Joe Konrath

William Ockham Fisking Michael Pietsch

11 August 2014

From William Ockham via Joe Konrath:

William: In case you haven’t heard, Hachette (US) CEO Michael Pietsch is sending out a response to the emails he’s getting. DBW has it: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/hachette-ceos-response-to-amazon-advocate-emails-why-we-price-books-the-way-we-do/

As you might imagine, I have a few comments:

Thank you for writing to me in response to Amazon’s email. I appreciate that you care enough about books to take the time to write. We usually don’t comment publicly while negotiating, but I’ve received a lot of requests for Hachette’s response to the issues raised by Amazon, and want to reply with a few facts.

• Hachette sets prices for our books entirely on our own, not in collusion with anyone.

William: Seriously? This is how you start? That’s a bad strategic move because you lied about not colluding in the past and you never apologized for it. We all know you colluded. You know you colluded. You may think that this statement is true because you aren’t currently colluding with anyone, but until you admit that you colluded in the past, it’s just bullshit. And, by the way, you best be careful. Any evidence of coordination with your former co-conspirators will land you back in court. The evidentiary requirements for antitrust collusion is really low. Even coincidentally ending up with the same proposed terms as other Big 5 publishers could be trouble. Recycling the same old price list that you and your co-conspirators adopted in 2010 seems like an astoundingly bad idea.

. . . .

As a publisher, we work to bring a variety of great books to readers, in a variety of formats and prices. We know by experience that there is not one appropriate price for all ebooks, and that all ebooks do not belong in the same $9.99 box. Unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books, often for years, before we see any revenue. We invest in advances against royalties, editing, design, production, marketing, warehousing, shipping, piracy protection, and more. We recoup these costs from sales of all the versions of the book that we publish—hardcover, paperback, large print, audio, and ebook. While ebooks do not have the $2-$3 costs of manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping that print books have, their selling price carries a share of all our investments in the book.

William: Blah, blah, blah. Don’t you guys get tired of this line of argument? I’m sure tired of pointing out how completely bogus it is. But since you are the CEO of a big publishing company, I assume you know a little something about economics. Let’s talk about the marginal cost of production. The short version of the definition is that it is the cost of producing one more unit of something. The marginal cost of producing one more print book is the cost of producing a single copy of a POD book. The marginal cost of producing one more ebook is $0. There are some transaction costs associated with selling that additional unit, but they are less than the transactional costs of selling the additional unit of a print book. And let’s not forget that print books have resale value that ebooks don’t. I’ve done some economic modeling of this and I find that the difference in price between a hard cover and an ebook version of the same title would tend towards about $5-$7. That’s the price differential that would maximize revenue and sales across a broad range of titles. Interestingly enough, that’s about the differential that Amazon is arguing for. That’s not really surprising to me because they are a retailer with lots of data on book sales. Here’s the crux of the matter. The market doesn’t care about your costs or business model or expense allocations. They are irrelevant. Hachette has a very high cost structure for producing ebooks. In one sense, Amazon is doing you a favor, long term, if they force you to confront that reality now.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

David Streitfeld – An Embarassment to the New York Times

9 August 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Barry sez: When it comes to Amazon and Hachette and all that, there’s just too much partisan posturing posing as journalism to tackle, and most of it Joe and I ignore. But in his latest New York Times blow job to big publishing, anti-Amazon activist David Streitfeld jumps so far over the shark that we had to mock his tendentiousness, which was excessive even by Streitfeldian standards.

. . . .

Barry sez: Hah. We’re just teasing Preston, who tries to paint himself as an aw, shucks regular guy but who “summers in this coastal hamlet… set on 300 acres that have been owned by the Preston family for much of the last 100 years.” All of which sounds about as blue collar as it gets! Why would anyone suggest this guy is of and for only the one percent of authors?

As for my libation tonight, I’m just having a Fat Tire ale. My second, to ease the pain.

