Monthly Archives: February 2011

Amazon UK Working for Indie Writers

28 February 2011
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From an article in the Guardian.  The final quote continues a frequent publishers’ and agents’ meme of the author as a precocious child who must be sheltered from the real world.

Excerpts:

Self-publishing has traditionally been a surefire route to obscurity and dismal sales. Now a British thriller writer who sells his novels as ebooks for as little as 70p is proving the naysayers wrong.

Not only does Stephen Leather, Britain’s leading “independent” writer, estimate he has occupied the number one spot on Amazon.co.uk’s Kindle ebook bestseller lists for “90% of the last three months”, he is also selling “somewhere in the region” of 2,000 ebooks a day – and making big profits in the process.

Leather, who celebrated his seventh consecutive week at the top of the Amazon chart with his novella The Basement, about a serial killer in New York, also occupies fourth place with Hard Landing, another thriller, and 11th place with Once Bitten, a vampire novel.

He is one of many authors increasingly turning to ebooks as an alternative way to the top. Capitalising on the popularity of e-readers such as the Kindle, a new generation of writers is bypassing agents and publishers and using the flexible pricing model of ebooks to offer their work directly to the public at rock-bottom prices. Some, like Leather, are achieving huge sales, which, not surprisingly, is striking fear into publishers.

. . . .

Faced with this deluge of ultra-cheap ebooks, there have been apocalyptic murmurings about the end of publishing, but Toby Mundy, managing director of Atlantic Books, remains cautiously upbeat. “A new ecosystem is emerging where it will certainly suit lots of authors to publish themselves, but it won’t suit all or indeed most of them,” he says. He points out that for many authors it would “be too stressful to become marketers and distribution experts and copywriters as well as writing the actual books”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

 

For the first time in my writing career, I can support myself solely through writing

28 February 2011
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Joe Konrath makes another convert.

Excerpts from author Blake Crouch:

So I finished a novel back in August that I’d been writing for a year and a half between other projects. I thought it was probably the best thing I’d written, the closest I’d ever come to fully realizing the initial idea. My writer friends who I swap manuscripts with agreed. Even my lovely wife, who can’t deal with my SERIAL stuff, loved it. My agent loved it, and we went through several edits and took it out in October to a number of publishing houses.

“You’re losing money, Blake, every single day RUN is not for sale.”

Around December, Joe started making a point of telling me this every time we talked on the phone, emailed, or Skyped. I thought maybe he was right.

I had a great December selling ebooks.

January came close to doubling that.

. . . .

Ebook royalty rate: 25%. This royalty rate is so completely biased in favor of publishers, it’s not even funny. The ebook rights to my catalog are far and away the most valuable thing I own. To give a publisher the exclusive license to my e-rights when I have no control over pricing, and in light of that 25% royalty rate, is a terrifying proposition. This all adds up to my suspicion that, even if an offer were to come, I would have a very difficult time parting with those rights if the offer wasn’t stellar and life-changing money.

. . . .

[Konrath's comments on the guest blog post]:

I considered it my duty, as a friend of Blake’s, to nag him to self-publish RUN, but he wanted a big traditional publishing deal. And guess what? I understood his thinking. RUN should have gotten a big traditional publishing deal. Blake should have been offered six-figures for RUN, months ago. It has “blockbuster” written all over it.

But the current publishing climate is awful. Publishers aren’t buying as much, and they aren’t paying as much. And every day Blake waited, the legacy publishing climate got worse, the self-publishing climate got better, and he missed out on making money.

Link to the rest at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

 

 

Free Kindle This November

28 February 2011

Pure speculation, but interesting.  There’s a link to another post that talks about a possible Amazon strategy to give all Prime members a free Kindle.

Excerpts:

When I brought it to the attention of publishing veterans they would often laugh nervously. How outrageous! they would say. It must cost something to make? The trick was figuring out how Amazon could bundle the free Kindle and still make money. My thought was the cell phone model: a free Kindle if you buy X number of e-books.

Link to the rest at The Technium

Time is Money

28 February 2011
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Another provocative post from Joe Konrath.  Those who love him will go crazy.  Ditto for those who don’t.

