Author Earnings/Vanity Presses

Army of Clones: Author Solutions Spawns a Legion of Copycats

26 January 2018

From Writer Beware:

I don’t think there’s much dispute that the many “imprints” under the Author Solutions umbrella are among the most negatively regarded of all the author services companies.

From the predatory business practices that gave rise to two class action lawsuits, to the huge number of customercomplaints, to the relentless sales calls and deceptive recruitment methods, to the dubious and overpriced”marketing” services that are one of the company’s main profit sources, AS’s poor reputation is widely known. Along with other factors, such as the competition from free and low-cost self-publishing platforms, this has pushed AS in recent years into steady decline.

Unfortunately, whatever gap AS’s contraction has created has been filled by a slew of imitators. Why not, when hoodwinking authors is as easy as setting up a website and opening an account with Ingram? In some cases, the imitators have first-hand experience: they’ve been founded and/or staffed by former employees of AS’s call centers in the Philippines.

Like AS, the clones rely on misleading hype, hard-sell sales tactics, and a lucrative catalog of junk marketing services. Even if authors actually receive the services they’ve paid for (and judging by the complaints I’ve gotten, there’s no guarantee of that), they are getting stiffed. These are not businesses operating in good faith, but greedy opportunists seeking to profit from writers’ inexperience, ignorance, and hunger for recognition. They are exploitative, dishonest, and predatory.

. . . .

3. Elaborate claims of skills and experience that don’t check out. A clone may say it’s been in business since 2006 or 2008, even though its domain name was registered only last year. It may claim to be staffed by publishing and marketing experts with years or even decades of “combined experience”, but provide no names or bios to enable you to verify this. A hallmark of the clones’ “About Us” pages is a serious lack of “about.”

. . . .

 5. Junk marketing. Press releases. Paid book review packages. Book fair exhibits. Ingram catalog listings. Hollywood book-to-screen packages. These and more are junk marketing–PR services of dubious value and effectiveness that are cheap to provide but can be sold at a huge profit. It’s an insanely lucrative aspect of the author-fleecing biz, not just because of the enormous markup, but because while you can only sell a publishing package once, you can sell marketing multiple times.

. . . .

Stratton Press claims to offer “an experience that is one of a kind for both novice and veteran authors”. Oddly, it doesn’t display its publishing packages on its website; you have to go to its Facebook page to see them. Named after famous writers, they start at $1,800 and go all the way up to $10,500.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

PG has had extensive exposure to quite a few different categories of businesses. While every business has its frauds and con artists, he has to say that publishing seems to attract a larger share than many other types of business.

Unfortunately, phony agents, phony publishers and phony marketers abound. Some have worked in legitimate parts of publishing in the past, but haven’t been able to support themselves in that arena and use their past experiences to support their pitches to authors.

While PG thinks indie publishing offers the best financial opportunities for most authors over the long run (or as long as anything is in internet years), if you’re convinced that the magic of Manhattan will make you an overnight sensation, PG suggests that selling very well as an indie author is the best way to attract contacts from legitimate agents.

Flogging an unpublished manuscript to agent after agent tends to become soul-destroying for many authors. Why not just polish the ms to the best of your ability, accessing your own resources, self-publish it and at least start earning a little bit of money from your writing while you query away.

If you’re paying attention to reader responses and suggestions, you may get some ideas to write a second book that’s better than the first. Number 2 may attract an agent when Number 1 failed.

PG suggests that your marketing of your indie books is not a lost effort. Nearly every publisher who talks about what they’re seeking in a new author is a platform, meaning an online presence that has attracted a lot of people to the author’s work, personality, videos, etc. On the one hand, if you have a good platform, you may gain fewer benefits from signing with a publisher, but build your platform and see how things turn out. A good author’s platform will attract more readers if indie publishing is what’s going to happen either in the near term or for an extended period of time.

New Author Earnings Report

24 January 2018

From Dean Wesley Smith:

It’s got a ton of stuff in it. And takes a vast amount of time to go through. But worth it.

And their new side-business they are only offering to big publishers is flat scary.

Horrifying, actually if they are doing it wrong.

And I got a hunch that unless they are pulling names, that new business is setting them up for more lawsuits than I want to think about. Because from my understanding, they are releasing personal sales numbers of writers to businesses who can get past their paywall.

. . . .

Data Guy, Hugh, tell me I am wrong here… Please?

I know in the free report you released some names and blocked some information and other names. I hope that every bit of data you release attached to a name is permission granted. Please, please tell me you are doing that…

Because behind that stupid paywall of needing ten million in sales, any of my pen names, my name, Kris’s name, or our numbers better not be out in public there. And how will I know? Let me think… I have been around this industry for forty years and have a lot of friends who will be glad to send me information about myself they buy from you.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

PG is an admirer of Dean. And Dataguy and Hugh.

Each of them has contributed a great deal of information (without compensation) that has benefited all authors and indie authors in particular.

PG is a big believer in personal and business privacy for those who don’t affirmatively spread their personal business everywhere.

