Kristine Kathryn Rusch

What Market?

27 November 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

This past week, I’ve talked with a lot of writers about writing to market. Not just because of last week’s blog post, but because I had done a group author signing at Powell’s on Sunday, and the topic came up again. At dinner after the signing, one of the writers asked, “What market are indie writers writing to?”

Indeed. That’s a very good question. Because there is no answer. Or should I say no good answer. Not in indie publishing anyway.

Let me explain.

Back in the days before the ebook revolution hit, there was an actual market that writers could write to. That market was defined by traditional publishers.

Traditional publishers—without doing any market research at all—would declare certain genres dead because sales had tapered off. (Sales had usually tapered off because mediocre books got published in that genre after the big surge of good books. More on that below.) At conferences, editors would state that their company was looking for a certain type of book, usually a subgenre.

Often those editors were editing brand new imprints at very old companies, an imprint that the traditional publisher was starting to capitalize on some perceived market trend, and needed a new stable of writers to fill.

Usually writers didn’t have to write to market for these imprints. Usually, writers had a trunk manuscript in that very subgenre, something other publishers (or even that publisher) had turned down years before.

. . . .

Last year, Pocket Books opened a new sf and fantasy imprint, after years of not publishing any sf/f except in urban fantasy and romance. (Those of us with sf/f books still in print from Pocket from the previous incarnation of the sf/f line back in 2000 had been effectively orphaned all of that time.)

I’ve been through these traditional publishing waves dozens of times in the past thirty years. So-n-so has started a new imprint at such-n-so big company and promises it will have dozens of New York Times bestsellers. Then the books don’t do well or the sales force loses interest, the editor moves on to another company or is downsized or is promoted, and the imprint gets canceled or morphed into another imprint altogether.

Those are publishing markets that writers can figure out. The markets are defined by the new imprint or the new editor’s tastes.

. . . .

Clearly defined markets were the hallmark of the closed publishing system that existed before the ebook revolution—from the perspective of writers. Traditional publishers were just flailing in the dark. Because traditional publishing is the only multibillion dollar industry that I know of that does absolutely no market research at all. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

They hire editors for their “gut,” and fire those editors when their “gut” fails them. Often failure is defined by such stupid things as “This erotica title didn’t sell as well as expected.” What was the expectation? “Oh, that it would sell at least as well as Fifty Shades of Grey.” Which was aphenomenon.

The publisher, of course, wouldn’t look beyond that expectation to see that the erotica title sold half of what Fifty Shades sold, which made the erotica book more successful than, say, that literary novel everyone in-house loved. But because everyone in-house expected the literary novel to sell only 5,000 copies, and it sold 5,005 copies, it was successful, and the erotica novel, which sold (oh, I don’t know) 100,000 copies, was not.

Because of unrealistic expectations.

. . . .

There is no market.

There is a marketplace.

A wide-open marketplace that lets readers browse and find whatever is to their tastes. Think of one of those bazaars you find in major cities, the kind of bazaar that goes on for blocks and blocks. Sure, there’s a lot of fresh fruit currently in season, and some lovely woven scarves and some beautiful hand-carved bowls. But there are also one-of-a-kind items, from artists who might not be able to afford to be near the entrances, but you can find them if you look.

That expanded marketplace is new in publishing. Before, the gatekeepers controlled every single stall in that marketplace. You couldn’t find the lovely one-of-a-kind item even if you walked past every stall in every aisle.

Now you can.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

Click to Tweet/Email/Share This Post

Writing to Market

20 November 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Marie Force wrote a lovely blog post this week on the five-year anniversary of her major success as an indie writer. She busts a few myths about her career in the post, and she’s very clear about her numbers, and the events that came together to launch her success. She’s written something similar before, but not in quite as organized a fashion. Take a look with an open mind. You’ll benefit from it. (Thanks, Marie! And congrats!)

I’m going to mention a few of the myths she busts in that post, and then I’m going to look at one thing she focuses on, something that other writers either miss, scan over, or don’t understand at all.

. . . .

While Marie was traditionally published when she started her self-publishing career, she hadn’t been in traditional publishing for very long. She really didn’t have much of a platform. Look at the dates she lists in her blog, and realize that the publication of her “big” traditional books happened in the same period of time as her indie books starting up.

Some of her traditional publications were with a small press. The bigger traditional publisher who took her—Harlequin—had her in their Carina line, which, at the time, was e-book only unless a book took off.

So, her traditional publishing “platform” wasn’t really a platform at all. It barely counted as a dock at the edge of a shallow lake.

The build in her career—traditional and indie—started at the very same time.

. . . .

Marie Force kept her indie published titles secret in the beginning. She did zero promotion, because she was worried about “publisher retribution.” She didn’t want her traditional publisher to know that she was self publishing — even though contractually, she could self publish.

Smart woman. Traditional publishing is nothing if not unpredictable.

She was on the cusp of the ebook revolution, when there were a lot of devices, and not a lot of content. Her books were good, and they sold, primarily by word of mouth—word of mouth that she had nothing to do with in the first several months of her self-publishing career.

. . . .

She’s a good writer. Readers like Marie Force’s books. She’s constantly improving her craft, telling stories that she loves to tell.

In other words, that free book was one of those promotions that’s really hard to replicate in the market of 2015.

Writers tend to miss that—the way that promotions change.

My Real Point

Writers tend to miss something else, in all these stories of wild success.

The successful writer does something new, and daring, and different.

Not in promotion. Not in cover design.

In the book itself.

From Marie’s blog:

I’ll never forget the reason my agent said the publisher gave for rejecting True North: “No one wants to read about a super model.” Those became the nine words that changed my life. At that point in my “career” I had received a lot of rejections. I’d need a third hand to hold them all. By then, every romance publisher in the business had also rejected Maid for Love, Gansett Island book 1. I’d grown accustomed to rejection, but the True North rejection made me mad. It made me sad. And it made me determined to take control of this ship myself.

Most writers see the last sentence of that paragraph as the all-important part of what she’s saying. While it’s important, it’s not the most important thing here.

What’s truly important is the fact that Marie Force self-published a book in a subgenre that traditional publishers believed to be worthless. The story of a famous person (insert your favorite noun here—super model, star quarterback, actor, high-powered CEO, singer) was considered unsalable in New York, for some reason I’ve never understood.

Believe you me, writers for decades have butted their heads against that one. For every book that slipped through, like the Nora Roberts category Once More With Feeling that got me started reading her work to Suzanne Brockmann’s Heart Throb, there were dozens, maybe hundreds, that didn’t sell—just because traditional publishing “believed” that those books wouldn’t sell.

