Monday, March 28, 2011

Robin Goes Hollywood

I was contacted this weekend by Andy Lewis the reporter for the Hollywood Reporter that covers the publishing industry. He wanted to pick my brain on sales figures for top performers and also get my insights on the changing publishing market. How cool is that ! Pulling together data for him gave me a lot of insight on things I've not really had time to wrap my head around and lots of fodder for future posts. I don't want to "scoop" him (as if I could with my small -- but all so sophisticated --reading audience) so I'll wait to see how much of what I provided him he uses and then publish th rest here. I'm very tickled that all this work I do is starting to get noticed by others. Stay tuned.

UPDATE 4/1/2011 - Okay so the article came out and he used just one small fact out of pages that I gave him - DOH! But no worries all that I laid out for him that he didn't use I'll be posting here. Just give me some time to get it organized. The article with just the briefest mention of my name is here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Amazon 100 - 3/19/2011

I'm a week behind on my Amazon 100 Ranking analysis (I captured the screen shots but had not posted the results. So I'm going to do last week's first then this week.

To see the full list see this post on kindle boards.

  • 18% of the Top 100 changed (61% Debuts, 39% returning to list
  • No major price changes (One book from $7.51 > $7.58, One from $9.99 > $7.99, One from $13.99 to $12.99)
  • One indie price change from $0.99 - $2.99 (The List by J. A. Konrath)
  • One Small Press and priced at $4.79 - (Wild Sight by Loucinda McGary)
  • Quite a few price changes for games so that now all of them are $0.99
  • Games occupying a substantially higher % of list - 15%
  • #4 (Lincoln Lawyer) is being helped by movie
  • John Locke continues to dominate 7 titles in top 50 (#3, #6, #8, #10, #21, #25, #46
  • Amanda Hocking still has 7 titles but her rankings have slipped dramatically (#19, #26, #27, #61, #70, #73, #78)
  • Still No indie author greater than $2.99
  • 4 books are now priced $14.99
  • 57% are under $5 and 43% are over $5 - Major shift (but mostly due to games
  • 74% books (Fiction/NonFiction/Shorts) 26% - Games, Applications, Periodicals
  • Books: 86% Fiction, 11% Non Fiction, 3% shorts)
  • Number of Fiction titles down significantly
  • Number of $0.99 for indies up significantly

The types of items on the Top 100 break down as follows:

  • Shorts 2% (up from 1%)
  • News 3% (Steady)
  • Games 16% (up from SIGNIFICANTLY FROM 4%)
  • Magazines 7% (down from 9%)
  • Non Fiction 8% (down from 10%)
  • Fiction 64% (down SIGNIFICANTLY from 73%)

Looking at just fiction titles (64 titles):

  • 1 - Small Press (1.6%)
  • 30 - Indie Authors (46.9%) - 22 at $0.99 (73%), 8 at $2.99 (27%)
  • 33 Traditional Authors (51.5%) (0 - $0.99, 15 - $5-$9.99 (45%), 18 over $10 (55%)

Other information about indies:

  • 15 - Indie Authors 4 of which have multiple titles (Steady from 15)

  • 47% of Indie books came from 2 authors (14/30) John Locke (7), Amanda Hocking (7)

The price distributions are as follows (64 titles):

  • 34% $1.00 or less (22) (Up from 32%)
  • 13% $1.01 - $2.99 (8) (Down from 14%)
  • 3% $3 - $5 (2) (Steady from 3%)
  • 22% $5.01 - $10 (14) (Down from 30%)
  • 28% Over $10 (18) (Up from 26%)

Dividing into three groups we see:

  • Low ($2.99 or Less) 30 47% (Up from 41%)
  • Med ($3.00 - $8.99) 11 17% (Down from 22%)
  • High ($9.99 and up) 23 36% (Down from 37%)
Dividing into two groups we see:

  • Under $5 32 50% (Up from 40%)
  • Over $5 32 50% (Down from 60%)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Amanda Hocking signs 2M+ deal with St. Martins

To be honest, I didn't think a big-six firm could cough up enough $'s to get Amanda to sign. After all she sold 1M books in less than 1 year making between somewhere between $350,000 and $2,093,000 Let's call it $1M to 1.5M. But it just goes to show you that its not always about the money. As no doubt she woudl make more than that if she would have self-published them.

I'm very happy for Amanda - and I think it is totally the right move for her. She stated that she wanted to spend more time writing and less time on other things - and this will help with that but I'm not sure it will just poof and go away.

EDI: One interesting quote I saw in the NYT announcment article:

"Publishers, weary of hearing about their disposability in an age when
writers can self-publish their work on the Internet and sell it on,
said they were vindicated by the news."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What does Noah Lukeman know...and why should we care?

If you don't know who Noah Lukeman is you should. He is one of the top agents in the industry and a writer whose books are the foundation of many college courses on writing including:
  • The First Five Pages
  • A Dash of Style
  • The Plot Thickens
  • How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent
  • The Art of Punctuation
If you are still on the Query-Go-Round, I HIGHLY recommend his short ebook (which he gives away for free as a way of "giving back" to the writing community): How to Write a Winning Query Letter where he analyzes and condenses the pearls of wisdom from the 10,000 queries he's reviewed as one of the top Literary Agents.

