymous naysayers on this blog than there have been in the past.

Sydney Jane Baily said...

Exciting times and I'm glad to be a part of them. I just wish I'd jumped in sooner. Oh, I tried to write this comment without a regret but failed. New Year's Res: Just keep writing good quality books, but learn more about promo and marketing.

Melissa Douthit said...

Happy Holidays, Joe! Thanks for the predictions!

Melissa Douthit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"One thing I'm interested to note: there are fewer anonymous naysayers on this blog than there have been in the past."

Probably because Konrath's credibility has been irreparably eroded over the last year or two, particularly since the stance he took on the sockpuppet scandal. His refusal to engage in any meaningful way with arguments from those who don't share his opinions means those people just aren't bothering anymore. There are so many hard facts that run against Konrath's agenda, and he has simply ignored them (such as the recent survey that showed traditionally published authors on average earn more than self-published).

There's also the fact that this blog has spent less energy chasing controversy, so the debates have been less heated.

Added to that, I think there's a growing acceptance of two parallel publishing businesses, trad and indie, that can happily coexist without certain figures preaching the doom of one side or the other. A lot of heat has gone out of the argument, so there's less division to be exploited by the more cynical among us.

JA Konrath said...

There are so many hard facts that run against Konrath's agenda, and he has simply ignored them (such as the recent survey that showed traditionally published authors on average earn more than self-published).

So help me, but I kind of miss anonymous pinheads like this...

First, cite the survey.

Second, I never refuse a debate. Ever. But I've yet to see any logical of fact-based refutation of my arguments, including in this post.

Third, without even seeing the survey you mentioned but didn't link to, I can guess its major flaw: it doesn't take into account all authors rejected by legacy publishers who then self pubbed, me included.

I've sold 500,000 ebooks that legacy rejected. In the past, a legacy pubbed book was the only way to make money.Ergo, a survey can't compare the two. There are tens of thousands of authors who made $0 the legacy way, hence there are many more authors making money than ever before.

Hint: try using you brain. But thanks for reaffirming my hope that anonymous stupidity still exists on the web. :)

MJRose said...

So interesting Joe - agree with quite a bit of this as usual. Especially of interest to me is 6c - your prediction describes the company that Liz Berry and I started in 2013 and that launches in 16 days.

Thanks for the shout out - even though you didn't realize you were giving it to us 1001 thanks! And Happy New Year.

John DuMond said...

"First, cite the survey."

It's cited in this article in FORBES.

The survey in question suffers from a fatal flaw known as selection bias.

What the survey did was to compare the earnings of SUCCESSFUL (ie, published) traditional authors with ALL (successful and unsuccessful) self-published authors. It completely ignores the majority of authors who pursue traditional publishing and never make it to publication (and, as a result, have zero earnings).

There are three possibilities here:

1. The people who conducted the survey are unfamiliar with the proper methodology for conducting statistical research.

2. The people who conducted the survey are familiar with the proper methodology for conducting statistical research, but don't understand how the publishing industry works.

3. The survey was conducted with the express purpose of reaching a predetermined conclusion, and the research was front-loaded in order to support said conclusion.

Long story short, from a research standpoint, this survey's a joke.

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

Have to be careful how you promote those new companies to potential contributors/partners/whatever because you might unwittingly run afoul of various state and federal laws. If you don't have one already, get yourself a hotshot Chicago type business lawyer to guide you through a sea of laws and regulations that might impact on the businesses you want to start--because when you push a new project via the internet you may be creating jurisdiction for litigation not only in Fed land, but in every state in the Good Old USA.

Daniel Kenney said...

John DuMond, that might be the best and most concise critique I've seen of those kind of studies. Thank you for that.

I think all too often, people look at successful traditional authors as those traditional authors who make a lot of money. But you and Joe and Barry and others make a great point, there are many thousands of "traditional" authors who are pursuing the traditional path and fail to get published and thus fail to earn any money.

While we are at 2014 predictions, I wonder if anyone has thoughts about the children's market and what will happen there. I assume most readers of this blog who are writers probably write adult genre fiction. I'm curious about what you all think about the market for children's fiction? Kids often discover books through teachers, libraries, and book stores and don't typically make their own buying decisions so my question is, would any of you be more hesitant to Amazon publish children's fiction? Would you be more willing to continue to look for traditional deals within the world of children's fiction? Curious.

