Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another Talk with Ann Voss Peterson

I've collaborated with many writers, including F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Strand, Henry Perez, Tom Schreck, and Blake Crouch.

I'm currently working on a spy novel with Ann Voss Peterson. We previously co-wrote the thriller short story WILD NIGHT IS CALLING, which has sold close to a thousand copies in the past month.

Recently, Ann and I met in Google docs and hammered out a novella, featuring characters from my Jack Daniels series.

The result, a Harry McGlade story called JAILBAIT, just went live on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Here's the description:

Private detective Harry McGlade is on the prowl, looking for a one-night stand. Or, in McGlade's case, a five-minute stand.

When he finds a sexy lady at his local bar, he thinks he has a chance with her.

But she wasn't alone. There was a guy with her. A guy with a gun whom she was desperately trying to get away from.

When the local mafia becomes involved with McGlade's tryst, things start going bad.

Then they go really bad, when a baby comes into the picture. And the only one McGlade can turn to for help is his old partner, Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels.

JAILBAIT is an 11,000 word novella (about 50 pages long), written by bestselling author J.A. Konrath, and romantic suspense author Ann Voss Peterson (who has over 3 million books in print.)

It's a hysterically funny, and sometimes poignant, look at sex, relationships, pregnancy, and fatherhood. It also has guns and violence and criminals and double-crosses and twists. Ann and J.A. are confident that it will appeal to fans of mysteries, thrillers, and even romance (as long as the reader keeps tongue firmly in cheek.)

J.A. blames Ann for any depth and emotion the story has, because he feels that such sensitivity has no place in a humorous mystery.

Ann blames J.A. for the non-stop barrage of tasteless jokes, because she has much classier standards than that.

This ebook also features a brand new excerpt from FLEE, a spy novel co-written by Konrath and Peterson, which will be available on April 26.

So, in celebration of this release, I invited Ann to a quick Q & A.

Joe: Congrats on the Rita Award nomination!

Ann: Thanks, Joe! It's pretty exciting. For anyone who doesn't know, the Rita Award is the biggest award for romance fiction, like the Edgar for mystery or the Hugo for science fiction. And this year, it's being held in New York City. I'm waiting for the clothing designers to start lining up to dress me for the Awards! Okay, that's just my imagination. Speaking of imagination, let's talk about this crazy Harry McGlade novella we just wrote.

Joe: So the idea behind this story was basically to show you how to use Google docs (which I've used with Blake Crouch for Killers and Barry Eisler for our dialog).

Ann: Now wait, Joe. The spark of the idea ignited before that. It came from your blog. Someone asked if you were going to write a romance. So I challenged you, and the idea took a few strange twists from there.

Joe: I was pretty convinced we weren't going to end up writing a romance. I was also convinced that whatever we came up with wasn't going to be publishable. I thought of it more like an experiment. But then it grew into a Harry McGlade short story, and eventually a Harry McGlade novella, and I'm really pleased with the result.

You've read my Jack Daniels books. What was it like writing in that universe?

Ann: At first, it was a bit like writing fan fic, which I've actually never done. But you did give me free rein to create a few characters of my own to make Harry's life hell. Gotta say, I really enjoyed that.

Joe: The funny thing is, the story doesn't seem like a collaborative effort. It reads pretty much like one of my solo works, even though you wrote half of it.

Ann: What was it like to have someone else messing in Harry McGlade's life?

Joe: Surprisingly seamless. Having someone write for Harry and Jack was fun, and I don't think there were any false notes. You had some really funny lines that readers will probably think I wrote, which proves how good you were at mimicking my style. What did you think of Google docs for collaboration?

Ann: When we started, I really thought I would hate it. It's so contrary to the way I work. My rough drafts are ROUGH, and I never let anyone see them. I rewrite a lot to hone my story. So I was really uneasy with the idea of writing the same document at the same time. But I have to say, it grew on me. It pushed me past my obnoxious inner critic and forced me to just put words down. And I could trust that if I turned the story in a way that didn't work, you would change it in front of my eyes. In summary, it made me stretch, which is always a good thing for writers.

Joe: I'm really stuck on Google docs lately, and how much fun it is. Sort of like hanging out with another musician and starting to jam.

Because it came so easily, we wrote this sucker pretty damn quickly, and it required minimal rewrites once we finished. Do you normally write this fast?

Ann: No. I rewrite 'til the cows come home. Wait, I need to delete that cliche and come up with something better--

Joe: The cliche works fine. Now just open the door and let the cows back in.

At the end of JAILBAIT, we included another excerpt from our upcoming spy thriller FLEE. It's a different excerpt than the one in WILD NIGHT IS CALLING. What do you think of FLEE so far?

Ann: I adore FLEE. It has been such a blast to write. I think Chandler (the lead character) is me, she just lives in another dimension. Well, there might be a few other differences, too.

Or are there?

Joe: When I first met you I had a hunch you were a superspy assassin. Now that you're getting a taste of ebook self-publishing, are you planning on doing anything solo?

Ann: I have a lot of ideas, the problem is choosing which to do first. No, the biggest problem is that I'm loving writing Chandler right now, and we're talking about some sequels, and my imagination is running wild!

Joe: Chandler is such a fun character. Driven, brave, complicated, and at times really vulnerable. We just wrote a pretty steamy sex scene. Well, you wrote the bulk of it. I just added more oral.

Was it odd writing a sex scene with a partner, especially a guy?

Ann: I've never written a sex scene with anyone else before, so I guess you're my first, Joe. It actually went pretty smoothly. I suspect it would have felt a little more odd if we'd written that scene together in Google docs.

Joe: I'm thinking the next two Chandler books will be called SPREE and THREE. It would be cool to write and release them by Xmas. I think ereader sales are going to go through the roof this year. I've made over $40k this month. I can imagine, next January, making $100k a month. Isn't that crazy?

Ann: Crazy? That's fabulous! Let's get these books written!

Joe: FLEE will be available on April 26. The preorder page is now live on Amazon. If you order today, it will automatically be delivered to your Kindle or reading device the exact moment it goes live. It will also be available on B&N, Smashwords, Sony, Kobo, iPad, and in print.

If you were part of the now-ended FREE FLEE promotion, I'll email you a copy several days before the official release.

Now I'll field some questions. If anyone has questions for Ann, please post them in the comments section.

Q: How did you get Amazon to create a preorder page for you?

A: I asked nicely. Don't expect them to create one for you, though, unless you have friends who work there, and 200,000 previous ebook sales.

Q: How much is JAILBAIT?

A: We released it at $2.99, which we feel is fair considering its length.

Q: Is JAILBAIT funny?

A: If you don't laugh out loud, you're either dead or dead inside. But be warned; it's not for the easily offended.

Q: You're doing a lot of collaborations lately. Why?

A: Simple math. I can write twice as many stories with a partner as I can on my own. That means I can extend my virtual shelf space quicker, and also reach new readers through my co-writers' fans.

Plus, it's fun. I really can't express what a joy it is to work with other writers. Everyone needs to try this.

Upcoming releases include BIRDS OF PREY with Blake Crouch (a sequel to SERIAL UNCUT and KILLERS), and BURNERS with Henry Perez (A Jack Daniels/Alex Chapa novella).

Henry and I are also working on a semi-sequel to DRACULAS called MUMMIES, for a Halloween release. Also signed on for that are F. Paul Wilson and Heather Graham.

Blake and I are doing STIRRED, the final Jack Daniels book and sequel to SHAKEN, which also marks the end of his Andrew Z. Thomas (DESERT PLACES, LOCKED DOORS, BREAK YOU) horror series.

I'm also planning on writing WEREWOLVES this year with Blake, and it looks like we'll quite possibly team up on that with two other known bestsellers in the ebook world.

Q: Aren't you doing anything on your own anymore?

A: TIMECASTER SUPERSYMMETRY, the second Joe Kimball sci-fi actionfest (and sequel to TIMECASTER), and CONSUMED, the new Jack Kilborn, are on deck for later this year.

Q: What about that super-secret project you talked about with the NYT bestseller?

A: It's still super-secret. Sorry.

Q: Can I collaborate with you?