Speaking of being an agent...did I mention he's top notch? Here are some of the Awards for books he's represented:
  • Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Hallman (Sam: The Boy Behind the Mask)
  • National Book Award Finalist Dan Chaon (Among the Missing)
  • New York Times 2009 Notable book of the Year Dan Chaon (Await Your Reply)
  • Edgar Award Finalist Joe Jackson (Leavenworth Train)
  • Edgar Award Finalist Victor Gischler (Gun Monkeys)
  • Christian Science Monitor names The Work of Wolves a Noteworthy Book
  • Christian Science Monitor names You Remind me of Me a Noteworthy Book
  • Detroit Free Press names John Smolens' Fire Point a Best Book of the year
  • New York City Book Award Winner Subway Style
  • Minnesota Book Awards Finalist Kent Meyers (The Work of Wolves)
  • ALA Alex Award winner Kent Meyers (The Work of Wolves)
  • Great Lakes Book Award Finalist John Smolens (Fire Point)
  • Publishers Weekly names The Art of the Interview one of the Best Books of the Year
  • California Book Award Gold Medal John L'Heureux (The Miracle)
  • AAAS Book Award in Prose Brian Ascalon Roley (American Son)
  • Detroit Free Press names The Outfit one of the 20 Best Books of the Year
  • Publishers Weekly names The Miracle one of the Best Books of the Year
  • B&N Discover Great New Writers Laura Denham (Have you Seen Me?)
  • Great Lakes Finalist John Smolens (Cold)
  • Los Angeles Times Best Books of the Year Brian Ascalon Roley (American Son)
  • Pacific Rim Finalist Brian Ascalon Roley (American Son)
  • Foreword Magazine Award Best Book of the Year G.K. Wuori (An American Outrage)
  • New York Times Notable Book of the Year John L'Heureux (The Miracle)
  • New York Times Notable Book of the Year Brian Ascalon Roley (American Son)
  • New York Times Notable Book of the Year Dan Chaon (Among the Missing)
  • American Book Award Winners John and Russell Rickford (Spoken Soul)
  • New York Times Notable Book of the Year Kent Meyers (Light in the Crossing)
  • B&N Discover Great New Writers Kent Meyers (River Warren)
  • PEN/West Finalist Kent Meyers (Witness of Combines)
  • Minnesota State Book Award Kent Meyers (Witness of Combines)
  • PEN/Hemingway Finalist Steve Lattimore (Circumnavigation)
  • New York Times Notable Book of the Year Steve Lattimore (Circumnavigation)
  • NABE Award for Best Book of the Year Brenda Shoshanna (Journey Through Illness)

So this is my way of saying..."this guy knows the business" and how to pick winners. So all that is nice but why is he on my blog? Well the last two deals that he posted on Publisher's Lunch were for:

  • R.J. Jagger's LAWYER TRAP
  • D.B. Henson's DEED TO DEATH

What do these two books have in common other than the author likes using two initials instead of first names? They were both previously self-published. Oh...and BTW HE went to D.B. Henson she did not query him. Yes, he sought her out not the other way around. (I have no idea about R.J.) Hmm...what can we surmise from this?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Don't show me the money - NYT author turns down $500,000 adavance

Okay, so why does the news I've been waiting for happen right when I swamped with some unmovable deadlines? Well that's life. Unless you are living in a cave (this is all over the Interwebs) New York Times Best Selling author Barry Eisler walked away from a 2-book deal with St. Martin's Press even though they offered him a $500,000 advance.

For those who have not read the 13,000 word interview between Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler you can find it here.

So goes the first, in what I think will be many...already established traditional published authors going indie as they SHOULD. It is the best way for them to maximize their income - their legacy published works have built them a platform, now its time to take that platform out for a spin to maximize their income.

In related news...Amanda Hocking is in auction for a 4-book deal with a number of traditional publishers in a deal that is reported to be more than $1 million.

Are these two bits of news sending mixed signals? Not at all. People wonder why Amanda would take ANY deal considering she has made a reported $2M on her own. Because if she has done this well on her own...its quite possible that she can make the REAL big time - i.e. be right up there with Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King if she get bookstore distribution.

I think what we'll see a lot more of traditional publishing will be "one-timers" where and author signs to get some credibility and wide distribution (bookstore, libraries, schools, foreign rights) then do all their other books self-published.

Exciting times! I'm going to start making a list of those that make the jump (in either direction).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making the best of both worlds - Julianne MacLean

Hot on the heals of my post about the best of both worlds comes an interview with Julianne MacLean whose publishing journey includes both traditional historical romance releases and a newly released self-published work: The Color of Heaven. I think Julianne is maximizing today’s tumultuous publishing environment by utilizing both paths to publishing.

Robin: For those who don’t know, let’s give some background on you. From my research I see you have traditionally published through three different major presses, are a USA Today Bestseller, and have won multiple awards. Tell us a bit about your career…where it started and where you are now.

Julianne: I’ve written 16 romance novels. I started at Harlequin Historicals in 2000, moved to Avon in 2003, and I’m now at St. Martin’s Press with a Scottish Highlander trilogy out this year.

I’ve been working on The Color of Heaven for 6 years. It took that long because I could only work on it during short periods of time while I was between contracts for my historicals. My agent shopped it around 3 years ago when it was half-finished, but no one was interested for a number of different reasons.

I always believed in the story, however, so I reworked it and finished it last summer. When I showed the revised version to my agent, she believed that in today’s tough publishing climate, the result would be the same. Thankfully, there was a viable alternative available to me. I could self-publish it. I was very excited by the idea.

