Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Small Traditional Publishers (2017 in Review)

13 January 2018

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

[M]y traditional publishing posts are focused on the U.S. because I’m not as well informed about traditional publishing companies in other countries. Still, if you live outside of the U.S., you might find some similarities to what is happening in your country. If so, please feel free to comment below.

Initially, I planned to handle traditional publishing as one big lump in the industry. That’s how I’ve been doing it since I started blogging on the industry in 2009. But that way of dealing with non-indie publishing no longer works, and it took me until December of 2017 to make that realization.

I have known that a change was coming in traditional publishing for years now. The way that the Big Five (who were bigger and more than five nine years ago) were running their businesses inevitably meant that they would be too slow and too large to make changes in their publishing model quickly enough to capitalize on the new world of publishing.

I did not expect them to screw up as royally as they did—hating their biggest customer (Amazon) and essentially getting into a war with it. Nor did I expect the Big Five to so completely misunderstand the market that they ended up cutting their real cash cows. I also didn’t expect the Big Five to price their ebooks so high that the books sell to regular readers despite the price. That does not invite new readers to sample authors, so it’s hurting the future of the Big Five book lines.

In fact, most everything the Big Five have done in the past two years have hurt their book lines, rather than help them. Other factors will keep those publishers in business, factors that I explored in the previous post, but those factors make the Big Five a place for any savvy writer to avoid.

. . . .

Once I separated out the Big Five from all of the other traditional publishers in the U.S., I came to a happy realization. There are a lot of good publishers doing the kind of work we readers want publishers to do—curating books with a voice and an attitude, so that we know what to expect from the company, marketing those books to the best of their ability, and making the books available in all formats. In many cases, the ebooks are priced at under ten dollars.

Realize when I’m talking about small traditional publishers, I am not talking about corporations inside the umbrella of the Big Five. So even if your favorite “publisher” has a clear voice and an attitude, but is part of a Big Five corporate entity, that publisher is not the small traditional publisher I’m talking about. For example, Harlequin moved from a small traditional publisher to a corporation wrapped into HarperCollins, a Big Five company, in 2014. So Harlequin is not part of what I’m discussing here.

Neither is Tor, which is part of Holtzbrinck, (MacMillan here in the U.S.), which is also one of the Big Five. At any point, these smaller corporations can be shut down, reassigned, changed, or focused in a brand-new direction, based on what the conglomerate wants.

Rather than ask me if your favorite company is a small traditional publisher, Google them or look them up on Wikipedia. Follow the corporate trail, and you’ll learn quite a bit.

When I talk about small traditional publishers, I’m talking about family companies or companies that are not part of a bigger conglomerate. These small companies are run by a single owner or by a small board of directors, but the company is notpublically traded. Many of these small traditional publishers have distribution deals with the Big Five. Distribution deals mean that these small publishers use a Big Five’s sales operation to help sell their books (at some kind of percentage or fee; I’ve never seen one of those deals, so don’t know the financial details).

But, even with those distribution deals, these small traditional publishers are not part of the corporate entities that compose the Big Five.

And when I talk about small, I’m talking about their size in the industry, not what most people think of as small (like a little local company).

Small traditional publishers generally bring in at least $10 million in revenues annually and often have between fifty and 100 employees. Compared to the Big Five, these companies are tiny.

. . . .

The small traditional publishers have many advantages that the Big Five do not have. These small traditional publishers have a corporate vision that is usually enforced by the owner or the board of directors. Most of these small companies name the CEO or the owner of the business, and much of the direction of the business comes from the top down to the employees.

There’s an actual vision in these places, and one essential part of that vision is a love of books.

Publishing for these smaller companies is not about IP valuation (see last week) [link] or about a global market strategy—even if the company has an international vision. It’s about publishing good books that fit with the company’s business.

Sure, those books need to be commercial. And they need to earn a profit (large or small) for the company or the company will eventually drop the author.

But for the most part, these small traditional publishers are still what we romantically think about when we think about book publishers—people who love books and do their best to get them to the marketplace.

. . . .

I’ve seen the contracts for many of these small traditional publishers. Like every other business, some of these small traditional publishers are great. Others are awful.

Of the three I’ve done business with in the last decade or so, two of them have been forthright and easy to work with. They don’t have the gotcha clauses in their contracts that the Big Five have, and they’re really not out to own the entire IP.