I put “believed” in quotes on purpose. Traditional publishers never do market research. Their prejudices come from their gut or from the results of a book badly published decades before.

So, when the country supposedly got sick and tired of the Western in the late 1970s, traditional publishers gave up on them. Try selling a Western to a traditional publisher these days. Can’t be done, unless the Western has another label—like Weird Western (western & fantasy) or Western romance (self-explanatory).

Somewhere along the way, publishers decided that romantic suspense didn’t sell, either, and that once-booming market has trickled—in the traditional world—into a handful of writers.

Why is the fact that True North, the book that launched Marie Force’s successful indie career, is about a super model important?

Because the book—in addition to being good—filled a gaping hole in the market. Readers were looking for famous-people romances, and they bought that one.

If you look at the game-changing novels that have been published in the U.S. in the last 100-plus years—and believe me, I have—what you’ll find is this: They are, to a book, stories that were unique, different, and (dare I say it) original.

There was nothing else on the market like those books.

They were not part of a major subgenre. They were not part of a trend. If anything, they were the kind of book that got rejected a lot, the kind of book the gatekeepers said could never, ever sell.

Ever hear of Harry Potter? The DaVinci Code? Presumed Innocent? The Flame and the Flower?—ooh, wait. That’s probably too far back in publishing history for you people.

All of these books surprised their publishers with the success. Just like True North surprised the publishing world with its success.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

Getting in Touch

13 November 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I opened my email tonight before I sat down to write this blog, and found an annoyed letter from an editor friend of mine.

Do you have the email address for [writer]? I went to [his/her] website and got an annoying popup that tells me to subscribe to a newsletter. As far as I can tell, there’s no other way to contact [him/her].

Let me tell you from long experience, we editors only email each other after exhausting whatever avenues we have at our disposal. We start with our own databases or have access to (like professional organizations we might belong to), then we go to Facebook or the social media we might share. If those methods fail, we go to the author’s website because, logically, it should have contact information.

Only after we’ve done those things do we contact other editors or friends. With authors who routinely change their email addresses or rarely check their business email accounts (!), it’s still difficult. Because authors never keep their editors informed of email changes. And if the author checks her e-mail once in a blue moon, then we editors don’t know if our email never arrived, if the author isn’t answering because—I don’t know; they randomly decided we’re not nice any more—or if the author doesn’t answer email more than once a month.

. . . .

It’s not just new authors with this problem. It’s established authors as well. Last year, I emailed a friend of mine, whom I have known since 1990. We’re not close, but we’re not acquaintances either. He was well known when we met. He’s better known now.

I sent an email about a visit because I was going to be a few miles from his home town. For the first time in our relationship, he never answered. A few weeks later, I emailed him about a business matter, and got a form letter back.

Hello. I am [Writer’s] assistant. I will forward your business letter to him. He will answer if he deems it appropriate.

. . . .

I knew this writer’s email was the correct email, and I had it legitimately.

I emailed, asking for reprint rights. Silence. Crickets, chirping. More silence. I emailed again. Nothing. So I double-checked my databases. Yep, email address was the one I’d used before.

Then I went to the website to see if the contact email had changed.

There, in bold letters, were these words:

All business matters must go through Writer’s agent. Any contact regarding business matters made directly to Writer will be ignored.

Seriously? Even from friends? Really?

And even more annoying, no agent was listed. Just the name of a large agency, not the name of the agent to contact among the agency’s dozens of agents. So, I still had to go to my editor friends who had recently bought a story from Writer to make sure that Writer’s agent was indeed the agent listed for Writer on Publisher’s Marketplace.

These are the weird barriers that writers set up to prevent people from giving them money. I am astonished.

These are not unusual problems. Writers may not have a website. Or they might use Blogger, so you can contact them in the comments section, but not through a private comment button. Or writers will submit their manuscripts to a project with an e-mail address only. If the email bounces, then how the hell am I supposed to contact them? Smoke signals?

. . . .

Check your damn email more than once a week. Have a Facebook account so that people can contact you—you don’t have to maintain your page. Just a tiny presence—and check it weekly. Because often, someone will message you through Facebook. Someone who can’t reach you via email.

Think worldwide, people. There are countries in the world whose people do not have a free internet. Your internet provider might be blocked from a Chinese service, for example, because of something someone else blogs about (not you), and that means your email address and the Chinese person’s email address cannot communicate. But the Chinese person can probably contact you via Facebook.

Think it through.

Be easy to contact.

Yes, yes, I know. Some of you who read this blog are really famous, and you have issues with both fans and trolls.

Deal with it simply: have an email address that’s public, and one that’s private. Let your friends know they cannot give out your private email to anyone. That means your friends have to email you and ask. I send these letters to famous friends all the time:

My Editor Friend wants your email address. May I send it to him? Here’s his email if you want to contact him directly.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

As a reminder, you can get in touch with PG via the Contact Page. He sent and received his first emails centuries ago and has been obsessive about checking email since then.

Talking To Writers

30 October 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I just got back from MileHiCon in Denver. Not only did the con committee and the attendees treat me well, I had an absolute blast. I met a lot of people—readers, fans, wannabe writers, published writers—and I saw a lot of old friends.

. . . .

I have no idea how to talk to a room full of writers any more.

I know that sounds weird. I talk to writers all the time. Just before I went to MileHiCon, I helped Dean teach the first four days of the week-long Master Class for professional writers that we hold here on the coast.

. . . .

It used to be that everyone on the panel would give the same answer to basic questions. On the basic how-to-get published questions, there was only one answer, and it was the same for writer after writer after writer.

In fact, those of us on the panel were interchangeable. It didn’t matter if I sat there or another writer sat there or a relatively new writer sat there, we all gave the same answer. So did editor after editor, agent after agent.

Everyone who had the smallest bit of writing experience stopped attending publishing panels at cons because those writers had the basics down.

Now, the basics differ depending on who you talk to. We all agree on craft issues. To sell, whether traditionally or direct to readers, writers have to tell a good story. A good story includes all elements of craft—good plot, memorable characters, a clearly defined setting, and so on and so forth. Writers need to learn all of that, and never stop learning. We all can improve our craft and we should work at it, day after day after day after day.


When we move to how to get published, writing panels actually get contentious now. When Dean and I spoke at a writers conference in Idaho in May, we debated whether or not we would say what we really believed. Because if we said what we believed, we would anger half the room. And (bonus!) we would piss off every agent in the place.