Mit Sandru said...

Konrath is right and it may happen next year or in the next few years, but the writing is on the wall and in his blog. What's happening to the book industry already happened to the music and even video industry. He mentions that this will be a revolution, and he's right again. The writers who will come ahead stay on their feet and don't lament about the perishing of the old ways, but find the opportunities of tomorrow. However the revolution is not about the writing of books, it is about the business aspect of books, by whichever form they will be released to the readers. If you are a good writer now you will be a good writer tomorrow. And if you don't like to mess with the dirty aspect of publishing, don't despair; there will be plenty of outfits that will help you part with your money and the rights of your book.
In point 2, he is planning to start a new endeavor to help libraries buy e-books from Indie Authors, and other services. That is forward looking. Of course, just because those services will become available that will not mean million dollar sales for every Indie Author. As an Indie Author your book will appear on Amazon ranking, and if it doesn’t rank high, no matter what organization you’ll join it will not help much. Good books sell, not so good books won’t.

Ewolfe357 said...

The Forbe's "study" is also referred to as a survey, which means it's only based on data provided by participants.

And it says: "The study was conducted online in October and November 2013 and gathered a sample of about 9,000 authors of different kinds. This is a non-scientific sample and so results may not necessarily be extrapolated to a nationally representative sample."

Studies or surveys like this are meaningless. My first thought when you said trad pub authors make more "on average" was: Yeah, if you calculate the incomes of Stephen King, Stephanie Myers, Rowlings, etc., then compute an average income and compare it to indie author average income, of course they make more.

All that does is create a false impression that if you want to make more money, go to a traditional publisher.

The fact remains that you barely have a chance of getting a publishing contract, while there's no disputing that you can publish yourself, reach the world, and possibly start a successful career if you're good enough, work hard enough and have a little luck.

Ron Vitale said...

Joe, thanks for a great post. I'm curious to see what you've come up with for your new company. I've been trying to get ebooks from my local library and it's extremely frustrating that their inventory is so small.

As a writer, I want to support libraries and readers: I became a fan of many authors because either a book was given to me as a gift, loaned to me by a friend or I found it on the shelf at a library.

And that's what I would like to see for ebook readers. I can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve in 2014. Happy New Year!

Frank Marcopolos said...

"The Rebel Alliance of Indie Authors." #justsayin

Selena Kitt said...

I'm in the 100,000 club - although I'm not sure all of those sales were on Amazon. I sold over 100,000 in Q1 of 2013. But you are spot-on, Joe, as usual, especially in terms of decreasing visibility. It's getting harder and harder to maintain it let alone find traction as a newbie.

But authors banding together is key. That's how some of us made it onto the USA Today and NYTimes lists this year.

For newbies out there, I would encourage you to find other authors in your genre. Start a private forum where you can share ideas, help each other. Ever since I started Excessica, I've though the co-op model of doing things was the best way to go. Cooperation, not competition. It works. It really, really works.

Of course, the year for erotica authors was not quite as fun, but we had plenty of drama - and lots more corporate censorship. Amazon cracked down harder, Kobo swept a lot of you mainstream writers into their net when they panicked and shut it all down in the wake of the Kernal's clickbait "article."

But erotica is still selling, it's selling quite well, and you can still make more writing erotica than any other genre - if you can avoid Amazon's "filter" and you don't mind the possibility of all your hard work being "banned" by someone due to content.

Because it's even harder (no pun intended?) to find visibility in erotica these days. No more SEO keywording in titles (or even descriptions!) No more full-skin covers. People who jumped on the bandwagon are abandoning ship (to mix metaphors) in the wake of the Pornocalypse of 2013.

*I* predicted that would happen. ;)

I noticed you didn't mention Google, Joe. Google is slowly selling more books for us. Our income there just keeps going up every month.

I don't like the idea of BN disappearing. The MORE competition out there, as far as I'm concerned, the better. I won't predict Google will catch up to Kindle - but I AM hoping!!

Because it makes me nervous to have all my eggs in one basket. And Kindle is slowly becoming the only game in town... (to mix metaphors once again... :) )

Competition is healthy. I want BN to thrive. I want Google to improve. Apple... prudish, strangely Victorian morals mixed with high-tech savvy Apple... even Apple, I wish more success. At least they don't filter my mainstream stuff! :D

Wishing you the best in 2014, Joe. I can't wait to see what you have in store for us!