. . . .

The third company that I’ve worked with started with the best contracts in the business—the most writer-friendly—and in the five years I worked with them changed their contracts to the worst contracts in the business.

That company is a complete mess. It has at least one editor who is well known in the business for verbally abusing her authors (and who has told more than one author to ditch characters of color because characters of color will “interfere with sales”). This company is doing its best to hang onto every single dime that the writers generate.

I suspect the company lost a lot of money in the digital revolution, didn’t move quickly enough, and didn’t have enough ready cash to handle the change, so it squeezed revenue from everywhere it possibly could. That became a habit, and the company will not change. The contracts confirm this.

I don’t know if the company will survive the next five years, despite its high reported annual revenue. If it does, it will do so on the backs of its authors rather than working with its authors.

So, as you can tell, just because a company is a small traditional publisher, privately owned, doesn’t mean it’s a good place for writers. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad place for writers either.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

The Big Five (2017 in Review)

4 January 2018

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

In the fall of 2017, the CEO of Penguin Random House, Markus Dohle, gave a rousing, optimistic speech about the future of publishing at Frankfurt Book Fair. Some of what he said was directed at the trade, but some of it was in code, and much of it pointed to the direction that traditional publishing will take in the next five years.

Dohle’s speech discusses the new phase, in some depth, in fact. He said,

…we have relatively stable business models for selling and delivering print and e-books to readers. Amazon’s Kindle will be celebrating its tenth birthday next month. The Kindle launch in November 2007 marked a breakthrough for digital books in the mass market. The business model for e-books was “in flux” for some years, to put it mildly, especially in the large Anglo-American markets. After some disruption and a lengthy lawsuit in the U.S., we have had a widespread business model, in terms of media content, for the past two years…

I love it when business people put a positive spin on ugly. “In flux” indeed. And “a lengthy lawsuit,” as if his company had nothing to do with it.

. . . .

The Big Five publishers have a completely different problem with their profits than other traditional publishers. The Big Five answer to international conglomerates, which means that the Big Five need to generate profits for their corporate overlords. Depending on the setup of the conglomerate, those profits must appear on a quarterly or biannual basis.

And in certain corporate environments, those profits must show an annual upward trend. (A few even demand an upward quarterly trend, which truly stifles innovation.)

So the business setup is different for the Big Five than it is for other, smaller traditional publishers. And when I say smaller traditional publishers, I mean publishers who generate tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.  These companies aren’t part of an international conglomerate but are either closely held corporations or family businesses.

A smaller traditional publisher has its own corporate culture which usually comes from the owner or board of directors. The owners are knowable, and the focus of the company understandable.

. . . .

In his speech, Dohle said this about traditional publishing:

The fundamental challenge posed by the digital transformation is the change from a B2B-oriented, publisher to bookstore publishing industry to one that is B2C-oriented (publisher to reader). In an online-dominated world, we publishers must become more reader-centric and we need to establish a direct connection with the reader.

Let’s move this out of corporate speak into real people speak, shall we? What he means is that traditional publishing’s focus used to be all about selling its product to other businesses—generally to bookstores or large distribution companies. All of traditional publishing’s marketing was geared toward getting those businesses to carry that publishing house’s books. It was up to the bookstore to sell the books to consumers.

Now, Dohle says, traditional publishers must communicate directly with the reader. They’re stymied about how to do that, since most of these companies haven’t done anything like it in corporate memory.

But a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) model doesn’t work in the kind of corporate environment that the Big Five are in. B2C models generally require slow build, with lots of focus on the consumer experience. B2C models often sustain heavy losses, sometimes for years, as the company builds its reputation (which cannot change on a whim) and then eventually makes small profits which (one hopes) turns into large profits.

I don’t see how these Big Five publishers can make the shift to B2C. In fact, I don’t think they can, not with their overall business structure.

. . . .

I think he’s telling the employees at Penguin Random House that they need to figure out how to change to a B2C model, so that they can increase sales, while he and others in the company are working on a completely different way of increasing profits.

He alludes to that different way in this part of his speech:

Furthermore, every good film and every good television series is based on a good story, and in most cases, those stories begin with a great book. Hollywood’s thirst for stories, from established studios as well as new players in the business—among them Netflix, Amazon and Apple, Hulu, Facebook and Google—has never been greater than it is today. And each iteration of a story as a film or a TV series increases sales of the original story, namely, in the form of the book.

