Joe Konrath

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 Legacy publishers don’t like to be thought of as “previous” or “outdated”, even though they indeed are by any definition, so they reject the term because it conflicts with their personal identities.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

Two indie authors are making 8 figures annually

27 February 2014

From Joe Konrath and another commenter via the comments on Joe’s blog:

Joe Konrath said…

I think media generally will be microscopically fragmented.

I agree. And it’s a smart prediction.

But while we’ll have fewer blockbusters, and more of the niche artists sharing that pie, there will still be 80/20 rules and bell curves and occasional big hits.

And we do have some self-pub authors making 8 figures. I’m on the low end of the KDP bestselling author lists.

. . . .

Anonymous said…

Anon BB here again:

Joe said, “And we do have some self-pub authors making 8 figures.”

With the greatest respect (and you know we’ve known each other for years) … really? Plural? My ear is as close to the ground as anyone’s, and I know this business backward, and I have dozens of clued-in friends in the KDP community, and I have as many – or more – friends in certain Seattle offices as you, and that’s the first such claim I have ever heard.

The thrust of the OP was all about how authors should have accurate information. Is that really accurate? If you can’t provide links, have the person or people e-mail me privately, and I’ll retract right here in bold capitals.

. . . .

Joe Konrath said…

really? Plural?

Two is plural. So yes. :)

Keep in mind that while you’re privy to what the best of the best NYT bestsellers are making, I’m privy to what many of the top self-pubbers are doing. Many of them have contacted me directly.

But it isn’t my business to reveal their names, any more than I’d reveal your name.

It’s also fine if you don’t believe me. Prior to www.authorearnings.com, there were a lot of people that didn’t believe how big this shadow industry was. Some see the figures and still don’t believe.

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

Konrath on Patterson Deux

24 February 2014

From Joe Konrath:

James Patterson, in an unprecedented act of good will, is giving $1,000,000 to more than 50 indie bookstores.

It’s a generous act.

It’s also a misguided one.

Last year, Patterson committed another misguided act, buying an ad in the NYT asking who will save our books, our bookstores, and our libraries, and then suggesting the government needed to step in.

. . . .

I’m going to quote Patterson from the recent NYT article, and from things he said on NPR, and show why he’s wrong once again.

Patterson: We’re in a juncture right now where bookstores as we have known them are at risk. Libraries as we’ve known them are at risk, publishers are at risk, American literature is at risk, as we’ve known it, and getting kids reading is at risk.

Joe: I agree legacy bookstores are at risk. They’re at risk because people are buying their books online, and in different formats than paper. That doesn’t equate to books becoming extinct. It indicates a change in customer preference, both where people buy their reading material, and what format they buy it in.

. . . .

Patterson: (Via CBS Good Morning) If we don’t have good publishers, who is going to find the next Infinite Jest or To Kill a Mockingbird?

Joe: The readers, Jim. You know, the ones who have embraced those books and made them bestsellers.

. . . .

Patterson: I just want to get people more aware and involved in what’s going on here, which is that, with the advent of e-books, we either have a great opportunity or a great problem.

Joe: If you consider ebooks a problem and are truly concerned about the future of bookstores, you could always refuse to release your work in ebook format, Jim. I’m guessing you earn more on ebooks annually than the $1M you’re giving to bookstores.

If you consider ebooks an opportunity, and want to help children learn to read, I bet www.firstbook.org would accept a donation of 100,000 Kindles from you, loaded with all of your children and YA work. I bet that will get kids reading.

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

Legacy John Fisks Hugh Howey

20 February 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Joe sez: There is a new www.authorearnings.com report by Hugh Howey and Anonymous Data Guy. This time they looked at the rankings of over 54,000 Amazon titles.

The data blew me away. But my imaginary Big 5 Pundit, Legacy John, wasn’t impressed.

Legacy John: His data is all full of lies and nonsense and nonsensical lies. I want to do one of those fisting things that you do.

Joe: You mean fisking?

Legacy John: Where you take someone’s post and insult him, line-by-line.