I want to make something very clear, however. Though I am about to talk about numbers and business strategy, it needs to be said that this book is not a “product.” NOT TO ME. This is the book of my heart, and when I wrote it, it was a true labor of love in every possible way. The story means a lot to me. I did not set out to write something “marketable.”

Robin: To give us some perspective would you mind comparing your print sales to your indie ebook sales?

Julianne: The Color of Heaven has been averaging 1000 books per day on Amazon since Feb. 19. I uploaded it the end of January, and the first three weeks were slow. I sold only 31 copies. Then it took off exponentially at the end of week three (I will explain more about that later.)

As of today, I’ve sold 25K copies of that one title in the past 4 weeks, most at $2.99 with a 70% royalty, so you can do the math. Those are all e-book copies, but I have a print edition in the works, so it will be interesting to see how well that one does. I’m hoping to have it available by the end of the month. (It will be a POD trade paperback edition published by CreateSpace.)

I don’t have sales numbers yet for Barnes &Noble, as it only appeared on that site 2 weeks ago through Smashwords and hasn’t caught on yet. The ranking is very low as of the date of this blog, but it’s slowly rising. I will be watching it over the coming weeks.

In addition, my agency will soon be approaching foreign markets to sell print rights in other countries, and film rights as well.

To compare with earnings on my previous print books – I’m not going to share my advances, but I will share this hypothetical situation, which is pretty common: Let’s say an author gets a three-book deal with a sixty-thousand dollar advance (which isn’t bad for a mid-lister in this market). He/she will receive the money over the life of the contract as the completed manuscripts are delivered. Sometimes the final amount is paid on publication, which can hold your money up even longer. Most books don’t earn much beyond the advance, so the sixty-thousand-dollar-advance author is not making a killing if he/she is delivering a book every 9 months and waiting for the last book to be released. It could work out to only $20k per year, unless there are some foreign sales and backlist royalties to add to that.

I just earned that in less than two weeks.

Robin: I noticed that you started with $0.99 and then raised to $2.99 which I personally think is a brilliant strategy. You are still in the top 100 but you have slipped in overall ranking – can you tell us if you are making more or less at that $2.99 price point?

Julianne: Here was my strategy: I started at $2.99 (and sold 31 copies). For that first week, however, I also offered it for free at Smashwords to my long-time readers who were signed up for my website newsletter. I told them to share the coupon code with their friends, and I promoted the free coupon on Facebook and Twitter.

I gave away 500 copies on Smashwords and considered them to be ARCs (advance reading copies). This is how the big publishers do it, so I went about it the same way. (If you’re an author, read The Anatomy of Buzz)

In the weeks that followed, reviews started popping up in a lot of places, so I believe it was very worthwhile. It created some invaluable word-of-mouth.

As soon as the coupon expired, I lowered the price to $0.99 over on Amazon – again for one week only - and I promoted that “special offer” on Facebook and Twitter and did a few guest blogs where I mentioned it.

The turning point came when that sale price was mentioned on Daily Cheap Reads. I went from a 10,000 ranking to #55 by supper time that day. (I think having the positive reviews already in place helped to drive those sales, and the attractive cover art was key.)

The book continued to climb to #27 over the next week, and that’s when I raised the price back to $2.99 (though I was uneasy about this at the time and had some concern that it would fall off the list completely and lose momentum).

I was pleased to see that it didn’t slow things down much at all. The difference was barely noticeable in the ranking, but the royalty dollar figure soared at 70%. The ranking dipped to the low thirties for a short while, then climbed up again and peaked at #13 last weekend. It has since dropped to #54, but even so, I still made $11,000 last week.

So to answer your question – I am making more at the $2.99 price than I did at $0.99. And I still believe that $2.99 is an excellent price for a book. Reviewers have even commented on it and asked, “Why is this book so cheap?”

(Personally, I think a good book with a proven track record through positive reviews or a publisher’s stamp of approval is worth more than $0.99, and readers are willing to pay for good fiction. Using it as a promo price is one thing, but I don’t want to see this become the standard.)

But back to strategy. I just booked two promotions - one on Kindle Nation in April, and a five-day e-newsletter of excerpts from Eye on Romance, which will go out to 17K subscribers the week of March 21. I will be watching the numbers carefully to see if these promotions have any effect. Aside from my E.V. Mitchell website, these are the first promotions I am paying for. Kindle Nation is $139 and Eye on Romance had a sale price of $150 last week.

Robin: One of the things that is really bothering me about traditional publishing at the moment is the 25%/75% e-book split. I personally think this is the #1 thing that publishers have to change to attract and retain top talent. Does the success of Color of Heaven and/or the royalty share arrangement affect your thinking on future projects and whether you’ll stay traditional or shift to self-publishing?

Julianne: Absolutely. I will think very carefully about the next contract I sign.

Robin: If you were a new writer starting today, what would be your strategy to publishing – would you still go the traditional route, try your hand at self-publishing, or some form of hybrid approach?

Julianne: That’s a difficult question, because it depends on the drive, tenacity, talent, and experience level of the author (both in marketing and writing). It also depends on the author’s own personal priorities.

So let’s talk about tenacity, because that’s a key factor, whether you decide to self-publish or go the traditional route. It took me 6 years to sell my first book to Harlequin, and during that time, I wrote 5 novels, submitted to agents and publishers and got rejected left, right, and center. I did not give up, however. I was honing my craft the entire time, and to be honest, I’m glad I got rejected.

