Monday, December 27, 2010

A Bedtime Story

Once upon a time, there was a writer named Joe.

Joe very much wanted to make a living writing stories. But the market was very difficult to break into. It was controlled by the Gatekeeper, who was very picky, often arbitrarily so, about what he allowed to be published.

When Joe got out of college, he wrote his first novel. The Gatekeeper rejected it. So Joe wrote another one, and the Gatekeeper rejected that one too. Then Joe wrote a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh, an eighth, and a ninth, but the Gatekeeper didn't like any of them.

Finally, after trying for over 12 years, and getting more than 500 rejections, the Gatekeeper bought Joe's tenth novel for $33,000.

Joe was very happy. Though it wasn't a lot of money, it allowed him to write full time, which had always been his dream.

But now Joe needed to make sure his dream wouldn't whither and die on the vine. He knew he had to sell a lot of books, or else the Gatekeeper could become fickle and turn his back on Joe.

So Joe worked hard to make sure he sold as many books as he could. He visited forty states in the US, and signed books in over 1200 bookstores. He created a popular blog. He spoke at hundreds of libraries, book fairs, and conferences.

But even though Joe's books sold well, they didn't sell well enough for the Gatekeeper, and Joe was dropped.

So Joe changed his name, and sold a book for $20,000. He worked very hard to make that book a success, traveling to over 200 bookstores, appearing on over 100 blogs in a single month.

The Gatekeeper seemed happy, but wanted changes in Joe's next book. Joe didn't want to make these changes. After all, he was the writer, not the Gatekeeper. But the Gatekeeper insisted, so once again Joe found himself without a publisher.

So Joe changed his name again, and sold another book... for $6000. He knew this was a small amount of money, but he also knew that he'd make it back very fast, because his other books had earned out their advances. Joe didn't understand why the Gatekeeper was being so fickle and cheap, when his books were selling well and making money. But then, there were a lot of things about the Gatekeeper that didn't make sense. And it wasn't like Joe had a choice. If he wanted to make a living, he had to take whatever crumbs the Gatekeeper offered.

In the meantime, Joe began selling some of his early, rejected books as ebooks on his website. When fans told Joe they couldn't read these on their new Kindle devices because the format was incompatible, Joe went to Amazon and uploaded the ebooks there.

Soon, Joe was making over $1000 a month on Kindle.

Joe was shocked by this. He thought the only way to make a living as a writer was with the Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper offered advances. The Gatekeeper did the editing and the cover art. And most importantly, the Gatekeeper controlled distribution. There was no way to reach readers without the Gatekeeper.

But ebooks didn't need to be distributed in the same way print books were. So the Gatekeeper wasn't needed.

Because the Gatekeeper wasn't needed, writers could make a much better royalty rate.

The Gatekeeper gave Joe standard royalty rates. 8% on paperbacks. 10% - 15% on hardcovers. 17.5% on ebooks.

But on his own, self-publishing, Joe could earn 70% royalty rates. Instead of earning $2.50 on a Gatekeeper published $25 hardcover, Joe could earn $4.50 on a $14 trade paperback if he did it himself. Instead of earning $1.75 on a Gatekeeper published $9.99 ebook, Joe could earn $2.04 on a self-pubbed $2.99 ebook.

As the year went on, Joe's ebooks, and ebooks all over, began to sell in greater and greater numbers. Joe went from making $1000 a month, to $3000, then $6000, then $16,000.

Joe realized he could make more money without the Gatekeeper. He could write the books he wanted to, and he could publish them when they were finished, rather than having to wait a year for the Gatekeeper to publish them.

He didn't have to rely on the Gatekeeper getting him reviews, or buying coop space in bookstores, or sending him on tour, or offering discounts. He didn't have to compete for shelf space with the bestselling authors the Gatekeeper pushed.

For the first time ever, Joe had control.

And a funny thing happened. Once Joe didn't have the Gatekeeper determining his future, he became more successful than he ever dreamed.

Joe began to blog about what he was doing. He posted his sales figures. He encouraged other authors to self-publish. He got more publicity than he ever had in the past, all on his own.

Joe was very happy. He no longer had to worry about appeasing the Gatekeeper in order to get another contract. He no longer got paid only twice a year. He no longer had to cut things out of his books he didn't want to cut, or change his titles, or have zero say in cover art.

Joe was selling more books, making more money, and reaching more people than he ever had in the past, and he didn't have to go on any crazy two-month-long book tours, or mail out 7000 letters to libraries.

Best of all, Joe never worried about getting rejected ever again. Joe realized he was the brand, not the Gatekeeper. His fans would follow him, and retailers like Amazon and Smashwords and Barnes and Noble and Apple and Sony and Kobo and Borders and Android would allow Joe to find even more fans.

But the story doesn't end there. The Gatekeeper is still controlling the industry. Still looking for new writers, offering them 17.5% ebook royalties while he takes 52.5%. Still treating authors badly, while claiming they should be grateful. Still playing by the old rules, even though there are now new ones. Still trying to stay relevant in a changing industry and a dying business model.

But Joe knows that writers will eventually wise up. Why should authors live from advance to advance, hoping to get another contract? Why put up with heartache, depression, and abuse, when authors can, for the very first time, take control of their own career?

To put it another way, why sell your cow to a dairy for one lump sum, when you could make money forever if you just keep the cow and sell the milk yourself?

