Friday, August 29, 2014

The Opposite of Legacy

So I just read the latest drivel from The Guardian which completely misrepresents self-publishing. There's no need for me to fisk it--Howey, Eisler, Gaughran, and others already shredded the stupid in the comments. And there was a lot of stupid. It makes me ponder how the mainstream media keeps getting so much wrong.

It also makes me ponder why self-pubbed authors care.

As far as mainstream media, I can point to lazy reporting, willful ignorance, nepotism, and not-so-hidden agendas. This blog has a long history of pointing out why legacy publishers do what they do, and their priorities often coincide with those of the legacy media.

Legacy media.

Years ago, Eisler used "legacy" to describe traditional publishing, and I've played a small part in popularizing the term on this blog. Indeed, the paper publishing industry is a legacy system. There are now faster, cheaper, and less-restrictive ways to get words to consumers than the antiquated method of acquiring, printing, and shipping.

The legacy publishing world knows this, and they have been putting up a continuous, united front to preserve this status quo while doing their best to inhibit the widespread adoption of ebooks. They're so single-minded in this pursuit, that they are missing opportunities to capitalize as much as they can on this new tech, instead trading potentially higher profits to retain a paper oligopoly.

I call self-publishing a shadow industry because the mainstream has steadfastly refused to understand its scope and power. Self-publishing is the most serious threat that legacy publishers must face, but legacy publishers don't realize it is a threat. They don't see the money being generated. They don't see the scale of authors adopting it. They haven't been hurt enough to acknowledge that a revolution is even taking place.

I believe the same thing is happening in the media.

I've found--and I'm sure I'm not alone--that when something newsworthy is happening, I first hear about it via Twitter or Facebook. Often, from people reporting what's occurring in real time.

I don't want to get off track here (and it is particularly easy to when we have so many examples of reporters and news outlets behaving badly), so I'll focus on The Guardian piece. Eisler, Howey, et al disemboweled that piece, which is a good thing because that piece is potentially harmful. New authors who want to take a crack at self-publishing could be dissuaded from trying it because of the disinformation it is stating as fact.

But is that really true? Why are self-published authors the self-appointed crusaders against stupid?

I do a lot of fisking on this blog, and I take the industry and the media to task when they spout nonsense, and my rationale is to provide counterpoints to the unsupportable legacy bias that gets all the media attention. I use facts and logic to dismantle the arguments, and while doing so I hopefully mitigate the harm that might be caused. I consider this activism, a public service for authors. The legacy publishing industry wants authors to still believe they are the only way to publish, and the legacy industry gets all the media attention, so I do my best to take away some of that thunder.

For the past year, I've been asking myself why I do this.

If the mainstream news is just as antiquated, biased, self-interested, and increasingly obsolete as mainstream publishing, isn't it also a legacy system? Hachette isn't reading my posts and admitting I'm right, then following my advice. Why would The Guardian or the NYT or PW listen to me or any other self-pubbed author? The legacy media are facing the same problems as legacy publishing; digital replacing paper, readers going elsewhere for information and entertainment, talent creating content without them and building their own followings and fanbases.

As a writer, I once craved the validation that came with a legacy publishing contract. I felt it legitimized me. Once I was accepted, I experienced a sense of fulfillment. Getting a PW starred review was a victory. Seeing my book on a library shelf was its own reward.

Now I realize how empty those feelings were. Getting paid well and being treated fairly is much more fulfilling that the approval of a clique. Having power and control over my career trumps seeing my book in Wal-Mart. I don't care what the legacy publishing industry thinks of me, or of self-publishing. We're going to outlast them.

I realized, after reading The Guardian piece, that I feel the same was about legacy media. I don't need to make The Guardian understand how stupid that article is. I don't need to make the NYT understand how stupid their support letter for Authors United is.

And I don't need to protect writers from this stupidity. They can figure it out themselves after a little digging. Or they can figure it out after they've gotten reamed by the system.

I can't help the willfully ignorant, whether it is a publishing house, a newspaper, or a newbie writer who is seeking the same validation I once did.

What is happening is an echo chamber on both sides. Legacy authors, and those who want a chance to be legacy authors, continue to defend the status quo. Indie authors continue to point out the stupidity exhibited by legacy authors, publishers, and media. The only time anyone will change their mind is when they have direct experience of one, the other, or both.

But, ultimately, nothing that either side says or does (or doesn't say or do) will stop the inevitable migration to new ways of reading and publishing.

I don't believe there is an antonym for "legacy system" because everything eventually becomes a legacy system. Technology transforms systems, and people and data migrate along with the tech. It isn't Us vs Them or Old Way vs New Way. It has, and always will be, constant transformation and migration vs stagnation and obsolescence.

Evolution isn't about choosing sides. It's about slowly adapting to new environments. The Guardian doesn't want to adapt? They'll be forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. Click bait and concern trolling isn't going to pay their shareholders. Like the Big 5, the days of Big Media in its current form are numbered. There is still some money to be squeezed out of it, but status quo bias is an indicator of desperation, not growth.

Self-publishing may always be a shadow industry. The media may not ever discuss it. The Big 5 will continue to ignore it. And that's okay.

As writers, we can continue to inform one another, share data, and point out stupidity. This is helpful.

But it isn't vital. Change will come even if we all remain silent.

I wonder if my blog isn't just another form of validation. Have I traded my desire for acceptance by the legacy system for acceptance by the shadow industry? Has the thrill I once got from a PW review been replaced by the thrill of reading my blog comments, or being retweeted? Am I an activist for the same reasons I spent ten years trying to break into legacy publishing, because it makes me feel legitimate?

Maybe, just maybe, our time is better spent writing. By being the change, rather than bemoaning how others aren't seeing the change.

We no longer need gatekeepers. Not legacy publishing gatekeepers. Not legacy media gatekeepers.

And we no longer need to keep telling them we don't need them.

They don't care. Neither should we.


Anonymous said...


Yep, the opposite of love isn't hate. It's "I don't care anymore."

Barry Eisler said...

The thing that sucks me in the most when I read a piece like the Guardian's -- and I think it's the same for you -- is that if people believe a faulty framework is sound, they're apt to make bad decisions. Which is why even more than the specific misinformation in that piece -- wildly exaggerating the costs involved with self-publishing -- the part that irritated me the most was the whole implicit framework the article was peddling, that self-publishing costs you money and legacy publishing is free. That's just nuts, and if you believe it, you won't have a sound basis for making the right decision for yourself.

Plus I hate bullies and establishments, so combine any aspect of bullying/establishments/propaganda and I just feel like I have to call bullshit. It's not much, but I think it's important to do what you can. :)

Unknown said...

But the marketplace is a fickle thing. Say the lie often enough and people start to believe it.

As an indie, I don't need to legitimize myself, but I do need to legitimize myself to others. When I'm networking with readers, authors, and producers of other media. I can't say I'm an NYT Bestseller. When they ask who I'm published through, I technically can't say Amazon. So when I tell them I'm indie, I get discounted because they believe the lies.

That effects my ability for future promotion, growth, and business opportunities. So I have facts handy to open their eyes. Your blog is one of them (along with several Gaughran and others). Because I can quickly and easily educate and inform, then back it up with solid evidence, that gives folks something to think about and it's working.

It's not self-validation - it's business. ;)

B. Rehder said...

It's like arguing with creationists. You'll never convince the creationist, but you might convince someone who is on the fence, about to listen to the creationist. That's where you do some good. I think you *should* feel validated by helping people make reasonable choices, especially those people who succeed and come back to thank you.

Michael N. Marcus said...

