Sunday, January 23, 2011

Guest Post by Jeremy Robinson

Continuing my series of guest post by writers doing well with self-publishing, here's Jeremy Robinson.

Like the previous guest posts, he's come to this point by taking his own, unique path. It's worth mentioning again that every writer needs to set their own goals, and you should never compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone's journey is different, and your mileage may vary.

That said, there are a lot of commonalities among those selling well. A while ago, I mentioned 4 elements needed for Kindle success.

1. A good book (and good formatting to go along with it.)
2. A good cover.
3. A good product description.
4. A low price.

I'm going to add two more to the list.

5. Continually adding more books to the virtual book shelf.
6. Perseverance, and the willingness to experiment.

As with print books, the more products you have available, the likelier you are to be discovered and bought.

Also, this isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. While it's easy to look at these guest posts and think, "I bet I can make that much money," this doesn't happen overnight. It took two years for me to be selling at the rate I'm currently selling at (700 books a day), and six years prior to that busting my hump in the traditional publishing world.

If your sales aren't where you'd like them to be, you need to keep trying, keep tweaking, keep experimenting, and keep writing.

Now here's Jeremy...

For people to truly understand my thoughts on e-publishing, the first thing you need to know is that I’m a risk taker. My advice may not be for you if you prefer not to rock the boat. And before I offer my advice, for perspective, I offer the wham bam thank you ma’am version of my path to publication and e-publication.

My wife and I got married at twenty and for the first ten years I worked at becoming a writer, full time. I made no money while my supportive, loving, amazing wife worked. There were years where, combined, we made 14k...in an entire year. Keep that number in mind for later. In 2003 I started making progress publishing articles and a non-fiction book about screenwriting, but nothing that paid the bills or remotely close to the fiction I wanted to write.

In 2005, after deciding no one would want to publish a mainstream thriller featuring Jesus, I self-published my first novel, THE DIDYMUS CONTINGENCY, using Lulu.com. Within a year I had sold 6000 copies at $18 and made about $1 per book. Good sales. Crappy income. I did some research and discovered that if I cut out the middle man and started my own small press I could make $4 per book and turn that $6000 into $24,000, which for my wife and I was enough to live on. But there was a hitch.

We had a daughter. And a son on the way.

So I did what any responsible parent would do. I started a small press, Breakneck Books, using three credit cards and took our family to the brink of financial ruin (the only money in the bank came from credit cards). I put out three more of my own novels (RAISING THE PAST, ANTARKTOS RISING and KRONOS) and a few by authors I knew. And, thank God, they sold. And for a few years I eked out a living as a publisher/writer. But just barely.

I sold well enough to attract the attention of my agent, and then Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press who offered me a three book deal based on my previous books’ sales, a 75 page sample and a summary of the first book. The advance was nearly three years income for me and I snatched it up.

So now I have PULSE out in hardcover and mass market. INSTINCT is out in hardcover and arrives in mass market on February 1. And THRESHOLD, the third book in the series comes out in hardcover on March 29. Hurray for me! Now I can quit the day job, right (which for me is self-publishing)? I thought so. So I stopped. I got out of the publishing gig.

What followed was a rude awakening. I wasn’t going to instantly become the next James Rollins. I wouldn’t make money hand over fist. I was...I was...a mid-list author.

Crap.

I had left the publishing company I started to focus on my writing and had only one book left that I hadn’t signed away. So I went back to my roots and self-published BENEATH on Kindle, in February of 2010. I sold 1000 copies in the first month and since then have sold 7000+ copies.

I spent the spring and summer of 2010 writing two novels, one under my name and one under a pen name (which I have yet to publicly claim is me). After writing three books in a series, I found both books incredibly liberating and fun to write because I could experiment. THE LAST HUNTER is a YA book that takes place in the world of ANTARKTOS RISING, 20 years before the events of that book. The novel by the pen name is dark and gruesome horror that I could never get away with as Jeremy Robinson.

With the bank account once again becoming barren, I put both books out as e-books in mid-November.

And now, just two months later, I have sold 9052 e-books, not including Smashwords and Nook sales. I made $10,000 in December and am on track to make $10,000 in January. In two months I will have made more than I did in previous years. And even if sales fall, which I expect them to do, I will still make more than I do from being a mid-list author. A lot more.

This week, I put out two more experimental books, INSOMNIA, a book of short stories, and THE ZOMBIE’S WAY, a humorous illustrated inspirational...for zombies, under the pen name Ike Onsoomyu (sound it out). So now I’ve got five e-books out. I’ll be writing the second book in the Hunter series in the spring and the second horror novel under the pen name this summer. Both will be out by the fall. And when the rights to my first four books revert back to me, I’ll have eleven e-books. I’m making 10k from just three, so I’m fairly excited to see what happens when I have eleven.

Now, the first thing critics are going to point out is that I, like Joe, and am established mid-list author so that must be why my e-books are selling well. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Keep in mind that I was selling lots of books long before I had a traditional print deal. My books sell because I work like a bastard. I do my book covers (even Thomas Dunne asked for my help on the covers), website, interiors, marketing and PR, never mind writing the books. The only thing I don’t do is edit. If anything, my hardcovers sell well because of my self-publishing efforts.

Also worth mentioning is that the horror book released under a pen name, which isn’t linked to me in any way, is selling twice as many books as those under the Robinson name, and will soon outsell my hard cover releases in a fraction of the time. In two months, this book published under a no-name pen name has sold 4900 copies.

So what about that advice I promised you? It’s two fold. Part one is simple, take risks. Jump in. You have nothing to lose. Seriously. You’re not going to blow a future print deal by self-publishing an e-book. The numbers aren’t tracked by Bookscan. You can make the book disappear with the click of a button. At the same time you might just sell enough to entice a publisher to make a sweet offer (if print is your goal). If you fail, pull the book and send it back to the slushpile.

Part two is not so simple. Do it right. I’m not saying I’ve done everything right. I make plenty of mistakes. But I am dedicated to putting out books that rival those produced by the big publishers in every way. I want my covers, my interiors and my story and writing quality to match, or beat, those produced by the big guns. And you should too. If you don’t, you’re not going to sell. You’re going to be disappointed and you might just give up on your dreams. Don’t be afraid to pay for a cover. To hire an editor. You might spend $1000, even $2000, getting your book ready, but if you don’t believe you can sell the 500 - 1000 copies of your book at $2.99 and make that money back you shouldn’t be self-publishing. If you don’t believe the book will sell, it probably won’t. Don’t half-ass it.

So, have I given up on print? Despite making more money than I ever have before, no. I just agreed to write two more (stand alone/non-series) books for Thomas Dunne/St. Martins and will have new print books coming out until 2013. Why? A few reasons.

First, I still cling to the hope that I will be the next Crichton, or Rollins, or King. Those kinds of sales can’t currently happen with e-books. Second, I love hardcovers and really enjoy having my books in that format. Third, my editor has vastly—vastly—improved my writing and I’m still learning a lot from him. Fourth, having my books in stores and online increases my market exposure. Those who find me at B&N are picking up the e-books, and those that find the e-books are picking up the print books. Last, if my books never break out of the mid-list I may lose money on the print books vs. e-books, but I currently write three to four books a year, and am willing to take the hit on the chance of becoming a print book bestseller. Imagine the bump the e-books would get if that happened!

Whether or not I become a print bestseller, I expect e-books will be my main source of income for years to come. By 2013 I plan to have fifteen e-books out, thirteen of them novels. My personal goal is to make $20,000 a month by that time. With three novels selling 5000 books a month now, and the ever increasing e-book market size, I think that’s doable, and worth the risk. Don’t you?

Joe sez: Robinson is a smart guy, and a good writer. He's also willing to take chances, which is a plus.

I agree with much of what he said here, up until he agreed to write more books for his publisher. To me, that's a big mistake. I'll take it point by point.

First, I still cling to the hope that I will be the next Crichton, or Rollins, or King. Those kinds of sales can’t currently happen with e-books.

Actually, it's close to happening. Amanda Hocking is going to wind up with over 250k ebooks sold by the end of this month, if she hasn't hit it already. She's on track to do a million sales within by the end of this year. That's more than most bestselling authors do.

Hoping your publisher gets behind you is like buying a lottery ticket--you could win, but it isn't a sound business investment. Robinson says he hopes to make $20k a month by 2013. I believe, if he had the rights to the books that his publisher currently publishes, he'd currently be making what I'm making; over $35k a month.

The fact that his publisher is releasing his Kindle ebooks for $7.99, $9.99, and even $14.99, is hurting his sales, not helping them.

I'm pretty convinced that bestsellers are bestsellers because of the lack of choice, coupled with habit. Go to a drug store, they have twelve different titles available. Naturally, those books available in drug stores will sell more copies than those only available in bookstores. And when you go to bookstores, you see those same titles selling at 40% off, in huge stacks at the front of the store. Of course they sell a lot.

Over the next few years, as ebooks become the dominant format, we'll see a change in bestselling authors. Ebook buyers aren't going to continue to plunk down $14.99 for titles, because they'll have a choice. Right now, we're in a transitional period, and people are buying what they're familiar with buying--bestsellers.

But once the switch to ebooks happens, and readers are given unlimited choices, price will become a dominant factor. And publishers aren't going to be able to price the latest King or Patterson at $2.99. So readers will go elsewhere.

Second, I love hardcovers and really enjoy having my books in that format.

I love hardcovers, too. And I get a fair amount of email from people who want my books available in hardcover format. So that's what I'm going to do this summer.

Along with the trade paperback versions of my ebooks (which sell at $13.95 and currently earn me $85 a day). I'm going to make limited edition hardcover versions. They'll be signed, numbered, with a ink fingerprint on the title page, and full color dust jackets. I'm pricing these for the collector's market at $40 each.

That's a lot of money, but I've paid this for collector editions of authors I love, and I think this is fair for what is increasingly becoming a luxury market. They'll be available exclusively on my website for anyone who wants one, and they'll satisfy both my personal need and the needs of uber fans who demand them.

But, unlike the hardcovers a publisher releases, which essentially punish fans by charging high prices for a book when it comes out, I'm going to release hardcovers concurrently with the trade paper and the ebook releases. I won't make my fans wait a year to get a less expensive format. Nor will I gouge them by charging the same for an ebook as I do for a hardcover. I think that sucks, big time.

Third, my editor has vastly—vastly—improved my writing and I’m still learning a lot from him.


That's great... until the editor wants Robinson to change something he doesn't want to change. It's happened to me a few times, and it stings.

A great editor can vastly improve a book. But editors are people, and people make mistakes, and the writer can wind up suffering for it.

Or, in my case, the writer can get out of the contract, self-publish the book in question without making any changes, and earn a lot more money than he did with the publisher.

Fourth, having my books in stores and online increases my market exposure. Those who find me at B&N are picking up the e-books, and those that find the e-books are picking up the print books.

Maybe. Some do. But for the most part my self-pubbed ebooks are lifting the sales of my traditionally pubbed books, and not vice-versa. I know this because my ebooks are selling my traditionally pubbed books (in all formats combined) at a rate of 10 to 1, and the vast majority of email I get are from folks who discovered me through my self-pubbed titles.

And, as I stated above, while Jeremy may get a few people buying his print books in bookstores who then get his self-pubbed ebooks, he's also irritating people who buy his ebooks and like them and then have to pay $14.99 for his latest.

Looking at his rankings and his reviews for his $14.99 ebooks, they aren't selling nearly as well as his self-pubbed, and his fans don't like the high prices.

Last, if my books never break out of the mid-list I may lose money on the print books vs. e-books, but I currently write three to four books a year, and am willing to take the hit on the chance of becoming a print book bestseller. Imagine the bump the e-books would get if that happened!

Again, this is playing the lottery. Except he's gambling with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars, in the hopes of winning a million.

If he kept his rights, he'd eventually get the million without having to gamble.

But Robinson isn't alone in his desire to stick with mainstream publishing. It has been a goal of his since he began writing, much like it has been a goal for most writers.

We've had it drilled into our heads that the only way to succeed is to follow the age old formula of: write a book, send out queries, get an agent, hope for a book deal.

Robinson, and most of my peers, have been conditioned to believe publishers are essential. And they still believe this, even though they aren't essential anymore. If we look at Robinson's five reasons for sticking with his publisher, they fall right in with the dream that publishers have been selling us for years: hope for a bestseller, the importance of an editor, getting into bookstores, the chance of huge success. Even the vanity of having a hardcover version has always been a carrot on the stick for authors. I know several authors with paperback deals who have pursued a hardcover deal for years, simply because of the prestige of having a hardcover.

That's nuts.

The gatekeepers have sold us a dream, and we've bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Another oft-heard argument for traditional publishing is "being validated."

Now, I don't discount that if a book is accepted by the Big 6, it meets a minimum quality standard. It is difficult for writers to judge their own work, and acceptance by an agent is a good indicator that the work is up to par.

But guess what? Selling a shitload of ebooks is a much better validation. Getting a stamp of approval from readers is more important than a stamp of approval from a publisher.

This is a business. When I see writers acknowledging that they'll probably earn less money by signing with a publisher, but still wanting to do it, I plainly see how much publishers have perverted how writers think.

It is not good business to sacrifice thousands of dollars for validation and a pipe dream. Yet the myth is so entrenched in writers' minds that they're willing to walk away from cash in the bank to be part of some bizarre club.

Yes, the club is exclusive. It's also expensive, poorly run, and often abusive toward its members.

We've all heard the term "gifting a white elephant." According to Wikipedia:

To possess a white elephant was regarded as a sign that the monarch reigned with justice and power, and that the kingdom was blessed with peace and prosperity. Because the animals were considered sacred and laws protected them from labor, receiving a gift of a white elephant from a monarch was simultaneously both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because the animal was sacred and a sign of the monarch's favour, and a curse because the animal had to be retained and could not be put to much practical use, at least to offset the cost of maintaining it.

Kinda sounds a lot like signing a publishing deal, doesn't it?

186 comments:

evilphilip said...

ANTARKTOS RISING and KRONOS

I have Antarkos Rising and Kronos. Great books. Keep up the great work Jeremy.

Is it worth mentioning that I have now joined the club of people who have sold over 1,000 books on the Kindle?

Julie Bush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda Nagata said...

I've been republishing my backlist as ebooks over the past two or three months, and will be bringing out my next book as an indie venture, but I'm still mystified at how such high sales figures are reached so quickly. That's not been my experience. Granted my prices are higher, but changing price hasn't had any discernible effect on sales. Despite that, I'm far happier than when I worked with a publisher. I love the control, and knowing that it's in my power to try stuff.

