The Business of Writing

Why does everyone want to be published?

27 August 2015

From MacGregor Literary:

I thought you’d like to see this question someone sent me: “I’ve been writing for several months now, and I’m trying to figure out what my motivation is. Can you help me understand WHY so many writers want to become published authors?”

A fascinating question. Okay, this may surprise you, but I believe most new writers basically want to get published so that they’ll be famous. They want that thrill of holding up a book with their name emblazoned on the cover, show it to their friends, leave it on their coffee table, maybe peruse a copy at the bookstore and casually mention to someone in the aisle, “You know… I wrote this.” I think most new writers are seeking fame and encouragement, that they believe validity and meaning will arrive out of publication. They see fame as offering a measurable amount of worth and competence.

That’s not to say most new writers don’t also have something they want to say — they do. It’s just that many newer writers struggle with having a worthwhile story. Think about it — we all know it takes a while for a writer to become competent. Rarely do you see a novelist get her first completed work contracted. The industry average is five complete books before landing a deal… in other words, if you’re starting out, it will probably be your fifth completed novel before you get a contract.That’s why so many writers give up after one or two — it takes persistence to complete five novels before a publisher will pay attention to your work.

. . . .

Yet most writers who have achieved some level of fame fairly quickly eschew it in favor of craft. They may still enjoy the warmth associated with being recognized, or having someone come up and praise their words, but most successful authors discover that fame is not only fleeting, it doesn’t make us better people or better writers.

Link to the rest at MacGregor Literary

Another Drama in Harper Lee’s Hometown

24 August 2015

From The New York Times:

It’s been just over a month since the release of “Go Set a Watchman,” the long-awaited second novel from Harper Lee. The book has been the publishing sensation of the year, but the literary world has largely moved on now, focused on new releases for the fall and winter.

But in Ms. Lee’s hometown here, the effects of publishing “Watchman” linger, like debris from a departing county fair. Even as life returns to its slow rhythms, many residents are adjusting to a new order of things when it comes to Ms. Lee, one firmly under the direction of Tonja B. Carter.

Ms. Carter is Ms. Lee’s lawyer, and over the last several years she has consolidated an unusual amount of control over the author’s affairs. In recent months she has extended her reach, sometimes to the most minute of details.

About seven weeks ago, for instance, on the day of a luncheon here to celebrate the imminent publication of “Watchman,” Ms. Carter learned about a recipe book, “To Fill a Mockingbird,” being sold by the small museum inside the old courthouse at the center of town. The courthouse had been the fictional setting for Ms. Lee’s 1960 classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Two years earlier, Ms. Lee had sued the museum for selling too many items that used her “Mockingbird” trademark. Ms. Carter thought the cookbook violated the settlement in that case.

So she complained to Greg Norris, a Monroe County probate judge and one of the most powerful officials in the county. That afternoon, Judge Norris went to the museum, collected all 282 copies in a cart and wheeled them over to her law office.

“I don’t want any more litigation,” Judge Norris, the president of the Monroe County Commission, later explained. “So, let’s remove them just in case.”

In ways big and small, Ms. Carter, 50, is shaping the legacy of one of the country’s most revered authors.

She is Ms. Lee’s lawyer, spokeswoman and the trustee of her estate. She holds power of attorney over Ms. Lee, who is 89 and infirm, and she has had a role in a trust that the author established around 2011. She says she is the one who rediscovered the long forgotten manuscript for “Watchman” and negotiated the deal with HarperCollins for publication rights. And lately, she’s taken the reins of a nonprofit organization that Ms. Lee created, and she gained control of the play based on “Mockingbird” that is performed each spring inside the courthouse.

“This level of involvement is highly unusual,” said Sallie Randolph, a lawyer who represents authors.

. . . .

 Ms. Carter’s restaurant, the Prop and Gavel, which she owns with her husband, Patrick, was shut down for a year in the midst of an informal boycott by residents upset that the museum was being sued. The restaurant, which said it closed because of renovations in the building next door, recently reopened.

. . . .

 Ms. Carter did not respond to questions or a request for an interview. State investigators have reviewed whether Ms. Lee was pressured into publishing “Watchman,” and decided she was not.

. . . .