Kathryn said, >>So when I tell them I'm indie, I get discounted because they believe the lies.<<
Come up with a name for your itty-bitty publishing company. My Silver Sands Books has published over 40 books -- written by me. If someone asks who publishes my books I can say the name of the company without revealing that my wife and I own it.

ABEhrhardt said...

I agree with Kathryn: tell a lie enough times, and most people will believe it simply because they've heard it everywhere.

I don't want Amazon to suffer from the stupidity being proclaimed - because I want Amazon to be there when I need it. And as long as I need it. Because I have limited energy to write with, and publishing an ebook directly to Amazon is the EASIEST way for me to get my feet wet, put my work out there, and go quietly about producing more. I have this mental image of hitting at least 50% of the potential market I can aim for at this stage merely by being in KDP and KU.

Getting to all the other venues is going to take energy - energy I don't have. I'm not like other people/writers. I can't write in the morning and then market later, when I'm tired. It's either/or. My own little problem.

I know Amazon doesn't depend on the tiny writers like I will be, but I want them THERE, and solid, and strong so I don't have to work so hard to get started.

Pure self-interest.

Or, as Kathryn says, business.


PS So thanks for continuing to do this.

Unknown said...

Legacy media is in far worse shape than legacy book publishers are. They're chance to adapt came and went a few years ago and now they're just running out the clock. That so many of them are actively encouraging publishers to follow the same failed strategy that doomed them is a travesty. I would think that the people writing for them would have to be actively blind to the sheer number of writers and creative types whose careers were destroyed by media company obstinance, and not want that to repeat itself. I certainly did from inside the newspaper industry. And yet they are actively throwing writers into the meat grinder in support of an industry ethic that has already failed very clearly and catastrophically once. I guess today's tenuous paycheck outweighs any sense of ethics or obligation to other writers. I, for one, enjoy what you do very much and to do it for people who, in many ways within this industry, really have no voice, is commendable. It would be a shame if you stopped, I believe.

Anonymous said...

One of the more subtle aspects of the propaganda in that article was their reference to literary agents bemoaning the month of November because they know they will be inundated with a million crappy manuscripts. This picture of agents as the tired, put-upon, but vigilant gatekeepers of literature, valiantly enduring mountains of unsolicited manuscripts for the sake of the public good, is a total farce. It is carefully placed in the article to promote the (desirable to some) notion of exclusivity, and to portray the gatekeepers as comfortably ensconced in palaces of unending insider success.

I suspect the real truth is that slush piles have become slush puddles in the last few years. I suspect most agents are struggling, and would give anything to have a slush pile large enough for the odds to break in favor of it containing a publishable work.

Promoting the image of agents as untouchable gods, enjoying all the (still relevant, I swear!) perks of insider luxury, blithely browsing through life with not a care in the world, is little more than a desperate attempt to promote the illusion of an unshakable establishment.

Perhaps The Guardian (Are Guardians and Gatekeepers genetically related, like mice and squirrels?) is just trying to help out its establishment friends. Maybe they can help their buddies get those slushpile submissions up a little if they fool young writers into thinking the establishment is doing just peachy, rather than crumbling beneath their feet.

Bridget McKenna said...

Joe, I'm a former legacy-published author who believed the bullshit for many years, most of which were lived when it was the only bullshit in town. You (and Barry and Kris and Dean and Passive Guy and David G.) were there for me when it was time to make a decision about my writing and publishing future a few years back, and over and over again you showed me why going indie was the best thing for me until I believed it enough to do it. Words can't express my gratitude, and I use words fairly well.

Keep on keeping on, 'cos there are lots of people ready or getting ready to hear you.

cinisajoy said...

You do these blogs for the aspiring authors that do listen to both sides and then make a decision. You are an inspiration to some people. Thank you for all you do.
cin :)

w.adam mandelbaum said...

Legacy is great for the ego...I thoroughly enjoyed me fifteen minutes of fame,TV, radio, print interviews. I also knew about return policies and the fact if I didn't earn out the advance, I would be lower than snail shit. After a few months out on the shelves, I had this hard spiral object on my back and a strong fear of salt on my slimy little body. Screw ego take the royalties an indie gets...and the eternal shelf life.

T. M. Bilderback said...


Not to get all smarmy about it, but you are truly an inspiration, not just to others, but to me, personally.

I come to your blog often, and I use your words to keep me inspired, motivated, and firmly earthbound in this adventure called "writing".

You have given me hope, pointed out things that I never noticed, and made me realize that I have to keep writing...and writing...and writing. You have proven that it can be done, and can be done with style, grace, and generosity.

Your words keep many of us working hard in our chosen field, and help us avoid blundering into the mines that are hidden in that field.

So, keep writing. Keep blogging. And keep inspiring.

Your words are needed. Thank you.


Norma said...

Joe, I'm another former legacy author who got tired of the bullshit. You inspire me as well...thank you!

Gary Ponzo said...

"The only time anyone will change their mind is when they have direct experience of one, the other, or both."

This, I believe, is the key element to the legacy dream. There are too many writers who have no clue to the true business of selling books via the NY machine. It's a very short and exciting ride on the bookshelf and then a very long plunge down the spiraling tube of irrelevance. Forget about the loss of control or commissions, the fact is, NY doesn't care about anything but revenue. And they are much more prepared to skim the revenue out of your lifelong dream than a novice writer.

Sometimes explaining this to exuberant artists is a little like raising your kids. You can show them where all the mines are buried, yet they will still step on every one of them.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if my blog isn't just another form of validation. Have I traded my desire for acceptance by the legacy system for acceptance by the shadow industry?"

Joe, I doubt if this is the case. I mean, I'm sure being a famous icon of indie publishing has a certain "cool-kid" kick to it at times. But, while you may question your own motives at times (a habit we should all cultivate), your readers never do.

The motive for wanting legacy approval is an ego need every writer can relate to. That's completely different from the desire to share your knowledge with others to help them succeed. It's also different from the urge to confront bullies and con artists when you see them plotting against the unsuspecting newbies.

Getting a starred review is miles away from getting an expression of gratitude in your blog comments. The first is a temporary, ultimately empty boost to the ego. The second is legitimately enriching to ones humanity. The information and commentary you provide has helped countless writers avoid the pitfalls of the legacy con game and make significant progress in fulfilling their dreams.

You are right to reject the false sense of responsibility for moving the revolution forward. That's not on you, and it will happen either way. But I hope you don't decide to stop being a voice in it. A loud, surely, hilariously entertaining voice.

JA Konrath said...

The thing that sucks me in the most when I read a piece like the Guardian's -- and I think it's the same for you -- is that if people believe a faulty framework is sound, they're apt to make bad decisions

Some indeed may make bad decisions. But if a writer makes a very important decision after reading one article, I don't have much sympathy for them. Or for anyone who only researches the bare minimum before making a career choice.

You and I and Hugh and David and so many others have rebutted so much of the nonsense, that five seconds on Google will give even a neophyte moron who just arrived on this planet a clear idea that there are several viewpoints to consider when self-publishing.

When did it become our jobs to educate the ignorant, helpless, or stupid?

The only thing that will truly convince people one way or the other is to do what you and I did; actually try it for ourselves.

Ergo, are we really helping earnest, honest, hardworking writers make decisions? Because we aren't going to convince The Guardian, Hachette, or James Patterson, and we don't need to convince those who have already tried self publishing.

I believe activism is worthy, and I'm glad you and others took The Guardian to task. But I think I've reached the point of diminishing returns.

We're right. We're going to come out on top. I'm going to try to fight the urge to correct all the stupid I read, because I no longer think it's needed.

JA Konrath said...

But I hope you don't decide to stop being a voice in it

Thanks everyone for these and other kind words. They're appreciated.

If we keep helping one another, it doesn't matter what the legacy media or legacy publishing industry or legacy authors say or do.

