Self-Publishing

July 2014 – Barnes & Noble

28 July 2014

From Author Earnings:

In February, we took a snapshot of 5,000 genre e-books on the Nook store to compare with our Amazon reports. It’s been nearly half a year, so we thought it was time to go back for another look.

The first chart is a simple count of the number of titles on the major genre bestseller lists, broken out by publisher. For each of the four sets of charts, the current snapshot is followed by what we saw back in February:

a1

Not much change in the count of titles on the lists. But look at estimated daily unit sales by publisher:

a2

This effectively captures the average ranking of the ebooks on these bestseller lists. Note the increase for indies and the decrease for nearly every other publisher.

Knowing the sale price, we can estimate daily gross earnings by publisher:

a3

Again, note the changes. Finally, knowing industry royalty rates, we get daily author earnings by publisher:

a4

One thing of note with the last three sets of charts is that Hachette titles have suffered on the Nook store over the past five months. It’s possible the ongoing negotiations between Amazon and Hachette are impacting their sales on other digital retail outlets. More striking, though, is the market share gained by indie authors. If you scrolled through Nook’s genre bestseller lists, and tallied each book and how it was published, you would find that over half are now self-published.

While Nook’s e-book market share is much smaller than Amazon’s overall, it is just as indie-friendly as the Kindle store. And the daily royalty share going to indies is nearly twice as large as the share going to Penguin Random House authors. In fact, indies seem to be on their way to overtaking the Big 5 combined, just as they have on Amazon.

Link to the rest at Author Earnings

PG finds the speculation of Hugh and Data Guy that the decline in sales of Hachette’s titles in the Nook Store is a result of the decline of those titles on Amazon interesting.

Because of the Nook Store’s terrible design, some owners of Nook ereaders have discovered that it’s easier to locate new books on Amazon, then go buy those books at the Nook Store.

If correct, this speculation speaks to the scope of Amazon’s power. If Amazon can make sales go up or down on the Nook Store, what use is it for publishers to pay money for prime exposure on the Nook website? That would be yet one more reason for talented employees still working at Nook to actively seek other employment.

However, PG suggests an alternate possibility:  Hachette is spending so much time, money and energy promoting its anti-Amazon message that it has failed to spend time, money and energy promoting . . . books.

This would be a typical screw-up for a poorly-managed company – taking its eye off the ball during a crisis and sliding down the tubes financially.

Hachette marketing and PR people are expending so much effort feeding talking points to Colbert and drafting letters for Preston, Patterson et al that, by the time Happy Hour rolls around, nobody has the time or energy to schmooze with The New York Times book review editors or tweet about a new release.

If you’re a tradpub author considering whether to send a book to Hachette or another publisher, might you not wonder how much time and effort Hachette will devote to your book when its principal business seems to be bashing Amazon and sales of Hachette titles are tanking all over the place?

Or if you’re an author who only has Hachette as a tradpub option, might you not feel that now is a good time to see what this self-publishing stuff is all about?

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My Independence Day: An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos of Amazon

27 July 2014

From author Michael Stephen Fuchs:

Dear Mr. Bezos,

I have been an enthusiastic Amazon customer since early 1996, and thus consider myself to be one of your first. A couple of years later, you guys sent me a nice mousepad with one of my orders. I added up what I had spent with Amazon to that date, and it was already thousands of dollars, so I wrote back and suggested that, for that kind of customer spend and loyalty, I deserved at least an Amazon t-shirt. You sent me a t-shirt. I’ve been in love with Amazon ever since.

. . . .

And that was prior to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

As it happens, I have been a fiction writer since 1994. Eventually – after literally thousands of rejections – I got picked up by Macmillan, who published my first two books in 2006 and 2007. The second sold less well than the first – so they unceremoniously dropped me. (*) That was it. Dream over.

And then along came KDP. And in December of 2012, I had the first month of my life when earnings from my writing actually paid my bills – thanks utterly and entirely to KDP. My earnings have gone up from there, and I have been writing full-time ever since. And I have now achieved my dream of being a jobbing novelist.

ALL THANKS TO YOU AND KDP.

