Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Can Ebooks Outsell Print?

Before I get to the meat of this blog post, I need to do some housekeeping.

Tomorrow I'm off to the Novelist's Inc. Conference in Florida, which will be the last time I get up in front of a crowd and lecture for quite some time.

This decision didn't come lightly. For years, I jumped at every opportunity to open my mouth before a live audience. But I'm working my ass off, and something has to give, and I've decided it will be traveling.

Immediately after Ninc, I'm headed to San Francisco for Bouchercon. You won't find me on any panels, because I didn't register for any. I'm just there to hang out. If you're going, you can find me in the bar or the jacuzzi. I'll be the fat guy with the long hair and the beard surrounded by editors with stakes and hammers.

We just sent out advance reading copies of DRACULAS. If you wanted to review it and didn't get a copy, send an email to draculasthebook@gmail.com. Draculas is being released on October 19, and we're hoping to have 250 reviews by then.

There's a fun interview with me over at BiblioBuffet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. It will probably be the last interview I do for some time, though I am going to try to join my Draculas co-writers tomorrow on Diabolical Radio.

SHAKEN is being released on Kindle October 26. AmazonEncore has done a terrific job with it, and I'm thrilled to be working with a group of bright, talented, enthusiastic professionals.

Okay, let's talk numbers...

I just got my latest royalty statements from my print publishers. In a previous blog post, I estimated I was selling 400 ebooks of Whiskey Sour per month.

Boy, was I wrong.

From January until June, my publisher, Hyperion, sold 878 Whiskey Sour ebooks.

Let's compare that to my ebook The List.

From January until June, I sold 9033 copies of The List.

My publisher has priced Whiskey Sour at $4.69. The List is $2.99.

On the surface, the price difference isn't that dramatic. But considering I sold 10 times the amount than they did, I'd have to conclude that price does matter. A lot.

But here is where it gets interesting.

Since 2004, Whiskey Sour has sold about 60,000 copies in print and ebooks. That's earned me about $54,000 not including foreign sales. (Not bad considering I got a $33k advance for it.)

That means it has sold an average of 833 copies a month, and has earned me $750 a month.

These are Important Numbers. Because publishing isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. Sure, short term, I got a nice five figure check as my advance. But long term, even a successful book (Whiskey Sour is now in its fifth printing) only pays out $750 a month after six years. And that's more than most books earn. Trust me. I have hundreds of peers who signed with Big 6 publishers and haven't earned near that.

Compare those numbers to The List.

In six years, I'll have sold 108,396 copies. Almost double what Whiskey Sour has sold. And I'll have earned over $200k--almost four times what I earned with Whiskey Sour.

So my little self-pubbed ebook not only makes me more money in the long run, it also SELLS MORE COPIES.

Did I get a nice, fat $25,000 advance check for The List? No.

But I'd return my advance to get Whiskey Sour back, because if I had it I'd for damn sure be selling more than 147 copies a month.

Now let's compare this to my recent Jack Kilborn novel, Afraid.

Afraid has sold, in all versions, about 62,000 copies. But it has done this in a year. Afraid was released in the UK at the same time as the US, and did pretty good in both countries. It has earned me about $34,000.

17,433 of these sales were ebooks. 10,235 were during its first month, at a reduced price of $1.99.

My publisher, Grand Central, has perhaps been reading my blog, because they recently reduced the price of Afraid to $1.99 again, after it being full price for over a year.

For the moment, let's disregard the month Afraid was $1.99 and average out the other 13 months where is was sold for between $4.99 and $6.99. During those months, it sold 554 copies a month.

Not bad. But not good, compared to Trapped and Endurance, the next two Jack Kilborn novels I released on my own. They're averaging 1400 sales per month, each.

If we add the sale ebooks, and all the print books, Afraid has been selling 4428 copies per month. The best month The List had was about 2600 copies, so it looks like there may be hope for print yet.

That is, until we realize that print numbers fall off rather dramatically.

In the past six months, Afraid has only sold 8,868 copies. That's only 1478 per month, and 3460 of those were ebooks.

So while Afraid is still averaging over 500 ebooks per month, the print copies sold have dropped off a lot, and they will continue to drop off. That's just how it works with print.

In comparison, Whiskey Sour had earned $33,000 during its first year. In other words, pretty much the same that Afraid earned during its first year.

Print books start out strong, then over the years they earn less and less. I expect Afraid, by year six, to do the same as Whiskey Sour (and the rest of my traditionally published books) and wind up averaging me about $750 a month.

So for the seven books I have in print, each averaging $750 a month after six years, comes to a combined total of $5250 a month. And I'm one of the (supposed) lucky ones, because my books are all still in print.

Contrast this to my seven top selling self-published ebooks. Those earn me $11,120 a month, and rather than slowing down, they're picking up speed. I'm selling more ebooks each month, and I expect a big boom come the holiday season.

So not only does self-publishing earn more money than a print deal does over the years, you can also reach more readers by selling more copies.

Think about that. I've gotten over a quarter of a million dollars in advances from the Big 6. That's more than most writers will ever get. And I've also earned out above and beyond that number.

But all by myself I can make a quarter mil in two years. And I can reach more people in six years than a Big 6 publisher with all of its distribution power.

Isn't that extraordinary? Or at the very least, messed up?

If you're a midlist author, crunch your numbers. Spread your advance (and royalties, if you made any) out over a six year period. Those naysayers who declare "You can't make a living self-publishing if you're only earning $750 a month" need to understand that "$750 a month" is what a print book earns, when averaged over time.

If you sign a deal for $50k, I'd guess you'll earn about that amount in six years.

Or you could have made $110k doing it on your own after only six years, by selling 750 ebooks a month at 2.99 each. That's a lot better than you'd do in all but the best print deals, and 750 ebooks a month isn't a huge number.

Now, your mileage may vary. If you get offered a big print deal, take the money and run. And print may pay off in a big way if you get lucky and land on a bestseller list. Then you can make better money (though I do seem to recall a NYT bestselling author who blogged about hitting the list and only earning $27k on that book.)

But if you're offered less than six figures, think long and hard. I believe you can sell more, and earn more, on your own.

154 comments:

Allen Varney said...

Though your overall argument works for me, in this turbulent time it's unwise to extrapolate six years out. It seems inevitable that Amazon, once it secures a tight grip on the ebook market, will start reducing the royalties it pays out to authors. Something similar happened a few years ago in shareware casual games (Bejeweled and the like): Big portals initially offered 80% royalties to developers until the portals aggregated all the customers to themselves. Now the portals offer 20%. Over the next few years -- certainly fewer than six years! -- the same thing will happen in ebooks.

Joe Konrath said...

Over the next few years -- certainly fewer than six years! -- the same thing will happen in ebooks.

I have reasons to doubt this. But even if it does, lower royalty rates will be offset by the tremendous growth of this industry. Even conservative estimates predict the ebook market exploding in the next five years.

I expect to be selling a lot more than the 7500 a month I'm currently selling.

jtplayer said...

Well...it's like a man once said, "if something seems to good to be true, it probably is".

About the only thing guaranteed, in my mind, is the ebook market will change. And those changes may not be as rosy as some predict.

Just don't burn any bridges along the way.

jtplayer said...

Re: "I expect to be selling a lot more than the 7500 a month I'm currently selling."
------------------

It's good to think positive.

Joe Konrath said...

It's good to think positive.

Yes it is. You should try it.

I've got 20 months of data showing an upswing, and every expert in the world predicts the ebook market will get bigger. I think it's a safe bet that Amazon will sell a lot of Kindles this holiday, especially since they're now in Best Buy (and backordered.)

I also think it's a safe bet that my ever-increasing sales will keep increasing, if only for the obvious fact that I keep publishing more and more of them.

When pessimism has data behind it, it's realism. Without the data, it doesn't reveal much other than sour grapes.

Victorine said...

Great numbers. Congrats! I, for one, really appreciate you sharing this kind of information. I'm so glad I chose to publish on the Kindle. It's just awesomeness all around.

jtplayer said...

Re: "Yes it is. You should try it."
-----------------

Awe...c'mon Joe, don't be so harsh. I'm positive about lots of things in my life.

Besides, somebody's got to represent the contrary viewpoint in this lovefest you've got going on over here ;-)

Seriously though...congrats on your success. And thank you for making all of this information available to everyone, including the naysayers.

Jason said...

Joe,
I'm one of the shmuck... um, authors who got very little out of big publishing, and am going down the digital self-pub route too. I know that blog time is time spent not writing books, but maybe you could put this list of figures into graphical form to better illustrate your points. People who dip in and out of your blog, or are new to your work, bay not want to try to piece together which book was where at what price.

Joe Konrath said...

Besides, somebody's got to represent the contrary viewpoint in this lovefest you've got going on over here ;-)

You're right. You caught me off my game. Keep 'em coming.

Never Say Never said...

In September I sold only 2,000 books but they were priced between $5 and $10, for a net royalty of $7,100. October sales are higher for the first 5 days with a projected royalty of $9,000 if things keep steady.

That said, I'm starting to wonder for the first time if I might make more by lowering them to $3.99 or $2.99.

PS You probably figured out who I am but I trust you'll keep it confidential.

jtplayer said...

No sweat bro...I'm here for you!

But could you ease up on killing off my beloved print books? Some of us aren't quite ready to go Kindle.

Never fear though...when the time comes, I'll bring the flag on my way out of the burning fort.

traceybaptiste said...

It's great that you're open to revealing your methods/reasoning/earnings to those of us just getting into this business. So thanks for that.

The thing is, you already have a following, so being able to sell several hundred books a month is easy. New authors would have drastically different numbers.

But perhaps you're not writing for us young 'uns?

Ty Johnston said...

You bastard!

JAK, you had me nearly in tears over the Neil story in the interview. Then I had to step away from my computer and catch my breath from the laughter.

Katiebabs/ KB said...

I've been meaning to ask this, but do you use a freelance editor to edit your self-published work?

So many people are still iffy about self-publishing or buying self published books because of some not using an editor and publishing really crappy books because of it.

Plus if you use a freelance editor, is it work it to spend hundreds of dollars?

So is it worth it to self-publish and pay for editing services?

Also, do you think in the future epublishers will outsell and do better than traditional publishing?

Mark Asher said...

Thanks for being so open about your sales. It's really interesting to get an inside view.

And you've convinced me. Indie publishing is the way to go unless you're convinced you have that blockbuster bestseller in you or get a huge advance.

That said, I can see some writers mixing traditional publishing and self-publishing and having great success. They may think of traditional publishing as a revenue loss but a marketing boost for their other books.

Amanda Hocking said...

@traceybaptiste

Prior to six months ago, I had never sold a single book anywhere. Then I published on thru Amazon.

I've now sold nearly 25K books, without a following or any help from publishers.

What Joe says is relevant to ANY author at ANY stage in the game.

Douglas Dorow said...

Thanks for sharing the info. Always appreciate the openness.

Received Dracula today, looking forward to the read. But it's getting darker earlier now...

There was an interesting interview on a local radio show today AM1500 Garage Logic with John Sanford. Not a midlist author.

A couple of interesting comments he made:
1) he didn't know if touring helped his sales and it was very tiring,
2) he talked about the impact of reviews on Amazon and the issue with 1 star reviews by people protesting ebook prices and Amazon's(?) pricing policy. He attributed the prices to Amazon, not his publisher. The one-star reviews were driving his overall average down, which potential buyers will use in their buying decision.

Great story, cover, reviews and price are important no matter your tier as an author.

ThrillersRus.blogspot.com

Derek J. Canyon said...

Katiebabs,

I just hired an editor for the first time on my first ebook which I published last week.