That said...

We don't have to fight the power, because it no longer has power over us. We don't have to force change, because change is already here. We don't have to defend ourselves because we're right, and we don't have to attack anyone because they can't hurt us.

The reward for activism... is more activism.

Three Hoodies Save the World said...

For years I dreamed of being published traditionally and for all those years I, and presumably many others were treated with thinly veiled contempt - if veiled at all. Now I don't care. I'm published, six times. That it's by my own hand is irrelevant. They choose to lose or ignore newly emerging and exciting authors. It's their fault so they can flounder in their ever reducing pool.

Alan Spade said...

I understand your point, Joe. I get the sense that this is a neverending fight and that each time an indie author becomes a bestseller and tells to the world that he/she is an indie (even if just on his/her website), it's more of an indication for other authors about the way to go than any other thing.

Still we have to remember of what was accomplished. For example, when there was the Preston's petition, even The Guardian also mentioned the indie petition (of course, in a biased way).

The website author earnings is also a huge improvement for indies.

So, I believe that for major causes, or if we are able to create useful tools, it is worth to be vocal.

But, as with everything else, if this is becoming to much of a burden, we will be better off writing. You certainly have deserved some rest, in my opinion.

Unknown said...

Joe: Don't stop what you do. You taught me how to succeed without the legacy gatekeepers and, as long as new writers are born, that will be necessary

Michael Griffith said...

JK Said: When did it become our jobs to educate the ignorant, helpless, or stupid?

It's not your job. Nor is it mine. But when I'm among a group of writers talking about self-pub, and someone says something like, "I'd go indie, but then I'd have to do my own marketing," I just can't help myself. Some listen, some don't, but just because we can't save them all, doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Judith said...

I agree that the change is already here and it's understandable if you want to spend less time trying to persuade folks who are blindfolded and have their fingers stuck in their ears.

But, it really is worth it to speak to people who will listen and who will learn. This blog is replete with folks who've changed course because of you patiently (and sometimes impatiently! :) making the case and laying out the facts.

That's who it's for, that's what the point is, not some substitute validation. That, and to let off some steam, which can be fun, too.

John Ellsworth said...

Hey, Joe, I came to you before you knew my name (which you probably still don't) and you were there for me over a long 3 day weekend when I took your advice and went back and read your blog from 2009 forward. At last, the truth was at hand. You have been someone I always know, on some level, will rise up in an unique, intelligent, and sometimes angry way to give voice to the rest of us. Please don't stop doing that.

Suggestion: If you need a rest, a respite, a breathing spell, turn over the reins: become more of a gatekeeper and let others guest blog here, with your occasional--and sometimes very necessary--"Joe Sez's" -- John

Tim McGregor said...

For what it's worth, Joe, finding your blog back in 2011 changed my life. Like so many others, I followed the trail you blazed. Your impact on the new world of publishing is immeasurable.


J.R. Pearse Nelson said...

Joe, your blog is very valuable to readers, but the posts fisking media and celebrity writers and their completely asshat arguments aren't where I find the most value. It would be fun to see more coverage of stuff that is working for successful indies, and that might actually be more fun to blog about, or invite your friends to blog about. Have a great holiday weekend, and don't stress a single iota about this stuff. :)

A.G. Claymore said...

The antonym you're looking for is 'system'. We're the system now...

Anonymous said...

"We no longer need gatekeepers. Not legacy publishing gatekeepers. Not legacy media gatekeepers."

But we sure need Amazon!

N E Conneely said...

Joe, please don't stop. You are the reson I never tried traditional publishing but made Amazon my first stop. The tips, suggestions, do's, and don'ts you shared have made all the difference. Because of self publishing I've been able to drop down to part time at my day job and should be a full time writer in the next year.

Hearing what worked (or didn't) for you has given me ideas, goals, and information I wouldn't have had otherwise. It's my favorite part of your blog. The frisking brightens my day because you are funny and it's nice the see the burning plague of stupid be skewered.

Broken Yogi said...

You do it because you can't help yourself. But just remember: you do help us.

Jeramy Goble said...

Yeah, exactly. I don't really care about the legacy elite. And their lame attempts at keeping control under their umbrella breeds quite a bit of... disdain!

They lend nothing to my life, my writing, my efforts towards getting my words out there, nothing.

I was able to do everything they could have done for me, so their existence in this world is completely irrelevant to me, the self-publisher.

Their realization of that fact is what's brought us to this increasingly condescending and borderline vitriolic battle between legacy and self-publishing, with the majority of the baseless fear-mongering coming from the legacy side of the argument.

It just isn't looking good for legacy. Oh well!

JR Holmes said...

I tried looking up antonyms of Legacy and it wasn't very useful. Too many of the definitions were related to bequests or inheritance, though there was the aspect of consequence.

Legacy as we are using it is a rather recent usage that comes from the computer industry and is defined as: "denoting software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace because of its wide use".

Now that is more like what the general discussion of legacy publishing is to independent writers. They feel that the previous structures of publishing have been superseded and are no longer necessary or relevant to writers who embrace the new forms of publishing that are now and becoming available.

In that sense, an opposite of legacy might be "modern", "new" or "upcoming" publishing.

fxTradr said...

Being a musician, there are similarities with the two industries. Most musicians badly NEED a producer to help pull the best of what they're capable of out of themselves. They also NEED someone capable of creating a top shelf mix of their recorded song. It's exceedingly difficult to both for yourself.

In the same way, most indie authors NEED an editor to pull the best out of them, and a top shelf cover designer to give them a fighting chance. Both of these are skills most authors don't have.

Both musicians and authors NEED marketing help in a big way.

What I'm getting at is that legacy publishing is a service industry that is charging way more than is due. This is, to me, the next great publishing area to be disrupted. Who is going to offer these services to authors at either a fixed rate or a small percentage?

Stephen Parrish said...

I’ve read every word of your blog since 2006. If not for you I don’t believe I would have a balanced view of the publishing industry, or would consider self publishing a reasonable option.

Archangel said...

as a leg/ pub'd person who was grateful for dust, and now is fighting fully awake hammer and tongs to get my rights back, serious fighting daily... not yet met...

all that, and i'd just say, besides being so tired of fighting and making only tiny progresses [put here a long string of cuss words re pengie-random... I hope you will continue to say what you have to say, and also Barry and "Wooly Hugh" and others including many other women and men...I believe what you are doing is posting the big yellow reflective road sign saying "Danger, Bridge Out... Detour now..." with updates of road conditions ahead.

I get being tired of throwing truths at the chronic prevaricators. But, I hope you will continue to be a road sign with updates. Hang in there.

Tim O'Rourke said...

Hey Joe, I’ve been reading your blog for many months now and have read your comments with great interest. I read this blog post and thought I would checkout the Guardian article for myself. After reading it I was pretty shocked, so for the first time I took the plunge and wrote on any blog about my own experiences with self-publishing and being published by traditional publishers. I hope it’s okay to share bleow what I wrote.

...This is the first time I've actually posted on any blog about self-publishing but for the last few years I’ve read so much misinformation about being a self-published author and this article has to be the worst of any that I’ve read. I self-published my first book in March 2011 via Amazon and other eBook retailers. Of course sales were slow at first but I kept writing and self-publishing and by October 2011 I had sold over 10,000 books. I’ve now sold over 300,000.

By June 2012, just over a year after self-publishing my first book I was taking a career break from my job as a Police Sergeant. For the last two years I have supported myself, three children and wife on my sales from my self-published books. Last week I was able to resign from my career and I now write full time. I have been signed by two publishers, but each advance was small and I have no idea yet what sales have been like because I still don’t know. But by going on Amazon charts, my self-published books are out performing those now being published by a traditional publisher.