Okay, let’s get this over with…

First, I want to emphasize something we mentioned in yesterday’s post on James Patterson’s CNN opinion piece. Which is, publishing darlings like Preston and Patterson get easy access to all the establishment media they want. Last month’s fawning (and tendentious) Preston interview was by Vauhini Vara in The New Yorker; today it’s Streitfeld in the New York Times. And on Sunday, Preston et al will buy a ton of coverage with an $104,000 ad in the New York Times, for which the Streitfeld piece reads like a coordinated warm-up.

. . . .

This is another one we wrote about yesterday, and as we said there, it’s practically a staple of the Amazon Derangement Syndrome crowd. For people like Streitfeld, that Amazon might, like other companies, be motivated by business reasons and not some cartoonish Dr. Evil imperative of World Domination isn’t conceivable. Certainly the possibility is never entertained; Amazon is Evil And Wants To Take Over the World is just a constant, background, unexamined axiom, one of those things Streitfeld simply knows and which therefore require no evidence.

. . . .

NYT: Amazon, unsettled by the actions of a group that used to be among its biggest fans, is responding by attacking Mr. Preston, calling the 58-year-old thriller writer “entitled” and “an opportunist,” while simultaneously trying to woo him and his fellow dissenters into silence.

Barry sez: Credit where due: Preston has done a nice job of propagating that “woo him into silence” meme. But what I always wonder is this. Why is it a bad thing that Amazon, which has no direct relationship with Preston, has reached out to him? And why is it a good thing — how can Preston be proud — that he’s “not even in contact” with his own publisher on this matter? Wouldn’t he like to find out from his own publisher what this dispute is about (he admits he doesn’t even know himself)? Why doesn’t Streitfeld think to even ask about any of this?

Either Streitfeld is stunningly incurious for a reporter… or something else is going on.

Anyway, I don’t know why anyone would call Preston entitled. Everyone knows that’s only readers. And it’s not as though Preston worries, in this very article, “What if Amazon says, ‘Why should we sell Doug Preston’s books? He’s a thorn in our sides.’ Guess what? All this [the coastal hamlet and spacious and splendid house, presumably] goes away.” Because, absolutely, Douglas Preston has a right to have his wares stocked by all retailers, no matter what. Don’t we all? What’s entitled about that?

Joe sez: And “wooed into silence.” Amazon, in a self-serving display guaranteed to provoke disgust, tried to bribe Preston into shutting up by offering to help the authors Preston said were being harmed.

Way to misrepresent, Streitfeld! Amazon reaches out to Preston to work with him and address his concerns, and they are accused of trying to silence him. And Preston stupidly, selfishly, and instantly rejects the proposal, perpetuating the harm that his letter allegedly is trying to stop.

Preston’s monumental ignorance is only overshadowed by Streitfeld’s terrible reporting.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath 

For the Authors Guild & Other Legacy Publishing Pundits

4 August 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Recently on Twitter, Barry Eisler asked with sincerity, “Why would anyone want to join the Authors Guild?”

Bestselling author and celebrated indie, CJ Lyons, whom the AG mentioned as an example of diversity, responded with, “What’s your wish list for a Guild?”

Barry didn’t miss a beat, and immediately replied that the Authors Guild should change its name to reflect its fundamental purpose, because the Guild clearly represents legacy publishers more than it represents writers.

. . . .

So here is my wish list:

1. Support the authors in the Harlequin lawsuit and fight to get their backlist rights returned. Then do the same for all members who want to get their backlist rights returned.

It’s no secret I got my rights back, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other authors who want theirs back, too. It’s the single most asked-question I get via email, and my required response is that my publishers and I parted amicably, which is the limit of what I can say. I can’t help. But the AG could.

2. Draft a petition to raise ebook royalties for all authors. If a publisher doesn’t comply, these authors will no longer submit work to that publisher. If you could align with a like-minded AAR, real change could be instituted.

The Guild has stated publicly that they don’t believe 25% of net is fair. Well, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

3. Demand that unconscionable contract terms are removed in legacy boilerplate, including holding rights for term of copyright, impossible rights reversion clauses, the elimination of non-compete clauses, the elimination of first option clauses.

