Mark Terry

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


March 22, 2011
So, yesterday the news is all about Barry Eisler deciding to self-publish instead of taking a $500,000 2-book deal with St. Martin's Press.

Betsy Dornbusch brought this to my attention, that Amanda Hocking, who has made a gazillion dollars self-publishing, is now having her agent shop a four-book series to major publishers with over $1 million for world English rights.

All together now: WTF?

I'm sure JA Konrath will have something to say about this, as will everyone else in the blogosphere. (Does the writing blogosphere seem sort of incestuous? Hi, this is my writer friend Darryl, and my other writer friend Darryl!)

As I mentioned yesterday in my addendum, if I were offered Barry's deal, I'd take it. Not an eye-blink.

Now, Lee Goldberg commented yesterday that he's projected to make about $80,000 off his e-books this year and those are primarily a backlist of previously published books that have gone out of print. I'd be slightly more than ecstatic if I were looking at that kind of money for my e-books. Unlike Lee, I'm currently on track to make about $1200 this year from my e-book sales. Whoa. I know. You're jealous, aren't you?

We'll see, though, because I expect to e-publish a nonfiction book in the next month or so and I have high hopes for it.

My point here is that everyone is a eunuch. No, wait. Wrong word. Everyone is unique.

I just read a quote by Margaret Atwood yesterday where she commented how the publishing business drives traditional business people crazy, because it's not like selling one type of car to a million people, it's selling a million types of books to a million different people. (Actually, I'm totally paraphrasing and I like the way I say it better, so bleah!) In other words, each writer is unique, each book is unique, and each reader is unique. And writers are eunuchs. Oh. Never mind.

I currently find the current e-book thing sort of freeing, although I haven't found it to be the economic solution to all my money problems. But from a creativity POV, yeah, it's cool to figure you can just go ahead and publish it and there'll be distribution.

Am I still going for traditional book contracts?

I don't know. And that's the honest answer. My current publisher is involved in working up the promotion/publication of my next novel, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, which comes out June 7th. Once we see how that does, maybe we'll discuss the next one, assuming there will be one. I'm tinkering with several different novels, including being about 85% through another Derek Stillwater, but for the moment my fiction writing has lost a lot of its momentum. I'm tired of fighting the industry and a client that last year brought in almost $60,000 is going through restructuring, etc., and apparently has no need for my services in 2011, so as you can imagine, my mind is focused a little more on paying gigs (and I'm doing fine finding replacements so far, with a good reminder to myself that when one client is responsible for a huge percentage of your income, you're only asking for trouble).

Probably, though.

I think writers and aspiring writers who spend too much time online (that would be most of us) spend entirely too much time obsessing about this sort of thing. Keeping up on the business is good, and the industry is changing so fast right now that it's almost impossible to stay current, let alone predict what's going to happen next week or next year, let alone make the "right" decision for yourself.

Anyway, that's where I am today. No conclusions. Just musings. Maybe tomorrow I'll have puppies and rainbows.


Blogger Jon VanZile said...

Sorry to hear about your client ... I had that happen a few years ago and it sucked. At least it sounds like you're getting out ahead of it—I didn't react until it was too late and had a rough quarter as a result. But I definitely learned the same lesson: never get too many eggs in one basket. I try hard to limit any particular client to less than 25% of my total billing.

And yeah, that is weird news. I can only imagine the self-publishing community is going to feel massively betrayed. Which is kind of weird if you think about it, because their whole point is that people should be able to publish however they want with no stigma. Anyway, I'll also bet that Hocking isn't giving an inch on e-book royalties. I've heard that brand-name authors already cut their own e-book deals so e-book rights are approximately the same from a revenue point of view as hardcover sales. I'm sure she's doing the same thing—so the deal is a win/win for her. She gets huge print distribution, a massive media splash, a big chunk of money, high e-book royalties, and probably puppies and rainbows.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Good point, Jon. In her shoes, I would think control of e-rights would be the dealbreaker.