However, the first question which came to PG’s mind after reading Dean’s comments, having earlier seen the information Dataguy made available from his new data analysis.

Who owns the information about how many books Dean (or any other author) sells and the prices at which those books are sold and the royalty rates Amazon and others pay to authors who self-publish with Amazon, Kobo, etc.?

Does Dean own the information because he wrote the books and owns the copyrights?

Does Amazon own the information because it reflects the number of books it sells on its own website?

Does Dataguy own the information because he gathers and aggregates it in ways that Amazon/Kobo, etc., don’t?

PG took a quick blast through the KDP Terms & Conditions which Dean and any other author who sells via KDP has agreed to. He did not find anything in the Ts&Cs that directly addresses the question of who owns the data respecting the sales and pricing of ebooks that Amazon sells. (PG suspects we can look for some clarifications on this topic in a future edition of the Ts&Cs)

PG did find some terms that tangentially address data ownership, however. (This is from the version last updated on   September 1, 2016)

Here’s a first section – Customer Prices:

5.3.4 Customer Prices. To the extent not prohibited by applicable laws, we have sole and complete discretion to set the retail customer price at which your Digital Books are sold through the Program. We are solely responsible for processing payments, payment collection, requests for refunds and related customer service, and will have sole ownership and control of all data obtained from customers and prospective customers in connection with the Program.

The question here is that, if Amazon has sole ownership and control of “all data” obtained from customers “in connection with the Program,” what things do “all data” cover?

The prices the customers paid for ebooks and the numbers of ebooks they purchased would seem to be part of the data obtained from customers in connection to purchases of books offered for sale via the KDP program. If so, the author doesn’t own that data.

Is there an implied license permitting Amazon to aggregate and categorize this data? Those activities, although not expressly mentioned, are required if Amazon is to calculate and create royalty reports for the purposes of paying authors. Providing authors access to this type of information would also seem to be required under Paragraph 5.4.2 which says Amazon will “will make available to you an online report detailing sales of Digital Books and corresponding Royalties. ”

Since this is so exciting, let’s move on to 5.5 Grant of Rights.

You grant to each Amazon party, throughout the term of this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, right and license to distribute Digital Books, directly and through third-party distributors,

. . . .

(e) use, reproduce, adapt, modify, and distribute, as we determine appropriate, in our sole discretion, any metadata that you provide in connection with Digital Books;

. . . .

In addition, you agree that we may permit our affiliates and independent contractors, and our affiliates’ independent contractors, to exercise the rights that you grant to us in this Agreement. “Amazon Properties” means any web site, application or online point of presence, on any platform, that is owned or operated by or under license by Amazon or co-branded with Amazon, and any web site, application, device or online point of presence through which any Amazon Properties or products available for sale on them are syndicated, offered, merchandised, advertised or described.

Metadata is not expressly defined in the KDP Ts&Cs. Paragraph 5.1.2. requires the author to make certain she/he provides correct metadata. Under Subparagraph (e) of 5.5 above the author permits Amazon the right to use, reproduce, adapt, modify, and distribute . . . any metadata it receives from the author.

Is pricing of the book metadata?

One definition of metadata outside of the KDP docs is “a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.”

PG has a hard time seeing that the price of the book is not metadata – it describes and gives information about what the royalty rate will be under KDP and provides a basis upon which the mathematical calculation of the total royalty payable to the author will be calculated.

If pricing is metadata, Amazon can do almost anything it wants to do with pricing information, including distributing it to others besides the author.

One last KDP paragraph:

7 Confidentiality. You will not, without our express, prior written permission: (a) issue any press release or make any other public disclosures regarding this Agreement or its terms; (b) disclose Amazon Confidential Information (as defined below) to any third party or to any employee other than an employee who needs to know the information; or (c) use Amazon Confidential Information for any purpose other than the performance of this Agreement.

. . . .

“Amazon Confidential Information” means (1) any information regarding Amazon, its affiliates, and their businesses, including, without limitation, information relating to our technology, customers, business plans, promotional and marketing activities, finances and other business affairs, (2) the nature, content and existence of any communications between you and us, and (3) any sales data relating to the sale of Digital Books or other information we provide or make available to you in connection with the Program. Amazon Confidential Information does not include information that (A) is or becomes publicly available without breach of this Agreement, (B) you can show by documentation to have been known to you at the time you receive it from us, (C) you receive from a third party who did not acquire or disclose such information by a wrongful or tortious act, or (D) you can show by documentation that you have independently developed without reference to any Amazon Confidential Information.

PG didn’t find a specific provision where the author agreed that Amazon Confidential Information is the sole property of Amazon, but reaching that conclusion from the language above is a short step.

This provision limits what the author can do with information the author may receive from Amazon. The author is prohibited from disclosing any information regarding Amazon:

  1. Finances
  2. Business Affairs
  3. Communications the author receives from Amazon
  4. Sales Data related to the sale of Digital Books by Amazon
  5. Any other information Amazon provides the author with respect to the KDP program

This covers a lot of ground.