Just before that quote, he had talked about the growth in audio books and how audio books harken back to having stories read to us as children or listening to tale told over the camp fire.

What he does not mention is that these sub-rights are on his mind, and in his negotiating strategies.

In December, Alice Luytens, a literary agent and the audio rights manager at Curtis Brown, wrote in The Bookseller that the publishing deals for audio rights have changed in the past three years.  She has seen what she calls “a significant drop in separate/independent audio rights deals.”

She writes,

This is not because the market is shrinking or offering fewer options. Far from it. It is because book publishers now believe that audio rights are “part of the package.” I do not altogether agree. Audio rights and e-book rights are not the same. … They utilize different skills and are created for an audience not limited to the reading public. So why are we in a position where we are pressured to lump together two distinct sets of rights into one package?

She asks an excellent question at the end of that quote, and means the question almost rhetorically. While her entire article points out a problem for writers (and, in theory, agents), it also shows a lack of understanding as to why these deals are changing, and changing rapidly.

The money in super-large traditional book publishing no longer comes from straight book sales. If you look at the sales figures for the big bestsellers, they’re abysmal compared with just ten years ago.

To prep for these posts, I went through months of Publisher’s Weekly, which showed the BookScan numbers, and found that books by writers like John Grisham and Stephen King were selling monthly what they used to sell on a weekly basis.

Now, these sales numbers did not include ebooks, as Publisher’s Weekly happily pointed out, but those tradionally published ebook sales numbers have gone down dramatically as prices have gone up. Traditional publishing has bitched about declining ebook sales all year.

. . . .

But that paper-to-ebook shift means that Grisham and the other big name writers are making significantly less money. They don’t generally receive a percentage of cover price on ebooks; they receive part of the net profits (unless they had a really savvy agent/lawyer way aback when). Those profits fluctuate.

And the profits fluctuate for the traditional publishers too. Because it’s become harder and harder to funnel readers into a handful of books. There has been a leveling in publishing. The mountain peaks of the bestsellers have become hills as people find other books to their tastes.

. . . .

Dohle has been complaining for years that discoverability is getting harder, and he’s right. For traditional publishing, which had a stranglehold on what was published, the open floodgates of indie publishing have been a complete nightmare.

. . . .

But the Big Five publishers have to be making their money somewhere. Right now, they’re making it by cutting back on expenses and employees, and on how much they publish.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

The Year in Review (Overview)

28 December 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’ve been trying to get my arms around what’s going on with traditional publishing for about a week and a half. I have varied reports from other writers, still working traditionally. I have been perusing back issues of Publishers Weekly, looking at other news sources, and reading some of my list serves.

I’m beginning to think I can’t figure out what happened to traditional publishing in 2017 because traditional publishing doesn’t know what’s going on in its own industry.

I’m writing this blog on December 26, 2017, and I’ve just seen the data that Amazon released on its various lists. I haven’t had time to go over it in-depth, but I did notice all of the backlist titles with legs on the Amazon lists. I said to Dean, “It’s amazing that traditional publishing still exists as mismanaged as it has been.”

I think that story of mismanagement continues, which is why I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what’s going on. Publisher’s Weekly barely mentions Amazon and doesn’t use its numbers to report its bestseller list, preferring BookScan. For an ebook bestseller list, PW uses the iBooks and (occasionally) Smashwords, which is well and good, but only gets a small picture of what’s going on.

Then there are all the cutbacks in genre fiction from the Big Five. That, and the lack of effective publicity for books. I ordered too many books at the end of this year, because I was looking through PW and was startled that this favorite author of mine had published a book or that favorite author had published two books, and I hadn’t heard of those books.

. . . .

It looks, at a casual glance, like the Big Five (Four? Three? Who the hell knows) is cutting its way to quarterly profits, and doing so exceedingly stupidly. In 2017, for example, Randy Penguin dropped its cozy mystery line, which thrives in mass market. Writers whose series were growing or selling at excellent numbers (for this time period) were unceremoniously dropped.

But…smaller traditional publishers, long-established traditional publishers, like Baen and Kensington, publishers not beholden to some international corporate overlord, are scooping up as many of these dropped genre authors as they possibly can, knowing cash cows when they see them.

