Monthly Archives: May 2011

Why Does Fiction Outsell Everything Else in Ebooks?

23 May 2011

Ebook best sellers are not the same as paper-based best sellers. Meredith Greene explores the question about why some genres outsell others in the ebook world.


After browsing the top ten eBook-purveying websites–including the Kindle Store–I sifted through the most popular titles being sold on each and compiled the following Top Ten Best-Selling eBook Genres list for 2011 Thus Far:

1. Romance Fiction
2. Thriller Fiction
3. Fiction stories with/about Weddings (Romance Fiction)
4. Paranormal Fiction
5. Fantasy Fiction
6. Historical Fiction
7. Detective/Spy Fiction
8. Techno Guides/ Manuals/ ____ for Dummies
9. Historical/ Biographical
10. Literary Fiction

. . . .

Soon after opening a web-based eBook store my husband and I found that folks that buy eBooks are largely uninterested in humor/memoirs, biographies or satire. Consumers wanted fiction–inexpensive fiction–and we set out on a five novel, three year experiment on whether or not simply adding a few fiction titles would increase our meager sales. It worked. Customer came, they saw and they purchased, emailing friends and family to do the same. With quite a bit of weekly work on my part to promote the titles in a non-invasive way the sites still pay for themselves and bring home a bit o’ bacon, despite the seemingly unending flow of new indie writers running to the market each month. Adding a few more titles in other genres helped our sales a little, but the romance fiction titles yet remain our best-sellers.

. . . .

I’ve witnessed eBooks being purchased as gifts, sought and routed out from the darkest corners of the net and given free, jubilant press simply for being rather well-written and purchase-able. In perusing lists of successful, selling-more-than-$1000-a-month-in-eBooks indie writers, nearly all the titles sold are fiction.

Link to the rest at Greene Ink

Indie Bookstores Boycott Indie Authors

23 May 2011

When people come under financial stress, some of them do stupid things.

Amazon has started a mystery publishing company, Thomas & Mercer, to publish both ebooks and books that will be sold through bookstores. One of the first four titles Thomas & Mercer will release is J.A. Konrath’s and Blake Crouch’s Stirred.

Apparently, some indie bookstores are trying to organize a boycott of Konrath’s and Crouch’s books because of the Thomas & Mercer announcement.

Let’s consider that, A) in a time when traditional publishers are under severe financial pressure and releasing fewer books for bookstores to sell, B) a new publisher with a very deep-pocketed backer starts up and plans to print books for bookstores to sell as well as release ebooks (like every other sane publisher on the planet does) and C) the indie bookstores decide to boycott this new publisher.

Can you say self-destructive behavior?

Raise your hand if you think this boycott will cause Amazon to stop selling ebooks.

Excerpts from Joe Konrath’s blog:

I’ve also heard that certain booksellers want to return any books of mine they have in stock as a punitive measure.

So signing a deal with Amazon makes me the enemy of bookstores?

Me, who has signed at over 1200 bookstores? Who has thanked over 1500 booksellers by name in the acknowledgements of my novels? Who has named five major characters in my series after booksellers?

Now I’m the bad guy, for wanting to continue my series and make a living?

You may know that my publisher, Hyperion, dropped my Jack Daniels series after six books, even though they continue to sell well as backlist titles. The only way I could get print books in the series into the hands of fans was to sign with another publisher.

Thomas & Mercer stepped up to the plate to give my fans what they want: more Jack Daniels books.

Amazon allowed me to get into bookstores–something self-pubbing couldn’t do for me without a lot of extra work on my part. They offered me a terrific deal, and have done more marketing and promotion than any of the publishers I’ve previously worked with.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

The Case for Self-Publishing

22 May 2011

From The New York Times Book Review of all places.


I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to a first-time author. A self-published book is almost certainly going to end up on the digital slush pile, with fewer readers than the average blog post. But for a writer like me, which is to say, most working writers — midcareer, midlist, middle-aged, more or less middlebrow, and somewhat Internet savvy — self-publishing seems to make a lot of sense at this point. Early in my career, because of some lucky breaks and a kinder economy, I was able to get advances that helped me support my family over the months it took to write a book. I haven’t been a huge best seller, and I’ve never seen a residual check except for an independently published book of crime stories that I edited, and that was only because I got nothing up front. But I’ve built a modest audience and a name. Now that the advances are smaller and the technology is available, why not start appealing directly to those readers?

. . . .

Corporate publishers do certain types of books, the ones that have a chance of landing their authors on the “Today” show or on the discount table at Costco, quite well. The big-publishing model can work. I currently have a contract, albeit a modest one, to write a nonfiction book for an established publisher, one that’s mainstream in concept and execution, with a clear marketing hook. But most books that corporate publishers release will fail to make money, both for the writer and the company.

. . . .

Here are the economics: I’m going to charge five bucks, or $4.99 a download. For every book sold, my online vendor will send me 70 percent of the revenue. In raw dollar amounts, that’s more than three times what I’d get from a mainstream publisher for each paperback sale. If I manage to score a thousand downloads, which I almost certainly will at that price point (I have a large family), I’ll make 3,500 bucks, and if I get 5,000 downloads, I’m looking at $17,500. Quickly, I’ll have earned the equivalent of a pleasant advance for this book. The vendor will pay me monthly, and will allow me to adjust the amount I charge in case my initial calculations are wrong.