Joe began to preach this to writers. He preached long and loud. He wanted to spare his peers the angst and worry and pain and depression he went through while dealing with the Gatekeeper.

And writers began to listen.

Now Joe has a problem.

He doesn't have enough time in the day to answer all of the email he gets from authors, who want to thank him because they too have decided to self-publish. It seems like Joe wasn't the only one fed up with the Gatekeeper, and thousands of others have followed Joe's journey and embarked on similar journeys of their own.

Joe is humbled by all of the attention he's gotten, and all of the praise and thanks he's received. He's thrilled that so many authors are making money. And he's very excited about the future. Not just for himself, but for writers everywhere.

Once upon a time, there was a writer named Joe. He wanted to make a living writing stories.

Now he does.

Joe has made $22,000 in December, all without the Gatekeeper.

And he's just getting started...

100 comments:

CJ West said...

What a lovely story. I like happy endings even though I don't write many. Congratulations Joe!

I hope I can tell a story much like this one to my kids in about four years. Instead of visiting bookstores and libraries, I've turned to giving out ebooks like mad. 803 since last Monday. (An idea I borrowed from you.)

Do you look back now and feel like you've made it?

CJ
The End of Marking Time
Free from authors@22wb.com

Sonia said...

Very inspiring! Hope that happens to me, too!

Anonymous said...

Man, that Gatekeeper is scary as Grendel! (And I'm standing at the gates right now.)

Congrats Joe, more success in the coming year...

EC

Moses Siregar III said...

Aw, man. I thought the story was going to conclude with a grisly end for the Gatekeeper. Death by typewriter or something like that.

Seriously though, congratulations and preach it, brother.

p.s. Amanda Hocking has sold over 100,000 ebooks since she started doing this in March of 2010. Pretty wild.

CJ West said...

@Moses,

Death by typewriter. I like it!

scott neumyer said...

Great story, sir. Nice to see you achieve that dream and so many others following suit.

Moses Siregar III said...

Thanks, CJ. Congrats on what you're doing, too. I see a lot of great reviews on your 99 cent ebook.

WiseMóna said...

What a lovely bedtime story. Well done Joe and thanks for sharing your wisdom.
Móna

Matt Rouge said...

Nice!

Derek J. Canyon said...

Awesome story, Joe! Here's hoping everyone reading it can duplicate it soon!
Adventures in ePublishing

N.M. Martinez said...

*pulls blanket up to chin* *pats belly full of milk and cookies*

This is definitely the time I've been waiting for. Our stories in our hands. They'll become what we make of them.

Thank you very much for sharing the knowledge and for the inspiration.

Ellen O'Connell said...

"Now Joe has a problem.

He doesn't have enough time in the day to answer all of the email he gets from authors...."

Maybe Joe needs to spend some of his new fortune on a secretary (er... sorry, personal assistant) to send stock answers to all those emails and handle other details that fame brings so that Joe can spend all his time writing (writing to include occasional creative blog posts, of course).

Judith Mercado said...

Why not turn this into a YA story and really corner the market? Thanks for keeping us informed ... and inspired.

josephrobertlewis said...

Did any of the other indie writers named Joe find this blog post as existentially confusing as I did?

Well, now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Go Joe!

Anonymous said...

"He wanted to spare his peers the angst and worry and pain and depression he went through while dealing with the Gatekeeper."

First of all, I'm happy for you.

That said, I really don't understanding the constant bashing of publishers. No one ever made you, or anyone else, sign on a dotted line. You made deals along the way and the publishers on the other ends of those deals fulfilled their obligations. They didn't throw you "crumbs." They paid you what you agreed to take, and then invested all the risk and work and capital involved in bringing a MS to market in print form. They got your books in stores. They got you reviews and blurbs.

I can understand why you're happy that there are now ebook platforms for authors and that you're finding those venues lucrative. What I don't understand is the constant bashing.

J. Viser said...

Joe,

Great story and thank you for helping guide my way to becoming a self-published author. You have been uncharacteristically unselfish with your knowledge and experiences.

My novel, Lie Merchants, is actually selling and I am getting great feedback from readers. I have purchased your books as the best way to say "Thanks" and have liberally shared your blog with other aspiring writers.

Many many many thanks,

James Viser
www.LieMerchants.com

STH said...

Great post , Joe.

You guys might find this interesting. My writing background is more in dealing with the gatekeepers of the Los Angeles entertainment industry than the ones in NYC. So with that in mind this will make more sense, but while I was getting back form letters regarding my queries to the publishing industry, I was receiving option offers, first to make my unpublished book, King's X, into a TV series, and then more recently, into a feature film. Of course, neither of those things is a big deal until they actually happen, but it does show at least that King's X is interesting.

The point is that, despite the fact that this story has some obvious commercial appeal, no one in the publishing industry even seemed interested in hearing about it, much less reading it. Then I found this blog over the summer, and realized what I could and should be doing.

I've sold 50 books in the first week. A pretty fair start, I think. But in the mean time, instead of worrying about queries that may or may not start a process which, even if ultimately successful, would drag on through 2012, I'm going to work next week an a new draft of a King's X feature script.

Even if I don't sell any more books, I don't think I've ever felt more gratified by anything than having Kings X finally for sale.

Thanks Joe, and to all the wise regulars on this comment board.

Stephen T. Harper

Mary McDonald said...

I love this story! Read it again, please? ;-)

Joe Konrath said...

