4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse: JA Konrath, Barry Eisler, Amanda Hocking, Lee Goldberg..
March 21, 2011
I imagine that most of my readers--yes, both of you--are already aware of today's blog post by JA Konrath in which he has a very, very, very lengthy discussion with Barry Eisler. I haven't read all of it yet (did I say it's very long?)
Here's one of the key things to take away from it. Barry Eisler, who is a New York Times Bestselling author, has declined a $500,000 book deal to self-publish.
Okay. Let's take a deep breath and wait for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to pass by. (And to think, I always thought the Four Horsemen were Conquest, War, Famine and Death. Now we come to learn that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Amanda Hocking and Lee Goldberg. Who knew?)
One reason this feels like a tipping point to me is because of who Barry is. He's a very successful writer. No, he's not a James Patterson, Stephen King, John Grisham, or Janet Evanovich. Although King is often happy to play around with different types of story delivery, as far as I know he hasn't given up on traditional (legacy) publishing just yet.
And although Barry and Joe have always seemed like an odd pair (I've met both, interviewed both, read a great deal by both, both blogs and fiction), one thing they have in common is a fairly deep understanding of the business aspects of publishing and an intensity about their marketing efforts.
A couple other things to consider about Barry in the context of giving up a legacy publishing contract. His wife is a literary agent. (Not his, I don't believe). He's a former attorney. And until quite recently, he's been an advocate of legacy publishing. But clearly for him, something turned. I don't know exactly what that is, but I can guess.
First, Barry dabbled in e-self-publishing this year with a short story. And if sales continue as they are, the short story will make $30,000 this year alone.
Which, were I the swearing type (okay, I am), would make me say, "Jesus! Are you shitting me?" A short story?
And second, as I've noted to-date, e-books seem to keep on selling. Paper books seem to go quickly for 6 weeks then peter out. E-books seem to build and although I question whether the build will continue forever (unlikely), it does seem likely that a typical e-book will continue to bring in money to the author (and publisher, if that's your route) long after a publisher would traditionally have had your book go out of print. (Which in my case, with the first two Derek Stillwater novels, was within about a year of publication).
I'm sure Barry has his reasons, but I was frankly very, very surprised by this. I'm sure at least part of it has to do with what is the traditional publishing industry's current offerings on e-book sales--25% royalty. Forever.
The 25% e-book royalty is a joke, frankly, if you can self-publish with a 70% royalty. And secondly, what agents and writers need to push for if they're going to go along with this 25% charade is a time limit. That is to say, something like, Year One: 25% e-book royalty; Year Two-Three: 50% E-Book Royalty; Year Four: 75% E-book Royalty; Year Five: 90% E-book Royalty. After 5 years, e-book rights revert solely to author.
That kind of thing would at least create a possible incentive for authors to stick with legacy publishers, although it still sucks, frankly.
Anyway, this is a big deal.
P.S (Addendum:Oh, and I would also say that if a publisher were to offer me--today--a 2-book publishing deal for $500,000 I would take it with very little contemplation or analysis. Because where I am now at this point in my career, that would be a win-win. And no, Joe could not talk me out of it with any arguments he's given so far. My situation has not applied to any of them.
Hell, if someone were to offer me a 2-book contract for $50,000 or less, I'd probably take it.
But if they offered me one with the same contract terms I've had for my last 2 books ... much harder to say.)