A guild for authors would not only pressure publishers to return rights that they’re sitting on without making any discernible profit, but it would also use attorneys to get the DOJ to examine the unconscionability of publishing contracts. I can’t think of a more lopsided abuse of power than the paper oligopoly controlled by the Big Publishing cartel for the last fifty years, and how many authors have been forced to take ridiculously one-sided terms in order to get their books into bookstores.

Seriously. This is perfect for a class action suit.

. . . .

 7. Coordinate with David Gaughran to petition and publicly disapprove of any publisher engaged in vanity publishing. As far as I’m concerned, Gaughran should be a paid consultant for the Guild on this issue. And if the AG were behind him, with some legal muscle, predatory vanity publishers could be crippled, if not erased.

. . . .

11. An Author’s Guild worthy of the name would be all over the legacy practice of paying out royalties only twice a year.

As suggested int he comments by Barry Eisler: In the 21st century, this practice is a disgrace and it’s astonishing that anyone can take it remotely seriously. Yes, I know legacy publishers earn millions of dollars in interest by holding onto that money for six months at a time instead of putting it in author pockets promptly. But why does the “Authors Guild” let them get away with it?

Hint: a cynic might suspect it’s because fat cats like Scott Turow, the former Guild president, get paid advances so large it’s understood they will never earn out. Turow himself, in a rare moment of clarity and candor, acknowledged as much: “Best-selling authors have the market power to negotiate a higher implicit e-book royalty in our advances, even if our publishers won’t admit it.” So authors like Turow never get paid in royalties, meaning that for Turow, yearly, monthly, even daily payments are an irrelevance. He gets all his money upfront.

By the way, for any legacy apologist inclined to argue that paying authors more frequently than twice a year would be oh-so-difficult, Amazon pays its authors monthly. And I’d like to hear of any other business in the 21st century that pays its people twice a year.

Or to put it another way: if all legacy-publisher employees agree to switch from being paid monthly to being paid twice a year, I’ll relax a bit on this issue.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Bridget for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books

PG says it’s often easier to build a new house than it is to fix up the old one.

PG agrees with Joe that the only authors’ organization with enough power to influence traditional publishers is one with a credible litigation fund. Even very large organizations pay attention to a well-drafted civil complaint. (No, PG doesn’t do litigation any more but in the past, he has had some delightful experiences litigating against organizations much larger than any publisher.)

Barry & Joe Discussing The Guardian Discussing AuthorEarnings

20 July 2014

From Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler:

Joe sez: Yesterday, the Guardian reviewed aspects of the latest AuthorEarnings report in an article called, Self-publishing Surging to 31% of Ebook Market, Claims Report.

Barry sez: I’m a big Guardian fan and think it’s great that they’re covering the data AuthorEarnings has been crunching — data that contradicts a lot of misinformation and legacy industry propaganda. I also think it was entirely sensible for them to reach out to Philip Jones of The Bookseller and Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors for a contrary view.

Joe sez: Maybe they also could have reached out to you for a supporting viewpoint, since you have written for the Guardian. Maybe they didn’t have time, or see the need. But I see this as a biased piece questioning AuthorEarnings data.

Barry sez: Well, we can always argue about “balance” or whatever in these matters. In general, I like to see a contrary view. My concern about Jones’s and Solomon’s views isn’t about whether they were pro or con; it’s more that they weren’t very coherent.

. . . .

Guardian: According to the Bookseller editor Philip Jones there are “large question marks” about Howey’s data.

“This is a very narrow selection of a particular type of market at a particular time,” he said. “Most people who’ve looked at this in any depth say you can’t extrapolate from bestseller rankings on the Kindle store to a picture of the wider market. Howey sees an ice-cube, and shrieks ‘iceberg’.”

Barry sez: Wait a minute… “a very narrow selection of a particular type of market at a particular time”? They’re tracking over 100,000 titles! But hang on, let’s ask Data Guy himself…

Data Guy sez: The Author Earnings reports are cross-sectional studies of Amazon ebook sales.