A: If your name is Stephen King, James Patterson, or Dean Koontz, yes. If any of you guys are reading this, contact me. I'll help boost your ebook sales.

Q: You haven't posted your self-pub numbers in a while.

A: As of today, March 29 at 8:17am, I've sold 53771 self-published books this month. I'll probably break 60,000 sales for March.

Q: How much money is that?

A: A shitload. The IRS is going to eat me alive.

109 comments:

Joshua James said...

First!

That's all I have to say for now, other than I love your blog, dude.

The said...

Another great Q&A. Quick question: Will TIMECASTER SUPERSYMMETRY come out through your original publisher, or have you retained the rights and will publish as an e-book original?

-A.A.-

Garry M. Graves said...

...I'm betting there will be more writers who'll try this Google Docs method and as Ann said; "In summary, it made me stretch, which is always a good thing for writers..."

It's always nice when JK introduces us to other writing pro's...many who we (me), would've never discovered on my own. Thanks for everything.

Joe Konrath said...

I pulled Supersymmetry from Berkley because I didn't agree with their policy for ebooks (DRM and high prices.) I wound up paying them their advance back.

Best money I ever spent.

Gramix Publishing said...

Joe said: I pulled Supersymmetry from Berkley because I didn't agree with their policy for ebooks (DRM and high prices.)

This is very interesting to me. I think I recall your issues with DRM from previous posts. It doesn't stop pirates and pisses off honest customers. I agree with that.

I also agree with your other posts about not pricing ebooks too high.

My question: What was the actual disparity between what Berkley thought was a good price and what you thought it was? Are you able to discuss that?

Edward G. Talbot said...

I love working with a co-author. My two novels were both done with a co-author, and to be honest I don't have plans to do any full-length novels on my own unless he decides to bail on me. A lot more fun this way.

Joe Konrath said...

Berkley wanted $7.99. I wanted $2.99.

Gramix Publishing said...

Berkley wanted $7.99. I wanted $2.99.

Wow. It is still hard to believe some publishers think they'll do better this way.

T.J. Dotson said...

I love using Google Docs for writing. All your writing is stored virtually. So you can access it from anywhere. I've been doing it for awhile! I'll have to try using Google Docs to collaborate though...what a nifty idea! Since you can share your documents!

As usual thnaks for the great ideas Joe!!

Coolkayaker1 said...

I like that book cover, the pacifier with the cigarettes thing.

Jamie D. said...

I have nothing of value to say here except congratulations to both of you on the new release...

...and WEREWOLVES! Woot!

*happy sigh*

C. Pinheiro said...

I asked nicely. Don't expect them to create one for you, though, unless you have friends who work there, and 200,000 previous ebook sales.

Indies like me can create our own pre-order page by using Amazon Advantage. I do it for many of my books.

As for the IRS, Joe, you really have no excuse. You can afford 10 accountants! This is the accountant in me talking, but you should be doing year-round tax planning. That's what wealthy people do.

C. Pinheiro said...

By the way, I forgot to mention that the cover is fantastic. I really mean it. The design is just fabulous.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Thanks, everyone!

The cover was done by Carl Graves, once again. He is amazing.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Oh and those aren't cigarettes, they're bullets.

kmfields said...

Love the Jailbait cover!

Remi said...

I'm sure this will be fixed soonish, but just in case I'm the first to mention it.... that cover everyone is raving about didn't make it into the smashwords epub.

Kendall Swan said...

Konrath- I just love u!!

Can't wait to read this new story but especially the new excerpt from FLEE. U and Ann rock!

Self publishing + Google Docs + writing partners = More Success

Good to know!
Kendall

Joe Konrath said...

that cover everyone is raving about didn't make it into the smashwords epub.

Not sure what you mean. The jpg in the epub file itself? Because I see it on the Smashwords page.

I'm not sure ebooks need the cover in the file. About half I've bought don't have one.

Selena Kitt said...

This is the accountant in me talking, but you should be doing year-round tax planning. That's what wealthy people do.

yeah, my accountant had me do all sorts of weird stuff this year I'd never heard of. And all sorts of things I have to do this year in anticipation of making even more than last year. (I know I know, my diamond shoes are too tight.... :)

But "wealthy people." Yikes. I still kind of look around like, "who me?" when someone says something like that.

BTW, I am SO psyched for "Flee" to come out. I was totally hooked by the teaser. :)

Library999Cat said...

Ann, big congrats on the Rita. As a long time RWA member I'll be rooting for you. I must read A Cop in Her Stocking.

I really enjoyed Wild Night is Calling and can't wait for Flee.

Joe, just finished Shaken. Have loved all the Jack Daniels books. Jailbait will be an autobuy. No sample needed. I love Harry. Any thoughts to putting the Jack and Harry short stories together in an audio book? I'll be hearing Dick Hill's voice in my head as I read Jailbait. I'm also reading SA and enjoying it very much.

Cathy Neumueller

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Thanks, Cathy! If you're in New York for the RWA conference, be sure to say hi. I've been known to hang out in the bar.

A Cop in Her Stocking is the story of a cop (big surprise) who takes his old flame's son Christmas shopping as part of his department's Shop with a Cop program...and the kid gets kidnapped. It's one of my favorites of the books I've written, so I was thrilled when it made the finals.

K.D. Lum said...

I heart this blog, and said as much in my new blog post:

http://writtled.blogspot.com/2011/03/routine-blog-checking.html

It's a list of blogs I HAVE to check regularly for mental survival, and I promoted yours heavily of course.

bowerbird said...

$2.99 for a novella?

reminds me of what "they"
are doing in the food biz:
same price for less product.

consumers don't seem to
notice, or so "they" tell us.

of course, out of the other
side of their mouth, we are
told consumers don't mind.

business man speak
with forked tongue...

-bowerbird

Burritoclock said...

$2.99 for a novella can be steep. But I just bought one from Blake Crouch, because I have loved everything I've read by him.

$2.99 for a novella may dissuade an impulse by, but as long as it's very clear that it is one I don't think it's a deterrent.

Remi said...

Re: cover art in epub.

Well, no, they aren't "needed", but they sure do look purrty.

Readers and Desktop apps generally use them to generate the thumbnails when browsing your library. The Kobo even puts it on the screen in sleep mode.

I'm not trying to complain, or such. I just can't quite understand why you would commission cover art for a book and then,,,, leave it out of the book :)

Selena Kitt said...

I just can't quite understand why you would commission cover art for a book and then,,,, leave it out of the book

Smashwords' meatgrinder (their book conversion software) doesn't allow you to have a cover within the actual file.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Erotic author Ms. Kitt has a point about accounting and doing taxes throughout the year, especially if you’re bringing in some serious dough now. You likely had to pay taxes in installments in the past as an author, and likely have a “tax guy” at your beck and call to write off the desk, chair, office and beer cooler (?), but if you don’t now is timely to get one. When money comes in by the bucketload, it’s best to learn the nuances of earned income vs. passive income vs. C corp. income, etc.

You’ll also likely want to add an umbrella policy to your regular homeowner’s policy to prevent the schlep water meter reader from falling in your yard, feigning neck pain, and garnering your future income for, oh, about twenty years or so. Or the wife plows down the neighborhood tyke on his Big Wheel, and on and on. That’d take a little steam out of the writing engine.

Joe Flynn said...

IRS Cannibals: Now, there's a concept for a horror writer.

David said...

I suppose the definition of novella is rather loose, but 11,000 just squeaks past by the loosest of definitions. At 250 lines per page it's really 44 pages long. That would be a novelette to many (though not everyone uses the term novelette).

That said, I think $2.99 is about right for a longer novelette or a novella, provided people are willing to pay that. That's what it comes down to. If the reader thinks you're padding a short story to call it a novella, the pricing may backfire and ultimately hurt the whole brand. If not, it sounds like a good way to keep readers interested in between novels.

Although, if a novella is a snack, it stands to reason that the novel is the main meal and should be priced accordingly, closer to $4.95, or at least $3.99.

David Wisehart said...

Joe,

It seems like you're taking on a lot of extra accounting work by collaborating with various people on various projects.

Of course, you can hire someone to help you deal with that, but I'd like to hear how you tackle some of the financial issues involved with collaboration.