I keep hearing that the publishers, as gatekeepers, are rejecting a lot of good work. That’s true. Sometimes they make mistakes, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes a writer still has some growing to do.

I can’t imagine what would have happened if I’d self-published my first novel, because it simply wasn’t very good. So my advice to authors is to keep writing, develop your voice, get feedback through critiques. Learn how to revise and improve your work. It has to be good, no matter which route you take. And if you self-publish, please… do so with a professional-looking cover.

Robin: If you would have to give a new author one piece of advice (beyond “write a good book” which is a given), what would that be?

Julianne: Decide whether or not you’re willing to be in this for the long haul, and if the answer is yes, then keep writing and learning, and don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged if your first indie book isn’t a bestseller, or if your first submission gets rejected. Keep revising and writing new books. Most writers love to write, so consider it time well spent, no matter how long it takes.

Robin: Anything else you would like to share?

Julianne: The publishing industry is in flux right now, and it’s an exciting time for both authors and readers. I can’t wait to see where we are five years from now. I hope it’s a good place for everyone.

Again I thank you today for your time. I love the writing community and that those who have “made it” are willing to share with those new to the trenches. I’ll be watching your career and hope to see many successes in the future.

Night and Day

I read so many blogs about the ebook revolution that its seldom that I come across one that makes me go....Whoa! Today I found one. And it goes to illustrate the perception difference between those who have self-published and those that are in traditional publishing.

The post I came across today was entitled: Five Things to Know about the eRevolution. I'd like to address each of the 5 points raised.

  1. "you have to ask yourself whether the opportunity cost of spending months writing a novel and then only getting $50 through Amazon is worth it." - Why does this person assume that you'll only make $50 through Amazon? Take a look at Kindle boards and you'll see many people selling hundreds of books, a good number selling thousands of books, and a respectable number selling tens of thousands of books. But that's not what bugs me most about this point #1 - which is so what is the alternative offered? If a book is only going to sell $50 through Amazon it is not going to be picked up by traditional publishing so it's not like traditional is an alternative offered.
  2. Think of e-books like apps." - What a strange statement. ebooks are not apps - they are ... books. ebooks are just another format and one that is growing quickly. Amazon now sells 115 ebooks for every paperback sold. This is the fastest growing of all book formats it is not something completely different it is a book and should be thought of like one.
  3. "The advance you can earn through traditional publishing may or may not end up being more than you'd make electronically (odds are it'll be more), but the beauty of the advance is in the word itself: you get it before you sell a single copy." You get your money MUCH faster in ebook world. Traditional publishing is slow...really slow. I still don't have a traditional publishing contract as of March 15th and we "agreed" on terms on November 15 so her it is 4 months later and I don't have a dime - while in that same time I've made more than the entire six-figure advance that I'll get in installments. ebook income comes in just a few months advances (especially for multiple book deals) can take years to "fully come in.
  4. "Consider getting outside help. Even assuming you're a great writer, that doesn't necessarily mean you're a great editor, marketing manager, sales(wo)man, or graphic/web designer." - I'll give you this one - to a degree - yes as a self-published author you need to hire editor and cover designer (services traditional will do for your) but as for marketing efforts - well both self published and traditional published have to work this equally.
  5. Read everything you can on search engine optimization (SEO), on-line advertising, and keywords in order to make sure your work is readily available when its title or your name is entered into search engines like Google or Bing. Again I don't see why this is different between traditionally published or self-published. If you work on "getting your name out there" you need to do it regardless of how you are published.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying self-publishing is for everyone - it does take someone is basically an entrepreneur at heart. But I found this to be a very biased article by someone who really doesn't have the real world experience to speak as an authority on the subject.

Indies and Traditional Publishers Share the top 20

Just a quick post. I noticed today that the top Amazon 20 were shared equally between indie authors and traditional publishers:

  • 8 Indies
  • 8 Traditional
  • 3 Games
  • 1 Newspaper

Top Indies continue to be:

  • John Locke (4 books) - Hmm what nickname will I give John?
  • Amazda Hocking (2 books)
  • Joe Konrath (1 book)
  • Steven Carpenter (1 book)

Wow - this changed dramatically - as per Robert the shift went to: 9 indies. But then I looked and the breakdown is currently (3/15/2011 8:22 PM)

  • 6 indies
  • 6 traditional
  • 8 games and newspapers

So still 50% but man - big hit by the non books.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why does it have to be one way or the other?

I find myself in a unique situation in that I have one foot in each of the publishing genres:
  • Self publishing my husband's Riyria Revelations
  • Small press publishing 15 titles by Ridan authors
  • Traditionally publishing a series with Orbit books (fantasy division of #2 Big Press Hachette)

It seems as though there is a lot of "anti-traditional" sentiment out there these days. I can understand from whence it comes. The industry has a number of problems and challenges including:

  • Not enough bandwidth to produce all the good books they are submitted
  • Slow moving - typically 12 - 18 months to get a book to market
  • Distribution system that results in 50% returns
  • Erosion of the Best Seller Lists by low priced indie books
  • Authors who don't make enough to "quit their day jobs"
I can totally understand the battle cry of the independents that sing songs now that the oppressive yolks of the publishing masters is off their necks. I totally believe that for a new author the best path to earning a living wage is with going solo. But is that to mean there is no place for traditional publishing anymore?