Joe: Actually, the sarcasm is only a by-product of debating poor arguments, faulty logic, and bad data. I use it to accentuate how shoddy and worthy of ridicule their points are.

Legacy John: Whatever. You say you’ll let traditional publishers have their say on your blog, so will you let me fask Howey or what?

Joe: Sure. Have at it. I’m all about contrary opinions.

Hugh: One week ago, we released our initial Author Earnings report on the prevalence and breakdown of nearly 7,000 genre e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists. We only looked at three categories of genre fiction. Since that time, our spider has been hard at work gathering data on a wider variety of titles as it probes deeper into the lists. This time, over 54,000 titles were collected, practically every book on every Amazon bestseller list.

Legacy John: It is widely known by those who know things that the Amazon bestseller lists represent less than 2% of all book sales. This data is all bullshit, and I’ve heard that Hugh steals cars from the poor and tries to run over the elderly and military veterans and the disabled. Also, he invaded Peru.

Joe: Do you have any sort of evidence to back up these claims?

Legacy John: The truth needs no evidence.

. . . .

Legacy John: I’m pretty sure you lie about your sales, and are only popular because you got your start with the Big 6. You’re just angry they kicked you out because your writing sucks.

Joe: That’s actually not how it happened. If you read my blog–

Legacy John: No one reads your stupid blog, loser. Don’t cry sour grapes to me because no one wants to publish you.

Joe: I sense a little hostility.

Legacy John: Can you sense me flipping you off? Because that’s what I’m doing, right now, Konrath. And I’m going to Tweet that, too, and my six Twitter followers are going to RT and we’re all going to laugh and laugh like a cool high school clique who laughs at others. Then we’re going to take selfies combing our hair.

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

Indies Eat Publishers Lunch – A Semi-Fisking of Michael Cader

18 February 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Michael Cader has a two part report on Publishers Lunch, opining on Hugh Howey’s and Anonymous Data Guy’s Authors Earnings website.

The second part of his post is behind a paywall.

Now, I dislike paywalls, in much the same way I despise DRM. But Cader is entitled to try to earn a living, and if he wants people to pay for his silly opinions (unlike me, who offers silly opinions for free), that’s his prerogative. So rather than fisk him word-for-word as I’d normally do, I’m going to respond to specific excerpts according to the doctrine of Fair Use. If Cader, or anyone else who has read his complete piece, feels I’m missing his point or taking things out of context, feel free to chime in and correct me.

Michael: It’s a quiet “news” day, so we’re going to start looking at what a lot of people have been talking about this week: bestselling self-published author Hugh Howey’s “Author Earnings” website and “report.”

Joe: Congrats, Michael! In the first five words of your post, you managed to marginalize and denigrate Hugh Howey and his report not only once, but twice.

First, by claiming that the only reason you’re deigning this topic worthy of your time is because it is a quiet news day. Perhaps because there was no collusion to report on, or because Turow has been blessedly quiet lately. But we know the truth: Howey’s report was so popular his server crashed (over 50,000 unique hits in four days) and I haven’t seen Twitter and Facebook activity like this since the DOJ ruling.

Second, by putting “news” in quotes, you’re slyly stating that Howey’s report isn’t news at all.

Which amuses me, because that’s my feeling about “Publishers Lunch.” And for the record I only read your article because I was looking for a decent critique of Howey’s new venture, but I found you instead.

Michael: That information is being presented as revealing “data” about how the ebook world really works.

Joe: Actually, Hugh’s info is being presented as revealing how big a portion of Amazon’s sales are self-published vs. legacy published, while estimating how much authors make off of each type of publishing. Because Amazon is very often the largest generator of author income, authors are very interested in this information. Which is why Hugh and Data Guy named the site “Author Earnings” and not “How The Ebook World Really Works.”

I’m “also” going to sponsor an “intervention” to get you to stop abusing “quotation marks”.

. . . .

Michael: At the end of the day, asking questions and challenging assumptions ought to be valuable for us all. Sometimes being provocatively wrong is a very effective way of getting people to re-examine their assumptions.