(The verification code Blogger gave me? 86969695 669 Wow. How did they know? :)

Selena Kitt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Selena Kitt said...

Ohhh I forgot - what about subscription services like Oyster and Scribed?

Will books go the way of music and movies? Everyone pays one subscription price and gets access to all the content?

I have to admit, the subscription model makes my blood run cold. That's a slippery slope I just don't want to go down...

But it may be inevitable?

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Unknown said...

> One thing I'm interested to note: there are fewer anonymous naysayers on this blog than there have been in the past.

I was tempted to post anonymously to say, "Nay, you're wrong about that!", but I couldn't bring myself to do it.


Mary Jane Hathaway said...


But as one who just signed over her self-published series to a Big 5, I have to say that trad pub is not dead. Not by a long shot. And for a lot of us mid-list Kindle authors, what they offer is still attractive. A very nice/ not crap advance, paper distribution, and better marketing than I can do by myself without taking time from my writing, for example. Add in excellent editing teams and lovely covers and I'm happy to float back over to trad pub for a while.
Ebooks are going to be king, but paper distribution through a publishing giant is nothing to dismiss, especially for those of us who find the paper distribution onerous and aggravating.

All in all, I agree with your predictions. I can't wait to see your business model and I'll be standing in line with the rest of the indie/hybrid folk.

Unknown said...

> I'm curious about what you all think about the market for children's fiction? Kids often discover books through teachers, libraries, and book stores and don't typically make their own buying decisions so my question is, would any of you be more hesitant to Amazon publish children's fiction?

My first thought is that you don't have anything to lose publishing children's fiction on Amazon. Many adult readers who shop for books on Amazon have children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews.


James said...

As a library director, I have to say that patron demand for ebooks continues to increase. After experimenting with several library ebook services over the years, and spending a LOT of time talking to other librarians around the country, though, the basic reality is:

1) Patrons who are interested in ebooks want authors whose names they recognize. In other words, "bestseller" authors and well-known midlist ones. Very few are interested in exploring new authors (or self-published ones), even if they have thousands to choose from. When the publishers went to war with the library ebook vendors and started yanking their popular titles, usage of library ebook services plummeted significantly in a lot of libraries. That's because...

2) The vast majority of people out there primarily read what their friends recommend to them, what is on bestseller lists, and what is reviewed in the newspapers and other media they read/watch. Even among heavy library users, most do not even browse outside of specific areas.

3) Non-fiction is NOT in demand from library patrons who use ebooks. Fiction is what they want.

4) Even the cheapest of the library ebook subscription services out there today is overpriced for the amount of use it gets in MOST libraries (which are the mid-sized and small ones). That disparity got even worse when the publishers started yanking their titles.

5) If a library has to purchase individual "copies" of books (e.g. only one patron can have each "copy" checked out at one time), each copy better be priced at a tiny fraction of the cost of a print copy. In most of the library ebook services today, you actually spend more for a single "copy" of an ebook than you would spend on a hardback copy of it. Since the ebook-using patron base of most libraries is a very small percentage of the total patron base, in most cases it makes more financial sense to buy the print copy, particularly since so many libraries are having their budgets slashed yet again this year.

There do need to be more journals (online and off) that provide good recommendations for self-published books, but they will only be effective if they spend as much time marketing themselves to the general readership out there as they do to libraries. I see a lot of fiction books every week (self-published or not) that are great, but don't buy them because I have found that nobody will check them out, virtually or in person. It's a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless.

James English said...

"One thing I do take issue with that was one of your talking points is mentioning that authors shouldn't have to pay companies like us, Kirkus, etc., to review their book(s). While we don't have a policy that we need to be compensated to review an indy book, if an author would like to GUARANTEE that their book is reviewed by us, we do have a sponsored program in place for that."

I no longer subscribe to review sources that accept payment in exchange for a review, no longer how unbiased they claim to be. A lot of other librarians out there are relying less on the traditional review sources (like Kirkus), and spending more time with online reviews, particularly since so many library patrons pay attention to Amazon rankings these days when trying to figure out what to read.

