Joe Konrath

Chasing Publishing Trends

10 June 2016

From Joe Konrath:

It’s never wise to chase fads or trends, because by the time you get a product to market, it may be over and you’ve missed the bandwagon.

Unless the product is a book and you self-publish. Then you can write, edit, create cover art, and get three books live in less than three hours.

Presenting my latest epic trilogy:

JA Konrath Adult Coloring Books!!!

Not only am I able to compete on price with the major houses, but I’m also one-upping traditional publishers by releasing these titles as ebooks as well as paper books.

. . . .

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

Here’s a link to Joe’s triangle coloring book. One of the reviewers is looking forward to the audiobook.

Here’s another link to Joe’s author page. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books. PG thinks it would be great if Joe’s coloring books could make it to the top of the adult coloring books bestseller list.

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Fisking Porter Anderson

24 May 2016

From Joe Konrath:

Porter’s nonsense in italics, my common-sense replies in bold.

“The biggest issue is one that will be difficult for us to recover from…the degradation of our worth as creatives.”

Joe sez: Our worth as creatives is dependent upon reaching readers. This meme is damned old I wrote about it back in 2010, The Value of Ebooks.

In that blog post I use real numbers to discuss author earnings, and came to this inescapable conclusion:

The value of an ebook is determined by the overall amount of money it earns, not the list price.

Obvious, right? But let’s forge ahead through this…

That line is from a piece here at Writer Unboxed a year ago, in May 2015. Our colleague Heather Webb, in As Writers, What Are We Worth?, was anticipating a groan heard ’round the world.

Last month, when I led a round-table discussion at Berlin’s Publishers’ Forum, our topic was “Re-Thinking Ebook Sales and Understanding the Consumers.” But what drew the biggest response was book pricing.

We’re in a world now that thinks it can write just as well as you can. It doesn’t need your book. It can write its own. It can publish it. And it can lowball it on Amazon.

Joe sez: This nefarious scheme is called “capitalism” and is evidence of something called a “free market”. 

Once upon a time, publishing wasn’t a free market. Not everyone with a book had an equal chance to reach readers. Amazon, and other ebook retailers, have democratized the process. Which means consumers now have more choices than every before. And many of those choices are priced according to the market, rather than according to the publishing cartel that controlled pricing with their quasi-monopoly.

. . . .

In the UK in January, Penguin Random House CEO Tom Weldon told my Bookseller colleague Benedicte Page: “”One of the biggest challenges in 2016 will be e-book pricing: how do we maintain the value perception of our quality content and maximize revenues across all formats for both authors and publishers?”

Joe sez: Allow me to translate: “How do we get people to pay more for ebooks, because if we drop them too low then consumers will buy the ebook rather than the paper book, and paper books are where we have the distribution oligopoly.”

A year later, Webb can see clearly now. Here’s what’s happening on a daily basis to authors’ work in the marketplace:

Heather Webb ‎@msheatherwebb – It’s awesome when people brag about how cheaply they got your novel for. NOT. They forget we make our living this way. AKA starvation diet

Joe sez: I’ll fix that quote so it makes sense. “It’s awesome when people brag about how cheaply they got your novel, because others will then seek it out and buy a copy. I wish every fan bragged about my cheap books.”

Perhaps, for some odd reason, Heather would rather sell a $14.99 ebook and earn $2.32 in royalties from her publisher (after her agent’s cut) than sell four books at $5.99 and earn $3.64. 

Just saw a study done with Lemurs. Even Lemurs know $3.64 is more than $2.32.

. . . .

With both the trade and the self-publishing sectors in rampant over-production as they are today, you’re facing a sheer rock face of competition for every glance your book might get, let alone a read, let alone a sale. Your price is in free-fall.

Joe sez: Porter, have you ever been in a bookstore? Notice how it’s filled with thousands of books? Do you glance at every single one before making a selection?

There have ALWAYS been other books. But now, for the first time, the cost is coming down so it isn’t prohibitive. Rather than $30 hardcovers, which is a luxury price, readers can get new titles for $4.99. And the $4.99 book is just as good as the $30 book. 

Or do you enjoy paying more for comparable products? If so, I’ve got some $40 per roll toilet paper I’ll sell you. It does the same thing as the $1 per roll toilet paper, but if you buy that cheap stuff my dignity will be in jeopardy. You don’t want me on a starvation diet, do you?

