Joe Konrath

Your Book Marketing Plan Won’t Work

9 June 2019

From Joe Konrath:

So you wrote a book.

Hooray.

Now you should celebrate. Enjoy the moment. I suggest craft beer. My go-to is barrel aged stouts, invented and perfected by Goose Island. But Prairie Artisan, The Bruery, Alesmith, Founders, Stone, Central Waters, Epic, Boulevard, Oskar Blues, and Avery also work well. More suggestions welcome in the comments.

Now, after celebrating, you are creating a marketing plan.

You’re nervous, but you’ve been an avid student, devouring everything you can on how to sell books. And you’ve discovered a lot of chatter about a lot of things, including:

SOCIAL MEDIA

The catchall go-to for all authors. You have two Facebook pages, a personal one and a public one. You’re on Twitter. You’re on Instagram and Tumblr and Pinterest and Flickr and Reddit and 4chan and 8chan and Kboards and Goodreads and Blogger and you are constantly posting new and interesting content because you’re smart enough to know that yelling “BUY MY BOOK!” doesn’t sell anything.

Guess what? Posting new and interesting content doesn’t sell anything either.

When was the last time you actually bought anything because someone liked it on Facebook? Or retweeted a product link?

Your social media isn’t going to sell much for you. This blog gets millions of hits a year. You’re one of them.

How many books of mine have you bought? Can you name any? What’s the latest one?

. . . .

THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

You’re not going to sell a lot of books on social media. While social media does help inform fans that you have a new book out, or something priced cheap, it won’t amount to many sales.

That’s not to say you should ignore social media. But it isn’t going to cover your car payment. Stop thinking it will.

. . . .

THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT HOW-TO BOOKS

There is no book you can read that will help you improve your sales to a degree that was worth the time and money you wasted on it.

Feel free not to believe me. Feel free to tell me about the book that helped you sell a zillion copies. But beware: I’m gonna check your rank and post it and make you feel stupid.

. . . .

THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT ADVERTISING

You’re doing well if you break even. And while you can crow about the intangibles of “finding a new fan who buys your whole backlist” the fact is that any serious attempt to explode your sales using ads will require you spending a LOT of time tweaking them, and a LOT of money buying them.

I’ve spent tens of thousands on advertising over the years. NOTHING is guaranteed. They all require a lot of thought and effort. And all the effort you spend on ads is less time you spend writing.

. . . .

SO HOW DO I IMPROVE MY LUCK?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

I’ve driven myself half-insane trying to figure out how to sell ebooks. And I’ve sold a lot. But, like many, my sales have slowed down over the years. I used to make $800k a year. Now I make less than half of that.

Why?

Well, the reason I broke out and made major money was due to pure luck. Amazon created the Kindle and allowed authors to self-pub with DTP (now KDP). I was uniquely suited to exploit this new type of media because I had ten shelf novels that publishers had rejected, and I now had the opportunity to self-publish them while undercutting traditional publishers on price. Then, as ebooks grew in popularity, I got my backlist back and was able to leverage a whole lot of cheap books into a whole lot of money.

I still make a lot of money. But when Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited, my income cut in half, and has never recovered.

Luck again. Amazon giveth and Amazon taketh away.

I have gotten some decent publicity in my time. It never moved the needle on sales.

I’ve had a very popular blog. It never moved the needle on sales.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

PG has missed Joe Konrath.

Joe’s blog was required reading for anyone interested in self-publishing for a long time, then he went quiet for a while. PG doesn’t know why and figures that it’s Joe’s business and he’ll tell us if he wants us to know.

Now that Joe’s made a couple of new posts, PG has recalled how much he enjoys Joe’s unique voice and views.

Chasing Publishing Trends

10 June 2016

From Joe Konrath:

It’s never wise to chase fads or trends, because by the time you get a product to market, it may be over and you’ve missed the bandwagon.

Unless the product is a book and you self-publish. Then you can write, edit, create cover art, and get three books live in less than three hours.

Presenting my latest epic trilogy:

JA Konrath Adult Coloring Books!!!

