Monday, August 31, 2009

The Great Ebook Experiment

In my previous blog post I talked about the future of ebooks. The current model of overpriced ebooks with exclusive formats isn't going to last, because history shows us it never lasts. Technology, and the media released for technology, follows a pretty predictable pattern.

I believe ebooks are going to lose proprietary formatting and copy protection, and eventually become either cheap or free. People want their media fast, easy, and inexpensive.

Fast and easy will come as a matter of course, as all tech gets better and less expensive as time goes on.

Inexpensive will come one of two ways.

In the best-case scenario, print publishers will realize their strategy of releasing ebooks for the same price as hardcovers is short-sighted and harmful, and they will lower their prices.

But I don't see them doing that. Instead, I see software and tech developers eventually coming up with a system that will allow Joe Average to quickly and easily download all ebooks for free.

Joe Average can already download all ebooks for free, but it isn't quick or easy. There is precedent for this happening, however.

I have an iPhone. The first thing I did when I bought it was jailbreak it.

Jailbreaking involves hacking the operating system of the phone, which allows it to be used for many applications that Apple doesn't condone. One of these applications is Cydia.

Cydia, and Installous, are included with the free programs used to jailbreak iPhones and iPods. These are apps that link directly to websites that let you download apps for free.

In other words, the owner of a jailbroken iPhone doesn't need to go to the iTunes App Store to buy programs and games. They can simply go to Installous and get all of the programs and games for free.

Consider the levels of piracy involved in this endeavor.

Programmers hack the source code. Software developers create the applications. Designers build websites. Then users hack applications and upload them.

This is a streamlined, coordinated effort to steal by thousands of people, used by millions of people. Anyone with a jailbroken iPhone can get any application they want, and it is fast, easy, and free.

This isn't a question of if it will happen with ebooks. It's a question of when. And when it happens, how will authors get paid?

I've said before, you combat piracy with cost and convenience. Selling ebooks (which are essentially a bunch of ones and zeros and cost nothing to copy and distribute) for $9.99 is insane. Especially when you consider that this cost results in the ebook distributors LOSING money, because the print publishers sell them to retailers at 40% the hardcover price. This is hurting the retailers, and the consumers, who are going to go elsewhere to get their ebooks for cheap or free.

But I think there's a way for authors to make money by selling their ebooks cheaply. I think they can even make money by giving their ebooks away.

But first, let's go off on a seemingly unrelated tangent for a moment.

I love going to movies and seeing coming attractions. It gives me a taste of films that I might be interested in seeing. Sometimes a preview announces a film I didn't know about. Sometimes it gives me a glimpse of something I already knew about, and gets me excited about seeing it.

As a form of advertising, previews work. They aren't intrusive, like commercials. You pay to see a movie, and previews are a sort of bonus feature. They offer content.

People like content. They like information and entertainment. They seek it out.

Books have their own kind of preview. At the end of each of my paperbacks, there is a sample chapter of one of my upcoming books. I think this is a no-brainer. The best advertising for your writing is: your writing.

Like a coming attraction, an excerpt informs and entertains. It announces, whets the appetite, and often is a direct call to action. If I read a preview that I like, I buy the book.

For years, I've been wondering why publishers waste money on full page ads in the New York Times, featuring a picture of the book cover and a bunch of blurbs, when a much more effective ad would be a full page excerpt from the novel.

If your writing sells your writing, it makes sense to have your writing in as many places as possible, so it can be seen by as many readers as possible.

Unfortunately, print publishers haven't used this opportunity as much as they could. The end-of-book excerpt is commonplace, but it isn't the equivalent to the coming attractions at a movie theater. Instead of five previews, a book only offers one preview. And the preview is limited, because it is a preview of the same author who wrote the book.

This is understandable. Space is limited, and expensive, in print books. Plus, an author may balk at the idea of having five excerpts from other authors at the end of their novel.

Unless that author is me. :)

Personally, I'd pay a fortune to have ten pages from one of my books appear at the end of a Stephen King or James Patterson novel. It would be a tremendous opportunity.

Which brings us to this experiment.

How would you like to put a ten page excerpt from one of your books in the back of my ebooks?

Not counting SERIAL, which has had over 100,000 downloads as an ebook, my other ebooks have been downloaded roughly 30,000 times on my website and Kindle.

Here are my numbers, as of last Friday:

55 Proof - 3044 free downloads, 468 Kindle downloads
Newbie's Guide to Publishing Ebook - 5761 free downloads
Origin - 3122 free downloads, 2188 Kindle downloads
Disturb - 2724 free downloads, 869 Kindle downloads
The List - 2622 free downloads, 4088 Kindle downloads
Shot of Tequila - 425 paid downloads on my website, 720 Kindle downloads
Truck Stop - 730 Kindle downloads

Now, I'm the first to admit that this isn't enough information to base a reliable advertising scale upon. I've been tracking free books on my website for over 20 months, and have been tracking Kindle books since April 8. It's possible to average day-by-day and month-by-month downloads, but these fluctuate, and differ. For example, Truck Stop is only a month or so old. Shot of Tequila has never been given away for free. The Newbie's Guide has never been for sale. Depending on the month, book downloads go up or down. A lot of it is a crap shoot.

But I'm not out to create an accurate chart for dictating ad rates. For this experiment, I'm going to use a simple model.

I will put your book excerpt in one of my ebooks for $1 a day.

Intrigued? Here are the basic rules.

1. You provide me with an excerpt no longer than 2500 words.

2. You pay me through PayPal for a minimum of 30 days (in other words, $30.)

3. There will be a maximum of five excerpts per ebook title. First come, first serve.

4. In the product description of the ebook I will mention that your excerpt appears, stating your name and the title.

Now lets have some questions.

Q: So my excerpt will appear on both the Kindle and on your website?

A: If my book appears on both, yes. The Newbie's Guide to Publishing Ebook is only on my website. Truck Stop is only on the Kindle, though I will put it on my website soon for $1.59.

Q: Can I put an excerpt in SERIAL?

A: SERIAL, and any of the other ebooks where I have a co-author, are not going to be used for this experiment at this time.

Q: Do you accept all excerpts?

A: No. I reserve the right to not accept an excerpt, and I won't give a reason. But the reason will probably be that I'm already full, or I don't think your excerpt is a good match for my readers, or there are too many typos and errors.

Q: Do you accept short stories or interviews instead of excerpts?

A: No. Book excerpts only.

Q: Can I put an excerpt from an unpublished book in your ebooks?

A: No. Your books must be available for the public to download and/or buy. How else would you be able to track the success of this endeavor?

Q: Does that mean I have to have books in print or on Kindle?

A: Not necessarily. Personally, I think you'd get the most for your money if indeed you had an excerpt from one of your current in-print or Kindle books. But if you want to promote a free ebook you're giving away on your website, just to increase your site traffic, that's fine.

Q: Will you trade excerpt space, one of yours for one of mine?

A: Maybe, if you can prove you have more downloads than me.

Q: Can I pick the ebook I want the excerpt to appear in?

A: As long as there is still room. But keep in mind that my most-downloaded ebook might not be the best one for your excerpt. I encourage you to read the ebook, or at least the description. Different books have different demographics.

Q: Can I advertise in more than one of your ebooks?

A: Yes. Each one is $30 a month.