As I wrote in my Write2Publish short - it really depends on what your goals are - if money is your primary motivation - I suggest indie. If recognition is a primary goal - I suggest traditional. Neither goal is better than the other - they are just different.

I totally don't understand the one way or the other mentality. Why can't there be value in both?
Michael is going with Orbit in the hopes of reaching a larger audience. But what about his books not under contract? Well one of several things can happen.
  1. Orbit doesn't find the next book interesting enough - easy solution - self publish next
  2. Orbit does a terrible job with Riyria (which I doubt) - easy solution - self publish next
  3. Orbit does a great job with Riyria, is interested, and willing to a more equitable distribution of ebook royalties - traditionally publish next
  4. Orbit does a great job with Riyria, is interested, and not willing to a more equitable distribution of ebook royalties - self publish next

Look is this not a good thing?

Let's say that his next book is not published through Orbit (or any other traditional publisher) doesn't necessarily mean that he doesn't like them, or they don't like him. It could mean that they didn't agree on terms. There is no good or bad guy in this situation. It just means that there was not a "good fit" as both parties couldn't get what they were looking for out of the deal. what...Orbit's books will benefit from readers who find Michael's other books first and want to read more. Michael will benefit from people who read Orbit's books and want to read more. It is a symbiotic relationship - a win-win for both parties.

There are a lot of people who are realizing this and I think, ultimately they will have their cake and eat it to. Some examples:

  • Bob Mayer - New York Times Best Selling author who has now opened his own indie press similar to what Ridan is doing - hand picking who he thinks will produce.
  • Bella Andre - Romance and Erotica writer who has a huge following developed through traditional publishing who is now making huge $$'s self-publishing (NOTE: She is resisting the $0.99 lemming effect and sells well at $2.99, $4.49, $4.99 and $5.99)
  • Julianne MacLean - who has traditionally published dozens of books from three different publishers and now has a top Ranked self published book: Color of Heaven

There are many today that say anyone signing a traditional contract is a fool...I think it is as legitimate a strategy to a higher audience as bargain basement discounting. Will it produce more $'s - nope probably not - but is that the only yardstick we are talking about?

I guess my point here is people think hard and long on the decisions between self and traditional and to berate them because they don't make a choice that fits with your goals is wrong. To each his own I say. Live and let live - offer advice sure...heck I offer a lot of advice here. But whatever you choice you make, if it is well informed then I'm confident that it is right for you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

At last we can interact directly with readers...but can we?

One of the statements I see over and over again is that for the first time authors can put their work directly into the hands of the readers with no middleman. While I agree that self-publishing now means authors don't have to ask permission of large or small publishers, the fact is unless you are selling thousands of books from your own website or blog you are not direct selling.

Now the good news is (contrary to the famous song) the new boss is not the same as the old boss. Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble are distribution partners and therefore don't limit what you can and cannot say...well most of the time.

I was very concerned with Amazon took a number of erotic books off the market, and what was worse is they removed the books from the kindles and DID NOT reimburse the people who had bought them...excuse me how is this not theft? Amazon took money from people in exchange for a product (albeit electronic) then made it go poof.

I'm a gambling woman, and risk taker by nature. That's probably why I was involved in self-publishing and ebook publishing many years before most people. I'm very bullish about the future of both and feel the income potential for good writers has never been better than it is today. Am I losing sleep at night worried that I can continue to sell through these venues? Nope not a bit...but...that doesn't mean that the level playing field that we have now will be there in the future.

I'm not sure if I've said it here, but I have in other venues, said that once New York gets "serious" about ebooks I can imagine where they make deals with the electronic distribution houses similar to they did with brick and mortar stores that would make for an uneven playing field. Possible changes:

  • Traditional Best Seller Lists independent of Indie Best Seller Lists (something BTW that I think could be good for both)
  • A co-op system for recommendations where large fees are paid to be admitted to cross sale promotions
  • More in the way of advertising for the big boys
  • Continued ability for only large publishers to make books free
  • What does that mean to you ... the author. Probably not a whole lot but some things to consider.

    1. Make hay while the sun shines - maximize these gold rush days because they might not be here in the future.
    2. Don't completely turn your back on NY publishing - I'm not saying don't put your work out now (see #1) but while you're gaining a following with self-publishing keep an open mind if someone knocks on your door.
    3. Do sell direct - and encourage people to do so. Having access to emails of people who enjoy your books and want future copies is always a good thing. Do what you can through newsletters and direct sales to build your own database of contacts.
    4. Keep your eyes open and think creatively if/when the change comes - does it make sense for you to joining with a bunch of other indie authors to form your own small press? Possibly.

    If this new revolution in publishing tells us anything it is that change is the only constant. So keep your fingers on the pulse of the industry and adapt as necessary.

    Amazon 100 - 3/11/2011

    If I have the time, I'm going to try and do these Amazon 100 analysis weekly as things are just changing so fast. This week I was surprised to see the following:

    • 18% of the Top 100 changed (61% Debuts, 39% returning to list)
    • No major price changes (One book from $12.99 > $9.99, One from $9.99 > $7.99)
    • #3 is a new book (Heavily helped by the $0.99 Promotion of Alone)
    • A lot of non-Fiction additions (27% of Debuts) - but many of the non-fiction also fell off
    • Only one new game
    • 71% of returning titles were Magazines
    • John Lock continues to dominate 7 titles in top 50 (#1, #5, #10, #16, #29, #33, #46)
    • Amanda Hocking sliding slightly in ratings (#6, #20, #21, #47, #61, #68, #77)
    • No indie author greater than $2.99 (excluding Seth Godin)
    • Color of Heaven from a former traditionally published author stayed on the list even though the price has gone up from $0.99 to $2.99 (though it has slipped in ranking)
    • 3 books are now priced $14.99
    • 40% are under $5 and 60% are over $5

    To see the full list see this post on kindle boards.