For example:

- Collaboration agreements
- Whose account receives the income (or do you establish a new joint account for the collaboration?)
- Future planning (making sure Joe's heirs and Ann's heirs aren't battling over royalties in a hundred years)

Just curious.

Thanks,

David

Kendall Swan said...

Like David Wisehart, I'm curious about how that stuff is handled as well. I think you mentioned in the past you run it through your Amazon account and pay everyone.

Are you like Smashwords- do you pay quarterly? On a net 60 (after amazon's net 60)?

Maybe, like musicians who jam and collaborate, the agent would take care of all this?

Thanks in advance for any details you share.

Kendall Swan
NAKED Cheerleader and Other Stories

Gabriella said...

I'd love to know the answers to these questions too as one day...my goal is to write a book with Joe. Then I will know that *I've made it*.


David Wisehart said...

Joe,

It seems like you're taking on a lot of extra accounting work by collaborating with various people on various projects.

Of course, you can hire someone to help you deal with that, but I'd like to hear how you tackle some of the financial issues involved with collaboration.

For example:

- Collaboration agreements
- Whose account receives the income (or do you establish a new joint account for the collaboration?)
- Future planning (making sure Joe's heirs and Ann's heirs aren't battling over royalties in a hundred years)

Jude Hardin said...

Bought it. I'm starting to think novellas will eventually become the predominant literary form in the digital age, and I think $2.99 is the perfect price. I just finished one myself (horror--getting some nice peer feedback on it), and plan to release it indie at the same price. $.99 for a short story, $2.99 for a novella, $3.99-$4.99 for a novel. I think those are fair prices, prices at which the quality work will eventually settle.

Thrilling Covers said...

JA, I'd like to do a collaboration with you. You do all the writing and I'll supply the beer. Fair enough?

Selena Kitt said...

Of course, you can hire someone to help you deal with that, but I'd like to hear how you tackle some of the financial issues involved with collaboration.

You could treat the other authors as "sub-contractors" - but then you'd have to 1099 them.

There's definitely a case for being Libertarian here...

Kendall Swan said...

Totally OT but hilarious:here
a writer freaking out about a bad review. Some of you may have already seen it, but I wanted to share it for those who haven't. Hilarious!

Kendall Swan said...

And I love Jude's pricing structure:
99c short stories
2.99 novellas
3.99-4.99 novels.

Excellent!

Coral Russell said...

LOL I like interviews that make me laugh!

David said...

"And I love Jude's pricing structure:
99c short stories
2.99 novellas
3.99-4.99 novels."

I think now is the perfect time to start establishing these prices. They're fair.

Jessica said...

I've been using google docs to write with a couple of other writers in a similar fashion, since I started script writing just over a year ago. It really is a great way to write collaboratively.

I recommend using skype at the same time so you can chat and write. I found it sped up the editing process even more and allowed for the other writer to take over quicker when one got stuck etc.

Either way glad to see someone else using it to such good effect and it is fun, really fun.

Going to go check the novella out. I like romance especially when not quite as expected.

Jess

Blake Crouch said...

Jessica - Google docs has instant message feature so you don't have to use Skype.

David said...

I think it might be nice if writers adopted more standardized terminology, seeing as how shorts and novellas are going to be so much more prominent than they used to be. The Science Fiction and Fantasy writers of America breaks down the categories in a way that gives readers a clearer guide to what they're getting, and helps when it comes time to hand out all those awards. Establishing standardized terminology might also help writers price their work more effectively. For instance:

Short Story: Up to 7500 words. Price at 99 cents
Novelette: 7500-17,500. Can be priced at 1.99
Novella: 17,500-40,000. 2.99
Novel: 40,000+. 3.99+

Nicholas La Salla said...

Nice interview! It's an interesting look into how collaborative writing really works. I've never tried writing anything with anyone, or at least never seriously.

And congrats, Ann, on your success for March! So far, March has been good to me with One More Day's release: 22 copies. Not bad for my first Kindle release.

The future looks bright, and it's thanks to interviews like these that Joe's put online that I learned about doing this in the first place. My next book's coming soon as well, which I hope will help to really get my Kindle career going.

Thanks again to both of you, and best wishes for an even better April!!!

Nick
One More Day

bowerbird said...

david said:
> I love Jude's pricing structure:
> 99cent short stories
> 2.99 novellas
> 3.99-4.99 novels.
>
> I think now is
> the perfect time to start
> establishing these prices.
> They're fair.

the corporate publishers
disagree strongly with you.

all's fair in love and war...

-bowerbird

David said...

@ bowerbird:

"the corporate publishers
disagree strongly with you.

all's fair in love and war..."

I was only talking about self-published, electronic works.

Breakdowner said...

Do the google docs give you any trouble when you send them off to the Smashwords Meatgrinder? I've just started going through the .pdf about their recommended .doc settings, and don't own Word myself, so I'm wondering if google is a good alternative word processor (they mention Open Office).

bowerbird said...

david said:
> I was only talking about
> self-published, electronic
> works.

um, are self-published e-books
worth less than corporate ones?

-bowerbird

Don said...

Joe wrote:

If your name is Stephen King, James Patterson, or Dean Koontz,....

A brief search on the internet indicates I could pay to change my legal name to Steven James King Patterson Koontz and still come out ahead financially. What about it Joe ?


Seriously though - looks like a great read and will definitely buy it when it comes out.

Don in Chicago

Stanfield Major said...

@David and bowerbird I appreciate the thoughts on pricing. And I'm assuming you aren't outlawing the practice of lowering the price to build up a presence in the market.

I realized the other night that I can sell each one of the stories in my collections for 99 cents each and price the collection itself at $3.99.

Each story then becomes an advertisement for the complete collection. Or readers can pick and choose.

Thought this idea might interest other short story writers out there.

David said...

"um, are self-published e-books
worth less than corporate ones?

-bowerbird"

I suppose we can ask John Locke, who has the number one kindle book Saving Rachel (@.99) to try an experiment and price his book the same as number two, Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer (@$7.99) and see what happens.

I have a feeling I know. Millions will purchase books published by traditional publishers because people have determined they are worth it. Or they wouldn't pay that.

Self-published authors for the most part have determined they are worth less and priced their books accordingly. It's easy to say that people are unwilling to pay more than $2.99, but the facts clearly show that most readers are willing to pay $6.99 or above for books they want.

There is still a perception that the quality of a traditionally published e-book is higher than a self-published e-book. And in most cases they're right, for the simple fact that so few self-published books are professionally edited, or even properly copyedited. Some are, but the vast majority are not.

evilphilip said...

"I'd like to do a collaboration with you. You do all the writing and I'll supply the beer. Fair enough?"

Did someone say beer? All I read was blah, blah, blah "beer" and that was all the story needed to get my attention.


Congrats on the new short story, Joe. I thought those were baby bottles on the cover.

Anna Murray said...

@Jude

"Bought it. I'm starting to think novellas will eventually become the predominant literary form in the digital age, and I think $2.99 is the perfect price."

Yes, John Locke is cleaning up with this format.

I just published one myself, at a 99 cent intro price. I'm getting more response than ever from readers (all positive), all saying they read the book in one sitting.

Fast-paced, thriller, 150-200 pages. This is the "killer app" in Kindle store.

Stanfield Major said...

@David I'm not sure that it's necessarily that self-pubbed authors think they're worth less. There's another factor here. 70% of a lower price can be more than the royalty that a big publisher offers. And lower prices sell better. Who's really winning?

And then there's the reality that a serious self-pubbed author can go back and rewrite, hire an editor, have a new cover done, and try again. Once an author puts themselves in the hands of a big publisher most of that control is lost.

The real writers will keep trying. Imua! :)

Selena Kitt said...

@Kendall - OMG! Authors should go read it just to learn what NOT to do in the face of a "negative" review. EEK! Walk away. Just. Walk. Away.

Coolkayaker1 said...

I'm with David.

I'd much rather spend $9.99 on a well-edited, top grade, completely and thoroughly written, full-length novel by a gifted author (e.g. Franzen, Updike, Mailer, Powers), for which I can spend 8-10 hours of raptured word bliss, than I would spend $2.99 on a novella, self-pubbed by a newbie with a website and a Facebook account that I can dash through in 2 hours and feel like I just ate a Big Mac with a supersized order of fries before a triathlon.