The raw data for each is obtained by a custom-coded Java web Spider software program that crawls the thousands of Amazon category Best Seller lists page by page and then “reads” the Amazon product pages for each of the 100,000+ listed books, extracting each book’s title, author, publisher, price, overall Amazon Sales Rank, review counts and scores, and DRM info. It works by parsing the raw html of ebook product pages, following links through all the main and then sub categories. Anything on a product page can be pulled into a spreadsheet cell.

The methodology involves an interplay of four factors: 1) The known overall rank of each title on the Kindle store. 2) The estimated daily sales for those ranks. 3) The sales price of the ebook. 4) And the royalty paid to the author.

1) Is known. 2) Has been compiled by dozens of indies, who note their daily sales at varying ranks, and these rates match up and are regularly re-checked. 3) Is known. 4) Is known for self-published titles and well-estimated for all others.

You can tweak (2) and (4) as much as you want and not break the conclusions found in our reports, which is that self-published authors have taken sizeable market share of ebook royalties on the largest bookseller in the world.

Joe sez: I believe the only way to deny the results of the AuthorEarnings data is to say that Amazon sales rank doesn’t correlate to the number of books sold. Which is VERY presumptuous. When Amazon sneezes, a thousand indies check Jeff’s pulse. If Amazon was tampering with rank, someone would be able to show it.

Almost all media sales follow a power curve. Looks like a hockey stick. You can adjust this curve all you like, but since the distribution of indies to traditionally published authors is even and consistent, it doesn’t change the results. Move a legacy book up in sales by its rank, and the neighboring indies go up. Move an indie book down in sales per rank, and neighboring trad books go down.

What Data Guy discovered, in essence — by looking deeper into the data than anyone had before — was three things:

1) It isn’t just indies in the top 100 taking up 25 – 30% of slots; it goes all the way into the top 100,000+ titles on Amazon.

2) It isn’t just 99 cent works selling at high clips; it’s a range of prices.

3) The difference in royalty rates (5.6x) more than makes up for the difference in price and ranking.

What is the opposing argument? I haven’t heard it from Jones or Solomon…

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Konrath and Eisler vs. Richard Russo: The Sequel

11 July 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Think the Authors Guild really has all writers’ best interests in mind?

Richard Russo, who in a previous Authors Guild letter tried to show he was attempting to win a second Pulitzer Prize, this one for Not Knowing What He’s Talking About (I’m sure that’s a category), is adding to his bowl of fail with this new letter, sent to Guild members.

So, contrary to what anyone could have possibly expected, Barry Eisler and I fisked it.

. . . .

Russo: The primary mission of the Authors Guild has always been the defense of the writing life.

Barry sez: One of my favorite things about Russo is the way his real priorities leak through no matter how much he tries to mask them in high-minded verbiage. Because yes, what Richard Russo and the “Authors Guild” want more than anything is to preserve a certain lifestyle — the lifestyle that comes with being anointed by a legacy publisher, becoming a member of an exclusive club, and getting to write full-time from the proceeds. The lifestyle that’s theoretically available to everyone but that is in fact doled out to only a tiny fraction. And if that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. We’re talking about a one-percent economy, where the one percent’s lifestyle is achieved at the expense of the other 99%. I’m sure when Lloyd Blankfein argues for the merits of the system that landed him at the head of Goldman Sachs, he makes the same sorts of arguments Russo makes in all his missives to members of the Authors Guild. Because the worldviews are identical.

Russo: While it may be true that there are new opportunities and platforms for writers in the digital age, only the willfully blind refuse to acknowledge that authorship is imperiled on many fronts.

Joe sez: I would have liked it if he said something like, “authorship is sinking”, which would have acknowledged he is indeed winking and nudging about how stupid that comment was.But he isn’t winking. He is, unfortunately, serious.

There is not a single front where authorship is imperiled. Not one. In fact, more people are publishing books than ever before (Bowker noted a 400% increase in the last five years). This is because every single one of those authors now has a chance to reach readers and make some money.

Richard, if you believe “authorship” is “signing your rights away for your lifetime plus seventy years to a legacy house” then use that precise definition. Because if every legacy publisher suddenly disappeared, authorship would still exist.