6:12 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I might add this--and I don't know her and can only speculate . . .

But there are a select few "rock star" writers--maybe the woman who did Twilight, JK Rowling, John Grisham, etc. A handful of household name, certified rock stars who can walk into a restaurant and get the table of their choice sort of thing, make the pages of magazines. And despite her e-book success, she was not one of them and likely never would have become one of them strictly from how she was publishing. But if she splashes like the Twilight woman . . . or JK--and BELIEVE me the publishers will invest BIG--then suddenloy she moves to a far more elite class. And that . . . is something to consider on a strictly "Why is she doing it?" point.If a big movie deal follows . . . you get the idea.

Just my half a cent.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Jon VanZile said...

Good point, Erica. And not only in terms of visibility ... It's true that she made about $1 million last year from e-books (or so they say), but Stephenie Meyer made $40 million and James Patterson made $70 million. There's a whole world of difference there. If I was her, I'd aim at the big $$$ also, just based on my previous short history.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

And from a philosophical POV, some people--many, I would guess--just won't feel like a published author until they've got the paper book in their hands. I know I still feel that way to a certain extent, which is why I'm very slowly bringing out my e-books in paper via CreateSpace - I want a copy or two on the shelf.

On her blog Amanda commented a few weeks ago at just how much time she spent on promotion, that it was unreal, which is a very different perspective than we typically hear from JAK. It may very well be that, now that she's got a nice fiscal cushion, she'd like some of the responsibilities to be handled by someone else.

Or who knows. Maybe she was convinced, like you said, that the sky's the limit and she's more likely to get that with a large publisher's backing than on her own. I suspect that's true, actually.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I'd do it, too. (Go for the big $$$). Also . . . I do think that once the hullabaloo subsides, there will still be some tiering. That people will realize that a Barry Eisler has the $$$ to hire a good editor, has upper-echelon writer pals to vet his work through, can hire a good cover designer and so on and so on, has the disposable income to do a great deal of in-depth research, and so you're STILL getting a A-list writer with him, versus a lot of the crap that is getting tossed on Kindle. He'll make his money differently, but the tier will still be there.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I am SURE she has to do a ton of marketing--why not let a publisher do it for her, for heaven's sake? I mean, I was looking at YA titles yesterday and there was a lot of "clock her and click here" on Amazon, and I was struck by the SCADS of self-pubbed stuff and there was no way I was going to wade through it all. So I still go to tried and true authors. It would have to take a LOT to step out from the pack, I think. Just in terms of a numbers game.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I will be very curious to see, long-term, if this works for Barry. It might. But he's the kind of guy that I don't see necessarily burning bridges, so it's possible he'll do it both ways or eventually go back to legacy publishers (might get stuck with that phrase) if they can offer better e-book rates or deeper pockets in terms of marketing and promotion. Hard to say.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Et tu, Amanda?

Scalzi's gotta redo that e-self-pubbing BINGO card.

$1,200 dollars a year represents a lot of e-books though, doesn't it? That's a lot of readers.

I'm glad you can replace a client that big. Holy cow. There is the problem for a freelancer that if you take too much work from one client then you end up, in effect, employed by them.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Not counting the anthology, I seem to sell about 50 copies of the books combined each month, give or take. That's up from what it was a while back. The bestsellers are The Devil's Pitchfork and The Serpent's Kiss, although I've been intrigued to note that The Battle For Atlantis has been selling fairly well in similar numbers to Pitchfork and Serpent the last 2 months. Edge and Hot Money don't sell all that well and Monster Seeker is definitely the worst, for whatever reason.

I'm not at all sure I'm going to be able to replace the client for that amount of money, but last year was an outlier for that client. In the past they've tended to be big one year and low the next. Well, last year they were huge and this year they're non-existent. I've picked up what looks to be one quite profitable client, although not to that size, and I've been very close to getting 2 ghostwriting gigs, so I'm confident something will turn up. I'm aiming to make what I made last year, but not really expecting to. But hopefully better than 2009.

1:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home