The article states that authors are paid thousands of pounds for their books by publishers – that is not the case unless you are a celebrity. I still pay for the promoting of ALL my books, self-published or otherwise. The money I live on each month comes from my self-published books and not those via traditional publishing. The numbers quoted in the above article are just mindboggling. I’ve never paid anything like what this article suggests for covers and editing. I’ve never yet paid for an ISBN even though all of my books are available in eBook format and paperback. I haven’t and would never pay for reviews. If I send out copies to bloggers then I send ePub versions via email. I’ve never paid more than £350 for a cover and you certainly don’t need to be paying thousands of pounds for editing.

As I mentioned above, I was a police officer for 15 years and had no prior experience with publishing – but I did have a passion to write and share my books with others. Although I’d tried for many years to get my work published via the traditional route, my agent and the publishers who I now work with came after I started self-publishing – after Amazon and other eBook retailers gave me the opportunity that I’d been denied for so many years. Now that I have experience of both sides of the publishing world, I have to say that I much prefer to self-publish. I have greater control over my work and I simply earn more. If you really want to learn more about self-publishing checkout blogs written by Joe konrath, Barry Eisler and Hugh Howey. Good Luck!

Thanks Joe for writing your blog. I enbjoy reading your posts very much.

Alan Spade said...

@Tim O'Rourke: congrats for your success!

@Joe: if you feel somewhat guilty about ceasing to blog or diminishing your blog posts about the publishing industry, Tim's testimony here should alleviate your guilt. The stupidity showed by legacy media is so provocative that there will always be other blog posts on the Internet to counter that.

Yes, few bloggers have your voice or platform, and that's why I hope when there will be something really interesting to say (like your conclusions with Kindle Unlimited as an expert with self-publishing marketing, when you'll have enough data), or that you have to say, you will do it here.

So yes, maybe it's difficult to go to sleep because someone said something stupid on the Internet, but we have to have a little more confidence in mankind, and at least hope that intelligence will prevail.

Tracy Cooper-Posey said...


Keep blogging. Keep fisking.
What you're doing is working, even if you don't have direct evidence of it. STILL working, I should say.

You and your blog were directly responsible for me going indie in March 2011. Your ideas about the best way to indie publish shaped my own business.

Thanks directly to you, I am now a thriving, 100% indie author. This year, my revenue paid for a complete renovation of our 30 year old house. Next year, once the renovations are done, I quit the day job (could do it now, but renovating comes first).

I send everyone who is even curious about indie to your site (also Eisler's, Gaughran, et al).

Don't quit blogging.



adan said...

"Maybe, just maybe, our time is better spent writing. By being the change, rather than bemoaning how others aren't seeing the change.

We no longer need gatekeepers. Not legacy publishing gatekeepers. Not legacy media gatekeepers.

And we no longer need to keep telling them we don't need them.

They don't care. Neither should we." -

Time to put it in our stories. I have a blog post I've held off on debating this same question, but in regard to tons of social issues. With limited time and resources, we do have the vehicles of our stories :-)

But always good to hear from you as "you" feel like. All the best Joe!

Mark Matthews said...

That article was ridiculous and the figures are crazy. After being published by a traditional publisher, I realized I could do as good on my own. I worked my arse off in sending out arcs, sharpening relationships, and did pay to get a well known editor, well known cover artist, both of whom helped provide credence. This cost me less than $1000 and the book is doing pretty damn well and after 2 months I am out of the hole and into the black. Ironically, Bookbub recently accepted it for a promo. (You know, Bookbub, the new gatekeeper) but a self-pub promo company said it wasn't good enough and asked me to change my blurb (it gave away too many spoilers, they said, but had not read the book). Go figure. Curious what your thoughts are on the HWA accepting self-pub authors. It could be on your blog here.

Annie Pearson said...

Joe, instead of fisking, could you switch to just posting links to bad articles and ask people reading here to go add their corrections in the comments at the source?

I didn’t realize the deep importance of fisking is until I took apart Steve Coll’s hit piece disguised as a book review in the NYRB – for an editor-friend who loves to hate on Jeff Bezos. Coll’s piece was a perfect “reasonable voice” replica of how MSM helped sell Iraq II with innuendo, half truths, repetitious lies, unnamed sources, and no real investigation.

What’s going on with “indie vs legacy” in the media isn’t just about indies. It’s about how lies in general are purposefully turned into common misbeliefs about reality.

People who’ve been helped here (& elsewhere) need to take up the extremely important work of refuting the media’s purposeful manipulation of reality.

Countering lies requires democratic swarming, rather than relying only on activists as a sort of alternate leadership.

Unknown said...

Mainstream news is certainly a legacy system, and anyone not completely brainwashed knows there's bias there.
But there are differences from publishing, too. Indies compete in the marketplace with legacy publishing, and the marketplace culls who wins and looses. Crowd-sourced news can be faster and is much closer to the action, as witness Twitter posts from Syria. But there's no marketplace and no metric such as sales to identify good from bad. Nor is self-published news free of the biases and self-service of classic news.

Pick your propaganda.

Eden Sharp said...

As we refer to Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster as the Big 5, perhaps we should refer to Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Hugh Howey, TPG and David Gaughran as the Best 5?

Katherine Owen said...


It's fine what other Indie authors do to try and show the differences between going "legacy" trad versus self-published in educating writers/authors in pursuing a trad deal etc...

But frankly??? I'm tired of the pushback or the legitimacy factor that those that go for the trads exude. It's the 'tude' I have a problem with. Even so, if these writers still want to pursue a legacy deal and feel special, only to find out it doesn't work that way...AT ALL, then let them. IDFC. I really don't.

The thing is I put time and effort and quality into my novels, and I enjoy doing it all myself. I choose what to write, how to write it, how to market it, and when to release it.

So bravo for those would-be authors that want somebody to do all of that for them. Good luck with the 18-month to two-year cycle of getting a book out and aging yourself by a good three years while you wait, and the world moves on and changes right in front of your very eyes. Good luck with THAT strategy. WTFever.

Thank you, Joe! You're the best.

Annie said...

Well said. Let's just keep writing and publishing. In the end, what we do is what matters, not what opinionated asshats have to say about it.

Mit Sandru said...

I used to think that Big Pubs cannot be that stupid and not keep tabs on the Indie Authors and how much they stand to lose if they have a mass exodus from their captive writer camp to the Indie camp. Or maybe the paper books, which they control, are generating enough profits, and with eBooks as icing on the cake they don’t need to worry about what we think it is the inevitable.
But you know what? they are that stupid. I have to remind myself the stagnant thinking of my previous employer, which was a state sponsored monopoly, as in an Electrical Utility. They may have a monopoly, but they don’t have a monopoly on new methods of generating electricity. And very soon the new comers, solar, will sell the electricity for less than the Utility. You’d think that any such company would take steps to maintain their competitive advantage in the area where the monopoly protection will not help them. No, they don’t.
The actions any enterprise takes depends on who is at the top, the executives. Mature industries and corporations’, like Paper-Book Publishers, top executives are always bean-counters and lawyers (sorry PG.) Mature corporations are cash cows. By their shear size and limited access to the markets they control they don’t have to innovate and invest, but just protect what they have. The bean counters work to minimize the expenses to make the profits better than the last quarter. The lawyers will fight to keep their territory and stop the newcomers. Bean counters and lawyers will not invent new stuff, they don’t have the skills and the aptitude to do so.
Maybe I was to rough to call the executives stupid, maybe they don’t have vision. After all the current executives did not build the present publishing houses. They are not entrepreneurs, they are more like custodians of what other innovating people created before them. Their jobs is to maintain and squeeze the last penny from the dying cow.