She has acknowledged, though, that she has never prepared a detailed inventory of Ms. Lee’s archives. Some scholars were stunned by Ms. Carter’s statement last month in The Wall Street Journal that it wasn’t until this July, in at least her third trip to the safe deposit box, that she had located the original “Mockingbird” manuscript, a document likely worth more than $1 million. During that same visit, she said, she found pages of what could be a third novel by Ms. Lee.

“I don’t think that her literary estate is being professionally managed very well,” said Charles J. Shields, the author of “Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee.”

It is unclear how much money Ms. Carter earns working for Ms. Lee or in her wider capacity as a lawyer who has focused on estate and family law, and has handled some cases in other areas. Some lawyers who act as literary agents receive a 15 percent commission on a book’s advance.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t

20 August 2015

From The New York Times Magazine:

On July 11, 2000, in one of the more unlikely moments in the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch handed the microphone to Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, to hear his thoughts on art in the age of digital reproduction. Ulrich’s primary concern was a new online service called Napster, which had debuted a little more than a year before. As Ulrich explained in his statement, the band began investigating Napster after unreleased versions of one of their songs began playing on radio stations around the country. They discovered that their entire catalog of music was available there for free.

Ulrich’s trip to Washington coincided with a lawsuit that Metallica had just filed against Napster — a suit that would ultimately play a role in the company’s bankruptcy filing. But in retrospect, we can also see Ulrich’s appearance as an intellectual milestone of sorts, in that he articulated a critique of the Internet-­era creative economy that became increasingly commonplace over time. ‘‘We typically employ a record producer, recording engineers, programmers, assistants and, occasionally, other musicians,’’ Ulrich told the Senate committee. ‘‘We rent time for months at recording studios, which are owned by small-­business men who have risked their own capital to buy, maintain and constantly upgrade very expensive equipment and facilities. Our record releases are supported by hundreds of record companies’ employees and provide programming for numerous radio and television stations. … It’s clear, then, that if music is free for downloading, the music industry is not viable. All the jobs I just talked about will be lost, and the diverse voices of the artists will disappear.’’

The intersection between commerce, technology and culture has long been a place of anxiety and foreboding. Marxist critics in the 1940s denounced the assembly-line approach to filmmaking that Hollywood had pioneered; in the ’60s, we feared the rise of television’s ‘‘vast wasteland’’; the ’80s demonized the record executives who were making money off violent rap lyrics and ‘‘Darling Nikki’’; in the ’90s, critics accused bookstore chains and Walmart of undermining the subtle curations of independent bookshops and record stores.

. . . .

 But starting with Ulrich’s testimony, a new complaint has taken center stage, one that flips those older objections on their heads. The problem with the culture industry is no longer its rapacious pursuit of consumer dollars. The problem with the culture industry is that it’s not profitable enough. Thanks to its legal troubles, Napster itself ended up being much less important as a business than as an omen, a preview of coming destructions. Its short, troubled life signaled a fundamental rearrangement in the way we discover, consume and (most importantly) pay for creative work. In the 15 years since, many artists and commentators have come to believe that Ulrich’s promised apocalypse is now upon us — that the digital economy, in which information not only wants to be free but for all practical purposes is free, ultimately means that ‘‘the diverse voices of the artists will disappear,’’ because musicians and writers and filmmakers can no longer make a living.

. . . .

And even when you do manage to pull out a credit card, the amounts are shrinking: $9 for an e-book that used to be a $20 hardcover. If the prices of traditional media keep falling, then it seems logical to critics that we will end up in a world in which no one has an economic incentive to follow creative passions. The thrust of this argument is simple and bleak: that the digital economy creates a kind of structural impossibility that art will make money in the future. The world of professional creativity, the critics fear, will soon be swallowed by the profusion of amateurs, or the collapse of prices in an age of infinite and instant reproduction will cheapen art so that no one will be able to quit their day jobs to make it — or both.

. . . .

The dystopian scenario, after all, isn’t about the death of the record business or Hollywood; it’s about the death of music or movies. As a society, what we most want to ensure is that the artists can prosper — not the record labels or studios or publishing conglomerates, but the writers, musicians, directors and actors themselves.