I have a lot of trouble fudging my answers if I believe someone will get hurt if I don’t speak up. And on the topic of agents, my beliefs have shifted strongly. I believe (and have seen) most writers get seriously harmed by having an agent.

I can’t, in good conscience, recommend a writer have an agent for any reason.

Before I accept a writers conference request, I always explain that I will anger every agent and book doctor who shows up. I anger agents because I think they’re no longer useful. Some agents I’ve met at writers conferences are not only no longer useful, they are actively harming writers. I know this, because I’ve seen it or experienced it.

. . . .

The book doctors who show up at mainstream writers conferences fall into two categories. Those book doctors are either scammers who want to make money off writers who don’t believe in their own work or the book doctors are well-intentioned souls who have never sold a book of their own yet somehow believe they can make a book marketable.

Both types are complete and utter waste of money. There are real book doctors who work in traditional publishing. They’re hired (for a minimum of five figures—usually more like six) by a traditional publishing house to either improve a manuscript or to write it from scratch. Generally, those book doctors work on guaranteed bestsellers, whether they are written (or should I say bylined) by a celebrity like Snooki or whether they are written by a former bestselling writer who has gotten ill or has writer’s block or a wide variety of other problems.

If a publishing house has spent millions on a project and that project suuuuuuucks, then a book doctor gets brought in to make the project acceptable so that it can recoup its investment. If it wasn’t fixed, the project wouldn’t last longer than a day or two on the bestseller list before word-of-mouth put the book out of its misery.

Those book doctors never show up at writers conferences.

. . . .

I sigh, and say that with all honesty, I can’t recommend any agent. I mention the fact that it’s illegal in all 50 states to practice law without a license, which most agents are doing, and I mention that you just don’t need them for anything, and on and on, trying to keep my answer relatively short.

The woman who worked for the agency was incredibly cool. We agreed on most things. She’s bright and is a writer herself, and handled me with aplomb. Of course, she rebutted some of what I said, but not all of it (turns out, I learned after two panels with her, we agreed more than we disagreed), and she ended her statement with a sentence that I hate.

I’m sure Kris can do these things because she’s Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Hell, no. I can do these things because there’s this thing called “the internet” and writers I know who do not have the credentials that I do have done the same things and more because they have a “contact” button on their website. Good books are good books, and foreign rights offers as well as movie/TV offers follow the good work, not the big names.

. . . .

The 1995 answers don’t really work any more. It’s a shark tank in the traditional publishing world, and if a minnow enters, it will become chum within the first five seconds of its attempted tenure in the tank.

So many writers are minnows with no desire to swim with the sharks. And the problem is that in today’s publishing environment, the writers have to be able to swim with the sharks comfortably and easily to survive.

Writers who’ve gotten their feet wet in the publishing industry, writers who’ve finished more than one book, who’ve submitted more than one short story, who are driven and work hard, know this. They’re coming to panels and conferences to learn how to become sharks—at least when it comes to business.

But the minnows, they don’t want to learn anything except how to be sell that one project. And the poor things, they’re going to get screwed.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

Author Earnings…Again

16 October 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’m watching numbers for the next four weeks or so, not because I need to boost my sales or anything, but because a number of promotional experiments are all occurring at the same time.

On top of it, the latest Author Earnings report came out, with some information I mentioned was missing from previous reports. Hugh Howey and Data Guy took those suggestions from me and others as a request (which I appreciate!) and so, released a new report the day after I blogged about the old one. Yep, I was the one who was late, not them, so this time, I’m blogging immediately.

. . . .

I believe every promotion that a person does has to have a goal. Many of the promotions that I’m doing, some of which surround the boxed set that I’m doing with eight other authors, mark my first concentrated effort on a few of those things.

. . . .

This time, Hugh and Data Guy looked at Apple, Kobo, Nook, and Google Play in the United States only. The numerical results surprised me as did, I suppose, Hugh and Data Guy’s personal conclusions.

First, the numerical results. In the United States, Hugh and Data Guy found that “when indie books without ISBNs are included in the statistics, Amazon accounts for 74% of all US ebook purchases and 71% of all US consumer dollars spent on ebooks.”

That didn’t surprise me. Right now, Amazon U.S. is huge. The numbers also show that almost all of the remaining 26% of ebook purchases come from Kobo, Apple, Nook, and Google Play, with Google Play being the smallest retailer of the bunch. Apple was the big player here, and I expect that will grow over time.

What did surprise me, in a pleasant way, was this: “At those 4 other stores, self-published indie ebooks make up 22% of all ebooks purchases and take in 32% of all author income generated by ebook sales.”

Thirty-two percent is a nice number. It’s higher than I expected. I had thought those four also-ran bookstores would have smaller figures in the United States.

. . . .

If the ebook market were as limited as the print market had been in the 20th century, where territorial rights governed the licensing of books—where, in other words, writers sold North American rights separately from rights in Great Britain; where readers in France might not ever hear of an English-language book they might be interested in, even if they were English readers; where no one outside of a particular country even knew an authors name—

If that world still existed, then, yes, the advice to remain “narrow” and Amazon-only would be good advice.

But Amazon is not the biggest player worldwide. Its stores are only just now cracking the international market. Apple is the biggest player on the international stage, with an Apple store in damn near every major city in the Western World, and many in Africa and Asia as well. The iTunes store, with books prominently displayed, penetrates all of those places and, as some studies have just shown, readers in other countries spend a lot more time reading on their mobile devices than Americans do.

When I tell indie writers to go wide with their book distribution, I’m not telling them that because they can get 26% of the U.S. market. I’m telling them they need to pay attention to the international market. Amazon might always be the biggest player in the United States. But internationally? It’s not even the biggest player now.

Most of the money I earn on Kobo and iBooks comes from countries outside of the United States. The main reason I insist on staying with Smashwords, despite their ridiculous quarterly payment schedule, is because so many of my international readers want to buy directly from them, without having to own an Apple device and some of the fees and penalties that those readers have to pay in Amazon’s store.

The internet has leveled the playing field in more than one way: it has given information aninternational immediacy. When I announce a new book release, my readers in Japan know about it at the same time as my readers do here in the United States.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Stephen and several others for the tip.

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

Kris Rusch on Author Earnings

9 October 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

A while back, I promised I would look at the new report from Author Earnings. I needed time to assess the data for the purposes of this blog.

. . . .