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Konrath’s New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

29 December 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Every December I do a post about resolutions for writers, and every year I add more of them. They’ve changed a lot; after all, when I began this, there was no Amazon Kindle, self-publishing was a bad idea, and this blog was for writers eager to find agents and land deals with the Big 6.

But a lot of the advice from a decade ago still holds true, so take these resolutions for what they’re worth to you.

2006

Newbie Writer Resolutions

    I will start/finish the damn book
    I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth
    I will attend at least one writer’s conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers
    I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to
    I will join a critique group. If one doesn’t exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library
    I will finish every story I start
    I will listen to criticism
    I will create/update my website
    I will master the query process and search for an agent
    I’ll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something
    I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing–and I’m a lot more talented than that guy

Professional Writer Resolutions

    I will keep my website updated
    I will keep up with my blog and social networks
    I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I’ll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner
    I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won’t send out more than four a year
    I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how
    I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher’s
    I will stay in touch with my fans
    I will contact local libraries, and tell them I’m available for speaking engagements
    I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford
    I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion
    I will help out other writers
    I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy
    I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic
    I will do one thing every day to self-promote
    I will always remember where I came from

. . . .

2011

I Will Self-Publish

Just twelve short months ago, I made $1650 on Kindle in December, and was amazed I could pay my mortgage with ebook sales.

This December, I’ll earn over $22,000.

The majority of this is on Kindle. But I’m also doing well self-pubbing in print through Amazon’s Createspace program, and will earn $2700 this month on nine POD books. I’m also finally trying out B&N’s PubIt program, which looks to be good for over $1k a month, and I’m doing okay on Smashwords, with Sony, Apple, and Kobo combining for another $1k.

This is nothing short of revolutionary.

The gatekeepers–agents who submit to editors who acquire books to publish and distribute to booksellers–are no longer needed to make a living as a fiction writer. For the first time in history, writers can reach readers without having to jump through hoops, get anointed, compromise integrity, or fit the cookie-cutter definition for What New York Wants.

I’m not saying you should give up on traditional publishing. But I am saying that there is ZERO downside to self-pubbing. At worst, you’ll make a few bucks. At best, you’ll make a fortune, and have agents and editors fighting over you.

But remember: even if you are being fought over, you still have a choice.

DO NOT take any deal that’s less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you’re selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.

It blows my mind to think that way, let alone blog about it. I got a $34,000 advance for my first novel, and even less for my last few.

Currently, I have seven self-pubbed novels, each earning more than $24k a year. In six years, at the current rate, I’ll earn more than one million bucks on those.

But I don’t expect them to maintain their current sales.

I expect sales to go up.

Ebooks haven’t saturated the market yet. But they will. And you need to be ready for it. Which leads me to…

I Won’t Self-Publish Crap

Just because it’s easier than ever before to reach an audience doesn’t mean you should.

I can safely say that I’m either directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of writers trying out self-publishing. The majority of these writers aren’t making the same amount of money that I am, and are scratching their heads, wondering what they’re doing wrong.

Luck still plays a part in success. But so does professionalism.

Being a professional means you make sure you have a professional cover (http://www.extendedimagery.com), and you have been professionally formatted for ebooks (www.52novels.com) and for print books (http://yourepublished.blogspot.com.)

Being a professional means you’re prolific, with many titles for sale, and that you diversify, exploiting all possible places to sell your work (Kindle, Createspace, Smashwords, iBooks, iTunes, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Borders, Android, and no doubt more to come.)

But most of all, being a professional means you won’t inflict your shitty writing on the public.

Self-pubbing is not the kiddie pool, where you learn how to swim. You need to be an excellent swimmer before you jump in.

If your sales aren’t where you’d like them to be, especially if you’ve done everything else I’ve mentioned, then it’s time to take a cold, hard, critical look at the writing. Which segues into…

I’ll Pay Attention to the Market

To say I’m excited about the ebook future is putting it mildly. But that doesn’t mean I have carte blanche to write whatever the hell I want to, and then expect it to sell.

Yes, writers now have more freedom. Yes, we can now cater to niche tastes, and write novellas, and focus on more personal projects.

But if you want to make a living, you still have to understand your audience, and how to give them what they want.

Self-pubbing is not an excuse to be a self-indulgent egomaniac. On the contrary, it’s a chance for you to learn what sells.