First of all, I'm happy for you.

Thanks.

That said, I really don't understanding the constant bashing of publishers.

Then you don't understand what it is like to have a dream, but not be able to attain that dream because someone else is preventing it. Someone with bad judgment, poor business acumen, a lousy track record, and often no idea what they're doing.

No one ever made you, or anyone else, sign on a dotted line. You made deals along the way and the publishers on the other ends of those deals fulfilled their obligations.

I made my publishers a good deal of money, and got dropped for ridiculous reasons.

Any business that turns their back on something that makes them money is a very silly business, and deserving of ridicule.

Any business that rejects books that go on to earn $20k a month is subject to bashing.

I played by the rules, and worked harder than damn near any author in the history of publishing. And I wasn't allowed to succeed.

Now I'm able to succeed, and I want to be both a cautionary tale and an inspiration to others who want to be writers.

Do I hate publishers? Of course not. I'm grateful for the opportunities I had.

But talk to as many writers as I have, and listen to their tales of woe, and a pattern begins to emerge.

I'm more than happy to expose that pattern.

The Big 6 have been the only game in town for decades. But that reign is just about over.

Bashing? I'd say it's more like becoming empowered. If I wanted to bash, I could have been a lot harsher.

Beware the kid you don't pick for your football team. He may start his own league and bring all the other kids with him. And you have no one to blame but yourself.

Mary Vaughn said...

I hope yours years just keep getting better and better. You've helped a lot of writers.
Thanks from all of us.

Terri Reid said...

Go Joe!

And thanks...from one of the "new" authors

Karen McQuestion said...

I smiled all the while I read this! I love a good empowerment story.

BTW, I agree with Ellen O'Connell, it might be time to hire a personal assistant...

Lindsay B said...

Congratulations on your success, Joe. You're an inspiration to us indies. :)

When will the ebook version of this story be up at Amazon? :P

Jude Hardin said...

This story sucked. Nobody got eaten by a wolf or thrown into an oven or anything. And you call yourself a writer...

Christy Pinheiro said...

I agree with Ellen O'Connell, it might be time to hire a personal assistant

Also agreed. Time to delegate tasks, my friend. You could try a virtual assistant. I started using one in August. They're cheaper than hiring an employee, and they can work from anywhere. Never mind that you get to avoid running a payroll, which sucks, believe me.

Still amazed at your success, as well as a little jealous. I never thought I'd see someone make so much money self-publshing fiction. The popular POD_Newsgroup just released it's yearly stats, and most of the writers that responded to the survey make a living are publishing non-fiction (myself included).

But you've shown us that you really can be a success with fiction-- a BIG success. Pretty amazing.

Elizabeth said...

I think it's great, the kind of money you're making. But I still don't buy that it's viable for everyone, especially those who've never worked with an agent or editor before, and don't know how to take their writing to the next level. The lack of quality in some self-published work is out of this world, whether they make money off it or not.

I also wonder how long Amazon is going to play nice with authors. They played nice with publishers for about five years, and then started underselling them, demanding more and more else the publisher would be taken off the website. I once worked for an internet startup that was very lucrative for a while, but by the time I left, I was making 1% -- 1%!!! -- what I had been making when I started. Sometimes I wonder if the big ebook boom will end up the same way.

I'm not normally so negative! But it's something that's crossed my mind, and with good reason.

Chuck said...

Your bedtime story is no longer a fable.

Thanks for the revision, Joe. [grin]

Mike Gerrard said...

Go, Joe!

John Ling said...

But I still don't buy that it's viable for everyone, especially those who've never worked with an agent or editor before, and don't know how to take their writing to the next level.

Elizabeth, resources are freely available on the internet for anyone looking to educate themselves and take their craft to the next level.

I also wonder how long Amazon is going to play nice with authors.

If Amazon stops playing nice with authors, then they will simply go elsewhere. Which is what's happening now with the Big 6.

Ellen O'Connell said...

"But I still don't buy that it's viable for everyone,..."

Did you think about this before posting it? Of course, it won't work for everyone. Very few things in life work for everyone. Does that mean spreading the word that it does work for some is a bad thing?

"I also wonder how long Amazon is going to play nice with authors."

Some of us are going to keep running down this path and find out. If Amazon cuts us all off at the knees next year - well, that's better than not having had this year.

I'm a cautious person by nature but I just don't see any justification for negativity. If this whole new indie world comes crashing down next year or next, Joe will still be rich and a lot of the rest of us will still be better off.

Karen Carr said...

Oh Joe, just don't stop blogging, ok? We would miss your posts too much.

wayob said...

Joe, I have following your blog for a short time, and yes, I will say it as many more have done. Thanks for all the preaching, it has been very helpful. The main thing I want to say today is have you seen how many Kindles Amazon sold Black Friday? Over 13 million! WOW! 13 Million.

When I heard about this number I had a vision, Joe will write at his blog about this and still say that December he will sell so many books because all the eReaders under the tree. Congratulations to all of you writers, for selling your ebooks and leaving the "gatekeeper" aside, wondering what he has to do to gain the money he is accustomed to. I think that time has gone by his noses and will have a hard time to get back in the wagon.

As for me, I will keep hoping spanish written ebooks boost all over the place.

Daniel W. Powell said...