Taken according to its terms, the author is not permitted to disclose:

  1. Finances – Do sales and royalty reports the author receives disclose information about Amazon’s finances if the author shares them with others?
  2. Business Affairs – Is there anything Amazon does that isn’t covered by this term?
  3. Content of Communications between Amazon and the author – Are the contents of sales and royalty reports made available to the author communications? PG thinks so.
  4. Sales Data related to the sale of Digital Books – If Content of Communications doesn’t cover sales and royalty reports provided to the author, Sales Data certainly does. If Sales Data is Confidential Information the author can’t disclose, does that mean sales data regarding number of books sold, prices for those books, etc., owned by Amazon. Again, there is not a specific agreement with respect to ownership of this data in the T’s&C’s, but, as between Amazon and the author, the author will have a hard time arguing he/she is the owner of the sales data.
  5. Any other information Amazon provides the author about the KDP Program – This provision is a catch-all for just about anything Amazon provides the author.

For any visitors to TPV experiencing shortness of breath, PG will point out the boilerplate exceptions to the definition of Amazon Confidential Information. Anything that falls into these baskets is not Amazon Confidential Information even if it’s described in the first part of Paragraph 7 as Amazon Confidential Information (aren’t contracts wonderful?).

  1. information that (A) is or becomes publicly available without breach of this Agreement,
  2. information that (B) you can show by documentation to have been known to you at the time you receive it from us,
  3. information that (C) you receive from a third party who did not acquire or disclose such information by a wrongful or tortious act, or
  4. information that (D) you can show by documentation that you have independently developed without reference to any Amazon Confidential Information

If anything in complex Ts&Cs is straightforward, the exceptions to Confidential Information are.

  • If other people know about it without you telling them, it’s not confidential.
  • If you knew it before Amazon told you, it’s not confidential.
  • If somebody besides Amazon told you and that person got the information without committing a bad act, it’s not confidential
  • If you figured out something that Amazon told you, it’s not confidential.

So where does PG end up on this issue?

First, the standard disclaimers –

  • This is not legal advice, you obtain legal advice by hiring a lawyer (and hopefully paying a lawyer) and not by reading a blog.
  • PG could totally be wrong about this.
  • PG spends more time before he provides legal advice than he does before he makes a blog post.
  • PG might have missed a piece or lots of pieces of the KDP Ts&Cs that totally obliterates his reasoning.
  • PG typed this post without reading it.
  • PG could be high on Coke Zero and out of his mind.
  • Those monkeys in the corner of PG’s office might not be real.
  • Ditto for the aliens looking in through PG’s office window, one of whom looks like Jeff Bezos in disguise.

With the standard disclaimers firmly before you, PG thinks:

  1. Amazon probably owns and controls the data related to the ebooks (and other books) it licenses and sells to its customers.
  2. This data includes how many books it sold that are written by a particular author and how much money it paid to the author.
  3. If Amazon owns the data, it could release the same information as Data Guy publishes to the whole world if it wanted to do so.
  4. If Amazon owns the data, it can share as much of the data as it wants to with third parties, including Data Guy, subject to whatever limitations it places on Data Guy’s use of the information.
  5. In their disclosures of information, both Amazon and Data Guy should be sensitive to the privacy issues of authors even if they are not contractually required to do so.

One of the aliens just brought a pizza into PG’s office as a sign that aliens want only peace. There is no spinach or canned tuna on top of the pizza, so PG will close for now.

Author Earnings January 2018 Report: US online book sales, Q2-Q4 2017

23 January 2018

From Author Earnings:

It has been nearly a year since our last Author Earnings report, which is probably far too long between updates. But while we haven’t said much publicly during that time, behind the scenes we’ve been super busy on the commercial side, and as a result we’ve taken our industry data and analytics capabilities to a whole new professional level.

For large publishers and other scaled industry players, this has led to a brand new source of real-time business data: a perfect complement to Bookscan, covering digital and online book sales. For authors, it means that we can now provide a far greater depth and accuracy of analysis here, pro bono, under the AuthorEarnings banner. So it’s a win-win for everyone.

But why did traditional publishers and publishing-industry analysts become so interested in our data in the first place?

Two reasons: Full-market coverage. And timeliness.

Over the past few years, traditional publishers have largely been able to navigate the digital disruption and adapt their businesses to the changing bookselling landscape with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, the industry’s legacy sales-reporting providers, upon whom those publishers rely for data… haven’t.

Which has caused problems industry-wide.

For some book formats, these providers were still able to give decent visibility into overall sales. Print sales data from Bookscan, for instance, captures somewhere between 70%-80% of all US hardcover and paperback purchases at point of sale, giving publishers a reasonably accurate and statistically meaningful picture of which books US readers are buying in hardcover and paperback formats. And more importantly, Bookscan sales numbers for last week are available this week, to support publisher business decisions for next week.

Data reporting on the digital side of the market has been a whole different story.