Joe: Agreed. But not always. For example, right now you’re being provocatively wrong, but your two part article didn’t effectively get me to re-examine my assumptions. What it did was help me cement the opinions I already had about how the legacy industry tries to explain away its mounting fear of the future by using incomplete data (the same thing you accuse Howey of) to further your own agenda.

. . . .

Michael: The primary reason we do not have deep data and transparency about ebook sales, in both units and dollars, is because of Amazon. They keep their data private for competitive advantage in the marketplace, plain and simple. (BTW, if Amazon were to disclose their data in a Bookscan-style system, the other major players would happily participate.)

Joe: I’m transparent with my numbers. So are many self-published authors (search Kindleboards.com for “sales thread”). We get clear, detailed reports from Amazon, and we share them publicly.

Do you know who doesn’t share them?

Publishers.

Publishers, who are getting the same reports from Amazon as we authors get.

I post my numbers, down to the annual unit sales per title. The Big 5 don’t post theirs.

And I bet any of the Big 5 would throw a huge hissy fit if Amazon suddenly put out a press release saying “Simon & Schuster Sold X Number of Ebooks This Quarter.”

Publishers have a hundred year history of keeping their data private. And not only private, but cryptic and often indecipherable, as any author reading his bi-annual royalty statement can attest to.

Publishers didn’t invent Bookscan. They’ve never been forthcoming with their sales figures. Hell, you can’t even get a straight answer out of them as to exact print runs. There is NO WAY they’d ever start sharing information as you suggest. If they did, Amazon wouldn’t have to share numbers, because we’d all have the same information Amazon has. We’d have even more information, because publishers could also reveal their B&N, Kobo, and iTunes sales.

And when they do, I’ll ride a flying pig through a snowstorm in hell while wearing a T-Shirt that says “I Was Wrong”.

. . . .

Amazon, in a rare case of revealing data, mentioned there were over 150 authors who each sold over 100,000 ebooks in 2013. That’s 15 million ebooks that legacy publishers didn’t sell. And those are only 150 authors.

But earlier you discounted PR stories released by Amazon as “entirely in the etailer’s self-interest.”

Well, c’mon, Michael. Make up your mind. Do you want Amazon to disclose data, or not?

Now let’s take a closer look at Hugh Howey’s data. According to Data Guy:

“Our sample of the top 7,000 Amazon genre e-book bestsellers alone–just the small sample we took–adds up to $185M/year when the daily SP revenue is multiplied by 365. It’s right there in the spreadsheet we shared: the indie part of our sample adds up to $500,000 /day in gross dollar sales.”

So just the top 7000 authors in a few genres on a single retailer are doing better than your predicted $180M a year for the whole shadow industry of self-publishing.

. . . .
You also talk about the USA Today bestseller list. I don’t know how the list is compiled or weighted. I don’t care. I made a million bucks last year and didn’t appear on the USA Today list, even though I was an Amazon Top 100 Author dozens of times, often selling thousands of ebooks per day.

You also talk about Bowker and Codex and yes, I get it. Publishers Lunch is for publishers, and you can cite sources that show publishers they need not be concerned about the self-publishing revolution by going into explanations about how growth is flat or rising or falling.

Authors. Don’t. Care.

Studies and surveys and polls about ebook sales only matter to authors in terms of how much the author pockets.

And since publishers make their living off the backs of authors, perhaps they (and you) should be less concerned with what Peter Hildick-Smith is tracking, and more about what Hugh’s and Edward’s data shows: lots of self-pubbed ebooks being sold. Self-pubbed ebooks that earn 70% of list price for authors, not 12.5% of list. Self-pubbed ebooks that are taking up a good deal of real estate on Amazon’s bestseller lists—real estate once entirely occupied by legacy publishers.

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

A Case of the Shatz – Fisking Mike Shatzkin

14 February 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Mike Shatzkin, sounding more and more like an apologist and less like the forward-thinker he’s been in years past,took a stab at poking holes in Hugh Howey’s new www.authorearnings.com endeavor.

In the comments, Hugh gracefully said he agreed with 86% of what Mike said.

I, however, found little to agree with. I’m also not much in the grace department.