Not only am I able to compete on price with the major houses, but I’m also one-upping traditional publishers by releasing these titles as ebooks as well as paper books.

. . . .

a1

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe’s triangle coloring book. One of the reviewers is looking forward to the audiobook.

Here’s another link to Joe’s author page. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books. PG thinks it would be great if Joe’s coloring books could make it to the top of the adult coloring books bestseller list.

Fisking Porter Anderson

24 May 2016

From Joe Konrath:

Porter’s nonsense in italics, my common-sense replies in bold.

“The biggest issue is one that will be difficult for us to recover from…the degradation of our worth as creatives.”

Joe sez: Our worth as creatives is dependent upon reaching readers. This meme is damned old I wrote about it back in 2010, The Value of Ebooks.

In that blog post I use real numbers to discuss author earnings, and came to this inescapable conclusion:

The value of an ebook is determined by the overall amount of money it earns, not the list price.

Obvious, right? But let’s forge ahead through this…

That line is from a piece here at Writer Unboxed a year ago, in May 2015. Our colleague Heather Webb, in As Writers, What Are We Worth?, was anticipating a groan heard ’round the world.

Last month, when I led a round-table discussion at Berlin’s Publishers’ Forum, our topic was “Re-Thinking Ebook Sales and Understanding the Consumers.” But what drew the biggest response was book pricing.

We’re in a world now that thinks it can write just as well as you can. It doesn’t need your book. It can write its own. It can publish it. And it can lowball it on Amazon.

Joe sez: This nefarious scheme is called “capitalism” and is evidence of something called a “free market”. 

Once upon a time, publishing wasn’t a free market. Not everyone with a book had an equal chance to reach readers. Amazon, and other ebook retailers, have democratized the process. Which means consumers now have more choices than every before. And many of those choices are priced according to the market, rather than according to the publishing cartel that controlled pricing with their quasi-monopoly.

. . . .

In the UK in January, Penguin Random House CEO Tom Weldon told my Bookseller colleague Benedicte Page: “”One of the biggest challenges in 2016 will be e-book pricing: how do we maintain the value perception of our quality content and maximize revenues across all formats for both authors and publishers?”

Joe sez: Allow me to translate: “How do we get people to pay more for ebooks, because if we drop them too low then consumers will buy the ebook rather than the paper book, and paper books are where we have the distribution oligopoly.”

A year later, Webb can see clearly now. Here’s what’s happening on a daily basis to authors’ work in the marketplace:

Heather Webb ‎@msheatherwebb – It’s awesome when people brag about how cheaply they got your novel for. NOT. They forget we make our living this way. AKA starvation diet

Joe sez: I’ll fix that quote so it makes sense. “It’s awesome when people brag about how cheaply they got your novel, because others will then seek it out and buy a copy. I wish every fan bragged about my cheap books.”

Perhaps, for some odd reason, Heather would rather sell a $14.99 ebook and earn $2.32 in royalties from her publisher (after her agent’s cut) than sell four books at $5.99 and earn $3.64. 

Just saw a study done with Lemurs. Even Lemurs know $3.64 is more than $2.32.

. . . .

With both the trade and the self-publishing sectors in rampant over-production as they are today, you’re facing a sheer rock face of competition for every glance your book might get, let alone a read, let alone a sale. Your price is in free-fall.

Joe sez: Porter, have you ever been in a bookstore? Notice how it’s filled with thousands of books? Do you glance at every single one before making a selection?

There have ALWAYS been other books. But now, for the first time, the cost is coming down so it isn’t prohibitive. Rather than $30 hardcovers, which is a luxury price, readers can get new titles for $4.99. And the $4.99 book is just as good as the $30 book. 

Or do you enjoy paying more for comparable products? If so, I’ve got some $40 per roll toilet paper I’ll sell you. It does the same thing as the $1 per roll toilet paper, but if you buy that cheap stuff my dignity will be in jeopardy. You don’t want me on a starvation diet, do you?

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

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

Fisking the Authors Guild

20 October 2015

From Joe Konrath:

The Authors Guild just lost one of their ongoing cases against Google. The Guild have been whining that Google’s Book Scan–a service meant to digitally scan every book so the entire world could gain searchable Internet access to all of that info–is in fact violating copyright and stealing from authors.