Last I checked, I wasn’t blind, willfully or otherwise. It’s interesting you use that term, because it perfectly describes your myopic confirmation bias. Barry Eisler justblogged about this very topic, namely the inability for those within an establishment (in this case, the legacy publishing industry) to rationally judge opposing viewpoints from outside that establishment due topsychological projection. You are the one who is willfully blind, Richard, and yet you are saying those who disagree with you are willfully blind. Who else but one blind would even suggest authorship is imperiled when more writers than ever are making money?

Barry sez: I just have to add… “While it may be true that there are new opportunities and platforms for writers in the digital age”…? Russo isn’t sure? This is just a hypothetical possibility he’s heard sing of from seers and psychics? What can you say about a person who thinks this “may” be true? It’s like someone saying the earth “may” be round.

. . . .

 Russo: We believe that ecosystem should be as diverse as possible, containing traditional big publishers, smaller publishers, Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores, as well as both e-books and print books. We believe that such an ecosystem cannot exist while entities within it are committed to the eradication of other entities.

Joe sez: I’ll translate for those who don’t speak Legacy Archaic: We don’t want things to change even though they’re changing, so we’ll fight for the old way of doing things–you know–the way we’re comfortable with that made us wealthy and feel special.

I’m all for diversity. I love having multiple choices as an author. But that’s not up to me. It’s also not up to any author.

It’s up to readers. They are deciding how and what they want to buy.

For over fifty years, publishers have been able to control the situation. They decided which authors to publish. They decided which books would be read. They decided on the price. They released hardcovers a year before paperbacks to make as much money as possible. And they were able to give authors unconscionable contract terms. All because they were the only game in town. An oligopoly.

But since Amazon, an outsider, came along, the shadow industry of self-publishing has given readers, and authors, a choice.

The Authors Guild should be thrilled with this. But instead, they continue to act like the “Legacy Publishing Industry Guild” bravely defending the status quo.

And Richard? For the majority of authors, that status quo kinda sucked.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

More Konrants

30 June 2014

From Joe Konrath:

I just got back from a wonderful vacation with my family with limited cell phone and Internet access. We had to communicate by doing something called talking, which is a lot like texting or emailing, but without emoticons or abbreviations.

I have now returned, and as I might have guessed, the stupid was strong on the world wide web while I was away.

. . . .

First off, Laura Miller said some ridiculous things in a recent Salon article.

Laura: Anyone who has followed the coverage of the ongoing Amazon-Hachette dispute knows that some of the most impassioned voices on the pro-Amazon side of the argument come from self-published writers. It’s easy to understand their impulse to defend Amazon’s e-book publishing programs, given that many had tried in vain to publish their books with traditional houses before opting for, say, Kindle Direct Publishing.

Joe: Sure, Laura. It’s bitter losers, snubbed by the industry, who despise it because they had to settle for the meager compensation of controlling their own rights and making more money with Amazon.

You’re aware many have also tried to publish with legacy houses and succeeded. Then we discovered that legacy publishers had unconscionable contracts, archaic business practices, and overall behaved badly. But, as they were the only game in town, we lived with it… until Amazon came around.

Many authors are pro Amazon for a simple, easy to understand reason: Amazon treats authors better and pays them more.

. . . .

Laura: The Big Five compete with each other for the books they want to publish.

Joe: Compete how? The size of the advance?

Don’t you find it curious that they don’t compete by offering better contract terms in other areas, such as royalty percentage, rights reversion, length of term of rights, indemnity clauses, non-compete clauses, next options, and many other author-unfriendly provisions?

How about competing like other companies compete for employees? Insurance, bonuses, 401k, pension plans, severance packages, vacation time, paid lunches, travel compensation, expense sheets, etc.?

. . . .

Is it real competition when all the major publishers somehow wound up offering lockstep 25% ebook royalties? Isn’t it odd some publishers didn’t try to attract authors by offering more?

Now perhaps all publishers coincidentally came to this figure independent of one another. But I think it is more likely that everyone secretly agreed that the only terms they’d “compete” on were advance sizes, except in the rare case of mega-bestsellers.