Thanks for all these posts. It's been educational and encouraging.

Julie said...

Hey, I really love what you're doing here! I hope all writers follow your advice.
Julie

Daryl Sedore said...

Thanks!

Wow, great post.

Key point: I agree that you have to continue to add new titles to the kindle to further your sales and your name.

Another awesome post. Thanks...

Daryl
www.spotlightonindies.com

Daniel said...

Your posts are always a nice kick in the ass to actually figure out how to get the gears in the great machine working for me. First step being to just do something already. Keep it up, sir!

Jane George said...

Thanks. Just a really big thanks to both of you.

STH said...

I second Linda's question. How do you sell 1000 books in the first month with a pen name that has no track record? As I recall, Amanda hocking sold something more like 47 in her first month. 1000?

Not doubting, just very curious .

India Yellow Pages said...

Thnx....i personally really appreciate your work it has a lot of
info for a new blogger... i myself quite new in this field i once again say thanks for your great info..

Anonymous said...

I'm still mystified at how such high sales figures are reached so quickly.

Linda, I looked at your covers. They look amateurish and the cover font looks like Papyrus. The old covers are much nicer. The new covers look like slap-dash clip art.

Your price is $6.00 for the Kindle edition. I think that's too much to pay for a Kindle edition by an author I've never heard of.

More than anything, I think you should rethink your cover design and price point.

Jeremy's covers are fantastic. So are Joe's and Amanda's. It makes a BIG difference-- something that a lot of newbies overlook.

The Daring Novelist said...

A comment on Joe's rebuttal: Joe, you kind of said this, but I wanted to add something about the change in best sellers....

I don't know that price will rule, because there will be lots of books at the lower prices. The real point is that the audience will spread out, and best seller status won't mean as much. They won't be able to price as high because people have more choices.

Joe Konrath said...

They won't be able to price as high because people have more choices.

I haven't gotten any straight answers from publishers who continue to slap high prices on ebooks, but I'm pretty sure it is to protect print sales.

I bet the bean counters have done their P&L predictions and concluded that most publishers couldn't survive in their current state if the majority of their sales were $2.99 ebooks.

This may change when ebooks begin to outsell print, and bookstore closings make print runs smaller, and therefore more expensive. Then publishers may start downsizing, move their offices out of Manhattan, stop the rampant spending and waste, and use profits from backlist ebooks to fund the frontlist.

But by then, why would any author sign with a publisher?

Michael Dean said...

I wont say the books name, but I have read the "horror" book Jeremy mentions. It sold over 1000 copies because it's a great book and he's online hustling his ass off. $10,000 a month club! lol

az said...

Great to hear a story of a keen young man making it by virtue of hard work and talent--the classic American success story. Way to go, Jeremy Robinson!

Has anyone done any thinking about size of market, market saturation, what a mass market comprised of Amazon, Google, and Apple ebooks--absent more than one major bookseller and at least a couple of major NY publishers--might look like, two to three years out?

The people familiar with the heydey of pulp fiction may have the best insights into what we can expect from the ebook market in the days to come.

Paul Skelding said...

Linda, sorry I have to agree with anonymous poster there. Your covers don't look too appealing. Goddesses has the best cover of all your books. The titles are really good though, they would definitely get my attention in any format, but the covers would lose me quickly. There are many artists online who could give you great covers for a decent price.

Reviews Of Unusual Size! said...

I just started designing ebook covers for clients a few months ago, after years of being obsessed with covers of the books I was reading, and I'm amazed at the difference a good cover makes (Not that I'm implying that mine are good.. hahah) And I don't think it can be emphasized enough how important it is that the book looks just as good in thumbnails as it does full screen. I wish we could sell books just based on the quality of the stories, but like in life, people are superficial, judgmental beings. Jeremy Robinson has some GREAT covers and I'm sure that makes a huge difference.

Deeply Dapper

gniz said...

Another great post. Joe, does anyone ever get upset when you do point by point rebuttals like that? I mean, I personally enjoy it, it's like a conversation and makes it more interesting to read...

That said, Joe is right. Most of us writers, myself included, have been sold a dream by the publishing industry. And for a long time, it was the only game in town so it was the best dream we could have.

But sticking with that dream even in the face of something much more rewarding is...strange. I think it's human nature, though. People resist change on all sorts of levels. Hell, in a few years Joe might be the guy who sticks with eBooks after everyone's moved on to a new, better format.

Look, we all (writers) had that dream. But that's all it ever was for most of us. And now we have a reality that's actually BETTER than we could have hoped for, and some are still resisting it for various reasons.

In some ways it makes me happy that so few people really get what's happening, because it gives me a chance to try and get established before the real feeding frenzy begins.

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

Blue Tyson said...

What I don't get are authors who can manage fancy websites, covers, etc., but fail at the simple task of having html excerpts as well of their books when they claim to work really hard and all...

Pretty sure I could find you a 6 year old to do it for you if necessary. :)

Maybe a 10 year old to explain search engines and keywords?

Steve said...

Another fine post. Enjoyed it. My sales are booming. I now have two in the UK.

Kelly Bryson said...

"...after deciding no one would want to publish a mainstream thriller featuring Jesus."
This cracked me up! Thanks for the interview.

Tony Benson said...

I think you've hit the nail right on the head when you refer to it as a lottery. There have always been huge quantities of great fiction that never get published because the author never gets a publisher.

Within a year or so now (hopefully less) I shall be self publishing my first book, and I really don't see why I should wait around for a publisher to take most of the money home.

As you say, the best judge is the readers, not the publishers.

What I probably will pay for is a professional cover, formatting and editing services. It's a risk, but I'm banking on success, not failure.

Thanks for your continued interesting posts.

Russell Brooks said...

I agree. Some risks are worth taking. I have my first novel out as an ebook and sales are steadily picking up every month. But I've had so many people contact me about having it available in print. So I'm going to self-publish in print. As for the risks, there's no problem with them except I'd rather take risks that were once proven to work. The opposite could be an unwise investment.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Kathryn Lilley said...

As more mid-list authors opt to self-publish, I wonder whether publishers will respond by including some kind of marketing agreement in contracts. As in, "If you want my book, you'll have to support it." Probably not, but one can always hope.

Ellen Fisher said...

"Joe, does anyone ever get upset when you do point by point rebuttals like that?"

I would guess that anyone who agrees to do a guest post is already aware of Joe's very strong opinions:-).

Thanks for sharing your story, Jeremy!

Catana/Sylvie Mac said...

If I didn't know better, I'd be completely discouraged by being told that if I'm not willing to spend $1,00.00 or more to get my book out, then I shouldn't be self-publishing. Not much different from saying it takes money to make money. So if you simply don't have that kind of money, forget about it, bub.

1. There are ways to accomplish what's necessary without spending money you don't have.
2. If you're writing in a niche genre that isn't likely to rack up huge sales, being unwilling to make such a financial investment is practical rather than a sign of not having confidence in your book.

Mark Terry said...

Jeremy, good luck in your efforts.

For what it's worth, I was one of the judges for the ITW Thriller Awards a couple years ago when Antarktos Rising was submitted. You were in my top 5 recommendations--nicely done and very fresh and original, I enjoyed it a lot.

Jeremy Robinson said...

"How do you sell 1000 books in the first month with a pen name that has no track record?"

It was actually closer to 2000. :) Part of being a professional writer means becoming an expert in things in which you may have no interest. I loathe marketing. It's monotonous and boring and I'd rather be writing. But I've forced myself to become an expert at it. I try everything. I read marketing books. I analyse trends, calculate odds and watch what my successful peers are doing.

The new pen name got an awesome website and book trailer that was up and running a month before I released the book. The cover is one of my best. And without giving away my secrets (the marketing techniques I've spent YEARS developing) I put three full-time weeks (120+ hours) spreading the word online. I treated the book like a major release, and that's what it became.

It also helped that the general subject (zombies) is popular, I timed the release for three days before "cyber-Monday" AND the book has proven to be controversial--some readers are offended by it. All of this worked in my favor, too.

Big sales can come slowly on Amazon. Plenty of authors sell slowly their first month and then sales build over time as the book works its way into Amazon's recommendation system. I'm too impatient for that.

The key is to treat your book the way you wish a big house publisher would treat it. Cover. Interior. Marketing. Everything needs to shout "This book is awesome!" And then, well, the book needs to be awesome. :)

-- Jeremy

Jeremy Robinson said...

"Joe, does anyone ever get upset when you do point by point rebuttals like that?"

Nah. We all know Joe's opinion when we post here. I knew in advance that Joe would blast me for signing a print deal. We're all confident enough to debate without having hurt feelings.

Jeremy Robinson said...

"I was one of the judges for the ITW Thriller Awards a couple years ago when Antarktos Rising was submitted. You were in my top 5 recommendations."

Thank you! The best compliment I ever got about ANTARKTOS RISING was at Thrillerfest. I was in line to get a book signed by Steve Berry. He asked me who I wanted it signed to and when I said, "My mother," he glanced at my name tag and said, "Jeremy Robinson? Did you write Antarktos Rising?" To which I replied, "Y-y-yes." "I loved that book!" This blew me away because the book was a trade paper POD and while it was selling well, I couldn't imagine how Steve Berry found it. So I asked, "How did you find the book?" "Oh," he said, "James Rollins gave it to me."

I was floored. That two of my favorite authors were recommending my books to each other rocked my world. I should say this was my first time at Thrillerfest or any conference and I was in a permanent state of awe as I nervously met authors I looked up to...many of whom are now friends.

AnneMarie Novark said...

Another interesting and informative post, Joe. Congratulations, Jeremy. Your hard work is finally paying off!

AnneMarie

Joe Konrath said...

We're all confident enough to debate without having hurt feelings.

The writers I invite to guest post here are professionals, through and through. Pros don't mind being told they're wrong. I get told I'm wrong on an hourly basis.

Jeremy Robinson said...

Joe said: Except he's gambling with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars, in the hopes of winning a million.

This is true, but remember, I'm a risk taker. I don't always play it safe. At the same time, I think it's stupid to put all my eggs in the print basket which is why my e-releases will out number my print releases 4 - 1 in coming years.

Also, for me, fast-money isn't always my main motivation. If it was I would have given up on being a writer during those ten long years of not making a dime. In the recent past I hired a narrator who read and recorded BENEATH and KRONOS. Roughly 16 hours of professionally narrated audiobook (this is the same narrator Audible hired to read PULSE and INSTINCT). And I gave them away. For free. You can download them from my website or from podiobooks.com or get them on iTunes.

I'm building my audience and brand by being everywhere. People who listen to the free novels (more than 12,000 listeners per audiobook thus far) have bought the e-books and print books. People who buy the print books are buying the e-books. All of this is working together to build an audience bigger and faster than the e-books could on their own.

As the market dominance shifts to e-books (and I believe it will just as much as Joe does) I want to have as large a print-reading audience as possible. Most people are still reading print books (I was until about two weeks ago) and when they make the shift to e-books in the next few years, I want as many of them as possible to already know who I am, search for my new book and go on a spending spree when they discover I've got ten e-books they never knew about. While short term profit will take a hit from this effort, I believe the long term payout will balance things out.

Suzanne said...

Another excellent guest post. Seeing this emerging industry from so many angles is enlightening and encouraging. Thank you, Jeremy and Joe.

I think the deal offered by Penguin for Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award sounds like a big ole white elephant.

Suzanne Adair

Joe Konrath said...

While short term profit will take a hit from this effort, I believe the long term payout will balance things out.

That's a well thought-out and very persuasive argument.

But it brings up a question that I've been struggling with:

How important is brand loyalty in an ebook era?

I really do believe, once ebooks become the dominant format, bestsellers will change. Currently, bestselling authors have the widest distribution, and buying them is as much of a habit as it is a convenience.

Once human beings find something they're comfortable with, they stick with it.

But too many companies have found that brand loyalty only goes so far.

Right now, the ebook bestseller lists are dominated by habit. But cost is becoming a player, and competing with habit.

When print sales fall, habits will switch, and those with huge fanbases will lose market share.

I believe that more people are discovering me through ebooks, than buying my ebooks because they recognize my brand from my print books.

So, in the long term, when habits switch from print to ebooks, potential fans will still be discovering my $2.99 ebooks, but will likely be turned away by the more expensive ebooks my publisher has the rights to.

Or, to put it in a different way, if a bestselling author like Brad Thor suddenly had zero books in print, how long would his readership make him an ebook bestseller if he was priced at $12.99?

Maybe it would last for a few years. But once readers got used to shopping on Amazon rather than at Walgreens or Borders, habits will change.

Take another example. Would Brad Thor sell as many print books if, in every bookstore, all of the books being sold alongside his were $2.99?

My argument is supported by Amazon reviews. Authors like Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, Laurell K. Hamilton, Patricia Cornwell, and Anne Rice have had their last several books skewered by fans. Yet the books keep selling.

Why? Because of habit, and because the books are available everywhere.

I don't doubt that some readers are brand loyal fans. I know this is true.

But the majority of readers are just folks looking for a good read. And once the print market dies, those folks will change their habits, and price will rule the roost.

Ruth Harris said...

@az "The people familiar with the heydey of pulp fiction may have the best insights into what we can expect from the ebook market in the days to come."

I was an editor during the post-pulp heyday & what happened was that there was so much money in mass mrkt ppb that publishing ended up in a "wag the dog" situation. The paperback houses had so much money that auctions by savvy sub rights directors resulted in soaring prices for paperback rights and kept authors and the hardcover houses afloat.

Eventually, of course, that bubble -- like most -- burst until, over the years, publishing ended up where it is today.

As soon as I found JAK's blog, it occurred to me that epub duplicates the paperback/pulp explosion. Who knows what will happen altho my own opinion is that power -- and money -- will flow to the authors (where it belongs) & TradPub as I knew it as an Editor and bestselling author, will forever change. Specifically how is the question.

And want to add that, of course, so many other things --tech, education, cultural shifts, etc -- have changed & impact all of this.

wannabuy said...

Jeremy,
Thank you for posting. Would you mind going a little more into creating a Pen Name on Amazon/Smashwords? I'm not an author, so I'm just looking for the high level view.

Dang you went through a lot to publish. Well done. I'll admit I haven't tried you books. Your story inspired me to try one (I haven't decided which yet.)