Hey, Authors Guild! Why not also charge readers a fee every time they recommend a book via word of mouth?

. . . .

The Authors Guild has lost similar battles. During Authors Guild vs. Bill Smopey, they sued him because he’d sat in a Barnes & Nobel and read half of The Terror by Dan Simmons but hadn’t bought it. Smopey’s defense, “After the first 500 pages, the monster wasn’t even in it anymore, and I got bored and put it back.” The Guild claimed that Smopey owed Simmons’s publisher half of the cover price for reading without paying, and for partially crinkling page 342. The court dismissed the case.

During Authors Guild vs. Janet’s Mother, they sued because Janet bought a full price hardcover of Stephen King’s The Cell, then loaned it to her mother to read. The Guild demanded Janet’s Mother pay Stephen King a royalty, because she had no right to read what she hadn’t bought for herself. Janet’s Mother’s legal team dazzled with the famous, “Well, what about libraries?!” defense and the suit was dropped.

. . . .

The Guild recently remarked on their latest loss, to follow. Them in unreasonable bold italic font. I replied in sensible plain font.

Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals released its decision in Authors Guild v. Google. “The Authors Guild is disappointed that the Court has failed to reverse the District Court’s faulty interpretation of the fair use doctrine,” said Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director of the Authors Guild in New York. 

Apparently making all books discoverable on the Internet, which would not only add to the collective knowledge of the world, but help interested parties find the right books to buy, wasn’t fair use. That it would help people find more books to buy seems lost in the fear that people would rather surf the internet and piece together a book random page by random page at great frustration and time cost to get a maximum of 16% of the full title, out of order no less. We all love reading like that, don’t we?

“America owes its thriving literary culture to copyright protection. 

Actually, America owes its thriving literary culture to writers who are compelled to create. Copyright doesn’t ensure a writer makes money. Readers do. And if the readers can’t find the writer because–let’s take a wild leap here–the writer’s work isn’t searchable on the world’s biggest search engine, then copyright isn’t going to put one cent in that writer’s pocket.

. . . .

It’s unfortunate that a Court as well-respected as the Second Circuit does not see the damaging effect that uses such as Google’s can have on authors’ potential income.

Yeah, damaging. Someone Googles a topic, and it leads to a free except of my book. Every author wants people to browse a bookstore and find their book among the thousands of others. But to be able to do this online, 24/7? That’s stealing.

There are many ways to read a book without compensating the authors. Buy used. Go to a library. Borrow from a friend. Steal online. Use a paperback exchange. Read fan fic.

Authors shouldn’t fear being read. Being read will eventually lead to getting paid. Authors should be worrying about not being read, because readers don’t know they exist. Google Book Scan wants to show the world books that the world hasn’t ever seen before. The Authors Guild wants to micromanage this boon to authors and readers by collecting royalties.

Can someone call Mary Rasenberger on her landline, or if that’s too technologically advanced for her, send her a telegram, and let her know the rest of us are living in 2015.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Ava and others for the tip.

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

Zombie Publishing Meme #4: Self-Publishing is Costly and Risky; Legacy Publishing is Guaranteed and Free.

10 September 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Self-Publishing is Costly and Risky; Legacy Publishing is Guaranteed and Free

This meme takes a couple different forms. Sometimes it expresses itself as a comparison of the worst possible example of self-publishing to the best possible example of legacy publishing. Other times, the comparison is between the typical reality of self-publishing and the rare ideal of legacy publishing. Either way, the framework is misleading.

The meme is customarily introduced by someone claiming she explored self-publishing and was shocked to find it involved such high costs–$4000 just for editing, for example. The writer paid anyway, then was disappointed to discover that her ebook, which she was selling for $14.99, sold poorly and seems unlikely ever to recoup its costs.

. . . .

The writer then compares this unfortunate state of affairs to the possible ease of mailing out a few query letters, landing a six-figure deal with a Big Five publisher, and having all publishing services delivered smoothly and expertly.