Joe,

I've been reading for a decade, and I can testify to the fact that you work your ass off and you write very well. Your books are on my shelves, both physical and digital, and I have at least a dozen of your posts bookmarked for frequent consultation. Thanks again for putting yourself out there, and for writing such great yarns. On both accounts, my experience with reading and writing has been enriched for it.

Have a great New Year, Brother!

An Autumn Harvest

John Ling said...

"I'm a cautious person by nature but I just don't see any justification for negativity."

I agree with you, Ellen. Taking charge of your own writing career right now is a much better option than remaining static and playing the 'what if' game.

Also, we shouldn't forget that many online startups (Amazon included) not only survived the dot-com bust, but actually thrived. It will be the same situation for indie authors -- those who are savvy and entrepreneurial will not only survive, but thrive, in any economic cycle.

P A Wilson said...

Great post. I agree with you about the gatekeeper trying to work the same old model in a new industry. I don't see this as bashing the big 6. Personally I hope they find a way to be successful in the new industry. Even then, there will be more great books that publishers can put out. Indie publishers and self publishers have earned their day in the spotlight. There's room for everyone.

RobinLK said...

Literacy educator here, newbie writer/blogger - discovering my writing chomps after age 40 (a few yrs ago).

Glad I found you, Joe! I appreciate the dialogue you started with this post. Gives me much to consider as I continue to grow my blogs and practice my craft....

TRTL.RNR, newbie writer, lifelong learner

Heidi C. Vlach said...

May Joe live happily ever after, The End.

wannabuy said...

Loved the read. In particular, how you sum up the hubris of the publishers.
With millions of estimated ereaders sold in 2010 readership should be increasing fast (how are the December sales doing?). With the rumored 2 million Sony e-reader sales... it starts to add up to everyone doing well. :)

As a reader, I care about good variety. The gatekeepers were too arbitrary in the past. I'm loving the new variety.

Neil

Jennifer Becton said...

"I'm more than happy to expose that pattern."

And that's why I'm thankful. Too long the publishing industry has remained a "magic box" in which which books magically happen but no one knows how it happens or how much to expect to earn, etc. Even though we deal in words, it's vital to know the numbers, and thanks to you, I have been able to make informed decisions about my career.

Thanks!
Jennifer
http://www.jenniferbecton.com

Edie Ramer said...

Congratulations on your happy ending. I hope it happens to many of us. Including me!

AstonWest said...

I love happy endings!

Zoe Winters said...

hehe Read it again!

Steve said...

I'm reading it as I get up and it makes a wonderful good morning story. Good on you, Joe.

Someone bought a copy of my recently released Kindle novel. If you are a visitor to this blog, I'm much obliged for my first sale.

Free books for Kindle said...

Now that made my laugh (a lot).

For too many emails - perhaps an updated version of Heinlein's template:

http://io9.com/5048215/robert-heinleins-bizarre-fan-mail-response-letter

dr.cpe said...

@anonymous re "constant bashing of publishers.'

Dont think so. Joe K notes pub & agent for what they have done to help.

from seeing much up close from inside three of the big 6s... for some authors there came to be the 'Come to Jesus' shock talk with oneself. An author on the inside sees good editors often silenced (it is not a genteel industry, those hoping Max Perkins will soon come back from the dead, notwithstanding.) by other editors who are climbing like crabs over others, running ice in their veins. Publishers have handmaidens they reward for looking at them adoringly while passing over eds. often far more gifted. Saw it. And saw it.

Eds., publicity and other key people with families to support are often fired because of sudden change of regime/ dictated by a bd of dirs who are not daily waist deep in the industry. Fine editors often paid school teacher wages, work 80 hours a week+... nowadays spending more time in marketing meetings instead of editing/ engaging w/ author. Marketing now runs the big 6, not heart, not soul, not even in many cases, some would say, mind.

Good career authors are regularly run roughshod over in order to award flavor of month non-writers an obscene amounts of money; e.g., Assagne 1.1 M this past week from Knopf. (e.g., 5M to Gen'l Schwartskopf) It is reasonable to note building career authors is no longer the heart of the business. Like many church goers, the pub companies are more gray heads than young faces. Just a metaphor: similar to Communists insisting Russian folk dancing was the penultimate art only, and forbidding BB King, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Eminem, et al... saying 'new' is da debbil... and arresting the young and disappearing them. Similar in our time... many young authors and older midlist authors are erased or not even given a chance by many of the the old guard.

Publishing for some seems a mini monarchy ...with serfs. Loyalty, time to write, quality, understanding of the creative process, is not on rock solid ground in pub nowadays in my op. Some hack eds seem to be unable to recognize strong storytelling. Thus, Joe catches my ear whenever he says, "he can write what he wants.'

That alone, having been under a disinterested 'mad slasher' editor who guillotined story leitmotifs & cd not see that each gutted story now was not only missing the heart, but also missing the head ... thus, to hear Joe say, we will write our way, and we will take the commerce and the consequences, good and not so hot... fine. I've slung the loose strings, am saddled and raring. I'm grateful to my three big 6 publishers, tho w 3rd pub learned the 'hard blessing' comes from being run over time and again, and finally having to stop being so introverted and stand up for the work. Broke that contract. Had to. I'd been on book tour for six months at a time, working like a dog. And was willing to mush even more. But there comes a time, when the writer knows their calling and sees they are being kept from it... that they cannot go forward waiting for the mercurial &undependable favor of the publisher... esp if one loses one's editor to downsizing or a new cold queen or 'clean-up' king suddenly shows up, axing all non-A list authors financially... these did not happen to me, but I saw them happen to many hardworking, gifted authors. Just some of the ways a good working author could be barred by a gatekeeper. Being called to write is for some, a promise, and a faithful commitment for many writers. The dignity of caring for the reader and caring for one's writing, has to be given full parity. Otherwise it's like a fine horse hobbled & never allowed to run for all its worth. What Joe, not proposes, but lives, is the full open gallop all hell bent for leather. I am exhilarated by the muscle and the speed of that. And in my own whichever way, hope to run for daylight also. YMMV. Thanks

Joe Konrath said...