. . . .

Laura: Most readers are not willing to read dozens of sample chapters in order to find something acceptable or to rely on consumer reviews of questionable authenticity.

Joe: Can you show me the poll you took of “most readers”? I assume the sample was at least tens of thousands, right?

Have you ever been in a bookstore, looking for something new to read? Readers browse, whether it is legacy pubbed books, or self-pubbed ebooks. Sorta like you do when you Google something and find the website you want in the search results.

Google doesn’t only list the vetted, curated, sifted websites. It lists them all. And the popularity of a website is based on reader preference, not sifting.

. . . .

Laura: While there’s not much self-publishers can do to influence the outcome of the Hachette-Amazon dispute, this affair should serve as a cautionary tale about placing too much power in the hands of a single retail outlet.

Joe: Hachette authors aren’t at the mercy of Amazon. They’re at the mercy of Hachette.
Self-pubbed authors aren’t at the mercy of Amazon, either. If you’re concerned about Amazon, can you show me their history of squeezing and mistreating writers? Why worry about being eaten by wolves, when there is currently a lion feasting on your legs?

Hachette authors are getting screwed because they signed away their rights to Hachette, trusting that publisher to make business deals that best serve them. If Hachette can’t make a deal with the biggest retailer of books in the world, Hachette is the problem.

I sympathize with Hachette authors, and with all legacy pubbed authors. But they need to accept that they signed the deal. I signed four legacy deals. I felt I had no choice, and no negotiating power. They were the only game in town, and I had to take it or leave it. So I took it, and I accepted full responsibility for my publishers’ many mistakes.

Now that there IS a choice, authors must accept even more responsibility. Signing away your rights, when you’re now able to keep them and self-publish, is a huge gamble. Because if your publisher screws the pooch, you’re stuck. Forever.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

I Understand and Sympathize

8 June 2014

From Joe Konrath:

So I fell into the trap of becoming too involved in the Amazon/Hachette dispute, and I’ve been openly wondering where all the stupid is coming from, and if I could somehow cork the stupid so it stopped splashing all over the Internet.

Whenever I recognize I’m grinding an ax, I try to take a step back and walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins to gain some perspective. I did, and it chilled me out. Because I remember walking that same path, years ago.

I’ve been preaching since 2010 that self-publishing is not only a viable alternative to the legacy industry, but it can indeed be a preferable one. I’ll do a quick recap.

1. You own your rights, rather than a publisher owning them for your lifetime plus seventy years.

2. You can control your cover art and product description.

3. You can set your own price, and change it almost instantly.

4. You don’t have to deal with unconscionable contract terms like non-compete clauses.

5. You can get your work to readers faster, and you have the same reach (perhaps even more reach) as publishers do when it comes to digital distribution.

6. You get 70% of list rather than 12.5%.

7. You can run you own ads like on BookBub and Booksense because you can put your work on sale.

Any writer looking at these advantages has got to be thinking, “That’s pretty sweet.”

But not every writer looking at these advantages can actually take advantage of them.

If you’re locked into a legacy contract, you can’t self-pub any of your books. You either owe them your next book, or aren’t allowed to release any on your own. Or maybe you’re a slower writer and can only write a book a year.

You can see the high prices your publisher is selling your ebooks for, and you are powerless to do anything about it.

If you get a bad cover, you’re stuck with it.

. . . .

All of you legacy authors who hate me; I know you played by the rules, and are angry that your sales are diminishing, and that your advances are shrinking. I played by the rules, too. I did more signings than any of you–over 1200. I busted my ass to make my legacy career work. And I took a chance on self-publishing, and was lucky that it paid off.

I can see why you don’t want to take a chance. Or why you feel you don’t even have a choice. You worked within the system, got the keys to the kingdom, and it was supposed to be smooth sailing for you. Then, somehow, the rules changed, and you got screwed.

I get it. I really do.

But your answer isn’t hoping for the old system to return. It isn’t going to.