And I have, not at all incidentally, been freed from the cartel practices, unconscionable contract terms, and not to mention soul-crushing rejection and frustration, of the Big Six publishers in London and New York, and the literary agency system. Now I write books for my readers, who buy them. Now I am free.

ALL THANKS TO YOU AND KDP.

Thank you very, very, very much indeed. And please don’t ever change it (KDP). And sod Hachette.

Link to the rest at Dispatch from the Razor’s Edge

Here’s a link to Michael’s books

Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs

25 July 2014

UPDATE: PG has decided to move this post to the top of the queue from time to time for the edification of visitors to The Passive Voice and collect more stories in addition to the ones that have already been shared in the comments.

He has the blog configured to shut off comments after 14 days so older posts don’t accumulate a lot of link spam in the comments. Republishing the original post will open up comments again.

————————————

PG received the following suggestion from Dennis:

What if you put up a post that asked anyone who has recently been able to go “full time”, quit their day job and write, to post their name. Maybe they could also put when or how soon they are planning to do it.

That would be anecdotal evidence to support what Howey and Data Guy have been showing since their first report.

If you care to contribute such anecdotal evidence in comments to this post, please do.

If you think it’s your private business, don’t be offended. Just don’t post anything.

Feel free to post anonymously or under an online pen name if you like. If someone points out a trollish comment, PG will probably delete the comment when he gets around to it.

Literary Agent to Re-Publish Author’s 2004 Novel

25 July 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

Literary agent Marly Rusoff is re-releasing, through her publishing imprint Maiden Lane Press, a debut novel by Jonathan Odell. Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League will be out on February 4, to coincide with the 102nd birthday of Rosa Parks.

The novel, originally titled The View from Delphi, was first published by Macadam/Cage in 2004 to strong reviews, but tepid sales. The Maiden Lane edition, Odell said, has been trimmed by 100 pages to “make it more succinct and more pertinent to what’s going on now.”

“So many things go wrong in publishing, and it has nothing to do with the author; I see it all the time,” Rusoff told PW. “There’s something special about a first novel, and this is a book that deserves better.” Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League will be released in trade paper and e-book, but hardcover editions will also be released for, Rusoff says, “libraries and book signings.” An initial print run has not yet been determined.

. . . .

Sales of The View from Delphi were, Odell recalls, somewhere between 7,000-10,000 copies. “I came in the wake of The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003),” he explained, referencing the timing of his book at Macadam/Cage, which had one of its biggest hits in Audrey Niffenegger’s novel. “There was nobody [at Macadam/Cage] to help me,” Odell continued. “A secretary was doing the marketing.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Unknown Authors Make A Living Self-Publishing

25 July 2014

From National Public Radio:

Five years ago, printing your own book was stigmatized and was seen as a mark of failure.

“But now,” says Dana Beth Weinberg a sociologist at Queens College who is studying the industry, “the self published authors walk into the room and they say, ‘I made a quarter of a million dollars last year, or a hundred thousand dollars, or made ten thousand dollars, and it is still more than what some of these authors are making with their very prestigious contracts.’”

Weinberg says there is still a strong financial case to be made for publishing books the old fashioned way, but there are now many well-known independent authors who have made a fortune self-publishing online.

One of those authors, Hugh Howey, recently published a report arguing that self-published writers earn more money overall from eBooks than authors who have been signed by the big five publishing houses. The report, which Howey created with an anonymous data researcher who goes by the name “Data Guy,” uses Amazon’s sales ranking and crowd-sourced sales data to estimate authors’ total earnings on eBooks.

The report has been attacked by critics who point out the figures don’t include cash paid to authors as part of a book advances. And they say Howey is underestimating the money earned from old fashioned print sales. He’s also been called a tool of Amazon in that company’s war against established publishing houses.

. . . .

One of those authors is Michael Bunker, who has a long beard, close-cropped hair and a wide brim hat, and describes himself as an “accidental Amish Sci-Fi writer.”

His latest book, Pennsylvania Omnibus, hit number 19 earlier this month on Amazon’s best seller list. And Bunker’s first book — about living off the grid — was an instant online success.

“It went to 29 on all of Amazon.com on the very first day,” Bunker said. “And I got messages from agents and publishers. And I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no clue what I was doing.”

The first agent who reached him offered a $5000 advance and a guaranteed publishing deal.