Sabrina Chase said...

People can only look up your articles via Google if they know about them, Joe. And know enough to be curious about your take on the topic. It might seem like you are bailing the ocean with a teaspoon, but you and the others mentioned have indeed started to make a dent. The legacy people used to be able to pretend indies don't exist--now they have to use "WhaleMath(tm)" to prove 900 industry author signatures is more impressive than 9,000 indie signatures ;-) And now the publishing-curious may be vaguely aware that there is another way...

Gemmill said...

I'm about to enter the self-publishing arena and this blog was completely new to me...what I can say after reading it is Konrath is my new hero.

amy eyrie said...

The Guardian is one of the new breed of online newspapers that operates more like an advertising firm. The Guardian sells Native Advertising Packages. They have a "house branded content unit," where their writers create content to help connect brands to certain ideas or concepts.

Brands can also pay to attach their names to thematically-relevant articles which means there is an impetus to produce content which appeals to specific advertisers.

They have "audience science behavioral targeting" and will only quote rates "upon application." They have "sponsored micro-sites" starting at £20,000.

The Guardian is not a newspaper, they're a news manufacturer. They fabricate news stories and there is no way to find out who is paying for it.

Whoever bought the New York Times full page ad (Supposedly paid for "by a handful of our most successful writers" hmmm) would find it comparatively cheap to invest in native advertising packages to shore up a disinformation campaign.

Native advertising packages are available at the New York Times, The Atlantic, etc. In fact, 73% of the Online Publishers Association partake in this kind of advertorial.

But the Guardian is one of the worst since they cheekily admit they will "develop content" for a price.

When you see quotes in a NYT article like this "The petition has 7,650 signatures. By comparison, a 2012 petition calling on Amazon to ban the sale of whale and dolphin meat drew over 200,000 signatures." You know you're no longer in the land of journalism but propaganda.

Marcel said...

Regarding print media, I don't know if you've seen Clay Shirky's article Last Call. This paragraph is especially powerful:

The future of print remains what? Try to imagine a world where the future of print is unclear: Maybe 25 year olds will start demanding news from yesterday, delivered in an unshareable format once a day. Perhaps advertisers will decide “Click to buy” is for wimps. Mobile phones: could be a fad. After all, anything could happen with print. Hard to tell, really.

David Gaughran said...

"Willfully ignorant" is the perfect phrase to describe so many of the people spouting crap about self-publishing. I get tired of fighting the nonsense too, to be honest. And we would all be far better off writing.

(On that note, the idea that The Forces of Ignorance propagate that campaigning on such issues is somehow a smart career move shows that either they have no shred of intellectual honesty, or that they have no idea what actually sells books... or both.)

The reason I responded to that Guardian article is because it was aimed at newbies - and it's exactly this kind of misinformation that creates the knowledge gap where scammers thrive.

Author Solutions' entire business model is predicated on customer ignorance. It specifically targets the most inexperienced writers, those who know nothing about the publishing business or how to self-publish. And it has to continually do so because it doesn't get any repeat business.

Hopefully, any newbies reading that piece will also check out the comments where they'll see experienced self-publishers explaining that publishing your own work is much cheaper and easier than that journalist claimed.

And they'll also see that journalist hilariously doubling down, despite the huge numbers of self-publishers who explained that her numbers are off, both in the comments to that piece and on Twitter. (The editor joined in too, saying "obviously self-publishers have a lot of ego to protect. We're offering facts and context.") You couldn't make it up.

So... yeah. I don't really care about changing the mind of people like that, but I do care about trying to counteract the misinformation being foisted on newbies.

I know many adopt the attitude of Caveat Emptor, and that there is enough information about scammers like Author Solutions out there now, and these writers kind of deserve what they get for not doing their research.

I think that's more than a little unfair, especially when you consider the extent to which Author Solutions has insinuated itself into traditional publishing. It's owned by Penguin Random House - the world's biggest trade publisher. It also has partnerships with HarperCollins, Harlequin, Simon & Schuster, the Authors Guild. It has advertising relationships with The Guardian (surprise!), The New York Times, Kirkus, Readers' Digest, The Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. And it is welcomed with open arms at writers' events like Word On The Street Toronto, Miami Book Fair International, LA Times Book Fair, Tucson Festival of Books, BEA (surprise!), and various Writers Digest events.

But, you know, Amazon is evil. Not any of these "respectable" names that are happy to profit from author exploitation.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm annoyed with these blog posts because they are written by successful indie authors. I'm not successful. I've got 18 self published titles yet only sell a handful every month. If a publisher approached me with a $5000 advance offer I'd probably take it out of desperation. Not actively seeking a literary agent though. I just think of my writing as a hobby. Except for when I read articles by you, Eisler, Hugh, DWS and Kris. I get excited at the thought that good luck could strike me and I'll become a bestseller and never sign with a publisher. It's all just dreams. No one reads anymore.

Unknown said...

David nailed it exactly. New writers usually know enough to watch out for obvious scams but when the scamers are the people the writer is supposed to trust - that's like a heart surgeon giving his patient meds to make the heart attack happen so he can get paid for the by-pass.

Anonymous - I'm sorry to hear that but if you've got that many books and they're not selling then you need to take a hard look at your writing and improving your craft, look at your mechanics, cover, and target audience, as well as marketing and promoting yourself.

There are successful indies who will help you with that. David G's books are a great place to start, so is this blog right here. Joe has a lot of great advice and there are many other blogs and sites you can visit to get more info writing as a craft, etc.

I've been in the industry for almost 30 years. It didn't happen over night and I'm happy to help as I can.

Oh - a quick note to everyone - I've got the new spreadsheets on KDP Unlimited totals for the first month and put my accounting hat back on. I'm crunching some very interesting numbers and should have everything put together. I didn't expect to see what I'm seeing. hehe!

JA Konrath said...

So... yeah. I don't really care about changing the mind of people like that, but I do care about trying to counteract the misinformation being foisted on newbies.

I know. Me, too. And by many of the comments, here and tthere, writers appreciate what we're doing.

I finally did reply to the article. For the link lazy:

"For the story, I ended up speaking to a total of seven self-published writers"

And i just spoke with seven car owners. Two own Mercedes, one a Cadillac, three have new Corvettes, and one a Ferrari. So i feel qualified to say that all car owners spend an average of $87,000 for their vehicles.

Then I did some Googling, and found a car called a Tesla, and one called a Lamborghini, which each retail for over $100,000. So my early estimate must have been low.

Then, for kicks, I Googled "self-publishing" and I found.... me. One of the world's bestselling self-pubbed authors, and I pay less than $1000 to get a book live.

Then I Googled "cherry picking" and "bad reporting".

Then I decided this article wasn't worth spending any more time on.

Unknown said...

Frankly, Joe, I don't give a damn why you do what you do. What I care about is the result.

The result of your advocacy is that I was brave enough to stick to my guns. You had some role in saving me from a grave career choice. I've watched friends and colleagues who didn't have that support make decisions they regret. I have no regrets. Because you tested the waters for me and reported on what you found.

Here's the weird thing for me: I'm still the noob looking to you and Barry and Kris for guidance and advice. And yet people come up to me at cons and conventions by the dozens, report their current income and successes, and say that the reason they were able to go down their chosen route was because of me or my blog or

You have no idea how many people's lives you've touched. I'm sure you're aware of the thousands who have contacted you directly, commented on your site, and thanked you in person. But you and Barry and others like Amanda Hocking are having second and third generation effects already. Now you're talking tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands.