Your answer isn’t blaming Amazon for your problems. They are here to stay.

Your answer isn’t blaming me, or other indie authors, or the self-publishing revolution. We’re not trying to rub your nose in our success. We’re trying to help you to share the wealth.

. . . .

I’m not an advocate of self-publishing because I know better than anyone else. I’m an advocate of self-publishing because I’ve been on both sides of that fence, and my experience isn’t unique. Many authors got screwed by the legacy system like I did. Many authors have benefited from self-publishing like I have.

Maybe this Hachette/Amazon dispute isn’t bringing out the stupid in people. Maybe it is forcing authors to defend themselves, because they’re scared. And when you’re scared, you lash out without thinking. You defend yourself rather than consider new ideas. You find scapegoats. You rally with others who feel the same way because there is safety in numbers. You defend your oppressors. You fight the future because it’s either that or risking everything.

. . . .

Authors need to stop thinking of Amazon as the bad guy, because they feel bad about the contracts they’re stuck in.

Worrying Amazon is a monopoly that might someday lower royalties makes no sense, when the Big 5 alreadyfunction as a monopoly and have low royalties.

The old ways aren’t going to return. The new ways aren’t going away.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Margaret for the tip.

Konrants

20 May 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Had a few thoughts over the past few days, none of which are worthy of a whole blog post. But I’ve strung a few together and I’m putting them out there as both personal observations and advice for authors and the publishing industry.

First, the legacy industry seems to be keen to keep reassuring itself that ebooks sales growth has slowed or plateaued.

Frankly, I don’t care what the legacy industry believes. If it sleeps better at night thinking that paper sales will still be hearty in the year 2020, that’s fine by me. Whatever gets you through the night. 

. . . .

If the Big 5 think that ebook sales aren’t continuing to eat away at paper sales, or that more and more authors aren’t choosing to self-publish, or that Barnes & Noble will be around forever, or that they can relax because the tech revolution is over, they are whistling past the graveyard.

. . . .

Legacy publishers NEED authors to feel that they’re the only way to succeed. Because without authors, the Ponzi scheme of publishing (the few successful writers supporting the entire infrastructure, including authors who aren’t successful) collapses.

. . . .

If you happen to be a huge bestseller, and legacy publishers come knocking, worry about signing with them when that happens. And find an agent first. And also try to find ANY author who went from indie to legacy and has nice things to say about the experience. If you do find any who says nice things in public, try to talk to them privately and witness the completely-warranted bitchfest that commences.

Publishers keep looking at indie success as a slush pile where they can scoop up the best. They’ll keep doing that until indies learn better. But very few indies who sign with a legacy publisher and hate the experience will speak publicly about it, because their books are being held hostage and playing nice with their new corporate masters is essential if they want to continue to make money. Because legacy publishers do enough to unintentionally hurt book sales–making them angry so they intentionally hurt sales is not wise.

So you won’t see many authors bashing their publishers. But how many who signed indie deals sing their publishers’ praises? Isn’t it odd we don’t see a lot of that?

. . . .

Now, what Hugh and Data Guy are doing–quite brilliantly I may add–is shedding light on something that legacy publishers would prefer everyone remain in the dark about: how authors don’t need them.

. . . .

Newsflash:

We’re adults. We’re now allowed to label ourselves rather than live with the labels others assign us. 

And when others label us something we don’t agree with, we can choose not to waste any more of our time, money, and emotion on them. 

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

Tend Your Garden

11 May 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Your ebooks function much like a garden.

One rare occassions, a plant will thrive with little help from you.

Others may whither and die no matter how much help you give them.

But the majority need to be constantly tended. Planted, watered, fertilized, weeded, pruned, mulched, replanted, harvested. In other words, lots of work.

Ebooks aren’t a Mr. Popeill invention where you can set it and forget it. Quite the opposite. You need to pay attention, and keep active, or your garden won’t thrive.

Everyone experiences slow downs in sales. It’s inevitable, and it seems to be cyclical, but not in any sort of way I’ve been able to project. Sales seem to rise and fall for reasons unknown.

. . . .