I’ll take Mike point-by-point, which begins after a few paragraphs of introduction.

Mike:  Hugh’s latest business inspiration — a call to arms suggesting to independent authors that they should just eschew traditional publishing or demand it pay them like indie publishing — is potentially much more toxic to consume. (The agenda here is unclear. Is Hugh most interested in getting more authors self-publishing or in organizing authors to demand better terms from publishers? It’s hard to tell, but there is an agenda, it would seem.)

Joe: Hugh’s agenda is transparent, both on his blog, and on www.authorearnings.com, and in the email exchanges and conversations I’ve had with him.

He wants authors to be informed so they can make correct decisions.That’s also my agenda.

Your agenda, Mike, is also transparent. As is the agenda of the Big 5, most literary agents, and the Authors Guild. You all earn your living from the legacy industry, and if there is a mass exodus of authors to self-publishing, you all are in deep doo-doo.

I’ll reiterate: Hugh is losing time and money on www.authorearnings.com. He won’t get his time or money back. I could have written a dozen novels instead of blogging these past years. Neither of us charge authors any consulting fees. We do what we do as a public service.

. . . .

Mike: 3. Unearned advances and their impact on author earnings. Unearned advances are a substantial part of author compensation. I know of one Big Five house that calculates that they pay more than 40% of their revenue to authors and another which says that number is in the high 30s. That’s not all digital, some of that is print with manufacturing and warehousing and shipping costs associated with the revenue. How can you compare how authors are compensated if you don’t calculate the benefits to authors, meaning the resulting higher percentage of the revenue they’ve taken, of unearned advances? That relevant data is also not available.

Joe: Mike, could it be the advances are unearned because legacy royalties suck?

If you were a genre author offered a $100k advance earning 12.5% royalties off of the digital list price (25% of net, and publishers sell to Amazon at roughly 50% off their digital list price), and your ebook is priced at $4.99, you earn $0.63 per ebook sold. You need to sell 159,000 ebooks to earn out your advance. And when you do, you’re stuck with 63 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 5.6x more money than they do on a legacy ebook.

Which seems like a better deal for authors?

Also, unless the author is a mega bestseller commanding astronomical advances, guess what happens if the author doesn’t earn out? They don’t get any new deals from their publisher, even though the publisher STILL holds onto their backlist rights.

Publishers can afford advances because they make triple what authors do in royalties. It’s a high interest loan (ridiculously high interest), and even if it isn’t paid pack by earning out, the publisher can still do very well.

. . . .

Mike: 5. Current indie successes where the author name or even the book itself was “made” by traditional publishers. Another factor any author self-publishing has to consider is the likelihood of success, which is much greater if the books are backlist (have some fame in the marketplace) or even if just the author has been previously published. Successes like Howey’s, from a total standing start with no prior writing track record, are quite different from others who have reclaimed their backlists and used them as a platform to build a self-publishing career.

Joe: Mike, reread what you just said.

“others who have reclaimed their backlists and used them as a platform to build a self-publishing career. “

First of all, these backlist books obviously weren’t selling for the legacy publisher, or else the legacy publisher never would have returned the rights.

Second of all, if the authors who got their backlists returned were able to build a career, WHY THE HELL WOULD ANYONE SUBMIT TO LEGACY PUBLISHERS EVER AGAIN?!?

Pardon my yelling, but what you just said shows your absolute inability to understand what’s happening here.

To rephrase what you just said:

Legacy publishers couldn’t sell the same books that went on to make self-published authors successful.

. . . .

Mike: This bias of sample is compounded by the focus on genre fiction. No matter how big a percentage of those niches is served by Amazon, it is important to remember that it is where they are relatively strongest in relation to the big publishers. If we were comparing literary fiction or biographies — both of which have lots of worthy authors too — the chances are the cost of an Amazon-only distribution strategy, or an ebook-only distribution strategy, would be far higher. And the chances of success would be far lower.

Joe: Then publishers should have nothing to worry about. They’ll still get lit fic and biography submissions. Problem solved.

That is, until ebook sales climb in those categories as well.

Hmm, how much lit fic and biographies to publishers actually sell? How big are those pie slices?