Here's my blog on the cost and value of editing:

The Results of Editing

Joe Konrath said...

He attributed the prices to Amazon, not his publisher.

He's misinformed. His publisher sets the prices, because they bullied Amazon into it.

I'd love to go back to the old way. Publishers charged Amazon 50% of the hardcover price, and Amazon discounted how they pleased. This resulted in lower ebook prices, but more money for the author.

The agency model is a joke.

Christy Pinheiro said...

The agency model is a joke.

Yes, and I'm waiting on the class action suit. It's ridiculous that Amazon can't set its own prices. If I buy something, and I want to re-sell it at a loss, that should be my choice. That's how thw free market is supossed to work.

One of the benefits of being your own (self) publisher is that you can distribute any way you wish.

Amazon usually discounts my books right away, which leads to increased sales, but my royalties stay the same. So I love it when different retailers compete over price.

And I just solidified the future of my discounts because I uploaded my first book to LSI tonight. I've been using CS and now I'm going to use both venues.

I'll let everyone know how it goes!

Kevin McLaughlin said...

@Allen: Amazon already has about a 70% market share. I can't see that growing larger... Right now, they have an edge because they saw this happening and were positioned to act - and acted. But they're in a good shape today as they will ever be. That market share will likely diminish as the market fragments and more etailer bookstores spring up. I don't see royalties dropping much, if at all.

Remember, brick and mortar stores pay publishers 50-60%, so it seems unlikely that ebook payouts will drop below that margin. DMP, Smashwords, PubIt and the like are just cutting out the middle man.

Tara Maya said...

A look at royalties -- with cool charts! -- courtesy of Jim C. Hines.

http://www.jimchines.com/2010/10/royalties/

The Kindle edition of his book Mermaid's Madness is $6.99, just a dollar less than the paperback. This might be one reason for his relatively poor ebook sales.

At least it's not as bad as Ken Follett's Fall of Giants, though, which had a Kindle price of $19,99! It's actually MORE than the hardcover. I was not the only one outraged. A huge number of infuriated fans gave the book 1-star, and declared a boycott. Penguin is the publisher.

I don't think people are going to see the one-star reviews and think, "Oh, this is a bad book." I think they're going to look at the Kindle price and go, WTF, then scroll down and see that other people feel the same way for the same reason. It's not a reflection on the author. But there isn't a separate rating system for the publisher.

Follett's other ebooks are also too high. I have all Follett's books in print, sometimes more than one copy, and my original plan was to buy a Kindle copy for convenience and a hardback for keepsake. I was so annoyed at the price gouging I didn't buy either.

Tara Maya said...

I did, however, buy Derek J. Canyon's book, Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds. :)

Derek J. Canyon said...

Tara,

Thanks! You must have been that 4th book I sold! ;)

Tara Maya said...

My pleasure. :D

Merrill Heath said...

Joe, you bring up an interesting point about the sales of print books dropping off rather quickly. Of course, that's not surprising because their availability is greatly reduced. Within 6 weeks of hitting the shelves the book stores are returning overstock to make room for something else. Fewer books on the shelf means fewer sales. But with ebooks there are no real costs involved in making them available for a long time.

You also mention the midlist books, which is where the books by most of us would fall. The shelf life of a midlist book has changed significantly over the years. Back in 2000 the Authors Guild released a study on the state of the midlist book. It was rather depressing. And over the last decade the problems have gotten even worse.

Merrill Heath
http://merrillheath.wordpress.com

traceybaptiste said...

@Amanda Hocking: Thanks for letting me know. Your sales numbers are very encouraging.

Linda Acaster said...

As always, thanks Joe for your openness.

For everyone's info, Amazon UK has just announced 70% royalties for its dtp with immediate effect. I've yet to read the small print but believe indie authors need to select the option.

Mark Terry said...

Although I'm not sure you can extrapolate all of your experiences to everyone, and I, too, am reluctant to be that confident about what will happen 6 years down the road (trust me on this, I write market research reports about healthcare that try to predict one or two years out and it's tricky), I'm completely willing to back the statement:

paper books drop in sales over time, but e-book sales seem to increase over time.

At least: so far.

Bob Mayer said...

The royalty statement of eBook sales from traditional publishers being so different from what an author can do on their own with their backlist led to my blog post about reverse royalties. Traditional publishers are hanging on to their dying breath to the rights to books they do nothing with. On the miniscule chance one day that author might break out (although THAT publisher won't be the one breaking the author out) so they can then reap those benefits. I submitted that if publishers would give those backlist rights to authors and let the authors promote their own books and earn bigger royalties, everyone would benefit. The reality is in the numbers. My Atlantis series under my Doherty pen name, which I own, sells more copies in a month, than a series Random House owns, in a year. What's even more interesting, is in print, the Random House series sold over a million copies and outsold my Atlantis series 4 to 1. Yet the opposite is true in eBooks.
Bottom line publishers need to understand and appreciate: no one cares more about a book than the author.

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you.

Also, a question: when you self-publish on Amazon, do you have to collect sales tax?

And do you recommend a guide/site that shows newbies how to get going with Kindle publishing?

Thank you thank you two more times. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to collect sales tax - it's only semi self-published, Amazon is the true publisher in the sense of selling the book to the consumer (publishers sell books directly, usually to bookstores on consignment).

You do have to declare it as income though.

Helen Hanson said...

A large advance is the sweet, dangling carrot that keeps many writers tied to the traditional publishing track. For most authors, it’s no longer an option.

All the best, Joe!

Alex Wilson said...

Great stuff, Joe. Thanks for being the loud mouth, er, spokesman for this burgeoning trend to electronic self publishing. Most encouraging.

Christy Pinheiro said...

The big six have lost their damn minds, and the ridiculous Agency model is the latest peg in the coffin.

Over at Bookmaking this morning, Michael Marcus is blogging about how ebooks are now often more expensive than hardcovers!

The hardcover of Don’t Blink by James Patterson and Howard Roughan has a $27.99 list price. This morning, Amazon was offering it for $14--but the eBook version was priced at $14.99--nearly a buck more.

There are dozens on one-star reviews on the book already by pissed off Kindle owners.

Jenna said...

Tara Maya said
"A look at royalties -- with cool charts! -- courtesy of Jim C. Hines.

http://www.jimchines.com/2010/10/royalties/

The Kindle edition of his book Mermaid's Madness is $6.99, just a dollar less than the paperback. This might be one reason for his relatively poor ebook sales."

Um, yeah, that's a huge factor. When you can go to Borders with your twice-a-week coupon, why bother paying only $1 less when you can pay $3 less?

I personally think that Kindle lovers are skipping his books altogether at that price. If he's doing OK at this price point, I wonder that his Kindle books aren't at least $4.99 as opposed to $6.99.

In looking through some of the DAW catalog (whaddya know... they're in the Penguin Group. Whouda thunk?) their titles all seem to suffer from this pricing baloney. I did find one book that had the Kindle version less than half the list price of the book - The hardcover was $24.95 and the kindle version was $11.99. :/ Of course the Amazon discounted price on the hardcover was $16.49. *facepalm*

I found a paperback book of theirs whose price was actually *higher* than $11.99. It was a trilogy packaged as one trade pb. Kindle price? $12.99. List price for the real book? $15.

Seriously, what are these publishers playing at? Do they want to go out of business???? Seriously, I don't get where their heads are!!

Cathryn Grant said...

I've been a lurker here for awhile, but the Bouchercon mention brought me out of hiding.

Thanks for all the great info you offer, I await your posts weekly and repeatedly comb through your advice and numbers, I even own the Newbie ebook.

I'll see you in the Bouchercon bar (is there just one?). I'll be the tall chick sipping scotch with the hubs and clutching a bag full of dithering about my publishing plans.

Tuppshar Press said...

Bob Mayer-- you make an interesting point. We've had ebooks vastly outsell their print versions, and I think the reason is how they are distributed. Since small press books rarely receive placement in large numbers of bookstores, it is natural that they won't sell as many copies as books put out by large presses, who do have access to such placement. But since ebooks are distributed online, and so are as easy to find on sites like Amazon as the ebooks of large presses, the playing field is more even and small press ebooks can do very well indeed.

As I've said elsewhere, one of the big competitive advantages that large presses have is their near-monopolistic control over distribution into bookstores. This, however, only applies to physical bookstores and physical shelf space. The emergence of ebooks and online booksellers has changed this dynamic, and the large presses are trying (and often failing) to both adapt and maintain their dominance.

They may adapt, but their days of complete dominance are probably over.

Jenna said...

Tuppshar Press said

"They may adapt, but their days of complete dominance are probably over."

Agreed 100%. But I wish the publishers would falter and fix stuff before the bookstores do - the 2 large Barnes & Noble locations within 10 miles of me are slated to close. :( I think we'll start seeing more of this, too.

The Vampire Years said...

OT so apologies to Joe, but at least it is a lesson in selling, and he probably won't mind that

@Derek - hope you don't mind my saying, Tara just did you a favor by naming your book (didn't see where you did). Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds is a delicious title and you shouldn't hide it behind a link that just says "ebook". Anyway, another copy sold because who can resist near future, dystopian w/ cybernetic dwarves at just 99 cents.

Which is another point re ebooks' ability to outsell print ... if you love reading, you can't go wrong at these price points. Most people will have enough margin in their personal income to buy not just Author X as they do today, but Authors T-Z.

And, my last aside, 70% royalty rate is now available in UK store, too. (But it apparently is an automatic opt in (?) so if you have reasons not to, better go check your settings.)

Derek J. Canyon said...

Vampire Years, you are right! Thanks for the advice. Obviously, I need all the advice I can get, being a newbie. Hope you like the stories. And, for ease of clicking, here it is as you suggest: Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks Joe! I'll be starting my brand new epublished career in less than a month, and I plan on reporting all of my numbers to anyone interested! I'm eager to see how this plays out for me. I had originally planned to use it maybe just for a title or two, but now I'm convinced it'll be the way to go, thanks to you.

With newbies like Amanda Hocking pulling numbers like 25k copies in 6 mos, that's insane. If she did have each book priced at $2.99, that's freaking 50K dollars! Hello! I could just about quit my job for that! I wish November 1st would get here sooner!

www.karlykirkpatrick.com

Kristina Springer said...

Fascinating! Thanks for sharing! I do wonder, how does your print publisher (Hyperion) feel about you self-pubbing at the same time? Was there ever a conflict (the whole non-compete clause and such)?

Ellen Fisher said...

Karly, just remember that Amanda is doing very, very well. The rest of us aren't necessarily selling close to 25K books in half a year:-). Again, it's a MMV thing. If you write a popular genre very well and produce lots of books, you might just sell that many. But there are no guarantees.

Best of luck!

Nicole MacDonald said...

*grin* you must be doing the 'happy dance' at the thought of no more extensive travelling (except for pleasure of course). I truly believe e-books are the way. And this is from a hard back lover. But when it costs me $40nz for a new book that i'll read in 2 hours... well that's 2 hours of pay for me. I'll pick the $3 e-book anyday. And I can't damage it! :) Love reading your blog Joe, as always very inspiring and always makes me smile.

www.damselinadirtydress.com

James Reed's Reads said...

First official Full Review for the anticipated "DRACULAS" by Konrath, Blake, Strand and Wilson is now up at Digital Spotlight Fiction Review:

http://digitalspotlightfictionreview.blogspot.com/2010/10/advance-review-for-draculas-by-ja.html

Thanks for the chance to review the Advance Copy.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

@Ellen...no worries, I've got my feet on the ground! I'll just be happy if I sell 10 copies and someone reads it! And I wouldn't be able to quit the day job anyways...need those benefits!!!