I also write this blog primarily for career writers, those who are either in the writing business for the long term or hope to be in it for the long term.

That automatically makes me an outlier among bloggers. I have 30+ year professional career in publishing, in all aspects of publishing except agenting (which is something I never, ever, ever wanted to do), so I have a long term approach to all that I look at, including a historical approach. What is old is often what is new.

And what looks obvious sometimes isn’t.

That said, I have three problems with Author Earnings. Hugh and Data Guy do not work magic. They’re trying to find out information here, and they are limited by the way they have set up their company. They’re aware of the problems I am going to list below, and address them in their report, mostly by saying they don’t have access to that particular data.

My problems with the data? First, Author Earnings measures one day on one bookstore. Yes, it’s the largest bookstore in the United States, but not in the world.

Second, Author Earnings only measures ebook sales on that one bookstore. Not print sales, not audio sales, not outside earnings.

Finally, Author Earnings tries to separate their data into “traditionally published writers,” “self-published writers,” “writers published by Amazon” (which is, by the way, a traditional publisher), and “hybrid writers.” Their categories leaves out the most business-minded writers, those who understand how to set up corporations, how to establish their own small traditional publishing companies, and those who publish a multitude of books in a variety of ways.

That makes Author Earnings data small and specific, not really a snapshot of the industry at all, but a snapshot of the ebook sales on one bookstore in the United States, a snapshot that shoves some of that information into categories where it doesn’t belong.

In other words, like any statistical analysis, it has flaws.

Once you recognize the flaws, however, as Hugh and Data Guy do, you can work with the numbers to make some conclusions. Especially given the last report they released at the end of September.

. . . .

They created a study that did the things they wanted. They wanted to know, specifically, what route a new writer of 2015, with manuscript in hand, should take to have success. Success, as Hugh and Data Guy define it in the study, is hitting Amazon bestseller lists and making a “midlist” income of at least $10,000 per year.

Let’s ignore the fact that most one-book midlist authors in traditional publishing do not hit bestseller lists nor do they make $10,000 per year even if that was the advance.

. . . .

Hugh and Data Guy found that long-established writers, who were publishing before the year 2000and still consistently hit bestseller lists out earned every other writer on the list. But, according to Hugh and Data Guy:

13 out of the 20 authors who debuted in the last five years, and 8 of the 10 authors who debuted in the last 3 years, and who are now consistently earning $1,000,000+/year from just their Kindle ebook best sellers are indie authors.

So the thrust of the study is this: If you want to earn the most money as a writer in 2015, publish indie. Which to me is a well-duh, because indie writers earn at least 65% of their retail prices (which the indie writers set themselves), and traditionally published writers—ebook only—earn 25% of net price paid, minus 15% for an agent.

However, ebooks on Amazon make 70% of retail, and Amazon is what Hugh and Data Guy measure.

So for an ebook priced at $10 (because $10 math is easier for Ole Kris here), the indie writer would earn a minimum of $7.00 for each sale.

The traditional writer earning number is dicey from the beginning. What is “net” after all?

“Net” varies from contract to contract, writer to writer. But let’s assume that “net” is 75% of the retail price (assuming, perhaps falsely, that a traditional publisher will get a better deal from Amazon). That means the publisher gets paid $7.50, and the writer gets 25% of that number, which is $1.875. The agent then gets 15% of that $1.875, and the writer is left with roughly $1.59 per book.

The indie writer earns $5.41 more per ebook sold than the traditional writer.

. . . .

Most traditionally published midlist ebooks sell the same number of copies as an indie published ebook by the same writer, if the books are priced the same. The indie writer will make more money. Significantly more money.

. . . .

When I look strictly at ebook sales, I have to wonder why anyone would go with a traditional publisher any more. (When you factor in paper books sold over three years [as opposed to six months of release], the sales numbers are similar, and the indie writer earns more as well. But that’s a blog for another day.)

. . . .

They write:

There are fewer than half as many traditionally published authors as indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years and are now earning consistently at the $25K/year level or $50K/year level from Kindle ebooks.

Numerically, Hugh and Data Guy are correct, but the situation is worse than they allow. They make it seem like they’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison for writers whose work released in the past three years, but the comparison isn’t apples-to-apples.

What’s the difference? Traditional publishing does not (yet) allow for a writer to release more than four books a year under the same name and in the same series. Yeah, there are a handful of exceptions, writers who release more than four books per year traditionally, all in romance. There are also exceptions who are forced to publish only one book per year traditionally, mostly in mystery or literary mainstream. So it balances out. That four books per year is me being generous.

Assume, though, that the debut traditional writer is “fast” and working in a genre other than romance. He’ll publish one book per year, no matter what his genre. So at the end of three years, he has at bestthree books. In many cases, because of the vagaries of a publishing schedule, he’ll publish two at the end of three years, with a third coming “real soon now.”

A debut indie author can publish as many books as he wants in that period of time. If he’s really fast, he can publish a book per month. But let’s give him two books per year. Not really a huge advantage, but still, he’ll have six books out (or five with a sixth coming out) in three years.

Readers like it when an author has a lot of books to choose from. That indie author will double his e-book money simply by doubling the books published.

. . . .

But if you add in what I just mentioned above, that the indie writer who debuted in 2012 will already have a career while the traditional writer is still finding her sea legs, you can extrapolate forward. For writers who debuted in 2010 or 2012 or 2015, indie is the way to go.

Indie writers earn significantly more money. They’ll publish more books. They’ll have a career much faster, and one that is sustainable. A traditional publishing career requires the writer to be flexible and write under many names–if the writer signs the proper contract. Most don’t.

. . . .

But if you want a career as a writer, if you don’t want to have a day job, if you only want to write, then it seems to me the safest path to take is the indie path. You’ll have more opportunity. You can work hard and publish a lot and make money doing so.

Will every indie writer make six-figures per year? Hell, no. Nor will every traditionally published writer. But what this particular Author Earnings report shows is that if you want the chance of making six-figures or more per year with your writing, the best publishing path is indie.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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

PG says Kris has, as usual, focused on the key point for most authors – Do you want to make a career as an author? If so, the rational choice is to go indie.

Yes, it is still possible to make a career as an author by being traditionally-published, but it’s much less likely you will succeed. It’s not the safest route. It’s the riskiest route. In the first place, you have to run the find-an-agent then find-a-publisher gamut and most people get shut out there.

Then, you’re in the slow lane for getting your books to readers – one per year. Five books in five years (if everything goes perfectly because you’re not in control of the publishing process).