In fact, many authors self-publish for nothing (both in ebook and pbook). They do it themselves, or barter for services (I’ll proofread yours if you proofread mine.) There are also many affordable freelance editors, artists, proofers, and designers.

. . . .

But regardless of what a self-published author chooses to spend on publishing services, it’s critical to understand that the author keeps her rights and the majority of revenues (typically 70% in digital). In other words, the costs of self-publishing–whether the self-published author prefers to spend a few dollars or a few thousand–are generally upfront; the payout is over the long term.
 
By contrast, the upfront costs of the legacy route tend to be relatively modest (if you don’t include time spent mailing out query letters and manuscripts, and waiting, perhaps permanently, to hear from an agent or editor). If you do land a legacy contract, you can expect some sort of advance (probably a few thousand dollars) and a promise that you’ll receive all relevant publishing services. In exchange, you’ll have to give up approximately 85% of revenues and you’ll almost certainly be surrendering your rights forever. The costs of legacy-publishing are therefore long-term; the payout, in the form of whatever advance you are offered, is upfront.
 
If a writer is lucky enough to get a gigantic advance–which Joe guesses only happens in less than 0.1% of legacy contracts–royalties don’t matter because they won’t ever be earned out. The advance is the only money the writer will likely ever see. But any advance less than life-changing money functions as an ridiculously high interest loan.

If you were a genre author offered a $100k advance earning 17.5% royalties off of the digital list price, and your ebook is priced at $4.99, you earn $0.88 per ebook sold. You need to sell 113,600 ebooks to earn out your advance. And when you do, you’re stuck with 88 cents per sale, FOREVER.

The same ebook, self-published, earns the author $3.49 per copy sold. If they sell 28,653 copies, they made the $100,000. Every copy they sell after that, they make 4x more money than they do on a legacy ebook.

Which seems like a better deal for authors?

Not only is the loan high interest, it’s also forever, because the author will never get those rights back.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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

Zombie Publishing Memes #3 – Without Legacy Gatekeepers, No One Will Be Able to Find Good Books

2 September 2015

From Joe Konrath:

The thrust of the argument is this: without legacy gatekeepers carefully curating the slush pile and winnowing choice for consumers, the unwashed hordes of self-published authors will unleash a deluge of worthless books that will engulf the good ones, preventing readers from finding anything worthwhile.

Of course it’s true that when there’s too much choice for consumers to sample individually, we need third-party systems to help us winnow the choice down to manageable levels. But it in no way follows from this that legacy publishing is the only or even the best such third-party system.

Here are few things to consider. First, when was the last time you sampled every single book in a bookstore before making a selection? Even in legacy’s heyday, the industry was publishing something like a quarter million new titles every year. Whatever winnowing function legacy provides, it therefore seems not a particularly stringent one.

Second, are there existing third party systems you primarily rely on to help you select the books you want to try? Recommendations from family and friends? Newspaper, magazine, and blog reviews? Search terms? The bestseller racks in bookstores? Amazon customer reviews? Do these means of winnowing choice seem more or less important than the traditional gatekeeping function that results in hundreds of thousands of new titles every year?

. . . .

Fourth, if consumers really needed gatekeepers to help them manage their choices, the Internet itself would be useless. After all, for any given person, it’s a safe bet the Internet is 99.99999999% crap. And yet somehow, every day, each of us manages to find the good stuff amidst all that crap, all without any gatekeepers keeping the unwashed masses from putting their stuff on the Internet.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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

PG says this is the meme that is closest to the hearts of BigPub minions – they love having the power to gatekeep. They get attention from people who would never talk to them otherwise.

The Amazon Agenda

26 August 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Amazon was recently the subject of world news when the ever intrepid David Streitfeld, the NYT reporter that gave us the wonder of whale math, did a hit piece on Amazon corporate culture that came to the startling and controversial conclusion; Amazon employees work really, really hard.

. . . .

Streitfeld, too, has a book available on Amazon, though his dismal 700,000 rank may be part of the reason he dislikes Zon so much.