(I am not referring to established authors that opted out of traditonal to e-epubbing here; just the other 95% of self-pubbers).

David said...

Haha. Well I don't need Updike. In fact, keep him, really. I'm definitely a genre guy, but I'll take a story that's passed through a few hoops over a story that's made it through spellchecker once.

T.J. Dotson said...

I'd much rather spend $9.99 on a well-edited, top grade, completely and thoroughly written, full-length novel by a gifted author (e.g. Franzen, Updike, Mailer, Powers), for which I can spend 8-10 hours of raptured word bliss, than I would spend $2.99 on a novella, self-pubbed by a newbie with a website and a Facebook account that I can dash through in 2 hours and feel like I just ate a Big Mac with a supersized order of fries before a triathlon.

Its good that people have varying tastes. Sometimes I want a nice meal with a glass of red wine, and other days I want a Big Mac with a coke.
The wonder of e-book publishing is it opens the market to limitless readers & writers. I've read some gems (short and long) that I never would have found before.

And isn't that really the point? I prefer an open frontier to one small closed venue.

bowerbird said...

david said:
> Self-published authors
> for the most part
> have determined
> they are worth less and
> priced their books accordingly.

i do believe you are mistaken
as to their general reasoning...

those self-published authors
have just discovered a different
pricing-point on the continuum,
one which corporate publishers
are unable to service today, and
are making it work for them...
john locke is a great example.

it has nothing to do with being
"fair", unless we wanna consider
the 65% extracted by amazon
when an author prices at $.99
as being a rather unfair share.

you can set up a nice little world
at your garden tea party where
the prices are all "fair" and stuff,
but then real life is gonna come
and kick in all your teeth with a
lower price, no matter how fair
or "unfair" that price might be...
that's called "the marketplace".

-bowerbird

Merrill Heath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

"And isn't that really the point? I prefer an open frontier to one small closed venue."

But shouldn't the standards be the same? A self-published book is going head to head with traditionally published books, and they need to have the same professional polish. Maybe at the moment they don't. It's still Wild West time in kindleland after all. But eventually readers will demand it.

@ Stanfield Major:

"I'm not sure that it's necessarily that self-pubbed authors think they're worth less. There's another factor here. 70% of a lower price can be more than the royalty that a big publisher offers. And lower prices sell better. Who's really winning?"

John Locke writes dime novels. He prices them at 99 cents because he's afraid people won't pay $2.99 for them. He may be right. But if his books sold half as many copies, he'd make three times more money. He likes having three or four chairs at the table, even if it is the kid's table. He's the king of the kid's table. It works for him

Maybe there should be separate categories to separate bestsellers by price. 99 cent bestsellers go here, 2.99-4.99 go here, and 5+ go over there. That would certainly cut down on some of the gamesmanship.

@ bowerbird:

"i do believe you are mistaken
as to their general reasoning...

those self-published authors
have just discovered a different
pricing-point on the continuum,
one which corporate publishers
are unable to service today, and
are making it work for them...
john locke is a great example."

Authors have been bitching for years about low royalties, and he's happy with 35 cents. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's his valuation. He's practically giving his books away. It's as close to free as he could get. Hell, maybe he would give them away just to stay number one. I think many people would.

Jason said...

That is a very cool cover Ann and Joe, and I can't wait to read it. Harry rocks.

But believe it or not I was disappointed in the price, since this is a novella. Joe, all your full length novels are usually priced at $2.99, so it doesn't seem right that a 50 page novella should be the same price.

To me, this is the perfect example of where the $1.99 price point fits. It's not a short story like Wild Night, which was priced appropriately at 99 cents. And it's not a full length novel like Trapped...where we even got 2 full length versions of the same book for $2.99.

Joe, maybe if you had been pricing your full length ebooks at 3.99 or 4.99 I'd think this was no big deal. But since you have not been, $2.99 for a 50-pager is too much.

I know I'll still buy it, but 'average Joe' Joe fan, or 'average Amazon genre browser dude' might feel robbed for having to pay the same price for much less content.

Merrill Heath said...

So, David, what is the price for your books?

Merrill Heath
Alec Stover Mysteries

kathie said...

Sounds great! Can't wait to read.

Stanfield Major said...

@David I guess this is part of the new publishing paradigm. We get to choose our own path. And open ourselves to criticism for any path we take.

But, ultimately, it's our path and if we're happy the rest doesn't matter.

Simply having my hands on the steering wheel of my own Go-Kart is a very big deal to me.

Casey Moreton said...

I noticed in Barry's online chat with Amanda Hocking that the actual dollar amount SMP offered him was $425,000.

bowerbird said...

david said:
> John Locke writes dime novels.
> He prices them at 99 cents
> because he's afraid people
> won't pay $2.99 for them.

that may be what _you_ say...

but i tend to believe john locke
_himself_ when he said that he
feels that $.99 is the right price
for his books. the _right_ price.
from his readers' perspective...
hunh? doesn't he realize that
he's supposed to rip them off?


> He may be right.
> But if his books sold half
> as many copies, he'd make
> three times more money.

and yet he's managed to make
_a_quarter_of_a_million_dollars_
in the first quarter of this year,
by my estimates, which means
he's a pretty smart businessman,
as far as i can tell. really smart.


> He likes having three or
> four chairs at the table,
> even if it is the kid's table.
> He's the king of the kid's
> table. It works for him.

some of you characters really
scrape the bottom of the barrel
when it comes to levying insults
-- or _attempting_ to levy them.
i hope you're proud of yourself.


> Authors have been bitching
> for years about low royalties,
> and he's happy with 35 cents.

"...and he's happy with a quarter
of a million dollars in 3 months!"

that's discovering the power of
a price-point on the continuum.


> There's nothing wrong with
> that, but it's his valuation.
> He's practically
> giving his books away.

and becoming a millionaire
in the process of doing so...

it's genius, i tell you. genius.

-bowerbird

David said...

I wasn't insulting him, bowerbird. I admire the hell out of him. I say it's the kid's table compared to the rest.

Lundeen Literary said...

@Joe - Those numbers are nucking futs. Good Lord, you're unstoppable! Of course, having a lot of titles out helps. Damn fine collaboration system you have there sir!

Can I just chime in with the others? This cover is RAD. Long live Carl Graves! (and I design covers! I'd hire him in a moment… if I could just get this damn novella finished…)

"I'm not sure ebooks need the cover in the file. About half I've bought don't have one."

Hmm, I actually prefer that the cover come in the file. I've been wanting to find out what people think of putting the back cover of the book as page 2 of an ebook - I've wished many a time that I could read the back cover of a book when cracking an ebook, mainly on my iPad Kindle app. I like to read the back cover copy in order to select a book to read, and some covers have wraparound art. I HATE when an ebook jumps to some non-cover page to begin a book. It's like sex with no foreplay. Put me in the mood!



Selena said:
"Smashwords' meatgrinder (their book conversion software) doesn't allow you to have a cover within the actual file."

And this is yet another beef I have with them. I loved the interview the other day, but there are some reasons I don't *lurve* them.


"I'm starting to think novellas will eventually become the predominant literary form in the digital age"

2 of my favorite books (actually the 2 that saved my life) are technically novellas released in the 70's/80's. They run around 20-30k words (MAN, I wish Amazon still had word count listed in its info about a book!), and were worth every bit of their cover price. Short stories are too short for me to read, typically. And way too short for me to write! I need room to breathe! I could write novels all day, but novella length is just right for some of my work. It's kind of like how 90 minutes is perfect for a comedy or romance movie - perfectly digestible. The only reason they don't fly in NY is due to printing costs, not because of readers not liking the length.

Jenna
www.lundeenliterary.com
@lundeenliterary

Joe Konrath said...

Barry had a $500,000 offer. The agent takes 15%.

As for the price of Jailbait, I believe it's worth $3. If it sells well, that's proof others beleive the same thing. If it doesn't, then I might drop the price.

Right now, I have two types of customers. Those who are fans, and those who don't know me.