. . . .

I wrote a post earlier in the year about all the traditionally published authors flooding into indie publishing right now, and the lack of patience long-term indies are showing them. That flood was the direct result of the cutting that occurred in traditional publishing.

We’re going to see a lot more hybrid publishing from writers, particularly those who have huge traditional careers. One traditionally published #1 New York Times bestseller just told me that his “test” indie published novella out-earns every single one of his bestselling titles.

I would have expected that from the financial angle—making 65% to 70% of each sale is much better than 12-15% (minus agent fees)—and I said that to him. He corrected me. He said that the novella outsells his bestselling titles as well. And that surprised me.

But the earnings are speaking to him, and he’s not alone. I’ve heard rumors about other bestsellers who are frightened by their sales numbers through traditional, and watching their income decline precipitously. Some of those writers are going hybrid fast.

Others are moving full indie.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

As usual, PG thinks Kris is correct about many different things.

PG has used the “Not dead yet!” video from Monty Python to illustrate his view of traditional publishing on a few occasions.

Every month that goes by, PG has an image in his mind of groups of people in the publishing business holding secret celebratory Not Dead Yet dinners in dimly lit subterranean rooms. At the end of each dinner, the gathered publishers solemnly chant in unison, “Not dead yet, not dead yet, not dead yet” over and over before pulling their cowls over their heads, blowing out the candles and departing into the night.

Here are a few “But You’re Dying Fast” counterpoints that float to the top of PG’s consciousness:

  1. If traditional publishing were financially healthy, Barnes & Noble would not be circling the drain.
  2. If traditional publishing were healthy (mentally and otherwise), members of that establishment would not be trashing the world’s largest bookseller (and the publisher’s most profitable account), Amazon, on a continuing basis.
  3. If traditional publishing were healthy, it would regard ebooks as a wonderful and highly-profitable new market, the future of publishing.

PG suggests traditional publishing understands that James Patterson will die someday, their pipeline of star authors, the kind that will be good for 30 years worth of bestsellers in the future, is rapidly drying up and that physical bookstores won’t save them.

But they’re not doing anything about this reality. These publishers still require new authors to jump through a thousand hoops to be published. They still operate on an industrial-age production line that finally spits out a book a year after they receive a manuscript.

Publishers are still in a lockstep shared monopoly in which they offer identical royalty rates and require every author to pay 15% off the top to a third-party agent in order to be published traditionally whether the author needs an agent or not.

I don’t fear death so much as I fear its prologues: loneliness, decrepitude, pain, debilitation, depression, senility. After a few years of those, I imagine death presents like a holiday at the beach.

Mary Roach

Business Musings: Sustainability

10 December 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The big topic among successful indie writers in the last six months of 2017 is the possibility of burnout. Writers are slowly realizing that the pace they’ve maintained through the last few years isn’t sustainable.

Worse, it has become clear through data and anecdotal evidence that the more a writer produces, the more her income rises.

But that fact, coupled with the fact that incomes have fallen for indies in the past year or so, has given rise to something like panic among the successful indies. They’re having to work harder or just as hard to maintain an income that seemed to come easier in 2015.

And you know what? That’s normal.

I know, I know. You didn’t want to hear that. Because indie writers saw their incomes rise and rise and rise in the first three years of the gold rush. It seemed like every single thing the indie did increased her revenue.

And then, in 2016, those things didn’t work any more.

. . . .

I am also aware that some self-publishing venues, like All Romance eBooks went out of business, taking a lot of writers’ incomes with it. And other venues, like Smashwords, no longer attract new customers the way they used to.

I’m not talking about those changes, although they did have a major impact on a lot of writers’ careers. I’m talking about the changes in income to writers who were not rushing to every new way of doing something, writers who were not gaming algorithms, writers who were producing a lot, interacting professionally with their fans, and doing everything right.

Those writers received major rewards, both in sales and in income, in the early years of indie publishing. Those rewards have diminished, because we are entering into a mature market.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

The People in Your Office

9 November 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

So, it happened again. A big name fantasy writer made his fans angry because the next book in his series hasn’t appeared in years. And, in a passing remark, he compared the comments fans make on his overdue book to those comments people make to their unemployed adult child about getting a job or to their single grandkid about getting married.