Here are some tricks to tend to your garden.

1. Change prices. As an indie, this is one of the biggest advantages you have over the legacy industry. You decide what the customer pays, and this is powerful. Don’t be afraid to weild that power by experimenting with prices, both lower and higher.

2. Newsletter. There is no excuse why you don’t have a newsletter. People who sign up are actively looking for your titles. Make them aware a new title exists.

3. Sales. Unlike a change in price, a sale only lasts for a short time. KDP Countdown is what I’m currently using, because it offers 70% royalties when I drop the price. I’ve been pleased with my results.

. . . .

Which brings us to the last tip:

11. Stop complaining. Writing and self-publishing is your choice. No one is forcing you to do this. If you went into this business thinking it would be easy, you were wrong. It would be awesome if every ebook written became a huge bestseller, but only a small fraction will. You should be thinking about the long game–amassing a backlist ten years from now, and cultivating that backlist so it constantly has new eyeballs discovering it.

Link to the rest at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and thanks to Julie and several others for the tip.

Identity and the Writer

12 March 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Identity is a very important, and terribly difficult, concept to grasp. What makes us who we are is fodder for philosophers, and perhaps biologists, not for this blog.

This blog is about publishing, and it is written for writers. But I’m going to take a stab at discussing identity anyway.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the internet that falls under the umbrella of what I call “identity issues.” There are a lot of writers, and a lot of people in the publishing industry, who believe they have clearly defined identities, and who believe they have the ability to understand the identities of others. Identities that may be embraced and accepted, or dismissed and derided.

Let’s take a look at some of the things I’m referring to.

Years ago, Barry Eisler used the word legacy to describe traditional publishers. This word is apt because publishing fits the definition of a legacy system. Since Barry began using this, it has fallen into the common vernacular, but only in the shadow industry of self-publishing, used by self-published authors. Legacy publishers don’t like to be thought of as “previous” or “outdated”, even though they indeed are by any definition, so they reject the term because it conflicts with their personal identities. They believe they are relevant, forward-thinking, guardians of culture. They are wrong, but their identities are so entangled in these labels it may prevent them from doing things that could improve their bottom line, like treating authors better, innovating, and using new technology to reach more readers.

The media often uses the word legacy, but puts quotes around it. “So called ‘legacy’ publishers.” The media sides with the publishers, so when they report, they want to downplay the growing usage of the term legacy.

The idea of “I am X, so I cannot be Y” is a powerful idea, and it is one of the reasons we won’t see as many legacy publishers in the future. If any. At least, not in their current state. Because they don’t recognize themselves as legacy publisher, because they choose to believe their identity is something different than legacy, they won’t be able to fix themselves.

. . . .

Amazon has done a whole lot to cause legacy publishing to question its identity of itself, and to cause writers to question their own identities.

This shadow industry of self-publishing is both threatening to the status quo, and empowering to anyone who wants to call themselves a writer.

Well, almost anyone.

Consider legacy pubbed authors who are openly pro-legacy. Many of them believe they deserve success, or earned their right to sit at the legacy table. It’s natural to disparage self-published authors who didn’t have to jump through the same hoops in order to be accepted. Admitting self-pub is a real, viable alternative to legacy publishing means admitting they were wrong to put so much faith, time, and effort into getting a legacy deal. To feel secure about their own identity, some authors have to belittle others.

Now I believe a writer is someone who writes. Maybe you get paid. Maybe you don’t. Maybe people agree. Maybe they don’t. You don’t need anyone’s approval or acceptance or imprimatur or validation to consider yourself a writer. But legacy pundits like agents and publishers don’t want you to believe that. They want you to feel that the only way you can call yourself a writer is if they agree. And their approval comes at a high cost.

The legacy world doesn’t want you to feel like you’re a writer if all you do is self-publish. Because they need you to make money.

Your peers may not consider you a writer if all you do is self-publish. Because they need to protect their own identities, and that means dismissing yours.

You may not feel like a writer until you meet certain criteria. But consider this: who sets those criteria? You? Or an industry that wants to make money off of you?

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

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