Otherwise it's like a fine horse hobbled & never allowed to run for all its worth.

Nicely said.

Layton Green said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerald said...

Great post (as usual). I particularly liked the football analogy in your first reply.

What baffles me is why any successful indie ebook author would now even consider a contract with the big 6? Why would you want to trail around bookstores and 'events' - unless, of course, you felt you needed the face-to-face platitudes of fans.

Susan Bischoff said...

I love happy stories.
"Joe began to blog about what he was doing. He posted his sales figures. He encouraged other authors to self-publish."

I was one of those encouraged by those posts. I'd never reached the point of query, and yet had given up the idea of writing for publication. There was too much negativity attached to the industry, and I was hearing it from pretty much everyone involved. I couldn't see volunteering to be tied to it.

So I'll save some space in your inbox and use this space to say thanks, if I haven't before, for showing me that there was another way. I put my first book out this year and it's already sold more than 5000 copies in 5 months. I'm just getting started, but your posts continue to inspire and make me feel like I'm on the right track. Thank you.

Congratulations for all you've earned and accomplished. I'm looking forward to more awesome-packed chapters of this bedtime story.

Layton Green said...

Joe's right: e-distribution is an absolute game-changer. Now there's no longer a need to guess whether a market exists for the work. When the work is ready -- and if it's good and presented well -- the readers will come. Exhilirating times indeed.

Mike Fook said...

That's a kick ass story Joe - and I hope I'm following in your footsteps.

I too tried to get a novel published and was turned down repeatedly despite many people writing to tell me that MUST be published in a book (Cleansed).

I started with publishing my wife's Thai cooking ebooks. They sold - even for $40 - absurd prices - right? Maybe. We sold few - but, some sold for that (6).

I said what the heck - and started publishing my writing as ebooks at Amazon. Sales were initially slow, but as I figure this out I'm ramping up. I sold 327 books in 27 days so far for December. So, maybe 350 by month's end. That's about $525. That works for me. Hope to ramp it up more soon.

I hope authors everywhere will wise up and go for online publishing. It's more responsibility - but OH so much more control.

Cheers! - Mike Fook

Barbara Morgenroth said...

My writing isn't loud enough, the Gatekeeper said just weeks ago. Okay Dokey. This morning, approaching 700 middle reader (!) books sold this month, I think I'm loud enough to be heard by the people who count and that would be readers. Not b*tchy agents who don't read for meaning.

Thank you, Joe, for pointing the way. May you always be at the top of the charts.

Melissa said...

Awesome! Thanks for showing us a new way, Joe!! :)

Merrill Heath said...

Joe, I liked your "bedtime story," but I loved your response about "bashing" the publishers. I've seen this industry from several different angles...from growing up witnessing my father's career as a writer, to working on the retail side of the business, to now enduring the frustration of trying to get a start as a writer on my own.

My father had opportunities starting out that I didn't have until the fairly recent advancements in technology. Now, with the evolution of the ebook and the Internet the opportunities are there once again for a new, unknown writer to break into the business and establish a following.

These are exciting times for writers. The next few years are going to be very interesting. I can only imagine how different the industry will be ten years from now.

Alec Stover Mysteries
http://merrillheath.wordpress.com

Shamus said...

A question:

How do you handle the demand for hard copies? I know some people prefer a physical book. Have you experimented with self-publishing (through Lua or somesuch) physical books in conjunction with ebooks? Is this possible, advisable, or profitable?

STH said...

From Dr. CPE: "The dignity of caring for the reader and caring for one's writing, has to be given full parity. Otherwise it's like a fine horse hobbled & never allowed to run for all its worth. What Joe, not proposes, but lives, is the full open gallop all hell bent for leather. I am exhilarated by the muscle and the speed of that."

Another reason to keep coming back to this blog. Best-written comment threads around. Well said, Doc.

Jude Hardin said...

A slightly different perspective: http://judehardin.blogspot.com/

Anna Murray said...

Thanks again, Joe.

A big problem with NYC is this thing they call "our editorial." I don't want to be part of the homogenized and pasteurized line, a work created by committee, or as so eloquently stated here, " a hobbled horse."

My voice is my voice.

My next book will be raw midwestern-speak, not a compromised Vassarized or Harvardized blasphemy.

Some readers will hate it. Some will love it. So be it.

wannabuy said...

Jude,
I respectfully disagree with you that authors should try to get published. In the fast developing ebook market good authors can be established and financially self sufficient in the two years the big6 seem to need to put a book through the system.

I agree going through editors will make the work better. But as Joe posted before... arbitrary editing.

Your points #1 and #4 are just more of the 'validation argument' that I do not buy. My list of 'must buy Indie authors' is now as long as my list of 'must buy validated authors.'