Those who don't know me may give me a shot through a combination of good covers, good product description, and good price.

Those who are fans will buy me because they like me.

I don't expect someone who doesn't know me to pay $3 for a novella, even though I believe that's a fair price, and an amount I'd pay.

But my fans shouldn't have a problem paying that. After all, they pay $25 for my hardcovers.

If Stephen King can sell UR for three bucks, I think I can sell Jailbait for three bucks. In each case, it isn't about finding new fans, but instead catering to the old ones.

Jessica said...

Blake Crouch said: Jessica - Google docs has instant message feature so you don't have to use Skype.

I've never managed to get the google messenger to work and Skype has a better voice chat system anyway (apparently) so I never bothered to work it out.

Jason said...

Who pays $25 for new hardcovers on a consistent basis? I mean...does anyone really do that? I guess a lot of people must for their very favorite authors since that price point still exists for legacy published books.

Joe, you are becoming way too prolific. Seems like every 3rd blog post is announcing a new release of yours that's now available. But that's a good thing, and I know you wouldn't have it any other way!

The Timecaster cover I just saw on Amazon is pretty cool, but I can't wait to see what Carl comes up with for the sequel that you'll self-pub. Seeing that ebook version for $7.99 just seems wrong for you. Or I guess I should say...for Joe Kimball. Curious what you think of the product description.

rbt said...

David said...

I think it might be nice if writers adopted more standardized terminology, seeing as how shorts and novellas are going to be so much more prominent than they used to be. The Science Fiction and Fantasy writers of America breaks down the categories in a way that gives readers a clearer guide to what they're getting, and helps when it comes time to hand out all those awards. Establishing standardized terminology might also help writers price their work more effectively. For instance:

Short Story: Up to 7500 words. Price at 99 cents
Novelette: 7500-17,500. Can be priced at 1.99
Novella: 17,500-40,000. 2.99
Novel: 40,000+. 3.99+


I think you're making some huge and incorrect assumptions on all counts here.

First, short fiction has never sold in significant numbers other than as collections or via aggregators like magazines. People don't buy short stories, novelettes, or novellas individually in print form, and the fact that Kindle readers are buying some such works now is, I think, a short-term phenomenon. Well, 30, 40, or 50 years ago, people did buy what today would be called novellas in paperback form, but those days are pretty much gone. Nowadays, people expect a paperback to run at least 250 to 350 pages. The average novel sold today in print form is probably 125,000 to 175,000 words.

Short fiction is not economically viable in the long term even on the Kindle, unless it is sold very cheaply. We're going to see prices going down and stabilizing over the next year or two. Individual short stories will have no market unless they're priced at $0.00. Novelettes will be the same. Novellas (25,000 to 70,000 words) by established authors will probably have a market at $0.99, which price they'll share with loss-leader short (75,000 to 100,000 word) novels by established authors and most novels by less well-known authors. Full-length novels by known authors will settle down probably at $1.99, which is about the value to most readers of the story alone, which is all they're getting with an ebook purchase.

As I've said before, given that paperbacks can be sold, traded, or given to a friend, the real value to many readers of an full novel length ebook is half the price of a used paperback. And that's actually good news for authors, who now get zero on used book sales. Now they'll be getting paid for every sale.

--
Robert Bruce Thompson

C. Pinheiro said...

Who pays $25 for new hardcovers on a consistent basis?

Fans. Fans do this.

Harry Potter fans, Twilight fans...

I remember paying for Christopher Paolini's last hardcover (yes, I know). And I'll probably buy the next one, too.

I also buy hundreds of dollars worth of non-fiction hardcovers every year.

David said...

@rbt:

"The average novel sold today in print form is probably 125,000 to 175,000 words."

--Considering the vast majority of novels sold are romance, mysteries, and thrillers that run under 80,000 words, I don't know where you got these numbers. Your numbers are more common in the epic fantasy/science fiction world, which is considerably smaller--

"Short fiction is not economically viable in the long term even on the Kindle, unless it is sold very cheaply. We're going to see prices going down and stabilizing over the next year or two. Individual short stories will have no market unless they're priced at $0.00. Novelettes will be the same. Novellas (25,000 to 70,000 words) by established authors will probably have a market at $0.99, which price they'll share with loss-leader short (75,000 to 100,000 word) novels by established authors and most novels by less well-known authors."

--You may price all works under 25,000 at zero, but that doesn't make it so. And a 70,000 word novella? That would mean 90% of all YA novels aren't even novels. They average around 60-65,000 words. And 100,000 words is a SHORT novel?! Really? Many agents are now suggesting 80,000 words for debut novelists--

--As for no one paying more than $1.99 in the future? Why? Most people are paying over 5 bucks for e-books, and they're not balking about it. And when have readers ever set the prices for books? Publishers set the prices, and readers decide if they want to pay it.--

-- E-books offer many things paper books don't. They're less easily destroyed and lost, they're more convenient, if copy protection is off you can make unlimited copies, they're more portable, affordable, adjustable ... And you demand to pay less than the price of a cheeseburger for that? Less than half a cup of coffee from Starbucks? I don't get it.--

Merrill Heath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Merrill Heath said...

While I would love to see David's price structure take hold, I suspect it will trend a little lower. However, I don't think it will go quite as low as Robert outlined.

I do think there is a market for short stories, novelettes, and novellas as digital publications if priced in the $.99 to $1.99 range.

I think novels by lesser-known authors will continue to sell well at $2.99. I think it's a good idea to use the $.99 price as a promotion or to establish a following, but $2.99 is not unreasonable for a full-length novel.

Novels by the big name authors will sell well above the $2.99 price point because these authors have a huge following who are used to paying as much as $8.99 for a paperback. But I think the price for the ebooks will eventually come down to the $4.95-$6.95 range. Readers won't continue to pay more for the ebook than they would for a paperback, especially when they can buy a used paperback through Amazon for $4.95 or less (total cost including shipping).

But I shake my head when I hear people say authors are "devaluing" their work when they sell it for $.99. The value of the book is established by the reader, not the writer. By comparison, I can go to the grocery store and pick up a full-length movie through Redbox for a buck. It took a lot longer and cost a lot more to produce that movie than it did for me to write one of my novellas. If the movie producers had the same mindset as some writers the cost to see a movie would be ridiculous (some would argue it already is). But the producers have realized they can rent a movie for $1 and make money through volume.

John Locke sells his full-length novels for $.99 and I suspect he chose that price because he figures he can sell 10 or 20 times as many at that price than at $4.95 or $5.95 or even $2.99. And it works for him. He sells a ton of books. So he would probably argue that the value of one of his novels is not $.99 but $10,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 (perhaps even more) because that's what he makes off of them with volume sales.

It's an interesting concept...to look at the value based on total revenue rather than price point for a single copy.

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

Kendall Swan said...

@RBT

I disagree with you regarding short forms. Your basic assumption is that price is the ONLY factor that will nudge out short forms. But price isn't the only reason people buy.

You pointed out that you short forms used to be popular and then weren't. But that wasn't necessarily bc of consumer preference as much as it was publishers 'training' readers to read only longer works by not offering shorter works at all.

Now that the obstacles to publishing short works are out of the way, a short form renaissance will happen (it is already starting). Even die hard legacy published writers are admitting that self publishing some shorts and novellas is worth it bc of the speed/money/new reader opportunities.

The new Kindle Singles Program is booming. Ebooks absolutely level the playing field when it comes to length (where previously longer was 'better' bc of value).

Even though people are reading more ebooks, attention spans are only growing shorter.

Personally, I have skipped over a few novels in my tbr list in favor of reading shorter works first.

Admittedly, I'm biased since I write short stories. But I think my points are still valid. (Feel free to point out if I'm wrong.) Reader habits are changing.

Okay, didn't know I had that much to say on the subject when I started the post. Sorry for the preaching.

Kendall Swan
NAKED Parent Teacher Conference

Terry said...

Every time I read this blog I get more and more inspiration. All I can say thank God I found this.

Gramix Publishing said...

Joe:

TinaSamuels posted this on Absolute Write Water Cooler:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5979575&posted=1#post5979575

Basically, she is asking if you can split payments on Kindle, etc., when you co-author an ebook.