Q: What document format will you accept?

A: MS Word or rtf.

Q: Can I also include a book cover, or art?

A: No. That's a pain to format, and often comes out looking crummy. But you should include a section that lists your website, and where the book is available.

Q: You posted my excerpt, but now I want to make some changes. Can I send you an updated version?

A: Only if the month ends and you want to buy another month. Either send me something in publishable shape, or don't send anything at all.

Q: What if I want to cancel this in the middle of the month?

A: I'll remove it as soon as I have the time, once you ask. But you won't get your money back. I'll have already spent that on beer.

Q: I don't believe you've had that many downloads. Prove it.

A: Pay for a month, and you'll have access to my download data. I'll give your weekly updates via screenshots, so you'll know how many downloads your excerpt has had.

Q: Is $1 a day fair?

A: I have no idea. Maybe that's too much. Maybe that's not enough. Personally, I would pay a lot more than that to have my excerpts in a well-known author's books, because I believe people will buy my books based on the strength of my writing. But I may be a deluded egomaniac.

Q: Why are you doing this?

A: Besides the money? I believe that ebooks are the future. But I worry how authors will survive in a digital world where everything is free. This experiment is a chance to see if ebooks are a viable medium for advertising. Personally, I think an excerpt is much better than an ad, because it offers content and is viewed as a bonus rather than an intrusion. This makes it more effective, which indeed may help authors sell their books.

Q: Do you think this will work?

A: I dunno. I didn't think putting my books on Kindle would work, and I've made about eight grand so far. I know the hardest thing about being a writer is finding readers. I don't believe print ads works. I don't believe bookmarks and postcards work. I don't believe book trailers work. But I know this costs a lot less than all of those. In fact, I can't think of a cheaper way to promote your book.

Q: Okay, I want to try it. Now what?

A: Email me. But before you do, make sure you have realistic goals, and a way to track those goals. Unless you have some idea what it is you're expecting from this, you'll have no idea if it's working or not.

Q: When does this start?

A: I'm not sure yet. First I need to see what sort of response I get.

81 comments:

D. Robert Pease said...

This is a great idea! I'm not in a position to take advantage of it now, but I think you are on to something. I've been reading about your eBook exploits for a while now, and thinking about how I could apply this to my own writing, but you already have a following, and I don't. But this would give authors like me a great way to get out there, on your coat tails. Bravo. Way to think outside the box.

Stacey Cochran said...

I may very likely have a publisher for my fiction in the next 12 months.

I'm headed toward 5,000-10,000 units sold on my own as a self-published author, and it stands to reason that the revenue generated from this DIY success would make one attractive... to a small press at the very least.

And so I've been thinking a lot about how I might negotiate e-book rights lately... because I'm doing very well at selling them on my own.

What are your thoughts on an author fighting to keep his e-book rights?

If you decide to sell the e-book rights to the publisher, what are your thoughts on negotiating in your contract what the retail price for your e-book will be?

As always... thanks.


___________________

Stacey Cochran
Bestselling author of The Colorado Sequence

Lily said...

So are you basically stating that an author's e-income will not come from selling their books, but from selling the excerpt space once their books are popular?

Joe Konrath said...

So are you basically stating that an author's e-income will not come from selling their books, but from selling the excerpt space once their books are popular?

Selling ad space, like newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio. But excerpts lend themselves to ebooks better than print or video ads.

Joe Konrath said...

What are your thoughts on an author fighting to keep his e-book rights?

If someone is willing to take the financial risk of publishing your book, I think they should also get the ebook rights. Keep in mind that you make royalties off of ebooks, just like you do with print.

But in the case of a small advance, or a small publisher, I'd hold onto the e-rights. Also, make sure you have a clause in the contract that says e-rights revert to you when the book goes out of print.

Anonymous said...

JA, you might want to be careful that whoever signs up, if anyone, actually owns the copyright to what they give you, otherwise you might end up publishing materials copyrighted by someone else (e.g. another publisher) without their permission.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused! Maybe it's just me, but isn't there a flaw in your logic here? If you envisage that ebooks will eventually be given away for free, where is the benefit in a writer PAYING to have their excerpt featured in another book, when the product they're advertising will itself be available free of charge? In this scenario, it really only works as a kind of pyramid scheme, where the writers at the top of the pyramid receive money from the tier below, and then that tier has to convince even more writers to advertise in their ebooks, and so on. At no stage is the beneficiary of the work - the reader - having to pay a cent!
As for internet piracy, I don't think we should be so quick to condone certain forms of theft just because they're new and high-tech. The vast majority of people don't steal from their local stores - and what deters them are not the physical impediments to stealing, but the moral and legal implications of doing so. As difficult as it may be, we have to instil a similar framework for the electronic world, otherwise the plain fact is that all kinds of creative artists, including writers, will earn nothing from their work.

Rob in Denver said...

Do those download numbers include the numbers from my blog, Joe?

Joe Konrath said...

If you envisage that ebooks will eventually be given away for free, where is the benefit in a writer PAYING to have their excerpt featured in another book, when the product they're advertising will itself be available free of charge

Eventually, ebooks will contain ads, making them free, just like Google is free.

Until then, ebooks are using a price-based model.

As difficult as it may be, we have to instil a similar framework for the electronic world

That's not difficult. It's impossible.

With Usenet, file lockers, torrents, and networks, private trackers, and forums dedicating to sharing media, there are a billion illegal downloads happening at any given time.

Education, copy-protection, and stricter laws have done nothing to curtail piracy. It's bigger than ever, and getting even bigger.

An entire generation sees no tangible value in digital media because it is free to copy and distribute, and it has no physical existence.

Stealing a bike from an owner deprives the owner of the bike. But copying a song off the radio doesn't carry the same weight, morally, logically, or legally.

It's impossible to enforce copyright in a digital world. And nothing will stop people from getting their media for free.

My best selling ebook has been downloaded over 10,000 times, and this was at a low $1.99 price.

My most downloaded ebook has been downloaded over 120,000 times. Because it is free.

People will always chose free over having to pay, even if it is a small amount.

If everything is going to be free, I envision authors will make money selling ad space.

But while books still have monetary value, selling excerpt space seems more logical than selling ads.

Joe Konrath said...

No, Rob. And they don't include the first year I put the downloads up.

Rob in Denver said...

@Joe: Still, it's a lot of potential eyeballs for someone with a book to sell.

If anyone's interested, here's the link to my downloads page on my blog.

Rob in Denver said...

Take two: http://52novels.com/downloads

Stacey Cochran said...

Closing in on 300,000 views for my CLAWS book trailer.

Advertising in action.

Anonymous said...

I still don't buy this argument. Firstly, with so much free content saturating the market, the income from advertising will be at best negligible, but more likely non-existent. Just look at all the failing search engines and networking sites out there, struggling to raise income to pay for their free content and use. Not to mention all the newspapers, magazines and TV stations that have seen their advertising revenue plummet. And since the entertainment industry is itself one of the largest purchasers of advertising, a world where movies, TV shows, music, books and games are either pirated or given away means that the industry won't have any incentive to advertise its own products. Neither will the retailers who used to sell those books, music and games! So just who do you think will want to pay good money to advertise in the back of your books?