Seriously, have you tried quarter share by Nathan Lowell? The guy couldn't get a print deal (despite being a successful audio publisher). By avoiding the big6, he now has a large fan base...

With 14 to 15 million Kindles sold in 2010, most for the holidays, holding off is a very high risk strategy.

Neil

Christy Pinheiro said...

But I still don't buy that it's viable for everyone, especially those who've never worked with an agent or editor before, and don't know how to take their writing to the next level.

People need to remember that Dan Poynter and Aaron Shepard were selling self-published books like hotcakes before the Kindle, before ebooks, and (in Dan's case) before POD.

You can do it, if your writing is good and you persist. I think that writers tend to be a delicate bunch, and what I've discovered is that most of them don't take rejection or negative criticism very well.

Part of the reason why Joe made it is because he was never swayed by all the rejection. He just kept plugging along, and it paid off. There's no magic bullet here. Hard work and good writing make money.That seems like a pretty simple formula to me.

Jude Hardin said...

With 14 to 15 million Kindles sold in 2010, most for the holidays, holding off is a very high risk strategy.

You seem to be suggesting that jumping on the bandwagon (however prematurely) is the best way to go.

I'm suggesting that it's not.

Anna Jeffrey said...

Your story sounds like mine, Joe, except for the part about making a pile of money with e-books. However, I'm just getting started and learning as I go. Maybe by this time next year, my story will have *all* of the elements of yours.

Anna Jeffrey
www.annajeffrey.com www.dixiecashauthor.com

Anna Jeffrey said...

I do have one question though. What does one do about copyediting? Or does one just become totally self-reliant and forget about outside copyediting?

Anna
www.annajeffrey.com
www.dixiecashauthor.com

Dawn said...

I'm about half way through AFRAID and admittedly a bit scared to keep going but I doubt very much all of the characters will have as happy an ending as your bedtime story. Truly, you're an inspiration and provide hope for writers hoping to chase the "write full-time" dream.

STH said...

Wannabuy said: "Seriously, have you tried quarter share by Nathan Lowell? The guy couldn't get a print deal (despite being a successful audio publisher)."

A good point that could be made many times over. It's the arbitrariness that gets me, the whims of business decisions as opposed to what should be the hard logic of "this is good, this is moving, therefore people like it."

Don't forget people like John Kennedy Toole and his "unpublishable" book. Still one of my favorite reads ever. How might he have fared without such diligent gatekeepers?

"One of the many stories about the indifference of publishers concerns John Kennedy Toole of New Orleans, who killed himself in 1969. His New York publisher, the talented and exuberant Robert Gottlieb, after putting him through the hoops of successive revisions, let him know that he had lost interest in Toole's novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. "With all its wonderfulness," wrote Gottlieb, the book "does not have a reason. It isn't really about anything. And that's something no one can do anything about." Toole flew to New York to plead for his book, and was barred from the sanctum. He went on to do away with himself, five years later, having fallen out of fiction and into delusion and depression, and Robert Gottlieb went on to edit the New Yorker."

from here... http://www.newstatesman.com/199903050046

wannabuy said...

Jude,

I respect your opinion, but I will continue to disagree. The 'old guard' is keeping out good work (In SF&F and Romance in particular) due to their biases that have *nothing* to do with reader (market) demand.

I do not suggest throwing unedited work out there. But missing the early opportunity is going to be a botched carrier launch. Not taking risk ironically is its own risk.

The ship is preparing to sail. Authors, are you on or not?

Neil

STH said...

@ Anne

Copy editors are easy to find.

There are also many more experienced and passionate freelancers out there now due to downsizing.

Some writers rely on other writers to vet their work.

Personally, I can't type and I can't draw, so good copy editing is factored into production expenses along with a talented cover artist.

billie said...

Love the story and love Dr. CPE's wonderful comment.

I now have two titles up on Kindle and they are starting to sell! Baby steps, but you know, after 7 years with agents and editors even these baby steps feel like full gallop to me.

Tara Maya said...

Anne, one can hire others for not just copy editing, formatting the book for ereaders, cover art etc. The main work put into a novel is none of those things, but putting 50,000 to 200,000 words to string a story.

For newbie writers, I suggest beta readers.

But basically, the thing that teaches you to write the most is just to write.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

evilphilip said...

"I also wonder how long Amazon is going to play nice with authors. They played nice with publishers for about five years, and then started underselling them, demanding more and more else the publisher would be taken off the website."

Until it is no longer in their best interests to do so. As long as Kindle's are flying off the shelves there will be a huge demand for indie authors to "undercut" the $9.99+ eBook prices from the big six publishers.

If that were to change and the big six decided to lower their prices into the $2.99 range AND Amazon found that they were making MORE money from the Big 6 than from all the indie authors combined, they would cut indie authors out of the loop or lower your royalty rate back down into the 35% range on a permanent basis.

Those are some pretty big fantasy ideas. It is in their best interest to have all that extra content flowing onto Amazon and the Kindle -- it helps sell Kindles and it gives Kindle owners a reason to come back again and again and again (and again).

It might change in the future, but I would expect that there is going to be a pretty good run here where a lot of people can make some good money prior to anything changing.

evilphilip said...

"This story sucked. Nobody got eaten by a wolf or thrown into an oven or anything. And you call yourself a writer..."

Killed by Pirates would have been good.

(Bonus points if you get the Music Industry reference.)

M Pax said...