Reading a few paragraphs about a book in one of the traditional review magazines really tells me nothing, unless I have absolute faith in the publication (which I don't). With Amazon I can read hundreds of reviews of those same books AND use the "Look Inside" feature to judge for myself. That has proven to be a far, far, far more reliable indicator of how a book will circulate.

James English said...

"Kids often discover books through teachers, libraries, and book stores and don't typically make their own buying decisions so my question is, would any of you be more hesitant to Amazon publish children's fiction?"

Use the "Look Inside" feature and be liberal in how many pages you show. Though I am a library director now, I was a children's librarian for many years, and still make most of the purchasing decisions in my library.

If I can see inside it, I can usually predict how well a children's book will circulate among our patrons. I can flip through a picture book (or part of one) and tell you within 30 seconds how well it will do in our library, what age range is likely to check it out, etc. The artwork, choice of font, and number of words on the page is just as important as the story itself. In fact, a bad choice in any one of those categories can doom the book to sit on the shelf for years with no circulations, even if the children's staff tries hard to "handsell" it.

With juvenile fiction, I can usually tell with a well-written, detailed summary and the ability to read around 5 pages of it. Most children's librarians and teachers can do the same. You learn pretty quickly what will work in your library and what won't.

Unfortunately, libraries today don't have the luxury of carrying good books that don't circulate. In today's funding environment, circulation numbers function in the way that sales numbers do for retail businesses. We just can't put as much money into hidden gems that require extensive handselling to circulate these days.

While we're on this subject, children's books in general are not as susceptible to the bestseller/well-known-author limitations of adult fiction in a library environment. As I noted above, though, picture books are VERY dependent on all aspects of appearance, including font size and type. In addition, both picture books and juvenile book readers are very sensitive to the length of sentences, number of sentences on the page, etc.

I buy more independently published kids books (picture and chapter) than I do adult books, but I absolutely have to be able to see what's inside them. A lot of independent authors send me emails, postcards, and letters extolling the virtues of their books, but without giving me an opportunity to see what's in them. I don't need to see reviews of the books - I need to see screenshots of the pages. If more would do that (or at least use the "Look Inside" option on Amazon), I would confidently buy even more independent children's books than I already do.

James English said...

I forgot to mention one thing...

When it comes to books written for adults, I buy far more independently produced non-fiction than fiction. There are a lot of topics out there that may be of interest to people within a particular library patron base that are not covered well by the big publishers, or any publisher at all.

It's adult fiction that is the problem. To even stand a chance to get past the name recognition nonsense, a book (ebook or print) has to LOOK like it was put out by a major publishing house. If the cover art and other visual features fall anywhere below that standard, library patrons usually won't pay much attention to it. Unfortunately, most people DO judge a book by it's cover.

Ewolfe357 said...

James, I find your viewpoint as a library director invaluable. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, observations and recommendations.

Tony Williams said...

Am I right in assuming this is a purely North America-centric perspective, not necessarily reflective of non-American markets, including Europe (excepting, perhaps Britain)? If so, that means there’s still lots of manoeuvring space for the ‘publishing cartels’ who are multinational corporations anyway.

Barry Napier said...

I'm interested to see what other writers have to say about an alternative to BookBub. While I certainly see the merit in the service, I also can't justifiably lay down that sort of money for the HOPE that it will pay off.

JA Konrath said...

@ James English.

Thanks for your insights. Would you be up for a phone call? If so, email me and we can set something up.

Unknown said...


A great blog as usual from THE MAN.
I totally agree with your predictions, Joe. I was told in April 2012 that Barnes & Noble were planning to separate their paper and ebook divisions, so that if one went down, the other would remain standing.
Nevertheless, I would be sad to see them fall.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the bookstores need to start stocking older stuff. I don't know about you, but I'd rather read Saraband of Lost Time; Tower of Dreams; The City, Not Long After; or Swastika Night, not the latest claptrap by Amanda S. Green, Cyn Bagley, or Vox Day.

Scott Gordon said...

@Selena - I've read about authors finding lots of success with All Romance Ebooks/Omnilit. How has that worked out for you? Or do you deal with them at all? One Kindle Boards member mentioned making thousands of dollars there, which I admit, surprised me.