Legacy data providers like PubTrack Digital and the AAP are effectively blind to vast sectors of the consumer ebook & audiobook market. And those non-traditional sectors are precisely where ebook sales have continued to grow, year after year, even as PubTrack-and-AAP-reporting publishers have seen their own ebook sales dramatically shrink. As a result, what was once a small blind spot in the industry’s online-sales numbers now blocks half the view. Data from PubTrack and the AAP is now missing two thirds of US consumer ebook purchases, and nearly half of all ebook dollars those consumers spend. (And reporting is so long-delayed–often by 4-6 months–that even if the data were more complete, it would still be useless.)

. . . .

While these commercial efforts have been kept wholly separate from AuthorEarnings, they’ve put us in a unique position, data-wise. In the past, even when we analyzed a million top selling titles at a time, we were still only looking at a single day’s sales. But no longer.

Now we capture over a million top selling titles a day. Every day.

Our analytics run in real-time, 24/7.

Which means that if a book sold even a single online copy since April 2017, no matter whom the publisher or author, we can probably find it in our ever-growing dataset. Whether that title sold two copies yesterday or two thousand, we can see those sales. We can total them up in our dashboard. And for next week’s unreleased titles–or next month’s–we can tally up their accumulated online preorders, too.

. . . .

During the last three quarters of 2017, we recorded $1.3 billion in individually tracked ebook sales, $490 million in individually tracked audiobook sales, and $3.1 billion in individually tracked online hardcover and paperback purchases. While this is not quite 100% of online sales during the period, it comes pretty close — we ramped up from a much smaller share in April, to where we are capturing more than 90% of all US online sales for Q4 2017 and beyond.

. . . .

The above two pie charts show 2017 US online book sales by format: on the left, total units purchased, and on the right, total consumer dollars spent.

(It’s worth noting that even print sales have, by now, moved mostly online: in 2017, we show a full 45.5% of Bookscan’s reported 687 million total US print book sales coming from Amazon alone. By our measurement, Amazon’s share of the print market has been steadily and continuously climbing, from “only” 41.7% in 2016 and 37.7% in 2015, while sales at bookstores and other brick and mortar outlets shrink — a fact obscured by Bookscan’s lumping of Amazon online sales and brick and mortar bookstore sales together in a single combined category called “Club & Retail.” So the red online “print” share shown here represents roughly half of all US print sales, period. ).

Unsurprisingly, when we look at the above pie charts, most online book purchases in 2017 were ebooks (55%), while audiobooks made up a small but fast-growing share of units (6%), and print books accounted for the remaining 39% of units. In dollar terms, ebooks–with their generally lower purchase prices–made up a far smaller share of total online dollar spending, while 63% of online book dollar spending was for print.

But that doesn’t mean adult fiction dollars split that way. Nor even trade adult nonfiction dollars.

Why? Because it turns out a huge chunk of those print dollars are actually going to textbooks and other academic/professional print titles (strangely, the DSM-5 Psychiatric Manual of Mental Disorders was a particularly high 2017 seller). Textbooks, which are generally priced in the $60-$200 range, skew the dollar total significantly toward print. As do children’s books (including Board Books), another huge category of book sales where almost all purchases are in print.

When we leave out textbooks and children’s titles, and look only at adult fiction & trade nonfiction, the picture changes somewhat…

. . . .

70% of online purchases of adult fiction & nonfiction are ebooks & audiobooks, and online consumer dollars skew mostly digital, too. In fact, most of the remaining online print share here is nonfiction; further narrowing the scope to just adult fiction, we see that online sales are even more digitally dominated.

. . . .

Romance readers are overwhelmingly buying digital now: 90% of all Romance purchases are ebooks. And we can see that Science Fiction & Fantasy, with roughly 75% of sales now ebooks & audio, is not that far behind. On the other hand, readers of Poetry are still buying 82% of those Poetry books as print, and 85% of Drama & Plays are bought in print, even online.

Link to the rest at Author Earnings

Publishing’s Greatest Challenge Might Surprise You

5 December 2017

From Books & Such Literary Management:

In the October 2 issue of Publishers Weekly, the publication revealed the results of its annual salary and jobs survey. One of the questions the 442 respondents answered was, What is the #1 issue facing the industry in 2017?

. . . .

The #1 challenge publishing faces is the limited number of online retailers

Although only 5 percent of responders named this as the prime problem, PW reported,

“…A number of publishers who commented on industry issues named Amazon–in one way or another–as the greatest challenge to book publishers.”

The relationship with Amazon has been fraught from the beginning. Yes, we hate Amazon because it is monopolistic–and more so every day. But where do many (most?) readers buy their books? Uh, Amazon.

In terms of creatively finding ways to drive the price down on individual titles, no other entity can surpass Amazon. This year we had the challenge of which seller will get the sale when the buyer clicks on the buy button. Book sellers other than the publisher received a boon from Amazon when the buy button went to the lowest bidder–the seller with the lowest price. Publishers have been inventively working to hold (or regain) that prime real estate. But that’s just the most recent challenge to publishing’s well-being that Amazon has either benignly or calculatingly posed. 2018 will doubtless add to Amazon’s list of ways to create publishing mayhem. (Not that publishing is being targeted; Amazon functions in the same cutthroat manner with every industry.)