    The types of items on the Top 100 break down as follows:

    • Shorts 1% (Steady)
    • News 3% (Steady)
    • Games 4% (down from 5%)
    • Magazines 9% (up from 4%)
    • Non Fiction 10% (Steady)
    • Fiction 73% (down from 77%)

    Looking at just fiction titles (73 titles):

    • 2 - Small Press (3%)
    • 27 - Indie Authors (37%) (74% at $0.99, 26% at $2.99)
    • 44 - Traditional Authors (60%) (3% at $0.99, 5% at $5, 50% at $3-#5, 43% Over 10%)

    Other information about indies:

    • 14 - Indie Authors 5 of which have multiple titles (down from 15)
    • 52% of Indie books came from 2 authors (14/27) (up from 45%) John Locke (7), Amanda Hocking (7)

    The price distributions are as follows:

    • 32% Less than $1 (23)
    • 14% $1 - $3 (7)
    • 3% $3 - $5 (2)
    • 30% $5 - $10 (22)
    • 26% Over $10 (19)

    Dividing into three groups we see:

    • Low ($2.99 or Less) 30 41%
    • Med ($5.00 - $8.99) 16 22%
    • High ($9.99 and up) 27 37%
    Dividing into two groups we see:
    • Under $5 30 40% (33 - 43%)
    • Over $5 43 60% (44 - 57%)

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Gatekeepers and Outliers

    A lot of buzz these days about two subjects:

    1. Amanda Hocking's self publishing success is an outlier
    2. Gatekeepers (traditional publishers) are needed to keep the market from flooding with junk.

    As to #1 - I agree...but...that's not to say that self-publishing is not a viable path to success. There are many people making more money self-published then they would with traditional: Joe Konrath, H.P. Mallory, John Locke, Amazda Hocking, David Dalglish, B.V. Larson, J.R. Rain, Michael J. Sullivan, Victorine Lieskie, Nancy Cartwright. The bottom line, if you write a good book and use techniques (even the dreaded and hated $0.99) you CAN make a very good living wage with self-publishing.

    Yes, I put Michael there. I fully believe he'll make less money with his big-six deal - but that's not why we're going that route - we'd rather sacrifice some $$'s in our pocket for a wider audience through bookstores, libraries, and more foreign rights deals.

    John Locke is hot on Amazda's heels (and maybe even passed her). His Saving Rachel has been #1 now for awhile and he had #1 and #2 for a bit. He has written 7 books in the top 50 (and 3 of the top 10!)

    • #1 Saving Rachel
    • #5 Wish List
    • #10 Lethal People
    • #19 A Girl Like You
    • #29 Lethal Experiment
    • #35 Now & Then
    • #47 Follow the Stone

    So while Amazda is an Outlier - we now have to add John there which shows that repeating the pattern...writing a lot of VERY good books at low prices can succeed.

    As to Gatekeepers...part of the problem with traditional publishing is they just don't have the bandwidth to release as many good books as there are. Many great ones have fallen to the wayside not because they were not "worthy" but because there were only so many slots to fill and decisions were made to do A rather than B.

    The great thing about self-publishing is books that could never get traditionally published now are finding audiences. When I say "never get traditionally published" I don't mean - they weren't good enough. I mean that the chances were just too slim - and in some cases the material was not "mainstream enough".

    For those that know, I have a small press called Ridan Publishing. And our second biggest seller (soon to be #1 with Michael's departure) is Nathan Lowell who has written an absolute fabulous series of scifi books about ordinary people living in the "Deep Dark". His Quarter Share and Half Share sell thousands of books each month but the chances of him being picked up by a big-six is probably pretty slim -- not because they are not good -- I ... and many others .... love them - it is because ... to be frank...not much happens. There's no interstellar wars, political maneuvering, or aliens bent on the destruction of mankind. They tell an ordinary tale, not unlike most that we live day to day and yet Nathan does it in a way that compels us to read the next one. We feel for his characters and want to see what happens next. If submitted to a big-six I think the response would be - seriously...but nothing happens. My response is a lot happens and I'm proud to have brought these books to an audience that they would not have had if only the gatekeepers controlled the reading possibilities.

    I guess what I'm saying that being non big-six is starting to remove some of its "stink" of unworthiness. This is opening opportunities for both writers and readers. And a good thing.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Why is the Expresso Machine Taking so Long?

    So I remember years ago coming across a video of the Expresso Machine on Lightning Source's Website. It was the coolest thing I had seen in a long time. Producing a print on demand book in just a few minutes. I envisioned a world where Expresso Machines were in every major brick and mortar bookstore and a fair number of cafes as well. This would truly revolutionize self-publishing allowing booksellers to sell virtually any book without the hassle of returns or stocking slow moving titles.

    Here it is 2011 and I don't see us any closer to making this a reality. I realize that as I kid I wanted flying cars and that was probably a bit ambitious, but the first videos I saw of the Expresso in 2007 were pretty impressive. In fact the video I've seen now, seems to be a step backward as I recall the machine having a much smaller footprint then the current 2.0 model.

