Mark Terry

Thursday, July 28, 2011

E-Book Publishing Blah, Blah, Huh?

July 28, 2011
I guess you could say this post is a sequel to a previous one, "E-Book Publishing, Blah, Blah" that I wrote a while back. The reason I'm writing today is I just got notice that I have received a direct deposit of $16.66 into my bank account via the Amazon Kindle UK.

In a day or two I will receive a direct deposit from the U.S. version of Amazon Kindle and from Barnes & Nobles Pub-It, and, refreshingly, from Smashwords, who makes deposits on a quarterly basis.

I'm not getting rich. The UK number is the smallest one and it actually accounts for sales over a couple months. And, somewhat interesting to me, my UK sales tend to be for THE BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS, rather than the two Derek Stillwater novels I have information about, THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT'S KISS. (The e-book sales of THE FALLEN and THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS are under the control of my print publisher, Oceanview Publishing, and like all publishers, one does not often hear the words "accounting transparency" in the same breath as their name unless it's tied into various words like "shitty" or "fucking." That isn't to say that Oceanview is in anyway a bad publisher or that they are even remotely unusual in this regard. Quite the reverse, actually. I think they're a terrific small publisher that treats its authors quite well. It's just that, the only royalty statement I've received about sales all occurred prior to January 1, 2011, so anything that's happened in the last seven months is unknown to me and will remain so until the next royalty check/statement, which isn't really on my radar).

Kindle is also offering my books to the Amazon Germany site and there is some notice that India will be on the horizon soon, which is quite intriguing, actually. I haven't had any sales in Germany, undoubtedly because my e-books are only available in English, although both THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT'S KISS are available in German language editions in paper (as DAS GIFT DES ENGELS and GIFTHAUCH, respectively, published by Bastei Lubbe).

I'll be having another book out as an e-book soon, aimed at the middle grade-tween-YA market, titled THE FORTRESS OF DIAMONDS.

I'm also considering various aspects of e-publishing for my nonfiction business as well (again, I might add).

Some people in the industry are inclined to make very rock solid pronouncements about where publishing is going (eg., Joe Konrath) and although I lack his confidence, I have to reluctantly admit that he's probably right. The other night at our Tuesday karate class, my wife accosted one of the parents who was reading on a Kindle and asked him if he's bought a paper book since he bought his Kindle. I didn't hear the answer and forgot to ask her what it was.

My guess? A big fat no.

I'm currently reading a hardcover book, THE DEVIL COLONY by Jim Rollins, but I must confess it was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. (So far so good).

I've made a mental note to myself that Felix Francis has a new book out and that Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child have a new book coming out in a few weeks. I'm tempted to buy them in hardcover. But I probably won't. I'll probably buy them as e-books. Moving around a thousand books when I moved my office upstairs to a slightly smaller space convinced me that there might be a better option. And at 47-1/2 years of age, I'm reluctantly starting to admit that my eye doctor (who shares my birthday but who is one year younger than me) has been waiting for my need for bifocals to announce itself and I'm beginning to think that the difficulty I'm having reading regular print paper books compared to enlarging the font on my Kindle (and computer screen) is making itself fairly clear.

But that sort of begs the question: Won't traditional publishers just shift over to primarily e-book publishing and continue on their merry way?

Well, there's some rationale for it. But the problem is simply going to be that traditional publishers (and maybe the term "legacy publisher" is becoming increasingly appropriate) are currently offering ridiculous (i.e., shitty) contract terms for e-rights. Harlequin was in the news for offering a 15% e-book royalty, a figure that to me seems criminal. Somewhere in the range of 35% to 50% seems appropriate by most math, although most other publishers are offering 25% (which still sucks, actually). Otherwise, for e-book self-publishing when the price is over $2.99, the royalty is 70%. In other words, I get the same amount of money for a self-publishing e-book I price at $2.99 as I get for a $25 hardcover book priced by my publisher.

Throw in Borders going out of business totally and taking (in the last year or so) over 500 brick-and-mortar bookstores with them, Barnes & Nobles stores cutting back on shelf space to devote more room to e-books and non-book-related merchandise (and, reportedly, cutting back on backlist titles and new book launches by non-bestselling authors) and I think you at least have to raise an eyebrow on legacy publishing's ability to remain afloat while a new biz plan gets developed.

And I'm seeing a great number of seemingly successful midlist authors (I hate the word "midlist" because it suggests you're actually in the middle of the list, instead of it meaning not-a-bestseller. I'd need a jetpack to reach the middle of the list) apparently saying, "Fuck it," and turning down crappy contracts to self-publish.