Their financial fate turns out to be much harder to measure, but I endeavored to try. Taking 1999 as my starting point — the year both Napster and Google took off — I plumbed as many data sources as I could to answer this one question: How is today’s creative class faring compared with its predecessor a decade and a half ago? The answer isn’t simple, and the data provides ammunition for conflicting points of view. It turns out that Ulrich was incontrovertibly correct on one point: Napster did pose a grave threat to the economic value that consumers placed on recorded music. And yet the creative apocalypse he warned of has failed to arrive. Writers, performers, directors and even musicians report their economic fortunes to be similar to those of their counterparts 15 years ago, and in many cases they have improved. Against all odds, the voices of the artists seem to be louder than ever.

. . . .

From 2002 to 2012, the number of businesses that identify as or employ ‘‘independent artists, writers and performers’’ (which also includes some athletes) grew by almost 40 percent, while the total revenue generated by this group grew by 60 percent, far exceeding the rate of inflation.

What do these data sets have to tell us about musicians in particular? According to the O.E.S., in 1999 there were nearly 53,000 Americans who considered their primary occupation to be that of a musician, a music director or a composer; in 2014, more than 60,000 people were employed writing, singing or playing music. That’s a rise of 15 percent, compared with overall job-­market growth during that period of about 6 percent. The number of self-­employed musicians grew at an even faster rate: There were 45 percent more independent musicians in 2014 than in 2001. (Self-­employed writers, by contrast, grew by 20 percent over that period.)

Of course, Baudelaire would have filed his tax forms as self-­employed, too; that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also destitute. Could the surge in musicians be accompanied by a parallel expansion in the number of broke musicians? The income data suggests that this just isn’t true. According to the O.E.S., songwriters and music directors saw their average income rise by nearly 60 percent since 1999. The census version of the story, which includes self-­employed musicians, is less stellar: In 2012, musical groups and artists reported only 25 percent more in revenue than they did in 2002, which is basically treading water when you factor in inflation. And yet collectively, the figures seem to suggest that music, the creative field that has been most threatened by technological change, has become more profitable in the post-­Napster era — not for the music industry, of course, but for musicians themselves. Somehow the turbulence of the last 15 years seems to have created an economy in which more people than ever are writing and performing songs for a living.

. . . .

[T]he decline in recorded-­music revenue has been accompanied by an increase in revenues from live music. In 1999, when Britney Spears ruled the airwaves, the music business took in around $10 billion in live-­music revenue internationally; in 2014, live music generated almost $30 billion in revenue, according to data assembled from multiple sources by the live-music service Songkick. Starting in the early 1980s, average ticket prices for concerts closely followed the rise in overall consumer prices until the mid-1990s, when ticket prices suddenly took off: From 1997 to 2012, average ticket prices rose 150 percent, while consumer prices grew less than 100 percent. It’s elemental economics: As one good — recorded music — becomes ubiquitous, its price plummets, while another good that is by definition scarce (seeing a musician play a live performance) grows in value. Moreover, as file-­sharing and iTunes and Spotify have driven down the price of music, they have also made it far easier to envelop your life with a kind of permanent soundtrack, all of which drives awareness of the musicians and encourages fans to check them out in concert. Recorded music, then, becomes a kind of marketing expense for the main event of live shows.

. . . .

The vast machinery of promoters and shippers and manufacturers and A&R executives that sprouted in the middle of the 20th century, fueled by the profits of those high-­margin vinyl records and CDs, has largely withered away. What remains is a more direct relationship between the musicians and their fans. That new relationship has its own demands: the constant touring and self-­promotion, the Kickstarter campaigns that have raised $153 million dollars to date for music-­related projects, the drudgery that inevitably accompanies a life without handlers. But the economic trends suggest that the benefits are outweighing the costs. More people are choosing to make a career as a musician or a songwriter than they did in the glory days of Tower Records.

Of the big four creative industries (music, television, movies and books), music turns out to be the business that has seen the most conspicuous turmoil: None of the other three has seen anywhere near the cratering of recorded-­music revenues.

. . . .

