Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Hunger Games on Facebook

30 April 2011
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This is an enormously cool use of Facebook to promote The Hunger Games movie. It’s designed to bring fans back over and over. Note that they have over 45,000 likes.

Who Will be the Tributes?


Californians with Ereaders Read More Books

30 April 2011
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Californians say they’re a bunch of readers.


Two thirds of Californians say they like reading “a lot,” according to a new survey. The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, released Thursday, looks at the state of books in the state.

. . . .

Thirty-four percent of Californians surveyed said that with an ereader, they read more books than they did before.

Link to the rest at Los Angeles Times


Self-Publishing – I’ve earned, on average, a dollar a minute.

29 April 2011

After reading about how you could be on the NYT bestseller list and almost qualify for food stamps with Big Publishing, let’s move over to indie world.

As those who have read The Passive Voice for awhile (the first post was less than three months ago, so it hasn’t been that long) know, Joe Konrath is the Vladimir Lenin of the self-publishing world – developing the economic theories and political philosophies of indie writing. A lot of what passes for standard self-pubbing strategy in this very new world began with something Joe wrote.

It’s worth your while to go to Joe’s blog and read through his business-related posts chronologically, beginning in January, 2011, and moving forward. You’ll see the evolution of his thinking and understand how we got to where we are today.

Just so we’re clear – in six months, we’ll be in a world much different than the one we’re in today.

As a useful comparison to the previous Dollar Day posts about authors working with traditional publishers, here are some excerpts from one of Joe’s posts in late January, 2011, comparing his life in traditional publishing with indie world:

Last January, I made $2,295 on Kindle, and I was amazed I could actually pay my mortgage on books NY rejected.

“Amazed” is no longer strong enough a word.

In just 12 months, I’ve seen a 2000% increase in income. And ebooks are still only 11% of the book market.

What happens when they’re 15%? 30%? 75%?

And yet, I still see some writers clinging to the notion that getting a book contract with a Big 6 publisher is the way to go.

. . . .

For Bloody Mary, my second novel, they sent me to the West Coast. I had ten official signings. But I quickly realized what a giant waste of money tours were. Why do signings at only two bookstores in L.A. when there were 30 stores in town? Why fly from city to city, and pass up all those bookstores between cities?

So, on my own, between official signings, I dropped in 95 additional stores and signed stock.

It was eleven days of busting my ass. No sleep, constant travel, constantly being “on.” But I felt it needed to be done.

The next year, for Rusty Nail, I was on the road for 55 days, and signed at over 500 bookstores. I blogged about it, day by day, but here are the final stats for that tour:

Miles driven: 11457
Books signed: 4066
Books hand sold: 214
Booksellers met: 952
Bookstores visited: 504

It remains the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was so exhausted after that tour–physically, mentally, emotionally–that it took me weeks to get back to normal.

If we assume that every book I signed on that tour wound up selling (which is a big assumption,) it means for every hour I spent on the road, I sold three books.

It was the very limit of what I was capable of doing, and the best I could do was a book sale every twenty minutes.

. . . .

[After self-publishing ebooks on Amazon] In January, I haven’t done a single bit of promotion. No touring. No signing. No interviews. I’ve basically sat on my ass this month.

And I’ve earned, on average, a dollar a minute.

In 2006, it took me almost 8 weeks to sell 4000 books.

In 2011, it took me five and a half days to sell that many. And I didn’t have to drive across twenty-nine states to do it.

. . . .

I just checked my last royalty statement. Rusty Nail, that book I worked so hard to promote, has thusfar earned me $42,000. This includes all of my hardcovers, paperbacks, ebooks, and foreign editions, combined.

With self-publishing, in a single month, I was able to earn the same amount of money it took me four and a half years to earn through traditional publishing.

. . . .

Last year, I released Trapped on my own, on Kindle.

In the last 68 days, Trapped has earned me over $20,000. It’s currently selling over 160 copies a day.

Because this is my career, I measure my success with how much money I’m able to make. But money is only part of the equation. The amount of time invested in order to earn that money is just as important.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only author who has ever visited 100 blogs in a month, or 500 bookstores on tour, or sent 7000 letters to libraries and bookstores (each with a signed drink coaster.)

These things took a considerable amount of time to do. Time I could have spent writing more books.

. . . .

I used to spend about 80% of my professional time self-promoting.

. . . .

I’m a writer. So I’m devoting my time to writing, and quitting all of that other stuff.

Self-publishing ebooks hasn’t just made me money. It has also given me my life back.

In a more recent post from just a few days ago, Joe updates his self-published numbers:

Two hundred and seventy-six thousand, one hundred and eleven.

That’s how many self-pubbed books I’ve sold.

About 245k of these on Kindle.