Amanda also has multiple titles out, not sure if she wrote them ahead of time or writes as she goes, but working full time, I will probably only manage 2 books a year-ish. We'll see. So my growth will probably be a lot slower than hers.

But I'm glad to be jumping on the train near the beginning here. Looking forward to the ride!

Anonymous said...

jt wrote:

But could you ease up on killing off my beloved print books? Some of us aren't quite ready to go Kindle.

Photography is almost all digital now but printed photographs are easier to obtain than ever. You can get hardcover photobooks from Walgreens for cryin out loud! POD for written works might mean the same -- less print volume, but much greater variety and accessibility.

Nick said...

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in the ebook vs. print discussion is a comparison between ebooks and iTunes. After all, CDs used to cost $10-$15, and now you can download a song on iTunes for 99 cents, yet the music industry is still here. I'm sure most people don't buy entire albums, just single songs for a much lower up-front cost.

Selena Kitt said...

First official Full Review for the anticipated "DRACULAS" by Konrath, Blake, Strand and Wilson is now up at Digital Spotlight Fiction Review

Dude! You read fast! :)

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in the ebook vs. print discussion is a comparison between ebooks and iTunes.

Ebookpie is already trying to model this:

www.ebookpie.com

Anonymous said...

A couple of notable things from a PW article:

"[HarperCollins CEO Brian] Murray said e-books made up about 9% of HarperCollins' total revenue, but when that number was adjusted to filter out things like children’s books or other materials not easily consumed digitally, closer to 20% of trade title revenue was now derived from e-books. The panelists agreed the growth was explosive, and that e-book revenues were now a significant revenue stream."

And this gem:

"...asking the panel if the industry standard 25% of net receipts royalty would change. Murray said no, defending the rate as a fair cut, adding that he saw nothing on the horizon that would change his mind on the subject."


Gee, I wonder why this blog is so popular...

James Reed's Reads said...

Selena Kitt said:
Dude! You read fast! :)

James Reed says:
The ebook is 411 pages total including bonus material and other novel/short story excerpts, but the actual "Draculas" novel itself is only 173 pages.

Frank said...

Linda A.,
The fine print from Amazon says if you're selling at the 70% rate in the U.S. it will default to that rate in the U.K. You can go and set a separate price for the UK edition, and that might change it, but if not, you don't have to do anything.

I just got back from a SF con, and I think I convinced more people to buy a Kindle than I convinced to buy my wife's book. It's a big book and is priced accordingly, so she's planning on putting out a short story anthology at 2.99 to attract potential readers. I have to help her edit that one.

I've read what Joe has to say about pricing, but I'm not quite ready to set the default price of every ebook to 2.99. If that ends up being the only price folks will pay, then the work will be written to fit an appropriate length for that price. We might also put out a short novella or 2 at .99 to build business.

Rex Kusler said...

Everybody tells you start a blog to drive traffic to your books. I just started a blog. It has fewer hits than sales for my worst selling book for the day. So much for that advice. Who wants to be the third hit?

http://rexkusler.blogspot.com/

HL Arledge said...

Thanks for sharing, Joe—again. You're an inspiration, as always.

Hey Rex, nice blog. I left your first comment.

Good luck with it!

Cherri Galbiati said...

@Rex, Left you a comment--Cool blog, btw.

Archangel said...

might want to keep an eye on this re itunes = ebooks. Ded appeal court found 10/3-10 in favor of Eminem re itunes, that music publisher likely owes E. not royalties on his music sold on itunes (at lower %) but rather LICENSE rates (50%=) because the mp3/ digital downloads are not an actual item that belongs to purchaser, but only licensed to purchaser thru itunes. Music publisher vows so seek retrial. However, if decision stands, big 6 pubs of ebooks likely to be drawn into court eventually too by authors demanding amaz and others are licensing ebooks, not selling a tangible.

will be interesting to watch

just my .02
dr.cpe

Archangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Archangel said...

that should read Federal court.
Sorry.

and 10-3-10 is the date of the ruling

thanks

dr.cpe

Ceri Clark said...

I've been inspired by your blog and published my teenage fantasy book on Amazon (Children of the Elementi).
I'm curious, does the US charge VAT on ebooks? I put 2.99 for both US and UK but the VAT was added on the UK but not the US.

Anonymous said...

The VAST majority of sales of unknown first time indie authors is at .99.

Remember - you are not Joe Konrath. Once you have multiple books out ther then raise your prices, but even $2.99 for an unknown is a tough sell, given the number of free and .99 books out there.

Yes, your book may be brilliant, but to a lot of Kindle readers you are overpriced at $2.99.

Selena Kitt said...

@archangel - this case is more about contract law than anything else. Because the original contract was iffy about the wording, eminem had a case. But most contracts now make it clear what is licensing and what is a sale. And book publishers have a plethora of lawyers that will jump all over this and make sure the loopholes are covered.

But for you authors who have already signed contracts with publishers who didn't cross their t's and dot their i's... cross your fingers. Maybe you can get your ebook rights back! :)

@Rex - it takes a LOT of time and effort to build a blog. It isn't just a magical cure-all. But it definitely can drive traffic toward your work over time if you stick with it!

Douglas Dorow said...

@anon 11:39
I don't think $2.99 is a bad price for a book. I'll try out a new author at that price after looking at the description, reviews and I can often get a sample first.

$2.99 to try out a new author is nothing compared to what I have to pay to get an ebook from a publisher or a paperback of a new author I'd like to try out and see if I like.

And if you want me to buy more, it better be good:)

The Vampire Years said...

@ceri - there is no US VAT or federal sales tax; state sales tax on digital products sold online is on a state by state basis and I believe there is a "nexus" issue so that when I order from one of my favorite 3D retailers, I don't pay sales tax but a California resident does - both of us shopping the same digital store, buying the same digital goods. My state, however, has a deemed amount of purchases that it imposes sales tax on via an annual return by individuals, unless its state residents can prove they purchased less online. So, right now, not a lot of state sales tax imposed on digital content buyers online.

michaelradcliffe said...

Fantastic post! As a newly (self) published author, I couldn't believe how flippin' easy it was to publish on Kindle through Amazon and at Smashwords!

When it is so easy to publish your own work and set up a website and blog for very little expense to promote your work, why sign with a publisher for a pitance?

How on Earth are the old traditional publishing houses going to survive?? It seems like those publishers who don't adapt to the new digital age will be destined for Ch 11...

Mark Asher said...

"How on Earth are the old traditional publishing houses going to survive?? It seems like those publishers who don't adapt to the new digital age will be destined for Ch 11..."

They do sell ebooks too, you know. And they tend to dominate the Kindle bestseller list. And most of the money is still in print, currently. And reviewers, the press, and even a lot of readers don't pay much attention to self-published books.

Joe's beef seems to be that they take too big of a cut for what they do for a writer -- not that there's no value in being traditionally published.

Ceri Clark said...

@ The Vampire Years, Thank you, that clears it up for me. Tax is very confusing. It's a little annoying that here in the UK we have to pay VAT on ebooks but there is no VAT on print books. Evens the playing field a bit I suppose.

Anonymous said...

The power of the $2.99 price point? Nikki Finke's blog, Deadline, reports that DCComics is reducing many of its prices to $2.99. Are consumers about to begin to consider $2.99 the going price for certain printed material? I realize I'm projecting out a bit here but does this portend future pricing decisions by publishers?

Here's the link...http://tinyurl.com/24ykdds

S.L. Naeole said...

Can Ebooks outsell Print?

Yes, they can. And they have.

A traditionally published friend of mine compared her 6mo sales of three of her books to my three books. I've outsold hers 3-1. Even my paperback, which lists at a higher price than hers, has a higher sales rank than hers does.

What does this mean, exactly? That after waiting 21 months for her books to publish, a small advance, and a well known imprint attached to her titles, she has the "legitimacy" while I have the sales.

She has to put out one more book per her contract, and then she's starting a whole new series via self-publishing. She says she'll probably do better than I have because she's got "clout". Will she be correct? I don't know. But what I do know is that watching her books flounder is proof enough that even with a major publisher and agent on your resume, it doesn't equate to sales OR success.

Christy Pinheiro said...

That after waiting 21 months for her books to publish, a small advance, and a well known imprint attached to her titles, she has the "legitimacy" while I have the sales.

Your friend may be right-- it DOES help to be traditionally published, but as Joe said, it would take a real whopper of a publishing deal for me to consider publshing with someone else. Even on my lowest performing book, I still make about 50.00 per month, and that's from selling 7-8 copies. My BEST performing title regularly makes 5K or more.

And that's POD sales only.

I have one Kinlde title (and a second one coming at the end of this month). The Kindle sales for my non-fiction book have just started to take off. It used to make 20 per month, and now I usually make about 250-300 on the Kindle edition and about the same amount on the print edition. Not bad.

Anonymous said...

Please people who have books for sale, can you put a link or an url in as a signature if nothing else. I'm nosy-- I like to look and sometimes I buy.

Rebecca Stroud said...

Here you go, anon@5:49...
http://www.amazon.com/The-Animal-Advocate-ebook/dp/B0045OUK9S

Of course, if you don't care for animals, this isn't the book for you. Yet, otherwise, try it...

(I hope I haven't crossed any boundaries here; if so, mea culpa. It's just that I'm such a newbie and my book is "newbier" than me, not to mention in a very niche market.)

evilphilip said...

Please people who have books for sale, can you put a link or an url in as a signature if nothing else. I'm nosy-- I like to look and sometimes I buy.

Who can refuse an invitation like that?

Z is for Zombie.

author Scott Nicholson said...

I was on the lower midlist (I consider Joe upper midlist) and while my NY book-to-indie book numbers don't quite match up as favorably, I stand to make more this year than I ever did while under contract, and I started this in January.

You may say, "Well, it's taking you more books to earn that money," to which I say, "Why do I care? I just want to reach the most readers and earn the most money, and the work's already done anyway."

I tend to be more wary of what's going to happen with e-books in five years than most people, but I'll change with those times, too. The unluckiest writers in the world are those midlist writers who are giving away their e-rights for 10 or 25 percent (or in Leisure's case, 4 to 6 percent). Good luck making a living with that.

And, I also think once NY gets punitive about their former writers who are now indie publishing, they are going to drop prices and compete on an aggressive level, because writers have given the publishers a competitive edge by allowing the publisher to earn a bigger share than the writer does. Just wait until Big Six goes full steam into the land of $2.99 e-books, and they have trimmed staff and have basically a tech guy managing accounts and a few dozen people on a board of directors raking in free money. And they'll still be preaching "legitimacy" to those sucker writers, like that hilarious USA Today article where they were invoking Ernest Hemingway in defense of their outlandish e-book policies.

Scott

Selena Kitt said...

"Just wait until Big Six goes full steam into the land of $2.99 e-books, and they have trimmed staff and have basically a tech guy managing accounts and a few dozen people on a board of directors raking in free money."

Hey! I'm not the only realist (er, alarmist?) out there! Cool! ;)

michaelradcliffe said...

• Anonymous said...
Please people who have books for sale, can you put a link or an url in as a signature if nothing else. I'm nosy-- I like to look and sometimes I buy.
5:49 PM




Here you go: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25956

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Scott said:
You may say, "Well, it's taking you more books to earn that money," to which I say, "Why do I care? I just want to reach the most readers and earn the most money, and the work's already done anyway."


Right. And I'm loving right now, selling 60-70 books a day from my suspense series of four books. If I only had one book in the Kindle Store I probably wouldn't be selling half that.

One of my books has been on the first page of the Romantic Suspense Bestseller list for weeks. This is driving the sales of the entire series.