 How have high-­quality books fared in the digital economy? If you write an exceptional novel or biography today, are you more or less likely to hit the best-­seller list than you might have in the pre-­Kindle age? Here the pessimists might have a case, based on my analysis. Every year, editors at The New York Times Book Review select the 100 notable books of the year. In 2004 and 2005, the years before the first Kindles were released, those books spent a combined 2,781 weeks on The Times’s best-­seller list and the American Booksellers Association’s IndieBound list, which tracks sales in independent bookstores. In 2013 and 2014, the notable books spent 2,531 weeks on the best-­seller lists — a decline of 9 percent. When you look at the two lists separately, the story becomes more complicated still. The critical successes of 2013 and 2014 actually spent 6 percent more weeks on the A.B.A. list, but 30 percent fewer weeks on the broader Times list. The numbers seem to suggest that the market for books may be evolving into two distinct systems. Critically successful works seem to be finding their audience more easily among indie-­bookstore shoppers, even as the mainstream market has been trending toward a winner-­takes-­all sweepstakes.

This would be even more troubling if independent bookstores — traditional champions of the literary novel and thoughtful nonfiction — were on life support. But contrary to all expectations, these stores have been thriving. After hitting a low in 2007, decimated not only by the Internet but also by the rise of big-box chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores have been growing at a steady clip, with their number up 35 percent (from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,227 in 2015); by many reports, 2014 was their most financially successful year in recent memory. Indie bookstores account for only about 10 percent of overall book sales, but they have a vastly disproportionate impact on the sale of the creative midlist books that are so vital to the health of the culture.

. . . .

 To many of us, buying music in physical form is now simply an inconvenience: schlepping those CDs home and burning them and downloading the tracks to our mobile devices. But many of the most ardent Kindle converts — and I count myself among them — still enjoy browsing shelves of physical books, picking them up and sitting back on the couch with them. The trend might also reflect the social dimension of book culture: If you’re looking for literary community, you head out to the weekly reading series at the indie bookstore and buy something while you’re there.

. . . .

It has never been easier to start making money from creative work, for your passion to undertake that critical leap from pure hobby to part-time income source. Write a novel or record an album, and you can get it online and available for purchase right away, without persuading an editor or an A&R executive that your work is commercially viable. From the consumer’s perspective, blurring the boundaries has an obvious benefit: It widens the pool of potential talent. But it also has an important social merit. Widening the pool means that more people are earning income by doing what they love.

Link to the rest at The New York Times Magazine

This was an interesting read for PG. However, it suffers from the same problem that so many NYT articles do – a lack of understanding about how the rest of the nation (or even the outer boroughs of New York) operate.

The characteristic NYT blind spot was most telling in “If you’re looking for literary community, you head out to the weekly reading series at the indie bookstore and buy something while you’re there.”

PG suggests that for 99% of the US population, such an experience is not realistically possible and might not be utilized if it were. For the 99%, literary communities are online and a link in an online discussion can take you straight to Amazon, where you can make a purchase and start reading an ebook even faster than you can complete a purchase at an indie bookstore in Manhattan.

The NY-centrism reflected in the quote – I write for people who are just like me or who want to be just like me – is probably harmless at the NYT (although PG understands that circulation and profits continue to decline). However, the NY-centrism of the traditional publishing business is one of its greatest weaknesses. For one thing, most of the people reading the manuscripts and deciding which ones to publish for NY publishing are substantially disconnected from most of the book-reading public.

Because of its intellectual isolation, tradpub is poorly prepared to deal with Amazon. The denizens of tradpub are pretty much tech Cro-Magnons. Tradpub is a creature of large old-style corporate structures where the meaningful orders come from the top and meaningful information that can’t be expressed in numbers doesn’t flow upward. The customers tradpub understands aren’t readers, they’re distributors and bookstores.

If you reverse almost all tradpub characteristics, you describe Amazon – bottoms-up, consumer-focused, data-driven and technically sophisticated.

New York, cheered on by the NYT, loves to think of itself as the most intelligent, forward-looking, sophisticated, etc., etc. place in the universe. This viewpoint is one of the compensating factors for living in tiny apartments, riding dirty subways and paying exorbitant prices for every purchase. Living at the center of everything is worth the cost.

Unfortunately for tradpub and its cheerleaders, the future of books, publishing and bookselling is being invented in Seattle, not New York. Seattle is moving too fast for New York to catch up, so demonizing Bezozebub and indie authors may be best understood as some sort of compensating emotional and behavioral disorder.