The  #1 challenge to publishing is too many books being published

Publishing looks to the Bowker Report to collect these numbers, and it takes some time for Bowker to assemble them, but this is how the stats stood in September 2016: More than 700,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2015, which is an increase of 375% since 2010! The number of traditionally published books climbed to over 300,000. The net effect is that the number of new books published each year in the U.S. has exploded by more than 600,000 since 2007, to well over 1 million annually. At the same time, more than 13 million previously published books are still available.

In 2016, the U.S. population was reported at 323.1 million. Think about how many avid readers would be needed to sustain the present explosion of available books. Is it any wonder that a new title has a few weeks at a retail outlet to sell through to a customer? And how is the reader supposed to ferret through this vast selection to find the books that interest him or her? The problem is staggering.

. . . .

The greatest challenge seen by publishers is flat sales

Twenty-five percent of the respondents are concerned about a publishing variable that is easy for each publisher to track–how many books sold this year? The sobering fact publishers picked this as their primary concern is that it’s core to the industry. Publishing’s function boils down to selling books. If it doesn’t succeed at this, it won’t succeed at all. And it isn’t like 2017 is the exception. No growth has occurred for five years.

As the PW article reports, “According to the Association of American Publishers’ recent StatShot report, total industry sales fell to $26.24 billon in 2016, down 5.1% from 2015. Between 2012 and 2016, sales fell every year except 2014, and over the five-year period sales dropped 5.2%. Within the trade segment, sales rose 1.5% in 2016 over 2015 and were up 1.3% in 2016 over 2012.”

Link to the rest at Books & Such Literary Management and thanks to David for the tip.

If only Amazon would just go away, everything would be so much better in the world of Books & Such.

If only Amazon would increase its prices a lot, everything would be so much better in the world of Books & Such.

If only there weren’t so many books, mostly sold from Amazon, everything would be so much better in the world of Books & Such.

If only publishers could sell more books, everything would be so much better in the world of Books & Such.

If only we could return to the good old days.

.

.

The simple fact is that the best way to make money in the book business in 2017 is to sell ebooks. All an indie author or a publisher needs to do is create an electronic book file, upload it to Amazon, etc., (or maybe just Amazon) and wait for the monthly checks to arrive.

PG suspects the math is pretty much the same for small and large publishers.

You can run a very lean publishing organization selling ebooks. (PG suspects most indie authors are a one-person publishing organization.)

No printing costs, no inventory management, no Ingram fees, no shipping fees, no returns and nobody needed to manage the whole printed book mess.

If you must have printed books, PG suspects that a print-on-demand operation like CreateSpace is probably the most profitable way of doing that if you track down the fully-loaded costs of all the various people and operations in creating, maintaining and managing an inventory of printed books.

It’s no wonder that traditional publishing is such a low-wage/low-profit business.

The underlying problem for Books & Such and a lot of other agents and publishers is that the reason authors pay them so much is that they are gatekeepers – gatekeepers to publishers who don’t want to spend time reading submissions from authors, gatekeepers to printed book sales via Barnes & Noble and other traditional bookstores.

Gatekeepers make their money by charging people who want to go through their gate. And gatekeepers in the book business don’t just charge a toll one time. The book deal that is closed to day will pay the large majority of the money the book generates to the gatekeepers that permitted the book to enter the traditional stream of book commerce.

And, to add insult to injury, the gatekeepers will continue to receive the same toll for the rest of the author’s life. Plus 70 years. The author will be dead and the agent will be dead and everybody who worked for the publisher when the book was released will be dead. But the tolls will continue.

Some time, PG needs to calculate the total payments made to gatekeepers during the hundred-odd years before the copyright expires on a book.

If the current US copyright laws had been place when Ernest Hemingway wrote, given that Hemingway died in 1961, his agent and publishers would continue to receive their gatekeeper tolls until 2031. Gatekeeping tolls in the form of agents’ fees and publisher’s share of book sales would still be payable for The Sun Also Rises, first published in 1926.

PG says fewer and fewer authors are interested in walking through those particular gates.

The simple reason is that there is an alternative and that alternative pays better than traditional publishing does for most authors. More and more writers are realizing that if they want to be professional authors and earn their living by writing, they are much more likely to reach their goal by self-publishing ebooks and selling them online.

A few facts from Author Earnings (emphasis is PG’s):

  • In 2016, two-thirds of traditionally-published fiction and non-fiction books were sold online.
  • About 75% of adult fiction and non-fiction books (including both traditional and indie published) were sold online (77% of fiction, 72% of non-fiction) in 2016.
  • In early 2017, Big Five publisher sales on Amazon were 20.8%–or barely one fifth–of all Amazon US consumer ebook purchases.
  • As far as the earnings of individual authors who have debuted in the last three years:
    • 250 Big Five authors are annually earning $25,000 or more from Amazon sales
    • 200 recent small or medium publisher authors earn $25,000 or more from their Amazon sales annually
    • Over 1,000 indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years are earning more than $25,000 per year from Amazon sales
  • Looking at earnings of debut authors from the past five years, more indie authors are now earning a $50K-or-better living wage from Amazon than all of their Big Five and Small/Medium publisher peers put together.
  • Fewer than 115 Big Five-published authors and 45 small- or medium-publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100K/year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.