I believe Joe said "Feed the machine." There is definitely a need to put out multiple books per year. I suspect one of my favorite small publisher authors isn't doing so well due to the slow production rate. (Another isn't doing so hot due to high prices.) There is an art to self publishing.

Neil

Jeremy Robinson said...

"If I didn't know better, I'd be completely discouraged by being told that if I'm not willing to spend $1,00.00 or more to get my book out, then I shouldn't be self-publishing. Not much different from saying it takes money to make money."

In my experience, yeah, it usually DOES take money to make money. And from a business perspective spending $1000 to make $60,000 (which is what my pen named book will make this year if sales remain at the current level) is a worthwhile investment.

"1. There are ways to accomplish what's necessary without spending money you don't have."

I agree. In fact, I spent only $400 on the pan named book, for editing. But that's because I'm already a professional cover designer and was an illustration major in college. And I've spent years learning book formating, html, etc. Either spend the money or learn how to do it, professionally, yourself. A lot of people hear I do my own covers and think they can run out, get Photoshop and pull off something similar. I've been working on illustration longer than writing and people with little or no experience saying they can make a good cover is like having a family member saying, "I think I'm going to write a novel, too." Like anyone can just sit down and do it. There is also the option of finding a friend who's an artist, or someone just out of art school. I've seen a lot of these covers and while they're a step in the right direction, they often still look amateur. Hiring a pro, or becoming a pro, is really the only way to get a professional product, unless your best buddies with a pro.

"2. If you're writing in a niche genre that isn't likely to rack up huge sales, being unwilling to make such a financial investment is practical rather than a sign of not having confidence in your book."

Is there a genre so niche that you really don't think you could sell more than 500 copies and make the money back (not counting poetry)? As we've seen on this blog, even subjects that I would have thought to have tiny niches (incest) can have large audiences.

Last, people often say, "I don't have the money." What they're saying is, "It's not worth the risk." I maxed three credit cards in six months in pursuit of my dreams. This is America. Getting a $1000 credit limit is easy (unless you've already killed your credit buying flatscreen TVs). Putting out a professional book is doable for almost anyone willing to take a risk.

That doesn't mean everyone taking the risk will be successful. The book still has to be good. And the professional book should be accompanied by a solid marketing plan and lots of preparation. But a professional book increases the odds of success significantly, and shows that you care about your readers experience.

wannabuy said...

@Joe:"Right now, the ebook bestseller lists are dominated by habit. But cost is becoming a player, and competing with habit."

Habit is already breaking down.
#1 in the Kindle store is an Amazon translation (Hangman's Daughter, which has sold well for years in Germany.)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/ref=pd_dp_ts_kinc_1

Amanda Hocking is at #4. I was wondering if her 250,000/month sales were a sign of ereader growth, but then I saw how her rankings keep creeping up! Good for her.

I just blogged the AAP sales numbers with my own estimate of ebook sales outside of the 14 reporting AAP publishers... You are right, times are a changing. Pbook sales (paperback and mmpb) are now being hit by ebooks. (Before that wasn't provable.)

http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2011/01/november-e-book-sales.html

Neil

STH said...

Jeremy, thank you very much for your response to my question about selling 1K plus out of the gate. Your responses to all the questions from the group have been excellent. Joe's site always informs and inspires. And for me, of his recent string of excellent guest posts, this one was the best. Thanks for sharing.

I think I saw your campaign for the mysterious book in question before Christmas and I'm about to go track it down. I remember at the time that something seemed odd about it (if it's the one I'm thinking of) because it was apparently a self-pubbed first novel, but the campaign seemed too good and too thorough for that.

Thanks again, and congratulations on all your success. Obviously well-deserved. - Steve

Layton Green said...

Thanks for the great post, Jeremy. Everything in the ebook world is moving so fast is's shocking and exhilirating at the same time. I agree that it's a business, but writing is also an art. And we want some of those great books from artists who may not have what it takes to be marketers/businesspersons. I am thrilled at what's happening for those of us who follow this blog, but I also hope that systems develop to nurture everyone who has written a great book. Note that I don't think things are great for this as is -- SO MANY great books get overlooked (Confederacy of Dunces was turned down at first by one and all!) as is, I think cheaper ebboks will eventually be great for literature.

Ruth Harris said...

@ Joe "I don't doubt that some readers are brand loyal fans. I know this is true."

So do I. I was one of those big festive "literary" lunches in Miami; Mary Higgins Clark (a very nice woman, btw) was the featured author/speaker. The 12 or so women at my table spent the entire lunch complaining that MHC's books "weren't nearly as good as they used to be."

MCH's books were stacked to the ceiling available for purchase as we left the hotel ballroom. As far as I could tell, every one of those women bought the book.

Gotta be habit. Or nostalgia. Or proof that "hope springs eternal." Whatever it is, it's very very powerful and a reason to get your brand fixed in peoples' minds.

Jeremy Robinson said...

Would you mind going a little more into creating a Pen Name on Amazon/Smashwords?

Honestly, the idea of creating a pen name, totally separate from the Robinson name that I've been working so hard at for so long, terrified me. I had visions of starting the 10 year struggle over again. Thankfully, I know what I'm doing now and was able to put all the lessons learned into the new name. The result is a successful new author able to write about different subjects and attract a different audience.

As to the details on how it's done, it's easy. Whenever I'm asked to put in the author's name, I put in the pen name. All of the behind the scenes stuff, like payments, are still in my name.

Jeremy Robinson said...

*** FYI TO ALL***

I will probably stop replying to comments at noon. I need to write a chapter today! Will respond later in the day to questions/comments posted this afternoon.

Victor said...

I started a small press, Breakneck Books, using three credit cards and took our family to the brink of financial ruin (the only money in the bank came from credit cards).


Wow, that's flat out idiotic. Good thing you lucked into the ebook revolution or else you and your family would be sleeping in a box on the street.

I seriously hope no one with kids sees this path as anything close to a good idea.

Jeremy Robinson said...

I don't doubt that some readers are brand loyal fans. I know this is true.

It's like this, Joe. Imagine you're a crack dealer. And a certain portion of the population only likes the expensive stuff. So you sell it to them for $25 a hit. You don't make a ton of money from these sales because the brand name stuff involves cartels, shipping, smuggling, and large supply of condoms and stuffed animals. But after a few hits, they're addicted, and feeling it in the wallet. They'll look for something cheaper. So you open up your sinister looking trench coat and reveal a stash of $2.99 homemade narcotics as good as the $25 hit. That junkie is going to be in paradise and will probably end up buying the whole supply, which is great, because while you still have the $25 designer crack available to those that prefer them (and may very well get addicted) you make as much money, per score, from the homemade goodness.

It's a messed up analogy, but applicable. When the e-book shift happens en mass I know the e-book sales of my print books will suffer because of price. But I'll also have 15 different $2.99 options for the addicts that make the switch.

I've already heard from a good number of my print readers who bought Kindles for the express purpose of buying my e-books. I'm sure e-fans are buying print books, but my mass market sales are still high enough that I have no doubt the larger numbers are moving from print to e-reader.

For now.

STH said...

Okay I found the mysterious book. It is the campaign I remembered. I won't give the name because Jeremy doesn't seem to want people to know. But for anyone who is interested in learning more about marketing books out of the gate, the amazon product page alone is a clinic.

I especially love the author bio. Great, clever stuff.

I'm learning all this on the fly, and seeing more and more how much the marketing must come into play. I'm writing a screenplay for King's X on a deadline that's fast approaching - and it represents a great opportunity for me - but honestly, I can't stop thinking about improving my marketing of the books, and writing the next novel, and the next.

The control that this format offers for creating your own career - in writing, in design, in branding, in marketing - it's just so empowering, so exciting, and so much fun. Thanks again to Joe, the guests, and the board regulars. Great stuff everybody!

Jeremy Robinson said...

Wow, that's flat out idiotic. Good thing you lucked into the ebook revolution or else you and your family would be sleeping in a box on the street.

I was waiting for that response. Here are some quotes you may have heard before:

“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one's ideas, to take a calculated risk - and to act.” -- Andre Malraux

“He who risks and fails can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being.” -- Paul Tillich

“Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don't. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever.” -- Philip Andrew Adams

Most of the successful people in the world, not counting those who were born into money, at one time, risked everything. What I find idiotic is having a dream and being too consumed by fear to pursue it with your whole heart.

Catana/Sylvie Mac said...

"Is there a genre so niche that you really don't think you could sell more than 500 copies and make the money back (not counting poetry)? As we've seen on this blog, even subjects that I would have thought to have tiny niches (incest) can have large audiences."

From what I've seen, incest isn't exactly a tiny niche, and it's hot enough to attract people who are interested in that subject. Not every niche genre has that kind of draw.

""I don't have the money." What they're saying is, "It's not worth the risk." I maxed three credit cards in six months in pursuit of my dreams. This is America. Getting a $1000 credit limit is easy (unless you've already killed your credit buying flatscreen TVs)."

If I wasn't actually an American, my response would be "typical American arrogance." Maybe your reality includes flatscreen TVs and $1,000. credit lines. Mine includes living close to the poverty line. At that, I'm doing better than a lot of writers who are struggling to pay the bills and keep food on the table. And who are also struggling to get the words out, and learning to do whatever needs to be done to put their books in front of the public. And they certainly don't need to be insulted by being told that they're just not willing to take the necessary risks.

Kendall Swan said...

@ evilphilip -WOOHOO- Congrats and welcome to the club!

Side note: You know, JAK, I look forward to your blog posts as much as I look forward to the the pub marketplace deluxe email. But I pay $20/mo for the latter. Such great content. You should charge! I will pay.

I totally agree with JAK regarding JR basically trying to win the lottery. That is a lot of money to gamble with. I don't think I would have the guts to do that.

Re publishers brainwashing readers:
I have found this to be true. I started writing 2 years ago and duly joined my local RWA chapter who informed my of the timelines of being published (and then didn't understand the incredulous look on my face.)
Fast forward to now. We just had our meeting Saturday and there were the same conversations--'that's really exciting','tell me more', and 'there's so many bad ebooks', 'that doesn't work'.

I stopped arguing with the naysayers last year. And I used to be excited by the ones who wanted to know more-- until it became clear that they literally did nothing with the information. They are too scared to pull the trigger despite the low risk.

Again, this reminds me of real estate investing-- tons of people want to do it, but when it comes down to signing on the dotted line/pulling the trigger, they can't do it.

The conclusion I draw from this is that there will always be the NY pub simply bc of the emotional role they play for writers.

Having never been trad published, I don't think I will ever understand that mindset since I certainly don't plan on being traditionally published at this point.

@Jeremy Robinson - you did a book trailer? A few times now, I'm almost at the point of writing them off (pictures vs words imho) but then I hear of someone that might have had some success with one.
Who did yours, if you don't mind sharing?

Thanks!

Happy Writing!

Kendall Swan

Kendall Swan said...

Can't wait till Amanda Hocking joins Nora, Steig, and James in the Amazon million book club.

That'll be a game changing day.

Kendall Swan

wannabuy said...

@Jeremy"As to the details on how it's done, it's easy. "

Oh man, you should have dramatized it a bit more. I thought there would be more to it. ;) Thanks. Its cool that it is that easy. :)

@Jeremy"which is why my e-releases will out number my print releases 4 - 1 in coming years."

I'm only a reader (no illusions about being an author), but that sounds like a 'good enough' strategy to me.

And I applaud you for the risks and sacrifices you made to get to where you are.

Neil

Jeremy Robinson said...

Mine includes living close to the poverty line.

As I mentioned in the post, I lived at and below the poverty line for years. It CAN be done. It may take some time. It took a LOT of time, in my case. But you either have to learn how to do it right yourself, or spend money. To say a book won't sell if the author doesn't do one of these things isn't an insult, it's just true. People often have to risk something—significant time or money—in my case both—to succeed.

For the record, my TV is a $150 special from Walmart. :) Most of my spending goes right into the books.

I do have one idea for saving money whilst still creating a good product. Hire pros with a little money down and then offer payment on royalties. I did the cover for 33 A.D. by David McAfee using this arrangement and now he's selling awesome and we both got paid.

wannabuy said...

@Kendall"Can't wait till Amanda Hocking joins Nora, Steig, and James in the Amazon million book club"

Hear hear! She won't be the last either. :) I'm particularly impressed by her blog. e.g., how she uses "foxy" instead of the 'dirty work' "sexy." I have two daughters, if she is still popular when they get to the age to read those books, I will encourage them to try those books.

Personally, I'm waiting for Amanda's first movie. ;)

Neil

Jeremy Robinson said...

@Jeremy Robinson - you did a book trailer? A few times now, I'm almost at the point of writing them off (pictures vs words imho) but then I hear of someone that might have had some success with one.
Who did yours, if you don't mind sharing?


Certainly. I create them. I purchase the rights to video clips, I hire a voice over artist, find royalty free music, or buy the rights to it and put it together myself for about $200 - $300. Video editing is just one of many fields I have become an expert in. Here's a list, off the top of my head, of the things I do:

1. Video Editing
2. Audio editing (for radio or podcast adverts)
3. Cover design (The mass market of Antarktos Rising was nominated for a printing award).
4. Web site design
5. Marketing (print and online)
6. PR - Press releases and media relations
7. Interior design (I've done hard covers, mass markets, ebooks, fiction and non-fiction).
8. Flash animation (see the top of my website).
9. Illustration - many of my books include maps and drawings designs (ebooks and those published by Thomas Dunne) that I have done. And I have an illustrated book coming out in hard cover next fall, THE NINJA'S PATH.

In short, there isn't one single part of publishing (aside from editing) that I cannot do. And I have been paid to do all these things by other people/publishers. *I no longer do these things freelance because I now need that time for writing more books.

Anonymous said...

Mine includes living close to the poverty line. At that, I'm doing better than a lot of writers who are struggling to pay the bills and keep food on the table.


This is just a pathetic excuse. Jeremy is right. Plus, a lot of the people that "cry poor" about paying for food instead of editing are actually paying for internet access, cellphones, and other extras that everyone wants and no one needs.

A lot of us live paycheck-to-paycheck, but we put our money into our dreams, rather than buying more junk.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Jeremy on all of your success. As a YA author I am wondering how you have been able to generate such high sales for the YA market? I have found this frustrating.

Also could the way an ebook is presented or formatted be a turnoff to fans?

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

The Daring Novelist said...

I get what you're saying about the brand loyalty... but I think that the issue is more complicated than that.