For the very first time, the writer can conduct their own real-world experiments. By trying different things, learning from mistakes, and constantly tweaking and improving, we have more power than ever before to find our readers.

A lot of folks know how much money I’m making. But how many know:

I’ve changed or tweaked cover art 45 times.
I’ve reformatted my books five times each.
I’ve changed product descriptions over 80 times.
I’ve changed prices on each book two or three times.

Unlike the traditional publishing world, where published books are static, self-publishing is dynamic. If something isn’t selling as well as you’d like, you can change it. The work doesn’t end when you upload your ebook to Kindle. The work is never-ending, and vigilance is mandatory.

Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow. This means you MUST try new things.

2011 is going to be a turbulent year for publishers and bookstores and editors and agents. Change is coming, and many of the stalwarts of the industry aren’t going to be around for much longer.

But savvy writers will be safe from harm. In fact, they’ll thrive like never before.

For the first time in the history of publishing, we have control. Embrace that control, and make 2011 your year.

. . . .

2016

This year, I’m boiling my resolutions down to the essence:

WRITE.

It’s so easy to get caught up in different aspects of a writing career. I’ve had phases where I tried to help other writers, started my own company, blogged, collaborated, fought the publishing world, evangelized, experimented, promoted, tried to figure things out, and spent a whole lot of time doing stuff other than writing.

I’m happy I did all that. But it has taken me away from the thing I like most.

I might be a blogger, and a teacher, and an innovator, and a pundit. But first and foremost, I’m a writer.

And writers write.

So for 2016, I’m going to write more than I’ve ever written before. I’m going to finish those stories I’ve put aside, I’m going to break new ground, and I’m going to get back to my roots. I’ve spent a lot of time tending to my career. And for good reason. A backlist is a garden that needs attention to grow and prosper.

But now I’m going to spend the lion’s share of my time planting more seeds.

I’m looking for 2016 to be my most productive year ever.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Fisking the Authors Guild

20 October 2015

From Joe Konrath:

The Authors Guild just lost one of their ongoing cases against Google. The Guild have been whining that Google’s Book Scan–a service meant to digitally scan every book so the entire world could gain searchable Internet access to all of that info–is in fact violating copyright and stealing from authors.

Hey, Authors Guild! Why not also charge readers a fee every time they recommend a book via word of mouth?

. . . .

The Authors Guild has lost similar battles. During Authors Guild vs. Bill Smopey, they sued him because he’d sat in a Barnes & Nobel and read half of The Terror by Dan Simmons but hadn’t bought it. Smopey’s defense, “After the first 500 pages, the monster wasn’t even in it anymore, and I got bored and put it back.” The Guild claimed that Smopey owed Simmons’s publisher half of the cover price for reading without paying, and for partially crinkling page 342. The court dismissed the case.

During Authors Guild vs. Janet’s Mother, they sued because Janet bought a full price hardcover of Stephen King’s The Cell, then loaned it to her mother to read. The Guild demanded Janet’s Mother pay Stephen King a royalty, because she had no right to read what she hadn’t bought for herself. Janet’s Mother’s legal team dazzled with the famous, “Well, what about libraries?!” defense and the suit was dropped.

. . . .

The Guild recently remarked on their latest loss, to follow. Them in unreasonable bold italic font. I replied in sensible plain font.

Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals released its decision in Authors Guild v. Google. “The Authors Guild is disappointed that the Court has failed to reverse the District Court’s faulty interpretation of the fair use doctrine,” said Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director of the Authors Guild in New York. 

Apparently making all books discoverable on the Internet, which would not only add to the collective knowledge of the world, but help interested parties find the right books to buy, wasn’t fair use. That it would help people find more books to buy seems lost in the fear that people would rather surf the internet and piece together a book random page by random page at great frustration and time cost to get a maximum of 16% of the full title, out of order no less. We all love reading like that, don’t we?

“America owes its thriving literary culture to copyright protection. 

Actually, America owes its thriving literary culture to writers who are compelled to create. Copyright doesn’t ensure a writer makes money. Readers do. And if the readers can’t find the writer because–let’s take a wild leap here–the writer’s work isn’t searchable on the world’s biggest search engine, then copyright isn’t going to put one cent in that writer’s pocket.

. . . .

It’s unfortunate that a Court as well-respected as the Second Circuit does not see the damaging effect that uses such as Google’s can have on authors’ potential income.