I wonder, when the data come in, if those authors also do better self-pubbing. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what Hugh digs up.

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

PG would add a quick thought on unearned advances.

Typically, they fall into two categories:

1. Advances paid to big-name authors that neither the author nor the publisher ever anticipate will earn out. The advance is the only payment the author expects.

One of the reasons for these is that many publishers have most-favored-nation provisions in some of their contracts that will escalate the royalty rates of those contracts to match the highest royalty rates the publisher pays to any author.

So rather than directly pay the big-name author a higher royalty rate, the publisher pays an advance that will never be earned out at the lower royalty rate. This effectively pays the big-name author a higher actual royalty per book sold without triggering any most-favored nation clauses in other contracts.

2. The second unearned advance category is for books that didn’t sell nearly as well as the publisher thought they would – business mistakes. As is mentioned in another post today, publishers seldom make a second such business mistake on the same author.

Fisking Donald Maas

8 February 2014

From Joe Konrath:

Ah, class warfare. The royals vs. the peasants. The bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. The establishment vs. the revolutionaries. The haves vs. the have-nots.

The gatekeepers spouting bullshit vs. the new breed of writers calling them on their bullshit.
I present literary agent Donald Maass from Writer Unboxed, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, currently $9.99 on Kindle and ranked at #25,065.

Thank you, Mr. Maass, for posting your BS publicly so I may dissect it, line by line, exposing it for the utter crap that it is. Then after I wrote my responses, I asked Barry Eisler for his take.
Here’s Donald…

Donald: This month in keeping with our look inside publishing, I’m departing from my usual craft advice to give you my view of the new state of the industry.

I don’t see the new shape of things as many do: the twilight of the dinosaurs, the old-thinking Big Five print publishers staggering, falling to their knees and heading for extinction as they’re overwhelmed by a nimble army of small, warm-blooded mammals whose claws are the sharp, smart, flexible tools of electronic publishing.

Joe: I understand why you don’t see the new shape of things, Donald. Neither did those in the travel industry. Or the music industry. Or the film camera industry. Or the network TV industry.

Isn’t is interesting how these billion dollar industries, when confronted with Expedia and Orbitz and Priceline (sorry Travel Agents)  and iTunes and Napster (sorry Record Company Executives) and digital photography (sorry Kodak and Polaroid) and cable TV, Netflix, and YouTube (sorry ABC, NBC, and CBS) also felt they had nothing to fear, until their market share evaporated before their eyes?

Within the past few years, one of the two major book chains disappeared, the Big 6 became the Big 5, the DOJ brought suit against many of the companies you regularly do business with (and the AAR stupidly defended), and ebooks have gone from idea to the increasingly preferable way readers buy media thanks to a new company that revolutionized the way books are sold.
But you don’t have to see the new shape of things. You don’t have to see the thousands of authors making more money than they ever could in the antiquated, archaic system you’re attempting to defend. It isn’t necessary for you, Donald, to recognize change. Change happens anyway.

. . . .

Donald: First, e-books have not hurt the print publishers but rather have helped them. Especially in the recent recession, low-cost/high-margin e-books have been a bright spot. They’ve kept publishers profitable even as brick-and-mortar book retailing has shrunk and consumers have grown cautious. With the mass-market paperback pricing itself nearly out of existence, low-priced e-books have arrived (with help from the Department of Justice) to keep value-conscious readers reading. Of course, the difficult and expensive business of selling print books must still be faced but at least there’s some gravy to make the task tasty.

Joe: Indeed, ebooks have helped publishers. Even after the lame ass attempts at high prices and windowing and collusion.

Do you actually understand why ebooks have helped publishers, Donald?

Hint: Because publishers screwed the writers. Where were you when the lock-step 25% ebook royalties crept into author contracts? Are you currently fighting for better ebook royalties on behalf of your clients? Did you read my post ridiculing David Gernert for saying stupid things like you’re currently saying?

Are authors an unlimited resource, like oil (ha!) to exploit for you and your industry? You continue to sell them books on how to succeed. You continue to do deals with the Big 5. It’s easy to see what your agenda is.

