Mark Terry

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some Recommended Reading Re. Publishing and Writing

May 20, 2010
There's been a lot of interesting things to read on various blogs, etc., far more than usual, so here's some links to them, in case you missed any of them.

Angela Hoy has some interesting things to say about author newsletters and book marketing.

Perhaps a dozen times a week, authors ask me some variation of this question:

What is the best way to promote my book online?

It's quite simple, really. This is all you need:

  1. An audience
  2. A vehicle to reach that audience
Dean Wesley Smith continues his online postings for Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing by addressing the myth of "Only 300 Writers Make A Living." I also recommend you slog your way through the comments, many of which are very interesting.

This myth is so solid, I hear it repeated over and over again. And just today, a person I follow on Twitter repeated it yet again, sending all her followers to a web site that had some writer say simply “There are only about 200 or 300 writers making a living at fiction.” With nothing at all to back up the statement or even a second thought about what that statement meant if true.

The number is total and complete hogwash. I’m going to lay out some facts. And I will use math and other ugly arguments to show you that this number is a total and complete myth. And I hope to maybe dive a little into why this myth persists. Why beginning writers need it. So hang on. This myth is as ugly as it is stupid.

As some of you might have heard, JA Konrath, after his 7th Jack Daniels novel failed to be picked up by a traditional publisher, made some sort of undisclosed deal with AmazonEncore to come out with a Kindle version followed a few months later with a print edition that may or may not get picked up by other bookstores. Some people think this is the most important shift in publishing since movable type. I don't know if it is or if it'll be just another gimmick that gets noted and passed on, but it's interesting.

Q: Aren't you going to piss off traditional publishers?

A: Traditional publishers had a chance to buy Shaken last year. They passed on it. Their loss. Their big loss. Their big, huge, monumental, epic fail.

Q: Is Amazon going to sell the Kindle version for a lot of money?

A: Amazon is smart, savvy, and pays attention to my suggestions. The Kindle version of Shaken is going to be released for $2.99. Here's the link if you'd like to pre-order.

Q: The Kindle version is coming out four months before the paper version. Why?

A: It's easier to release an ebook than a print book. Print books require printing, shipping, warehousing, pre-orders from bookstores, etc.

This news has generated a tremendous amount of discussion on the blogosphere, although I'm hard-pressed to find anything that's more than speculation (mine included). This thing with Joe is an experiment and it looks win-win for Joe, but I don't know if it's going to change the world of publishing or not and neither does anyone else. Mike Shatzkin takes on the subject and he seems more insightful than most and the discussion is interesting as well.

Although Konrath is a media- and tech-savvy author who has published with major New York houses (the Jack Daniels series was previously published by Hyperion), he is not a regular NY Times Bestseller brand. Not only is he not a multi-million dollar advance recipient, he makes it clear that the novel he just signed with Encore was rejected by the New York publishing houses. So Amazon had a low bar to jump to secure him for its Encore line.

Nonetheless, this is a significant jolt to conventional publishing economics. Sales of Konrath’s $2.99 ebook will deliver him about $2.10 a copy (Konrath says $2.04; not sure where the other six cents is going…), as much or more as he would make on a $14.95 paperback from a trade publisher, and significantly more than he’d make on a $9.99 ebook distributed under “Agency” terms and current major publisher royalty conventions. And, however one feels about the degree to which pricing is a barrier to ebook sales, one must assume that the $2.99 price will result in a lot more ebook sales than a $9.99 price would. Many times the sales!

We’ve been imagining a split market for ebooks: “branded” ones from conventional publishers being sold in the $10-$15 range and “commodity” ones from lesser-known sources (authors and publishers) at $1.99 and $2.99. Over time, we figured that improved curation of the cheaper ones, plus promotional pricing by the branded ones, would drag the overall pricing down. That’s been behind our concern that maintaining anything close to the current pricing for print will be almost impossible to do over time.

* * *

And I wanted to add one of his comments because it's something that I've thought about but never heard anyone else articulate. In fact, I'm sure--because we did this with our iPad--that when people first buy a Kindle or an iPad or a Nook etc., they immediately buy a bunch of books, particularly if they're $1.99 or something like that. But once they get over that, I suspect most people do what we've done, which is buy books we'll actually get around to reading. Here's Shatzkin's comment:

I think there's a big thing missing from your calculus though, which is *
time*. I personally am never without at least two books not started yet in
my possession (these are ebooks; I have not read a print book in more than
two years.) I can guarantee that I would not read one more book per year if
books were free; I read all the books I can right now. I'm not alone. So
there is at least one big block of readers -- the *heaviest* readers -- for
whom the notion that cheaper means more unit sales is simply not true.


Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

I did the recommended reading. And I appreciate the recommendation.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Mary or Eric said...

Hope Joe Konrath's book does well. It would be a nice way for authors to do business. A shame about the publishers nixing his seventh book considering the monumental efforts he made for them. But, it's like I said to Mary years ago, big publishers are big corporations and a big corporation is not your buddy, however much it might temporarily seem otherwise. As soon as there's not enough money there the big corporation wants nothing to do with you.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Joe was being published by Hyperion (owned by Disney). Hyperion closed down their mystery line and him with it. And even with his fairly significant sales (as far as I know), nobody wanted to pick up a series mid-series.

But I agree totally with: a big corporation is not your buddy.

7:55 AM  

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