And I still have to take issue with the argument that, just because a lot of people can steal something very easily, there's no alternative but to capitulate and let them have it. Attitudes can and do change. A few years ago, few people would have dreamed that laws against smoking in public could have been applied so extensively. The same is true of all kinds of social mores - the age of consent, wearing seatbelts, drink driving. I completely accept that it's going to be an incredibly difficult task, but the alternative is a world without a professional entertainment industry, pure and simple. There may be a few lucky exceptions who get by on gimmicks, but in general terms, the only way writers stand a chance of making money is by selling the work they produce to the people who want to read it. To think there's going to be money from advertising, or speaking tours, or anything else, seems to me like whistling in the dark.

Lily said...

It's a sad generation that condones theft, and jumps on the band wagon. Yes, illegal downloads continue. I don't do it. I won't do it. To me, it's no different than stealing the bike.

Right and wrong still exists in my world. So maybe I'm naive. I sleep at night...

Joe Konrath said...

Firstly, with so much free content saturating the market, the income from advertising will be at best negligible, but more likely non-existent.

Hardly. Ads pay for the Internet. Ad dollars abound.

So just who do you think will want to pay good money to advertise in the back of your books?

Anyone who has ever bought an ad in a newspaper, magazine, or online.

And I still have to take issue with the argument that, just because a lot of people can steal something very easily, there's no alternative but to capitulate and let them have it.

The only way to fight piracy is with cost and convenience. $9.99 ebooks will (and do) lead to piracy.

If ebooks were all 99 cents, would there still be piracy? Yes. Many iPod apps are 99 cents, and look at the proliferation of Cydia and Installous, which is used to steal 99 cent apps.

Can it be stopped?

No. As long as there is digital media, there will be a way to freely copy digital media. The same hackers who get their kicks creating viruses also get their kicks breaking DRM and copy protection.

Everything gets hacked. Everything gets shared.

Right now, I can find the current NYT bestsellers, for free, from at least ten different sources, in every available format. And a very small percentage of the population reads ebooks. Wait until half the people in the US have ereaders.

The same is true of all kinds of social mores - the age of consent, wearing seatbelts, drink driving.

Those are laws, not mores.

There are already laws against file sharing.

But unlike underage drinking, smoking in public, and wearing seatbelts, laws against file sharing cannot be enforced. The Internet cannot be policed. Period.

Where does the burden of responsibility lie? The ISPs? Nope. Free speech means our content can't be monitored. The file sharing sites? Many multi-million dollar companies and countries have tried to close them and failed. Individual file-sharers? With private trackers, file lockers, and Usenet, it is damn near impossible to find individual file-sharers.

I completely accept that it's going to be an incredibly difficult task, but the alternative is a world without a professional entertainment industry, pure and simple.

No. The alternative is free books with ads in them. That's a lot more realistic than teaching kids not to download. We already tried teaching kids something like that. It was called the War on Drugs. It didn't work.

You can't control what people want to do in the privacy of their own homes, whether it is sex, drugs, or file-sharing.

Joe Konrath said...

It's a sad generation that condones theft, and jumps on the band wagon.

In 2009, file sharing is illegal.

In 1830, you could legally own another human being.

In 1919, women couldn't legally vote.

Just to play devil's advocate, let's switch some words in your statement.

It's a sad generation that condones emancipation, and jumps on the band wagon.

Or

It's a sad generation that condone equality for women, and jumps on the band wagon.

My point is that morality, and the laws that result from it, is dictated by the majority of a population at any given time period.

Right now, morality is swinging toward file-sharing being the norm.

We can exchange arguments about rights, but the fact remains: people do what they want to do, and if the majority agree on something, it becomes accepted, commonplace, and often encouraged.

Whether or not we personally agree with it doesn't matter much. Majority rules. Always has. Always will.

Personally, I think file sharing is much grayer both morally and legally than stealing a car.

If you had a race horse, and I took a syringe of your horse's blood, and used that blood to clone an identical horse, is that horse theft?

If I painted your picture, is that identity theft?

If I lent a copy of a DVD I bought to my mother, is that file sharing?

If I only buy used books and DVDs, is the artist compensated for that? What if the only place I read is online, or at the library?

If I file share books that are out of print, is that the same as file sharing a current bestseller?

As I said. In 2009 it is illegal.

But its a damn silly law if it can't be enforced.

Clare K. R. Miller said...

I think this is a brilliant idea. I'm not sure it's a solution to piracy, but I think it's a great way to make money from and advertise books. If I had something to sell, I would probably buy a month.

Peter L. Winkler said...

"An entire generation sees no tangible value in digital media because it is free to copy and distribute, and it has no physical existence."

Millions of people see the tangible value in paying a small, reasonable price for digital media. It's only made Apple billions in revenue, that's all.

There's value in a ste like the iTunes store where you can quickly search out a specific song, movie or episode of a TV show ad get a high quality copy.

Is it worth saving a couple of dollars to have to search through multiple bit torrent engines and endure a mighty slow download for what might be a poor quality, possibly virus carrying download?

Maybe one can find contraband scans of currently highl popular fiction, though those scans may also be an error-ridden mess.

I can buy a clean used copy of just about any recent book from Amazon or get it from the library. And what if I want an obscure, op book like Philip Wylie's 1933 The Murderer Invisible? Unless Google books scans it, I'd never find it online.

I've been using computers since 1985, but I still don't like reading ebooks. I have no interest in buying a dedicated reader to access locked, proprietary files.

Until someone developes a good reading device for $100 and a universal, open file format, ebooks will remain a tiny niche market.

Writers and publishers would be better off finding more efficient methods to publish and promote paper books now.

Jude Hardin said...

Interesting idea. If ebook devices could show 30 second book trailers, I think that would be a better thing to tack on than an excerpt. Ten pages is a pretty big time commitment. That's probably one of the reasons full-page newspaper ads don't use excerpts: they want to get the title and the author's name and the basic concept of the book into your head quickly, without much effort on your part.

Stacey Cochran said...

Okay, I know I've tried to persuade you before to put ads on this damn blog, and you shot the idea down...

So how is selling ad-space in your e-book any different than putting a Google Ad on your blog? (one of the most popular blogs on the web, btw)

Not that I really give a damn if you don't make money off of your blog. I'm just trying to understand your logic.

Stacey Cochran said...

In 2009, file sharing is illegal.

In 1830, you could legally own another human being.

In 1919, women couldn't legally vote.


Have you been drinking that homemade beer again?

Joe Konrath said...

I'm just trying to understand your logic.

The Google ads that would appear on my website would be mainly for vanity presses, which I oppose. I wouldn't want a newbie looking for publishing info to click on iUniverse thinking I somehow endorse it.

Joe Konrath said...

Have you been drinking that homemade beer again?

Those were examples to show how popular attitudes can change over time.

It's hard to imagine a time where the majority in America considered blacks and women inferior. Yet the majority once did.

Right now in the US we discriminate against gays, and our money says "In God We Trust." Within our lifetime, both of these will change. There may be people opposed to the change, but it will come.

I'm predicting one day ebooks will be free, paid for by advertising content.The same ad content that pays for TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet itself. One of the reasons this will happen is because people's attitudes toward file-sharing are changing, and soon the majority won't consider it any more of a crime than jay-walking. Except that jay walking is, to a degree, enforceable.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is THE idea, but it is AN idea. (one that just may work)

Props to you for at least trying to figure out a solution. Life would be much easier if we all stuck our heads in the sand, but I believe the ebook revolution is coming, whether we like it or not.