Patrick Rothfuss made the foolhardy decision to let a reporter shadow him all day and of course Rothfuss had an unguarded moment. He said, on the record,

“[The fans] don’t realize this is so wearying,” he said with a sigh when we spoke a few weeks ago. “It’s like asking, ‘When are you going to get married? When are you going to go to law school?’ It’s like, just fuck off. Just die. I don’t need any more of that in my life.”
. . . .

And most [of us writers] spend our time alone in a room, making things up. Writers tend not to realize that their fans are people. Nor do some writers—especially newer writers who have fast success—realize that the only reason they’re going to be remembered as artists is if they have fans of their work.

I have watched writers behaving badly to their fans for years. The worst I ever saw was a big name fantasy writer (maybe there’s a trend?) reduce a fan to tears. The fan brought a well-loved book up for an autograph, and the author held up the book and mused, loudly, rudely, I can’t believe people love this thing. It’s so awful.

Insulting. Rude. Terrible. And that writer (now dead, thank heavens) isn’t the only one I’ve seen treat fans that way. If you can’t properly appreciate your fans—even the ones who lack social skills—then don’t do autographings and stay off social media.

Rothfuss did not make this comment on social media. He made it to a reporter who had been invited to trail him all day at a convention. Mistake number one. Mistake number two was treating that reporter like a friend. Reporters report. I’m sure Rothfuss did not want that comment out, but he uttered it, in public, perhaps thinking he was talking to a like-minded person.

Instead, he insulted his fans.

. . . .

Once you have fans, they will have opinions about what you do. They will also want more of what you do (if you’re doing the job right), and they will be vocal about it.

They have that right.

It’s your job to understand that.

Yes, I know it’s a burden at times. And right now, some of you are scrolling down to the comments section to write me a reminder that it’s a burden you all want.

Well and good. Figure out now how you’re going to handle it.

Because this is one of the biggest career killers there is.

Not because of the fans, but because the writers can’t make the transition from hobbyist to professional writer to famous person.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Stealing Intellectual Property

28 October 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I just had the most illuminating conversation. I had been consulting with someone about one of the TV deals I’m currently negotiating. I had run into a situation I had never encountered before, and I needed help evaluating it.

. . . .

The expert I consulted, gracious and interesting, had a lot to say about a lot of things. He gave me tips that are too on-point for my negotiations to share here.

And then he said something that scared the crap out of me.

Once a big company, studio, or someone with too much money has an option on your book, that organization will often register the copyright.

Initially, I was unconcerned when he said that, because, as I told him, the first thing I do when anyone connected to the film and TV industry comes knocking is this: I register my copyright with the U.S. Copyright office. If I answer someone’s email, it’s guaranteed that before I do, my work is registered.

If you don’t understand the value of registration, when it’s needed and when it’s not needed, then get yourself a copy of the Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press, and read the damn thing from cover to cover. I am not answering basic copyright questions here, although I did address some on a post some time ago. I also addressed a lot of copyright issues in my book on contracts and dealbreakers from last year.

It doesn’t matter if your copyright is registered, the expert said. They’ll register anyway, even before they’ve started production on anything. The strategy is to create confusion over who owns the copyright, and it’ll take litigation to straighten that confusion out.

The best thing I could do, he said, was to make sure that any agreement I have with anyone had an active termination date in which all rights reverted to me without me taking an action at all. What does that mean?

Instead of calling this a termination clause, he called it a snap-back. If the person I’ve negotiated with doesn’t have a screenplay by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. If there’s no principal photography by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. If the movie has not been made by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. And so on, and so forth.

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

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Business Musings: I Spent Decades Developing My IP (Contracts/Dealbreakers)

22 September 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’m conducting too many negotiations right now. I discuss them as if they’re easy.

They’re not. They’re stressful and take time.

But I always learn something.

And yesterday, I gained a brand new perspective.

I wrote the following sentence to someone who wanted to take my entire IP in a series for a pittance:

I’ve spent decades developing my IP.

I then proceeded to explain to that person that I controlled my IP and they would not get their grubby paws on it, especially for a few thousand dollars and promises of future money. (Anyone who could read contracts would know that the company didn’t have to pay me the full up front money in a timely fashion if at all, and there would be no future money…to me…because I would have signed it away.)