L. J. Martin said...

Well thought out, well stated, and 100% correct as far as the industry is concerned. Congrats.

Laurie Evans said...

What an interesting and exciting time to be a writer! I started writing romance fiction in 2011, when things were really starting to change. After studying the query letter process, I was very happy to look into self-publishing.

Thanks for all the great info on this blog. I've been going back and reading the archives.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Hello. I found your blog listed in the Writers Yearbook 2014 and I am thrilled. I am also terrified. I am completing my first novel. I did my research about self pub vs traditional. I chose traditional and now I'm thinking...opps. Your post taught me more in the view minutes it took to read than the all the scattered research I di in 2013. Should've have started with you first. I'll be back as I appreciate the extensive research you've obviously done.

Marion Stein said...

The independent journal thing sounds like paradise. I have friends and family who won't buy my books because they don't consider Amazon reviews reliable -- while Amazon readers who aren't my friends and family are probably convinced they were written by friends and family. However, how does an independent journal that doesn't charge a reading fee to authors find the good books? Do they help up and comers? Do they go with books that have already sold a minimum number of copies? Does this indie review include all genres? Readers in some genres have created their own organic communities including blogs that review and seem able to get the word out to other like-minded readers, but so far that still leaves those of us not writing in certain sub-genres of romance out. I'm more and more convinced though that ultimately readers will become the gatekeepers not journals.

jerry said...

Totally agree with all points. The shift is unstoppable and I, for one welcome it. I hope Amazon do keep indie authors on their side as I'm sure we've all noticed how they sometimes favour the big boys.

Even so it's going to be an interesting couple of years.

Intrigued to hear more about your new ventures too.

Happy New Year!

Richard Sutton said...

I agree especially about the need to optimize methods of exposure to new readers. I believe that despite the tech explosion, the means of widening our exposure must rely still upon organic recognition and interest threading. Readers are people. Each have many interests, and few still respond automatically to the hard-edged marketing perfected twenty years ago. New marketing will have to be flexible and very content and genre based in order to pinpoint the targets writers will need. For those of us who will continue to write organically as well -- not strictly to market in specific genres -- the new marketing techniques will mean we'll have to keep on our toes even more. Good luck to us all!

Petrea Burchard said...

Congratulations on hitting the s-p bestseller list. No one deserves it more.

Anonymous said...

Isn't anyone else worried about what James the library director guy said in the comments thread above? Basically he said if the price advantage is rendered moot (as in a library loan) then self-pubbed fiction has no appeal to customers. Which is a BF problem.

Joel Lovell said...

You wrote: "c) New third party ways to make self-pubbed titles visible. There are methods to find eyeballs that no one has thought of yet. Someone is going to figure out a new way of introducing ebooks to readers, and that person will make a fortune in the process."

I've been thinking about getting into the 'movie trailer' for books side of things. If you have a book you'd like to see done in this way, I'll do it for free just to get my name and work out there, assuming you like it.

Paul J. Krupin said...

Every author's answer to getting more sales is this:

Reach out. Reach out, Reach Out.

Go where your people are. Learn what you need to do to turn them on. Help the people you can help the most. Undersell and over-deliver. Do what you do best and do your best at all times. Create a menu of options with prices and charge reasonably for lots of small deliverables in units of time, service and product. Create and deliver candy that makes people want more of what you have available. Create recipes for abundance, happiness and success that are truly worthy of being shared. Give as much as you can and encourage people to share what you offer.

Read more in my Magic in a Message slide show:

Paul Krupin

Anonymous said...

As a librarian who specializes in Collection Development (purchasing for libraries) I have to agree, particularly with number 6. One of the main reasons Librarians tend to ignore independent publications is because even smaller libraries might order a thousand titles a month or more, often with one person doing the review and ordering, and we just don't have time to hunt down individual reviews, or purchase from individual outlets. Consolidation of both reviews and retail would dramatically increase library sales for independent authors.

Anne Buzzini said...

You said:
a) An independent journal that reviews and recommends self-pubbed titles to readers and libraries. One that doesn't charge authors anything.

How would that begin? If you have any suggestions on how to germinate that, I'm all ears!

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Unknown said...