Let stand and fight!

Stacey Cochran said...

A healthy debate. As always...

Comparing the ownership of a human being, slavery, to file sharing is hyperbole... if not just downright ludicrous. And it a lack of good judgment.

Now, the case may be that e-books and file sharing will change copyright laws and intellectual property. I agree with you.

So, sure, why not sell advertising in books... whether they're legally (or illegally) downloaded. I think it's a good idea.

Perhaps a better comparison would be to say: Well, selling pot is illegal, but you can make money off it right now... and the truth is, it probably will be legal in the U.S. at some point in the future.

So have it... sell the hell out of some advertising in downloaded e-books.

Sounds like a great idea to me.

________________
Stacey Cochran
Author of CLAWS for $1.00

Joe Konrath said...

Comparing the ownership of a human being, slavery, to file sharing is hyperbole... if not just downright ludicrous. And it a lack of good judgment.

I'm comparing the changes in attitudes of a populace, and how majority morality shifts. Concepts of right and wrong, legal and illegal, shift over time.

Well, selling pot is illegal, but you can make money off it right now... and the truth is, it probably will be legal in the U.S. at some point in the future.

No, that's not a good comparison. That would be comparing the author of a book to a pot farmer, and there is no analogy there.

No one is selling ebooks illegally. No one is profiting. There is no way to police file sharing.

The goal is to figure out how artists can get paid in a world where everyone things it is okay to file share.

Bookman said...

Joe,

Here's a question for you, when talking pricing for ebooks are you saying ebooks across the board? Fiction and academic research ebooks as well? I only ask since I work in this field and have worked in publishing for a little over a decade, nice to see varying viewpoints on the subject.

I agree people will try and hack ebooks, but I see this happening for fiction more so then academic research titles, not sure who would want to own a book on semantic web in that type of setup. Curious of your thoughts.... oh yeah, enjoying the hell out of your books, cheers.

Capt.

Joe Konrath said...

not sure who would want to own a book on semantic web in that type of setup.

I truly don't know. But I have been able to download quite a few non-fiction titles for research.

I know, if I were in college, and the text were available as an ebook, I'd hunt for the torrent before spending $100 on a textbook. I don't doubt there are college file-sharing networks.

The fact is; if it's digital, someone will share it.

Robert said...

I disagree about a 30 second book trailer being better than an excerpt. For one, most book trailers suck. For two, just like movie trailers, what you see isn't necessarily what you get. An excerpt though, it's the real deal, and it would force writers even more to write great opening scenes. After all, you want to keep the reader reading, don't you?

wv: holave

Donnie said...

It seems that most of the comments on this topic, whether pro or con, have an end-game in site. As if the situation will remain in place forever. The fact is, we don't know what kind of technology is around the corner, and what other societal changes will be in effect 5 or 10 years hence.
As things stand now, I think this is a workable idea. As I work to market my book on the web, I pray for a mention or a link on a high-profile website. I'd also pay for one. And of course I will target where my advertising dollars go, in similar e-books or websites that attract the audience I'm looking for.
One final thought. Podiobooks.com is offering free audio downloads of books, and then solicit donations from content consumers. A portions goes to the service provider, and the rest to the author. If the consumer likes the content, they are more likely to donate to keep it coming.
I think Joe is on to something.

Jude Hardin said...

An excerpt though, it's the real deal, and it would force writers even more to write great opening scenes.

I like trailers. When done right, they're the audio/visual equivalent to flap copy. Most writers have excerpts on their websites, or on Amazon, so a trailer would offer something different. As long as we're talking about the hypothetical future, I think trailers might be a viable sales tool.

Chryse said...

This is an interesting idea, selling ad space author-to-author. As an author working on a novel, when I am finished, I would certainly be willing to try it. However, a thought: I have belonged to three different book groups in my county, and nobody found the latest, greatest book and said, "How can I get my hands on that ebook?" I think there's still a fair number of us who don't want to use our own printer to "make" our own book (especially considering how much it would cost for paper and ink anyway) and sure don't want to sit down in front of a computer or similar device to read one. Once people figure out a way to pirate paper, I'll be concerned.

Thomas Edgar said...

First, I don't understand how advertising became the only business plan for the digital world. There is only so much money to go around for advertising and everyone is now competing for it in the age of Google.

As for ebooks being supported by advertising I just don't see it. How many times while reading fiction do you want to jump to out of the scene to visit a website for cookies. I don't see how ad inserts is something that fits into long prose. If the reader is paying attention to ads then your scenes are not holding their attention and need some work. It works in newspapers and magazines because they are a compilation of shorter content tied together by ads.

However, I appreciate your new age thinking and like the excerpts idea.

Anonymous said...

"If everything is going to be free, I envision authors will make money selling ad space."

I'd pay good money for a version of a free e-book without any ads in it. I suppose I'd buy a paperback, if they're still making them in this dystopia being described.

Anonymous said...

"My point is that morality, and the laws that result from it, is dictated by the majority of a population at any given time period."

Moral relativism. I guess if this were Germany 70 years ago you'd be a proud little Nazi.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't see how ad inserts is something that fits into long prose.

Ads are in everything. Why are books sacred?

Moral relativism. I guess if this were Germany 70 years ago you'd be a proud little Nazi.

LOL. Godwin's Law in full effect.

If you'd like to seriously debate this, I challenge you to give me a universal moral truth. Good luck, because they don't exist. Everything is gray and subjective. But thanks for playing.

I'd pay good money for a version of a free e-book without any ads in it.

Well then it wouldn't be free, would it? :)

Ebooks don't currently have ads. How much "good money" have you spent on ebooks so far this month? The average price for ebook bestsellers is $9.99. Am I safe in assuming you've bought several hundred?

Incidentally, all of my Kindle ebooks are on various genre Amazon bestseller lists, and it is pretty funny to see. You look at the top 50 police procedurals and it goes:

Mega-Bestseller
Mega-Bestseller
Joe Because He's Cheap
Mega-Bestseller
Mega-Bestseller
Mega-Bestseller
Joe Because He's Cheap
Joe Because He's Cheap
Mega-Bestseller
Mega-Bestseller
Joe Because He's Cheap
and so on.

People like cheap. They download it almost as much as they download name-brand bestselling authors with huge followings and major marketing dollars behind them.

But they like free even more. Look at the Amazon Top 100, and count the freebies.

As for ads...

Remember when cable TV was first invented, and everyone was excited because they thought paying for TV meant no more commercials? That didn't happen. In fact, ads have
become TV shows, like infomercials and HSN.

Ads have also crept into paying venues like movie theaters, with Sprite and Dorito commercials before the coming attractions.

Are there any Broadway plays not sponsored by ads? Show me a theater program without ads in it.

Who pays for the world wide web? Is it paid for by people subscribing to Internet Service Providers? If so, why do ISPs have sidebar ads and banner ads? How about pop-ups? Adware? Spam?

What pays for Google, a billion dollar company?

Advertising funds arts and recreation. And in the case of free digital media, it may very well save artists from being file-shared right into the poorhouse.