Can You Afford to Get Published?

11 August 2015

From author Kate Flora via Maine Crime Writers:

Usually, published writers like to paint a glowy picture of the world we inhabit. It is true that, having struggled often for years to finally become published, we are grateful for the chance to get our work out there and have it read, and I beam with pride when I look at my row of published books. But this week, after putting together some figures for the past twelve months, I estimate that I’m working for about a dollar a day. I thought it might be interesting to readers to have some insight into the published author’s reality.

I published my first mystery, Chosen for Death, back in 1994. For those early books in my Thea Kozak series, the advances ran around $5-6,000, and I usually earned royalties on top of that.

. . . .

I puttered along with my advances in this range until I sold my breakthrough book, Steal Away, (published as Katharine Clark) which had a big advance, was a book club selection, and was sold as an audio book. The book did not earn back that big advance and so, since publishers considering buying a book look at sales numbers, my happy midlist career was ruined.

But I am stubborn, so I kept on writing, and eventually sold my Joe Burgess series. Some time had passed and the advances had gotten smaller. Then I sold my first true crime, Finding Amy, to a university press. Another small advance that I shared with co-writer, Joe Loughlin.

And so it has gone. Selling something it has taken a year or more to write for a few thousand dollars does not seem like a sensible economic model.

. . . .

There are a lot of expenses involved in promoting a book. Many readers (and even writers aspiring to be published) don’t realize how many expenses are not covered by the publisher. For example: designing and maintaining a website, designing and printing publicity materials like flyers and bookmarks, buying copies of the book to give to people who’d helped me during the writing process, and buying copies of galleys to mail out for reviews, along with the expenses of the 3000 miles I put on my car.

And that’s not all. I was lucky enough to have Death Dealer be named an Agatha finalist, so I attended the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda in June, along with Sleuthfest in Florida in February. With airfare, hotels, and registration, a conference can easily cost a thousand dollars. In addition, I decided to take a chance on hiring a publicist to see if I could break out and get my books greater recognition.

. . . .

So here I sit, nearly a year after my books have been published. The writing community has been generous. Death Dealer is an Agatha and Anthony finalist, and won the Public Safety Writers Association 2015 award for nonfiction. And Grant You Peace won the 2015 Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. I am humbled at the recognition and deeply grateful to my peers.

I have received nothing beyond those initial advances.

Link to the rest at Maine Crime Writers and thanks to Dale for the tip.

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

How I Make A Six Figure Income With My Writing

8 August 2015

From Joanna Penn:

I love the transparency of the indie world.

It’s so important for us to share information so we can learn from each other. I’ve just finished my 2014 -2015 tax returns in the UK, so I wanted to share my breakdowns in the hope that it helps you with your author business.

How does my six-figure income break down?

First of all, I am an author-entrepreneur. All my income stems from my writing but I separate that into books and blogging-related, since the latter brings me speaking opportunities and affiliate income as well as direct sales.

The business now makes an income that is 3x the UK average for a male and is a six figure business in USD.


50% book related income, which includes audiobooks and print as well as ebook sales on all retail stores. This would be a full-time income for many people on its own, and proves that you can make a good income as an author, despite what the mainstream media suggest (but then they never seem to survey indies!)

12% course sales from my own site

25% affiliate sales which is basically a commission on selling other people’s products that I use and believe are useful

10% paid professional speaking

3% sponsorship for the podcast from corporate sponsors and Patreon

. . . .


Clearly ebooks are dominant, as they are for any indie author. But I wouldn’t be without my print sales either They are mainly non-fiction sales.

What is more interesting is that a year ago, I had virtually no audiobook income. I am super bullish on audiobook growth over the next few years and have really been focused on growing that area. I have 10 books in audio so I expect to see that figure grow next year.

Link to the rest at Joanna Penn and thanks to Toby for the tip.

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

Doing Everything Right Part II: Self Publishing

7 August 2015

From author Kristen Painter:

Self publishing seems to be the subject of every other question that newbies ask. I totally understand why, too.  There are lots of stories of indie authors who’ve made it big. Like, phenomenally big. The indie path often seems paved with glitter. And for some, it is. For many, it’s not. So if you choose that path, you need to do it right.