You have to hope the readers who bought your first book remember you one year later. Most won’t, particularly enthusiastic readers who read lots of books. If I read one book per week, I don’t remember the names of all 52 authors I’ve read in a year. Absent huge, huge sales (which very few traditionally-published first novels or second, third, etc., generate), promoting a traditionally-published author’s second book is almost as much work as promoting their first.

Plus the large majority of the sales revenue generated by tradpub books goes to support the publishing/distribution/retail sales structure. You have to sell many, many more books as a tradpubbed author to make the same money an indie author does.

PG did some math (always a dangerous thing) to compare indie vs. tradpub earnings based upon the concepts Kris discussed.

Basic assumptions for the comparison:

  1. Ebooks Only
  2. Indie Ebook is $2.99, Tradpub Ebook is $8.99
  3. Both books sell 10,000 copies per book in the first year and 2,000 per book per year thereafter as backlist
  4. Both books are in the 70% royalty category on Amazon
  5. Indie author publishes 3 books per year, tradpub author publishes one
  6. The comparison covers a five-year period, beginning with the first year an indie author and a tradpub author publish their first book
Ebooks Sold Price Royalty % Earnings
Indie (per book) 10,000 $2.99 70% $20,930.00
Traditional (per book) 10,000 $8.99 17.5% $15,732.50
Five Year Earnings Total First Year Average Annual Earnings (first year only, no backlist)
Indie (3 books per year) $313,950.00 $62,790.00
Traditional (1 book per year) $78,662.50 $15,732.50


Backlist Sales (20% of first year sales)
Indie Backlist Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Total Backlist
Total Backlist Books 0 3 6 9 12
Backlist Earnings 0 $12,558 $25,116 $37,674 $50,232 $125,580
Traditional Backlist
Total Backlist Books 0 1 2 3 4
Backlist Earnings 0 $3,147 $6,293 $9,440 $12,586 $31,465
Five Year Earnings (First Year+Backlist) Total
Indie $439,530
Traditional $110,128


This isn’t perfect because the indie author won’t release three books at the beginning of each year, but as you move forward and the number of books in the backlist for the indie author grows so much more quickly than a tradpub author’s backlist, PG thinks those differences will be smoothed over.

An essential fact that Kris points out is that, so long as each author keeps writing at the assumed pace, the indie author is going to have many, many more titles in print than the traditionally-published author.

Additionally, it’s well-known that publishers ignore the large majority of their backlists and put no promotional effort at all into them while indie authors can and do promote their backlist books in a variety of ways.

This comparison is based on ebook sales only at Amazon royalty rates. It does not include any estimate of bookstore sales. PG will note that, for most fiction titles, bookstores are focused on new releases and a great many (most?) tradpubbed authors won’t find many of their backlist titles in most bookstores. If you’re a tradpub author, check your royalty statements for the number of hardcopy books sold for your titles that are three, four or five years old.

The Overwhelmed Writer

25 September 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Sometimes I look at all the things I’ve done, all the truly stupid mistakes I’ve made, and I’m amazed I still have a career.

Fortunately for me, indie publishing came along. I was able to get out of the traditional publishingnovel merry-go-round, which never suited me, and able to publish my novels on my own.

There are a lot of capable people working in traditional publishing, some fantastic editors, and publishers who really care about writers and books. I love working with those people. I consider it a privilege to interact with them.

But now, I’m straddling both worlds, and I find myself a bit overwhelmed by the weirdness of both pace and deadlines.

Traditional publishing has its systems, many of which have existed for more than a century. A book gets turned in. The editor reads it, edits it, then the writer revises (if asked). The book goes back to the editor who reads it again (reads again in theory—I’ve had dozens of book editors who have punted on this step). The editor approves the book, puts in for the acceptance check, and sends the book to the copy editor. There are rounds of copy editing, proofing, cover design. There are sales meetings, scheduling, planning charts, promotion discussions—none of which involve the author, especially if the author is being paid less than six-figures for the project (and sometimes not even then).

The book goes out for review four to six months in advance of publication. The book is also in the catalog, and about that time, major retailers are placing advance orders. The book gets finalized, it gets printed, and, on the big day, it hits the shelves. (There are lots of steps in between which I am leaving out.) Then the promotion machinery hits its peak. With luck, the book sells lots of copies very fast, it hits lists, it gets good word of mouth, and then…and then…

The pages of the calendar turn. Another book comes up in traditional publishing’s queue. Your book becomes less important, then it becomes unimportant, and then it gets forgotten.

You—the writer under contract—are working on your next book, and that machine gears up for it again.

The moment the publishing house commissions a book from you to the month after publication usually takes two years. Some special projects take less time—Dean and I did some tie-ins which went from commission to publication in six months—and many take more time. My first novel took so long from commission to publication that I had sold eight more books to other publishers before it appeared.

. . . .

A traditionally published book takes two years, generally, to work its way through the process, only to dominate the shelves for a month or so (if, indeed, you’re lucky enough to be a dominant author). God knows how many years it took you to get a publishing house interested in the book.

So for a writer, a book might take anywhere from three to five years from the first proposal to publication. Some traditionally published authors wait to write another book until the first one sells. I call those writers hobbyists. They clearly don’t have a profession or a work ethic, at least for writing.

. . . .

WMG is a traditional publishing company. Yes, Dean and I started it and we’re involved with it, but it’s a corporation, with others who actually run the business. WMG is a small traditional publishing company, and purposely nimble. (Actually, in traditional publishing, WMG fits into the medium size press category, based on the sales and number of titles printed. When I say small I’m referring to the number of employees, and the overall business structure. WMG Publishing doesn’t have a lot of baggage, no longer has too many employees who can get away with sitting on their asses and getting paid for minimum effort, and therefore there is no possibility for a game of Telephone.)

WMG uses the some of the best parts of indie publishing (quick turn arounds on some projects, the ability to rebrand immediately, flexibility in the schedule) and the best parts of traditional publishing (all of the sales systems that have existed for decades, for example) to become a new entity. A hybrid-traditional publisher.

But when I finish a project that will end up being published through WMG, that project goes on a schedule. It goes through rounds of proofers, copy editors, design, much of that stuff in the traditional publishing section above. The project acquires a publication date, and sometimes there’s a promotional push behind that publication date. Meaning that we’re using the traditional system to gain attention for the book—reviews, getting preorders, making sure the book is on shelves before release.

. . . .