That is, I think brand loyalty is central to all publishing -- readers shop by author. But there is a huge difference between 'brand loyalty' and mere habit. And you seem to be talking about habit more than real loyalty.

It used to be that the really big 'brand loyalty' was to the midlist writers. The best sellers were not the same people over and over again like it is now, but rather you saw more variation, and more books that were just breaking out of the pack of books.

But the distributors and booksellers make more money when they can predict bestsellers, so they worked to narrow the choices.

While a lot of those bestselling authors do deserve to be where they are (and will survive, imho) I do think a lot of the 'brand loyalty' isn't really brand loyalty at all. A portion of those readers really would prefer something else, it's just that those books were pushed on them by being the most available and easy to find.

It isn't just price. The whole best seller system is rotten, and while I don't think it will go away, the part that publishers depend on will crumble.

Chris Eboch said...

It's funny (and a little sad) how much envy there is in the writing world for other formats. I had a very successful series author tell me she was envious because I had a hardcover title, while I envied her the lifespan of a series. (Having now published both, each has advantages.)

I interviewed some script writers for a Writers Digest article -- fairly big names, with major successes -- and more than one said they envied novelists who had more control over their work.

Chris Eboch
The Well of Sacrifice: a Mayan adventure
Haunted: The Ghost on the Stairs, The Riverboat Phantom and The Knight in the Shadows

The Daring Novelist said...

As for the poverty line:

It's easy to claim someone else, is wasting money, or has the opportunity to go into debt. (There are a lot of people these days who had to file bankruptcy -- living paycheck to paycheck does not involve any access to credit cards. Not everybody has their own access the internet, and many still use, erp, dailup.

So chill out with your judgmental crap. "I gave up my lattes, so you can give up your rice and beans," is a nasty view of life. Not everybody has the same safety net.

Cutting ten percent of a 9k annual income is a whole lot different than cutting even 5 percent of a 30k income. If someone splurges on a bag of chips once a week, giving that up is going to net them a whole fat lot of $3.

This person did NOT say "I can't do it because I'm poor!" She said "I can't do it YOUR WAY because I'm poor." That's not an excuse. She's going to do it anyway. That's guts, and you should not be criticizing her.

Camille
proud resident of the most depressed state in the nation

noothergods said...

Thanks for the advice and encouragement. I know I'm not alone is saying that I hope, someday, I can do as well as Jeremy. The advice about being willing to take a risk and spend some money is definitely something I need to take to heart.

Selena Kitt said...

I wont say the books name, but I have read the "horror" book Jeremy mentions. It sold over 1000 copies because it's a great book...

Okay now I'm mad. I love horror and I want to read this damned book.

Someone email me a frickin' title, pretty please! :)

(p.s. incest is actually a huge market in erotica, it just wasn't picked up by erotic epubs that's all - it's the #1 category on the largest free erotic story site on the web. ;)

Verilees said...

@Linda Nagata: I read the Bohr Maker and Limits of Vision when they first came out. I thought The Bohr Maker in particular was very good. I know nothing about marketing books, but you probably need to do away with some of that white space on the Amazon pages for Goddesses. Also you need some reviews. There is a thread on one of the Amazon boards where you can offer to trade a free copy or two for reviews.

I just bought Goddesses because I like sf and I liked your prior work, but I have about five other books I have to read and review first.

@Joe-- a fingerprint, how marvelous. I'm extremely leery of buying autographed books that I actually haven't seen the author sign in person due to the crap that was going on with fake autographs on eBay. I also an autographed copy of My Dark Places by James Ellroy that has what looks like a swirl on it rather than anyone's name, he must have been tired and annoyed by the time he got to that one.

Justin said...

The marketing thing interests me. I've got a comic book coming out later this year from one of the bigger publishers, not to mention forthcoming ebooks, so actually getting the word out is something I could stand to here more about.

(I'm contemplating bringing out a B&W Kindle edition of the comic, too, so there's overlap.)

Actually, Joe, I was wondering how effective you feel your mailing list has been?

I know in other areas it's a pretty good tool, but I've not really heard of anyone doing much in fiction with one.

HyperPulp 5000: Fresh Fiction Daily, Now With Added Pulp Goodness

bowerbird said...

linda said:
> Granted my prices are higher,
> but changing price hasn't had
> any discernible effect on sales.

your $6 e-book
is dead on arrival.

lower your price
and _leave_ it low.

temporary price-cuts
will not be effective.

***

sth said:
> How do you sell 1000 books
> in the first month with
> a pen name that has
> no track record?

jeremy tells of a big campaign.

and there's a matter of quality.

not discounting any of that, but
there's a degree of luck involved
with such a quick, viral uptake...

be patient.

-bowerbird

Jeremy Robinson said...

Okay now I'm mad. I love horror and I want to read this damned book. Someone email me a frickin' title, pretty please! :)

E-mail me. I reveal this info privately to people who promise not to reveal it publicly.

(p.s. incest is actually a huge market in erotica, it just wasn't picked up by erotic epubs that's all - it's the #1 category on the largest free erotic story site on the web. ;)

I know that now. I just wouldn't have guessed it. :)

Kendall Swan said...

OMG-- the power of the takeaway is amazing.

I kinda wanted to read it your horror novel before but now I just have to.

Kendall

Joe Flynn said...

I've had the good fortune of working with Jeremy Robinson and meeting him at ThrillerFest a couple of years ago. He designed the cover for my most recent mainstream published book The President's Henchman. After the publisher recently dropped the price to $2.99, it got as high as #32 on the genre fiction, political list on Amazon. The sequel to TPH, The Hangman's Companion today became my first book to reach triple digit sales figures for the month. Next: quadruple digit sales per month. Joe Konrath is right, you've got to persevere, but you should have a good time while you're doing it. You can meet a lot of interesting people along the way. Guys like Jeremy.

Mike Dennis said...

Here we go again. Another unlikely success story. Jeremy writes a novel, throws it up on Lulu, sells 6000 books in one year (at $18 apiece!). Then he gets a print deal, has not one, not two, but three hardcovers released in just a few months' time (how in the world did that happen?), then epubs another one--this time on Kindle--and immediately sells 1000 ebooks his first month.

A mere eight months later, he puts two more up on Kindle and proceeds to sell over 9000 ebooks in the subsequent 60 days.

Now, I know that some of this is due to "adding more books to the virtual shelf", but come on. What did he do to sell those books? A big selection alone can't sell them all. That first book didn't sell itself, especially not at $18.

Joe, how about some self-pubbed writer stories that aren't quite so magical. This is about the fourth improbable one in a row. You cautioned against comparing oneself to anyone else, yet all we see on this blog are these fairytale stories. It's like the average girl seeing only stick-figure supermodels in magazines and being told, "Don't compare yourself to them."

Joe Konrath said...

I lived at the poverty line for years. My first year out of college, I'd work nights as a waiter, days I'd write. Sometimes I couldn't afford both food and heat, so I didn't pay for heat.

One time in the morning I got up to a frigid apartment and went to the bathroom and my shampoo had frozen.

My wife knew what she was getting into when she married me. I worked like a dog to get published, and once I was published, I drove us into debt doing all the marketing and traveling I did. I worked 60 hour weeks and didn't have a vacation in 6 years.

My family didn't resent me. They supported me.

Nothing great is ever accomplished without sacrifice. If it's easy, it isn't worth doing.

And though this is an unpopular stance which always gets me in trouble, no one ever became rich and famous by being a good father.

I'm not saying parenting isn't important. But I wouldn't ask my family to give up their dreams for me, and they never wanted me to give up my dreams for them.

And now? I'm rich and famous, and get to spend more time with my family than they can handle. My efforts paid off, in a big way.

Every writer has an excuse why they don't try as hard as they should. Family. Health. Money. Day job.

I'm not saying those excuses aren't valid. But if you want to succeed, you must make your success your number one priority.

Joe Konrath said...

This is about the fourth improbable one in a row.

Apparently they aren't as improbable as you think.

One of the goals of my blog is to motivate, and to show what's possible.

There will be more guest posts from more successful authors, because it IS possible to be a success.

If you aren't a success, try harder.

jtplayer said...

And though this is an unpopular stance which always gets me in trouble, no one ever became rich and famous by being a good father

Yeah...and we all know being rich & famous is the key to happiness.

Anyone who believes that trading good parenting for fame and money is an ok way to go is fu*ked in the head. Period.

And yes, I am a parent.

The Daring Novelist said...

Joe: nobody's saying you can't get there without sacrifice.

The argument is whether you have to invest $1000 to start. Which is the same as saying if you don't have that money, and if you don't have credit, you should give up.

You commit all you've got. If all you've got are time and brainpower, that's what you commit. Everybody gets the same amount of time in a day, and you can chose how to spend it. That cannot be said of money.

Especially if you're already sacrificing money to spend the time on writing.

Sweat equity, if that's all you got, will do.

Tara Maya said...

I think there is a #7. here for Joe's list.

"My books sell because I work like a bastard."

That's something else I've noticed all the big ebook sellers here have had in common, including Joe.

I'm happy to report that the first novel in my new series, The Unfinished Song: Initiate reached #54 in Fantasy-Mythology books at one point over the weekend. (It's dipped again now.) It rose from close to #200,000 in books to a high around #5000 in books. I thank a number of reviewers who have had good things to say about it.

It only sold 13 books the first month. This month, so far, I've sold over 80, and I'm hoping to hit 100. I realize this is still pretty far from the 1000 a month club, but I have 8 more books in this series. And I am working my tail off to make it shine.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

David Wood said...

Regarding book trailers, Jeremy did a funny series of humorous trailers for one of his earliest books. They were simple, easy to do, but memorable for their humor. I can't get to YouTube at work, but they're probably still there. Basically, the premise was that something wacky would happen in each video, and one guy would be oblivious because he was so engrossed in Jeremy's book. I've known him for a long time, and he always seems to be ahead of the curve on marketing. (Plus, he writes good books.)

Tara Maya said...

And yes, at times, I feel like a terrible mother.

I've definitely been told by some relatives that I am a terrible mother, because how dare I risk the family finances by (a) not having a full time job or (b) not being a Stay At Home Mom who devotes myself fully to kids and housework.

The one think I am NOT ALLOWED TO BE is a writer/entrepeneur. How dare I work a 60 hr week at a job that might not pay off? Somehow, that makes me a lazy person.

There is no way any writer can win that argument. Our society will forgive a wage-slave for working long hours to support children, but not someone doing creative work.

I think they are too jealous that we are doing what we love.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Jeremy Robinson said...

Joe, how about some self-pubbed writer stories that aren't quite so magical.

Magical? Seriously, Mike? Magical?? You think working for ten years without pay, while driving a car with a door that needed to be tied shut with a rope, eating boxed noodles every night, living in crappy apartments, magical?? Really?

It would be magical if I wrote my first book, became a bestseller and made a million bucks.

And your timeline is all screwed up. I self-published the first book in 2005. Two more in 2007. And another in 2009. The first hard cover came out in 2009, too. The second in 2010. And the third hasn't come out yet.

This whole process from beginning until now is 15 years of struggle (I have yet to take a vacation, Joe, maybe I'll try it this year!). There's is nothing, not one thing, magical about it. I'm not even a bestselling author! I'm just making a living, doing what I love.

Selena Kitt said...

What did he do to sell those books?

Did you see this guy's website? When he says he's studying marketing, he isn't kidding.

As for the starving artist parenting thing... I would MUCH rather have a husband who was a happy starving artist than a miserable corporate executive. I've lived with both, so I can say that. :)

A man who is following his calling is the best, sexiest thing in the world. People weren't meant to sacrifice themselves completely for their children, in spite of our strange cultural bias. People were meant to live their bliss. Khalil Gibran's view of children ("They come through you but not from you") applies to parents as well. The street goes both ways. I respect a man who doesn't pin his own ambition and hopes on his sons or daughters, but instead goes out and follows his own calling. It's the best thing he can do for them in the long run.

David Wood said...

@Mike Dennis
I don't want to come across as a fanboy here, I just happen to have known Jeremy for a long time and he's given me a plethora of good advice along the way. The short answer to your question is that Jeremy's road was not nearly as quick and easy is this guest post makes it sound. Beginning with Lulu, he was way ahead of the rest of us on tips and tricks for marketing POD books, and even wrote a book on the subject. With each of his subsequent releases, he always seemed to come up with several new ideas of which none of us had thought. By the time he had his print deal, he was already a big success (by print on demand standards.) He actually got into ebooks comparatively late. He could write several guest posts on his marketing strategies alone. He put in a great deal of work along the way.

Selena Kitt said...

P.S.

Tara, that applies to women as well. Parents in general. Women get to follow our bliss too - it just tends to involve more diaper changing, spitup and carpools. ;)

Jeremy Robinson said...

For the record, I'm a badass Dad. :)

Selena Kitt said...

Hey Joe, I forgot to ask - what company are you going to print your hardcovers through?

Tara Maya said...

"This whole process from beginning until now is 15 years of struggle (I have yet to take a vacation, Joe, maybe I'll try it this year!). There's is nothing, not one thing, magical about it. I'm not even a bestselling author! I'm just making a living, doing what I love."

Amen.

If you want non-"magical" stories -- people who did not sell even enough to recieve a single check from Amazon, even after "years" of sales, I've seen those too.

The ones I looked at had this in common:

1. Lousy covers.
2. Three or less books.
3. No reviews or only a few, negative reviews.
4. A sample or even a blurb that revealed shoddy writing.

They also had either an extremely bitter, almost nasty attitude, attacking and blaming others for their poor sales. And/or they repeatedly stated, "I'm not in this to make money." Sometimes they added that they deliberately wouldn't invest any money in the project because they weren't in it to make money, they just wanted to share their work with the world, etc.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Selena Kitt said...

Ok I really suck at these things. I could never play the license plate game where you were supposed to sound them out. Someone hit me over the head. What is ikeonsoomyu?

jtplayer said...

For the record, I'm a badass Dad. :)

Kudos to you sir!

That's very good to hear.

And yes, I consider myself a "badass" dad as well ;-)

I know my kids think so.

IMO, good parenting encompasses many things. As long as you have a bond with your kids and are providing for them, and more importantly, you are there for them and they know it, you are doing all right in my book.

Jeremy Robinson said...

What is ikeonsoomyu?

I consume you. :)

Mike Dennis said...

Jeremy--when I said "magical", I in no way meant to downplay the years of sacrifice that preceded your success. The word "magical" referred instead to your selling 6000 books the first year of your first ebook attempt, then 1000 books the first month of your second, then 9000 books the first two months of your tandem pair in November. Those are indeed magical stats.