20k on Smashwords,

5k on Createspace,

The rest divvied up among Nook, OverDrive, and my website.

. . . .

So far, in April, I’ve sold over 30,000 books. I’ll easily break 35,000 this month.

So, by Christmas, I’ll have hit half a million books sold.

Of course, that’s a conservative estimate. I’m releasing four more ebooks this month, have several more scheduled for the year, and I expect ereaders to keep selling as their prices keep going down. The market isn’t close to being saturated.

I don’t think I’ve really hit my stride yet.

In March, I earned over $68,000. But I know that number can go up. Other authors have earned more. A lot more.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath #1 and Joe Konrath #2


NYT Bestselling Author – On My Income, We’d Almost Qualify for Food Stamps

29 April 2011
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Continuing with Dollar Day on The Passive Voice . . .

Fantasy author Lynn Viehl wrote a book, Twilight Fall, that debuted #19 on the NYT mass market bestseller list in July, 2008.

What does that mean in terms of marketing campaigns, how many copies were printed, how many sold, etc.? Lynn tells all.


We’ve all been told a lot of myths about what it takes to reach the top twenty list of the NYT BSL. What I was told: you have to have an initial print run of 100-150K, you have to go to all the writer and reader conferences to pimp the book, you can’t make it unless you go to certain bookstores during release week and have a mass signing or somehow arrange for a lot of copies to be sold there; the list is fixed, etc.

I’ve never had a 100K first print run. I don’t do book signings and I don’t order massive amounts of my own books from certain bookstores (I don’t even know which bookstores are the magic ones from whom the Times gets their sales data.) I do very little in the way of promotions for my books; for this one I gave away some ARCs, sent some author copies to readers and reviewers, and that was about it. I haven’t attended any conference since 2003. To my knowledge there was no marketing campaign for this book; I was never informed of what the publisher was going to do for it (as a high midlist author I probably don’t rate a marketing campaign yet.)

. . . .

Twilight Fall had an initial print run of 88.5K, and an initial ship of 69K. Most readers, retailers and buyers that I keep in touch with e-mailed me to let me know that the book shipped late because of the July 4th holiday weekend. Another 4K was shipped out two to four weeks after the lay-down date, for a total of 73K, which means there were 15.5K held in reserve in the warehouse in July 2008.

. . . .

[F]or the sale period of July through November 30, 2008. my publisher reports sales of 64,925 books, for which my royalties were $40,484.00. I didn’t get credit for all those sales, as 21,140 book credits were held back as a reserve against possible future returns, for which they subtracted $13,512.69 (these are not lost sales; I’m simply not given credit for them until the publisher decides to release them, which takes anywhere from one to three years.)

My net earnings on this statement was $27,721.31, which was deducted from my advance. My actual earnings from this statement was $0.

My advance for Twilight Fall was $50,000.00, a third of which I did not get paid until the book physically hit the shelf — this is now a common practice by publishers, to withhold a portion of the advance until date of publication. Of that $50K, my agent received $7,500.00 as her 15% (which she earns, believe me) the goverment received roughly $15,000.00, and $1594.27 went to cover my expenses (office supplies, blog giveaways, shipping, promotion, etc.) After expenses and everyone else was paid, I netted about $26K of my $50K advance for this book, which is believe it or not very good — most authors are lucky if they can make 10% profit on any book. This should also shut up everyone who says all bestselling authors make millions — most of us don’t.

The date of Lynn’s previous post was April, 2009. She continues her NYT bestseller money story in a second post in November, 2009, after she receives her second royalty report.


On the statement my publisher reports sales of 7,550 copies and returns of 10,812 copies. The publisher released credits of 21,140 copies or $13,512.69 from reserves held against returns, but at the same time reserved credits against another 13,790 copies or $8,814.57, which reduces the credit adjustment to 7,350 copies or $4698.12.

Total sales for the novel now stand at 89,142 copies, minus returns of 27,479, for net sales of 61,663 copies. My credited earnings from this statement was $2,434.38 with no money due; it will probably take another six months to a year for the novel to earn out the last of my $50,000.00 advance.

So how much money have I made from my Times bestseller? Depending on the type of sale, I gross 6-8% of the cover price of $7.99. After paying taxes, commission to my agent and covering my expenses, my net profit on the book currently stands at $24,517.36, which is actually pretty good since on average I generally net about 30-40% of my advance. Unless something triggers an unexpected spike in my sales, I don’t expect to see any additional profit from this book coming in for at least another year or two.

. . . .

Speaking of comparisons, the publisher’s portion of sales on this book has grossed them around $453,839.68. I don’t have any hard figures on the publisher’s net, so I can’t give you the bottom line there. If I had to make a guess, I’d say they probably netted around $250K on this one.