[WMG] keeps its assets active. In fact, as some of you know, WMG has spent much of the summer rebranding its larger projects, so that they look better for the market of 2016, rather than looking like books published in 2010.

WMG is not the only company like this these days. Several other small publishers have arisen in the past five years similar to WMG, and all of these new companies keep their assets alive as books. A book is a book is a book, and the newest book is no more important than a book published five years ago.

In fact, the good folk at WMG actually prefer the older titles. They’re more familiar with those titles, and the staff have a ton of marketing ideas for them.

. . . .

I’m sure Bookbub has dealt with a lot of writers and publishers who want to send them new titles to skirt the reader review issue (Bookbub prefers reader reviews and likes). Eventually, when you try to game a system, those running the system notice and put up roadblocks to prevent.

Bookbub, and the dozens of services like them, want to advertise what we used to call backlist. The stuff I mentioned above, the stuff that gets forgotten by old-school traditional publishers.

Yet most of the promotions Dean and I have done through WMG have been backlist promotions.

. . . .

All of those old titles, the ones that were dead in traditional publishing, have come roaring back to life. The old titles have fans who want a particular series book now, the old titles have opportunities (do you have a high fantasy to promote, because we’d love to include you in this…?), the old titles have value again as much more than a book listed as an asset on a spreadsheet (with an ebook ghost floating around).

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Toby for the tip.

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

Changing Tastes

28 August 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The June, 2015, issue of Vanity Fair had a nice little puff piece on the upcoming Star Wars film (the June issue came out in May), The Force Awakens. Interviews with J.J. Abrams, discussions with Kathleen Kennedy, a few tidbits about the storyline and George Lucas’s (possible) reaction to it all.

Star Wars is and was a cultural phenomenon, and I would expect Vanity Fair to cover the new film in one way or another, just like it’s covered the Oscars and Downton Abbey and other things that the society is currently discussing.

But I didn’t expect the article’s focus. It was worried that somehow the Abrams film wouldn’t upset “persnickity” fans. Okay, I assumed, as I started reading, that this was an anti-fan article. Yeah, that stuff happens, especially in some of the more elitist magazines like Vanity Fair.

However, the deeper I got into the article, the more I realized that the tone wasn’t about “persnickity” fans. The author of the article, Bruce Handy, also seemed concerned that the film would upset people who loved the original three movies.

He ended with this paragraph:

…“wonderful preposterousness” isn’t a bad descriptor of the Star Wars ethos at its best. Reviewing another scene, with spaceships blasting away at each other with phasers or whatever, Abrams could briefly be heard making ray-gun noises, the way a kid lying on his bedroom floor and drawing his own spaceships might. That galaxy far, far away appeared to be in good hands.

The fact that a magazine like this one worried that the “galaxy far, far away” was in good hands damn near floored me. I have been knee-deep in the women in sf project, and that has taken me back to the big sf fights of my early career. One of those fights was against space opera and the Star Wars/Star Trek fans “taking over” sf. In fact, as recently as ten years ago, David Brin edited an entire book on that very issue, Star Wars on Trial. I had an essay in that book, defending the media properties, an essay that Asimov’s also reprinted.

The idea that elites and critics would worry about the upcoming Star Wars movie living up to the original…well, it makes my brain hurt.

Those fights back in the day were pretty ugly. The woman responsible for the tone of The Empire Strikes Back, screenwriter and sf writer, Leigh Brackett, had trouble being taken seriously be the sf establishment of the 1970s, partly because her style of sf was considered passé—even though she influenced almost everyone writing and editing sf back then.

. . . .

Leigh Brackett was and is a marvelous writer, and if you read her science fiction, you’ll understand why Lucas asked her to contribute to the original Star Wars trilogy. Essentially, Lucas’s entire universe wouldn’t exist without Leigh Brackett.

I had a few moments of panic because of Hamilton’s comments. I read them just before NASA’s New Horizons space probe changed everything we “knew” about Pluto. Fortunately, I never wrote about Pluto. But I wonder sometimes what we “know” about something, that I’ve written about as hard sf or even as contemporary fiction that will be debunked in the future.

I cringe at times, because I came of age when the arguments were loud, particularly in sf, about what was and wasn’t appropriate for the genre. Whether I agreed or not, those arguments went in.

It took me forever to write space opera, and it took some creative traditional editors to buy it. Nowadays, we can publish what we want, indie if traditional publishing doesn’t want what we’ve done, and public opinion shouldn’t make a difference.

But it does.

Writers still put themselves in boxes. You can see it in the comments section of my recent rebranding post, where some of the people commenting followed a link from other sites. A handful of the people following links didn’t read the post at all. They just looked at the rebranded covers, and schooled me in what paranormal romance readers expected.

. . . .

[M]y Grayson novels—which were marketed as paranormal romance ten years ago—don’t fit much of the genre expectations at the moment.

That will change again in a few years. Genre expectations always do. That’s what Hamilton was fighting in his defense of Leigh Brackett. That’s what we looked at with the redesigned covers. That’s why people who were born after the original Star Wars trilogy have no real idea that, among the sf genre purists, those movies were reviled.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment, whatever that moment might be. Since I’m digging into thirty- and fifty- and seventy-year-old fiction right now, I’m finding a lot of things that aren’t acceptable to modern audiences. From smoking cigarettes on spaceships to stories causally using racist terms to terms that no longer mean what they meant sixty years ago, I occasionally get inundated with then-versus-now.

. . . .

I think Lee always wanted Watchman to be in print. It’s a vindication, of sorts, almost sixty years later, of what must have been a terrible time for her. The book is finally in print, for good or for ill.

When she wrote that book, everyone would have understood the subtext. Now, she’s “ruined” Atticus Finch by portraying him as a bigot.

Here, I think Le Guin is spot-on. She writes,

So I’m glad, now, that Watchman was published. It hasn’t done any harm to the old woman [Lee], and I hope it’s given her pleasure. And it redeems the young woman who wrote this book, who wanted to tell some truths about the Southern society that lies to itself so much.

Times change. Opinions change. What is “true” changes as well.

And books still follow trends—or lead trends.

I’m not sure how Watchman would have been received had it been published in 1958 or 1959. It might’ve simply disappeared, and Harper Lee might’ve been a midlist author of good quality books for twenty or thirty years.

Instead, she wrote a second novel at the urging of an editor who liked the nostagic parts ofWatchman better than its truths. Mockingbird echoed the national mood of 1960, as the white establishment learned that injustice existed, injustice that people of color had lived with for generations. Mockingbird is an important book, not just for the excellent story that it tells, but because it hit the zeitgeist and helped with the national conversation of its time.