Excerpts:

Once you turn in the manuscript, it can be months, or even over a year, before your book is published.

The large, inefficient, unwieldy industry that is legacy publishing is painfully slow.

. . . .

It can take up to 18 months after the release date in order to get an accurate count on how well a book sells. That’s because publishers often hold back reserves against returns. Since books are returnable for full price, they don’t count copies shipped as copies sold, so they don’t pay the author for a certain percentage of titles shipped.

You would think that publishers would pay the author on monies received from the retailer, but that would make too much sense, which means legacy publishing doesn’t do that.

So the time you finish the book, until the time you get your first accurate royalty statement (and hopefully a royalty check to go with it), is usually around 3 years.

. . . .

Technically, you get paid faster with self-publishing, though normally the check isn’t as big as an advance will be. (I say “normally” because we earned over $5k the first month Draculas was released, and $5k is still the average advance for a debut author.)

Crazy as it sounds, every day your book isn’t being sold, is a day lost that you could have been earning money.

The legacy publishing scenario–sell a bunch on the release, then trickle down to nothing–doesn’t apply to ebooks. Ebooks often follow a bell curve. Sell a few at first, gain momentum and sell a lot, then gradually decrease in sales until they sell steadily.

In some ebook cases, it is more like a many-humped snake, with sales rising and falling for no discernible reason. I’ve had ebooks sell really well, then drop a bit for a month, then sell even more the month after that. Instead of the standard bell, the graph looks more like a snake going up a staircase–a wavy line on a gradual overall incline.

That’s because ebooks NEVER stop selling. They aren’t dependent on coop or shelf space. They don’t get remaindered or stripped and returned.

. . . .

You might not sell well self-pubbing. You might not sell well legacy pubbing, either.

But at least with self-pubbing you have forever to find that audience.

Link to the rest at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

Design Your Own Book Cover

27 February 2011
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Everyone warns you not to design your own cover.

But if you must.

And won’t be dissuaded.

Here’s a tutorial.

Designing a Comic Book Cover with No Illustration

Write Fast

27 February 2011

From author Dean Wesley Smith’s blog.

Excerpts:

The slow writers in this new world of publishing are going to have trouble. Far more trouble than they had with traditional publishing only. We are in a new golden age of fiction. The first golden age was the pulp age. Speed of writing was celebrated in that time and it will be this time around as well.

. . . .

So the myth became solid by the middle of the last century that writing slow equals writing well and writing quickly equals writing poorly. (Forget how any thought to how the human brain works in creative mode. We won’t go there.) The writers who could spend more than fifteen minutes per day were punished for their drive and work ethic. And writers who were fast (meaning worked more hours) began hiding the fact and not talking about it in public and writing under many pen names we still see on the stands today. You know pen names like Max Brand, Kenneth Robinson, Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels, and so many others. (No, not telling you my pen names, so don’t ask.)

. . . .

Now, in electronic publishing, is when things get ugly for the slow writer. Especially the slow writer trying to break into this business now, in 2011.

Same exact factors apply in traditional publishing and electronic publishing.  Exactly. Only things are much, much tighter and hard to get into traditional publishing now as traditional publishers go through all this flux and upheaval.

For a writer to make any kind of decent money at indie-publishing, the author either has to have a lot of products selling at low levels, but regularly, or the author needs to hit it big like Amanda Hocking. And even she has more than one book.

. . . .

It would be rare, if not almost zero chance for a one-book-every-few years-author to make a living at indie publishing. Sure, you have to sell a lot fewer books in indie publishing to make nice money, but that’s still a lot of books for years every month with no support from other products. Not likely to happen would be a generous assessment.

An author with patience and the speed of two books per year can, over time, build up enough inventory to have enough of the reader feedback loops to make enough money indie-publishing. But that’s going to take five plus years at least to reach that ten book list. And even then the sales have to be pretty solid per book.

An author publishing four books per year can get ten books up within 2.5 years and more than likely at that pace, after twenty books or so in five years, be making a pretty fine living from just indie-publishing, even with lower per-book sales.

Link to the rest at The Writings and Opinions of Dean Wesley Smith

What Makes a Story Viral?

26 February 2011
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From the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a study that examines how emotion affects the potential of a story to go viral.  Do you want your book description to get passed all over the place, linked to, etc.?