. . . .

My income per book always reminds me of how tough it is to make at living at this gig, especially for writers who only produce one book per year. If I did the same, and my one book performed as well as TF, and my family of four were solely dependent on my income, my net would be only around $2500.00 over the income level considered to be the U.S. poverty threshhold (based on 2008 figures.) Yep, we’d almost qualify for foodstamps.

Link to the rest at Generality – Post 1 and Generality – Post 2


Romantic Cash: Low Pay and Long Hours Doing What You Love

29 April 2011
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Any pervs who saw the title and thought this was about anything except making money as an author – by writing – head off somewhere else in Twitterland.

Romance author Sabrina Jeffries demonstrates that not only do romance and money sometimes go together, but romance writing and money also go together. Sometimes a lot of money, sometimes a little money, but there’s a connection.

Passive Guy has to admit he has been biased against romance writers as a group. In this post, Sabrina mostly writes like an MBA – lots of numbers, but nary a single sultry glance or ripped bodice.


Despite everything you’ve heard about advances, writers essentially make their money from royalties. They do get advances, but those advances are against royalties. That means they don’t earn any royalties on the book until the publisher has recouped its advance. If the advance is really large or sales are really bad, they may earn only a few royalties or not even earn out their advance at all. But if they have wily agents and fabulous sales, they may get an advance bigger than any prospective royalties they will ever get on the book (Tom Clancy, for example). After all, it’s better for the publisher to keep an author like Tom Clancy generating millions of dollars even if he doesn’t earn back $60,000 of the multi-million-dollar advance it originally paid him.

And what is a royalty? A percentage of the retail price of every book sold.

Note the importance of each word in this statement. First of all, it’s a percentage. For most paperback authors, that percentage is 4 to 8 percent (4 is what is offered at the very bottom rung). So for a $7 book, the author gets 28 to 56 cents.

Secondly, it’s the retail price, the one stamped on the book. The wholesale price is what a bookseller or distributor pays, often about 50 to 60 percent of the retail price.

And finally, authors do not receive a percentage for every book printed, just for every book sold. Since booksellers can return for credit any books they don’t sell, the number of books sold generally amounts to about half of the books printed (less if sales were bad; more if sales were good).

. . . .

Royalty earnings + other sales = gross earnings. But gross earnings for a full-time author aren’t the same as for someone who works for a company. If you work for a company, it buys your supplies and it pays 7.5 percent of your social security tax. Anything related to the business is paid for (not work clothes and lunches, but paper, computer, etc.). An author who writes full-time has to pay all of her social security tax (15 percent total as opposed to a regularly employed person’s 7.5 percent), along with an agent’s commission, which ranges from 10 percent to 15 percent of the gross (most authors do need agents these days). She foots the bill for promotion (the author often pays out of her own pocket for those bookmarks and flyers and copies of galleys that you see), computers, supplies, research, etc. And she is responsible for her own health insurance, retirement fund, etc.

One more thing to consider is that an author has to cover her expenses while waiting for her royalties. And those take a long time to come, many times as long as two or three years after she sold the book. All the money doesn’t come in until a few years after the book has been published. I once had a friend tell me, “Yes, but the royalties come in forever, so the more books you have, the more little checks you’re getting.” That is true—if your book is kept in print. Most midlist books are not. In fact, all of my Deborah Martina and Deborah Nicholas books are now out of print. So unless an author gets her rights back and resells the books (and reselling is only possible if she has established a fairly big name), the royalties do end eventually. That means that each book earns a finite amount.

Link to the rest at Sabrina Jeffries


Let’s Talk About Authors and Money

29 April 2011
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We’re going to have a money day on The Passive Voice – a few posts about dinero – how much, how many and how to get more if you don’t have enough (I know, there are only a couple of you, but all you rich authors will just have to be patient).

If I’ve missed other important money aspects of writing, drop a comment or go to the Contact page and send me a missive.


iPad Not a Big Ereading Device

28 April 2011
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An ebook reading research report from Simba is out. Since Passive Guy doesn’t want to spend $3,250 to buy it, he’ll work from the press release.


Although the iPad has generated a lot of hype since its launch in April 2010, the survey reveals most owners do not use it to read books, suggesting the device is used for games and other media instead. The report finds owners of tablet devices do not make up the majority of e-book users, with 45% of survey respondents citing the PC or Mac as their e-reading device.

“A lot of people equate the sale of a new gadget with the creation of a new reader, and it just doesn’t happen,” said Michael Norris, senior analyst and author of the report. “In both the offline and online world, there are a lot of independent factors and distractions that will keep a person from discovering and enjoying a book.”

. . . .