Please share with us what you did to sell those books. The sacrifice you made in the preceding years no doubt made you a good writer, and I have no doubt you write good books, but your story lacks the element that links your rise from oblivion to selling thousands of books a month almost immediately upon entering the ebook arena.

And when I said "here we go again", I meant that the last few author stories which Joe has featured have all lacked that linking element. Other commenters keep writing it off to "luck", but I refuse to believe that luck is what made you successful.

From David Wood--
"The short answer to your question is that Jeremy's road was not nearly as quick and easy is this guest post makes it sound".

David--I would hope not. I wish he had included it in his story. But I hope you, and maybe others too, can see how I viewed the whole thing as extremely unlikely, since none of his marketing know-how was even hinted at in his guest post. The post really did make it sound quick and easy.

Selena Kitt said...

What is ikeonsoomyu?

I consume you. :)


Doh! I knew it was going to be something obvious.

Thanks :)

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I've heard it said that human beings are naturally scared of risk and inclined to avoid it, so it can be very profitable to take the risks no one else wants to -- if they're calculated risks, and if you're willing to tough out some difficulties. Sounds like this is part of a novelist's career path, especially now that self-publishing is so viable.

Great to hear that the dream is coming true for you, Jeremy.

David Wood said...

@Mike- I understand. I hope my reply came across as filling in some of the blanks.

JimPI said...

First, let me thank all of the authors who have contributed to the blog posts here. There's a ton of great information being given out by those who truly walk the walk and talk the talk.

Personally, I don't want success badly enough, I'm not hungry enough, to want to give up the amount of interaction I enjoy with my kids. I grew up with a Dad who was almost obsessed with chasing dollars and as a result worked 70+ hours a week. I didn't see him much, even on the weekends. Sure, he was successful and made a damn good living. But, he missed out on a lot of my childhood as a result. In later years, he's confessed he wished he'd been around more and worked less.

It is a decision that can only be made at the individual level and I don't begrudge anyone which way they go. I can only answer for myself.

Writers write. No matter how good you are at marketing, cover illustrations, or web design, you have to write the damn book first. Ass in chair, fingers on keyboard, day by day until you hit those magic words--The End.

Personally, I'll write whether I make $10K a month or $10 a year. I do what I do because I love to string words together. If I can turn that into a viable career path, great! If not, I'll never consider it as time misspent.

Jeremy Robinson said...

Please share with us what you did to sell those books. ...I have no doubt you write good books, but your story lacks the element that links your rise from oblivion to selling thousands of books a month almost immediately upon entering the ebook arena. ...Other commenters keep writing it off to "luck", but I refuse to believe that luck is what made you successful.

Okay, this line of questioning makes more sense now. Thanks for clarifying. On one hand, I am willing to explain what I do for marketing . But some of what I do I consider trade secrets, mainly because if I told everyone, and everyone started doing the same thing, it would no longer be effective. So I will never reveal everything that I do.

I've done video trailers, viral video campaigns (one had 300k views), blog, vlog, twitter, facebook, myspace, a good website, hit message boards, have contests, issue press releases (and get coverage) about my marketing techniques, I've recorded and given away two audiobooks, get interviews with radio stations, podcasts, etc, etc, etc. I have tried EVERYTHING! And when I released my pen name book, I focused on what I knew worked best AND gave away fifty free copies to readers and bloggers willing to post reviews.

What's funny is that I don't think I did enough! I would like to continue my marketing push for six months, but just don't have the time.

One of the cool new things I'm doing will appear on my next hardcover release, THRESHOLD. On the cover is a QR code that people with smart phones can use to watch the book trailer and an author interview right there in the store. I'll probably also get press for this too. Marketing that gets press is a one two punch.

So there you go. Other than my marketing black ops, that's what I do to move books. I spend 1/3 to 1/2 my time on marketing.

Selena Kitt said...

Jeremy, how do your iPhone apps do? Do you find them effective? Worth it?

Ellen O'Connell said...

@Mike Dennis "The word "magical" referred instead to your selling 6000 books the first year of your first ebook attempt...."

I will be the first person to admit that I'm finding this whole ebook business "magical." And some of Joe's posts sure give me the impression he's almost having trouble believing some of what's happening himself.

As to magic, unlike Joe or Jeremy I'm a "pure indie," never published in any way until I put out a cozy mystery last February on DTP. I didn't do many of the things that are now being touted as necessary for success, and my success is certainly more modest than Jeremy's and the others featured here.

However, doing it all myself - making my own covers, doing my own editing, relying only on non-professional beta readers, in less than a year I've sold over 9,000 Kindle books alone (2d book released in April, 3d book released in November).

Further, I will confess unlike these guys who say they've killed themselves, taken risks and chances, etc., I haven't. I'm a quality of life kind of person and turned away from the traditional publishing industry long ago when I realized traditional publishing would require me doing things I didn't want to do.

So IMO the magic isn't in the particular stories Joe is featuring. The magic is in what's going on right now - this incredible opportunity that has opened up for so many of us. It's an opportunity, not a guarantee of success, but it's there. At least it's there right now.

@Camille - I'm with you. As far as I'm concerned, investing $1,000 before putting out my first book would have been financially irresponsible to the nth degree. My back was against a financial wall, and I had no idea if the book would sell so much as 1 copy. I also didn't have some long-suffering spouse to support me while I experimented for years. For me, checking how firm the footing was before taking the next step was the way to go, and I'm not sorry.

James H. Byrd said...

Thanks for another great post, Joe. I appreciate the way you have brought forth authors who prove self-pubbing is doable and I especially enjoy your perspectives on these guest posts.

This is EXACTLY why I want you to speak at the Self-Publishers Online Conference this May. The audience is a bunch of authors who want to self-publish (or already are), and they really need to hear what you have to say.

It's just a one hour teleseminar. You can do it from home in your pajamas. We can pre-record it if you want. Whatever it takes!

I haven't had much luck getting in touch with you, so please contact me, even if it's just to tell me to buzz off.

http://www.selfpublishersonlineconference.com/contact.aspx

Joe Konrath said...

Anyone who believes that trading good parenting for fame and money is an ok way to go is fu*ked in the head. Period.

And yes, I am a parent.


I'm a parent too. A damn good one.

But guess what? I'm also rich and famous. :)

Tara Maya said...

There are different kinds of poverty -- lack of money is one, lack of time is another. (I.e. you may not actually be living at the poverty line but still in danger of losing your house if you quit the day job paying your mortgage). There is also lack of experience.

What I think we are seeing here is that you can do great if you have money, time and experience to invest in your first ebooks. But even if you don't have all of these, or any of these, it's still better to put something out there and start learning than to sit around afraid to take a risk.

I've made plenty of mistakes because of lack of experience. I invested around the $1000 mentioned here by going into debt. (Possibly a dumb choice.) And most of all I lack the time I would like to work on promoting and marketing. I've had to craft a writing and marketing plan that works for my tight schedule.

But it's OKAY because no-one is going to yank my book from the shelves if I don't prove myself in six weeks. There is time for the slow build.

One thing that always bothered me about trad publishing was this idea that if you blew your "book virginity" then you were fallen and no publisher would ever want to make an honest author of you.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Joe Konrath said...

Hey Joe, I forgot to ask - what company are you going to print your hardcovers through?

I'm open to suggestions. If you know something, tell me.

Joe Konrath said...

I haven't had much luck getting in touch with you, so please contact me, even if it's just to tell me to buzz off.

I've stopped all public appearances, and get so much email I can't reply to it all. Thanks for the offer, but I just don't do that anymore.

Watcher said...

@Joe:

How important is brand loyalty in an ebook era?


I think that brand loyalty is going to be more important than ever. Weak to medium brands will likely be under assault when readers have so much choice. But my personal experience is that finding a fabulous author to read is damn difficult, and once I've found one, I keep reading what they write until they jump the shark. (Actually, I'll usually go a book or two past that just in case they get back on form.) Price is not going to be any factor when I need to get my hands on the next Nathan Lowell or J.K. Rowling. By the same token, no price will be cheap enough to bring me back to Terry Goodkind, because his interests as an author no longer align with mine as a reader.

jtplayer said...

I'm a parent too. A damn good one.
But guess what? I'm also rich and famous. :)


Congratulations for achieving both.

My comment was reserved for those who trade one for the other.

Lauryn Christopher said...

Tara wrote:
One thing that always bothered me about trad publishing was this idea that if you blew your "book virginity" then you were fallen and no publisher would ever want to make an honest author of you.

Love it, Tara! Thank you for that!

Lauryn Christopher
"Conflict of Interest"
www.camdenparkpress.com

Tara Maya said...

I assumed Joe's earlier comment on success through bad parenting was to be taken with the same dousing of salt as his earlier remarks on turning MG into erotica, and indeed, any one of his novels. ;) You may have noticed a certain trend toward dark humor...

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Joe Konrath said...

Congratulations for achieving both.

My comment was reserved for those who trade one for the other.


I know several people who never should have had children. It's a bad situation all around.

Equally bad is living for, and through, your children.

If there's a such thing as a secret to good parenting, I think it's the same as the secret to a good marriage, or a good friendship. Love, empathy, and communication.

But, again, does history care if Thomas Jefferson had kids? Einstein? Was Amelia Earhart a good mother? Do we revere Hemingway because his children adored him? Does Jeff Bezos have kids? Did Babe Ruth? Neil Armstrong? Picasso?

I can name a few dozen people I admire, and I don't know, nor care, if they had families. I care about what they contributed to society. And they all had to bust their asses and make sacrifices in order to make those contributions.

Yes, parenting is important. But being a dad doesn't mean you give up on your dreams.

Jeremy Robinson said...

Hey Joe, I forgot to ask - what company are you going to print your hardcovers through?

I'm open to suggestions. If you know something, tell me.


Are you going to do a print run, Joe? Or POD? If print run, I've had great experiences with Donnelly. They print super high quality books for most of the big publishers. Less experienced, but more affordable is www.thinkpublications.com. They can get nice looking books printed with all the bells and whistles (foil stamping, embossing, etc). FYI, I don't think they advert novel printing on the website, but they do do it. For POD, Lightning Source, does good work, but the jacket is straight gloss, no embossing, etc.

For a $40 hardcover I think I'd want bells and whistles in addition to your fingerprint. :)

STH said...

"But, again, does history care if Thomas Jefferson had kids? Einstein?"

Agreed. History might remember Joe Kennedy's contribution as having a few pretty effective kids. But as a Dad... well, let's just say he thought a lobotomy for his daughter was effective parenting.

As a former school teacher I can tell you one thing that some parents miss. Nobody, and I mean nobody has a better bullshit meter than someone who hasn't finished growing up yet.

Therefore, the best thing any parent can do for their child is be a good example to follow. Ideally, that means doing something that is really hard, "getting right" the one lesson we are were all probably put here to learn. Namely, how to consistently be the best version of yourself.

So to be a good parent, do your best, as often and as consistently as you can. Follow your dreams to be the best "you" possible. And above all else, when you screw it up from time to time, don't lie about it. That means don't lie about to yourself by making a bullshit excuse about whose fault it was. Because if you lie to yourself, you are lying to your kids, and they will see through it.

The trouble for them comes from the fact that they are just kids, so they often don't know what to do about BS coming from adults, particulr adults who love them. They can't process it, they can't explain it, they just internalize it and eventually turn it into their own bullshit. And the more important the adult is, the worse seeing through their BS hurts and confuses.

That's also why it's so important not to "live through your kids." You can't be your best if you do that. Therefore, you can't really be a great role model except for someone who will one day live through their own kids and repeat the process.

Jeremy Robinson said...

Jeremy, how do your iPhone apps do?

They haven't been out for too long so it's hard to say, but they've been downloaded maybe 1500 times, for free. I haven't dedicated the last 15 years to marketing iPhone apps, so selling them is kinda hard. But giving them away turns out to be easy. :) I think they're a good promotional tool, but as with most things I do, I made one of the apps 100% on my own and had help from friends with the game, but neither cost much money to make. Had I hired someone to make the app it would have run about $2000 and the game closer to $30,000. Definitely not worth it.

Carson Wilder said...

Don’t half-ass it.

This is great advice. I slapped together some book covers the other day thinking I might be able to save some money, then I had to slap myself because in reality they SUCKED. When my book is finished, I'll be paying to have a professional-quality cover produced. I'm sure it will be worth every penny.

Thanks for the inspiring and informative post, Joe and Jeremy.

Christy Pinheiro said...

Are you going to do a print run, Joe? Or POD?

LSI offers a harcover option now.

I think that offset is an absolute waste of money and time. Just use CreateSpace or LSI and mark the books non-returnable and be done with it.

I did ONE book (an audiobook) through Amazon Advantage last year-- where I was the one packing and shipping it, and I was frustrated after the first month. The audiobook lost money, too-- about 2K. All my POD editions were profitable.

So POD and ebooks are the future for me-- no more offset or print runs of anything. My learning curve is over in that respect.

Fran Yoakum Veal said...

Jeremy said:
"It also helped that the general subject (zombies) is popular"

Too true! I posted an exerpt from my first YA on my blog that had my MC stumbling across her dad's dead body and looking into his dead eyes. Almost all the commenters jumped to the "zombie" conclusion.

az said...

@Ruth Harris, who wrote:

The paperback houses had so much money that auctions by savvy sub rights directors resulted in soaring prices for paperback rights and kept authors and the hardcover houses afloat...Eventually, of course, that bubble -- like most -- burst...

Thank you for a timely insight. The amateur economist in me was too young, at the time, to pay much attention. I remember shelving those books in the drugstore when I was a high school student working there part-time. We used to occasionally grab them to read on our breaks. And nearly all the books I took out of the library were MMPBs. So much easier to carry in the gym bag, etc. I used to wonder why anyone would read a hardcover.

Thinking about ereaders and even-smaller portable devices brought those old days back to mind.

az said...

Further to the comments upthread about Jeremy Robinson gambling with his family's future, IMHO he's right about having to take the risk. I'm not American, and I've worked with enough entrepreneurs and independent businesspeople to understand that's what has to be done. At the same time, my heart goes out to those who aren't in a position to take a risk like that. I hope they can find the supports they need to achieve their dreams, without engaging in risky business behaviours that go beyond their tolerance levels.

What Tara Maya wrote about 60-hour weeks and parenting is only a natural response from most people. Most people are risk averse when it comes to gambling on themselves. Never ceases to amaze me how many of those will walk into a casino and blow their hard earned dough. Yet (most of) society accepts this, at least grudgingly. What about applauding those who slave their butts off and don't end up at the top of the heap?

