Saturday, May 28, 2011

More on Thomas and Mercer and recent deals

As I've said many times before - there are many paths that lie before the author. Big-six is the dream of most, and with some valid reasons, but it has come with some pretty high price tags (52%/14.9% ebook royalty share, rights that are hard if not impossible to reclaim, and clauses that can limit future writing by the author). I mentioned in a post a few days ago that I suspected that the Thomas and Mercer contracts were "author friendly" based on the people who have placed pen to paper to them namely: Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath, and Blake Crouch.

Well it would appear that my suspicions are true. Here is a quote from Barry himself:

A last thought: while I certainly am guided by self-interest, I am also profoundly motivated by the desire to make publishing a better industry for readers and authors (again, see the Marketing page of the For Writers section of my website). During the course of our negotiations, I worked hard to persuade Amazon to jettison various legacy publishing provisions that gain publishers little and that authors loathe. It's a huge credit to Amazon that they listened to my arguments and changed their template accordingly, and it's satisfying for me to know that other authors will get the benefit of the more enlightened template I helped forge -- both from Amazon directly, as it expands its publishing wing, and from legacy publishers, who will be forced to compete with Amazon's more enlightened terms.
The main thing for me is that authors have more options now than we've ever had before. Self-publishing is one of those options, and it's a great one. But as new possibilities emerge, I'll consider them, try them, and perhaps integrate them into my overall strategy. Why would anyone do anything else?
I'm glad to see that my suspicions were indeed correct. As I said before the self-publishing revolution is benefiting all authors - those that continue to self-publish, those that go with small presses who are now making good livings doing so (Yeah Marshall Thomas, Nathan Lowell, and Michael Sullivan while still with Ridan), and those going to traditional as the contracts must and are changing.

My mantra remains the same...there's never been a better time to be an author!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

ebook vs print book sales

Some of the most depressing sessions I attended at BEA (Book Expo America) this week were the ones where people tried to convince each other that print is not dead. I don't think it is dead but the way, but there is no doubt it is in decline. The people on the panels however seemed to try to convince me of print's relevance in a way that just made the picture sound even more bleak. They touted "specialty books" like those contained in a potato chip bag, or a cookbook that is encased in Lucite and sells for $600+. Some tried to convince me that books were the "best" format of the printed word as they last for hundreds of years, need no power source, can be read during take off and landing, and can be read in direct sunlight.

I love printed books, but I also love having a hundred on my device at one time. The next time I move, I'll be grateful that I won't have several hundred more books to pack and unpack. But most importantly I love the fact that when I finish one great book and want another that I can just click a button and not have to rely on the UPS man or getting in my car to drive to the bookstore.

For those who have not kept up on "the facts" about the decline here is some recent data:
  • July 2010 Amazon sold more kindle books than hardcovers
  • January 2011 Amazon sold more kindle books than paperbacks
  • May 2011 Amazon sold more kindle books than paperback and hardcover combined
  • Year end 2010 AAP numbers had ebook sales at 8.3% of total trade sales
  • February 2011 AAP numbers had ebook sales at 29.5% of total trade sale - higher than any other category (hardcover, mass market, trade paperback)
I was really looking forward to hard and fast numbers from BEA and the report I was looking most forward to was one done by BISG (Book Industry Study Group) and AAP (Association of American Publishers) that took data from 1,100 publishers over a two year period.

Alas, the report will not be published until JULY!! There was good news from the preliminary data however, it seems that publishing has found the bottom (2008) and is starting to climb up out of it (last 2 years have shown growth).

Michael's agent asked me at lunch how long before ebooks outsell all print. She was hoping for five years I said two -- though I think I'll be wrong and it could be as soon as 14 months. We'll see and keep you posted.

More Shake Ups from BEA

Thomas and Mercer is really shaking things up. Hot on the heels of their announcement of appointing Kirshbaum to run the new imprint, now we find they've signed New York Times Best Selling Author Barry Eisler.
I've seen some forums speculate that the deal was already in place when he turned down St. Martins and he had no intention to self publish - I don't subscribe to that interpretation. Here's my 2 cents for anyone who is interested....

Thomas and Mercer is moving fast...very fast. My take is they saw Barry's self-publishing announcement and saw an opportunity to pull in a NYT best selling author. They are not pussy-footing around - and are going at this full-throttle.

If I were to guess...they made the royalty share on ebooks better...and more importantly...the contract more author friendly: more input on creative control, no restrictions on future works, a good or non-existent non-compete. I say this because the people that T&M have signed to date: Eisler, Crouch, and Konrath know what to look for in a contract and no amount of money would make them sign one that restricted them from future income potential.