But no one believed Google could be supported by ads either, which is why Google is struggling so badly. ;)

I've sold about 10,000 ebooks. I've given away well over 140,000. It seems that people prefer free.

Will they suddenly switch to paying for ebooks if the free ones had ads in them? I'd guess no. No newspapers or popular magazines exist without ads, and we still pay for those because we don't mind the ads.

Bottom line: people want free media, and people are very accepting of ads. In fact, in some cases, people seek out ads.

But ultimately it doesn't matter what readers want. It will be what advertisers want. Just like always.

Joe Konrath said...

If the reader is paying attention to ads then your scenes are not holding their attention and need some work.

How often do you have a chance to read without being interrupted?

I love getting lost in a good book, but there are always interruptions. The phone rings, I need to pee, I make a sandwich, I get tired and go to sleep, my kid wants something, etc. Bookmarks exist because reading is never uninterrupted.

Stacey Cochran said...

On a slightly related topic. Here's this month's income for yours truly from DIY effort:

Check from Kindle books sold: $758

Check from Google Ads (howtopublishabook.org): $136

2 checks from books sold at independent bookstores: $131

Tip money from events done in August: $87

Total earnings from DIY writing: $1,112

Not too bad for one month's work.

__________________
Stacey Cochran
Author of CLAWS for $1.00

Boyd Morrison said...

Joe, if your position is that we can't stop illegal file-sharing, then how does putting advertising in ebooks help the situation for writers in the long term? Wouldn't enterprising file-sharers simply strip the advertising out (because people hate seeing advertising) and offer those versions for free? In that case, we'd back to the same problem: writers not earning money from the works they create.

Boyd Morrison said...

Another question I have is about intellectual property. Joe, you seem to be saying that the general population has the following sentiment: if you deprive someone else of a product's use by taking it, it's considered stealing; if you don't deprive someone else of the product's use by taking it, that's not stealing.

By that notion, should we therefore do away with intellectual property altogether? For instance, how is this different from taking the plans for a Ferrari, which has taken millions of dollars to develop, and just building my own version of the exact same car for a tenth the price? Should pharmaceutical companies be given the right to produce a drug for a set number of years because they've invested years of research into it? Should I be able to give away or sell the plans for the Ferrari or the drug if I'm not the one who designed it?

And there is a cost to the user for downloading illegal copies; it just may not be in cash. Many of these files and programs infect your computer with malware, the books may not be complete (there's not even a guarantee that it's the work you were looking for), they may be poorly formatted, and there's the extra time and hassle to find them and download them. Unlocking your iPhone and downloading apps may have been easy for you, but most users don't want that hassle and risk (voiding the warranty). There is value in downloading something from a trusted source, and I think people are willing to pay for it. The question is, how much?

Joe Konrath said...

Wouldn't enterprising file-sharers simply strip the advertising out (because people hate seeing advertising) and offer those versions for free?

That's possible, but not probable.

If you've done any music file-sharing, you know that 90% of all files available aren't properly labled: i.e. the ID4 tage are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.

You would think that many file-sharers--who have the same OCD to collect as any other fanboy--would correct these tags. And you'd be right. They do correct the tags.

But they don't upload the corrected tags.

It's curious, but true. They'll share the incorrectly tagged files, but won't upload the fixed files.

People avoid work when they can. Stripping a bunch or randomly paced ads from a pdf is a labor-intensive job, and for what final result? When you're reading a magazine, do you have any desire to cut out all the ads, even if they annoy you?

By that notion, should we therefore do away with intellectual property altogether?

Does it make sense to have laws that can't be enforced? Isn't an unenforceable law meaningless?

In some cases, usually those involving a tangible product and monetary transactions, IP can be upheld in court.

But no one is profiting off of file sharing, and no tangible product exists, making it impossible to prove loss.

I'm not saying it's fair. I'm saying this is how it is.

Many of these files and programs infect your computer with malware, the books may not be complete (there's not even a guarantee that it's the work you were looking for), they may be poorly formatted, and there's the extra time and hassle to find them and download them.

So wouldn't it be nice to have a website where books are free and well-formatted, there is no malware, there's an easy searchable database, and the writer still gets paid? :)

Unlocking your iPhone and downloading apps may have been easy for you, but most users don't want that hassle and risk (voiding the warranty).

Millions of people have unlocked their iphones and ipods, and it doesn't void the warranty--it's just a matter of connecting to iTunes to reinstall the original firmware.

But again, this is a minority. But it it were free and legal without any risk, do you think it would still be a minority?

There is value in downloading something from a trusted source, and I think people are willing to pay for it. The question is, how much?

Boyd, you and I have proven that people are willing to pay $1.99. But I've stated many reasons why I don't think this is going to happen. Instead, ebooks will remain high-priced, and the industry will implode like the music biz, with many people file-sharing over paying.

There is a trusted site that gives away ebooks for free. Project Gutenberg. To the tune of 130,000 per day. How much would they be making if those books contained paid ads? How much could the authors be making?

Boyd Morrison said...

I wouldn't agree that no one is profiting from file sharing. Sure, there are some out there who donate their time and money to the effort to make all information free (which sounds like an oxymoron), but there are plenty of people profiting from it. Kazaa is a for-profit company. People who install malware are making money from popup ads. ISPs make money from people who pay for high-speed access to these sites. The whole goal of Napster's creator was to sell the site and application for millions of dollars. None of these parties have an incentive to police themselves. The real issue is to figure out how to funnel a reasonable percentage of that money back to the content creators so that they will have the means and incentive to keep creating new content.

Lyn Cote said...

I have children in their twenties whom I raised by moral absolutes, one being--no stealing. We've had the file-sharing discussion much more than once. I can't get them to see the fact that I, as an author, make money from spending months writing books and that file-sharing one of my ebooks is stealing from me.

They reply with the story of how the big music labels are now irrelevant in the music industry. They tell me that the musicians got very little from the LABELS and made their money from live performances.

I came back with--"Well, who's going to pay me to read my book aloud--in large audiences?"

I am sure of two things. You can't stop people from using technology. And I don't know where this will all end for authors. But here is a link to a NYT article about how the average American is utilizing these technologies more and more mainstream.



http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/technology/02survey.html?_r=1&nl=technology&emc=techupdateema1

http://www.LynCote.net

Joe Konrath said...

How much file sharing is really going on?

In 2004 there were 70 million people file-sharing. I expect that number has gone up dramatically. On US campuses, 64 percent of students used illegal filesharing in 2008. 75% of young voters in Sweden support file sharing, even though it is illegal.

These stats are hardly all-encompassing or conclusive, but the more stats you look for, the more you find two things:

a) More people are file sharing every day.

b) People aren't concerned about getting caught.

If you visit Alexa, you can see the most-visited sites on the Internet.

Globally, 18 of the top 300 most-visited site on the Internet are sites that host illegal file sharing. That's a lot of stealing.

Google also can also give you an idea how pervasive this is.

If you Google "usenet" you get 54 million hits. A good portion of newsgroups in Usenet are for file sharing.

Google "torrent" and you get 247 million hits. Torrents are used exclusively for file sharing. Here are Google hits for some other file-sharing sites:

"Rapidshare" gets 173 million hits. "Megaupload" gets 66 million hits. "Limewire" gets 11 million. "mininova" gets 17 million. "piratebay" gets 23 million. "bandongo" gets 12 million. "4shared" gets 20 million. "isohunt" gets 20 million.