    If you want to see the machine in action here's the latest video (I wish I could still find the original).

    The price tag I've seen on this machine is $50,000 which all things considered isn't bad but I think the bigger issue for the retailer is fear surrounding maintenance and upkeep of the machine. Personally I would like to see OnDemand Books adopt a business model where they own the equipment, require the bookstores to buy materials from them, and send out technicians to service, clean, and calibrate the machines on a regular basis for a monthly fee.

    Between wide adoption of Expresso machines, and ebook technology, virtually any book can be made available without the headaches of a centralized distribution channel. As Xerox and OnDemand has dragged their feet in launching these machines in any major way, I have to wonder if the window of opportunity has passed. Recent numbers still show ebooks at 8% - 11% of total book sales but it continues to climb.

    Amazon 100 - March 06, 2011

    Things are changing quickly on the Amazon Top 100 Kindle Books so while I just recently did an analysis I did another one today. For an easier to read list see this post on kindle boards.

    After removing magazines, newspapers and games there are 89 books on the list which breakdown as follows:

    • 10 Non Fiction (11%)
    • 2 Shorts (2%)
    • 77 Fiction (87%)

    Some items of note:

    • For the first time an indie hit the #1 Spot - John Locke's Saving Rachel
    • For the first time an indie hit the top 100 at a price higher than $2.99 (Seth Godin's Poke the Box at $4.99 - considering Seth's status in the industry (multiple NYT bestsellers) and extensive marketing and existing platform I'm not counting him as a true "indie" so I'm still waiting for this barrier to be broken (Note: J.R. Rain did do this for a short time with a $3.99 book but it was not sustainable so I'm also not counting that.- I saw it for only one hour)
    • 25 new titles to the list (28% less than $2, 28% $5-$6, 12% $8-$10, 32% Over $10)
    • There were 15 indie authors 5 of which had multiple titles
    • 45% of the Indie books came from 2 authors (13/29) - John Locke (6), Amanda Hocking (7)
    • There were no price drops for books previously on the list to remain on the list
    • There were MANY (13) price hikes (most in traditional (12) and only 1 in indie)
    • Color of Heaven from a former traditionally published author stayed on the list even though the price was raised from $0.99 to $2.99.
    • D.B. Henson's Deed to Death dropped from the list (not due to sales but because she removed the book in preparation for a big-six release of the book)
    • The three "bargain basement" $0.99 offerings from traditional publishers are now all gone - two fell off the list - one remains on the list but is now price at $7.99

    MANY Traditional offerings stopped their $5.00 or $0.99 promotions or raised their prices

    • Alone $7.99 (Up from $0.99)
    • Unbroken n $12.99 (Up from $9.99)
    • Water for Elephants $6.39 (Up from $5.00)
    • Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest $11.99 (Up from $9.99)
    • Girl Who Played with Fire $7.99 (Up from $5.00)
    • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo $7.99 (Up from $5.00)
    • Cutting for Stone $9.99 (Up from $5.00)
    • Left Neglected $11.99 (Up from $9.99)
    • Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks $12.99 (Up from $9.99)
    • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet $9.99 (Up from $5.00)
    • Major Petigrew's Last Stand $9.99 (Up from $8.10)
    • Strategic Moves $12.99 (Up from $11.99)

    9 - Many new books to the list were in the high range of $10 or more including:

    • Treachery in Death (J.D. Robb) $12.99
    • The Paris Wife (Paula Mclain) $12.99
    • The Wise Man's Fear (Patrick Rothfuss) $14.99
    • River Marked (Patricia Briggs) $12.99
    • Minding Frankie (Maeve Binchy) $12.99
    • Untied: Memoir (Meredith Baxter) $12.99
    • Pale Demon (Kim Harrison) $12.99
    • Blood, Bones & Butter (Gabrielle Hamilton) $12.99

    7 - Debuts were in the "mid-range price" ($5 - $6)

    • Poke the Box (Seth Godin) $4.99
    • Harvest Moon (Robyn Carr) $5.59
    • A Creed in Stone Creek (Linda Lael Miller) $5.49
    • Against the Law (Kat Martin) $5.49
    • No Lesser Plea (Robert Tanenbaum) $4.99
    • You Can't Stop Me (Max Allen Collins) $4.39
    • An Engagement in Seattle (Debbie Macomber) $5.59

    3 - Debuts were in the mid-high range ($8 - $10)

    • Beastly (Alex Flinn) $8.99
    • Live Wire (Lora Leigh) $7.99
    • Medical Error (Richard Mabry) $9.99

    8 - New entries where in the low-range ($2 or less)

    • My Father's Dream (Erik German) $1.99
    • The List (J. A. Konrath) $0.99
    • Follow the Stone (John Locke) $0.99
    • Least Wanted (Debbie Mack) $0.99
    • Identity Crisis (Debbie Mack)$0.99
    • Live Free or Die (Jessie Crockett) $0.99
    • King James Bible $0.99

    The following stats apply just for fiction of which there were 77 books

    • 29/77 Indie (38%) Of those 79% were $0.99 and 21% were $2.99
    • 48/77 Traditional (62%)

    The price distributions are as follows:

    • 33% Less than $1
    • 8% $1 - $3
    • 5% $3 - $5
    • 31% $5 - $10
    • 23% Over $10

    Breaking them into Low ($2.99 or less), Medium ($3.99 - $8.99), and High ($9.99 and above)
    Low - 31/77 = 40%
    Med - 19/77 = 25%
    High - 27 /77 = $35%