Yeah, damaging. Someone Googles a topic, and it leads to a free except of my book. Every author wants people to browse a bookstore and find their book among the thousands of others. But to be able to do this online, 24/7? That’s stealing.

There are many ways to read a book without compensating the authors. Buy used. Go to a library. Borrow from a friend. Steal online. Use a paperback exchange. Read fan fic.

Authors shouldn’t fear being read. Being read will eventually lead to getting paid. Authors should be worrying about not being read, because readers don’t know they exist. Google Book Scan wants to show the world books that the world hasn’t ever seen before. The Authors Guild wants to micromanage this boon to authors and readers by collecting royalties.

Can someone call Mary Rasenberger on her landline, or if that’s too technologically advanced for her, send her a telegram, and let her know the rest of us are living in 2015.

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

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like what an author has written, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Zombie Publishing Meme #4: Self-Publishing is Costly and Risky; Legacy Publishing is Guaranteed and Free.

10 September 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Self-Publishing is Costly and Risky; Legacy Publishing is Guaranteed and Free

This meme takes a couple different forms. Sometimes it expresses itself as a comparison of the worst possible example of self-publishing to the best possible example of legacy publishing. Other times, the comparison is between the typical reality of self-publishing and the rare ideal of legacy publishing. Either way, the framework is misleading.

The meme is customarily introduced by someone claiming she explored self-publishing and was shocked to find it involved such high costs–$4000 just for editing, for example. The writer paid anyway, then was disappointed to discover that her ebook, which she was selling for $14.99, sold poorly and seems unlikely ever to recoup its costs.

. . . .

The writer then compares this unfortunate state of affairs to the possible ease of mailing out a few query letters, landing a six-figure deal with a Big Five publisher, and having all publishing services delivered smoothly and expertly.

In fact, many authors self-publish for nothing (both in ebook and pbook). They do it themselves, or barter for services (I’ll proofread yours if you proofread mine.) There are also many affordable freelance editors, artists, proofers, and designers.

. . . .

But regardless of what a self-published author chooses to spend on publishing services, it’s critical to understand that the author keeps her rights and the majority of revenues (typically 70% in digital). In other words, the costs of self-publishing–whether the self-published author prefers to spend a few dollars or a few thousand–are generally upfront; the payout is over the long term.
 
By contrast, the upfront costs of the legacy route tend to be relatively modest (if you don’t include time spent mailing out query letters and manuscripts, and waiting, perhaps permanently, to hear from an agent or editor). If you do land a legacy contract, you can expect some sort of advance (probably a few thousand dollars) and a promise that you’ll receive all relevant publishing services. In exchange, you’ll have to give up approximately 85% of revenues and you’ll almost certainly be surrendering your rights forever. The costs of legacy-publishing are therefore long-term; the payout, in the form of whatever advance you are offered, is upfront.
 
If a writer is lucky enough to get a gigantic advance–which Joe guesses only happens in less than 0.1% of legacy contracts–royalties don’t matter because they won’t ever be earned out. The advance is the only money the writer will likely ever see. But any advance less than life-changing money functions as an ridiculously high interest loan.

If you were a genre author offered a $100k advance earning 17.5% royalties off of the digital list price, and your ebook is priced at $4.99, you earn $0.88 per ebook sold. You need to sell 113,600 ebooks to earn out your advance. And when you do, you’re stuck with 88 cents per sale, FOREVER.

The same ebook, self-published, earns the author $3.49 per copy sold. If they sell 28,653 copies, they made the $100,000. Every copy they sell after that, they make 4x more money than they do on a legacy ebook.

Which seems like a better deal for authors?

Not only is the loan high interest, it’s also forever, because the author will never get those rights back.

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

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Zombie Publishing Memes #3 – Without Legacy Gatekeepers, No One Will Be Able to Find Good Books

2 September 2015

From Joe Konrath:

The thrust of the argument is this: without legacy gatekeepers carefully curating the slush pile and winnowing choice for consumers, the unwashed hordes of self-published authors will unleash a deluge of worthless books that will engulf the good ones, preventing readers from finding anything worthwhile.

Of course it’s true that when there’s too much choice for consumers to sample individually, we need third-party systems to help us winnow the choice down to manageable levels. But it in no way follows from this that legacy publishing is the only or even the best such third-party system.

Here are few things to consider. First, when was the last time you sampled every single book in a bookstore before making a selection? Even in legacy’s heyday, the industry was publishing something like a quarter million new titles every year. Whatever winnowing function legacy provides, it therefore seems not a particularly stringent one.