My agenda? All of the information I provide, I give away for free. This blog is a public service to my peers. I don’t take 15% for helping them. And I don’t charge $9.99 for a Kindle book. Like your ebook Writing the Breakout Novel. Now, I may be missing something, but I don’t see any breakout novels available on Amazon written by Donald Maass. But I’m sure your advice is good, even if you didn’t take it yourself. After all, you’ve been so persuasive so far…

. . . .

Donald: Fourth, as I said, a new class system has arisen. Here’s how it breaks down:

Joe: Because the one thing this world needs is another way to divide classes of people based on subjective, prejudicial nonsense.

Barry: Okay, let’s short-circuit this. Leave aside Maass’s obsession with dividing authors into classes, and his inability to see the real class distinction he is part of and supports: publishers and agents as royalty; writers as peasants. The real problem is with the analogy itself. Because when it comes to freight/coach/first, all that matters is whether you have the money to buy a ticket. But publishing is a lottery, not a sure-fire ticket you can buy if you just have enough money. Also, while there’s no reason to prefer coach to first class other than price, there are lots of reasons many authors seem to prefer self-publishing to legacy publishing — some because they’re making more money self-publishing, and others because they prefer the flexibility, control, and time-to-market. Something odd has to be going on in your mind if you miss differences this obvious and come up with analogies this incoherent.

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

If The Donald is new to you, a whole lot of TPV visitors talked about him here.

Questions From Steve Zacharius, CEO and President of Kensington

20 January 2014

From Joe Konrath:

To sum up, a legacy author recently posted her sales figures, Lexi Revellian blogged about it, Passive Guy mentioned it, and the CEO of Kensington, in a brave and bold move, began to respond in the comments on Passive Guy’s blog.
Kudos to Steve. I admire that.

At one point, Steve asked some questions of indie authors. He seemed sincere in wanting answers, so I’m happy to supply them.

Steve: I’d like to ask some questions of all of you self-published authors. For those of you that are starting out and even those that have a few books under their belt….how do you promote your book online? How do you distinguish it from the other 1,000,000 books on Amazon and other ebook retailers? Do you sell your books on all of the ebook stores or only Kindle?

Joe: I’m not starting out, Steve. I signed my first book deal in 2001, and had eight novels published by large legacy publishers.

My advances for those eight books were $265,000 combined, and they earned out and I made an additional $300,000 in royalties. Not bad, right? But over the course of 11 years it resulted in roughly $43k a year. And considering all the travelling I did (I signed at 1200 bookstores in 42 states and attended dozens of conventions, book fairs, and events) there was very little left over to live on.<

In January of 2013, I was able to get my rights reverted back to me.

In the past 12 months, those titles have earned me $600,000.

Consider that carefully, as the CEO of a large publisher. Once I was no longer under contract, I was able to make over 10x what I was making with big NY publishers.

Why?

Many reasons. Better royalties, for one. Having the ability to control my prices and put my books on sale. Advertising through companies such as BookBub. Bundling titles together. Tweaking my product descriptions and keywords. Getting new covers.

Once I was in charge, I turned midlist titles into a cash cows.

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

Konrath’s Publishing Predictions 2014

30 December 2013

From Joe Konrath:

I’ve been looking to the future, wondering what is going to happen next, and I’ve got a few equally wild ideas.

1. The end of Barnes & Noble as we know it. In 2014, paper book sales will no longer be significant enough to sustain the nation’s largest bookstore chain. There may be bankruptcy and restructuring and the selling of assets (like the Nook), but ultimately it will result in many stores closing, and possibly the demise of the brand.

. . . .

4. Indie bookstores will need to start selling self-pubbed books, or perish. Paper isn’t going away anytime soon. But there won’t be enough of a legacy supply that will keep the necessary number of diverse titles on shelves to make indie stores a worthwhile destination for shoppers. If indie bookstores deal directly with self-pubbed authors, and print their own copies to sell in their stores, they can build inventory and cut out the share normally taken by publishers.

. . . .