I love that you get introspective about your motivations. You are open about sharing possible biases and weaknesses. I admire that, and it's another reason I look up to you and try to emulate your example. But Lizard People could be holding your family hostage and forcing you to blog about these things and I wouldn't give a shit. The results are too important to too many people.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I respond to these things because when people get it so egregiously wrong, what they have to say reflects poorly on who I am and what I do.

I may not care what people in publishing think, but the reading public has been brainwashed (and I would included myself at one time) into believing that the folks in publishing are the guardians of literature when all they really are are people with money and opinions trying to make more money off the back of some very hardworking writers.

Their typical propaganda has always been that any book that doesn't go through their mill is not worthy of our attention. There has even been a false hierarchy created in which the majors are king and the rest are wannabes.

This "club" exists in order to control artists, get them begging to be allowed in, and force them to take less than what they're worth in order to achieve the approval of the king and his court. It's the typical middleman scam, that completely reverses the paradigm (the publishers should be begging to publish us), and they have succeeded because they have been able to mold both reader and author perception of the industry and what it does.

Articles like the one in the Guardian are nothing but propaganda created in order to push that agenda and scare both authors and readers away from indie publishing. I doubt it's being done in any organized fashion (with the exception of the Preston/Patterson letter), but it's harmful to those of us who have chosen the indie path, and I'll be damned if I'll be quiet about it.

I think it's important that we continue to trumpet our successes, rail against false information, and show authors and readers alike that there is another alternative to what they've long considered the "norm."

And until we have at least the respect that both indie musicians and indie filmmakers enjoy, I see no point in being quiet about it.

As Karen Traviss pointed out in a recent article, "Publishing is packaging and distribution."

That's all it is and all it ever will be.

adan said...

@Kathryn Loch - look fwd to hearing your KU results for your 1st mth, thanks!

adan said...

Joe, with all respect to Howey, I'm still glad you delved into your personal motives. Disregarding personal reasons and where one is coming from, is a slippery slope. Most of the time little is adversely affected. But the motives, unavoidably, taint or tint or enhance results, one way or the other, somewhere along the line. And yes, that thought itself, is subject to debate and scrutiny, but I find it hard not to believe it'd be much different in our world if more folk, like you have, scrutinize the"why" of our actions. Myself included. Thanks again Joe.

Unknown said...

For the past year, I've been asking myself why I do this.

Only you can answer that question, but I'm sure glad you have been doing it for at least four years. Back when I was shopping my first mss around --and getting all kinds of rejection-- there were no other blogs around that put out the information that you put out about self-publishing. You made it a legitimate option and gave me the confidence to self-publish.

Reading through other replies ahead of mine, it looks like I'm not the only one who was inspired to take the plunge.

I belong to some writer's groups and the topic of self-publishing comes up. There's almost always someone who says they want a real publisher, or something like that. I always bite my tongue. I want to chime in but I know the whole writing thing would get sidetracked.

Walter Knight said...

The fall of legacy publishing won't happen all at once, but rather one genre at a time as the Big Five abandon niches they deem unprofitable. The biggest genre to fall will be science fiction, already ignored by most of the Big Five.

You're right about Legacy Media ignoring us, I never thought of that. The only recognition indie or small press authors get is from online media, but that too will change one genre at a time. Science fiction will lead the way as readers find they can go nowhere else to satisfy their Sci/Fi needs.

Still, it would be nice to see an indie author interviewed on TV like an old friend, connected to the mainstream media. I suppose it's not happening until the Big Five drops to the Big Three.

Russell Blake said...

The legacy publishing system buys ink by the barrel. That means it can churn out misleading, self-serving messages forever. Just as the media long ago abandoned unbiased reporting in favor of acting as a PR firm for special interests, it has no interest in reporting anything resembling the truth. Call me cynical, but whenever I see any article I automatically ask, why this, why now? What special interest or distortion of the truth is driving this message?

Here's the thing all the hyperbole can't change: guys like me, who started at zero only a few years ago, are now making more than 99% of all legacy published authors. And while I've been fortunate in my niche, my peers in romance make me look like a piker. Bella recently stated at a conference that between she and one other author, their earnings were eight figures per year. Eight. Figures. Per. Year. Holly sold five million books over the last eighteen months or so, and told NY to suck it. We can all do the math on that, and it's easily eight figures.

There are dozens of authors I know that are earning high six or low seven figures. Dozens. All indie. Many of the romance authors started out in the legacy system and after being ridden hard and put away wet, migrated to self-publishing and never looked back. But plenty of others started as I did, and built their readership & their business from the ground up.

Indies don't need validation. They need to be financially successful. They will never earn the respect of the country club crowd, but who cares, except those who desperately want to be members of that club? For me, the choice to indie publish was always a financial one. I'm a dollars and cents guy, and I didn't start publishing until I ran the numbers on a 70% royalty rate and saw that it was not only viable, but could be lucrative. Until then, I just wrote for my own enjoyment, in much the same way some build model boats or collect stamps.

The reality is that these behemoths are making plenty, and will continue to for a long time. They’ll continue to be viewed as the legitimate industry and we'll always have our noses pressed up against the glass, outsiders they pretend not to notice. Which is fine. If we lose the need for validation that closely resembles a toddler's need for daddy to come to our recitals, we’re far more likely to be intelligent in our choices.

If we look at ourselves as cottage industries, proprietors of our little businesses, some of whom do quite well, we're closest to the truth. Legacy publishing is akin to being a publicly traded company, where you're in the headlines and on CNBC and ringing the bell at the NYSE and the like, with all the attendant fanfare, driven entirely by an industry that needs more grist for its mill and more issues to trade (assuming you're one of the winners of that lottery system, just as in publishing). Small business owners aren't in that system. But they can still do very nicely, and in many cases, earn far more than most folks working for the publicly traded companies.

The media encourages our need for validation by a coterie of elite interests because only if we desire that validation are we willing to trade our earnings for it. Lose that need and you start making way better decisions. That's a powerful and freeing message.

Walter Knight said...

Wow, Russell Blake nailed it with his comparison between smaller privately own businesses and publically traded large corporations.

JA Konrath said...

Russell Blake nailed it

He did. So did many other commenters here.

Thanks, everyone.

Joseph said...

Legacy or Indie?

Not a choice I'll ever even get to make.

And I'm cool with that.

venkyiyer58 said...

If I was wrong in sensing a wee bit of self-doubt in this post, forgive me. Whether I was right or wrong, please don't stop what you are doing. We - the inferior self-publishing class - need voices like yours.

Clint Hollingsworth said...

I'm a newbie writer about to self pub my first novel. I've found this blog to be very valuable. Especially the post on "Legacy terms from 2012

Anonymous said...

"We don't have to fight the power, because it no longer has power over us."

What would happen if Amazon got rid of KDP overnight or changed the terms so KDP writers got a much smaller slice of sales?

It seems unlikely Amazon would do this, very unlikely, but aren't you mostly vesting your economic interests with Amazon instead of a legacy publisher? What if you depended on direct sales with a middleman like Amazon? What kind of hit would you take?

"Self-publishing" seems a bit misleading, since it's really publishing through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, et al rather than footing the cost and selling directly to the public. You've traded one boss for another. Let's hope the new boss is different than the old boss.

Anonymous said...

"We don't have to fight the power, because it no longer has power over us."

What would happen if Amazon got rid of KDP overnight or changed the terms so KDP writers got a much smaller slice of sales?

It seems unlikely Amazon would do this, very unlikely, but aren't you mostly vesting your economic interests with Amazon instead of a legacy publisher? What if you depended on direct sales with a middleman like Amazon? What kind of hit would you take?

"Self-publishing" seems a bit misleading, since it's really publishing through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, et al rather than footing the cost and selling directly to the public. You've traded one boss for another. Let's hope the new boss is different than the old boss.