How exactly do you do self publishing right? I’ll give you some advice on that gleaned from my five years of self publishing but first…

What does glitter mean? Success has a personal definition for everyone and it’s the first thing a writer should figure out when considering self publishing. What does success mean to you? Is it as simple as publishing your book and seeing it for sale on Amazon? If so, you’re probably a hobbyist, because the hard truth that some authors don’t like to talk about is most of us are doing this for the money. Does that sound crass? I really don’t care because all of the authors I know (ALL OF THEM) have bills to pay.

If you don’t have bills to pay and you just want the right to say “You can buy my book on Amazon” this post is not for you.

. . . .

I’d also like to say that this post is also for people who have a decently firm grasp on the craft of writing, storytelling, grammar and punctuation. If you don’t know what an adverb is or what the point of conflict in a story is, this post is not for you until you’ve done some more work on the basics. Cool? Cool.

. . . .

1. Write to market.

What that means is studying the bestseller genre lists on Amazon and figuring out what’s selling, then deciding if any of those genres speak to you. Let’s say Amish dinosaur shifter romances are blowing up right now and the idea makes you giddy with excitement. Great! Go write T-Rex Yoder and his tale (tail?) of love! If you can write fast enough and get the book out there before the wave subsides, chances are good you’ll make some money.

But maybe those types of books seem as unwritable to you as historical romances seem to me. (Love to read them, can’t imagine doing all that research to actually write one!) That’s okay too. What you can then do is figure out how to turn what’s popular into something you can write. Maybe it’s a different kind of shifter. Maybe it’s a sweeter version of the current trend in contemporary romance. Maybe it’s a hotter version of a sweeter series that’s climbing the charts.

Whatever it is, it needs to resonate with you as a writer. It needs to be something you want to write, feel comfortable writing and seriously, are capable of writing. Because…

2. You need to write a series.

If you’ve never written connected books in your life and aren’t interested in writing connected books, you’re going to have a hard row to hoe in self publishing. Standalone books are great – I’m not dissing them – but we’re talking about how to be successful here. And series is where it’s at. (I have proof of this in my own work.)

When readers find a book they like, they want more of the same. Series provide that. Standalone books, while perhaps still all written in your voice, don’t always translate into more of the same for the reader. You know how some families vacation at the same spot every year? It’s the same for readers. When they fall in love with a place and characters you’ve written, they want to go back there. Again and again and again.

. . . .

4. Stop worrying about marketing.

By marketing, I’m talking about all the stuff that gets thrown into the mix of “things you have to do when self publishing”. I mean things like price pulsing and ads and putting the first book free and so on.

The best way to sell your books is to write more books. So do that. There’s no point in worrying about which site to advertise on when you only have one or two books out. Frankly, you’re wasting your money. Build that backlist, build that series. Get four or five or six books out. THEN your advertising dollars will be selling all of those books, not just one.

Link to the rest at Kristen Painter and thanks to Leigh for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristen Painter’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.

A Few Thoughts on New Writers and “Doing Everything Right”

6 August 2015

From author Kristen Painter:

Let me start out by saying I only know what I know, however, my knowledge isn’t based on my experiences alone. I know many writers (and behind closed doors, in “safe” environments, writers talk) and have been at this writing thing for about 13 years now, so my decision making is based on what’s happened to me personally but also what I’ve witnessed my friends going through. Like hell. And high water.

Lately, it feels like there’s been an unusually large influx of new writers into the romance writing community. Another surge brought about by the gold rush of self publishing? I don’t know.

. . . .

These new writers seem to have a lot of the same concerns. Namely, how do I do this right?

. . . .

I understand all the questions, because I’m pretty sure I asked all of them too, way back when I was using my phone to get calls not check my Amazon numbers.

So here are some answers:

You do this right by writing the book. And finishing the book. And then writing the next one. A website and a twitter account won’t get you to The End. You have to do that. And honestly, you’re just wasting your time with that piddling stuff when it’s all going to change anyway once your first book is out.

Yes, it’s hard. You can also learn almost everything you need to know about the business by befriending other authors and then sitting beside them and listening. Here’s a little networking tip, too. Don’t go with your hand out, go with your ears open. Authors are bombarded with requests. Ask your favorites what you can do forthem instead. (Read their books! Leave them reviews!)