I can't wait to see what will happen when I add the first book of my new mystery series at the end of this month. One of my current books occasionally hits the Mystery Bestseller list, so that should help the new mystery book.

Exciting times!

Tuppshar Press said...

Scott-- Good points. I tracked down the USA Today op-ed piece and noted that the author is Chairman and CEO of McGraw-Hill, and the head of their professional book division.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-10-06-column06_ST_N.htm

Some of the article's points are good ones, while others are not. The "Myth #2", in which they argue that authors "need" publishers, is clearly false. They cite Hemingway and his relationship with his editors (I've heard that Hemingway's first drafts were positively awful, though I've never read one) as an example of the value of publishers because of their editors.

What they don't say is that editorial relationships like that are rare in the extreme these days, and that they have been rare for the past 30 years at least. The fact is that editors are more marketing people than they are literary critics. Of course, this is the last thing the CEO of a major publisher is going to tell you, since it is the publishing equivalent to the realization that the king has no clothes on.

I've blogged on the article in more detail here:

http://tuppshar-press.livejournal.com/9748.html

evilphilip said...

Orbit books is going to feature an eBook a month for $2.99 on all platforms.

This month the book is Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett.

Tara Maya said...

Brent Weeks is still $13 for ebook form.

Again, I'm not sure if this is good or bad for newbies. I think I agree with the prediction that in the short run, if publishers wise up and make ebooks cheaper, it will be tougher competition for indies. But in the long run, less expensive ebooks will probably benefit everyone.

Tara Maya said...

Oh, and I can't link to my book on Amazon because it hasn't been released yet but here's my website for my sff anthology, Conmergence:

http://www.flash.taramayastales.com/

It should be out by the end of the month. Anyone who would like to do a review can have a pdf for free. Just email me and let me know. Heck, you don't even have to review the whole book. (It's 47,000 words total.) Just read a story or two and review that. :)

tara@taramayastales.com

evilphilip said...

That article in the USA Today says,

"With the ascent of e-books, authors will need publishers to serve as digital artists who can bring words to life by pairing text with multimedia features such as audio, video and search."

IMHO, this is one of the reasons that the Big 6 will fail at ebook publishing. Multimedia features are expensive and like the extras on a DVD -- only a small portion of people care about those kind of features and/or are willing to pay extra to get them.

Video production is an area that the Big 6 has no experience with and what they will do is farm out these features to real production companies at a huge cost. Thus raising the bottom line and cementing in the idea that they need to charge $9.99, $12.99 or $14.99 for an ebook.

And their competition is the independent author who is giving the reader what he/she wants -- a book -- at $2.99 or $4.99.

Who is going to crash and burn in that scenerio?

Ty Johnston said...

I'm yet to be convinced multimedia e-books will ever be big sellers, at least until there's another major technological upswing of some sort.

Why should a reader pay more for video and extra content, yackety yackety, when they can just jump to an author's blog or website and there's all that stuff anyway? Usually for free. I mean, geez, how much does the average reader really want to know about writers and what they do, and all the background info behind it? Fans and other writers, possibly, but your average reader?

Oh, and since we're slapping around links: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002DR45P4

WDGagliani said...

I think that HarperCollins CEO mentioned a couple days ago needs to wake up and smell the scent of bankruptcy. 25% royalty is fair and acceptable? How many HC authors will agree with that statement? How many will see greener pastures?

Ha! Reading DRACULAS now. Liking it!

And since we've been asked to promote our links, here's my novel SAVAGE NIGHTS:

http://www.amazon.com/Savage-Nights-ebook/dp/B003DQO2MA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1286660772&sr=1-1

Tara Maya said...

I'm not sure I'm as skeptical about vooks. Sure, I see a lot of people complaining they don't like the "distraction" but then, a lot of people were/are complaining they'd never read on an ereader either.

That said, I'm not sure yet if sharing royalties is the way to go for enhanced books either. Couldn't a writer just pay the video artist the same way you pay for cover art or a book trailer?

Tara Maya said...

WDGagliani, your link doesn't work for me. :(

Tony Rabig said...

I'm not sure that it'll make much difference if the Big 6 finally grow brains and start competing on price. If they try to keep the same percentage they keep now, who'll stay with them given the examples of Konrath, Morrell, and other writers who have been putting their own backlists and even some new titles into ebooks?

Part of the recent Book Expo was shown on C-Span 2; during the keynote panel session, the literary agent said flat out that she wasn't looking for any new writers. So we have publishers who have farmed out slush pile functions to agents, and agents who don't want it either, and the systems in place that let writers bypass them completely. If the Big 6 cut some staff when they dive into ebooks in a big way and don't add other staff who are interested in finding and developing new talent, it'll be harder for them to compete over the long run than they think it will be.

Bests to all,

--tr

And as long as someone wants links, I've just started testing the waters at the Kindle store with a short fantasy story called "The Other Iron River." Find it at:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Other-Iron-River-ebook/dp/B0045JLQKA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1286664993&sr=1-2

evilphilip said...

"So we have publishers who have farmed out slush pile functions to agents, and agents who don't want it either, and the systems in place that let writers bypass them completely. If the Big 6 cut some staff when they dive into ebooks in a big way and don't add other staff who are interested in finding and developing new talent, it'll be harder for them to compete over the long run than they think it will be."

Most agents wouldn't know talent if it walked up and hit them in the face with a salmon.

Look at the books represented by most of the agents who blog... do you see any bestsellers in there? Do you see any books that jump right out at you and scream "Buy Me!"

I don't. These are people who are wallowing in the minor celebrity of having a successful online blog, but who don't take the time to find new talent (or any talent).

Read their blogs. What they are looking for is "exactly like something I previously sold" and not "an amazing novel".

That difference is part of why the "Big 6" are suffering. Too much "Mee Too" publishing and not enough people out there looking for real talent.

Everyone wants to find the next Harry Potter or Twilight, but they forget that those franchises came out of the slush pile and came from nowhere. They jumped out and caught the attention of the public, they weren't the More-of-the-Same we see so much of in publishing.

If publishers aren't interested in discovering and developing new talent... they aren't going to find any.

WDGagliani said...

Hi Tara, thanks for wanting to check out Savage Nights! Sorry it didn't work for you -- I don't know how to make it into a "cleaner" link, though. I just tried copying it and pasting it in my browser, and it worked. Otherwise you can just search it by title at the Kindle Store on Amazon. Sorry I can't be of more help, but I'm grateful you cared enough to try! :-)

Good luck with your own new release, too!

W.D.

Tara Maya said...

@ WDGagliani

I must have copy and pasted it wrong. Don't worry I just typed the title in Amazon, and it came up.

Tara Maya said...

@ evilphilip

Look at the books represented by most of the agents who blog... do you see any bestsellers in there? Do you see any books that jump right out at you and scream "Buy Me!"

I don't. These are people who are wallowing in the minor celebrity of having a successful online blog, but who don't take the time to find new talent (or any talent).


That's not true for me. There are several agents who's writers I read regularly.

If anything, I think the problem is the other way around. Agents read so much, they get jaded on common plots and turn down things which are well-written but too closely resemble some other book in an agent's or editor's line. It doesn't mean the book wouldn't sell to readers.

I'm very suspicious of the argument, "Everything published now is crap." I don't agree at all. There are tons of good books put out by the Big 6, including books by my favorite authors. I don't believe that the problem with publishing is the content.

Some good writers and some good books are kept out by the current selection process, but that doesn't automatically mean to me that the books which are selected are bad.

If it weren't for the new technologies and social infrastructures available today, I wouldn't consider there to be a problem with publishing at all. In the days before the printing press, it wasn't a problem that a manuscript had to be handwritten. That only became inefficient when there was a better method available.

Publishing today is only "broken" because it has become the handwritten mss in the age of Gutenberg. It's not broken so much as surpassed.

Dawn Wilson said...

--@ putting the figures in graphic format--

Please. That would help the mathematically challenged writers (of which I am one).

I'm still new to this blog, and I want to hold off on ?? until I review to make sure they weren't answered earlier....

...but I think it is obvious that even with the figures and great sales, JA is obviously working his butt off on this, and I think that it is not just an issue of working hard, but working effectively, i.e. the comment on touring. I'm going to try to explore more of this.

I've just published my short story collection on Kindle last month ("Welcome to Shangri-La, North Carolina.")--and not expecting to be near the JA Konrath model, but my understanding is that short story collections are notoriously hard to sell, so I felt there was little to lose with Kindle.

And I second the motion for "I'm not JA Konrath" t-shirts :)

Kevin McLaughlin said...

I don't think publishers have much to worry about on the "authors leaving in droves" bit - at least not for quite a while. I just got back from a small SF&F writer's convention, and basically - not only were none of the authors there tracking on ebook growth at all, but they really didn't want to hear about it, either. Or about self-pub. The party line is basically:
- I don't like ebooks because I like paper books.
- I don't like ebooks because they let people pirate my work and I lose money.
- Self-publishing is for amateurs only. Professionals write for publishers.

When faced with some of the facts and figures about changes happening, people were not excited - they were *scared*. Even though I was talking about the doors these changes open.

And it is scary. Writers want an agent to take care of all "that business stuff" so they can write. They want an editor to tell them "this is good" so that they believe their work has value. And they want the status quo to remain, because it's what they're used to - and it's safe.

No, I think most authors will believe the publisher line and stick with them; even when the numbers are right there to see, those who succeed at self-pub will be viewed as outliers and unusual.

Where publishers are going to have a big problem, in the short term, is going to be returns. Follow this pattern:
- Amazon predicted that by the end of 2011 50% of books sold in the USA will be ebooks. This is in effect a self-fulfilling prophecy, with people buying ereaders because they believe it and want to get on board.
- Amazon has the power to make this happen, by releasing Kindle to retail (check) and by dropping the price to $99 for the wifi Kindle. I suspect we might see that this holiday season, for sales, and that B&N will be forced to match them with the Nook (also now being massively pushed in all their retail stores). A two-digit price tag will *radically* boost ereader sales.
- Sometime before the 50% mark, super-bookstores cease to be viable. To hold on as long as they can, they do massive returns, cycling books through rapidly to get the immediate purchases and then returning extras very fast to buy more books on return credit.
- Borders accelerates this process, but folds, returning all books.
- B&N closes a great many of its stores and downsizes most of the rest. Mass returns ensue.

How many returns can Big 6 handle in a year? The 2-1 ratio right now is already tough on margins (roughly one in every two books sent to a bookstore becomes a return). If that number goes up substantially in a short period of time (a year), the publishers will not have the revenue streams to continue buying and printing new books. They'll fold - or at least, be forced to move to ebook-only for many titles, and publish only selected titles to print. This of course further accelerates the death of print bookstores, and feeds the cycle of returns more.

In the long run, it's not the authors leaving which is a threat - it's the nature of the relationship between publishers and big chain bookstores, which carry an *immense* number of books on their shelves that can be turned in for publisher credit that poses the greatest danger to large publishers.

Kevin McLaughlin said...

I don't think publishers have much to worry about on the "authors leaving in droves" bit - at least not for quite a while. I just got back from a small SF&F writer's convention, and basically - not only were none of the authors there tracking on ebook growth at all, but they really didn't want to hear about it, either. Or about self-pub. The party line is basically:
- I don't like ebooks because I like paper books.
- I don't like ebooks because they let people pirate my work and I lose money.
- Self-publishing is for amateurs only. Professionals write for publishers.

When faced with some of the facts and figures about changes happening, people were not excited - they were *scared*. Even though I was talking about the doors these changes open.