PG suggests that traditional publishing’s greatest challenge is demonstrated by numbers like this.

Children’s Book Author Gets Deposit Back

11 April 2017

From ABC News 11:

Daryll Packer has been waiting patiently for his vision of a children’s book series to become a reality.

He wrote the books several years ago while he was in Afghanistan working.

“We named it Logical Lamar,” he said. “It’s about a little second-grade kid who asks a lot of questions. He asks questions other kids want to ask or are afraid to ask and the book is set up to teach other kids it’s OK to ask.”

. . . .

In 2014, Daryll found Renne Gibbs of Cranberry Quill Publishing to publish his four books.

“She said ‘sure, I can do the books, I can do the books,’ and I was excited. So I wrote the check, here’s your initial deposit.”

Daryll put down $6,394 as a non-refundable deposit. The contract states the books will be ready in 10 months. Daryll says it was tough to get updates on the progress. He said he paid another $3,100 toward the publishing costs, thinking if he paid more to Gibbs, more work would get done.

At the 10-month mark, the books still weren’t done. Daryll’s wife, Pam, said Gibbs told them she was dealing with family health issues.

“Life happens,” Pam said. “So my husband and I talked and said let’s give her more time, because we honestly felt like she was the right one that she could get it done.”

A new contract was signed and because of the delays, Gibbs did refund $3,100 of the $9,000 they paid so far.

. . . .

He said he went to Cranberry Quill Publishing to see Gibbs.

“She just overcame with guilt – ‘I’m sorry, give me another chance,’ ” Darryl recalled.

Daryll gave her some more time, but nearly two years after hiring Gibbs, still no books so Daryll just wanted to part ways with her. However, he wanted the $6,394 non-refundable deposit back, something Gibbs wasn’t willing to return.

“It’s non-refundable when you produce a product, but you didn’t produce a product, so where’s my money?” Darryl asked.

Daryll got in touch with me and I got in touch with Renee Gibbs. She said contractually she doesn’t owe the Packers any money since the deposit is non-refundable. But she added that she wanted to do what is right and fair, and admitted that the communications were not the best they could have been when the project was delayed because of her family crisis.

. . . .

Daryll said he’s happy it’s behind him and that he got his $4,400 back. He is now moving forward with finding a publisher for his books.

Link to the rest at ABC News 11 and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Exploring Amazon with Data Guy

27 March 2017

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The DataGuy portion of the podcast begins at about the 9:00 point.
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Thanks to Karen and others for the tip.

Big, Bad, Wide & International Report: covering Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo ebook sales in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

6 March 2017

From Author Earnings:

Print bookselling remains artificially silo’d by country even today, for variety of legacy historical and logistical reasons. But by contrast, the global ebook marketplace is a seamlessly international one.

For authors, selling an ebook to a reader in a different country is just as easy as selling to a reader in your home country. Barriers to reaching an international audience no longer exist.

Today, with the click of a button, any author can start selling any title they wish simultaneously in 12 country-specific Amazon stores, 36 country-specific Kobo ebook stores, and over 40 country-specific Apple ebook stores.

As of yet, most of these non-English-language ebook markets are still fairly early-stage. But that’s not true of the four other major English-language markets outside the US. In those markets, too, as we’ll see, a substantial share of all new-book purchases has already gone digital. And, as we’ll also see, untracked, non-traditional suppliers make up a high percentage of ebook sales in those countries as well. Which means that these other digital markets have also been consistently underestimated and under-reported by traditional publishing-industry statistics.

. . . .

So this time, we rolled up our sleeves and basically went for the whole enchilada:

  • The top five English-language countries
  • The fifteen largest ebook stores
  • 750,000 top-selling ebook titles, in all genres and categories.
  • All of it calibrated against 700,000 points of raw, unfiltered daily sales data, from over 20,000 distinct ebook titles across all 15 stores.

When we were done, we were looking at the most comprehensive international picture of English-language ebook sales available anywhere.

. . . .

Population Reported
Print Book Sales
(annual units)
Ebook Sales
(annual units)
Ebooks as
% of
all book sales
  U.S.A.   325,700,000  675,000,000  487,298,000  42%
  U.K.     65,400,000 187,500,000  95,623,000  34%
  Canada     36,500,000  50,500,000  26,017,000  34%
  Australia     24,500,000  56,400,000  22,463,000  28%
  New Zealand       4,600,000  5,300,000  *1,306,000  20%*
  5-Country Total:  456,700,000  974,700,000  632,707,000  39%

. . . .