Overhead will also be low. If I need to cover upfront costs, I can always wage a modest campaign on the grassroots online fund-raising phenomenon Kickstarter, which has worked for me before. Meanwhile, a guy from my fantasy football league, a talented editor who put out dozens of works of crime fiction when he ran an indie noir publishing house in Los Angeles, where I live, will be editing the manuscript for nothing. He’s now interested in learning the ­e-publishing game. In exchange, he says, if the book really starts to sell, I can buy him a few beers. I like those terms.

Link to the rest at The New York Times Sunday Book Review


What if Every Book was its Own Social Network?

22 May 2011

I didn’t blog about Joe Konrath’s ideas on what ebooks could be earlier, but this framing of the idea from Techdirt caught my eye. I still have doubts about the viability of Joe’s ideas, but he always makes you think.


Whenever disruptive innovation comes along, the first (and totally understandable reaction) is to take what was there before, and shove it into the new things. It’s why automobiles were originally “horseless carriages.” It’s why when TV came along, the early shows were really just radio programs that you could see. It tends to take some time before people begin to realize that the new platform or technology allows you to do something truly different — rather than just “updated.” Lots of people think they understand this, but it’s often really difficult to comprehend how to really embrace what a platform is good at. However, true “killer apps” tend to come about only after people start recognizing the truly native capabilities of a platform, rather than trying to shove the old into the new with some bells and whistles.

Take ebooks, for example. There has been talk about the fact that now that ebooks are “digital” it means that they can be more “interactive.” Yet, what is the “interactivity” that most people have been talking about? Mostly adding audio and video. But that’s just taking a book and adding a small bell and whistle, rather than what the native platform is really good at. Adding audio and video is still the same basic thinking. It’s broadcasting. It’s taking some form of content from the author/publisher and broadcasting it somewhat statically to “the masses.”

. . . .

[Quoting a Joe Konrath blog post] I buy the book with the click of a button. But rather than begin reading right away, I message my friend who is also in the book, and we decide to join the 4:00pm Whiskey Sour Book Club. There are eight other people signed up for that time slot, and we can all read and discuss the book together. There is also a 3pm slot open, but that’s for fast readers, and my speed is moderate at best. The 4pm is a moderate speed club.

Since 4pm isn’t until later, I browse the Whiskey Sour Forum, and read a few reviews. I also join a chat session and meet two of the other readers who are in my 4pm Book Club. One of them is a bit abrasive, but the bot monitoring the chat session warns him, then kicks him off. Typing on my keyboard becomes tedious, so I plug in my headphones and we voice chat for a bit, talking about thrillers we liked.

. . . .

[More from Konrath]

Whiskey Sour has a full length, author-read commentary, where Konrath explains where, why, and how he wrote certain scenes.

Some of the group wants to continue, but I’m curious to listen to the mp3 commentary, so I beg off and decide to join the 6pm Club for Chapter 2.

The commentary is interesting. Konrath is an entertaining guy, says a lot of funny things. But I realize I’d enjoy it more after I finish, so I pop into the next book club.

. . . .

[Still more from Konrath]

I watch TV for a bit, until a screen comes up saying it is chat time. I sync my ereader with my TV and watch Konrath’s talking head as he fields a Skype chat. Several people express that they wanted a longer ending. Konrath says he’s working on one, as well as three new chapters which will be inserted into Whiskey Sour at the end of the week.

Link to the rest at Techdirt

Why Does John Malone Want to Buy Barnes & Noble?

22 May 2011

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal says John Malone, owner of Liberty Media, wants to buy Barnes & Noble for the Nook, not for the physical bookstores.

This raises a question in Passive Guy’s mind about whether Liberty would spin off the physical bookstores at some point. Right now, PG thinks the physical stores are a key competitive advantage for Nook because they allow prospective purchasers to try out the ereader.

Additionally, during a conversation PG had with a Barnes & Noble employee a few months ago, she said virtually every Nook sale resulted in the sale of one or more covers for the Nook. A nice little twist was when a husband/boyfriend bought a Nook+cover as a gift for a female, said female frequently came back to the store to buy another cover in a better color.

While Barnes & Noble has to pay attention to competitors’ pricing when it prices the Nook itself, the covers and other accessories are very high margin items. (Ditto for Kindles) Without access to inside info, PG would speculate BN may make more dollars from the sale of the cover than the sale of the device.

Once you sell the Nook, of course, you sell a bunch of high-margin ebooks for the Nook and probably have a long-term customer. That’s what has captured John Malone’s attention.

However, from a cost standpoint, these profitable Nook stores are inevitably sitting inside much larger Barnes & Noble stores selling physical books which are not so profitable. If you close the bookstores to save money and focus on ebooks, you lose the Nook retail locations. Without the Nook retail locations, you’re going head-to-head with Amazon in a pure online business, which is not a battle PG would recommend.