5. Visibility will become harder. As more ebooks get published, and virtual shelf space expands, it is going to become harder to find eyeballs. Ebooks aren’t a competition–readers buy what they want to, without limits, even if TBR piles become impossible to ever finish within a lifetime. So someone who buys my ebook will also buy yours; there is no either/or. But only if the reader is aware of both.

The future will be about actively cultivating a readership. So far we’ve been lucky. With KDP Select and BookBub, authors have been able to get visible without reconnecting with longtime readers. There have always been enough new readers to sustain sales. But I believe maintaining a fanbase is going to become increasingly more important.

That means having an up-to-date website, making it easy to sign up for your newsletter, staying active in social media, and regenerating your brand with new titles and continued promotions.

My prediction: self-pubbed authors who don’t focus on their current, core readership will see sales diminish.

. . . .

7. Big 5 mergers and layoffs and bankruptcies. As the publishing cartel loses its quasi-monopoly on paper distribution, there will be no way to support its infrastructure. Manhattan rent, in-house employees with benefits, length of time to publish, and the temptation for authors to avoid legacy and self-pub, will bring down the industry. There is too much waste, their share of the pie is getting smaller, and when B&N disappears there will be no way to recover.

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

Konrath and Eisler vs. Richard Russo and the Authors Guild

13 December 2013

From Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler:

Joe: As 2013 draws to a close, we’re fortunate to hear from our good friends at the Authors Guild, who share with us an earnest attempt to get members to rejoin.

Which, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know is a TERRIBLE IDEA.

The Authors Guild under Scott Turow’s leadership has done an awe-inspiring job of trying to maintain the antiquated status quo, where publishers coveted their power and treated most authors poorly; technology is considered the devil’s sorcery; and Amazon is Satan himself.

Here, hopefully for the last time, is Scott Turow, presenting a letter by Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo to Authors Guild members. Turow asked for this to be forwarded to friends, so I’m forwarding it to roughly a hundred thousand of my blog readers, interspersed with occasional thoughts from me and Barry Eisler.

. . . .

Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t Turow be concerned with what the Guild can do for authors, and not what authors can do for the Guild? Isn’t the whole point of the Guild to help authors, and not simply to acquire as many authors as possible so the Guild can continue to exist?

How messed-up is it when an organization–created by writers to benefit writers–realizes it has to take steps to explain how it benefits those writers? Has the Authors Guild figured out out that it needs writers more than writers need the Guild?

If so, good for them, because they are correct. Writers don’t need the Authors Guild. Many writers do need guidance, but they should seek it from peers who are living in 2013, not in 1998. We should seek help and advice from those who are thriving in this new publishing world, not those who made fortunes in the legacy world, years ago.

. . . .

Seriously, where’s the part about how the “Authors Guild” has secured for authors digital royalties better than the 25% legacy industry lockstep? Where the AG has succeeded in preventing legacy publishers from draconian rights lockups? Or gotten the legacy industry to share real time sales data with authors? Or pressured the legacy industry to present royalty statements in a fashion just marginally clearer than the Dead Sea Scrolls? Or dragged the legacy industry away from its insistence on paying authors amounts due only twice a year?

Richard and Scott, you’re trying to sell authors on the benefits of membership–membership that will cost those authors money–and you can’t point to even one single concrete success you’ve had (in over a century of existence) in supposedly defending author interests?

. . . .

Richard Russo: An Open Letter to My Fellow Authors

It’s all changing, right before our eyes. Not just publishing, but the writing life itself, our ability to make a living from authorship. Even in the best of times, which these are not, most writers have to supplement their writing incomes by teaching, or throwing up sheet-rock, or cage fighting.

Joe: Holy sheet-rock.

Actually, I though the sheet-rock and cage fighting references were funny. (Intentionally funny. Things become unintentionally funny later.)

But I have to take exception to Russo’s assertion that these are not the best of times.

In February of this year, I got my backlist returned to me, and self-published the titles once controlled by legacy publishers.

The most I ever made from these books, when controlled by legacy publishers and including all advances and royalties (all of my legacy pubbed books earned out their advances), was $50,000 a year.

This year I’ve made $1,000,000. Because I–not legacy publishers–control my intellectual property.