And it is scary. Writers want a agent to take care of all "that business stuff" so they can write. They want an editor to tell them "this is good" so that they believe their work has value. And they want the status quo to remain, because it's what they're used to - and it's safe.

No, I think most authors will believe the publisher line and stick with them; even when the numbers are right there to see, those who succeed at self-pub will be viewed as outliers and unusual.

Where publishers are going to have a big problem, in the short term, is going to be returns. Follow this pattern:
- Amazon predicted that by the end of 2011 50% of books sold in the USA will be ebooks. This is in effect a self-fulfilling prophecy, with people buying ereaders because they believe it and want to get on board.
- Amazon has the power to make this happen, by releasing Kindle to retail (check) and by dropping the price to $99 for the wifi Kindle. I suspect we might see that this holiday season, for sales, and that B&N will be forced to match them with the Nook (also now being massively pushed in all their retail stores).
- Sometime before the 50% mark, super-bookstores cease to be viable. To hold on as long as they can, they do massive returns, cycling books through rapidly to get the immediate purchases and then returning extras very fast to buy more books on return credit.
- Borders accelerates this process, but folds, returning all books.
- B&N closes a great many of its stores and downsizes most of the rest. Mass returns ensue.

How many returns can Big 6 handle in a year? The 2-1 ratio right now is already tough on margins (roughly one in every two books sent to a bookstore becomes a return). If that number goes up substantially in a short period of time (a year), the publishers will not have the revenue streams to continue buying and printing new books. They'll fold - or at least, be forced to move to ebook-only for many titles, and publish only selected titles to print. This of course further accelerates the death of print bookstores, and feeds the cycle of returns more.

In the long run, it's not the authors leaving which is a threat - it's the nature of the relationship between publishers and big chain bookstores, which carry an *immense* number of books on their shelves that can be turned in for publisher credit that poses the greatest danger to large publishers.

Kevin McLaughlin said...

I don't think publishers have much to worry about on the "authors leaving in droves" bit - at least not for quite a while. I just got back from a small SF&F writer's convention, and basically - not only were none of the authors there tracking on ebook growth at all, but they really didn't want to hear about it, either. Or about self-pub. The party line is basically:
- I don't like ebooks because I like paper books.
- I don't like ebooks because they let people pirate my work and I lose money.
- Self-publishing is for amateurs only. Professionals write for publishers.

When faced with some of the facts and figures about changes happening, people were not excited - they were *scared*. Even though I was talking about the doors these changes open.

And it is scary. Writers want an agent to take care of all "that business stuff" so they can write. They want an editor to tell them "this is good" so that they believe their work has value. And they want the status quo to remain, because it's what they're used to - and it's safe.

Kevin McLaughlin said...

No, I think most authors will believe the publisher line and stick with them; even when the numbers are right there to see, those who succeed at self-pub will be viewed as outliers and unusual.

Where publishers are going to have a big problem, in the short term, is going to be returns. Follow this pattern:
- Amazon predicted that by the end of 2011 50% of books sold in the USA will be ebooks. This is in effect a self-fulfilling prophecy, with people buying ereaders because they believe it and want to get on board.
- Amazon has the power to make this happen, by releasing Kindle to retail (check) and by dropping the price to $99 for the wifi Kindle. I suspect we might see that this holiday season, for sales, and that B&N will be forced to match them with the Nook (also now being massively pushed in all their retail stores). A two-digit price tag will radically boost ereader sales.
- Sometime before the 50% mark, super-bookstores cease to be viable. To hold on as long as they can, they do massive returns, cycling books through rapidly to get the immediate purchases and then returning extras very fast to buy more books on return credit.
- Borders accelerates this process, but folds, returning all books.
- B&N closes a great many of its stores and downsizes most of the rest. Mass returns ensue.

How many returns can Big 6 handle in a year? The 2-1 ratio right now is already tough on margins (roughly one in every two books sent to a bookstore becomes a return). If that number goes up substantially in a short period of time (a year), the publishers will not have the revenue streams to continue buying and printing new books. They'll fold - or at least, be forced to move to ebook-only for many titles, and publish only selected titles to print. This of course further accelerates the death of print bookstores, and feeds the cycle of returns more.

In the long run, it's not the authors leaving which is a threat - it's the nature of the relationship between publishers and big chain bookstores, which carry an *immense* number of books on their shelves that can be turned in for publisher credit that poses the greatest danger to large publishers.

Kevin McLaughlin said...

Ouch, sorry guys, not sure what happened there... It was giving me an error message, my post wasn't showing..and then suddenly posted ALL the post attempts. =/ Didn't mean to spam the comments.

Tara Maya said...

The return system is really insane. I suppose no bookstore would give it up now.

Demon Hunter said...

@Kevin Maclaughlin

A lot of writers are scared. Since we were kids most of us were fed the-- schtook --about getting your book published by the big publishing houses and getting an agent. We're all pretty much groomed to understand this is how it's done and it's the only way for it to be done. Whether we like it or not.


Now we are in a new age and it seems we have options. Options that make a heck of a lot more sense then doing things the traditional way.

VALIDATION? HAHA! That's a good one. They're exploiting peoples lack of confidence, and a lot of writers are falling for it. Meanwhile, Publishers are--figuratively--maybe?-- busting writers upside their heads and running off with their money.

Would that make me feel validated? It would make me feel victimized. I'm from Brooklyn, Man. I know a mafia shake down when I sees it ;)

Eventually these other writers are going to wake up too, when a few more J.A. Konraths are created.

Think about it...all it would really take is ONE self pubbed Kindle writer to make it on the "Today Show" or some other national tv show. One self pubbed Kindle writer to get a movie/tv deal. Then the herd is going to stampede to self publishing like they were always DOWN with it. lol!
(Okay, I wasn't always down with it, but I am now).

That's why now is the time to get into it (actually last year was probably the time) and start building your customer base before the market gets flooded with self pubbed work.

If there is a writer here with skill enough to spin the idea of ME giving away 95% of my money for "Validation", please let him or her come forward.

I really would like to a hear a good argument for the publishing houses because this going indie thing is looking like a no brainer to me.

Anonymous said...

Why am I not surprised that sf writers are not in the forefront? Despite the pixel-stained technopeasant t-shirts response to Hendrix's statement objecting to "to the increasing presence in our organization [the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America] of webscabs, who post their creations on the net for free", many sf writers seem to be profoundly conservative.

Anonymous said...

That difference is part of why the "Big 6" are suffering. Too much "Mee Too" publishing and not enough people out there looking for real talent.


That's easily one of the dumbest things I've read in the comment section of this blog, and that's saying A LOT.

Careful, Phil, your bitterness at not being good enough to be published is showing.

The problem with traditional publishing comes down to them publishing too many books in a shrinking market. That's all.

I have yet to read a self published novel that wouldn't make anything more than a halfway decent traditionally published novel, and there's only been one of those so far. The rest are mediocre, poorly written, badly edited, amateur books, which is why they have to be released on the Kindle. No one else will have them.

KevinMc said...

@Demon Hunter
I think it's important to remember that it *wasn't* "shtook". It was just the way things were. If you wanted to be read widely, you needed to get in big bookstores. To do that, you needed a mid to big publisher. It wasn't a lie - it was just the way things were.

Notice the past tense. ;)

Things are starting to change - there's are new options. But this is still the beginning of that change, and the pre-ebook status quo had a lot of decades behind it. I think it's pretty understandable that people feel more comfortable with what they know.

And in the long run, there are always going to be people who want a publisher. Not everyone wants to find themselves a freelance editor to go over their work (and judge for themselves if that person is good enough!). Not every author wants to hire their own artist and design their own covers. Certainly, not every author wants to be the only source of their own marketing!

To succeed at both writing and marketing requires not only writing skills, but business skills as well - and not everyone wants to have to learn those things.

There are already small publishers popping up that offer 50% royalties to authors (instead of the 25% most are) of the publisher's chunk for POD and ebooks, and are doing their best to develop marketing platforms to support those books. I think those new publishers are going to kick off some serious competition in the publishing industry, which will be as good for the business as indie authorship is.

Tuppshar Press said...

Kevin-- The science fiction author community is remarkably like a clique, a fact that is emphasized by the fact that conventions form such a large part of science fiction culture. The ones on top, who tend to have a lot of influence, have a lot invested in their status as celebrities, and tend to be very reluctant to let new writers in. They are also, as another poster noted, remarkably conservative when it comes to new technology (among other things).

What's ironic is how many are, behind the scenes, embracing ebooks and new technology. At a science fiction convention I went to this summer, a small press owner admitted that her business had been revolutionized by ebooks. Ours has too. Someone is reading these books, but who's going to admit it? Admittedly, most of our readers seem to be romance readers, but one of our titles broke into the top 100 in Space Opera on Amazon last night, ahead of the works of a number of the big names in science fiction.

So while I'm not expecting any public shifts in the science fiction community anytime soon (at least not so long as the current crop of science fiction and fantasy writers remain dominant), I think that privately, it's already starting to happen.

Imagine the irony that romance readers are more technologically savvy than science fiction writers, though....

wannabuy said...

Tuppsar said:
" Imagine the irony that romance readers are more technologically savvy than science fiction writers, though....

But ironically, both sci-fi and Romance have gone faster to e-books than other genres. So it is fair to claim the customers are embracing technology at similar levels.

Something was keeping good new works out of sci-fi. An 'old gaurd' makes sense. I've read some of the best scifi that has come out in decades this year! It is not that the prior authors were bad... it is that to much was 'me too.'

Did you read that Anon who was taunting Phillip? There is a reason customers have fled the publishers in certain genres; lack of variety. If some of the books I've read had been published with 'old school PR,' they would be the top authors in the genre. But the 'old school' controls who gets that PR.

It will take e-books breaking 20% to 30% market share to have a true e-book best seller. As Kevin already noted, at some point 'super-bookstores' become less viable. I see less floor space at 'big box stores' who supposedly sell half of the big6 books... Best buy is ripping out CD and DVD shelves to display Kindles, IPads, and other electronics.

Interesting times...
Neil

Tara Maya said...

Anon 9:49
The problem with traditional publishing comes down to them publishing too many books in a shrinking market.

Agreed, except that it's only the brick and mortar market that's shrinking. The ebook market is expanding like the Big Bang.

In the past, writers who were serious about their craft held out for NY. Now that's changing. I know a couple of writers who are extremely good, who only a year ago never would have considered publishing, who now have, or are considering it.

This also impacts the quality the independently published books. As a reader, a few years ago I couldn't find any quality self-published books. So, like the sf writers in Kevin's example, I didn't want to self-publish either. Up until about two month ago. Then I started reading a lot over very good indie books. I also realized I had actually read some before and just not recognized them as self-published!

It's true that the publishers and agents are still receiving lots of queries, for ever fewer spots in traditional publishing. I have quite a few friends that are still pursuing this path. I'm going to start suggesting to the ones who are good that they get off the query-merry-go-round and self-publish already -- especially the ones who have books that I have beta read and KNOW I would pay $$$ for. I know at least half a dozen writers in this category.

I wonder if we might not get to the point where the present dynamic is completely reversed; the better writers flow toward indie publishing, while the bad writers, those looking for a shortcut, still try to seek the magic bullet of traditional publishing/validation.

Tuppshar Press said...

Neil: "Something was keeping good new works out of sci-fi. An 'old gaurd' makes sense."