“I made more than that yesterday,” Bunker said.

Link to the rest at NPR and thanks to Jennifer for the tip.

Why I’ve switched to self-publishing

24 July 2014

From author Diana Kimpton via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure:

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I knew I already had two publishers eager to see my first novel for older readers. I knew that if I went with one of them, I’d be likely to get a good advance and good sales.

But I also knew that the world of publishing was changing fast. Self publishing was now a viable option – I’d already tried it with two backlist titles so I knew what was involved. And I also knew that There Must Be Horses was the best book I had ever written. Did I want to hand it over to someone else or did I want to stay in control?

In the end, I decided to do it my way, and I published There Must Be Horses myself in October 2012. The ebook came first, closely followed by a print-on-demand print version and a few months later by a short print run organised and distributed by Troubador because I’d discovered that I hated handling orders.

Almost two years on, I’m convinced I made the right decision. I probably would have sold more copies initially with a traditional publishing deal, but I make more per book so I don’t mind. Despite being self-published, the book has been reviewed in PONY magazine and The School Librarian, and it’s still selling steadily, often featuring in the best selling list for its genre. (It’s topped it once or twice.)

. . . .

Would I do it again? Now’s a good time to ask that as I’ve just had the latest in my Pony-Mad Princess series, published traditionally. On the plus side for the traditional route, the advance for Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan was very welcome. I’ve enjoyed working with a very pleasant bunch of people and the final book looks good. On the minus side, I’ve had to give up the rights to my book for many years to come. I’ve missed the fun and satisfaction of self-publishing and, right now, I’m missing the instant access to sales figures that I get when I use Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace.

That’s why I’ve decided to stick with self-publishing for the foreseeable future.

Link to the rest at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure

Here’s a link to Diana Kimpton’s books

 

Should a First-Time Literary Novelist Self-Publish on Amazon?

23 July 2014

From The Huffington Post UK:

The Guardian reported recently on Amazon’s latest Author Earnings Survey, which suggests that self-published ebooks now account for 31% of the overall market, with self-published authors earning ‘nearly 40% of the ebook dollars’. This comes on the back of a longer piece in the The New York Times , a detailed examination of Amazon’s ascent and where it leaves the ‘Big Five’ traditional publishers. Times are changing. Self-publishing is no longer ‘vanity publishing’ – a vaguely embarrassing exercise in assuaging one’s writerly ambitions by paying large sums of money for a small run of leather-bound copies of a book – but a very real and increasingly credible alternative to mainstream publishing. The question for the aspiring literary author is whether to go down this route or to attempt to place one’s work with regular publisher.

Amazon’s strength in selling genre fiction is well-known, but literary fiction is a different beast. Hard to categorise, it is therefore difficult for any retailer to sell other than to its small but passionate fanbase. The new figures are particularly illuminating. Indies who publish through Amazon account for 13% of earnings for lit fic – not too shabby, and equal to earnings for romance through the major publishers.

. . . .

With UK authors earning only £11,000 a year on average, and only 11.5% making a living solely from heir writing, agents nowadays counsel their clients to consider different genres in order to remain commercially viable. Earlier this year, as an experiment, I wrote and self-published a non-fiction title through Amazon’s KDP platform. I hired someone to design a cover and format the text, as well as a freelance editor. Once everything was ready, uploading the book to Amazon was incredibly straightforward and only took a few minutes. A few hours later it was up on the site: I made my first sale shortly afterwards. Now, after a slowish start, the book is selling well. This is in no small part due to the marketing that I have done for it through social media and the content I have written linking back to it for various websites. But of course, once a book starts to sell Amazon’s algorithms pick up on the fact and it gains prominence on the site anyway. While this wasn’t a pet project like my novel, writing the book was still enjoyable – after all, writing is writing – and the process of getting it onto Amazon was incredibly simple and user-friendly.

So would I go down the same route with my – as yet unpublished – literary novel?

. . . .

But it is very hard to discount the prestige a major publishing house still confers on a book. Like with record labels, I will frequently read books I know nothing about, simply because of who they’re published by – Faber, Canongate and Vintage, for example. The best publishers are curators – the reader can usually trust them to bring work to market that has been thoroughly vetted and is of high quality.