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Bookstores still more profitable than online selling

    I hear many people talking about how much more profitable ebooks are than print. It's an easy assumption to make...after all ebooks cost virtually nothing to make (no printing, warehousing, and shipping). What I find amazing is that distributing ebooks seems to be more of a challenge. Let's look at the most recent numbers from Barnes and Noble. These are from the 3rd quarter filing ending January 2011)
    • retail stores generated $471M of gross profit on $1.46B in sales
    • generated $30M of gross profit on $319M in sales

    When we take expenseses into consideration we find EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amorization)

    • retail stores: $177.5M profit
    • $50.5M loss

    If we look over the last 3 quarters the disparity is even greater:

    • retal stores: $204.4 profit
    • $147.4M loss

    CEO William Lynch expects that physical books "will remain the majority of the market for the foreseeable future." He went on to say that's rapid growth in e-book sales and of its share of the market will allow it to become profitable quicker than originally planned and that losses in fiscal 2012 will be "minimized greatly."

    For those interested in the % of sales between the retail stores and it is now 13.7% which is up from 9.6% a year ago.

    I think for me, this is pretty eye opening as I figured the ebook revolution was making tons of money for authors, distributors, and publishers alike. I wasn't aware until I pulled back the covers that online selling is losing money and in pretty significant amounts.

    So for those predicting the end of bookstores...let's hope they hang on long enough to keep funding the online channel into profitability because if they sink we're going to lose and then Amazon may be the only substantive game in town.

    If you want to see the full set of data you can here.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    The Biggest Danger to Traditional Publishing

    As someone who is in the process of working my first traditional publishing deal, I of course keep an eye on the traditional publishing world and it is hard to refute all the doom and gloom forecasted for the industry. People point to the collapse of Borders, the fact that Barnes and Noble has suspended dividends, and the rise of ebooks (outselling print books on both Amazon and as proof they the big-six will cease to exist.

    I for one don't believe this. I think there needs to be change, and I'm confident that there are smart people working at these organizations that will figure their way through this new world order. If I were to give them one word of advice as to what to would be ebook royalty rate.

    For those that don't know, the industry standard is 25% of net sales to the author and 75% to the publisher. When you consider that print rights range from 6%-15% (depending on volume and format) this sounds pretty good. But it’s incredibly unfair and I predict will be the number one determinant to authors signing with a traditional publisher.

    At those rates the breakdown of an ebook priced at $6.99 goes something like this:
    • 30% to Amazon - $2.10
    • 52.5% to Publisher - $3.6
    • 14.9% to Author - $1.04
    • 2.6% to Author’s Agent - $0.18

    If the author were to e-publish themselves their income would be:

    • $2.10 – if priced at $2.99
    • $2.73 – if priced at $3.99
    • $3.49 – if priced at $4.99
    • But wait you’ll say…the marketing engine of the big publishers will sell more books at $6.99 then the self-published author can at $2.99 or $4.99, so you’ll make up the difference in volume.

    As someone who studies the Top Rankings on Amazon I can tell you this is not true. Many self published authors are selling as good or better than their traditional counterparts. Let’s look at indie names on the Epic Fantasy (where Michael sells) :

    • #2 – Amber Magic (B.V. Larson) $0.99
    • #5 - The Chosen Soul (Heather Killough-Walden) $1.00
    • #6 – Sky Magic (B.V. Larson) $2.99
    • #7 – Shadow Magic (B.V. Larson) $2.99
    • #8 – Dragon Magic (B.V. Larson) $2.99
    • #9 – A Dance of Cloaks (David Dalglish) $2.99
    • #10 – Blood Magic (B. V. Larson) $2.99
    • #11 – Elf Hunter (C.S. Marks) $0.99
    • #14 – Giants (Vaughn Heppner) $0.99
    • #19 – Crown Conspiracy (Michael J. Sullivan) $4.95
    • #20 – Wintertide (Michael J. Sullivan) $6.95

    That’s a lot of high ranked books by “indies” and not all of them at $0.99. Michael is being published by Orbit and their first book to hit the list is Joe Abercrombie’s “The Heroes” at $11.99 . Which means that Joe is making $1.79 per book whereas Michael is making $3.46 and $4.87 for the two books that he’s selling that are higher ranked than Joe's.

    Now, of course Joe is making print book sales that Michael is not, so his income is probably higher, but as ebooks continue to grow in market, and print books decline, the income from ebooks is going to be the dominant portion of an author’s income. For some, I'm sure it is already.

    For print, and indie author can’t compete with a big-six publisher who have the connections and co-op space in the bookstores. They also invest big dollars in large print runs to gain economies of scale. But in ebooks, the costs to an author is the same as that as a publisher (it only takes a few hours to convert a word file of the book to ebook formats and there are no production costs. Assuming the traditional publisher absorbs the costs of editing and cover design as part of the print book they have a very small “incremental” cost to put out an ebook and yet they are taking 52.5% of the profit?

    My prediction is that more and more authors will turn down traditional print contracts because of one thing and one thing only --- the share of ebook royalties. Once this starts happening publishers will find they can’t keep best selling authors nor attract new talent. There is a lot that big publishing can weather – but the loss of the producers of content…that’s a hard trick to pull off. And that is why, with all the other challenges the big-six faces, the 25% ebook royalty is the one that should is of greatest concern, and 100% in their control to correct.