I recommended she read your blog and email you.

bowerbird said...

david said:
> I wasn't insulting him,
> bowerbird.
> I admire the hell out of him.
> I say it's the kid's table
> compared to the rest.

i don't see how "the kid's table"
can be construed as anything
but a rude insult, but since you
say that's not what you meant,
i will take you at your word...

i haven't read any of his work,
but i admire john locke and
his willingness to leave some
money on the table in order to
give his fans the better price...
not only is it a generous move,
it is also tremendously smart
in this period of hypergrowth
to create fans and not milk 'em.

***

coolkayaker said:
> I'd much rather spend
> $9.99 on a well-edited,
> top grade, completely and
> thoroughly written,
> full-length novel by
> a gifted author (e.g. Franzen,
> Updike, Mailer, Powers),
> for which I can spend
> 8-10 hours of raptured
> word bliss, than I would
> spend $2.99 on a novella,
> self-pubbed by a newbie
> with a website and
> a Facebook account
> that I can dash through
> in 2 hours and feel like I
> just ate a Big Mac with
> a supersized order of fries
> before a triathlon.

loaded comparison, much?

at any rate, you might well be
a cool kayaker, but it must be
hard for a superior being such
as yourself, with your erudite
intellect and refined taste, to
live on a planet where borders
is going out of business while
mcdonald's has a "restaurant"
up the street from most of us.

still, you must be thankful for
the self-publishers who price
their books under $3, since it
serves as a warning to you and
means you don't waste any of
your precious time on them,
which in turn means you have
plenty of time to come here
to berate those same authors,
over and over and over again.
the burden of noblesse oblige.

oh, good luck on your triathlon.

-bowerbird

Merrill Heath said...

Coolkayaker1 has a valid point. He likes what he likes. I don't have a problem with that. But I would say that he's not in my target audience. I don't have a problem with that, either. As a matter of fact, he's probably not the target audience for most authors who put their work up on Kindle for $2.99 or less.

Merrill Heath
Alec Stover Mysteries

David said...

@Merrill:

"The value of the book is established by the reader, not the writer. By comparison, I can go to the grocery store and pick up a full-length movie through Redbox for a buck. It took a lot longer and cost a lot more to produce that movie than it did for me to write one of my novellas."

I'm not sure the analogy holds. Have you forgotten that movies first come out in theaters? I pay twelve bucks for a ticket. Eighteen if I wanna see it in 3D Imax. When I rent it, I usually download it on my apple TV for 6 bucks, or stream it on demand for about the same price. A movie that costs two hundred million dollars must earn four hundred million dollars just to break even. They don't do that with a few thousand one-dollar runs to RedBox.

Books are different. E-books even more so. In many cases it's the author's first run. ONLY run.

I think when it comes to pricing, writers (not readers) must determine what is best for them. Some will make more money with 99 cent novels, and others will make for with $4.95, name or not.

Somebody writing literary novels and doing considerably less volume than Joe or John might do better with a higher price point. Somebody who sells only 500 books at $4.95 will make the same money as someone who sells 5000 books at 99 cents. And the 500 may be more likely to read the book they bought at $4.95 than the person who bought 5 books at 99 cents.

@bowerbird:

You're suggesting then that anything over 99 cents would be taking advantage of and milking the reader. So anything higher than 99 cents is screwing the reader? That seems like you're putting a valuation on him, or on e-books in general I'm not sure. Are you saying that all e-books should be 99 cents, or that his books are fairly priced at 99 cents and anything above that would be unfair?

Lundeen Literary said...

RBT said:

"People don't buy short stories, novelettes, or novellas individually in print form"

That's because NY rarely prints them. The profit margin per book is too low due to print costs. Printing shorts used to be viable 50 years ago, but things changed. That gets leveled once printing costs get removed from the equation.

Now, this is not to say that readers won't buy longer fiction. Damn right they will! But publishers have to stick in a sellable and profitable range, otherwise
they can't buy the books.

"Short fiction is not economically viable in the long term even on the Kindle, unless it is sold very cheaply."

EVERYTHING is economically viable on the Kindle. No storage fees or print fees, unlimited shelf space, massive market penetration of the distributor, and vast numbers of readers. Every single thing, even a niche market, is huge.

"Individual short stories will have no market unless they're priced at $0.00."

Amazon had a shorts program that they've merged with KDP, and those shorts were $0.99. They now have a similar program for articles. As in Magazine-type articles. The equivalent of blog posts. And they're selling. The program is new, but they're selling. (this is the Kindle Singles Program that Kendall mentioned)

"Novelettes will be the same. Novellas (25,000 to 70,000 words) by established authors will probably have a market at $0.99, which price they'll share with loss-leader short (75,000 to 100,000 word) novels by established authors and most novels by less well-known authors. Full-length novels by known authors will settle down probably at $1.99, which is about the value to most readers of the story alone, which is all they're getting with an ebook purchase."

Can I ask where you're getting your numbers for word count? Those are WAY off from my experience speaking to dozens of agents and looking at award word count qualifiers. I'd be interested to know your source.

From the standards I've been dealing with for 10 years or so, this is where things stand, +/- a couple thousand words for particular markets:
>7,500 = short story
7,500-20,000 = novelette (for those who use the designation)
20,000-50,000 = Novella
50,000+ = Novel
80,000 = where an agent would like a debut novel to be, also typical word limit for YA fiction, unless it's JK Rowling
120,000 = good lower length for epic fantasy (and publisher cutoff for some new authors - gets too expensive for print)
150,000 = bloated, and editor will want big cuts, unless in certain genres or by certain authors.
200,000 = the makings of a trilogy, or one VERY profitable author with a lot of clout

As I stated before, I've paid $7-8 bucks for printed novellas, and they were worth every penny. Yeah, I can read through them in 2-3 hours. Sometimes I want something quick, and sometimes I want something meaty. You're honestly saying that at some point, a JK Rowling novel (90k-250k words) will be expected to be $1.99 by the entire buying public? I paid about $16 for the last Harry Potter book, after discounts, and I would pay that AGAIN for EVERY REREAD. That book is worth hundreds to me, so I got a bargain. I'm not alone. $1.99 is too low for a new book by an established author. That devalues the work completely, IMO.

I like many of your points, but I think you're perhaps dealing with incorrect info, or else just very pessimistic.

Jenna
@lundeenliterary

Merrill Heath said...

David, I agree that my analogy about movie rentals is not a good one, because of the very reasons you pointed out. But we're all competing for the time and attention of our "customers."

My customer can spend a couple of hours watching a movie (rented for about $1) or he/she can spend that time reading one of my novellas (downloaded for about $1). So, what we're really talking about is the entertainment value for a few precious hours.

Furthermore, I won't spend $12 to see a movie with no-name actors and an unknown director. But I will pick up a rental for $1 if it sounds interesting. I think a lot of readers feel the same way about buying books.

I agree with your comment about pricing when you said, "I think when it comes to pricing, writers (not readers) must determine what is best for them. Some will make more money with 99 cent novels, and others will make for with $4.95, name or not."

Authors should find the price point that provides them the revenue they want (or need) for any given book. The focus should be on total revenue not price point. But I think readers (not the writer) ultimately determine the price by purchasing or not purchasing at a given price.

I've seen a lot of news about Amanda Hocking getting a $2 million offer. But I haven't seen any headlines that said, "Amanda Hocking agrees to contract with traditional publisher for $24.99 per book." And yet, in the ebook-self-pub-world we all seem to talk more about the price of a single copy than the long-term revenue that book generates.

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

rbt said...

Not about the money? As Samuel Johnson said, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." That's a sentiment with which I think nearly all successful working writers will agree. Joe certainly seems to keep score that way.

As someone noted earlier, authors don't determine the value of their work; readers do. Sure, some readers will pay more than others, but the trick to optimizing pricing is to price your work at the level that maximizes revenue. If you price too high, readers will either not buy your work or will simply download it for free. Music companies found that out, and ebook authors are going to learn the same lesson.