Excerpts:

Using a unique dataset of all the New York Times articles published over a three month period, the authors examine how emotion shapes virality. More positive content is more viral than negative content, but the relationship between emotion and social transmission is more complex than valence alone, and is driven in part by arousal. Content that evokes either positive (awe) or negative (anger or anxiety) emotions characterized by high arousal is more viral.  Content that evokes low arousal emotion (sadness) is less viral. These results hold controlling for how surprising, interesting, or practically useful content is (all of which are positively linked to virality), as well as external drivers of attention (e.g., how prominently content was featured).

. . . .

[W]hile it is clear that social transmission is both frequent, and important, less is known about why certain pieces of online content are more viral than others.  Some customer service experiences spread throughout the blogosphere while others are never shared. Some newspaper articles earn a position on their website’s “most emailed list” while others languish.

. . . .

Why do people share content with others and what types of content is more likely to be shared?  By looking at real transmission of diverse content in a naturalistic setting (the New York Times website), this investigation is the first to demonstrate characteristics of online content that are linked to virality.  Further, by manipulating the proposed mechanism for social transmission in a controlled laboratory experiment, we shed light on the underlying processes that drive people to share. Second, our research provides insight into how to design successful viral marketing campaigns and avoid the spread of consumer backlash on the internet.

Link to the rest at Social Transmission, Emotion, and the Virality of Online Content

The large publishers are dominated by short-termist mentalities

26 February 2011
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John B. Thompson has written a recent book titled, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, which explores the current state of the publishing industry.  His research included 280 interviews with “people working in the industry of trade publishing in London and New York City—publishers and editors, people who work in the publishing houses, agents and booksellers, and authors.”

The following is taken from an extended interview with published in Poets & Writers magazine.

Excerpts:

[The acquisition of large publishers by giant conglomerates gives rise to a] preoccupation with big books. This is extremely important, and it stems from what I call the growth conundrum. If you’re part of a large corporation, you can’t remain static. Reporting to your shareholders, to your parent corporation, means that you have to grow about 10 percent every year. The conundrum is that you work in an industry that is largely static. How do they solve that problem? That’s what all the senior management grapple with.

. . . .

All the corporations have come to the view that the way to solve this growth conundrum is to publish fewer books—but to publish those books that will sell more copies. These are what they call “big books.” They want to clear out that lower bit of midlist titles, to stop publishing them, and to focus more and more of their energy on big books. What is a big book? You might think that’s obvious: A big book is a best-seller. But that would be wrong, for the simple reason that big books exist before the book has ever been published—or even before it has been finished. It’s a hoped-for best-seller; it exists in the space of the possible. It’s nourished by hope and expectation. In the heart of the industry has developed a space for what I call the web of collective belief. A huge amount of energy goes into the process of persuading others that what you have in the form of an idea for a book, a proposal, or a draft manuscript, is going to be—in the future—a best-seller.

. . . .

The [midlist] authors . . . experience a very alienating structure. This is an industry that is based on the growth conundrum and the need to solve that. You cut out the lower strata because that’s diverting your energies and your consolidated sales forces and so forth. It’s not a model that is aimed at cultivating the long-term careers of authors. It’s aimed at solving the growth conundrum.

. . . .

Look at Dan Brown: He was a midlist writer; his books were not doing terribly well until there was a breakout book that made the fortunes of Doubleday and Random House for a number of years. Only if you are prepared to stand by authors do you open up the possibility of that happening. The large publishers are dominated by short-termist mentalities foisted upon them by the fact that they’re owned by large corporations that demand unrealistic levels of growth and profitability for this field. Most of the smart people who work in the industry know and understand this. They have to play the game, but it’s not a game they want to play.

. . . .