Yes, commas are important but story telling comes first.

In the history of taglines, no matter how clever, I don’t think they’ve ever been responsible for selling a book. Neither have author photos, FB covers, premium foil-embossed 100 lb weight stock business cards or websites with moving parts. Some of those things might actually turn readers off.

And now, some advice:

Read. Read. Read. In the genre you want to write and in all the genres you don’t. Great books are the best teachers. Crappy books aren’t bad teachers either. Find books that speak to you then figure out why. Don’t feel guilty about the time spent reading either. Once you get published, a lot of that reading time goes away. Sadly.

Contest your work. RWA offers tons of chapter-run contest. Enter them. Look for patterns in the feedback. If you don’t understand something, ask your writer friends.

Speaking of writer friends, find a community and cultivate friendships. An RWA chapter, a group that meets at the library, an online community…just find some people who are doing the same thing you’re doing and around the same level.

Link to the rest at Kristen Painter and thanks to Roxanne for the tip.

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

The Myth of The Lazy Writer

3 August 2015

From Hugh Howey via Publishers Weekly:

The hardest part of getting a book published is the actual writing. All it takes to see this is the number of people who dream of publishing a book but never manage to hammer out a rough draft. I spent 20 years trying to write my first novel before I finally pulled it off. It’s not unusual for an aspiring writer to struggle for years and never produce a finished product to submit to agents or editors.

Once the hard part is done and a draft is written, there are two basic routes a writer can take. Much ink has been spilled over the past few years about the rise of self-publishing—even though the route predates Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. To self-publish requires hiring cover artists, editors, and typesetters or learning to do these things on one’s own. The difficult task of emailing a cover artist to hire her services is often used to frighten authors away from self-publishing. That’s because there’s a myth that authors are lazy, and a myth that some authors merely write for a living. No such creature has ever existed.

The alternative to self-publishing is to sign over your work to a traditional press. It sources the cover artist, editor, and typesetter for you. In exchange, it takes most of the income. This is sold as a fair deal, especially since it is said that publishers support authors while they write their novels by providing a livable advance. This is yet another myth: authors produce their first works while working another job; they are not given a year’s salary because they have an idea.

What is being sold with these myths is the notion that the self-published author works extra hard beyond the writing, while all other writers simply craft their drafts and FedEx the results to agents in New York. Having published along both routes, I can attest that the amount of work either way is roughly equal. Learning to query agents took me longer than learning how to self-publish.

Successful authors work their butts off either way. There is no such thing as a lazy successful author.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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

In Which I Rant About How Writers Do Not Respect Their Readers

20 July 2015

From TPV regular Shantnu Tiwari:

So I read yet another book by yet another author (a 1st book by a new writer, published by a traditional big 5 publisher) that ended without warning. As in, the book finished without solving any of the main plot points or character arcs. It was like, I turned the chapter, and bam! The End. Buy the next book please.

Legacy publishers have loved this sort of thing. This guarantee readers will buy the next book. And readers hate it.

Hyperion is still hated by many people, and has hundreds of 1 star reviews, because it doesn’t finish the story in the first book. The main story is that a small group of people go to a planet where a demon like creature lives. And the first book ends right when they enter the planet, ie, where the book was supposed to start!

I knew about this, having read the reviews, which is why I bought the omnibus edition that contains both books in one really thick tome. But most people have sworn to never finish Hyperion.

Holly Lisle says that her editor did this for one of her books– just cut it in half, ending the first book on a cliffhanger. And many years later, she still gets hate mail for it, even though it wasn’t her decision. It is one of her few books that has many 1 star reviews.

. . . .

Recently, I have started seeing Indie & self publishers follow the same tactic.  There is a religious thinking, that looks almost cultish, that says all books have to be written in a series, so that readers will buy one after the other. And many writing “gurus”, including one best seller whose blog is super popular and get millions of hits, say that you must end your book on a cliffhanger, or at least in the middle of action, so that readers will buy the next book.

. . . .

I am even happy with giving a teaser to the next book in your last chapter. So the reader knows what’s coming, and can buy the next book, if they want. But only after the current story, the one they paid for, is finished.

Link to the rest at Shantnu Tiwari

Here’s a link to Shantnu Tiwari’s books

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