Amazon Apple
iBooks
Kobo Barnes&Noble
Nook
  U.S.A.   406,000,000  44,041,000  1,246,000  19,395,000
  U.K.   84,029,000 7,201,000  1,132,000  –
  Canada     14,892,000  3,760,000  6,479,000  –
  Australia     13,604,000  6,694,000  1,399,000  –
  New Zealand       *  831,000  416,000  –
  5-Country Total:  518,526,000  62,527,000  10,672,000  19,395,000
  % of Total:  82%  10%  2%  3%
  • Unsurprisingly, Amazon is the majority retailer in just about every market.
  • But in Canada and Australia, Amazon is a lot less dominant than in the US and the UK.
  • Taken all together, Amazon accounts for more than 80% of English-language ebook purchases, Apple another 10%, Kobo 2% and Nook 3%
  • The remaining 3%–ascribed to GooglePlay and all remaining channels–is most likely overly optimistic. Their true share might well be even lower.

. . . .

  • Self-published indie authors are verifiably capturing at least 24% – 34% of all ebook sales in each of the five English-language markets; it’s not just a US-only phenomenon. When you also include the uncategorized authors, the vast majority of whom are also self-published, the true indie share in each market lies somewhere between 30% – 40%.
  • Indies are competing particularly well in the Canadian and Australian ebook markets, nearly approaching the level of dominance they currently hold in the US.
  • The Big Five, on the other hand, are letting themselves progressively get squeezed out of nearly every English-Language ebook market. They make up only 38% of Canadian ebook purchases, and that’s the country where they are holding their ground best; in the US, the Big Five now account for barely 26% of all ebook sales.
  • Amazon Imprints have made the most market headway in the US. Despite being single-retailer exclusive to Amazon Kindle, the dozen or so Amazon “house” publishing imprints between them account for 14% of all US ebook sales, 10% of all UK ebook sales, and 8% of Australian ebook sales. In Canada, the Amazon Imprint footprint is a much more modest 3% of all ebook sales, largely due to the substantial shares of the overall Candian ebook market held by Kobo (25%) and Apple (14%).

Link to the rest at Author Earnings

DBW Interview with Data Guy, Co-Founder, Author Earnings

23 February 2017

From Digital Book World:

In the past two years, Data Guy’s Author Earnings reports have become an increasingly popular resource for authors, shedding light on aspects of the publishing industry that were going previously unreported.

But the reports have also spurred a great deal of controversy. While some within the industry think they are vital tools for authors everywhere, there are others who criticize the data and think the conclusions resulting from them are worthless. There are of course many in the middle who believe the reports are admittedly far from perfect, but necessary nonetheless.

. . . .

Why do you choose to keep your identity anonymous, and is there anything that you’re willing to divulge personally?

I think the anonymity kind of goes back to where I was at when we started. Much by happenstance I discovered there are some advantages to staying anonymous. Back when I first pulled the data, it was really for my own information. I had just been approached by one of the top imprints in my genre, and they were making an offer on one of my books. It had done really well as an indie published release, and they could see it was selling well, ranking high on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, featured on devices, racking up reviews, etc. So they approached me, and I was negotiating with them and I was pretty excited. But, you know, I’m a numbers guy by my other career—my non-writing career—and I was looking for data to help me make my decisions. And there really wasn’t any data out there on what I needed. The official industry stats were kind of blind to half of the story. They didn’t cover indie publishing at all. And so I’m in the middle of negotiating with that publisher, when I pulled this data, and I look at it. I share it with Hugh, and we decide to publish it. But I didn’t want my involvement with Author Earnings to interfere with the discussion that I was having with the publishers.

. . . .

So based on all the research that you’ve done into ebook sales and where the money is going, is there one piece of strategic advice that you’d offer to Big Five publishers to do things differently than they do now?

There definitely is, and I think that DBW may be an opportunity to dig into some of these trends in more detail. In general, my observation is not something that Hugh and I alone are saying. High ebook prices don’t really hurt mega-selling authors with long established careers in all of the airport book stores and Walmart, but what they do that is not good is they damage the discoverability and also earnings of mid-list authors. And particularly the vast majority of debut authors who are brand new. No one knows who they are. They need to first find their own audience and fanbase among avid readers before their publisher will put a significant amount of marketing and funding behind pushing them to a more casual, broader audience. The industry’s changed, and the dynamics are not the same as they were when today’s traditionally published mega-sellers first came up a decade or more ago.

Most avid readers today read digitally. When you look at who’s reading 50 books a year, 100 books a year, those are the folks who are giving new authors a shot. I’m not talking about the seven-figure advance, Pulitzer Prize, one-of-them-a-year mega-debut author; I’m talking about the vast majority of traditionally-published debut authors who are trying to build a name for themselves. And the digital readers, these avid readers, are basically bypassing those authors, because they don’t recognize the names, and the price is off-putting to them.

. . . .

This is a bit of a long-winded question, but it’s the one that I’m most curious about. Your feelings or anyone’s feelings toward the Big Five publishers aside, how do you personally think the rise of self-publishing has affected our literary culture as a whole? Not too long ago, we had gatekeepers who let only a minority of potential authors past. Now with self-publishing and further avenues to get a book out there to an audience, literally anyone can be an author, and as a result, the number of books published per year has, frankly, exploded. For individual authors, this is great news: they can now achieve their dreams and publish a book. But taking a step back, with the gatekeepers not holding all the power, and a surge in books published, how do you feel this has changed the culture surrounding books? To put it another way, is the value of a book at all watered down now that anyone can be an author?