Some years ago, Brian Aldiss, one of the greats of science fiction back in the 1960's and 1970's, wrote an article for an obscure academic journal ("Oh, No! Not More Sci-Fi!", Proceedings of the Modern Language Association #119 [2004], pp. 509-512) in which he brilliantly analyzed the state of science fiction and fantasy. I'll let him state his case directly:

"Science fiction is stuck in its fin de si├Ęcle phase. A parallel case is what some see as the end of pop music’s creative phase. That faithful reporter of the science fiction scene Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field shows what has happened. In every issue we are treated to people roistering, writers, fans, artists, publishers, editors, all mugging together for the camera. Here are the stars of a cut-rate culture, attending more and more conventions, clutching more and more awards."

Ouch. But Aldiss does bring into sharp focus the near-obsession with celebrity that dominates science fiction and fantasy today. In this environment, who you know is paramount, since it is other writers who will write the blurbs for your books, agents who will negotiate your 8% royalties, editors who will get them into print and get them the advertising support they need. These people will also make sure that your work is read by those who judge awards, and awards are, nowadays, an essential part of your marketing program.

So here's how you know you have made it in science fiction: your name appears on multiple pages of Locus, both in ads by major publishers and in articles and with your picture at conventions. You are praised by editors, agents, fellow authors, and celebrity fans. You have a fistful of awards, ideally the more famous ones like Hugos and Nebulas, but any will do. This leads to you being invited to conventions, preferably as a guest of honor, where you say witty and thoughtful things on panels in front of people who buy a lot of science fiction books, and who recommend them to their friends. Hopefully you sell enough books in the short time your titles are on the shelves to warrant a permanent place there, resulting in your books being reprinted and keeping you in the limelight.

And somewhere in all that, you find time to write. Aldiss adds the following:

"Do none of these Locus folk work? Are they forever having a Wonderful Time? Is there no place or time where a writer sits alone and attempts to find a way to convey plausibly the hard truths of existence? Or can partying and adulation occupy a whole lovesome lifetime?"

Ouch again. We tell our writers to write. Just write, and write well. Let the rest of it happen as it will.

And thanks to ebooks, it is.

Tara Maya said...

I don't think ebooks will mean less extracurricular activities, marketing-wise. But what excites me is that instead of putting all of my efforts into selling to a single person (an agent or editor) I will put it into selling to the reader. Instead of honing my query-writing skills, I will concentrate on honing my novel-writing skills. Not that I wasn't trying to write a good novel before, but the sheer exhaustion of researching agents, crafting each query packet slightly differently for each requirements, keeping track of who had been sitting on a partial for 6 months, who had a full for 9 months, when I could politely ask for a decision.... oy. I'll be glad to be done with that.

That doesn't mean there's no work to do besides writing. I'm now investigating good editors, the tricks of formatting for Kindle, Smashwords, etc. Trying to decide on CreateSpace or Lightning Source. Teaching myself InDesign. Designing web pages and book trailers.

I'm doing a lot of work besides writing now, just as I was then. But most of this (except the formatting) is stuff I'd have had to do even if I'd had a traditional contract anyway. And this is even better, because I have more control. I love that.

Mark Asher said...

I don't get why everyone's trying to pick out what clothes to wear to the funeral of the Big Six publishers?

Last I checked, the Kindle bestseller lists are still dominated by traditionally published books.

And of course the paper book lists are also.

There's no telling how far the adoption of e-readers will go. Even now, many years after the iPod and the popularity of MP3s, CD sales still comprise 60% of the market.

And in terms of readers, e-readers don't solve any particular problem other than the problem of lugging around a dozen books if you feel a need to lug around a lot of books. I'm usually happy toting around my current read.

Given that the Big Six have marketshare, money, clout, and an infrastructure in place, is it really likely they'll disappear? Isn't it more likely they'll adapt?

And while there's the possibility that Barnes and Noble and Borders might disappear (I think it's a bit unlikely), are book sales at Wal-Mart, Sam's, Target, K-Mart, supermarkets and drugstores going to disappear?

And what happens when the traditional publishers take aim at the indie writers publishing at $2.99? What would the indie mystery writers do if the John D. McDonald, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, and the backlist of others were priced at $3.99 or even $2.99 as ebooks? And fill in the blanks with the backlists of other genre writers.

I'm sure things will change. But again, look at the music industry. Did the big music publishers disappear? Did indie bands start making millions?

Tara Maya said...

The comparison with the music industry is quite interesting.

The important part for me as a writer is not whether the Big 6 bite the dust, but whether there is a viable alternative way for an author to make money selling fiction.

Wanda Shapiro, an indie author of literary fiction (Sometimes That Happens With Chicken) has pointed out that indie musicians are not looked down on the way self-published authors are. One of her goals is to change that, so "indie literature" is seen the same way as "indie music."

I'm a little more prosaic. I'm used to being a big geek, so I don't particularly care if people look their noses down at me, as long as I create the best books I can and have a way to distribute them to those as might be interested -- the way an indie musician or indie film maker would. It's strange, if you think about it, that in the publishing industry it takes a revolution in technology to do something so basic.

Anonymous said...

These conversations are pointless. No one knows what's going to happen with publishing in the future, and if they say they do, they're an idiot and they're lying.

If you must have a prediction, I believe it lies between a free for all where publishing is totally open to anyone with an internet connection, and the banning of all books (other than those written by Glen Beck) by the next republican administration.

Somewhere between those two possibilities lies the truth.

Tuppshar Press said...

"These conversations are pointless. No one knows what's going to happen with publishing in the future, and if they say they do, they're an idiot and they're lying."

These conversations are not pointless. They are in fact extremely valuable. By engaging in discussion and debate with people who are doing the same sorts of things we are has helped us focus our business strategy and keep it current with current trends.

That has made us money.

Predictions, you see, are at the very heart of what businesses do. They don't have to all be right to be helpful. My time here has been very well spent.

Tara Maya said...

Predictions, you see, are at the very heart of what businesses do. They don't have to all be right to be helpful. My time here has been very well spent.

I agree. I find the comments here about the big picture -- even by the naysayers -- to be extremely helpful in realizing the possibilities, the risks and benefits. And there's also a ton of very specific information, such as the ideal price point ($.99? $2.99? $14.99?).

Even more importantly is that, unlike Anon implies, this information is not just OMAFs (Out of My A## Facts), but based on real world experiments and experience.

Joe Konrath said...

And in terms of readers, e-readers don't solve any particular problem other than the problem of lugging around a dozen books if you feel a need to lug around a lot of books.

Dude, seriously? You don't have an ereader, do you?

Instant purchase and delivery is a Very Big Deal. It provokes impulse buys, and more books sold and read. Changing font size is a revelation for people over fifty, and often THE reason people buy Kindles. Text to speech is cool. Annotation is cool. Syncing devices (Kindle to computer to iPhone) is cool. Extra content will become more and more prevalent, as it did with DVDs. Cost is a big factor, esp. over time--ebooks are less expensive than print.

Ereaders are waaaaaay more than simply the ability to carry around a bunch of books at once.

jtplayer said...

Re: "Did the big music publishers disappear? Did indie bands start making millions?"
--------------

The answer is no...and no.

Print books will surely stick around for a long time, as will the publishers that produce them and the stores that sell them.

Will there be changes?

Sure, everything changes.

But will it be the death knell for traditional publishing, as so many here are gleefully predicting?

I say no.

These companies may be large and cumbersome and slow to adapt, but adapt they will.

And as for independent authors, some will certainly do well, perhaps very well from a purely financial standpoint.

But IMO, the vast majority will fade into obscurity. Because in truth, they never had what it took in the first place, either with talent or the single-minded drive to do what it takes to make it.

Anonymous said...

@KevinMC:
"There are already small publishers popping up that offer 50% royalties to authors (instead of the 25% most are) of the publisher's chunk for POD and ebooks, and are doing their best to develop marketing platforms to support those books. I think those new publishers are going to kick off some serious competition in the publishing industry, which will be as good for the business as indie authorship is."

Those publishers are already out there - check out Samhain, Loose Id and Ellora's Cave, among others.

While Brother Joe doesn't want to talk about it, these small pubs have been around for years, paying 40% royalties to their authors and able to get their books into bookstores, get reviews into magazines and do a heck of a lot of good marketing. They've been a viable alternative to the NYC crew and self-pubbing for years. There is another option for authors who feel that NYC isn't for them and who aren't independently wealthy to pay editors, cover artists and for distribution in bookstores, not to mention publicity.

just sayin'...

jtplayer said...

Re: "Changing font size is a revelation for people over fifty"
-----------------

Dude...wtf?

So people under 50 don't have problems with their vision?

You're a funny guy Joe ;-)

And while I agree with you on the "impulse buy" part, I don't agree on the "read" part.

Just peruse the Kindle message boards to see how many people load up their devices with books they never read.

But seriously, do you really care if they actually read your books, as long as they pony up the 3 bills and fill up your wallet?

Not being snarky here, seriously, this comment is based solely on the fact that you seem to tout the money you're making above all else.

Tara Maya said...

Anon: There is another option for authors who feel that NYC isn't for them and who aren't independently wealthy to pay editors, cover artists and for distribution in bookstores, not to mention publicity.

just sayin'...


I'm not sure what your point is, but yes. Epublishers are themselves relatively new and have already changed the industry tremendously, IMHO> My first two published books were with one of these imprints. I remember the change from agents advising me NOT to mention my publisher sales in query letters to telling me it was what caught their attention.

Now I see the same kind of sea change happening around indie authors. Not long ago I was warned it was the "kiss of death" ... now I know people who were snapped up by print publishers because of their indie books.

Tara Maya said...

And while I agree with you on the "impulse buy" part, I don't agree on the "read" part.

Just peruse the Kindle message boards to see how many people load up their devices with books they never read.


I've heard the argument against ebooks that because of piracy, people will read your books but not buy them.

The argument here seems to be, "sure, people may buy your books, but they won't read them!"

Maybe we can have RRM installed on eReaders -- Reading Responsibility Management -- to put a stop to such criminal behavior.

Mark Asher said...

"Dude, seriously? You don't have an ereader, do you?"

Not yet. I'm thinking about it. I can buy a lot of used books from Ye Olde Used Bookstore for the $139.

"Instant purchase and delivery is a Very Big Deal."

This is the biggest selling point to me, although it's really not that hard to wait for Amazon or Borders to ship me my physical books in a few days.

"It provokes impulse buys, and more books sold and read."

These are pluses for writers and publishers. This is not a selling point for consumers on the fence about buying one.

Changing font size is a revelation for people over fifty, and often THE reason people buy Kindles."

Hmmm. I'm typing this right now wearing my $1 reading glasses from Dollar Tree on my PC that lets me adjust font sizes. And I have used a Kindle and iPad, but found that boosting the font to a comfortable level resulted in too little text on the page.

"Text to speech is cool."

If you like robots reading to you!

"Annotation is cool. Syncing devices (Kindle to computer to iPhone) is cool. Extra content will become more and more prevalent, as it did with DVDs."

Meh, meh, and especially meh. I've seen the books of the future and they all want me to stop reading and do something else. I believe Dean Wesley Smith has remarked that focus groups don't like extra features in their books. Of course, we know the publishers will include these extra features for free, right? Right?

"Cost is a big factor, esp. over time--ebooks are less expensive than print."

This ties with the fast and convenient delivery as the most compelling reason to own one. I want $2.99 novels.

"Ereaders are waaaaaay more than simply the ability to carry around a bunch of books at once."

And yet the reading experience when I read the latest Elmore Leonard novel isn't really improved on a Kindle or an iPad over my physical copy. I know. I read the first couple of chapters on an iPad. It wasn't better -- just different.

Mark Asher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Asher said...

Er, couple of other reasons that are very compelling for getting an e-reader.

All the free books! Project Gutenberg! Libraries now starting to lend out ebooks! Publishers giving away ebooks to try to hook me on a series -- Borders today sent me a link to six free ebooks to download.