One possibility would be to ditch the leases on the big stores and start opening much smaller Barnes & Noble stores to house a Nook store and a few books. With this model, you would might employee costs by having one employee located in the Nook store and one for the rest of the store.


John Malone has bet big on cable networks, home-shopping and satellite TV. Now, with a bid for Barnes & Noble Inc., Mr. Malone is rolling the dice on e-books.

Barnes & Noble would represent a new digital retailing toehold for Mr. Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. conglomerate, whose assets include the QVC home-shopping network, stakes in a smattering of media and technology companies, and several small e-commerce businesses.

Mr. Malone sees the book chain as a bargain and an opportunity to play in what may be a large growth opportunity for e-books, say people familiar with the matter.

. . . .

But Barnes & Noble still presents a thorny problem for the digitally minded Mr. Malone: the nation’s largest bookstore chain remains predominantly a brick-and-mortar business with 705 retail stores and about 40,000 employees.

. . . .

Liberty’s cash offer was the only serious one Barnes & Noble has received, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (link may expire after a period of time)

Do You Have a Nook Color? Want to Watch Hulu?

22 May 2011
Comments Off on Do You Have a Nook Color? Want to Watch Hulu?

PC World shows you how to hack your Nook Color so you can use it to watch Hulu.

Don’t email Passive Guy if this doesn’t work. And no, he won’t buy you a new Nook if your’s starts shooting sparks.

Find out how at PC World

The Annoyances of Ebooks

21 May 2011

I mentioned a blog post by Megan McCardle speaking of the advantages of ebooks.

A collection (covey? herd? gaggle?) of people who dislike ebooks descended on Ms. McCardle after her post.

Here are some excerpts from her response that make a good point about all sorts of disruptive technology:

I think this [criticism of ebooks’ shortcomigs] makes a critical error: the belief that a technology must be superior on all fronts in order for it to supplant an earlier technology.  This just isn’t true.

. . . .

New technologies are like that.  They don’t actually have to be faster, or better, than any conceivable product.  They just have to be better in key ways than the competition.

There were, for example, a lot of complaints about the horseless carriage.  Busy professionals like doctors pointed out that if they bought such a contraption, they would no longer be able to wrap the reins around the buggy whip and take a nap while the horse drove home.  Others pointed to the very low reliability of motor cars, compared to horses, their inferior capabilities on dirt roads, and the difficulty of finding gasoline in the countryside.  People lamented the inability to bond with their cars the way they did with their “team”, and the fact that the motor car would blindly drive you into danger where the horses would have shied away.

All of these things were true. None of them mattered.  Automobiles were faster than horses, and didn’t need to be fed when not in use.  As they became more popular, they made horses a less and less viable means of transportation: drinking troughs disappeared, livery stables and feed stores shut down, hitching posts were not installed.

. . . .

A lot of the reaction to any new technology is simply that many of us invested a lot of effort in learning how to use the old technology well.  That’s especially true of books.  (It’s no accident that so many of the complaints come from journalists, academics, and other writers).  For years, in school and at work, we constructed increasingly elaborate personal reference systems from notes, flags, and dog-ears, and our brains are now very nimble at using them.  Change is hard.  Moreover, it involves recognizing that all of our previous effort was a sunk cost: we have a painfully acquired skill that is now useless.  We’d much rather double down than move on.

Link to the rest at Megan McCardle

The Sharks are Chewing on Each Other

21 May 2011

Earlier this morning, I tweeted about this, but it’s worth a short post.

It appears that agents and publishers are beginning to attack each other. The trigger is the contracts agents are pitching to their authors that designate agents as publishers of backlist titles to ebook and POD in return for 50% of the revenues after the agents recoup their “expenses.”

For an author, a 50% royalty for ebooks sounds better than a 25% royalty from a publisher, but, of course, the cost of self-pubbing an ebook is negligible and the author then keeps 100% of the royalties and pays no “expenses.”

This story is the first instance I have heard about where a publisher strikes back – making a deal directly with the author and cutting out the agent.

When the pie starts shrinking, those who are accustomed to eat pie start fighting over the size of their slices.


When agents Sonia Land and Ed Victor announced that they would begin publishing select authors works digitally I wrote that I thought the narrative that agents would disintermediate publishers was somewhat overstated and that a reverse tale might equally become true.

The news that we report today that Random House has approached the author Tom Sharpe direct and concluded a deal for his backlist e-book rights without recourse to his agent (Sonia Land chief executive of Sheil Land) shows that publishers will not go quietly into the night, and simply let the author brands they have built discard them.

Agents will fume: one said the gloves were now off. Anthony Goff, president of the Association of Authors Agents, told me that undermining the principle that publishers should not engage in contractual discussions with agented authors direct was “unacceptable”. He said: “Once an author has a deal with an agent, then for a publisher to go behind that agent’s back for financial or contractual discussions is totally unacceptable. It is not just that agents don’t want it, neither do authors. There is a reason agents are employed as advisers.”

Link to the rest at FutureBook

« Previous PageNext Page »