Second, are there existing third party systems you primarily rely on to help you select the books you want to try? Recommendations from family and friends? Newspaper, magazine, and blog reviews? Search terms? The bestseller racks in bookstores? Amazon customer reviews? Do these means of winnowing choice seem more or less important than the traditional gatekeeping function that results in hundreds of thousands of new titles every year?

. . . .

Fourth, if consumers really needed gatekeepers to help them manage their choices, the Internet itself would be useless. After all, for any given person, it’s a safe bet the Internet is 99.99999999% crap. And yet somehow, every day, each of us manages to find the good stuff amidst all that crap, all without any gatekeepers keeping the unwashed masses from putting their stuff on the Internet.

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

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG says this is the meme that is closest to the hearts of BigPub minions – they love having the power to gatekeep. They get attention from people who would never talk to them otherwise.

The Amazon Agenda

26 August 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Amazon was recently the subject of world news when the ever intrepid David Streitfeld, the NYT reporter that gave us the wonder of whale math, did a hit piece on Amazon corporate culture that came to the startling and controversial conclusion; Amazon employees work really, really hard.

. . . .

Streitfeld, too, has a book available on Amazon, though his dismal 700,000 rank may be part of the reason he dislikes Zon so much.

Last I checked, the five hundred plus signatories of the latest Authors United bullshit letter also all had their titles available on Amazon. That letter recently arrived at the DOJ, and I’d bet it wasn’t a coincidence that it was on the heels of Streitfeld’s anti-Zon piece. I can imagine their delicious, mutual self-gratification as Preston and Streitfeld exchanged super-important emails about how to best coordinate their Anti-Amazon efforts for maximum impact, and about how Suzie in Algebra is dating Brad now because he dumped Melissa after she gained weight, and OMG doesn’t gym class suck this year 4 realz?!?

. . . .

Here we have all of this vocal, public author disapproval of Amazon, yet no one has the guts to actually pull their books.

. . . .

Amazon has allowed more writers to reach more readers than any other company in history. They’ve done this by innovating, giving readers what they want, and working with authors to offer us much better terms than any publisher ever has, in the past, or the present.

The Big 5 are a price-fixing cartel who want to charge readers high prices. That’s why the DOJ went after them and Apple, and that’s why they lost the suit. They had an oligopoly over paper distribution for decades (the only way to reach readers was through bookstores, the only way to get into a bookstore was through those publishing gatekeepers). Because they controlled who got published, they could get away with giving authors take-it-or-leave-it unconscionable contract terms.

Amazon has broken that oligopoly by allowing readers to reach readers via ebooks.

Because of this, the Big 5 can no longer control book pricing—and independent author can undercut them—and as a result the Big 5 are losing marketshare to Amazon and to indies.

. . . .

This isn’t altruism on Authors United’s part. It’s greed. It’s wanting to return to the old ways, where top authors got seven figure advances. Great for that 1%, not great for the 99% that Big Publishing ignored, harmed, and/or took advantage of.

Because Authors United is a bunch of entitled rich and famous authors (who should be celebrating the luck they’ve had in life rather than whining like babies about Amazon), they’ve been wooing their media contacts to wage a public opinion war against Amazon by painting Zon as a bully.

. . . .

Authors United are a bunch of greedy whiners who don’t want the status quo to keep shrinking; and it is shrinking, for the good of all readers and the vast majority of writers. So they beat their chests and flail about, trying to spin media, hoping public opinion will make big bad Amazon stop disintermediating the publishers who have made them rich.

It won’t work. Authors United knows this. Their argument doesn’t hold up to US antitrust law, logic, or majority opinion. But they are seeing their livelihoods slip away because their corporate masters don’t control the book world anymore, so they’re throwing a public tantrum.

. . . .

I’m pretty tied into the indie community, and the thousands of writers I’ve encountered are smart, and aware. Sometimes they draw incorrect conclusions, or feel persecuted, but the difference between dealing with Amazon and dealing with the Big 5 is like the difference between and honest, open, friendly relationship, and being beaten up by a group of muggers.

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

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Zombie Publishing Memes #2 – Low Prices Devalue Books

24 August 2015

From Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler:

Low Prices “Devalue” Books.