Hi Joe and all selfpubbed writers!
I am italian author who decided to selfpublish two years ago, thanks also to you and your blog. I'am following you since the terrific Be the monkey, not the frog (I still have nightmares about that video ;D)article and it has been an eye opener. I think that going indie was one of the best decision I've made in my life. So thank you Joe.
Italy is a tiny market, and we are like one year later so reading your blog is like seeing what will happen in the future. And it's happening!

Have a great 2014!

kathie said...

Can't wait to hear more about the companies you're starting! Happy New Year and good luck with all that's to come.

David T List said...

Late 2013 I decided self publishing was probably the way to go. I've never looked back.

More than once I've wondered how it would all go down as paper becomes niche. Each time I speculate, I come to the same inevitabilities you've stated here. I'm excited to see it.

You have yourself another follower. Anyone not reading your blog is late to the party.

David - Regarding Silexare

Unknown said...

Thank you for a well thought out post.

My frustration with 4 ebook s thus far is the title wave of ebook s from absolutely anyone with any content given away for free are clearly the most downloads.

The best advertising is being a new release, after the circuit removes you from ‘newly released’. It’s a catatonic anarchy yet I produce and distribute many ebook channels which need full throttle advertising and social media. Then do it over and over. Our names eventually will hold true for some of us, but most again get lost in the shuffle. I do miss paperback, yet use POD as a backing. My sales are greater in POD yet free sample download samples with ebook s is ridiculous high in numbers.

My [and this just me] experience when i speak with people [for real] don’t want ebook s as they are being available now, then on the internet people can’t stop raving about an ebook.

We have all become so very detached from each other depending solely on our computers and phones now. For me with the intimate creative access to be attached and let my imagination fly, is far more rewarding.

Just sad what communications on all levels are not becoming but have already become=detached

thank you

Unknown said...

I've only recently found your blog and am devouring your "backlist" of posts. I wonder how much of this will come true and who will be the smart group of people who will capitalize on the wide open spaces of opportunity out there.

There really does need to be a sort of "Angie's List" for services that indies use. I think a lot of good books get delayed or looked over because new authors get lost in the search for a decent cover artist, an editor or what have you.

Also, I really do think that one of the smaller houses, perhaps one that is struggling, could clean up if they changed their house entirely to embrace the hybrid model entirely.

Like a publisher recently told me: Print drives ebook sales, not the other way around nowadays. That is a profound admission. People might browse in a store, but they will look up the price on Amazon or BN on their phone and either order it if it is cheaper or download the much, much cheaper ebook right away. It's happening more and more.

So, having a book in the bookstore might make a few more people click to buy the ebook than actually buy the book in print.

That same publisher told me that this was the reason he wouldn't go for a print only deal. They are losers for the publisher in most cases.

So, a publisher that recognized this and then structured themselves with contracts such that in exchange for good editing, great covers, publicity and print rights they get 10% of ebook sales and whatever is agreed for the print. Throw audio in if it's good.

And rather than feel tied down, they give much more artist control and the contracts are written such that the house can pick up or not based on their reading of the book, but they have 30 days to do it. At which point, the writer publishes it indie and starts writing the next one, which starts the process over again. A nice 2 to 3 year term would serve them both.

What's really needed in this new hybrid era is a house that is a cross between and agent, a publicist and a publisher...but less intense in all three areas.

Pipe dream? Not viable? Maybe. But something has to come out of this that will be of use in some form or another.

I'm a total newbie. I've been doing this six months and sold around books in the low 5 figures in number. Not much compared to most of you. But all I did was have a story I wanted to tell and I really didn't care about all the other stuff. Trad came after me not the other way around. But it just looks so...confining. I'd like to see something different come to be.

Unknown said...

It's really interesting to see how many authors there are that are working to get their work published. It must be really hard to get started here on the internet and build a fan base big enough to merit a printing contract.

Luke | said...

I publish the bi-monthly Writers' Tricks of the Trade eZine as well as being a hybrid author (traditionally and self-published). This was such a great article I have used and commented on two of the predictions for the March-April issue which will publish on the 15th of the month, encouraged readers to follow this blog and to start by reading the entire post about predictions. Thanks Joe Konrath for your steady stream of candid and valid information for indie writers.

Clint Hollingsworth said...

Interesting stuff. B&N are still with us, but you were dead on about Legacy publishing going for the throat when it felt threatened. Any word on those start-ups?