According to the report, demographic shifts occurred within the population of e-book buyers in 2010, with women now outnumbering men. The shift was a dramatic change from the 2009 results, which revealed 13% of men and 9% of women had purchased an e-book.

“In 2009, about 6,000 people a day bought an e-book for the first time,” added Norris. “2010 expansion was less dramatic on the newcomer side, but the population of e-book buyers shifted away from the disengaged and occasional buyer and towards consumers who are more committed to reading print and digital books in general.”

Link to the rest at Simba


Doing SEO for Your Ebook

28 April 2011

Passive Guy did SEO before SEO was cool and also before it was scammy and slimy.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Go to Google and type in “auto insurance” then look at the first page. Everybody on that page got there by doing SEO. One of the search terms they optimized for was “auto insurance.”

Basically, SEO is a way of gaming Google’s search algorithms (“algorithm” is the term your computer overlords use when they mean “rule”) so your site appears higher in Google’s search results.

For people who sell doggie treats online, appearing at #1 on Google’s page when people search for doggie treats is worth about twice as much in sales as being #3. So, regardless of whether your doggie treats taste like steak or asphalt, if you’re #1, you sell 100 boxes per day and if you’re #3, you sell 50 boxes. If you’re below #10, you better switch to parakeet treats unless you’re spending lots of money on TV commercials or blimp advertisements.

I know selling doggie treats can sound tempting after being a writer. After all, if your doggie treat business doesn’t work out, maybe you can eat your inventory. Even with ketchup, your failed manuscripts will not sustain life and don’t even think about your hard drive.

But, you can use SEO to help the world find your indie book! Don’t hire someone, just read what Dana Lynn Smith, Savvy Book Marketer, says, then do it.


One of the best ways to get your articles and blog posts noticed by search engines like Google and read by your target audience is to use important keywords in the headlines and articles.

A keyword is a word or phrase that people would be likely to use when searching online for information on your topic. Here are some tips for finding the best keywords:

. . . .

Enter your keyword ideas into a research tool such as the Google Keyword Tool. This tool will show you how many people are search on the keywords that you identified, and also suggest alternative keywords.

Link to the rest at The Savvy Book Marketer

Before everybody descends on Passive Guy with a million other ideas, he knows that this is babysteps for SEO.

There are approximately two trillion things you can do to move your website up in Google’s rankings, but then you’d have a great website rank, but no books to sell. Could you sell your website? Sure, but then you’d be a website author instead of a book author. Believe it or not, in civilized company, website authors get even less respect unless they’re Mark Zuckerberg.

And seriously, don’t pay someone to do SEO for your book. You will almost certainly get ripped off. If you want to climb the SEO sophistication ladder, go to SEOMoz (you probably can’t cost-justify the software) and read the Beginner’s Guide. Also, check out what Google says about SEO.


Another Indie Author Makes a Book Sale to Big Publishing

28 April 2011

I haven’t seen any dollar figures, but Publisher’s Marketplace is reporting that Stephanie McAfee, successful indie author of Diary of a Mad Fat Girl, which somehow made it to the NYT ebook best seller list (#20 right now), has signed a three-book deal with an imprint of Penguin called NAL.

So, the moral of this story is that, if you want to be a successful indie author, publish yourself and if you want to get an agent and a book contract, publish yourself.

Sorry, but I can’t find any link that’s not behind a paywall at the moment.


A Kindle for Mom

28 April 2011
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Look, children, you want to read your mother correctly before making this decision.

If she’s a flowers and jewelry type, a Kindle may not do the job you need your Mother’s Day present to accomplish.

OTOH, if she’s a big-time reader, even if she’s not hooked on computers, you could be a star forever. She might finally forgive you for that tattoo.

Amazon will give her a $25 gift card if you buy her a Kindle 3G (nada for the Kindle WiFi only), so she can stock her Kindle with either a couple of Big Publishing books or gobs of indie books.

Don’t forget to point out that the classics she read to you when you were little and still cute are probably free.

Here’s the link with everything you need to know except that Mother’s Day (U.S. version) is on May 8 – put it on your phone right now so you don’t forget.

One other thing: For all those future events when you’re supposed to remember Mom, if she has a Kindle, you will be saved, saved, saved.

How does that work?

Your hedge-fund millionaire brother calls while you’re hitch-hiking to Mom’s house. “I hope you remembered that today is Mom’s birthday and got her a present this year. She cried after you went home last year.”

“Of course I did. What kind of ingrate do you think I am? Just because I play World of Warcraft while you’re out plundering third-world economies doesn’t mean I don’t remember Mom’s birthday. Sheesh!”

“I’m glad to hear it. I’ll give you a ride home in the Bentley,” says Bro before he hangs up.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you Seattle,” you say to yourself as click open the Amazon app and send Mom a Kindle gift card.

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