And free sample chapters. For me, this means I can be even more discerning. I will never buy an ebook without downloading and reading the free sample first. Let's hear it for quality over schlock. E-readers may be very beneficial in this regard.

(Reposted after fixing a typo.)

Rose said...

I was the anon at 9:21, not the other anons. I should have signed in with my google account.

"Those publishers are already out there - check out Samhain, Loose Id and Ellora's Cave, among others."

If you followed romance blog drama you would know that there are a number of romance ebook publishers that have popped up then disappeared into bankruptcy or simply disappear. Several of the ones currently in business are hanging on by their toenails as well. Before submitting to anyone authors need to check Absolute Write, Predators and Editors, Victoria Strauss' Writers Beware and Piers Anthony's list

Ellora's Cave ended up in a mess due to their print program and not really understanding how bookstores and distributors did returns-- at least that was what I think the consensus was when the complaints they filed against Borders and Baker & Taylor were making the rounds-- They sued each of them for $1 mil. That was 2008. Haven't heard anything since.

Samhain and Loose Id don't seem to have a lot of problems.

@ jtplayer And that over 50 vision thing-- presbyopia-- it's hitting/hit the baby boomers. Most people have to deal with it as they get older and the Kindle font size increase thing is a godsend.

Anonymous said...

@Rose

"Samhain and Loose Id don't seem to have a lot of problems."

True. And they get their books into stores, onto shelves and get reviews... and pay 40% royalty on the ebook, 12% or so on the paperback.

My point is that there are other options between subbing to the NYC publishers and self-pubbing. No one seems to want to discuss them.

Lauren Dane went from a small pub to NYC. So did others. It's a viable way to get your work out there without putting out hundreds of dollars on a hope that your selfpub story will make good sales and/or attract a good agent.

Small publishers offer good contracts and options - and there are good ones out there, university presses and the like who want your work. And who won't take your money for cover art, editing and publicity.

again, just sayin'...

Joe Konrath said...

I read the first couple of chapters on an iPad. It wasn't better -- just different.

An iPad ain't a Kindle. Big difference.

KevinMc said...

Anon, you mentioned an author "went from a small pub to NYC".

Why was that?

My guess is, NYC was better in some way. More able to get into bookstores. Able to print more books. Etc.

See, the thing about indie publishing to ebook vs publishing an NYC ebook is, the only difference to the author is that s/he earns 4x as much per sale and potentially sells more books because they're priced appropriately. Other than that, there is not a lot of difference.

Not saying small pubs are not an option - I think they *are*, and will become an increasingly viable option as ebooks increase in market share, because the control of the Borders/B&N distribution will no longer be as critical. These are not a bad option for authors who don't want to learn about the business end of bookmaking.

Anonymous said...

That was when NY discovered that erotica would sell to women, and sell well. A lot of authors who had previously sold erotica to the romance ebook publishers were snapped up by New York.

I'm waiting to see if the next thing happens with m/m fiction (fiction about gay male relationships written by women for women). That is apparently supposed to be the next romance break out.

Tara Maya said...

Small publishers offer good contracts and options - and there are good ones out there, university presses and the like who want your work. And who won't take your money for cover art, editing and publicity.

I'm happy to discuss small presses. As I said, I have two book published under that model. I worked with an editor and was provided a cover. (One good, one not so good.) Before Amazaon switched to their 70% royalty rate, small presses looked especially good for just this reason.

There are, however, some drawbacks to the small epublishers:

1. Most have royalty rates less than Amazon presently does. And higher prices than Konrath suggests.

2. They don't necessarily get you into bookstores the way a big pub would....

3. ...But you still lose your copyright to someone else, and can't easily get it back.

4. They don't necessarily publish the genre you write. The most common genre is romantic erotica, which is great, if you write that.

5. Like every publisher, they are limited in the number of new books they can take on. The best of them close to submissions just like the big boys.

6. You don't necessarily get a good editor or cover artist. You might have more imput than with a big pub, but in the end, it's still not your call.

7. You still have to do all your own marketing, just as you would if you were self-publishing.

8. If you've bummed around small pubs long enough, you realize it would be simpler to just become one yourself.

KevinMc said...

@Mark"I don't get why everyone's trying to pick out what clothes to wear to the funeral of the Big Six publishers?"
I don't think anyone responsible is looking forward to that... It'll mean hardship for a lot of people if it happens, and that's never a good thing. That said... If even just Borders goes under (which seems likely), the raw quantity of returns will do some serious damage to publishers, and could send many into bankruptcy protection just to stay alive.

"Last I checked, the Kindle bestseller lists are still dominated by traditionally published books."

Well, yes. Most books are still being published by traditional publishers, even in ebook format. Indie is still a minority. However, it's worth noting that about a third of the bestseller lists seem to be indie, and nowhere near a third of the books on Amazon are indie published. Food for thought.

"There's no telling how far the adoption of e-readers will go. Even now, many years after the iPod and the popularity of MP3s, CD sales still comprise 60% of the market."
Two thoughts there. One - no, there's no way to know for sure. However, one can watch trends, and make some pretty good estimates. Amazon has been "on" pretty reliably here. I think if we don't hit 50% in the next 14 months, we'll be very close.

Second, I don't have CD vs MP3 data in front of me - I will assume your % is correct. That said, with only 40% of the market being taken by MP3s, what percentage of music stores have survived today compared to five or ten years ago? Where I live, it's under 10%, and ALL of the survivors sell more MP3s than CDs. So even a 40% shift was devastating to music retail.

KevinMc said...

@Mark continued...
Given that the Big Six have marketshare, money, clout, and an infrastructure in place, is it really likely they'll disappear? Isn't it more likely they'll adapt?
Yes. Most of them will. Even the ones who go into bankruptcy protection will come back. That said - it may not be a good time to sell books to them, because bankruptcy could tie up their assets (including book rights) for years. And some may simply not survive the mess. I can't even guess how many returns we're talking about if Borders destabilizes over a six-month period, goes into hyper-return mode, and then does a mass return of their entire inventory.

I can guess though. Borders sold $2.65 billion last year, so they probably have inventory of at least $500 million. That's a LOT of returns...

And while there's the possibility that Barnes and Noble and Borders might disappear (I think it's a bit unlikely), are book sales at Wal-Mart, Sam's, Target, K-Mart, supermarkets and drugstores going to disappear?
B&N, no. They're spending an enormous amount of money pushing the Nook like mad this holiday season, and moving much more infrastructure into their online sales, textbook sales and rentals, and other more lasting bits of the business.

Borders is already basically a penny stock - it's a junk stock (check!). They've been floating on the edge of bankruptcy for over a year now, and sales have been dropping for them for the last three years. They have not mobilized for ebook or online sales even as well as B&N (who is in nowhere near as good shape for this change as Amazon). It won't take much growth in ebook sales to devastate them.

WalMart and the rest represent collectively a fairly small part of the market - B&N, Borders, and Amazon hold about 60% between them.

And what happens when the traditional publishers take aim at the indie writers publishing at $2.99? What would the indie mystery writers do...?
Sell books? =)
Right now, here's the thing... A good writer can only get into the bookstores via a publisher. If a good writer could somehow magically put 10,000 copies of their book into B&N nation wide, it would probably do just as well there as it would if it had a name publisher on the side bar.

Do you know which publisher printed your favorite books? I don't, for most of them. And I guarantee I am more observant than most casual readers. Readers don't check publisher names. They don't care. They want a good book. Write a good book as an indie, and it will sell as well as a good book by a non-indie.

jtplayer said...

Re: "Maybe we can have RRM installed on eReaders -- Reading Responsibility Management -- to put a stop to such criminal behavior."
-------------------

Look at you go girl, with that little sense of humor of yours.

For the record, I wasn't making an "argument" regarding the purchase of ebooks. And I certainly made no judgement whatsoever regarding this practice, criminal or otherwise.

I was simply responding to Joe's "impulse purchase" comment with information that I believed relevant.

Apparently you see it differently.

Oh well.

When I sell my book, I'd like to think people will read it. Not pile it up on the hundreds of other books they've bought "impulsively".

But then again, I don't write with the intention of making it a paying career. I make my living very nicely in another industry, which allows me the luxury of writing for pleasure.

I do realize this doesn't apply to all.

Demon Hunter said...

@KevinMC


True. That is how things use to be done and (from what I've read) it worked pretty well. Sure, most writers still weren't making millions, but I think it was fair to say they made living wages off of their writing. If not with the first book then at least by the second or third.

But presently I am running into too many blogs by traditionally pubbed writers who are on their 4th or 5th book and not making 30,000 a year.

Furthermore, the industry whole heartily expects writers to do their own marketing now. So while I understand a lot of writers don't want to deal with the business aspect of things, it is becoming a requirement anyway. The more recent blog post I've been reading by traditionally published authors are saying that authors need to have a website/blog/fan base now before agents will even look at them. And I'm talking fiction here, not non-fiction.

I actually find the business aspect of self publishing kind of fun. But I didn't always feel like that either.

Those who want to publish traditionally are not going to be able to escape having to do their own marketing. It's the new rule of getting published, traditionally or DIY.

Tara Maya said...

jt: Look at you go girl, with that little sense of humor of yours.

Yup, I crack me up.

When I sell my book, I'd like to think people will read it. Not pile it up on the hundreds of other books they've bought "impulsively".

As a reader who has literally thousands of tree books piled up around me, many, alas, yet to be read, I have little sympathy for this. I never buy a book without wanting to read it, but life happens, and I don't always have time, especially for fiction.

However, I know I am much more likely to read it if I have it, so I buy a good book when I see it and can afford it, on the theory (proven correct many times) that later I might forget the author, the title, etc. I can still remember the synoposes of books I failed to impulse buy, but have no clue where to find them now. I wish I had bought them. Now I never will.

And here's a nice TMI story for you. When I was recently in the hospital for several days, I went through quite a few novels and anthologies on my Kindle that I didn't even remember buying. Thank god I had. I wouldn't have been able to take that big stack of paperbacks with me.

So, no, I don't mind you bringing up the topic, but it seems like just about the most absurd reason I can think of to object to an ereader.

But then again, I don't write with the intention of making it a paying career. I make my living very nicely in another industry, which allows me the luxury of writing for pleasure.

I do realize this doesn't apply to all.


Sadly, no. Some of us have to make money at writing or else give it up in order to do something that does pay for the food on the table. I've tried to barter directly with Costco -- trade them a story for some groceries -- but they wouldn't go for it. So money it is.

jtplayer said...

I never brought it up as an objection to ereaders.

Those are your words, not mine.

I don't have particularly strong feelings either way regarding Kindles and the like.

I haven't bought one simply because I have no need or desire to own one...right now.

Perhaps this will change in the future.

Mark Asher said...

"Right now, here's the thing... A good writer can only get into the bookstores via a publisher. If a good writer could somehow magically put 10,000 copies of their book into B&N nation wide, it would probably do just as well there as it would if it had a name publisher on the side bar."

I certainly agree with this, but if you could convince Barnes and Noble to stock your physical copies in their stores, who is paying to print them? That's quite a sea-change, going from a system where the publisher gives the author an advance and bears the brunt of the printing expense to an author eschewing an advance and paying for the print copies.

In other words, indies are going ebook and POD and in almost every case not paying for a print run of 10,000 copies.

KevinMc said...

Absolutely, Mark - because they don't have to! Already, with only (10-15%, depending on whom you listen to) a small portion of the market moved to ebooks, it's obvious that authors can make good sales via ebook only, or ebook/POD. In enough cases to show it's not a fluke, more than they would have earned from a traditional publisher.