That said, one does need to evaluate how that magical concept, work-life balance, fits into one's own life.


[Side note to our gracious host: I don't pay for the deluxe of the publishers' newsletter, but I *would* pay for yours. Maybe not $20/month, but certainly something.]

Suzanne said...

Jeremy has written of taking big risks. For all who fear failure, and for all who have lived in poverty or are living in it now, watch this video of J. K. Rowling speaking at Harvard about the value of failure and imagination.

Suzanne Adair

Tara Maya said...

It's a great speach, Suzanne.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

The Daring Novelist said...

As I look at all these posts, I think the summary is:

Nobody's going to do this for you.

I mean, even if different writers have put forward a lot of other morals to their stories, the thing that every one of these (but most especially this one) is that nobody is going to do this for you.

And...

Nobody can tell you what will work best for you.

You have to mess around and try it all -- not just a little bit, but you have to push the envelope. The only thing that I'm positive doesn't work (because it doesn't appear in any success story I've heard yet) is sitting around and whining about it.

bowerbird said...

mike dennis said:
> Other commenters keep
> writing it off to "luck", but
> I refuse to believe that luck
> is what made you successful.

don't get it mixed up.

luck is _not_ what made
jeremy successful, but
luck _might_ be why he
got more sales under his
no-reputation pen-name
than under his "real" name.

why do some youtube videos
go viral with millions of views,
while others enjoy far fewer?
nobody really knows, but
luck is certainly involved...

the same with anything else
that goes "viral" in cyberspace:
it just happened to impact the
right people at the right time,
who told their friends, who...

so that's not something that
you can expect to bottle up,
for release at opportune times.

which is why you shouldn't
feel bad if it doesn't happen.

***

joe, i'd think you should add
to your recipe of ingredients
"a generous preview sample".

i think it's already important,
but the preview will come to
be increasingly crucial to sales.

if amazon won't let you give
a long-enough sample, put one
up on your website. it is vital!

***

catana said:
> Mine includes living
> close to the poverty line.

christy pinheiro will vouch that
i used to do battle against the
self-publishers who insisted
that one had to transform into
a business to make money from
self-publishing, by spending
all kinds of money up-front...

the very thing that is _most_
appealing about self-publishing
in electronic form is that you can
do it with zero up-front money...

that means you can self-publish
even if you live at poverty-level.
_that_ is the real "magic", folks...

is it better if you can hire people
to do the cover art, and make
video trailers, and all that rot?
sure... but it's not _necessary_.

be patient. if your book is good,
word-of-mouth will do its magic.
it might take a while. could take
a _very_ long time. but you ain't
goin' nowhere, so it don't matter.

***

joe, about printing hardcovers...

it depends on whether you want
to handle distribution yourself,
or hand that over to someone...

if you hand it over, might as well
use l.s.i. (or createspace, since i
saw you blurbed them recently,
assuming they do hardcovers.)

but if _you_ handle distribution,
i'd suggest a chicago printer...
physical deals benefit from the
utility of interacting with a local.

plus p.o.d. can't match the ways
a printer can make quality books,
which you need for a $40 product.

an ability to pick paper you love,
actually feel a sample hardback,
_touch_ examples of their work --
these things will transform you,
the same way you felt that day
you first picked up a hard-copy
of your book from a publisher...

plus you'll get lower cost to boot.

(and some chicago printers are
big enough that they _will_ do
distribution too, if you pay 'em.)

-bowerbird

wannabuy said...

@Tara "3. No reviews or only a few, negative reviews."

That implies a novel that was unedited or otherwise belonged back in the 'slush pile,' as well as point #4. Those can fade away.

Hey, I see you're doing multi book series! Good for you. Does that mean I have a long wait for a full length 'painted world' novel? Pursue the market by all means... I'll be patient. ;)

Neil

Selena Kitt said...

why do some youtube videos go viral with millions of views, while others enjoy far fewer? nobody really knows, but luck is certainly involved...

Maybe luck. I think of it more as an "x-factor." Some writers have it. Some books have it. Some viral videos have it. It's hard to pin down or say what "X" is... but we all recognize it when we see it.

jtplayer said...

I agree with providing long previews.

I read one time that Amazon previews are approximately 10% of the ebook. I find that hard to believe, as many books I sample have very short previews.

Either way, I think a good long sample is necessary to give the reader a feel for the book.

As far as luck goes, I agree it plays a major part in all of this. In my mind, there's just no other way to explain why some achieve so much, yet others fall flat despite well written and well promoted work.

James H. Byrd said...

Regarding POD vs offset print run...

John Ingram (founder of Lightning Source) puts it this way: "We used to try to go from 1000 books to 1, now we go from 1 to 1000."

The idea here is that POD is cost effective when you have no idea how many books you will sell or how long it will take to sell them.

If you do have a good idea of how many books you will sell (you get a bulk order or you have a good sales history), then an offset print run can really bump up your margin.

For example, if your sales through Amazon run more than a couple hundred books a month, you should really look at the idea of switching over to Amazon Advantage and doing offset print runs. You can easily save 50% or more on the print cost that way -- all of which goes toward your profit.

Another thing Mr. Ingram says is "It's not an either/or proposition any more: it's either/and."

Doing POD does not preclude doing offset runs, and vice versa. You just have to be smart about when you do one versus the other. Don't use digital to print 1,000 books for a special sale, and don't use offset to print 1,000 books that have no customers yet.

Tara Maya said...

Neil: Does that mean I have a long wait for a full length 'painted world' novel?

I'm afraid you'll have to wait at least a year, because I'm in school. However, the series I'm publishing now is already written, it just needs editing, and in some of the later volumes, revisions. That will still take one to two months for me to prep each book, I think, because of my other obligations.

However, after I am out of school, I'll be working full time, including writing full time. You're not the only one who has been enthusiastic about the Painted World stories -- that book is my second best selling, after The Unfinished Song: Initiate -- so it's a good candidate for my next series. (Thanks for asking about it!)

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Christy Pinheiro said...

You should really look at the idea of switching over to Amazon Advantage and doing offset print runs.

I disagree with this.

Amazon Advantage has so many drawbacks, I can't even being to list them, but here are three major ones that I can tell you from personal experience:

1. Amazon Advantage will only pre-order one copy to stock in their warehouses. If the book seels out the first month, they are so behind that they will usually wait a few days before issuing you a new PO for more inventory. In the meantime, your book shows as "OUT OF STOCK" or, if you're lucky, "AVAILABLE IN 1-2 WEEKS"

2. Advantage is a consignment program. Which means the books sit there in the warehouse until the get sold, and you don't get paid until at least 30 days after the sale. Usually it's 45. And if they lose or damage your books, tough noogies. They send you back the torn, shelfworn or ripped copies with a form letter than says they are unsellable.

3. Last, but bot least, the dscount percentage is 55%. Add postage, shipping, boxes, packing material, labels, and the aggrivation of going to the post office with a 40 pound box of books because my lazy postal carrier says he is not allowed to lift boxes exceeding 25 pounds.

Trust me, POD is the way to go.

Christy Pinheiro said...

Christ, that last post was typo city. Sorry guys, I get emotional talking about POD. *sniff*

wannabuy said...

@James: "Regarding POD vs offset print run..."
Interesting read...

Once a few Indie authors get a grip on the concept, it will change marketing.

It should also change pbook marketing. I just do not get why there isn't a mix of offset print and POD at B&N (or whatever your favorite local bookstore is). That would eliminate the risk of under-printing. (No unmet demand.)

It is the only way I see about competing with the variety of ebooks.

Borders, ~100k books per store (anyone else remember their 'heyday' when it was often 150k).

B&N: 15k to 35k per store.

Of course, a $69 ereader would also have a major market impact...

Neil

wannabuy said...

@Tara:"(Thanks for asking about it!)"

Good to hear it is selling well. #2 of 4 and it is short stories... ;)

By all means get out the almost done books. I'll be patient. It is better to keep publishing a new book ever 2 to 3 months at this stage of the ebook market.

Neil

Jeremy Robinson said...

As a YA author I am wondering how you have been able to generate such high sales for the YA market? I have found this frustrating.

Sorry I missed this earlier, Sean. The sales for THE LAST HUNTER has been a slower build than the pen name horror book, but they're now neck and neck and the book is selling well over 1000 books a month.

I think part of THE LAST HUNTER'S success is due to the fact that I wrote the book into the universe I created for one of my more popular novels, ANTARKTOS RISING. So there is already a fan base for the story. I've also been sure to tell everyone that the one thing that makes this book YA is that the main character is a teenager. There is nothing else about the book that is different from all the rest in terms of content, pacing, violence, etc. Actually, it's a far more violent and gory story and much of my "adult" fiction. So I've been working hard at tapping the YA audience while keeping my adult audience along for the ride. Every skeptical fan has been won over. I also think the cover came out fairly fantastic, too, and that helps. Oh, last thing, I've been approaching fan sites of YA books that are similar and offering copies for review. Most accept. One big site turned out to be run by teens and their teacher is now having the whole class read the book and will be sending me questions which will be posted on the fansite. So it's 1 part my adult fans, and 1 part reaching out to young readers.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy,

Thanks for the reply. My novel has been picked up by two school districts in NY and I am always looking for more. On my web site I created a Teacher's Guide and will do the same for my follow up novel.

I am hoping the next novel will get more interest. Do you ever think about being involved in school book fairs?

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Jill James said...

I have Pulse on my Nook. I love that book. Jeremy, thanks for a great read.

bowerbird said...

selena said:
> I think of it more
> as an "x-factor."
> Some writers have it.
> Some books have it.
> Some viral videos have it.
> It's hard to pin down
> or say what "X" is... but
> we all recognize it
> when we see it.

you mix up luck and talent,
zeitgeist and other stuff,
and then put an "x" on it?
i'm not sure what good
_that_ will do anybody...

maybe i'll tease that apart
later on, but for right now,
what strikes me here is that
-- acknowledging the value
of showing good models --
this focus on the people who
are _selling_big_ is just the
reinvention of the corporate
preoccupation with the "hit"
and the "blockbuster".

the tyranny of mass popularity
is no less boring simply because
it's adopted by artists ourselves
and not enforced by middlemen
or the corporate gatekeepers...

for me, the miracle of the net
is that artists who are _niche_
-- daring, risky, and individual --
can now easily find and nurture
their audience, and can also be
sustained by that audience, both
_financially_ and _artistically_.

if you can find 300 people who
_love_ your work, or 3,000 who
like it very much, or 30,000 who
like it a lot, or 300,000 who
like it enough to toss you $1
once a year, or a combination
of all of these, it's a _big_deal._

chasing _fame_ is the old way.
the new is _artistic_integrity_.
the new is fun experimentation.
the new is _being_yourself_...
the new is _self-sustaining_...

dare to spit in the face
of popularity and fame;
make up your own game.

-bowerbird

Sean Black said...

Long time reader, first time commenter. I'm traditionally published by Bantam/Transworld in the UK and very happy at the moment. This blog is a hugely valuable source of information no matter how you publish so thanks, Joe.

I can really relate to Jeremy's risk-taking and find the reaction of one or two people quite amusing. I quit a very well-paid job writing TV to pen my first thriller, Lockdown. By the time it went out to publishers I was so broke I made my mortgage payment with a credit card. It's not something I would recommend, especially if you have a family to support. In the end, I sold at auction in a major deal. If it hadn't sold, I would have looked like a schmuck, but I'm with Jeremy, as long as a risk is carefully calculated, sometimes you have step outside your comfort zone, especially in these uncertain times. Fortune favors the brave. Kudos to you, Jeremy.

Marcel said...

Regarding children, David Friedman (the economist) has a great saying: some people consider children to be also people, only small. Others consider them to be pets. He's in the first camp - and Jack and Jeremy appear to have the same philosophy. Kids won't be harmed if you don't spend all your time coddling them.

Ellen Fisher said...

"Kids won't be harmed if you don't spend all your time coddling them."

I have what I call a policy of benign neglect, by which I mean I often say "go entertain yourself" or "go read a book" or even, "If you can't find something to do, you can clean your room." But my kids are old enough now to keep themselves occupied, which leaves me more time to write. It was harder when they were younger.

"Yes, parenting is important. But being a dad doesn't mean you give up on your dreams."

And by striving for and achieving our dreams, we show our kids what can be accomplished with hard work-- which is part of good parenting, I think.

Suzanne said...

Joe and Jeremy, I'm curious to read your response to this post about ebook ownership and piracy.

Suzanne Adair

Norma Beishir said...

I have a question for anyone who's published their backlist as e-books. Do you use a typed manuscript or is there a way to scan and format the printed books? I've self-pubbed two original titles so far, and would like to also put my previous fourteen novels out as e-books.

Joseph D'Agnese said...

So, okay, where are we? The evidence presented here lately supports what Joe has always said: You don't have to be a known author with trad pub experience to sell well. I accept that. I think there are still some new questions that we have to confront, and I don't think anyone knows the answers yet.

1. Is this is all just a bubble, and if so, when will it burst? Every time I come here, I get hot and sweaty. "I gotta jump in," I tell myself. That's bubble-thinking right there, buddy-boy.

2. It sounds like we're only talking about fiction (novels, novellas, short stories, etc.) and a very narrow swath of fiction at that. Genre fiction, which is the top-selling kind of fiction, historically. Does/will self-pubbed literary fiction sell well via ereaders, or is that kind of reader not buying? (I find that hard to believe, but I haven't seen evidence that they are.) Will the author of a self-pubbed personal finance book, diet book, history book, big think book, etc. make a killing via epublishing, as these authors here seem to be, or should they just set their sights on a trad pub deal? Would a "Tipping Point" have sold, would a "Black Swan" or "Freakonomics" have sold spectacularly well as a self-pubbed book, assuming their authors were completely unknown? I dunno. I am wondering now if the habitual ereader buyer is just a person who loves him some good fiction.

3. Is media destiny? Certain books will never look good on an ereader. I'm thinking here of lavish cookbooks, children's picture books, coffee table art books, etc. Yes, I know someday we'll have color everything, but no one wants to carry a giant screen in their pocket. And a small screen will not do justice to the spreads and foldouts in some children's picture book (see 2011 award-winner "Dave the Potter"). Doesn't this mean that authors of those books HAVE NO CHOICE but to seek a trad pub deal? Good luck trying to distrib these types of costly books on your own in the dead tree format.