But with marketing budgets for first-time writers being pinched in all but the most exceptional cases and microscopic advances, is a somewhat nebulous quality like prestige still worth it?

. . . .

For me personally, right now, the traditional route still feels right for my fiction. I am currently in the process of editing my novel with a literary consultant – I will begin submitting it to agents in a month or so and see what comes of it. The degree to which my age and ingrained respect for the prestige of the big publishers causes me to stick with the old model for the time being is hard to calculate. But I am also very aware of the advantages of Amazon – not least, the ease with which one can use it to get one’s writing out to readers quickly – which is after all the endgame of publishing in any form.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

Why I Left My Mighty Agency and New York Publishers (for now)

21 July 2014

From author Claire Cook via Jane Friedman’s blog:

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing constant is change.”

I was cruising along, represented by a powerful literary agent from a mighty agency that I both liked and respected, published by a series of big New York publishers that believed in my books and helped me make them better, and receiving advances for my novels that were substantial enough to live well on.

And then the publishing world began to get rocky, just like the music world and the newspaper world and so many others had before it.

I was one of the lucky authors. I had multi-book contracts, I was still being sent on book tour by my publisher and published in both hardcover and paperback, so I was able to put on my blinders and ignore the changes at first.

. . . .

And then, after years of stability and support, it was jolting when a single one of my novels made the rounds through three separate editors, because the first two left the publishing house. I lost count of the in-house publicists disappearing through the revolving door—even their names began to blur.

. . . .

I think they tried hard with the first book, but the things that used to work for traditional publishers trying to break out a book weren’t working so well anymore. I wrote the second book I owed them. And then I found out that their entire plan for this book was to do all the things that hadn’t worked for the first one.

. . . .

And then my editor went off on a three-month maternity leave that would end just before my book came out, leaving her assistant, a very nice young woman a couple years out of college, responsible for the care of my novel. Less than a month before my publication date, I received an email from this very nice assistant telling me she was leaving publishing to start a takeout food business with a friend.

. . . .

Around this time I started receiving emails and calls from booksellers telling me they were having trouble ordering my backlist books that had been published by my last publisher. And then that last publisher went under and was bought out by another publisher who inherited all their titles.

. . . .

Independent self-publishing had taken off and grown into a viable alternative. Authors in situations similar to mine were becoming hybrid authors—both traditionally and self-published. And in this new world, there was little of the cloak and dagger stuff I’d experienced in traditional publishing where everything from money to marketing was kept secret. Indie authors were generously sharing everything they learned to help others on the same path.

. . . .

So the pieces of my new dream started to come together. I would find a way to get the rights to my backlist books reverted, and then I’d republish them with my own publishing company.

. . . .

And then one day on the phone my agent informed me that in order to continue to be represented by this mighty agency, I would have to turn over 15% of the proceeds of my about-to-be self-published book to said agency. Not only that, but I would have to publish it exclusively through Amazon, because the agency had a system in place with Amazon where I could check a box and their 15% would go straight to them, no muss, no fuss.

There was no deal, no sale. There would be no self-publishing assistance, no special treatment from Amazon to give my books an extra push, no marketing. Why would I pay 15% of my profits—forever—simply for the privilege of being represented by a big name agency? And this might well turn out to be representation in name only, since it was made clear to me that the mighty agency’s subagents could not be expected to devote time and energy to selling rights to works that were not traditionally published.

It was wrong, ethically and financially, and I just couldn’t do it. I Googled and searched message boards and was introduced to the term revenue grabbing.

. . . .

I now own seven of my twelve books. I control pricing and promotion, and I can balance my need to earn a living with making my books available to my loyal readers at the best price I can offer them. I can add fresh content and switch excerpts and change covers any time I want. By the time I have ten indie-published books, I think Marshbury Beach Books and I will be doing just fine.

But already I’m happy. Instead of waiting for the next thing to go wrong, instead of feeling like I can’t get close enough to my own career to move it in the right direction, I wake up every day and get right to work.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Alison for the tip. This post is an excerpt from Claire’s book, Never Too Late.