Anonymous said...

"What if you depended on direct sales with a middleman like Amazon?"

Er, that should have been "without a middleman like Amazon?"

Russell Blake said...

Anonymous: What would happen if Amazon stopped doing business as it has, and reduced royalties to "only" roughly double what traditional publishers pay, instead of the 70% we see now? Hmm. Let me think.

In that scenario, Amazon would have to decide that all the other vendors offering 70%, like that little company Apple, and that equally small entity, Google, do, can have a massive advantage in terms of having authors directing flow their way, as well as readers responding by supporting their favorite authors by buying their offerings through those vendors.

Or, put another way, Amazon would have to stop behaving the way they have been for the last three years, and start behaving in some new way, which would still pay DOUBLE what I'd see with a trad pub deal, best case.

Oh, and Amazon, which has something like 60% of the book market and whose Top 100 list is about a third indies any given week, would have to decide that it wants to alienate a third of its business overnight. You know, just because.

I think you're confusing channels, which is what Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Google, are, with publishers, who package the work of authors and then use those EXACT SAME CHANNELS to sell their books.

You're also confusing authors, who are people who write stuff, with independent publishers, which are small businesses that not only generate content, but also package it and sell it through those channels.

I'm an indie publisher. I also see no point to bemoaning what will happen if one of my channels alters its margin terms in a way that has yet to happen. What will happen? The market will adjust. I will continue selling through the other channels I currently sell through, and will actively lobby for my tens of thousands of readers to support me and those like me by buying from one of the other channels. Many will likely to so, because everyone has some experience with being bent over by large corps, and folks tend to be anti-big-corp F-ing their friends.

So perhaps the new boss, as you put it, is a genuine improvement over the old boss. So far my bank seems to think so, as does my car dealer, by boat mechanic, and my real estate sales guy. Perhaps we're all deeply mistaken and things will change at some undefined point in the future.

Then we'll adapt. As will readers.

That's called business evolution.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Joe: You and Hugh and David Gaughran were the ones that got me into this in 2011. I'm sure you get tired of reading and responding to the BS the legacy media keeps churning out, but please remember the brand new writer who is just dipping her toe in and reads the Guardian -- but also reads your response. If these articles go unanswered she only sees the nonsense they print...and never has the chance to learn more. I know others fisk, too, but your voice counts for a lot. You have a pulpit that you've worked years to build, and I hope you'll continue to use it.

Of course, stop and rest sometimes and give yourself a break when the disgust level gets too high!

The Fast Fingers said...

I was shocked by the $6000 price estimate for self-publishing a single book in that article. Glad that you disagree with it.

JA Konrath said...

"boat mechanic" wins the thread.

Unknown said...

Dear Joe,

When you take time away from your writing to fisk about idiots on the internet, or point out the fallacy in an article, or for whatever reason you're not working on a novel - you are helping others. You help indies. You help authors. You help the newbs. You are a voice of reason in the wilderness.

Yeah, sure you're one of the cool kids (and who among us doesn't want to be one of the cool kids?), but while you may question your own motivation, that is surely the sign of wisdom - power can't go to your head if you are self-reflective about it. Besides, you only use your powers for good and never for evil.

I read all of your blog posts from 2009 forward, as you suggested. I found that you validated the research I'd done on my own (use CreateSpace but don't use Author Solutions, etc.), and that made me feel good about my choices - especially in a world where folks I knew were asking, "Will you need a new copy of The Writer's Market to find an agent then? I could buy you one for Christmas."

People in the "real" world don't get it, but indies do. Joe knows. So does Barry, and Hugh, and David, and TPG. Cool kids all. Leading the way. Trumpeting till the walls fall. Ooops! They are already falling!

So thank you Joe. I read every word you write on your blog. I might not always agree, but I usually do. You help me to be objective and to think for myself. Keep doing what you're doing or not, as it pleases you. But know this, you have changed, irrevocably and forever, so many, many, many lives, you cannot even imagine how many, but all for the good.

P.S. I changed my keywords and my categories on Zon, and, wouldn't you know, my sales jumped. I was able to see this directly, without a middle man. I sold my book to STRANGERS. Now that's bliss, so thank you, Joe.

Terrence OBrien said...

What would happen if Amazon got rid of KDP overnight or changed the terms so KDP writers got a much smaller slice of sales?

Blake nailed it. But remember that famous saying attributed to Bezos? Your margin is my opportunity.

If KDP payments were much smaller, we have to then look at retail price.

If retail price fell by a corresponsing amount, then Amazon's margin doesn't change.

But if retail prices remain the same, then Amazon's margin increases. As Bezos noted, that is opportunity for other players.

Sheila said...

Joe, I get that you feel you're banging your head against a brick wall.

I just wanted to say that your blog is what got me into self/indie publishing in 2011. I was out of work and decided to see what I would need to do to submit work to publishers. While looking for query letters, I saw one of your articles (about how much money you were making, if I recall), and I was all "Hey, wait. What? You can publish your own books now? Wicked!"

I knew about ebooks, because I'd been reading them on my old Palm TX for months, until my son bought me a Kindle. But I had no idea that self-publishing existed. I was amazed and inspired.

My career isn't much to speak of, but I've sold some books and the only validation I need is that someone reads my work and hopefully enjoys it.

Please take a break if you need to, or stop fisking these idiotic articles if that's what it takes, but don't stop sharing your insights and experiences.

I'll beg if that's what it takes, but I warn you, my old knees won't bend far so I can't actually get down on the floor. But I can clasp my hands and sob theatrically. :P

Laura Resnick said...

I hate bad information. Bad information drives me crazy. For many of the same reasons that finding a cockroach in my food, sewage in my drinking water, garbage in my yard, and gunfire in my residential street drive me crazy. These are BAD WRONG THINGS that shouldn't be running amok and damaging people.

We need good information to counter the effects of bad information. We need MORE good information. People who are doing their research can only do it effectively if there's lots and lots of good information for them TO find.

I totally appreciate your fatigue about all this, but I hope you keep blogging and making good, well-informed argugments. I think it's important--for much the same reason that I think separating my drinking water from public sewage is important.

Terrence OBrien said...

I suspect the good informastion is getting out there. The frequency of articles with bad informnation is inversely proportional to the effectiveness of the good information. And the frequency seems to be increasing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 2:57...This picture of agents as the tired, put-upon, but vigilant gatekeepers of literature, valiantly enduring mountains of unsolicited manuscripts for the sake of the public good, is a total farce...I recently attended a meeting of my local chapter of a national writer's organization where our guest speaker was an agent and he did this very thing. What a martyr to his own cause.

Also...Barry's point at 2:11 is right on about the industry exaggerating the costs of self-publishing. Said agent mentioned above had no idea how much it cost to get a quality book cover done. He was spouting numbers left and right, going as far as saying it cost $1,000, which is ludicrous. Myself and other self-pubbed author friends, who had very profesisonal book covers done, did not pay nearly that much and we told him so. So it is important to keep up the good fight.

Clint Hollingsworth said...

As a noob writer, I just wanted to say that you aimed me at self publishing. Your post about legacy contracts in 2012 appalled me.

Unknown said...

Has anyone noticed how the commenters on your blog have become a who's who in the Self-pubbing world. Is it because people successful in this new field are attracted to your blog, or has your blog contributed to their success? I would bet it is more the latter. Your words of wisdom are a beacon leading the way. People don't have to take your advice but if they choose to, the path is easier.

I personally prefer your posts on what you've tried and how it has worked for you -- just where I'm at in the publishing stage -- but I do get a good chuckle with your fisking and see the importance of it. Do what makes you happy. If you want to step away, maybe try another charity/guest blog offer. That was quite interesting as well.