Understand, I am not throwing this out bitchily. I accept what Joe's been preaching as gospel:

1. Fiction by self-pubbed authors sells well on Kindle et al.
2. Smart self-pubbed authors can make a killing.
3. You can be an unknown and still make a killing.

I'm just saying, what else, what next? If this were a science experiment, I'd say we have a lot more experiments to perform.

As one who is arguably the world's only personal finance children's picture book author, I'm interested in what those experiments would reveal.

Thanks, Joe & Jeremy, for giving so much of your time.

--Joe

Joe Konrath said...

I've self-pubbed two original titles so far, and would like to also put my previous fourteen novels out as e-books.

Contact Rob Siders at www.52novels.com. He can convert manuscripts for you.

Joe Konrath said...

Is this is all just a bubble, and if so, when will it burst?

Ebooks aren't a bubble. A bubble is when excitement drives up costs beyond their value.

If anything, ebooks prices are coming down. The frenzy to get into the ebook market isn't setting artificial value on anything.

The dot.com bubble was about people spending insane amounts of money speculating that internet property would make them rich.

There's no one spending insane amounts of money in ebooks, yet. Some startup may come along and lure some angle investors into creating an e-reader that also makes coffee, but authors jumping in have nothing to lose.

Does/will self-pubbed literary fiction sell well via ereaders, or is that kind of reader not buying?

I can only comment on what I've experienced and seen. I have no experience with MG, children's books, or non-fic.

If the reading world goes fully digital, as I expect, I'd expect every genre to be carried along with it.

Is media destiny?

Can you point out any example where media isn't destiny?

wannabuy said...

@Joseph"1. Is this is all just a bubble,"

The British railroad 'bubble' turned out not to be a bubble for the first 10 to 15 years. It took almost two decades of 'bubble' to collapse. While it was a bad collapse at the end... those that entered early and minimized their late exposure simply bought up the late comers for pennies on the dollar.

There were untold numbers of failures before that bubble collapsed. So the question is, what kind of bubble is this? Some bubbles are very good to get in on the first 5 to 10 years...

Ebooks are only at ~11% market share. While some books do not translate... I look at IPad apps. Any concern I had about children's books disapeared with IPad apps. My Toddler loves them. So if we talk 'apps + ebooks,' there is little reason to see a slowdown in market share gain before ~40% of the book market share.

The main holdup right now is the price of ereaders (or substitutes). If there were a $69 Kindle, the market growth rate would double.

With the decline of Borders, midlist is being forced to Kindle. Now we have 'midlist' breaking out as best sellers. That will accelerate the trend; at least among those who read 30+ books per year.

Neil

Bjorn Karger said...

I agree with the important principle of Experimentation.

In the past I printed and bound my own books, sold them on the streets and on Ebay, made portable 'kiosks' downtown for lunchtime sales.

All were experiments.

I decided now (Jan 2011) to experiment with Kindle, and it's already working beyond expectations. In just three weeks my book went to #1 in the Budgeting category and is placing in other categories too. I am selling more Kindle books now than I ever did out on the streets. This is my first attempt at eBooks. I owe this success to my will to experiment.

Selena Kitt said...

Is this is all just a bubble, and if so, when will it burst? Every time I come here, I get hot and sweaty. "I gotta jump in," I tell myself. That's bubble-thinking right there, buddy-boy.

But if it IS a bubble, it's better to get in now, reap the bubble benefits before it pops, and plan for the future. You won't lose everything if this bubble pops, like you might in the real estate bubble, or in the tech bubble (if you invested). This bubble has NO downsides for an author. None.

That's why I don't understand the hesitation. Unknown authors are getting publishing contracts out of this thing, if that's what they want. They will then have a foot in both worlds. Authors who have backlists are publishing their books on Kindle and supplementing their retirement. Some are making a living with their writing for the first time in their lives.

I hope everyone making money doing this is being responsible and smart with it. But if this IS a bubble (and it may be - I've been called an alarmist for talking about skies falling around here before ;) there just aren't any risks in getting in it and going along for a ride until it pops.

Sure, it will suck when it does for those of us making more money than we ever thought possible. My head is still spinning. But if nothing else, you'll have money in the bank (or in retirement accounts, or invested in gold if you really want to be safe ;) after it's all said and done.

And if the publishers end up (somehow???) on top again, and you're an author with a backlist, you can go to them and say, "Look how much I sold on my own - I can sell that much or more with you." And if you're an unknown you can approach a publisher and say, "Hey, look how much I sold on my own, I can sell that much or more with you."

And if you don't ever get a publishing deal, you reached people with your writing and sold some books.

What's the down side again?

Ruth Harris said...

@Norma...So far I've made 3 of my backlist books available on Kindle. I use Rob Siders as Joe suggests. Rob can work from the book as well as from a manuscript. If you send him a book, he can have it scanned. There are two way to accomplish this--one destroys the book, the other doesn't.

What I've found so far is that the quality of the scan can vary quite a bit from book to book and that very careful proofreading is required. Rob does a first pass & makes corrections, I do a second & then Rob makes those corrections. I then do another proof-read and we continue until we have a clean copy.

Rob is excellent & I recommend him highly.

HTH but if you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask.

wannabuy said...

@Selena:"This bubble has NO downsides for an author. None."

To expand, what if this bubble, like the British rail road bubble, computers, and a few others lasts decades?!? I heard these same arguments against computers in the 1980s... Is is fun going thruogh that Deja vu.

I'm sure there will be an overshoot. and??? As Selena noted, for the audience here, there is no downside.

At a minimum, authors who have a backlist can monitize that backlist on Kindle, B&N, smashwords, etc. Besides time and a small investment (e.g., new covers), the downside is???

Which will only drive those that want to read those out of print books to ereaders... ;) Which is why this could easily be a two decade 'bubble.'

Neil

bowerbird said...

joseph, excellent questions!

let's see what people say...

-bowerbird

James H. Byrd said...

Christy: Thanks for your insight on Amazon Advantage. I really meant them as an illustration, but you are certainly right that a 55% cut would eliminate any margin gain you'd have, depending upon how you set your discount at Lightning Source.

I totally agree that, by and large, POD is the way to go. We publish all of our 10 books that way, and we love the "magic money" that flows into our account from Lightning Source.

I guess I should have stopped at saying that offset is still a reasonable alternative for special cases, where you already have a customer or customers for those books.

Also, regarding e-books being a "bubble," I had to laugh. E-books are a transition. They're an inevitable transition to digital. I don't believe print books will ever totally go away, but they'll become an eccentricity in time -- just like vinyl records are today.

That said, the e-book we see today is merely a shadow of its print counterpart. That will change. What the e-book becomes tomorrow is yet to be realized.

Current e-book technology is in its infancy, and it shows. The standards (EPub comes immediately to mind) are cobbled-together technologies that are poorly suited to their task. That's why most e-books look like crap.

All this will change. In fact, I suspect that the last great impact the Big 6 have on publishing, before most of them collapse, will be their influence on the development of a coherent and useful e-book format. Ironic, that.

Joseph D'Agnese said...

I don't question whether the books being sold are too high/too low in price, or that e-devices themselves would not triumph in the end. They will, undoubtedly.

I think I should have stuck with Joe's term, "gold rush." People are jumping in because they want to publish, build an audience, and god bless 'em, make some money.

I guess I'm arguing that based on the evidence Joe's presented, if you are willing to work hard and you want to make serious money (let's just skip to the last one, shall we?) you really ought to be writing genre fiction, at least until we have more experiments and evidence showing the contrary.

I don't think this is a bad leap to make. You'd tell a bright screenwriter to stick to a few tried-and-true genres if s/he wants to increase the chances of success. Isn't this the same thing?

I noticed, by the way, that Jeremy designed a book cover for a non-fic book about the health crisis. No way to know how well it is doing.

-Joe

Verilees said...

This rather reminds me of the beginning of eBay in a way. Some people who got in early made piles of money and usually changed their position for the worse, i.e., gave up physical shops, spent their money unwisely, expecting the eBay phenomenon to go on forever. Others built businesses.

The ones who took the money and spent like drunken sailors found themselves in trouble when eBay started to rein sellers in. The ones who built businesses still survive.

The technology and market will survive, you just have to be nimble to jump when it changes position.

Anonymous said...

Today I discovered Kindle Lending Club, and I think this makes all the arguments on this thread moot.

Basically, anyone with a Kindle can now lend a book to anyone else. Once enough Kindle owners find this site, all Kindle books will basically be free. Then what?
http://www.kindlelendingclub.com/faq.htm

Pandora Snow said...

@anon How is your argument substantially different from claiming that libraries will put print books out of business?

The Daring Novelist said...

To expand a little bit on the "bubble" idea -- there's actually a different phenomenon in play that looks like a bubble but isn't.

A "Bubble" involves people borrowing against expected gains in order to invest in something (sometimes the borrowing is not obvious -- such as someone running up their living expenses on credit cards, so they can spend their cash on the investment). When their debts come due, they have to sell to pay -- and soon everyone sells and the price collapses. And then even the wise investors lose out and suddenly find themselves in trouble.

The ebook frenzy is not that. If foolish people destroy themselves, it will not bring down those who are not foolish, because the value of one thing isn't based on the artificial value of another.

"Craze" might be a good word for this phenomenon, and those do something like collapse, but they don't bring down the system, they just "thin the herd" so to speak.

This is more like the SEO article writing craze a few years ago. Everybody had a book on how you can be a millionaire writing web articles if you just learn a few tricks to optimize them properly. Soon everyone was doing it and they were all taking exactly the same short cuts, and all selling each other books on how to do it, and yes, the market got saturated. All the people who were gaming the system to the hilt went out of business. But the people who weren't gaming the system were only mildly affected while the craze was on, and survived well when the craze was over.

The customers (i.e. web users) just kept chugging along. Readers will keep chugging along too. There will be a shakeout when people realize that this is work, and that it's HARD.

But a shakeout isn't the same as a crash or burst.

Selena Kitt said...

"Craze" might be a good word for this phenomenon, and those do something like collapse, but they don't bring down the system, they just "thin the herd" so to speak.

Even if ebooks are a fad - it's possible - I'm sure the inventor of the pet rock could have retired on his earnings, if he invested them wisely.

And if ebooks become obsolete - well, the woman who invented liquid paper did pretty well for herself too.

As for Kindle lending - yep, I've been using it. It rocks. But it's no different than using the library. Actually, a Kindle owner can only lend a book to another user one time. It's really just more free advertising for an author - a sanctioned version of piracy.

STH said...

Camille, couldn't agree more with your last post.

Pandora Snow said...
@anon How is your argument substantially different from claiming that libraries will put print books out of business?

I think it's a little different. For one thing, you need to "go" to a library. Kindling can be done from bed.

That said, I think the lending feature is more likely to have an effect on ebooks from big houses by continuing to make it hard to charge a lot of money per book.

Because ultimately if the books are cheap, it's probably easier for you and your friends just to buy one each than it is to go through the hassle of lending.

STH said...

Selena said...

"Actually, a Kindle owner can only lend a book to another user one time."

Oh. Then I rescend my comment altogether. That's great.

Caroline said...

Another excellent guest post. Thanks, Jeremy, for your perspective and thanks, Jon, for giving space to authors who don't completely agree with you.

Joe Konrath said...

I hope everyone making money doing this is being responsible and smart with it.

I just spent $1850 on five bottles of beer.

Barbra Annino said...

Love all these posts. Question- where are you reading these sales figures? Is there a magic link that tracks these numbers? Thanks!

Barbra Annino

Basil Sands said...

Jeremy, Glad you said you plan to be the next Chrichton, Rollins, King guy. That means that when I become the next Forsyth, Follett, Clancy guy people won't get us confused. ;-)

Good on ya, mate!

Kendall Swan said...

$1850 on 5 bottles? Was there a bet involved while drinking that beer or something?

Re: digital vs paper reading
This is definitely a transition, not a bubble. But I don't think paper will be as niche as vinyl-- at least not until the technology becomes available to make referencing books easier. Maybe in 20-30 yrs it'll be like vinyl...

Re: self pubbing-
A transition that feels like a bubble? I think it only feels like a bubble bc the big 6 are so blind and stuck in their ways. Their poor business sense created this huge hole in the market for indie pubbers to jump into. Their loss. Our gain. But they will come to their senses eventually. Marketshare will be lost in the meantime.

The most important issue:
Has everybody written today?

Happy writing y'all!

Kendall

Selena Kitt said...

I just spent $1850 on five bottles of beer.

Almost as much as I spent on the Sybian. *grin*

@Kendall - 3500 words so far today. Although this #&@#$ blog is far too distracting!

The Daring Novelist said...

Just to clarify Pet Rocks vs ebooks:

This is not that kind of craze. The consumers are just doing what consumers do, and those who said this won't go away are right.

The "craze" that has people worried on the part of the providers: everybody is jumping in to publish. Many of those people are unprepared and have stars in their eyes, and yes, they will fail at whatever it is they think they are getting into. Probably most of them.

However, like other activity crazes (i.e. seo writing and ebay) those who do it right and who have persistence and patience will be okay. The bad choices of others don't really effect. Even some who do make bad choices, but they are persistent and didn't destroy themselves will come through.

The customers, however, will only benefit. They always do in this kind of flood. Sure, it can be inconvenient at times as the system changes and sorts itself out, but that's not as visible to them as it is to us.

Kendall Swan said...