If any of this is true this is good for authors as other publishers will have to change their contracts in order to compete in such an environment. All it takes is one high profile publisher to change - and then dominoes will start to fall. I've been saying for sometime that self-publishing WILL be good for all authors as even those published will get better terms now that there is a viable alternative. This is just one indication that we might be moving in the right direction.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why I love what I do

So, this site is my way of giving back to the writing community and my intention is to provide publishing knowledge and insights on the business side of writing. So when I speak about Ridan's successes on this blog it is generally in the context of illustrative examples. But I'm so very excited that I just had to share.

Ridan's authors currently occupy 40% of the top 10 Science Fiction Kindle books:
They are being beat by two industry powerhouses: The latest Star Wars Novel, and 2030 by megastar Albert Brooks. Not too shabby!

I couldn't be happier for these fine authors that have worked so hard and produced such quality writing. I know the sales these two are experiencing are changing their lives. Most authors can't make a living wage from their writing, but these two can and do. I'm just so pleased to play a small part in their success. Thank you's because of success stories like yours that I just love doing what I do.

By the way...Full Share has been flirting with the Top 100 (last two hours it's been at 116 and 117) if it crosses the 100 mark it will be the FIRST Indie published book to make the top 100 at $4.95 that I've ever seen. (Vincent Zandri was in the top 100 but he started at $0.99 and rose the price once there). That would be amazing!!

EDIT 6/1/2011 As of now the books stand at:
Fell a few points on some but gained another to the list and picked up spot #1 so that's not all bad.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Big Buzz at BEA

Well it's early here in New York and Michael is still sleeping so I thought I would sneak in a blog post. I have A LOT to write about the BEA but I thought I would chime in on the thing no one here can stop talking about.

Amazon hired publishing veteran Larry Kirshbaum to run their new trade imprint. For those who are not "plugged in" Larry Kirshbaum is a huge name in publishing. He was the CEO of Time Warner Publishing (later bought by big-six giant Hachette Book Group). This shows just how serious Amazon is in becoming a major player in the publishing arena.

I know there are Amazon detractors out there (something btw I've never understood). But there are few companies I can think of who have so consistently performed well with the decisions they have made. Just a few examples:
  • Kindle continues to dominate the device world
  • Amazon continues to dominate the online book buying world
  • AmazonEncore - more in a minute
When AmazonEncore started up I thought..."Wow, that's smart....really smart". For those that don't know AmazonEncore was doing EXACTLY what I was doing with little Ridan Publishing. Looking for authors who had already proven themselves through self-publishing sales and giving them a "leg up". Now of course Amazon has a lot more to offer than I do, in regards to a marketing engine and email list of readers that any publisher would kill for.

Still, even with that I didn't see anything mind blowing in the sales figures put out by people signed with them. Karen McQuestion and Joe Konrath have had some success but nowhere near where I think they should have been.

I attribute a lot of this to the fact that they weren't fully committed (i.e. taking publishing seriously) through Encore. In many ways I look at Encore as them testing the waters and dipping their toes. By hiring Kirshenbaum they are putting the publishing world on notice that they are coming, and their bringing some big guns.

Even more telling, is what they plan on publishing. So far Amazon has announced:
  • Montlake (May 04) - for Romance Titles
  • Thomas and Mercer (May 18) - for Mystery and Thriller
  • Unamed - Scifi (and presumably Fantasy)
All genre fiction, which simplifies their marketing considerably. One of the problems I saw with their Encore line was the fact that the titles were "all over the map". They seemed to pick randomly and that made it difficult to really establish a brand.

For those who missed my other post on this it was actually Amazon who put out the winning bid on Hocking's series (reports say they bested the $2 million offer by at least 500,000 but Amanda and her agent didn't like the restrictive terms of the deal so they went with St. Martin's Press). But this shows their willingness to shell out some considerable bucks and with Kirsenbaum at the helm I expect to see them going after big fish authors.

Speaking of authors, one of the first in the new Amazon offerings will be Stirred a collaborative novel by Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch which will be the final installment to both of their long running series. Anyone who reads Joe's Newbies Guide to Publishing knows that he's smart when it comes to his career and he's critical about traditional publishing in general. The fact that these two have signed make me suspect that Thomas and Mercer have a more "author friendly" contract than most of the other ones floating around out there.