KDP Pricing Support

20 July 2014

From Kindle Direct Publishing:

KDP Pricing Support (Beta)

How It Works

KDP Pricing Support (Beta) is a service that provides information about the impact that changes in KDP book prices have on number of books sold and author earnings.  It analyzes past sales data for groups of books that have similar attribute values and maps the relationship between price changes and number of books sold. The service then estimates author earnings based on this relationship.
Here are examples of attributes used:

  • Category
  • Customer reviews and ratings
  • Book’s best seller rank
  • Author’s past sales
  • Page count

The data presented in the service are one additional input you may use when setting the list price for a new book or when updating the list price for a previously published book. As price is just one of many factors that may affect sales of any title, please use your judgment when considering this data and setting the list price for your book.

Eligibility

All titles are eligible to access KDP Pricing Support (Beta). For some books, the service does not have sufficient underlying data to estimate the relationship between the price and number of books sold for books similar to yours. You will not see the service enabled in these cases. In addition, the service currently only supports Amazon.com or information to help you set list prices in USD. We are working to expand the service to support more books.

The “Beta” Identifier

We expect the service to evolve over time and hence the ‘beta’ identification. However, we believe the information currently provided in the KDP Pricing Support provides an additional input to your pricing decision.

KDP Pricing Support (Beta) and current KDP pricing rules

To help authors more easily understand the data, KDP Pricing Support (Beta) factors in details outlined on the pricing page. For example, if the file size of your book were greater than 3 MB, the minimum list price presented would be $1.99 instead of $0.99. Similarly, the author earnings calculation factors in delivery fees based on file size for the 70% royalty plan.

Any update to a list price is subject to the KDP pricing Terms and Conditions. For example, if you set a list price higher than the list price in another sales channel, we may price-match your book.

In addition, if the digital list price is not at least 20% below the list price of the corresponding physical edition, we may lower the sale price. For more details, please refer to the Pricing Page.

Link to the rest at Kindle Direct Publishing and thanks to Shelly for the tip.

Empowering Writers with Data

19 July 2014

From Digital Book World:

A close writer friend called last week with a dilemma. She needs some extra money in her pocket within the next year and has a book project ready to go: Should she sign with a traditional publisher or go indie? What’s the better choice given her money situation right now? What’s the better choice for her career?

Asking similar questions publicly has put me and my number crunching at the center of controversy. I am in the process of preparing a workshop for the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference in San Antonio, TX. The subject of the workshop is whether there’s a case to make for traditional publishers and agents, a question I’ve written about at length for Digital Book World.

. . . .

Soon after, Deborah Smith of Bell Bridge Books, a traditional publisher, questioned why RWA would allow my workshop on these same themes. She wrongly assumed my upcoming presentation would be “an insulting workshop taught by a non-industry speaker on a topic that is set up *from the start* to marginalize traditionally published members and their careers” and caused an uproar.

Apparently, my questions and my attempts to answer them with the data at hand have hit a major nerve—on both sides of the indie-traditional divide.

. . . .

My friend isn’t interested in asking, “Which publishing method is better?” Despite all the attention this particular question is getting, it’s not the one I’ve been asking, and it doesn’t help my friend, when she wants to know, “What’s better for me in this situation?” The first step in empowering ourselves with data is asking the right question.

. . . .

My friend’s a bestselling author who has had multi-book contracts, including print, with Big 5 publishers. Despite this, she claims to have yet to earn enough in advances and royalties combined to cover the expenses she’s incurred marketing and promoting her books. This situation hasn’t been problematic, since she considered she was building her career and fan base and easily saw how her publishers partnered with her in this endeavor. But now she needs money, and financial concerns are at the forefront.

She has a book written. She’s about to go back into contract negotiations with her current publisher and is realistically hoping for a significantly larger advance. An advance from her publisher is a sure thing, immediate money in the pocket, and, given her situation, not to be readily dismissed if she can pull the figure she wants. However, even if the publisher coughs up the requisite cash, her current sales numbers indicate that she may stand to earn quite a bit more if she self-publishes and reaps the indie royalties. If she hits the same digital sales level she currently has with her traditional sales, she could potentially make substantially more money self-publishing than signing with her publisher—but it’s not guaranteed and it would be over a much larger time horizon. She has a number of very visible peers writing in her genre who have done just that. They readily argue that she should join their ranks.

No matter how much data I review, there are no easy answers here.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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