What I was saying is, publishers will not be able to hold authors based on the publisher name alone. Readers don't care. The only reason publishers have held a lock on books is because they held the key to distribution (because distribution was expensive, and the bookstores very limited to a few major companies).

With that no longer being the case, publishers need to find something else of value to lend to their end of the equation. Because readers don't generally read publishers - they read authors.

wannabuy said...

Tuppsaid said:
We tell our writers to write. Just write, and write well. Let the rest of it happen as it will.

And thanks to ebooks, it is.

Nice story, I can only summarize some of it. But it does help explain why the 'neglected genres' are the first to find large fan bases on e-books.

Mark:
The big6 are not adapting. Look at the USAToday article referenced above. They need 10 people to work each book plus the author! I can see 3 or 4... not ten.

JT,
The point has been made several times that most authors cannot give up the 'day job' writing for the big6. But they can if they are 'just midlist ebook authors.'

That is what the naysayers on ebooks should note. Indie authors can now write 6 books a year on Kindle or go back to maybe writing 2 per year for the big6.

Now what happens when one becomes a best seller?

Think about it... what fraction of the best-seller list was Indie authors in 2007? 2008? 2009? It is now ~ 1/3rd Indie. I'm very certain it was a far smaller fraction in prior years; just as I'm certain the fraction will grow with time.

Where are the millionaire big6 authors? Very few (yet quite a few millionaire executives...). I'd rather see a few thousand 'midlist' authors able to make a living being full time authors than rich big6 executives.



Neil

Timothy said...

I want to pick up Demon Hunter's comment: "Furthermore, the industry whole heartily expects writers to do their own marketing now." This seems to me to be the wrench in the system. The large advances were supposed to (1) fund the writer's next year of writing without interruption and (2) focus the publisher's attention on "earning out" the advance. When authors need to do their own marketing, they have less time to write the next manuscript.
This entire conversation is so interesting, I've posted a free link to this blog from my resources page.

KevinMc said...

There's a few problems with that line of thinking though, Timothy.

#1 Something around 1% of NYC published books actually see any marketing dollars aside from those absolutely required to get them on bookstore shelves.

#2 The average new SF writer makes a $6500 advance; for fantasy, $7000; for romance, $6000. Those were the ones I could find data for quickly... For an experienced professional novelist, the advance boosts to about $12500 for science fiction and $15,000 for fantasy. The entry level is hardly a good salary for the next three months, let alone the next year - and even at the experienced rates, the average novelist would have to sell 3-4 books per year just to reach the median national income. To make matters worse, with books from new and midlist writers pulled off the shelves rapidly, the longterm royalties which *used* to form the basis of a pro writer's income are vanishing or already gone.

#3 Publishers don't really worry about a particular book earning out its advance. Most books don't. Books are set up (and printed in small enough numbers) so that long before an author has earned out an advance, the publisher has broken even on the book. In SF&F genres, most novels don't even have enough copies *printed* to earn out an advance.

Publishers have become increasingly "blockbuster" focused over the last decades. The result has been that most of their attention - and marketing dollars/effort - are spent on a tiny minority of published books which they believe can be manufactured into the "next big hit" by throwing ad dollars at them. And they're right often enough that they make money doing it.

But don't assume that because you haven't sold enough books to start collecting royalties yet that the publisher has lost money.

Tara Maya said...

KevinMc: Publishers have become increasingly "blockbuster" focused over the last decades. The result has been that most of their attention - and marketing dollars/effort - are spent on a tiny minority of published books which they believe can be manufactured into the "next big hit" by throwing ad dollars at them. And they're right often enough that they make money doing it.

I read a theory on someone's blog that publishers used (popular) genre books to subsidize (prestigious) literary books. It certainly seemed plausible that publishers can use the profit on some authors' books to channel into adversting for some other authors' books.

Is this true? Does anyone know?

Selena Kitt said...

3. ...But you still lose your copyright to someone else, and can't easily get it back.

Tell me about it. Some are fine with giving your rights back. Phaze and Whiskey Creek gave them up to me, no problem. But Samhain? Seven years, man. I'm tied to them for SEVEN YEARS. It's slave labor, I tell you!

8. If you've bummed around small pubs long enough, you realize it would be simpler to just become one yourself.

100% agreed.

The only time I'd go with an indie epub is if you're a total unknown and need to build your brand. You can learn the ins and outs in a year or two with an indie, build your audience, and then self-pub.

But for god's sake, do NOT sign a seven year contract. A year. Two at most. Make sure you read the fine print.

Tara Maya said...

Selena Kitt: The only time I'd go with an indie epub is if you're a total unknown and need to build your brand. You can learn the ins and outs in a year or two with an indie, build your audience, and then self-pub.

Exactly!

Once you realize no magic marketing fairy is going to come save you from having to promote your own brand, no matter who you publish with...

Mark Asher said...

@wannabuy: "The big6 are not adapting. Look at the USAToday article referenced above. They need 10 people to work each book plus the author! I can see 3 or 4... not ten."

They are in a tough place right now. Most of the money is still in print, so they can't ignore it, or the chains. So they need to be behind traditional printing and distribution still.

And it's understandable that they don't want to undersell their print books with cheap ebooks. Why would they want to put out a new Stephen King ebook at a wholesale price of $6.50 (what Amazon would sell for $9.99)when the hardback is selling at wholesale prices of $14?

The traditional publishers are not going to vastly undercut print because there's no guarantee print is going away anytime soon.

me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Sawyer said...

Please people who have books for sale, can you put a link or an url in as a signature if nothing else. I'm nosy-- I like to look and sometimes I buy.

You asked for it :-)
My new mystery, just on the markets today: And Then She Was Gone

Demon Hunter said...

I just wanted to add that it doesn't necessarily take that much money to self publish a book.

I estimate to self publish my book it's going to take 300-400 dollars max and that's because I am also planning to work with lightning source and CreateSpace as well as e-publishing on amazon.

The rest of the money is for website expenses.


I do have a background in design and went to college for such, so I don't have to hire a cover artist/webdesigner. But we are writers and we know how to think creatively, so even without a background in design theres ways to get around this.

If you're good at grammar and editing you can trade services with someone who is a good artist. Take me up on that offer in fact; I could use another editor and I'll gladly design a cover or website for you and trade services.


Also, you can get college students to edit your book in exchange for credits on their resume. I took a gamble and made a craigslist ad offering just that and got 6 responses! I found an editor who did a fantastic job editing my work and all it cost was my name for her resume and a recommendation letter.

Once again, I understand self pubbing is not going to be for everyone, but don't let the cost of self publishing be the deterrent.
If 300 dollars is still a lot you can clip it even further. Just produce e-books until you make enough to get it in print. Use a free website/blog rather then purchasing a domain name. There's so many ways to get the job done, if you really want to get it done...

Billie Sue Mosiman said...

I read your blog here now and then, Joe, and it always makes me smile. Keep it up.

And to the person who said:

Please people who have books for sale, can you put a link or an url in as a signature if nothing else. I'm nosy-- I like to look and sometimes I buy.
5:49 PM

Here is a link on Kindle to a crime thriller and my three Vampire Nation Chronicle novels.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=billie+sue+mosiman&x=18&y=32

Jenna said...

Re: "Did the big music publishers disappear? Did indie bands start making millions?"
--------------

jtplayer said...
"The answer is no...and no."

That's not quite true. the answers are Yes, some did, but not all and Yes, some did, but not all.

You try living in L.A. and driving by the iconic Capitol Records building... which is now office space for rent because Capitol Records is no more - you'll give up the idea that the big record labels are invincible and doing just as well as they once were.

And yes, some indies have made, and do make decent money on their own. Do we have a new indie Britney Spears? No, not yet, but there are some indies who have sold over a million records - Ani DiFranco for one. And some musicians went indie after their big hits, like Prince and Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. And some musicians hit it big as indies, got record deals, hated it, and went indie again, like OK Go.

The indie approach in music is not going to have MTV and radio play, so the level of success will be different. Same for books - the indie self-pubbed book will not likely hit the NYT bestseller list, mainly due to getting books in stores, getting on buy lists, buying co-op placement, and garnering reviews can be next to impossible for the indie. That doesn't mean that they can't have success, and do very well for themselves. Success is all relative.

Ceri clark said...

I may as well include a link as well. :-p The book is on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Elementi or you can see the first three chapters on my website at cericlark.com. I will send a free Pdf to anyone that doesn't mind reviewing it. Just let me know! Ceri

bowerbird said...

mark said:
> I don't get why
> everyone's trying to pick
> out what clothes to wear
> to the funeral of the Big Six

it's because we want to look
_good_ dancing on their graves!


> Last I checked, the Kindle
> bestseller lists are still
> dominated by traditionally
> published books.

oh, they'll continue to be big...
even waltzing out of the room,
carrying their money with them.


> Given that the Big Six
> have marketshare, money,
> clout, and an infrastructure
> in place, is it really likely
> they'll disappear? Isn't it
> more likely they'll adapt?

it is _most_ likely that they will
simply choose to exit an arena
where they can no longer profit.


> And while there's
> the possibility that
> Barnes and Noble and
> Borders might disappear
> (I think it's a bit unlikely),
> are book sales at Wal-Mart,
> Sam's, Target, K-Mart,
> supermarkets and drugstores
> going to disappear?

well, first of all, the latter places
which you list are entities who
don't provide very high margins.
they were enlisted to help with
volume, but it doesn't help to
sell a lot of units at no margin,
not if you're tryin' to stay alive.

as for the two bookstore chains,
borders is on the way out now...
(have you seen their stock price?)

barnes & noble is more healthy,
and they'll get a big boost when
borders departs the scene... but
may i suggest that you take a
closer look at what's happening?

specifically, my sources say that
in every barnes & noble location,
22% of their floor-space is newly
reallocated to "toys and games"...

if they closed 1 out of 5 stores,
that would be significant, not?

well, that's essentially what they
have just done... they now have
much less space to stock books.

furthermore, they are pursing a
"covers out" strategy, where more
books are displayed with covers
shown, not their spines, meaning
far fewer are being shelved, and
only lucky ones get the attention.

all of this only exacerbates the
cycle moving customers online.
(even if they're buying p-books.)

if you're counting on bookstores
to "save publishing", you've lost.

-bowerbird

Tara Maya said...

interesting stats on B&N, bowerbird

Anonymous said...

I still can't entirely let go of the idea of posting a chapter at a time of my book. My concerns are these- 99 cents seems like too much for one chapter, when whole books are available for that price or free. I'd be happy with free for a few chapters, but don't think Amazon allows that option.
More to the point is that this book is based on a historical event, a real barn-burner, and I have not seen it used in a book before. (Which may be good or bad.) I've put years into this and would like to be the first one (apparently, but doubtful) to use this event as the basis for a plot.
After all the hoo-hah over piracy, I can easily see someone taking the first part of the book, and finishing it on line and presenting it as his own.
Be that as it may, I still can't get too whipped up over the so-called piracy potential, because anyone is free to take it anyway, complete or not, and try to market it with their own name.
I just wanted to tell the story. History belongs to everyone.
Does anyone see a compelling reason that putting up a chapter at a time is a really, bad idea?
I just want to see if this topic interests anyone out there.

Portuguese cunt said...

Please people who have books for sale, can you put a link or an url in as a signature if nothing else.

Anon, thanks for giving us an opening for a free plug. Mine just went live today.

Daz said...

Wow! Thank you for the honesty and the disclosure. It's really great to learn so much more about the numbers behind traditional print vs eBooks.

Andrew said...

I'm a big fan of print books but considering the advancement of technology I think it will not be long before ebooks will outsell prints.

Kindle