So let's see what we have....
  • A publisher who has access to readers emails and buying habits (and knows how to leverage those assets)
  • A publisher who is focusing on the most successful markets (romance, thrillers, sci-fi & fantasy)
  • A publisher who can write a contract that publishing's biggest critic is willing to put pen to paper on
So once again I'm left with...."Smart...really smart". Yeah, I'd say there's reason for this to be big buzz. If Amazon can revolutionize traditional publishing like it revolutionized e-books and on-line buying...that's going to be some major boons for writers everywhere and just one more reason why there's never been a better time than now to be an author.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Belle of the Ball

So, if you guys are wondering why I'm not posting much it's because this is a CRAZY period of time. Here is my schedule:
  • Wed - Present to AWG (Arlington Writer's Group) about the changing face of publication - they kept me there for several hours with GREAT questions and then I went out for desert/beer with them after - great group. Lots of fun

  • Thurs - Went to SWFA Nebula Weekend and brought books for Michael's book Signing

  • Fri (AM) - Did a workshop on TV interviews (part of SWFA Nebula Weekend) met some GREAT folks that put on FastForward - a cable access station where they interview authors etc. I got some great material from them which I'll be doing posts of soon.

  • Fri (PM) - Had a fabulous talk with Andrew Fox - author of "The Good Humor Man" - Might bring him on as a Ridan author. Started reading his book on trip to NY - very enjoyable so far.

  • Sat (all day) -wen to DIY Conference - met some "out of this world" people including some I'm already working with (Dan Blank) and some that I would like to work with who seem excited to do some joint ventures with. Plus was mobbed at lunch and after sessions from some really great people who asked my advice. If any of you come to the blog - stop by and say hi so I know who you are.

  • Sat Evening - caught a quick meal at a great diner (really great waitress - I LOVE great waitresses) then caught bus back to DC (which is where I am atm - with power and Internet.

  • Sun - Both Michael and myself have presentations at SWFA Nebula Awards Weekend - looking forward to sharing some of my knowledge with them.

  • Sun (evening) - Michael joins me for a trip back to Big Apple

  • Mon (all day) - Going to every session I can on the changes in publishing - gonna be VERY interesting hearing "New York's" Perspective

  • Mon (night) - having dinner with Michael's agent (nice to have face time with member of our team that is doing so much for Michael's career.

  • Tues (day) - another full set of sessions - hopefully can get to the exhibit floor - but don't want to miss some of them.

  • Tues (night) - Meeting with 2 authors that I have a great deal of respect for. Would love to bring them into the Ridan fold - but even if that doesn't come off I'm still going to enjoy a night of talking with people who "get" what is going on with publishing these days. I'm SO looking forward to this.

  • Wed (day) more sessions and definitely exhibit time

  • Wed (night) - RSVP only cocktail party with Orbit

  • Thurs (morning) - Some sessions - but mostly exhibitor time

  • Thurs (noon) - Michael will be signing Advanced Reading Copies of Theft of Swords in the Orbit booth - if you are in NYC and at BEA - stop by and say HI!

  • Thurs (evening) - meeting with Orbit's marketing team.

  • Thurs (night) - back down to DC

  • Fri - (day) - drive to Hunt Valley MD - and deliver books for Nathan Lowell and Marshall Thomas - probably will have diner with them and thank them for being with Ridan.

  • Fri -Mon - doing many many sessions for Balticon and meeting/hanging wth Ridan authors Nathan Lowell and Marshall Thomas - both of which are kicking butt in the sci-fi space. Last I looked between the two of them they had 9 of the top 100 titles. (Each fighting for #3/#4 and trading it between them. Marshall has already sold 10,000 books this month. And Nathan's new release was #1 Mover and Shaker on ALL of Amazon. His previous "best rank was in the low 300's (319) but this release (Full Share) has been pretty steadily below 200 in the 180'ish area. you can see - I'm a bit bus right now - but rest assured I'm getting a ton of new content to start posting here - so stay tuned. And for anyone who was at DIY - I really appreciated all the attention you gave me. Check out other posts already here- and keep tuned as I'm sure you'll find posts that will help you on your journey to publishing.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

How to use $0.99 & Amazon Top 100 effectively

I’m going to follow Colbert’s lead here and give a “Tip of the Hat” to StoneGate Ink for how they’ve handled Vincent Zandri’s books. As you know I’m always looking for those indie published people who can compete with the big-boys in the Amazon Top 100 at a price point other than $0.99 or $2.99. StoneGate is, as far as I know, the only indie that has done so at my favorite price point $4.99.