Last I checked, the five hundred plus signatories of the latest Authors United bullshit letter also all had their titles available on Amazon. That letter recently arrived at the DOJ, and I’d bet it wasn’t a coincidence that it was on the heels of Streitfeld’s anti-Zon piece. I can imagine their delicious, mutual self-gratification as Preston and Streitfeld exchanged super-important emails about how to best coordinate their Anti-Amazon efforts for maximum impact, and about how Suzie in Algebra is dating Brad now because he dumped Melissa after she gained weight, and OMG doesn’t gym class suck this year 4 realz?!?

. . . .

Here we have all of this vocal, public author disapproval of Amazon, yet no one has the guts to actually pull their books.

. . . .

Amazon has allowed more writers to reach more readers than any other company in history. They’ve done this by innovating, giving readers what they want, and working with authors to offer us much better terms than any publisher ever has, in the past, or the present.

The Big 5 are a price-fixing cartel who want to charge readers high prices. That’s why the DOJ went after them and Apple, and that’s why they lost the suit. They had an oligopoly over paper distribution for decades (the only way to reach readers was through bookstores, the only way to get into a bookstore was through those publishing gatekeepers). Because they controlled who got published, they could get away with giving authors take-it-or-leave-it unconscionable contract terms.

Amazon has broken that oligopoly by allowing readers to reach readers via ebooks.

Because of this, the Big 5 can no longer control book pricing—and independent author can undercut them—and as a result the Big 5 are losing marketshare to Amazon and to indies.

. . . .

This isn’t altruism on Authors United’s part. It’s greed. It’s wanting to return to the old ways, where top authors got seven figure advances. Great for that 1%, not great for the 99% that Big Publishing ignored, harmed, and/or took advantage of.

Because Authors United is a bunch of entitled rich and famous authors (who should be celebrating the luck they’ve had in life rather than whining like babies about Amazon), they’ve been wooing their media contacts to wage a public opinion war against Amazon by painting Zon as a bully.

. . . .

Authors United are a bunch of greedy whiners who don’t want the status quo to keep shrinking; and it is shrinking, for the good of all readers and the vast majority of writers. So they beat their chests and flail about, trying to spin media, hoping public opinion will make big bad Amazon stop disintermediating the publishers who have made them rich.

It won’t work. Authors United knows this. Their argument doesn’t hold up to US antitrust law, logic, or majority opinion. But they are seeing their livelihoods slip away because their corporate masters don’t control the book world anymore, so they’re throwing a public tantrum.

. . . .

I’m pretty tied into the indie community, and the thousands of writers I’ve encountered are smart, and aware. Sometimes they draw incorrect conclusions, or feel persecuted, but the difference between dealing with Amazon and dealing with the Big 5 is like the difference between and honest, open, friendly relationship, and being beaten up by a group of muggers.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to James for the tip.

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

Zombie Publishing Memes #2 – Low Prices Devalue Books

24 August 2015

From Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler:

Low Prices “Devalue” Books.

The premise behind this zombie meme is not only wrong; it’s also exceptionally strange. After all, if you love books, why would you focus on their monetary worth rather than their worth in society? Isn’t what makes books valuable how widely they’re read, absorbed, and discussed, rather than how much money they make? And if books cost less and more people can afford them, doesn’t it stand to reason (assuming everyday experience is valid and what they teach in Economics 101 is correct) that more people will buy more books (in fact, they are doing just that)? If books are indeed valuable for society and we don’t want to devalue them, shouldn’t we look for ways to make books less expensive and therefore more widely accessible?

But even if you think the sole value of a book lies in how much money it makes, it’s silly to believe higher prices automatically mean more revenues. As a thought experiment: it’s unlikely anyone would maximize revenues with a five-cent price point, but then why not charge a hundred dollars for a book instead? Wouldn’t that $100 price point value the book even more?

Of course not. So intuitively, we all know there’s a sweet-spot price — the price at which volume x unit price maximizes revenues, and logically, this would seem to be the price that derives the greatest (financial) value from the book. If we make more money from our books at a five-dollar price point than we do at ten (not a hypothetical for us, by the way, but empirical fact), which is the price that’s “devaluing” the book?

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books and to Barry Eisler’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Next Page »