The premise behind this zombie meme is not only wrong; it’s also exceptionally strange. After all, if you love books, why would you focus on their monetary worth rather than their worth in society? Isn’t what makes books valuable how widely they’re read, absorbed, and discussed, rather than how much money they make? And if books cost less and more people can afford them, doesn’t it stand to reason (assuming everyday experience is valid and what they teach in Economics 101 is correct) that more people will buy more books (in fact, they are doing just that)? If books are indeed valuable for society and we don’t want to devalue them, shouldn’t we look for ways to make books less expensive and therefore more widely accessible?

But even if you think the sole value of a book lies in how much money it makes, it’s silly to believe higher prices automatically mean more revenues. As a thought experiment: it’s unlikely anyone would maximize revenues with a five-cent price point, but then why not charge a hundred dollars for a book instead? Wouldn’t that $100 price point value the book even more?

Of course not. So intuitively, we all know there’s a sweet-spot price — the price at which volume x unit price maximizes revenues, and logically, this would seem to be the price that derives the greatest (financial) value from the book. If we make more money from our books at a five-dollar price point than we do at ten (not a hypothetical for us, by the way, but empirical fact), which is the price that’s “devaluing” the book?

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

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books and to Barry Eisler’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Zombie Publishing Memes #1 – Amazon is a Monopoly

20 August 2015

From Joe Konrath:

This is the first in an ongoing series that Barry Eisler and I are writing. When we talk about zombie memes, we’re referring to arguments that just won’t die no matter how many times they’re massacred by logic and evidence. Because we’ve been shooting down so many of these memes for so long, and because they just keep reanimating (often repeatedly from the same people), we thought it would be useful to create an online source for easy (and time-saving) reference.

We’ll be tackling these memes one at a time over the course of the next few weeks and then publishing a downloadable compendium, so if you’ve encountered a zombie meme that you’d like to see addressed, please mention it in the comments. And if you’re aware of articles out there on this topic, please refer us to them so we can include links.

We’d also like to ask for your help in spreading this cure. When you see the meme “Amazon is a Monopoly” anywhere on the Internet, please link to this post. When fighting the walking dead, a group is always helpful.

Amazon is a Monopoly.

This meme is incoherent, mistaken, and perverse.

Incoherent, because the “evidence” of Amazon’s monopoly power is always that Amazon is hard on its suppliers, not on its customers (no one can argue with a remotely straight face that Amazon is anything other than exceptionally customer-centric). If the evidence is that a company is squeezing suppliers, it might be evidence of something called monopsony, not of monopoly.

Mistaken, because Amazon has numerous competitors, including Apple, Google, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Kobo, Smashwords, Scribd, Oyster, and more than 2000 independent bookstores (with new indies opening all the time).

It’s important to remember that US antitrust laws were adopted to protect not competitors but competition. Monopolies (and monopsonies) are not themselves illegal — what is illegal is abuse or unfair acquisition of monopoly power. Ultimately, antitrust laws are intended to protect the consumer, and it’s difficult to argue that low prices, innovation, and an ever-expanding variety of products are bad for consumers (though valiant efforts are constantly made).

. . . .

Perverse, because it fails to point out there actually is a monopoly in publishing — or call it a quasi-monopoly, or oligopoly, or cartel. This is the New York Big Five (the cartel is right there in the name). The Big Five actually was prosecuted by the Justice Department for price-fixing under the Sherman Act. The Big Five settled; Apple fought and then lost. For any lawyers out there, note that price fixing is per se illegal under the Sherman Act. Meaning it is the very definition of abuse of monopoly power.

Of course, even if we didn’t know about the per se price collusion, we might surmise by its singular lack of innovation that the Big Five is functionally a single entity. Until Amazon pioneered online bookselling, digital books, and self-publishing, the Big Five was content to subsist on monopoly rents, developing nothing new or disruptive in generations.

In describing the Big Five as a cartel, by the way, we don’t mean to be insulting. We doubt even OPEC looks in the mirror and sees a cartel. Most likely, OPEC perceives itself as a humble organization beneficently managing prices for the good of society overall. This is just human nature, and there’s no reason to believe the Big Five views itself less attractively than does any other cartel.

Moreover, the Big Five has always itself functioned as a monopsony, abusing its author suppliers. How else to explain the forever-term contracts, the twice-yearly annual royalty payments, the lockstep low digital royalties, the outlandish rights grabs and draconian non-compete provisions? Could practices like these persist except by the abuse of vastly asymmetrical take-it-or-leave-it power exercised by a Big-Five controlled system against authors?