All too often, I see someone crack the Top 100 and fail to leverage this to produce some kick-butt revenue (Yes, I’m speaking to you John Locke). StoneGate took Vincent’s The Innocent to the Top 10 and once it was cemented and started a following – they raised the price. Has the ranking fallen, sure it has but even after quite a few days (I didn’t notice the EXACT day of the price shift – but I’ve been watching it for a while now) it’s still in the top 100 and earning $3.49 for every book sold. I’m not 100% sure what the daily sales are at current top 100 rankings but I would venture that it’s selling about 800 - 1,000 books a day so that $84,876 - $106,096 a month - For ONE BOOK! Here’s some ranking data since I started tracking “The Innocent”.

StoneGate still has Zandri’s God Child at $0.99 and it that’s a great strategy. Having one of his books low priced while the other is “right priced” looks good to me. They’re not making a killing on this but it is giving the bargain shoppers something to latch onto and if they like what they find they’ll shell out a few bucks more for The Innocent.

So the moral of this story…make hay while the sun shines. If you are fortunate enough to get your books into the Top 100 don’t squander this leverage. Use it as a spring board to reap some really good revenue. After all – making a living from writing is what it’s all about and I’m sure that Vincent Zandri is making more money published through StoneGate’s small press then he ever did with the larger press he was with previously. This piggy back’s nicely on my previous post about self-publishing helping everyone. I think StoneGate Ink used the techniques of the self-published and in so doing has made a nice bit of profit for themselves and their author – well done!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why the self-publishing revolution is good for all authors

Yes, I know I’m neglecting my blogging duties. But I’m VERY busy with some books I have to get out and I’m working around the clock to that end. But I wanted to address something I saw that got me a bit “hot under the collar”.

There are many authors that are dead set on traditional publishing. That is great. I embrace all three routes (self, small press, big-six) and if that is what you’ve decided is best for you then go for it full throttle. But what is upsetting me is those that are firmly entrenched in that model berating those that choose to self-publish. Do they not understand that their because of these self-published pioneers their lives have improved as well?

The answer is simple….options. In the not-too-distance-past getting a big-six traditional publishing deal was really the only viable way to have any chance at making a living wage. But each and every book had a high initial investment tied to it, and there was only so many slots available so the number of authors that could be published was by definition a small number.

Enter POD, e-books, and online retailers. This lowered the barrier to entry and small presses and self-publishers could now get their books created, and more importantly distributed with very little financial risks. A playing field of this nature opens the doors for many, many more books from tons of new authors to take their swing at the bat. But technology alone is not all that is required. What is needed is legitimacy.

The early self-publishers had to work harder to compete against the well-established behemoths. They were the small Davids who used every tactic at their disposal: social Networking, bargain basement pricing, working 18 hour days, and their efforts paid off. You’ve seen the names many times before: Amanda Hocking, John Locke, H.P. Mallory, D.B. Henson, David Dalglish, Nathan Lowell, Michael J. Sullivan, B.V. Larson, Victorine Lieske, Joe Konrath, Blake Crouch, and most recently Vincent Zandri. All of these people, and many more, are earning their living through writing whereas if the landscape was still dominated by the big-six they would not be. Some of the authors have had prior big-six publishing experience, some none. Some have their current success, and others are through small-presses. But if it not for the self-publishing revolution none of these people would be where they are today.

Here’s what I can say with 100% confidence because it comes from my own experience. Finding success in this environment is MUCH easier than it would be if the revolution never occurred. Some people find real hard numbers to be a good teller of the tale so here are some.

Michael has sold more than 60,000 books through self-publishing (they sell for $4.95 - $6.95), earned more than $160,000 in four months, has nearly $200,000 in foreign rights sales, and a six-figure big-six contract. NONE of that would have happened without self publishing.

Nathan Lowell has sold more than 15,000 books (at $4.95) through my small press. He’s topped many of the science fiction lists and with the release of his new book (in just a number of days I expect to see him jump right back up there).

Marshall Thomas has sold 4,000 books in 9-days (prices vary from $0.99 - $4.99) His spike is directly related to the $0.99 price point that was pioneered by self-published authors. If self-publishing never existed to the level it does now we wouldn't see the $0.99 market that exists today.

So all this is great for the small press published and the self-published, but why should I, since I’m only looking at the big-six, care? Because the changing landscape means better contracts for you as well. When the big-six was the only game in town they could offer contracts stilted in their favor that most logical people would never consider signing. They know they have to modify them, not only to keep their current talent, but to attract new talent (some of which are being plucked from the self-publishing world such as Hocking, Sullivan, Mallory, and Henson).

So my message to you today…is regardless with what path to publishing you plan for yourself, take a minute to thank those that have gone the self-publishing route. They have had a rough row to hoe and take it on the chin by many “in the industry”. It’s time that we give all a little loving for what they have done for the industry.