Right now, anyone can go out and download a torrent file with 5,000 or 30,000 ebooks, at essentially zero risk. If Joe prices his next novel at $2.99, I'll buy it without a second thought. If he prices it at $4.99, I'll probably still buy it, but I'd have to think about it. If he prices it much higher, I either won't bother with it--there are plenty of other good books available for $2.99 that I haven't read--or I'll just torrent it. Other readers' price tolerance varies, certainly, probably on a bell curve, but one sure thing is that high prices will result in much smaller sales volumes.

David said...

Robert, the fact that you go to a author's blog and admit to pirating books because you don't feel like paying more than $2.99 is gutsy--and shows how little respect you have for writers. Maybe you're the voice of the poor, huddled, proletariat masses, but theft is theft. Risk or no risk.

bowerbird said...

david said:
> You're suggesting then that
> anything over 99 cents would
> be taking advantage of and
> milking the reader.

not necessarily.

besides, that's not my decision
to be making in the first place...

the customers themselves will
decide if they got a good price
or if they were fleeced, after
they finish reading the book.

but because his books have
all jumped into the top-60,
with all but one of 'em regularly
inhabiting the top-30, it's easy
to see that john locke has been
giving fans fantastic value, and
making new ones in the process.


> So anything higher than 99
> cents is screwing the reader?

not necessarily.

besides, again, that is _not_
my decision to be making...

(and, for the record, i advise
authors _not_ to use $.99,
because the "royalty" that
amazon pays at that price
is one that i feel is unfair,
since that's half what it pays
for prices of $2.99 and up.)


> That seems like you're
> putting a valuation on him,
> or on e-books in general

art is worth whatever you can
get someone to pay for it...


> Are you saying that all
> e-books should be 99 cents

most definitely not.

charge whatever you like.


> or that his books are
> fairly priced at 99 cents

when it comes to prices,
the notion of "fairness"
is extremely hard to define.
and hardly worth the bother.

if an author wants to charge
an "unfair" price, so be it...
as long as there is no law
requiring me to buy the book,
i'm free to make the decision.

on the other hand, however,
it would be hard for me to
characterize a price of $.99
as being "unfair" or "too much".


> and anything above that
> would be unfair?

you seem to want me to give
some strict definition, but i
just don't see things that way.

if someone wanted to charge
ten thousand bucks for a book,
i'd be completely fine with it...
i wouldn't buy the darn thing,
but that's not the question...

likewise, if the corporations
want to charge $12.99 for
the e-books, i'm fine with it.
i may laugh at their stupidity,
but price however you like...

-bowerbird

Lundeen Literary said...

RBT said:

"People don't buy short stories, novelettes, or novellas individually in print form"

That's because NY rarely prints them. The profit margin per book is too low due to print costs. Printing shorts used to be viable 50 years ago, but things changed. That gets leveled once printing costs get removed from the equation.

Now, this is not to say that readers won't buy longer fiction. Damn right they will! But publishers have to stick in a sellable and profitable range, otherwise
they can't buy the books.

"Short fiction is not economically viable in the long term even on the Kindle, unless it is sold very cheaply."

EVERYTHING is economically viable on the Kindle. No storage fees or print fees, unlimited shelf space, massive market penetration of the distributor, and vast numbers of readers. Every single thing, even a niche market, is huge.

"Individual short stories will have no market unless they're priced at $0.00."

Amazon had a shorts program that they've merged with KDP, and those shorts were $0.99. They now have a similar program for articles. As in Magazine-type articles. The equivalent of blog posts. And they're selling. The program is new, but they're selling. (this is the Kindle Singles Program that Kendall mentioned)

"Novelettes will be the same. Novellas (25,000 to 70,000 words) by established authors will probably have a market at $0.99, which price they'll share with loss-leader short (75,000 to 100,000 word) novels by established authors and most novels by less well-known authors. Full-length novels by known authors will settle down probably at $1.99, which is about the value to most readers of the story alone, which is all they're getting with an ebook purchase."

Can I ask where you're getting your numbers for word count? Those are WAY off from my experience speaking to dozens of agents and looking at award word count qualifiers. I'd be interested to know your source.

From the standards I've been dealing with for 10 years or so, this is where things stand, +/- a couple thousand words for particular markets:
>7,500 = short story
7,500-20,000 = novelette (for those who use the designation)
20,000-50,000 = Novella
50,000+ = Novel
80,000 = where an agent would like a debut novel to be, also typical word limit for YA fiction, unless it's JK Rowling
120,000 = good lower length for epic fantasy (and publisher cutoff for some new authors - gets too expensive for print)
150,000 = bloated, and editor will want big cuts, unless in certain genres or by certain authors.
200,000 = the makings of a trilogy, or one VERY profitable author with a lot of clout

As I stated before, I've paid $7-8 bucks for printed novellas, and they were worth every penny. Yeah, I can read through them in 2-3 hours. Sometimes I want something quick, and sometimes I want something meaty. You're honestly saying that at some point, a JK Rowling novel (90k-250k words) will be expected to be $1.99 by the entire buying public? I paid about $16 for the last Harry Potter book, after discounts, and I would pay that AGAIN for EVERY REREAD. That book is worth hundreds to me, so I got a bargain. I'm not alone. $1.99 is too low for a new book by an established author. That devalues the work completely, IMO.

I like many of your points, but I think you're perhaps dealing with incorrect info, or else just very pessimistic.

Jenna
@lundeenliterary

rbt said...

David said...

Robert, the fact that you go to a author's blog and admit to pirating books because you don't feel like paying more than $2.99 is gutsy--and shows how little respect you have for writers. Maybe you're the voice of the poor, huddled, proletariat masses, but theft is theft. Risk or no risk.


Well, I *am* an author, and I've been making my living at it full-time for about 15 years now. I doubt that anything I said will come as a shock to Joe. And, incidentally, I wouldn't grab an unauthorized copy of Joe's book; as I said, either-or, and the one I'd choose in this case is simply not to read it. But I'd be in the minority, as I suspect Joe realizes would be the case if he drastically overpriced his books.

And, please, let's not call copyright infringement "theft". It isn't. Theft requires conversion. If you make an unauthorized copy of one of my books, you have stolen nothing from me. If I steal your car, you no longer have the car. Or if you come into my home and steal a printed copy of one of my books, I no longer have that printed copy. Calling copyright infringement "theft" or "piracy" is something MAFIAA do because few people consider copyright infringement to be wrong, while nearly everyone considers theft and piracy, in the real sense of those words, to be wrong.

Incidentally, I'll bet I've bought more books than you have, and probably by a considerable margin. Just since I bought my Kindle in mid-January of this year, I've bought more than 60 books from Amazon. So please don't come off all holier than thou about supporting authors.

--
Robert Bruce Thompson

Sheri Leigh said...

And, please, let's not call copyright infringement "theft". It isn't. Theft requires conversion. If you make an unauthorized copy of one of my books, you have stolen nothing from me.

Gee I guess all those warnings on my old VHS tapes and those shorts they're showing in theaters about "no recording devices allowed" in movie theaters lately... well, I guess the FBI must just be kidding about those warnings. Silly me. Copyright infringement is not theft. Thanks for clearing it up.

rbt said...

Sheri Leigh said...

And, please, let's not call copyright infringement "theft". It isn't. Theft requires conversion. If you make an unauthorized copy of one of my books, you have stolen nothing from me.

Gee I guess all those warnings on my old VHS tapes and those shorts they're showing in theaters about "no recording devices allowed" in movie theaters lately... well, I guess the FBI must just be kidding about those warnings. Silly me. Copyright infringement is not theft. Thanks for clearing it up.


You're welcome. You'll notice that official government statements refer to it as "copyright infringement", not "theft". That's because it isn't theft.

Sheri Leigh said...

You're welcome. You'll notice that official government statements refer to it as "copyright infringement", not "theft". That's because it isn't theft.

Right. But there's that pesky 3 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine to consider.

There's also no mention of paying taxes in the constitution. But the IRS has a funny way of fining and confining you anyway.

Don't worry, I'm sure the FBI will have no problem with you calling it "copyright infringement" from jail all you like.

tom said...