Loved this story. Thanks, Joe. :D

Selena Kitt said...

But I still don't buy that it's viable for everyone, especially those who've never worked with an agent or editor before, and don't know how to take their writing to the next level.

Meh. It's viable for good writers. 'nuff said.

Joe, you are going to adore PubIt. How's it going for you over there? I've made over 15K so far this month on B&N (and I think I can thank Amazon for that... oh the irony - I sold over 10K books on B&N in December) and while I don't expect that to last, the numbers were already going up before the Amazon fiasco.

The revolution has just begun.

Oh and @EvilPhillip - Pirates! ROFL! Good one! :)

Ellen Fisher said...

Selena, I'm doing great on B&N with my pen-named erotic romance, too. (Not great as in 10,000 sales, mind you, but great for me:-). I'm thinking maybe erotic romance just tends to do well there for some reason. I'm glad you're doing well there, and I hope others are doing well too-- all things considered, it's good to have more than one basket to put our eggs in!

Joe Konrath said...

I'm waiting for Rob Siders to format my ebooks before I can fully embrace PubIt.

I'm also going to upload to Goodreads.com, which I just learned sells ebooks.

Mike Dennis said...

But Joe, in this great story you forgot to mention that the Gatekeeper had an evil sister, wily and seductive, trying to get you back into the Gatekeeper's domain.

That could be for the noir version.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Elizabeth I think it's great, the kind of money you're making. But I still don't buy that it's viable for everyone, especially those who've never worked with an agent or editor before, and don't know how to take their writing to the next level

My husband made $17,500 in November and so far in December about $38,000 - Unlike Joe, he had no agent or big-six contract to do that.

Amandan Hocking sold 50,000 books in 3 weeks of December (some at $0.99 and some at $2.99) but even if all were at $0.99 that would mean $17,325 and at $2.99 $104,650 so somewhere between the two. So yes it can be done by those that didn't start out that way

wannabuy said...

STH,

Good point. Arbitrariness is... frustrating. So is sticking to 'old rules' that do not apply to new readers.

There are too many new authors who were rejected by the 'old guard/club' for arbitrary reasons that I'm enjoying reading. I doubt any would have made it to print under the old system. What is fresh is against the 'old rules.' Yawn.

After finding out how many ereaders sold this holiday season, it is obvious we're entering the next stage of ebooks; a stage I'm excited to see progress. Thus the discussions change...

Neil

John Ling said...

"I do not suggest throwing unedited work out there. But missing the early opportunity is going to be a botched carrier launch. Not taking risk ironically is its own risk."

Anyone who wants to see how true this statement is should check out Michael Stevens' blog here: http://fortunathebook.com/blog/tag/michael-r-stevens/

Michael kindly took the time to chronicle everything he experienced with his print publisher -- from the initial sale of his novel all the way to editing and marketing. It is, for lack of a better word, a disheartening and torrid dissection of the state of traditional publishing today.

Read and decide for yourself.

Norma Beishir said...

A very familiar story...with a happy ending!

Robin Sullivan said...

@wannaby Seriously, have you tried quarter share by Nathan Lowell? The guy couldn't get a print deal (despite being a successful audio publisher). By avoiding the big6, he now has a large fan base...

Thanks for bringing up Nathan he deserves the praise - I'm actually the founder of Ridan Publishing who picked him up in January. He's selling great in both ebooks and print and we are putting out all books in his series just as fast as we can!!

Moriah Jovan said...

Dude, for the love of cost accounting, please stop referring to your sales on Amazon as ROYALTIES.

They are not, in fact, ROYALTIES. They are SALES. INCOME. REVENUE.

You have COGS. You have EXPENSES.

There are real tax implications of ROYALTIES versus INCOME. Amazon is WRONG to call them this unless they're planning to report all the royalties to the IRS and send you a 1099.

Part of this self-publishing gig is getting out of the Gatekeeper mindset.

You are manufacturing a product and putting it in a co-op stall. They are not paying you royalties. You are paying Amazon a booth fee. They are not paying you. YOU are paying THEM. Amazon's cut is an EXPENSE.

John Ling said...

"There are too many new authors who were rejected by the 'old guard/club' for arbitrary reasons that I'm enjoying reading."

Having served in an editorial capacity in the industry, what I've found is that the reasons for rejection are not arbitary at all. Yes, there are manuscripts that front-line editors do enjoy and wish they could take on. But, at the same time, they are fearful of risking their jobs or damaging their careers. Because there is nothing worse than pushing forward a manuscript that, in the end, fails to meets the profit-oriented expectation of their bosses. Bosses who, I will concede, do not love or even understand books like editors do.

Hence, to minimize blowback, it becomes easier to say no than to say yes. And over time, it has snowballed into a culture that's both corporate and ingrained.

Selena Kitt said...

"Amazon is WRONG to call them this unless they're planning to report all the royalties to the IRS and send you a 1099."

Um... they do. At least, they did last year. And the year before that.

Christy Pinheiro said...

Dude, for the love of cost accounting, please stop referring to your sales on Amazon as ROYALTIES

Actually, they are reported to the author as royalties. Author royalties are then taxed as self-employment income. The reporting by the end receiver of the royalties varies depending on entity type and also whether the copyright was self-produced or not.

I get a 1099 from Amazon and from CreateSpace every year, and the amounts are reported as royalties.