Some books do that. So do some movies.

Vanity Fair covered the new Star Wars movie because Star Wars, along with Jaws, changed the way that movies were made, and what was “acceptable” in film. We wouldn’t have any of the Marvel films or any of the summer blockbusters without Star Wars. But going to the movies would have been a lot less enjoyable.

. . . .

We can write what we want.

The trade-off is that hitting the cultural zeitgeist is much harder. The world has gotten bigger. The days when a single book rests on the coffeetable of everyone who reads are long gone.

What we gain in freedom, we lose in attention.

And many writers do their best to build boxes around themselves, as you can see from those comments a few weeks ago. Even indie writers believe that there are Rules To Be Followed, and Tastemakers To Be Placated.

Weirdly enough, in this world where we can upload the book today we finished writing yesterday, we have to wait to get attention for it. Yes, we might get our usual readers to pick up a copy, but for the book to have “legs,” for it to make an impact, that takes time.

And sometimes that time might be years, not weeks. The book we published today might be part of a cultural trend ten years from now. It’s up to us to remain informed, to see the trends building, to change covers or point out that this book—which first saw print a decade ago—actually has a lot to say about what’s going on right now.

It’s a whole different way of thinking about things, a way we’re not yet used to.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

What Traditional Publishing Says It Does Best

14 August 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Last week, Steve Hamilton utterly destroyed his career—or would have, if it were 2005. Steve, a New York Times bestseller and two-time Edgar winner, pulled his novel, The Second Life of Nick Mason, from St. Martins Press less than two months before the book’s release.

Steve didn’t just pull the book; he canceled the entire four-book contract. His agent repaid the monies that St Martins had already paid on that contract.

Why would a writer do such a thing? According to the articles I saw, Hamilton claims that the book, which had received excellent pre-publication reviews, was getting no support from the publisher.

To be clear, I should add two things here as a former St. Martins author that might color my perspective:

  1. Like Steve, I got excellent prepublication reviews before all of my Smokey Dalton books were published, as well as promises of huge promotions on those books. The promotion never happened; the books were dumped. St. Martins is the company that sent me on a book tour and refused to supply books. So…
  2. In all things here, my sympathies and my experience lead me to believe Steve. You might see me as biased. Go ahead. Because I am. :-)

What St Martins promised on the back of the galleys sent to reviewers and places like Publishers Weekly was this:

A 75,000 copy first printing, and a lot of national marketing, including a national author tour and a national ad campaign for the book.

But not even Publishers Weekly, an industry trade journal, was buying that. In an article about Hamilton’s parting with St Martins, Rachel Deahl of PW wrote, “It is an open secret in the publishing industry that claims made on galleys and other material for the trade–about everything from first printings to marketing budgets and efforts–can be gross exaggerations.”

In that article, Steve says he’s canceled the contract because of a lack of publisher support. Since he’s been with St Martins for 17 years, he knows what he’s talking about.

. . . .

In the past eight years, I’ve canceled two book contracts because publishers didn’t fulfill their promises. I felt relief both times.

But I had options, even before the changes in publishing. Steve had options as well. It looks like his agent had talked with other publishers before pulling the book from St. Martins. After the book’s rights were freed up, over 10 publishers bid on the book.

G.P. Putnam’s Sons (part of Penguin Group USA) won the bid for “substantially more than the near-seven figures Hamilton was to have received from St. Martin’s,” according to the AP report on the new sale.

The world has changed. Back in the day, no publisher would have bid on a book already in production, no matter what was going on. And no agent would have tried this, no matter how bad things got.

But Steve’s agent, Shane Salerno, is not a New York based agent. He’s an author himself, as well as a filmmaker, and screenwriter. He runs a company in Los Angeles called the Story Factory. He’s not playing by the old rules at all, which is good, because large corporate publishers aren’t either.

But let’s assume that Steve had done all of this without having other publishers in his back pocket. These days, he still had options. If no one had offered on the book, he could have published it himself.

If he handled it right, it would have sold better than it would have through St Martins, which has a lot of trouble selling most of its hardcovers to places other than libraries.

Books get canceled all the time. Often they get canceled because the writer fails to deliver. But sometimes there are other problems, as there were with me and my two publishers above. One of those publishers had assigned me the editor from hell. (Wait, that’s being unfair to editors from hell. She was and is a demon spawn, a hell native who makes hell hellish for anyone who is there. [yeah, you guessed it. I think she’s a terrible editor and an even worse person.]) I refused to work with her, and that ultimately led to the cancellation of the contract.

. . . .

In addition to the monies paid to Steve, St Martins had probably invested $100,000 in actual costs and overhead on the book, if not more.

Pulling the book two months before publication guarantees that St Martins lost money on the deal. Other publishers know that. In this instance, they didn’t care.

. . . .

[I]n the old days, the days before the indie publishing revolution, Steve Hamilton’s byline would have vanished.

Oh, he would have kept writing, and he probably would have had a frustrating few years. He might’ve tried to write under his own name, and except for the short fiction magazines, probably not sold anything. Then he would have moved to a pen name, and maybe used the cover of his agent to keep his real name out of the loop until the book was accepted (and maybe not even then).

That kind of secrecy revolving around a pen name happened all of time back then. I know of several writers whose real names are still hidden from their publishers because the writer did something to get blacklisted under that name.

. . . .

Force the publisher to keep promises? Force the publisher to honor a contract? Horrors! Better to get some naïve young writer to write books than an old pro who knows what he’s doing.

. . . .

Dean’s asked me more than once what it would take for me to sell another novel into traditional publishing. (I sell other projects to traditional publishers—nonfiction, editing, short stories.)

If the novel contracts change, maybe, I would sell a novel to traditional publishing again. If I’m offered 7-figures and the contract change, and…

Probably not even then. As Elizabeth Spann Craig says, I’ve done all of this myself with better financial results.

Plus, as she says, I like the control.

. . . .

Writers are the brand. We always have been. And because of that, traditional publishers are slowly beginning to realize that indie published writers are cutting into the bottom line.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Vivian for the tip.

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

Price Wars and Victims

6 August 2015

From Kristine Katherine Rusch:

I had an interesting experience this week: I just bought a brand-new hardcover novel for less than I would have paid for the ebook. I wouldn’t have noticed except that I’ve been doing a lot of stuff online this week, and Amazon, good marketers that they are, sent me an e-mail to let me know that I had received a preorder discount of 90 cents.