I’ve spent decades developing my IP.

I have never said that before, nor have I said it so blatantly. It provided me with an incredible and unexpected perspective.

I was trained in traditional publishing, where writers go begging for opportunity. Writers are taught to beg, from professors (let me into your class!) to critique groups (is my writing good enough?) to agents (will you take me on?) to publishers (will you buy my book?).

We’re not trained to value what we’ve built.

I’ve spent decades developing my IP.

That statement is a statement of power. It’s a statement of value. It says I have worked hard. Respect my work and deal with me like a professional.

Imagine if all writers took that attitude into their negotiations for their work. Or into anything they do for their writing.

Writers would become stronger, just by owning what they have done. By valuing what they have achieved.

I know many of you are frowning as you look at that sentence. A few of you don’t know what IP is. IP is intellectual property. Intellectual property has become so important in modern business that companies are buying it up and sitting on it.

. . . .

Writers are so used to begging to get attention, that they have no idea how to think of their work as something not just important to them, but as something with lasting value.

As Forbes said in the very short introduction to its list of the Top 25 Intellectual Property Valuation firms:

The world has changed dramatically in the past several decades with more and more of a company’s value attached not to factories, machines, or hard assets but rather the companies’ ideas, processes, and designs – their intellectual property.

The American economy has moved from a manufacturing economy to one that makes most of its revenue from businesses that monetize their intellectual property. You know, like film studios. Game companies. Damn near every business in Silicon Valley.

While I’ve been writing about the disruption in publishing initially caused by (ahem) someone’s proprietary design (um, Amazon Kindle), I really wasn’t paying attention to the outside world’s acknowledgement of IP. In the past, if I had written I’ve spent decades developing my IP to someone I was negotiating with, they would have responded with a confused “Whaaaaat?”

Now, they understand exactly what I mean.

Writers need to understand it too. Even if your books don’t sell well.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Aggressive Growth (Branding/Discoverability)

12 August 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Here’s the surprising post. Many of you who read this blog regularly probably think that I’m opposed to major marketing campaigns. I’m not. I’m opposed to them when they’re done incorrectly.

What’s incorrectly?

Pretty much everything you see from traditional publishing to most indies. You have to look outside of publishing to see how to do a smart, aggressive growth campaign designed to grow an audience.

Why do I say traditional publishing and most writers do it wrong? Because…(wait for it)…an aggressive campaign to grow your target audience is part of a long-term strategy.

Publishing has turned aggressive growth campaigns into a short-term strategy, one that has no real upside.

Here’s what I mean.

Traditional publishing in modern times is based on the velocity model—selling a lot of books fast, then ignoring the product, and moving to another product.

Standard business growth is the exact opposite. You develop your company, develop your brand, cultivate your consumers, and then, once your business is large enough, consider making that business bigger.

When you decide the time is right to aggressively grow your audience, you should pull out every trick in the book and design a few of your own. You will work very hard on getting people to sample your wares. Most of the people who try your books will not continue reading them. Most people—because they didn’t like the book they sampled or they have only so much time or other favorite authors—will not return to your other work right away. And that’s okay, because your efforts here should have netted you 5-10% of the readers you targeted.

In other words, a properly done aggressive growth campaign, will get you more readers. Just not all the readers you expected.

. . . .

Readers are not predictable folk. So, of the 100,000 new readers who bought the book, 50,000 actually read it in a timely fashion (meaning the first three months). 25,000 read it eventually, and 25,000 more might get to it one day.

Already your “readership” is down to 75,000, and one-third of them might not have read the book they own by the time the new book comes out. Generally speaking, the release of a new book reminds slow readers that they already own one of your books, and they should read it now.

Of the 50,000 who’ve read book six by the time book seven comes out, 10,000 were unimpressed and will not buy your next. Another 10,000 liked it, but not enough to run right out and get another book with your byline. The remaining 30,000 split in a variety of directions.

Some read the series from the beginning. Some go back to book five. Some buy book seven and forget all about books one through five.

You can measure some of this. After a huge marketing push on book six, you will see a lump of readers work their way through the entire series. Even if the series is compelling, the lump will spread out over time. Why? Because some readers don’t like binging. So they’ll read one of your books, then five books by other writers, then another of your books, then ten books by other writers—and so on.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

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