Here are some other file sharing sites and networks:

FrostWire, BearShare, Shareaza, Phex, Morpheus, Gnucleus, Demonoid, Verter, FlixFlux, Torrentbox, Thunderbytes, H33T, Torrent Portal, SumoTorrent, BTJunkie, Torrentreactor, Torrentz, UseNext, Newzleech, BlackCats, and hundreds of more sites, trackers, clients, and forums are dedicated to illegal filesharing.

This is endemic to the World Wide Web. In fact, there are some good arguments that file sharing is the reason the web exists and is so popular. Communication and exchanging information is why we have an Internet.

File sharing can't be policed. It can't be stopped. It can't be controlled.

And the thing is, more and more people don't want to stop, police, or control it. They don't consider it a big deal.

This isn't just about laws. It's about attitudes.

Now writers need to figure out who they can still earn a living in a fully digital world. I'm pretty sure it isn't going to be with $9.99 ebooks.

Boyd Morrison said...

I came back with--"Well, who's going to pay me to read my book aloud--in large audiences?"

What was their response to that?

Joe Konrath said...

I wouldn't agree that no one is profiting from file sharing.

Websites are profiting from the traffic file-sharing brings. They aren't hosting the files themselves. That's why they're so hard to sue.

The individuals who do host and share the files aren't making money.

It's easy to jail DVD bootleggers. They take someone else's movie, copy it, and sell it. It's a tangible product, and profit is involved.

A file is a bunch of ones and zeroes on someone's hard drive. No one profits. And it is damn near impossible to control.

The ISPs don't consider it their legal problem, because it falls under free speech.

The hosts don't get in trouble, because they can't be held accountable for what people upload and download.

The shares are tough to catch, and who is willing to spend the money to catch and sue them? Every copyright is for an individual work, and has a specific owner. How much would it cost me and my publisher to find and successfully prosecute every single person who ever illegally downloaded one of my books?

JK Rowling refused to let Harry Potter be released as ebooks, because she doesn't want them pirated. It didn't work. Her ebooks are all over the Internet.

If there is a demand for something, and the supplier charges too much or makes it too hard to get, people will become their own suppliers.

Maria said...

Hi Joe,

I saw one of your books out on Smashwords this week. How is that doing by comparison to the other numbers you showed?

(or do you count all downloads, including Smashwords as just downloads?)

I think your ad at the back of the book is better than a NYtimes ad. If my writing style were similar to your (I have a cozy mystery up on Kindle and a set of fantasy novellas) I'd take you up on it. I've been doing a number of experiments with participating on the internet to see what works and what doesn't. Your ad idea--I think it would work and be a lot more targeted than most of the stuff I've seen.

I'll be checking back for reports on how it works out.

As always thanks for the other data you provide. I find it very useful.

Maria

Jude Hardin said...

But no one is profiting off of file sharing, and no tangible product exists, making it impossible to prove loss.

A penny saved is a penny earned. Everyone who steals IP is saving what they would have spent, and therefore profiting.

The RIAA can't catch all the thieves, of course, but the ones they do catch are in for a major headache.

Stacey Cochran said...

My thoughts:

1) Stay ahead of the crooks by developing content that pushes beyond current distribution models

2) Never break the law or endorse breaking the law, or capitalize on breaking the law

3) Write well

____________
Stacey Cochran
Author of The Colorado Sequence for $1.00

Joe Konrath said...

Everyone who steals IP is saving what they would have spent, and therefore profiting.

That's not logical. First, it assumes that if an IP wasn't stolen, it would be purchased, which isn't the case. Second, the "penny saved" saying is just that: a saying. You don't earn money by not spending what you've already earned.

As for the RIAA, WiFi has made it impossible to prove, in court, who is downloading what.

Speaking of the RIAA, I just heard that not a single dime of the money they've made on lawsuits has gone to the artists being stolen. Funny, huh?

Another part of the problem is there are just so many IPs by so many copyright holders being shared, but no central hub to find out who is sharing what, and no way to go after everyone. AFAIK the only cases of file sharers being sued have been civil cases. While online stealing is illegal, law enforcement isn't spending any time trying to prevent it, using their resources to instead track down real criminals, like child pornographers and those creeps who try to meet kids in chat rooms.

That means, to build a civil suit, a company with an IP must hire a bunch of people to spend a lot of time tracking down who is stealing from them. Then they have to prosecute. This costs a lot of money, and there's no guarantee they'll win the suit--many have been overturned, and in some cases the RIAA was forced to pay damages.

So it just isn't cost-effective to go after individuals.

E. Ann Bardawill said...

Ads in my books?

But books are the reason I stopped watching TV in their favour. No ads in them.

Also - dropped the Kindle in the hot tub.

Now it's a paperwight.

**SIGH**

Pass the paperbacks.
'-)

Jude Hardin said...

You don't earn money by not spending what you've already earned.

If you save $200/month on groceries by using coupons, it's the same as earning $200/month. That's what the saying means. If you have five bucks in your pocket and you buy five songs from itunes, how much is left? Zero. If, instead of buying five songs from itunes, you steal five songs from LimeWire, how much is left? Five bucks. You have five dollars worth of product and you still have five in your pocket. A penny saved is a penny earned. It's perfectly logical.

I heard a while back that the RIAA is planning to go after individuals by contacting their internet providers and having their contracts revoked. This gets big providers in on the policing action, which might actually make a dent.

Athol Dickson said...

Joe,

Your whole "go with the flow of piracy" argument assumes the Internet will always be unregulated, but you've forgotten that the information on your screen flows through servers, landlines and cell towers, all of which can easily be controlled. Just in the last week the Senate reintroduced a bill to allow the President to "switch off" the entire Internet in the event of an emergency, and the British government announced a plan to kick people convicted of Internet piracy off the Internet altogether. (Few details were given, but I assume the Brits have some thoughts on how to make it stick.) Both stories surprised me, but upon further reflection, they seemed inevitable.

In fact, Internet piracy is easily stoppable. All it takes is one law and a few Justice Department letters to the right CEO's. If you don't believe it, ask the Chinese people (and soon apparently, the people of Great Britain).

So if you and others keep thinking about stealing as "unstoppable" this way, and advocating that we all just accept it, and if enough people buy into those unethical ideas, then sooner or later it will hit the wrong power broker's radar in America, and you will have no one but yourself to blame for turning the Internet into just another highly regulated utility, which can be granted or withheld at the government and Big Business's whim.

When it happens, and you start screaming about Big Business having the government in its pocket, just remember that you gave them the perfect excuse.

Joe Konrath said...

but you've forgotten that the information on your screen flows through servers, landlines and cell towers, all of which can easily be controlled.

The manpower it would take to screen the Internet would take as many people as are already surfing the Internet. It's impossible. And if it became possible, using programs, they'd be hacked within a few days.

As for servers, your browsing falls under the category of "free speech." Being snooped on, tapped, monitored, or watched is illegal without a court order.

In fact, Internet piracy is easily stoppable. All it takes is one law and a few Justice Department letters to the right CEO's.

Hardly. If ISPs start monitoring (which they won't, and more than the phone company records your conversations), people will find other ways to get online. In fact, it's already possible to get online anonymously.