I prefer to read paper books, although I do read ebooks, especially when I’m binging on a series.

The thing is, I’d ordered the book six months ago from Amazon. The book, Sara Paretsky’s Brush Back (which I’m enjoying, thank you very much), has a publisher’s list price of $27.95 for the hardcover. Amazon never listed the book at full price. I believe I initially ordered a $17.95 hardcover. I kept getting notices of discounting from Amazon, until this last, which arrived after the book was shipped.

Caveat here: I preorder because it makes some random day feel like Christmas. Suddenly, a book I really, really want shows up in the mail, almost like a surprise gift from a special friend.

I had forgotten that the Paretsky was coming out in August. If you’d asked me, I would have said September, because that used to be her release date. So when I received the most recent notice of the preorder discount—one that sounded final, final—I went to Amazon and looked up the publication date for the book.

And just about fell off my chair when I saw that the Kindle edition was $13.99 and the hardcover was listed at $13.

. . . .

As I searched for the publisher’s list price, too lazy to get up and pick up my copy from the other room, I found that Barnes & Noble lists the book at $16.83 for the hardcover and $11.84 for the Nookbook.

. . . .

Agency pricing has returned to ebooks, which means that publishers are setting their own ebook prices and the retailers, like Amazon, are not discounting. The ebook price on Amazon is clearly a price-match with Barnes & Noble, not something that Amazon has done.

I poked around Amazon, looking at e-book prices, and almost fell off my chair for a second time. Lisa Scottoline’s next book, which releases in October, has a $14.99 ebook. So does Michael Connelly’s November release. And Stephen King’s November release. Robert Crais’s next book shows a $12.70 Kindle edition paired with a $13.37 hardcover. Does that sound familiar?

And what’s fascinating to me is that these books, and the dozens of other traditionally published upcoming releases that I looked at are coming out of different publishing companies. Not different imprints of the Big 5, but each of the Big 5.

Once again, pricing seems…agreed upon.

. . . .

Nonetheless, Amazon is leaving the ebook prices—set by the publisher—alone…and messing with the paper prices.

I mean seriously messing with the paper prices. I should not have been able to get a brand-new hardcover for more than half off the list price on the day the book released. Maybe at Christmas. Maybe nine months from now, as the publisher gets ready to release the mass market paperback.

But now? Release day? Seriously?

. . . .

The traditional publishers are screaming about Amazon. I’ve learned over the years that when someone screams about something, they’re doing so because they feel some kind of pressure, some kind of pinch.

How could traditional publishers be feeling a pinch from Amazon? After all, in the United States, Amazon is selling more books than any other retailer. Why would that hurt traditional publishers? Is it hurting traditional publishers?

Oh, my friends. One should never ask these sorts of questions. Because the answers are often surprising.

From the evidence that I’m seeing, here’s what I believe is going on.

Amazon is clearly fighting the price war on a variety of fronts, and I’m sure Amazon’s policy is pretty simple: They want affordable ebook prices. So if traditional publishers want to charge $14.99 for a Kindle edition, then Amazon will make sure no one buys the expensive Kindle edition by lowering the price of the hardcover.

My unscientific examination shows that when the Kindle prices are high, the discount on the paper edition is deeper.

. . . .

When publishers returned to Agency Pricing, they had to agree to the same ebook royalty schedule that indies have. Which means that for any ebook priced over $9.99, the publisher will receive 35% of the sales price. (If the publisher prices the books between $2.99 and 9.99, then the publisher receives 70%)

The publisher, with a $14.99 ebook, will receive a royalty payment per sale of $5.25. If the publisher had priced the ebook at $9.99, the publisher would have received $6.99.

So traditional publishers are deliberately receiving a lower percentage royalty to keep the ebooks prices artificially high.

But traditional publishers aren’t the only ones taking less money to prove a point. If business is being conducted as it usually is, then traditional publishers sell their books to Amazon at the discount they use for all of the other big accounts (Wal-Mart, Costco, and so on).

That would be 60-64% of list price. This is known as a deep discount.

So, if Amazon pays 64% of $27.95 for the hardcover of, say, the Paretsky book, then Amazon is paying a little over $10 per book. Amazon is currently selling that book for $13, making a $3 profit.

If Amazon sells the Kindle edition of that book, Amazon makes $7.57 per sale. (65% of $11.64) If Amazon sells any of the $14.99 ebooks, it makes $9.75—over three times what it’s making on these discounted hardcover new releases.

Why is Amazon doing it?

I’m guessing here that the price wars continue. And Amazon is trying to force publishers to return to $9.99 ebook prices.

. . . .

Publishing contracts have changed in the past 15 years. Now, each contract has a discount schedule, reducing the royalty if a book is sold at deep (or what the average person would call high) discount. In the past, many contracts didn’t have a discount schedule; the publisher would eat the loss.

Now writers get a much lower royalty if the actual discount to the retailer is low.

At 60-64%, some writers are receiving only a 1-2% royalty. Let’s be charitable and give that writer a 2% royalty. That’s 2% of $27.95, which comes out to 56 cents per hardcover sold.

If the book sells at full price, the writer would get 10 to 15 to 20%, depending on the royalty schedule. (Often royalties are based on sales numbers—10% to 150,000 copies, 15% to 500,000 copies, 20% over 500,000 copies.)

Let’s be realistic instead of charitable this time. Most writers traditionally published in hardcover never sell 150,000 copies of that hardcover. The writer will get the 10% royalty, which is $2.75 per book. Not 56 cents. That’s a significant loss for books sold at deep discount.

But it’s a fact of life. That writer would get the 56 cents if Amazon sells the book at $27.95 or if Amazon sells the book at $13.37. It won’t matter to the writer at all.

The squeeze occurs on the ebook prices. Currently traditionally published writers across the boardare getting 25% of net income received on ebook sales.

So…if the publisher sells the ebook through Amazon at $14.99, and Amazon pays the publisher a royalty of 35%, then the publisher will receive $5.25. That’s “net income received” of which the writer will get 25% or $1.31.

However, if the publisher sets the ebook price at $9.99 on Amazon, the publisher will receive $6.99. The writer will get 25% of that $6.99 or $1.74. A little better.

But the other bonus at the lower ebook price is this: It has been proven over the years that the lower price point brings in more sales. So the writer would receive more money per sale and also make more sales.

The traditionally published writer is losing out here.

Link to the rest at Kristine Katherine Rusch and thanks to David for the tip.

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

Next Page »