@Selena Great job! I totally agree. #($*&^@(& Blog! :P

Only 400 words so far today but a lot of story rearranging. Apparently, one (by 'one' I mean 'I') can get away with very little plot and structure in short stories. Not so much in novels/novellas. Who knew? (Don't answer that.)

bowerbird said...

james said:
> I suspect that
> the last great impact
> the Big 6 have on publishing,
> before most of them collapse,
> will be their influence on
> the development of a coherent
> and useful e-book format.
> Ironic, that.

it would be ironic, if it happened.
heck, it would be flabbergasting.

but it ain't _gonna_ happen...

it was the corporate publishers
-- the big 60, and yes i said 60 --
who developed the .epub format,
and the progenitor before, o.e.b.

in both cases, they were clueless.

in a nutshell, they just don't grok
electronic books, so they listen to
the technocrats, who -- like _all_
bureaucrats -- love complexity, as
it ensures 'em their job security...

it didn't help that the publishers
asked for d.r.m.; when the mark
_requests_ snake oil, you know
the time is ripe to rob 'em blind.

and when it ended up that .epub
was difficult to create, it was ok,
because the big publishers didn't
mind raising the cost of entry for
little guys to compete with them.

and when it ended up that .epub
didn't work too well, that was ok,
because the big publishers didn't
want e-books to be successful...

and when it ended up that .epub
was reliving the nightmare of the
"browser incompatibilities" which
we'd suffered back in the 1990s,
that was ok too, because the big
publishers wanted to stall out the
revolution killing their business...

and when it ended up that .epub
and its d.r.m. made customers
unhappy when it caused trouble,
well, um, gee, whatcha gonna do?

and now the big publishers are
struggling for their lives, so they
are in no position to think about
something like a _file-format_,
nor are the likely to agree on it.

not that they haven't thrown a
big bunch of cash at the issue.
they've supported development
of a number of "new" formats,
from blio to clio to iceberg to
who knows what they got goin'.

but all the efforts are hamstrung
by the same difficulties, namely
that they don't grok e-books,
don't really want 'em to work,
are looking for a costly solution,
and are begging to have d.r.m.

it's also the case that the format
is a trivial part of the equation...
what's important is the program
that _displays_ the e-book, _not_
the format in which it is stored...

also of great importance is the
_authoring-tool_ creating a file.

the big60 (a.k.a., the i.d.p.f.)
made a critical mistake when it
failed to provide the world with
free and open-source programs
for authoring and viewing .epub.

such "reference implementations"
are necessary to build a standard,
at least if you want it to _work_.

but you have to want it to work.

-bowerbird

Marie Simas said...

I hope everyone making money doing this is being responsible and smart with it.

I am going on 3 long vacations. Europe, Hawaii and Canada (that last one is family, what can you do?)

I also now have have a regular cleaning lady and it's FANTASTIC.

As long as I keep writing, I'll never fold another basket of crumpled laundry again!

Zoe Winters said...

I freaking LOVE that book cover, Jeremy! Congrats on all your success!

Rob Walker said...

I found this post like the one before with Lee Goldberg fascinating...to see how different writers with entirely different paths have settled on publising with Kindle and other ebook partnerships and leaving trad. publsihing in the dust. I woke up yesterday Jan. 24th to find that since the first of the month, I had sold 1,014 books. I wasn;t selling that much in a year with my last titles in traditional publishing. One month...still have some five or six days left in Jan. That's approx. 2 bucks times 1,000 books. As with others, it has taken me a year and a half to get to this level and am hoping it will continue to increase. Atop this, the novel no one would touch as not "Commercial" enough, Childen of Salem is my personal bestseller - has sold since Jan. 1 324 copies and since I put it up a year ago, wow....an amazing 1470 copies sold. This an historical novel once my dissertation for my Masters from Northwestern University and the novel I am most proud of.

Even so, my second highest seller is a brief, fast straightforward horror novel. Anything goes, anything works on ebook sales if you have persistence and work at it. I recently put up a short story on my blog, FREE read. Fourteen chapters for my Titanic 2012 have been on my website FREE for a year.

I do interviews at the drop of a hat as I am as much a media whore as is Joe. I am juggling four blogs, some shaed which helps, doing articles on several online mags. I started a thread on the Kindle Community forums which title is What Moves ebooks off the shelf and in a week I had more hits than any other thread due to sharing real actual behaviors and steps to market an ebook and doing so smartly. This thrad is the only one on the forum that has gone to 3 pages. Everyone there is pubbling with Kindle. It is located beside one's kindle dashboard.

Selling results come in time if you stick it out.

Rob Walker
Killer Instinct, Cutting Edge

Suzanne said...

Rob, congrats on your success with your works on Kindle. I looked for your thread on the Kindle Community forum but couldn't find it. Did they run you out of Dodge? :-)

Suzanne Adair

Walter Knight said...

Even mid-range authors can make a lot of money now because of increased Kindle ownership. I'm proof of that. Kindle is the savior of the galaxy.

I agree we all would love the "validation" of being a huge print seller, but, we do what we can do. The "Gatekeepers" are just a nuisance, now.

Jeremy Robinson said...

I freaking LOVE that book cover, Jeremy!

Thanks, Zoe!

Jeremy Robinson said...

It sounds like we're only talking about fiction (novels, novellas, short stories, etc.) and a very narrow swath of fiction at that. Genre fiction.

I have lots of good thoughts on this topic, but man, I'm tired. So bear with me and forgive what may be a nonsensical answer. I think sales for fiction/non-fiction will remain roughly the same ratio. It's possible that right now, more fiction authors are embracing e-books and thus, more low priced fiction books are selling. But when the big shift happens and e-books are 50% of the market, I think the sales ratios of fiction to non-fiction be close to what they are in print. People read what they read, print or e-book.

Some exceptions will always be children's books, coffee table books, photo books, and some non-fiction that requires people take notes, highlight, or self-help type books that have people filling in blanks and circling A, B, C and D personality traits.

My book, The Screenplay Workbook, is on the Kindle. And I'm not sure why. It's a workbook. With worksheets that need to be filled out with a pen, or pencil, or even a crayon. It's essentially useless to a Kindle owner. So, books like that will always be in print.

Sigh. Looks like they sold a few though!

Gretchen Galway said...

Joe,
Your blog has become the oasis for writers to discuss this topic, water buffalo bumping haunches with gazelles.

Given the size of the herd, any chance you'll have time to reformat your blog's comments to have multiple pages and date AND time stamps?

(So requests this happy addict, who comes back to each post's comments for multiple hits on her iThing, having to tap at the screen fifty times to see what people are saying.)

Joe Konrath said...

Just checked my sales. I've sold 18,000 books this month so far.

I should hit over 20,000 books this month, which should be around $40,000.

Holy shit.

Douglas Dorow said...

You go Joe! Hard to argue against those numbers and say this isn't a viable direction for writers to follow.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

@Joe: Just checked my sales. I've sold 18,000 books this month so far.

Wow! Congrats, Joe!

I'm excited about the 3,340 books I've sold so far this month. I may never catch you, but it's fun trying. ;)

Thanks again for leading the way.

Selena Kitt said...

Hey Joe, you made me curious so I went to check my PubIt Account on B&N. Looks like they're back up and current. Or at least, more current than they have been lately.

According to the report, I've sold 47,000 books on B&N alone so far in January.

I think I just peed my pants.

azarimba said...

Jeremy Robinson said,

It's a workbook. With worksheets that need to be filled out with a pen, or pencil, or even a crayon. It's essentially useless to a Kindle owner. So, books like that will always be in print.

You never went to parochial school back in the bad old days when the teachers photocopied the pages for working, and passed them out to the whole class.

Surely there's a model for print-your-own-worksheets variety of ebooks.

Derek J. Canyon said...

Mike Dennis: "how about some self-pubbed writer stories that aren't quite so magical."

I'm a newb author epublishing since October. In the first 3 months I sold 13, 21, and 130 ebooks. I should sell more than 220 this month. This is with a total 3 books. That doesn't seem too magical to me, but it is progress.

At this rate, if I put out 3 more novels in the next year, I'll be getting about $7k in royalties in 2012. That's nice, but not magical.

You can read all about my numbers and marketing efforts on my blog: Adventures in ePublishing

My novel: Dead Dwarves Don't Dance

Gary Ponzo said...

I know you didn't create this blog to receive accolades. But there's only one way I can say this.
Thank you Joe.

Joe Konrath said...

According to the report, I've sold 47,000 books on B&N alone so far in January.

Let me know if you ever want to collaborate on something, Selena. :)

bowerbird said...

azarimba said:
> You never went to
> parochial school
> back in the bad old days
> when the teachers
> photocopied the pages
> for working, and
> passed them out
> to the whole class.

when the kindle was announced,
one guy boasted -- in advance! --
he could crack its d.r.m. within
_a_mere_2_minutes_ of receiving
and setting up his hardware unit.

and he collected on that bet,
too, by taking his kindle and
laying it on a xerox machine
and clicking the "copy" button.

out came a crisp and clear copy
of the kindle displaying its page,
with text equally crisp and clear.

copy "protection" _vanquished_,
just like that. tada. dirt simple.

try it yourself; you'll be amazed...
it really makes a crisp clear copy.

-bowerbird

Verilees said...

Use the Kindle for pc, hit screen print. Paste clipboard contents to notepad or any other text editor and print out, or there's programs like Paperport that could change a jpeg file to either a flat pdf or with just a bit of fiddling a form with available tools. Not as quick as bowerbird's man with a Xerox but the result is usable on a computer screen.

By the way, if anyone is interested in Paperport-- once an excellent document management program-- go for the older verions, 9 and below. The company has some sort of DRM system to prevent piracy and ruined the program with their license checking which tends to return a lot of errors. I only read the complaints about this after I bought 12, which I won't even load on my computer.

Kendall Swan said...

I was so happy when I reached the 1k club. I think my head will explode when I reach the 20k club like Joe. And who knows what kind of medical care I'll need when I reach the 47k club like Selena.

Congrats on everyone's success. Y'all are such an inspiration. Thanks for contributing and letting me learn from you.

Kendall

Selena Kitt said...

Let me know if you ever want to collaborate on something, Selena. :)

*snerk* You'd have to switch genres - or I would. But honestly, if you want a girlie involved in your next Draculas-type project, LMK! Me lurv da horror-stufz! ;)

bowerbird said...

verilees said:
> Use the Kindle for pc,
> hit screen print.
> Paste clipboard contents
> to notepad or any other
> text editor and print out

screen-print will work great
if you're doing a page or two.

i also wrote a screen-capture
tool that grabs a _portion_ of
the screen -- just the text --
and saves _that_, eliminating
the need for laborious cleanup.

i even have the tool click the
"next page" button, alternating
with the screen-cap, so i just
have to set it up to start, and
it will collect the entire book
in one automatic operation...

once you have grabbed all of
the screen-caps, you do o.c.r.,
which converts those images
to raw, editable, digital text...

if i can do it, so can "pirates".
your _defense_ is a low price.

seriously, if your customers
are buying your books just to
make paper copies of forms
and such, you should package
up all those forms into a file
and use it as_ advertising_...
saving them the hard work
of doing all of that _clipping_
will endear you to them and
they'll buy the book as a way
to _thank_ you, figuring that
the interstitial text is worth it.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

joseph said:
> Is this is all just a bubble,
> and if so, when will it burst?

this is a great question.

but maybe not for the reasons
you might think of, right off...

it'd be easy to interact with
the question as it was asked.

you hear answers being framed
before the question even echos:

"in some ways, yes, it _is_ a
bubble, because blah blah..."

"on the other hand, we can
continue to blah blah blah..."

"some people have observed
that blah blah blah blah, but
there is also blah blah blah..."

it's a great way to go through
a long laundry list of variables
-- all of 'em very fascinating --
on whether sales numbers will
increase, stabilize, or decrease.

so it's an interesting exercise...

still, to think in those terms is
to miss something here that is
far more profound and deep...

this is a pure revolution here.
we have crossed the rubicon.
tomorrow will be different --
completely -- than yesterday.

what has happened here is that
you have fallen upon something
or -- let us not be _ignorant_ or
unappreciative of the benefactor
-- _amazon_ has _handed_you_
a key to solving a mystery that
has perplexed us in cyberspace.

i will put it in a very crass way,
to make it easiest to understand:

you found a way to _monetize._

blogging was an early movement
along many of the same lines --
namely, artistic self-expression
via this new communication tool
that let _you_ speak to the world
-- but the vexing question was
"how can i make money at this?"

nobody really figured out a way.

schemes were tried, but no one
could make any of them _work._

but that is all changed now.

you guys, authors self-publishing
the digital product of e-books,
have made it work, quite well!,
thanks to a boost from amazon...

you are now "monetizing"...

(and, my word, are you _ever_!)

the secret -- as many of us knew
all along -- is to collect a _small_
amount of money from a _large_
-- very large -- number of people.

amazon is the key here, because
it put together the large number
of customers, _plus_ it was the
mechanism for collecting money.

you have now demonstrated that
it's possible for artists to connect
directly with fans, and live on the
proceeds from that connection...

or, at least, to be well-paid for a
hobby, which is more than most
people can say about their hobby.

it might not happen right away,
lord this has all come so slow!,
but other artists _will_ pick up
on what you've done, and find
their own way to do the same...

so, to answer the question posed,
it doesn't matter if it is a bubble
or not, because the world is now
fundamentally altered, and it will
_never_ be the way it used to be.

so this is huge. this is immense.

do not underestimate this...

this is the beginning of the shift
that empowers artists worldwide,
thus shaking the earth to its core.

imagine a world where the artists
are in charge, and the greedsters
are the ones with hat-in-hand,
begging for some spare change.

this is absolutely staggering...

you will soon come to realize that
no matter how big the cash gets,
it is one of the smallest parts of
this entire equation... seriously...

you are the lead artists riding the
event horizon of massive change.

welcome to the new, my friends.
might wanna spruce up the place
before everybody else gets here,
because it's gonna be a big party.

-bowerbird

Lundeen Literary said...

Selena - 47,000 ebooks on Pubit! alone? in ONE MONTH?? O_O

Joe - $40k? in ONE MONTH?!?!?

The folks in my writing group are all half ignoring me, half listening to me, with a whole lot of getting nothing done. Bad move.

Congratulations to both of you! You have earned it! Got any space on your coattails? ;)

Jenna
@LundeenLiterary

Ty Hutchinson said...

Even if ebooks are a fad - it's possible - I'm sure the inventor of the pet rock could have retired on his earnings, if he invested them wisely.

I think he did retire on his earnings. He was also an ad guy.

sharongerlach said...

"But guess what? Selling a shitload of ebooks is a much better validation. Getting a stamp of approval from readers is more important than a stamp of approval from a publisher."

Thank you. Really--thank you thank you thank you! I've actually heard someone say that if you can't attract the attention of a traditional publisher, your writing obviously isn't up to par. I've been reading a lot of indie authors lately, and I'm finding self-pubbed gems every bit as good--or better--than the best sellers from traditional publishers. And honestly, some of the writers at the top of the list, churning out best sellers, are making mediocre offerings to their readership. One in particular comes to mind,but I won't bash him/her publicly. I wonder if many people realize that making the best seller list relies a lot on how large was the print run...

Jef + Stef said...

Hope you don't mind a quick question: are there any laws that keeps us from listing our e-books on more than one location? Aside from Amazon, we know Apple's iBooks and more new entrants. Don't mean to sound greedy but no harm spreading them out there, is it?