There are thousands of authors who were once legacy published, or were rejected by legacy publishers, or didn’t even bother submitting to legacy publishers, who are making real money, paying real bills, because of this self-publishing revolution. Visit www.kindleboards.com to talk to a few hundred of them, and read about some of the most successful at http://www.kboards.com/authors/.

This is the greatest time ever to be a writer. Unless, perhaps, you are a writer who was a huge bestseller under the old system…

. . . .

Richard: It wasn’t always so, but for the last two decades I’ve lived the life most writers dream of: I write novels and stories, as well as the occasional screenplay, and every now and then I hit the road for a week or two and give talks. In short, I’m one of the blessed, and not just in terms of my occupation. My health is good, my children grown, their educations paid for. I’m sixty-four, which sucks, but it also means that nothing that happens in publishing—for good or ill—is going to affect me nearly as much as it affects younger writers, especially those who haven’t made their names yet. Even if the e-price of my next novel is $1.99, I won’t have to go back to cage fighting.

Joe: Here begins the fundamental disconnect.

Richard, aren’t you aware there are thousands of writers making a living from $1.99 ebooks? That what you considered to be a slight (and, actually, it may indeed be a slight when your publisher pays you 35 cents on a $1.99 ebook when I can make $1.36 on a $1.99 ebook using Amazon Select Countdown) in fact represents liberation for writers–and for readers?

Inexpensive ebooks aren’t what make authors dig into their retirement funds. Or fight in cage matches. It’s quite the opposite. I’ve made my million bucks this year pricing my backlist at $3.99 and under. And my books weren’t available in every bookstore, airport, drugstore, and department store.

In fact, my books weren’t available in ANY bookstore, airport, drugstore, or department store.

. . . .

 Joe: Perhaps, Richard, you believe you are addressing those “less fortunate” authors. But you aren’t. Because the only authors who are being forced to settle for less in this new publishing paradigm are hardcover and paperback bestsellers. Those who have won big prizes, and enjoyed huge print runs, and had movies made from their intellectual property. For everyone else, self-publishing and Amazon Publishing represent new choices, and therefore greater opportunity.

Richard: Not everyone believes, as I do, that the writing life is endangered by

Joe: This is a long list here, so we’re going to break it down point-by-point…

Richard: the downward pressure of e-book pricing,

Joe: This was my best earning year ever as a writer. It was also the year I did the least amount of work. I only released one new solo novel this year, did zero interviews, zero speeches, zero travelling, zero conventions, zero book fairs, and my only self-promo was some advertising (BookBub and others) and this blog.

All with the titles in my oeuvre being $3.99 or less.

Barry: Ah, the Orwellian language. “Downward pressure of e-book pricing.” Known in plain English as “lower-priced books.” Which people who value reading and care about readers would presumably want.

But it would be uncomfortable for Russo to make the argument honestly: “I’m against lower-priced books. I think less expensive books are bad.” So, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink, he instinctively hides behind the jargon, instead.

My previous publishers insisted on pricing the ebooks of my new novels at $12.99. By contrast, my Amazon-published novels come out at $5.99 (and my new one, Graveyard of Memories, out on February 11, will in fact be priced at $4.99). I’ve sold far, far more copies of these low-priced Amazon titles, and made far, far more money from them, then I did with any of my legacy priced books. Similarly, my legacy publishers charged $7.99 for my backlist titles in digital. When I got my rights back and self-published those titles earlier this year, I halved the prices–and more than doubled my income. Why is that bad?

And one thing that pisses me off any time I have to listen to whining about how “books are being devalued” and “downward pricing pressure” and similar such bullshit bingo in which Russo engages: it includes not a thought about what’s best for readers. Don’t readers benefit from lower-priced books? Don’t we want more people to be able to afford more books? But to the extent Russo cares about readers at all, it’s exclusively in a self-centered, reductionist, trickle-down-economics fashion, along the lines of, “What’s good for the publishing industry must also be good for readers” (watch, he really does this a little ways down).

Link to lots, lots more at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and thanks to Nick for the tip.

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