On the subject of word counts, my own debut Big 6 published novel was just shy of 140,000, and equalled 330ish pages in hardback and about 550 in paperback. I would say that most traditionally published thrillers/crime novels come in well over 100,000 words, with writers like Vince Flynn and Lee Child writing between 120-150,000. You can find out the word counts of many books on Amazon via the "Text Stats" feature. A rule of thumb is if the book is over 400 it's over 100,000 words.

If we say there is an average of 250 words on each page then a novel of 60,000 is 240 pages), while 70,000 equates to 280, 80,000 to 320, 90,000 to 360, and 100,000 to 400 pages.

A book 240 pages long or thereabouts is very short by traditional standards. Even 300 pages is short these days, unless they're romance or young adult. So I think some people have their idea of what makes a novel a bit skewed.

That said, ebooks are a whole different animal, and there clearly is a market for shorter works, but I think there is a danger that readers buying an ebook and believing it to be a novel in the traditional sense, and finding out it's only 50,000 words long, are likely to feel short changed, whatever they paid for it.

Also, the average reader has no idea how many words a book contains and just works off the page count to determine if it's long or short, so I'm not sure how useful it is quote the word count in a description.

S.J. Harris said...

Semantics aside, taking something that doesn't belong to you because you feel it is priced to high is unethical, and it's illegal.

Just since I bought my Kindle in mid-January of this year, I've bought more than 60 books from Amazon. So please don't come off all holier than thou about supporting authors.

So...since you buy a lot of books, stealing some is okay? Sorry, Charlie. Not gonna fly in the real world. Go spend half your annual salary at Wal-Mart, and then get caught pocketing a Snicker's bar.

Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO...

rbt said...

Sheri Leigh said...

You're welcome. You'll notice that official government statements refer to it as "copyright infringement", not "theft". That's because it isn't theft.

Right. But there's that pesky 3 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine to consider.

There's also no mention of paying taxes in the constitution. But the IRS has a funny way of fining and confining you anyway.

Don't worry, I'm sure the FBI will have no problem with you calling it "copyright infringement" from jail all you like.


I would think that you, as a writer, would be as concerned as I am about the misuse of words.

Incidentally, despite the wording of the standard video warning, the FBI has no interest in pursuing non-commercial copyright infringement. They go after people who knock off copies and sell them, not people who make copies for personal use or distribution to friends. They could hardly do otherwise, given that nearly everyone has at one time or another committed the crime of copyright infringement.

Like Cory Doctorow, I don't mind in the slightest if someone infringes my copyrights non-commercially. In fact, I convinced my publisher (O'Reilly/MAKE) to release the book I'm currently writing under a Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to copy it freely. That leads to more sales of the printed books.

T.J. Dotson said...

I know we are venturing way off topic..bu since the subject came up.

There is an interesting interview with Neil Gaiman about how he feels that pirating of his books..actually helped his sales....by almost 300%

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qkyt1wXNlI

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

Thanks TJ. That's a very interesting video.

rbt said...

David said...

Whether it's called theft or something else, it's still against the law. It's also unethical. The entitled downloader probably justifies his actions by saying he's exerting pricing control. Putting pressure on the author or publisher to price the product the way HE wants it priced, rather than what makes economic sense. What other area of life allows a person to behave that way? Elsewhere, if you don't like the price, you shop around. You still don't like it, or you can't afford it, you don't buy it. $4.00 is too much for a person's blood, sweat, and tears, yet we spend $4.00 now on a single gallon of gasoline? Entitlement. There's a lot of it these days.


You just don't get it. You aren't in control; readers are in control. No matter how much you may believe copyright infringement of your work is wrong, readers are going to do what they're going to do. They don't care what you think.

If you price your work at a level the market considers reasonable, most people will pay for it if they want to read it. If you price it at a level the market considers too high, most people will simply ignore it and many of the smaller number who don't will simply get an unauthorized copy. That's reality. The music business tried for years to deny that reality, and look where it got them.

Joe and a lot of other authors are smart. They realize that an unauthorized copy does not equal a lost sale, and that making stuff freely available leads many people to try your stuff. If they like it, and if your other stuff is priced reasonably (in their opinion, not yours), they'll buy it. I'd never heard of Joe until I started reading his blog a few months ago. I downloaded some of his free stuff, and have since bought five of his books. And I'll probably buy the others as well, because they're priced reasonably.

Maybe you should allow other authors to make that decision for themselves. Oh, and what happens when e-books account for 75% of all book sales. Wil that change your free e-books for all policy?

Ultimately, authors don't decide what people will pay for their work. Their readers do.

Why would I change my mind? I write technical and scientific books, which aren't particularly suited to reading on an e-reader (small screen, most lack color, and so on). So my publisher will distribute the book I'm writing now as a PDF that can be freely downloaded. If the reader wants a printed version, my publisher will be happy to sell it to them. And we'll sell many more print books that way.

If one day ereaders are more suitable to the type of stuff I write, yes I will continue to distribute copies freely.

--
Robert Bruce Thompson

S.J. Harris said...

That's reality.

So are drive-by shootings. Doesn't mean we have to participate in them or condone them.

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Cover Art Review

S.J. Harris said...

BTW, Kiana never got back to me so I still have a slot open for tomorrow's Cover Art Review.

First person to ask gets it.

David said...

I hear the pricing argument a lot. Just make it affordable. But the people I know who download free e-books and audiobooks wouldn't consider buying books anymore if they can get them for free. Free's better than cheap. Does it equal a lost sale, maybe not. Were the titles you bought (of Joe's books) available to torrent for free? Did you buy them because you wanted to support him, or were the ones you wanted simply not available?

This isn't an easy, black or white thing. RBT says most people don't think it's wrong. I don't know if that's true. But watching that Gaiman video I question my own stance a bit. Not about the ethics of it, but how it affects artists. If you consider it free publicity for print books, then maybe it can be a good thing. But the numbers may change radically as the industry changes.

Joe Konrath said...

We're seriously not equating file sharing with murder, are we?

I've jailbroken my iPhone. I have copies of Playstation games that are long out of print and impossible to find. And once, I Xeroxed a short story from a library book because I couldn't get the book anywhere.

If you Google my name, you'll find hundreds of torrents sharing my ebooks. And yet I still managed to sell 60,000 this month.

There isn't a single study that proves piracy harms the artist.

S.J. Harris said...

We're seriously not equating file sharing with murder, are we?

Just saying both are unethical and illegal. I'll admit the two are at opposite extremes of the strata.

So let's go back to the Snicker's bar example. Is stealing a Snicker's bar going to hurt Wal-Mart? Nope. Does that make it okay to steal a Snicker's bar? Nope.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy shoplifted candy very much. Same with music and literature.

David said...

But many Snickers are thrown out if they fail to sell by a certain date. So really you're just stealing one of the Snickers they wouldn't have sold anyway.

S.J. Harris said...

LOL, David. Yes, there's always a way to rationalize crime.

That's one of the fun things about creating villains.

Andy said...

The Gaiman video above reminded me of the HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC campaign of the 1980s. It was nonsense and, as he said, much more akin to free advertising.

As a teenager, my mates and I copied each other's albums all the time and recorded songs off the radio for our own enjoyment. Guess what? We ended up buying lots of music and still do.

I've never forgotten the singer of That Petrol Emotion (am I the only person on here who knows who they are?) saying it was the best moment of his life when he saw a bootleg cassette of one of their gigs on sale at Camden Market. It was the moment he knew they'd made it.

Yes, I could easily download torrents of ebooks but you know what? It's just easier to browse through Amazon and click on them. The prices are low and it's a simple impulse buy. I'm more bittorent savvy than almost everyone I know and I can't be bothered with the hassle of it, so I'm pretty certain that all my friends will be the people who just buy a Kindle and shop for ebooks in the legal way.

The browsing, shopping and sampling experience is a big part of why ebooks sell so much.

My girlfriend is a big fan of thrift store fashion. She buys something new almost every other day, but it's the thrill of finding something that appeals. She doesn't want someone to dump a huge container full of old dresses on her doorstep in the night. It's just not the same.

Yes, I just compared novels to thrift store dresses. I don't know how that happened.

Andy Conway
The Girl with the Bomb Inside (A Novelette) on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Bianca Connors said...

Great idea with the Google Docs.