Thanks for the inspiration and guidance.


Clara said...

I'm 19, and what I've noticed is I (and a growing number of people) give more weight and credit to people like you Joe - people who have a history in this field but are human enough that I can relate to, rather than traditional media.

It's an uphill climb for indie authors...but one that is steadily (albeit very slowly) getting easier. I'm not an author myself, but am helping my Dad publish his first fantasy novel (book 1 of 10), and so I've done hours of research and yeah, legacy publishing isn't what it's made out to be, and it's most certainly not an authors only choice.

Not to say self-publishing is easy, but at least you have control over your own material.

So thank you for posting this information. People do need to be made aware of it, but also, those of us who have picked self-publishing need to be reassured in the path we've chosen.

Don't stop!

Unknown said...

This is my approach as well. My little LLC may never publish anything but my works, but I can always say "I own a publishing company" or "I'm with T. A. Francis." The looks I get are priceless ;)

Rob Cornell said...

Maybe (and I know this is crazy talk) we could turn the discussion back to the craft. The more we improve our storytelling skills, the more successful we can hope to be (as long as luck smiles on us).

Just a thought.

Barry Knister said...

I am almost always with you. I certainly agree with your efforts to show your readers how legacy publishing wants them to accept a caste system--Brahmin authors vs the self-published Great Unwashed. But in this post, you say that "when something newsworthy is happening, I first hear about it via Twitter or Facebook." If those are your sources for news, no doubt you do hear about it there first--along with everything unimaginably un-newsworthy. No, when you argue in favor of "breaking news" getting to me quicker via electronic media, which makes them better delivery systems, I can't agree. The pressure in electronic media to post anything and everything instantly is a negative. It means more errors that go uncorrected, more trivia crowding out what matters more, or should, etc.
As for printed newspapers, maybe you're too young to appreciate their virtues. I'm not.
But: anyone who says my argument applies to printed books vs ebooks is all wrong: good or bad, how books are read is not ephemeral in the way news is. And unlike journalism, readers of books have much more say in what as well as how they read.

JA Konrath said...

The pressure in electronic media to post anything and everything instantly is a negative. It means more errors that go uncorrected, more trivia crowding out what matters more, or should, etc.

What you see as a negative, I see as a positive. The more reporters, the less bias. And there is nothing less biased than photographic evidence.

To see breaking news in the form of witnesses with cell phones gives us an unprecedented level of awareness. We don't have to wait for the NYT to report on a coup in the Middle East, or CNN to show an earthquake in China, or Fox to comment on cops behaving badly in St. Louis. We can watch it as it happens. We no longer have to be told about it with accompanying spin, permission, slant, or censorship.

As for printed newspapers, maybe you're too young to appreciate their virtues. I'm not.

A lot of what I fisk is reported by those same newspapers you appreciate, and it is shoddy journalism written by reporters with obvious agendas, labeled as news rather than op-ed. The NYT's views on the word "torture" should by itself be enough to send anyone who seeks truth running for the hills.

Newspapers, and TV news, reek of bias. But rather than the bias of thousands of unpaid tweeters, it's the bias of Big Business and Government and Protecting the Status Quo.

Has the news media done great things it the past? Yes. But they are a legacy media. The Internet is more than just blogs and Twitter--it allows anyone to fact-check the nonsense being sold to us. The media's treatment of Douglas Preston, and the fact that Glen Greenwald lives abroad, are two examples of why the term "legacy" applies to our news agencies.

author Christa Polkinhorn said...

"Maybe, just maybe, our time is better spent writing. By being the change, rather than bemoaning how others aren't seeing the change."

YES, YES! Nevertheless, thank you for the many informative and helpful posts!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cinisajoy said...

@Joe, Barry Eisler, Hugh, Russell and David...
Here is a big thank you. Thanks to me paying attention for the last couple of years I knew exactly what to tell a friend when they wanted to publish their book.

Barry Knister said...

After reading your reply to my comment, I reread your post, and the Guardian article.
1. Without a doubt, Barry Eisler is right when he says the article is guilty of "wildly exaggerating the costs involved with self-publishing." It costs me less than half the $750 the Guardian piece claims is needed to get a professional-looking cover. As for paying out $850 for reviews, that's ridiculous. But it's not ridiculous for an indie writer to budget that kind of money for marketing.

As for the most expensive item on the self-publisher's cost sheet--editing--in my experience, the Guardian is pretty much correct: $50 per hour. My editing costs come to about $3,000 per book. I could buy these services for less, but I think it's worth paying a premium to work with an editor who has a real track record and lots of experience.

2. "As a writer," you tell us, "I once craved the validation that came with a legacy publishing contract. I felt it legitimized me. Once I was accepted, I experienced a sense of fulfillment. Getting a Publishers Weekly starred review was a victory. Seeing my book on a library shelf was its own reward.
Now I realize how empty those feelings were."

So, after accomplishing all your goals as a writer and achieving a "victory" by becoming a commercially published author with a reputation, you then realized how wrong you had been, how empty the objectives. This led you to a sense of obligation to educate others, so they could avoid making the same mistakes you made.

It's incontestable that you and others have offered hope, encouragement and useful information to many. For the hard-working AND lucky few, what you have revealed about the material rewards of self-publishing are very valuable

But: please acknowledge that the legacy-publishing career you achieved has something to do with why you are successful as an indie writer. And that your success is why you are highly influential. Had you started out as an indie writer, possibly you would have gone just as far--because you write both fast and well. But there's no telling, because you didn't start out as an indie writer. Who can say that all the early validation and achievement in your legacy career wasn't crucial to creating the conditions for what followed?

3. You and others speak of what's happening in publishing in terms of evolution. That must mean it's inevitable: self-publishing will rise, trad publishing will decline in importance. Why, then, all the anger? I'm no shrink, but the David/indie and Goliath/legacy matchup begins to sound like classic Freud. In your writing "childhood," you begin by seeking the love and acceptance of legacy publishing. You embrace its values and standards, and you gain validation in its eyes. You are praised and rewarded. But now you've grown up. You're a man, no longer a boy, and you're at last able to see all the flaws. Having gained everything you can from legacy publishing, it's time to break free, take on the old man and show him who's boss.

Barry Knister said...

I appreciate how amateur journalists can make a difference. But when you say "there is nothing less biased than photographic evidence," I think you're referring to the pre-Photoshop era. Visual imagery can and is spun, slanted, censored, and is usually devoid of context.
About the Guardian article. Agreed: the numbers it gives for indie publishing costs are, as Barry Eisler says, "wildly" exaggerated. But my experience with the most costly item--editing--comports with the rate of fifty bucks an hour. And: indies need to budget for marketing/advertising.
About your own background. Nobody can take anything away from your success. But I hope you would agree that your legacy publishing success has had something to do with it. Who can say what the legacy validation and approval contributed to your later career?

Anonymous said...

Late to this thread, but the thought just came to me.

As has been said above, what is the purpose of this article, and why now?

I wonder if its purpose is not to discourage authors from self-pubbing (it's too expensive), but instead to make services like Author Solutions look good.

If the idea circulates that self-pubbing is hard and expensive, then, to someone not doing their homework, Author Solutions appears as a legitimate choice. Let legacy self-pub services do it for you.

I doubt it is conscious propaganda on the part of the reporter (though that is certainly possible), but it is something you could predict would appear.

Peter said...

I don't normally comment on your blog. I just read all the posts and learn from them, but since this time you were pondering whether or not your activism for self pub was even valuable, I figured I'd speak up.

I didn't know anything about the publishing scene and would have surely wasted years of my life sending books to sit in slush piles if I hadn't discovered your blog. So thanks for that.