. . . .

The tendency of some writers to draw support for the validity of a zombie meme by citing previous manifestations of the same meme might offer some insight into the resilience of zombie memes generally. Zombie memes are based on emotion, not on evidence or logic (in fact, they are contravened by evidence and logic). It may be that finding other people who share your fears and prejudices has the effect of validating and reinforcing those fears and prejudices. After all, it’s easier to ignore evidence and logic when you can point to other people who seem to be feeling the same things you are.

. . . .

Ultimately, the “Amazon is a monopoly” meme is attractive to some because it seems to paint a veneer of objectivity and reason over what is fundamentally a subjective emotional reaction.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books and Barry Eisler’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Konrath Kindle Unlimited Numbers

16 August 2015

From Joe Konrath:

I might be pretty good barometer for this experiment, because I have a large backlist, I haven’t released anything new in over a year, and I didn’t do any BookBubs or other promo in June or July (May was the last one I did.)

So the only real difference between my numbers in June and my numbers in July is the new KU 2.0 payout system. I’d already shared some thoughts about it last month.

Let’s take a look how I did.

I have 28 novel-length works in KDP, all over 60k words. I have 17 shorter works, ranging from 8k-50k. Genres include mystery, thriller, horror, humor, erotica, and sci-fi.

In June, I made $9300 in KDP sales.

In July I made $10,550 in KDP sales.

In June, I made $5700 in KU/KOLL borrows.

In July, I made $11,600 in KENP reads.

So my KU income doubled under the new payment system. I have no idea what to attribute the extra twelve hundred in sales to, but it’s pretty clear that KU 2.0 benefits me.

Under the old system, I earned as much for With A Twist, which is 23 pages, as I did for The List, which is 310 pages.

. . . .

Under the new system, estimating $.005779 per page read, a full read of With A Twist earned me $0.16, and a full read of The List earned me $1.79.

. . . .

First, I wonder why I didn’t pay more attention to KU 1.0 while it was in full effect, because I should have written a ton of short stories. The short story market prior to Kindle was dismal. Getting into a top market was very hard. There was a lot of competition. Most markets paid $0.05 a word, so With A Twist was worth about $300, and I was lucky EQMM paid more. But the fact that I was making $60 a month on a short story is insane. Never before, in the history of publishing, have short stories been worth so much. I was fortunate enough to get that story into one of the top paying markets in the world, and I made $450. Under KU 1.0 I was on track to make $720 a year on that same story, just in borrows.

Second, even though short stories were finally lucrative, thanks to Amazon, my readers still seem to prefer longer work. With a Twist is a Jack Daniels short. Cherry Bomb, my weakest selling JD novel, had 313 borrows in June, and 179 sales. This is true for all of my shorts and novels; the novels had more sales and more borrows. Anyone who needs more proof of this, look at the thousands of reviews I’ve had for novels. whereas my shorts are lucky to garner a few dozen.

Third, readers really seem to like KU. I was getting more borrows than sales.

Fourth, even though readers did more borrowing than buying, I was earning almost twice as much via sales than borrows.

Maybe this is why I didn’t pay a lot of attention. I saw the numbers, saw that sales were still financially superior to borrows, and decided not to worry about borrows.

Now, there’s no doubt KU was cannibalizing sales, but I wasn’t complaining. I was in KDP Select, but it wasn’t my only source of income. So I didn’t worry about it, nor did I take advantage of it. It was what it was.

. . . .

Under KU 1.0, Amazon was rewarding writers for enrolling in KDP Select. Amazon wanted as many titles as possible, to build their Kindle Unlimited catalog. Shorts are easier and faster to write than novels, so Amazon rewarded short stories by paying authors much higher for shorter works, way out of proportion with novels and with the paper short story market, in order to get more titles into KU so it appealed to more subscribers.

Under KU 2.0, Amazon is rewarding writers for being good writers. Amazon wants writers to hook readers for longer than 10% of the ebook. Amazon wants good, meaty novels, which my numbers point to readers liking more than shorts.

. . . .

Under KU 2.0, I’m continuing to do what all professional fiction writers have done throughout history; write novels. It’s what readers want. With the rare exceptions of a few authors, no one made a living selling shorts. There was a brief moment, during KU 1.0, where shorts were valuable. Their market value has now dropped. Novels are going to earn writers more money. But they have to be good novels.

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

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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