Do you really think there can be real-time policing of the Internet?

you will have no one but yourself to blame for turning the Internet into just another highly regulated utility

If we elect leaders who want to stop piracy, then the majority has its say. But I don't see it going that way.

The Internet isn't controlled by a company. It can't be "switched off." That's ridiculous. As if the plug can be pulled, like a refrigerator.

I can imagine the uproar if the government tried to stick its nose into everyone's privacy by tracking Internet visits. Is it also going to illegally tap phone conversations and install cameras in our bathrooms to make sure we're not doing illegal drugs?

Joe Konrath said...

If you save $200/month on groceries by using coupons, it's the same as earning $200/month.

No, it's not. Saving isn't earning.

Save: to set aside, reserve, or lay by.

Earn: to gain or get in return for one's labor or service.

Saving involves something you've already earned. You can't earn the same dollar twice while it is still in your possession.

And the money saved by file sharing does not prove that the money would have otherwise been spent on legally obtaining those files.

Yesterday I checked out three books at the libray, bought four used DVDs for $2.99 each, watched a movie at a friend's house, read my neighbor's magazine, listened to the radio, and used Google about to dozen times.

Money from Joe to the author of the libray books: $0

Money to Joe to the movie companies who own the DVD rights: $0

Money from Joe to the movie company who own the rights to the movie my friend rented: $0

Money from Joe to the magazine publisher: $0

Money from Joe to the artists whose songs played on the radio: $0

Did the IP owners earn some money from these things? A few pennies. But none of those pennies were paid by me, and everything I did is considered both legal and morally acceptable.

I can get DVDs and audiobooks for free at the library, and lent movies and music to my friends. I can record TV shows and radio music. I can make mp3s of LPs I own. I can resell my books. I can take pictures of art. It's all legal.

But once I digitize something, and share these ones and zeroes with someone else, I'm breaking a law.

I'm not saying it isn't stealing. It IS stealing. But I am saying it's a lightweight form of stealing that a growing percentage of the population sees no harm in.

We can try to fight it. Or we can figure out how to make money based on people's habits and attitudes.

Hapi said...

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Jude Hardin said...

Money only has value in relation to the goods and services it can buy. Goods and services have value based on supply and demand. If $2.50 buys a gallon of gasoline today, then today a gallon of gasoline is worth $2.50. If you acquire a gallon of gasoline without spending any money (i.e. by stealing it), it's the same as earning $2.50. One gallon of gasoline=$2.50. There is no difference. You have profited, because you now have a $2.50 gallon of gasoline that you would not have had if you hadn't stolen it.

Why is IP any different? Or are you saying IP is valueless, and therefore should be free for all?

Joe Konrath said...

If you acquire a gallon of gasoline without spending any money (i.e. by stealing it), it's the same as earning $2.50.

If you sell the gas you've stolen, you earn $2.50. If you use the gas you've stolen, you earn the gas. But in neither case does saving = earning.

Stealing IP may save you money, if you were planning on buying the IP and stole it instead.

But it doesn't earn you money. You don't profit from file-sharing. You can save money by file sharing, but then it becomes a question of if you would have bought it anyway.

It gets even more complicated. What constitutes possession in media? Is it owning a hard copy? Owning a duplicate? Or is it simply experiencing the media?

Movies and pay-per-view cable isn't about owning the media--you pay to see it. Like a museum. Or the zoo.

If you sneak into the zoo, is it stealing? Is it the same as file sharing?

What if you download a song, listen to it once, then delete it? Is that stealing? What's the difference between doing that and recording it off the radio?

I'm not advocating stealing. I'm not even trying to defend it. But I do understand why so many people do it, and I think publishers should keep it in mind.

Jude Hardin said...

If you sell the gas you've stolen, you earn $2.50.

What if you trade it for an ebook? ;)

Joe Konrath said...

What if you trade it for an ebook?

It depends on how many ads are in the ebook. :P

Joe Konrath said...

And since we seem to be getting off topic here, let's recap.

1. Pirating is wrong, but people are doing it anyway.

2. Ads in books might be a way for the author to make money, even if their ebooks are pirated.

3. Here's an opportunity to put your book except in my ebooks for a dollar a day.

Maria said...

Been doing some more thinking on this. I have two books out on Kindle. One sells for 1.00 and the other for 1.99. Assuming I went with the 1.99 book as an excerpt...I'd have to average two copies sold per day to have the ad idea pay for itself (for a month). If I went with the 1.00 a day book (which is fantasy so it wouldn't make sense) I'd have to average 3 per day.


Now, I've been as surprised as anyone with the positive feedback and sales from Kindle users...but...well, I'll be very interested to see how this works out (assuming people provide feedback).

I also think that 5 excerpts may be too many. Two is probably more realistic from an attention span. But that's a guess. If I owned a kindle, I might read excerpts because instant gratification is seconds away. I avoid excerpts in real life because if I like the book, I have to wait for delivery.

Maria

AstonWest said...

An interesting concept garnered from previous comments, based on internet sites I've seen...

Reader can receive ad-infused e-books for free...

OR

Reader pays $ for ad-free e-book of the same title...

Personally I could see that as a big boon for small e-presses. Readers would be able to try a title for free, and if they like the book but the ads annoy them, they'd be more likely to go back and pay for an ad-free book next time.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

This is probably the most interesting thread of comments I've ever read. In fact, I'm going to post a link to it in my blog.

I had a similar argument with some guy on Amazon who was in love with The Bell Curve. I'd been secretly in love with Stephen J. Gould since high school so I wasn't havin' it!! I ended up just giving up and deleting all my comments so people wouldn't read me arguing back and forth with some nut job.

You know, Joe-- I agree with you on almost every point. But I still have hope for the future, and I don't know how is going to manifest exactly.

Sorry, but I can't resist this analogy...It's the same way I like the old Star Trek vs. the darker, more pessimistic new Star Trek(s).

I'm a non-fiction writer and I make a lot of money on a very small number of high-priced technical books. If I sold ebooks, I would be sunk. Just losing 30 book sales is like losing $2,000.

But I know it's a very real possibility. I'll just have to learn to make money some other way. Seminars, I guess.

I like your idea, though. I want to do it-- buying the advertising, I mean. So I sent you an e-mail. Check your junk folder if you don't see it in your inbox.

Maria said...

Christy,

Why can't you put your technical books up on Kindle for DX? (assuming you have ebook rights?)

Thomas Edgar said...

Ads are in everything. Why are books sacred?

Books are not sacred; at least in this context :). However, I just haven't seen any advertising models that would fit into books that would not detract from them. Ads work in magazines and internet articles because they are interspersed between short logically separated text. When the ads inject into the stream of text is when it fails. I am sure you have visited sites that break up an article into multiple pages to inject more adds. Those are intolerable and I try to avoid those sites as much as I can.

This is also the problem with television ads. Thank the heavens for DVRs and the ability to save all of that wasted time.

You could also argue for the way ads are being integrated into movies and games; product placement. I think this is much more viable but it takes some serious effort for it not to be a horrible failure. In almost every movie these days is the groan inducing flash to a phone close up showing a incoming phone # or SMS as well as the brand of the phone and manufacturer. I just don't want great authors like you to have to "fit in" a quota of five Pepsi scenes to support your work.