The other big anxiety—maybe the foremost one in the minds of those in the industry—is price deflation. When you have big technology companies like Amazon and Google and Apple involved in the creative industries, they tend to use content as a means to drive their market share and to drive the sales of their hardware. For them, content is cannon fodder, almost, in their struggle to become dominant players in the technology and retail markets. For the content creators, which are authors and publishers, this means that you run the risk that your content is being devalued: Content is being used to fight another battle. So what you see is very aggressive action on the part of retailers and technology companies to price content cheaply. The classic example is, of course, the Kindle. When Amazon launched  the Kindle, they announced—to the surprise of all the publishers—that New York Timesbest-sellers were going to be sold for $9.99. As we know, they were losing money on every copy they were selling, but they were doing it because they wanted to send a message that the value of a book, of that content, is really under $10—just like the “value” of a song from iTunes was 99¢.

. . . .

So many of the people who are writing about the book industry are basically technophiles. They love technology; they think the publishing industry is a dinosaur and that it’s all going to be swept aside by these fancy new gadgets. What they miss is that publishing is a complex field of actors and players and agents who are human beings actively involved in content—and that readers are human beings who have their own tastes and preferences. Technology isn’t just an independent variable that drives through all that come hell or high water. It’s part of a complex social process.

Link to the rest at Poets & Writers

The Author as Entrepreneur

26 February 2011

Another excellent article about the business of being an author and what writers need to know to survive the changes in publishing by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Excerpts:

Writers who will survive will need to look ahead.  They need to be constantly evaluating new technology, new opportunities, and new challenges. This goes back to flexibility in that as things change, the writer has to be willing to try something new.  But the writer can’t jump whole-hog into that new change without testing it first.  The writer will need to be able to assess the risk of each new thing without jeopardizing the writer’s entire livelihood.  Sometimes that will mean working in the old system while moving to the new. Sometimes it will mean trying a variety of different tech providers for the same product. And sometimes it will mean the writer has to wait until the market shakes out a bit more before making her move.

. . . .

The writer who will survive will need more than business savvy. She’ll need to recognize that she’s an entrepreneur.  For those of you who aren’t entirely sure what I mean by this, an entrepreneur is a person who sets up and finances a commercial enterprise (or commercial enterprises) for profit.  There are two keys in that definition.  An entrepreneur establishes a commercial enterprise for profit.

. . . .

Those who will make a living at writing, maintain a career, and perhaps get wealthy will know business. Those “artists” who write one book every five years will need day jobs for the rest of their lives—if the book even gets published. And even if that book becomes a bestseller, the “artists” won’t understand how contracts and financing work. The “artists” won’t make money on their bestsellers but the agents, managers, and digital management companies like the start-up mentioned last week will get rich off of the work that the “artists” produce. Why will the agents, managers, and those management companies get rich? Because they know business and they’ll leverage hundreds of books into millions of dollars. These people won’t care about the “artists” except to exploit them. And if the “artists” refuse to learn business, they’re the ones at fault for the exploitation.

So the writer with entrepreneurial spirit will understand, even intuitively, that she’s the one in charge of her career. Everything she writes will promote her brand or her brands. If she writes under a pen name, that pen name is a brand. If she writes under a dozen pen names, each pen name is a brand. Those brands are all part of the writer’s personal company, which she will run.

. . . .

Too many writers looked at publishers as their patrons and not as partners in business.  Writers who survive in this new world will understand that they’re working in a commercial system, designed to make a profit and will act accordingly.

Link to the rest at The Business Rusch

Should I use a different pen name for different genres?

26 February 2011
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Derek J. Canyon continues to ask a lot of the questions that many self-published authors are wondering about.

His readers provide some interesting answers.

Excerpts:

So, do you think two pen names is a problem?
Has anyone else used two or more pen names?
Has anyone else used one name for two incompatible genres?

. . . .

I can tell you from experience that it’s a HUGE amount of work writing under multiple names. I’ve followed Konrath’s example in making my alter-egos publicly available. Those who go to my blog and read my profiles can find my other work. Otherwise, those who grab my latest thriller might never see my latest middle-grade fantasy… and that’s probably for the best.

. . . .

I can vouch for using the same name in different genres. For example I have two books dealing with communication and psychology ( Pop Psychology ) and two books dealing with submission wrestling ( The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling ). These are vastly different subjects but there has never been any problem.

I believe that the majority of my readers do not know the others exist. What is funny is that the sub. wrestling books took less time to write and didn’t require any research beyond my own general knowledge and they sell more than all of my other books.

Link to the rest at Adventures in ePublishing

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