This is a question that I’m not going to be particularly good at answering. After all, I’m known as “Data Guy,” not “Literary Subjective Opinion Guy.” [Laughs] But with that said, first off, I have no particular feelings about the Big Five publishers, positive or negative. And I think this makes me a little different than a lot of the folks we hear from on various author groups. I’m a brand new author and a new entrant into this industry. I’ve never submitted a query to anyone. I hear a lot of this angst, and there seems to be bad blood one way or another. It’s just lost on me. I don’t get it. I get that some people in this industry feel very strongly about the things that have happened in the past, but for me it’s just a brand new, wide-open field. Let’s see what there is to learn.

With that said, I do think that today’s wide-open, democratic world of publishing is a good thing. It’s been a tremendous boon for literary culture and freedom of expression. The gatekeepers were an economic necessity in the past. It wasn’t so much about quality, although these two concepts tend to get tangled a lot, because nobody wants to think of themselves as just serving an economic function alone when working in the arts. It was more about choosing which manuscripts were worth taking a financial risk on. Well, today that risk is largely mediated by the fact that you don’t have to take a big risk to get a book out there in the public eye. At the end of the day, the only gatekeepers that matter are readers.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

What REALLY Sold in 2016?

9 February 2017

From SFWA:

Finishing the book can seem like such a step forward!  Pop the champagne!

But then the author sits down to contemplate publishing.  Oh, the thorny questions!  Try for a commercial publisher?  Do the self publishing route?  Bring it out as an ebook only?  Pay for print layout and an ISBN and bring it out as print?

So many questions!

It can raise anyone’s blood pressure!

The latest on authorearnings.com, a good source of ‘who’s making what’ information, is that the times they are a’changin’ for today’s authors.  Maybe that stubborn determination to find an agent and get picked up by a NY publisher so that your book ends up in Barnes and Noble isn’t really worth the (huge) effort.

. . . .

Every genre has its own print-versus-ebook profile. Some genres are populated by big ebook readers while others have readers who still go for print. So there is no single answer for that question. There can be a difference even within a genre, depending on the age and gender of your readers. That’s always something I consider when I’m evaluating a book — who is the readership and what do they read?

. . . .

Print books used to be purchased pretty exclusively in brick and mortar bookstores.  It is nearly impossible for small commercial publishers and self published authors to get books onto those bookstore shelves, and authors sometimes come out losing money when they do because of bookstore ‘return’ requirements.

But now?

In 2016, 43% of all traditionally published books were purchased online.  Now, THAT is a reason to break out the champagne!  Why?  Because most readers pay little to no attention to the publisher.  As long as the small press or self published book looks professional and has a professional looking cover,  it’s competitive with books from the ‘bookstore’ publishers.  If your ebook or print book includes those 5 critical elements for success and looks like the other professionally published books out there, readers don’t care who published it.  They’ll look at price.

. . . .

In 2016, 21,800,000 self published print books were sold, mostly published through Create Space. The average price was $10.34. Amazon imprints sold another 959,000 copies.

Link to the rest at SFWA

Despite What You Heard, The E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

19 January 2017

From Observer.com:

Over the last year, we’ve been talking to writers like A.G. Riddle who have been making a more than comfortable living selling e-books directly to readers on Amazon. That’s why it’s always seemed a bit strange to see media accounts reporting on the shrinking market for e-books.

News outlets like The New York Times report that e-book sales continue to slip, which is true if the data only covers part of the market. Reports from the Association of American Publishers has data from 1,200 publishers. They are the largest publishers, but they are also losing market share.

E-book sales never declined, according to a presentation yesterday at Digital Book World in New York City. In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown.

In back-to-back presentations from from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that “unit sales” may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.

 

. . . .

E-books, Data Guy told the crowd, “Never stopped growing.”

It looks as though sales stuttered because traditional publishers have been losing market share to indie authors who publish directly through online platforms. Amazon is by far the largest of these platforms.

. . . .

Reports on the e-book market tend to ignore Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s Netflix for ebooks. Amazon splits up each month’s Kindle Unlimited revenue among participating authors based on how many pages members read.

Science-fiction author Hugh Howey said that being part of the program increased his revenue so much that it was worth pulling his books from all other platforms, such as Kobo and iBooks.

Data Guy acknowledged that some industry watchers might argue that a Kindle Unlimited download isn’t really a sale, but Author Earnings takes the position that any money in a writer’s pocket counts.

. . . .

 

Local book stores saw a 5 percent growth in sales last year, but every other channel (such as big stores, Walmart and etc) saw a 5 percent decline. Those channels were so much larger that local stores’ growth was more than made up for by the declines everywhere else. “Perhaps 10 fold,” Data Guy said.

Let’s hear it for your favorite local shop, but the truth is that Amazon has been the one closing those new print sales.

 

Link to the rest at Observer.com and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

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