Of course I am saying this all from my perspective. I am have not done any research to back up my opinions.

How often do you have a chance to read without being interrupted?

I love getting lost in a good book, but there are always interruptions. The phone rings, I need to pee, I make a sandwich, I get tired and go to sleep, my kid wants something, etc. Bookmarks exist because reading is never uninterrupted.


I think there is a big difference between external interruptions and interruptions in the text. I blame the external interruptions on whatever it is but I blame the internal interruptions on the author/publisher.

Joe Konrath said...

I am sure you have visited sites that break up an article into multiple pages to inject more adds. Those are intolerable and I try to avoid those sites as much as I can.

You may find them intolerable, but there's you model. This already exists on the web.

Maria said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I had the impression Joe was talking about putting the excerpts at the back of the book (with mention of their existence in the book description.) Thus readers wouldn't even have to read them.

I agree that interrupting Joe's story to say, 'And now here is an excerpt from" would be pretty awful.

But to say that ads don't exist in books today isn't correct either. There was a big hubbaloo over some author or other putting in some sort of makeup mention (she was paid to include mention and I believe it was a teen book). It has been done before even though everyone raises a stink when it happens (or even when they think it happens.)

I'm sure it would be great fun for Joe to try and work in the titles or author names into his story, but he didn't say he was going that far. Yet. :>)

Thomas Edgar said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I had the impression Joe was talking about putting the excerpts at the back of the book (with mention of their existence in the book description.) Thus readers wouldn't even have to read them.

I think that the excerpt idea is great regardless of how the writing is funded. I am just arguing his statement that the future of ebooks will be based on advertising dollars.

Blue Tyson said...

I actually like ads about books in books. Not ads about cars, cigarettes, beer, or whatever.

You always used to get lists of other books in the sub-genre, or by the author in paperbacks.

Often if you bought say, a Konrath book you'd get an excerpt for another one if there was one, or for something similar.

Some sensible smaller publishers put their title lists in at the end of the books.

The fact that there are no excerpts or catalogues etc. in books I think is because when it comes to digital a bunch of publishers are something that rhymes very closely with stupid.

Even if they did have a beer ad in the middle, and ads for handbags and televisions at the end, wouldn't care much if that made things cheaper.

After every chapter would be overdoing it, though.

Thomas Edgar said...

I am not in the advertising business but I would imagine ads between chapters/scenes would be the only way they would want to do it. I wouldn't think anyone would pay much of anything to have ads at the back of a book that would easily be dismissed/avoided.

I also didn't mind book catalogs at the back of books but if they are all supported by ads then other books can not be the sole ad type. Where would the money enter the chain?

Jude Hardin said...

I wouldn't think anyone would pay much of anything to have ads at the back of a book that would easily be dismissed/avoided.

Bingo.

And if they start placing the ads between chapters, I think most people will either fast-forward through them or stick with good old fashioned commercial-free paper.

Maria said...

As someone pointed out, you don't have to do ads "outside" the writing. You can pay a writer to have their character drink "pepsi" nine times per chapter. You can pay them to smoke x or eat at x or drive an x.

Or you could be Joe and come up with an idea to charge writers to put an excerpt of their book in the back of yours.

Joe Konrath said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I had the impression Joe was talking about putting the excerpts at the back of the book (with mention of their existence in the book description.) Thus readers wouldn't even have to read them.

Any advertiser knows that many of their ads are ignored.

The more targeting and interesting an ad is, the more likely it is to be tolerated.

But we're not talking about ads here. We're talking about content.

A book trailer, or newspaper book ad, is an announcement that informs an audience content exists, and gives a bit about the type of content it is.

An excerpt IS content. It isn't a picture of diet cola, or a page of blurbs about a movie. It's a sample of the writing.

People tend to ignore ads. But they seek out content. That's why the Internet is so popular. It is several billion people all looking for content.

Have you've ever picked up a music sample CD, or discovered a new band while listening to the radio? Same concept here. Excerts are a taste of the complete work.

Will some people ignore them? Sure. All types of advertising get ignored.

But this is a new format, an original presentation, and I believe both curiosity and the same willingness readers have to browse for good books to read will lead people to the writers who give this a try.

At least, that's my intent for this experiment.

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

I really like the idea. I'd use it, but I write YA fantasy, and I don't see it transferring. Plus, I'm still waiting on publisher to make up their minds (does it really take a year!).

PG Forte said...

The idea is genius, if not exactly original. You're basically selling ad space and there's nothing wrong with that.

Your argument predicting the demise of the ebook industry, however, completely ignores the existence of ePublishers who, by and large, do not charge as much for ebooks as they do for the same title in print--and that really pisses me off.

Yes, selling an ebook for the same price as a hardcover book is short sighted and would be really stupid on the part of print publishers, if I didn't think it was part of an industry wide plan to undermine the ebook industry.

They should know better. In point of fact, they clearly do know better since the practice is roughly analogous to charging the same price for a mass-market paperback as they do for a hardcover: i.e. kind of moronic...which is why no one does it.

I think the music industry is a much better model to emulate. You can download a single song for .99, or the whole album for approx. $10. You can buy the album on CD for approx $15 - $16. Or, you can wait and buy it used for under a buck. As long as the artist is getting paid for the initial sale, where's the bad?

How many $1 downloads (be they singles or short stories) have led to listeners/readers discovering new auto-buys? I'm guessing it's a healthy percentage.

Just because you can steal something doesn't mean everyone is going to. For that matter, just because you can legally borrow a book for free at your local library (or illegally run off a copy of it at Kinkos, while you're at it, and share it with everyone you know) doesn't mean you (or they) will never buy a book again.

Ryan said...

I have to say, I think that your idea is ingenious, and I think that it has great potential.

For example, I recently got a Kindle for my birthday. As I was looking around on Amazon's Kindle store, I happened to stumble across a handful of free ebooks. One of these books was Serial. I read the description, and it sounded like a pretty interesting read, so I downloaded it. I read the book, in its entirety, and, much to my surprise, found out that, after the last page, an excerpt from your book Afraid was included. Well, I figured, "what the heck, might as well read it" seeing as I had just read Serial in one sitting and really enjoyed it. So I read the excerpt. As it turns out, I loved the excerpt even more than I loved the book that I had found it in, and immediately signed onto Amazon to buy the novel in its entirety.

Now, I know that this is but one single story, but I do believe that it shows that this idea really could be very successful. After all, as you said in your post, the author's writing is, in the end, what is going to sell the author's writing. No trailer, description, or magazine ad will ever match the advertising power of allowing someone to read the actual writing of a product, and get a feel for what the book is all about.

Think of it this way; we see lots of ads, day in and day out, for different types of cars. Whether its a commercial on TV, an ad bar on a website, or a full page spread in a magazine, we find ourselves surrounded by automobile ads. But no matter how many of these ads we see, we never know how much we really love a car until we have test driven it.

So why don't we take some ebooks for a spin, and see if we really do love them.

s.w. vaughn said...

Are you still doing this? Because if you are, I'm very interested.

I only have one book out right now - it's gritty urban fantasy - but I also have a series of thrillers coming out soon.

I shall drop you an official line. :-)

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CKHB said...

I would totally do this if I thought we had similar audiences...