This is the correct way to report them, although the way that a self-employed author reports them on the tax return is not typically on a Schedule E, but on a Schedule C.

Joe is right. They are royalties and reported as such by the payee. The PAYOR must then correctly decide how to report them on his/her tax return, and it varies from one individual to another.

MeiLin Miranda said...

The main thing newbies need to understand about this path (and I include myself in that group) is that it's a marathon, not a sprint. My editor told me that, and I remind myself every time I look at my sales figures.

Three months after book launch I've sold close to 80 paperbacks and 200 ebooks, which is about 75 paperbacks and 190 ebooks more than most self-published efforts, so I'm okay with that. I have just three books in my catalog so far, and the other two are small and niche (paranormal wild west soap opera first draft/last draft--fun, but a small audience). Even so, one of those is free and has been downloaded some 8600 times this year.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to tell a bedtime story like Joe, but then, how many tradpub writers can tell a bedtime story like Nora Roberts or John Grisham? At least I've got a shot this way. I've gotten stellar reviews, and I have a small but hardcore fanbase that funds the editing and production of my books ($2500 for the first full-length one, and they're all lined up to fund book two, along with some new hardcore fans picked up along the way).

I'm just getting started. Finish your book, and you can get started too, folks. :)

Moriah Jovan said...

@Selena and @ChristyPenheiro

I know that's what they do. I'm saying it's wrong.

When I get a statement from LSI, it's reported as sales, not royalties because LSI is not my publisher. Likewise, Amazon is NOT my publisher. Amazon is the retail space. The digital product is no different than the physical product I ship to them every Monday.

CreateSpace, now... I don't know. I guess that would depend on who owns the ISBN.

Joe Konrath said...

I know that's what they do. I'm saying it's wrong.

I can call them royalties because people call me the King of Kindle, and kings are royalty.

Plus, they're royalties. Amazon is the publisher, and they pay authors after taking their cut.

But I do think it's cute that you protest so strongly.

wannabuy said...

Robin,

Thank you for working with someone who writes as well as Nathan!

My 'complaint' with him is the slow pace of his sequels! ;) (Classy kind of problem for a new print author to have...) I feel 30 years younger reading his books..

And yes, I have solarclipper.com bookmarked. :)

John,
Thank you for the link. I do appreciate the industry insight. While Arbitrary might not be the word you would pick, when there is a haphazard process... An outsider might say the shoe fits...

On Joe's topic: I'm loving the new SciFi. With much anticipation do I anticipate Konrath switching Genre. The genre needed a 'kick start.'

Neil

Douglas Dorow said...

I prefer fiction, but this is a great real-life story!.

I share many of these blog postings and commenter "debate" with my writing group.

Soon to be on Kindle. Can't wait for the ride...

thrillersRus.blogspot.com

John Ling said...

Neil, I agree with you there. While there may be a method to their madness, it's still madness nonetheless, and writers and readers end up getting the short end of the stick.

I have seen, with my own eyes, an outstanding novel being passed over in favour of a self-help book written by an author with dubious credentials. Only because the author of the self-help book already had a 'platform' -- namely, he runs financial seminars and is able to hand-sell his books to clientale.

And that's just one incident among many; where the actual merit and potential of a book is discounted. And it's happening more and more.

Jeff Bennington said...

I used to want to be like Mike. Now, I want to be like Joe.


Thanks Joe,
Jeff Bennington

Ginger said...

I love your story. Sometimes, I see myself staring at nowhere thinking how I can pursue my dream. Checking out professional author Delatorro's book at >>http://bit.ly/eluyUl has helped me a lot, and Joe's story makes me move my first step of my dream! Thanks!

Ian Edward said...

One of the best fairytales I've read in a long time...except it's not really a fairytale. Perhaps we could call it a reality tale. The Gatekeeper may be one of the great villians, up there with the Big Bad Wolf, The Sherriff of Nottingham, Darth Vader...or maybe just a misguided soul, like Scrooge, refusing to see the Ghost of Xmas Future...

Anonymous said...

I am an aspiring writer, and even though e-publishing looks like a very promising (and more profitable) endeavor, I'm leaning more towards the traditional publishing route, because that way, I can be more focused on writing, while I can let the publisher worry about the other aspects of publishing (finding/assigning an editor, cover art, etc).

If I had all those additional responsibilities all on my shoulders, I know I would be distracted, and make it difficult for me to focus on what I would REALLY want to be doing, which is trying to tell a story. I guess I'm trying to say that I'm not one of those writers who must have control over EVERYTHING, which is why I'm okay with traditional publishers.

jtplayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Well, Joe did anyway. ;-)

P.S. Joe, ever thought of writing a novel titled Gatekeeper? lol

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
www.cherylktardif.com

Reduce Spam Consequenses said...

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Najela said...

The opening reminded me of a limerick

There once was a writer named Joe
Who wrote more than you'll ever know
He wrote several great books
with fabulous hooks
and now he has money to blow.

Thank you so much for this blog. It's really inspiring me to just go for self-publishing and be my own gatekeeper.

Coral Russell said...

I can't find the right place to post this, but didn't Joe (I feel like we're on a first name basis) say that there should be a conference for ebook authors? If I remember right, he said he didn't want to organize it, but I'm sure some enterprising people (I wouldn't mind) can put together a Virtual conference! It's happening more and more with other industries, so why not us? Joe you could do a speaking event from the comfort of your own home and wearing slippers! Anyone interested?