I also heard someone comment (no idea if it's true) that about 90% of the newly published "traditional" authors since 2009 are actually formerly published authors writing under a new name.

So today, at least, I'm starting to feel that legacy publishers are more strongly resembling Diplodoccus or Tyrannosaurus rex. Sure, reptiles and turtles still exist (or birds, if you keep up on your paleontology), but they're only shadows of their dinosaur greatness.

What do you think?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Zoe Winters On E-Book Pricing

July 26, 2011
Zoe Winters has a good post on pricing your e-books at 99 cents. Now, some of my e-books ARE priced at 99 cents, but most are priced at $2.99 and even $2.99 is awfully cheap (and frankly, I need to mess with pricing more because I'm having a hard time seeing why it makes much of a difference either way except, er, I make less money with the lower price. I don't, necessarily, sell more books. Christ, would it be likely to sell less?)

Anyway, check it out.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Yeah, um, Hi.

July 25, 2011
This has been one of my longer blog hiatuses with only sporadic postings. And yeah, it seems to be working for me.

Just some updatery.

- The Valley of Shadows is out there in the market place, no doubt weighing down the shelves at Borders... oh, never mind. (I see that it is ranked #926,334 on the Amazon bestseller list for hardcover and #151,459 on Kindle. Those numbers sort of say it all, I think).

- Lots of other e-books available, too. Check 'em out.

- I've been fairly busy lately with, you know, making a living. I recently flew to San Jose, California for a client, have been doing a fair amount of website copywriting for a variety of clients. I'm also up for a couple very promising regularly long-term gigs.

- I've started a blog aimed at physicians, or for people who want top medical stories. On Mondays I run a piece on medical practice management. On Tuesday through Friday I run links to stop medical stories. If you're not interested in those topics, you won't be interested in that blog. There's a long-term business strategy to this, but I'm not going to discuss it here.

- No word on the nonfiction book proposal except for my agent to say something along the lines of, "The publishing market is terrible right now and no one wants to commit to anything, and when they do they don't want to put any money up for it."

- No word on the fiction book proposal my other agent is marketing except say something along the lines of, "The publishing market is terrible right now and no one wants to commit to anything, and when they do they don't want to put any money up for it."

- Yes, I am writing fiction, although somewhat sporadically. I'm working on a tech thriller called CRYSTAL STORM. If and when I finish it it'll probably come out as an e-book in 2012.

- Yes, I may have something else published as an e-book this year. I'll let you know when it comes out.

- Yes, still lifting weights, running, biking, kayaking and studying karate. I teach a karate class in the summer with my son, Ian, on Monday nights, 6:00 - 9:00. Couple more weeks of that left.

- Yes, it's hot. I'm not complaining, although, man, it's really HUMID to go along with it this summer.

Yes, I'm having a pretty good summer. How about you?

Mark Terry

Friday, July 15, 2011

What I've Been Reading

July 15, 2011
Here's the last 10 books I read:

1.     Sixkill by Robert B. Parker
R   Reportedly the final Spenser novel written by Parker. Not bad, actually. I liked it.

2.     Buried Prey by John Sandford
      Well, I'm a big fan anyway, but this is a terrific novel, especially the early flashback section.

3.     The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
      The latest installment of The Kane Chronicles for MG readers. I like this series okay, but not as well as the Percy Jackson novels. This one is basically one long chase scene.

4.     Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
      A reboot of a classic SF novel (which I actually have read), and I enjoyed this a lot.

5.     Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
      Classic Reacher, which is to say, gripping, fun, but don't think too much about the plot.

6.     American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis
      Nonfiction, a dense, often frustrating book about the psychology of Thomas Jefferson (he was a flake).

7.     The Ghost by Robert Harris
      A re-read. I like this moody first-person novel about a ghostwriter hired to write the memoir of the retired British Prime Minister.

8.     How I Sold 1,000,000 eBooks in 5 Months by John Locke
      Very short, half of which is clutter, but the last half is very interesting and possibly useful marketing techniques.

9.     The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
      God help me, but I really enjoyed this book. I read it on the Kindle and I'm not sure I would have bought it had I realized it was over a thousand pages long before I did, but it's epic, sprawling, melodramatic, entertaining and covers some fairly interesting British history. Part of my thinking though as I read it was a confirmation that all those folks who like to dress up like lords and ladies and go to Renaissance Fairs probably haven't paid much attention to the reality of life in the Middle Ages.

10  House Divided by Mike Lawson
      A Joe DeMarco political thriller and this is quite a bit of fun. Poor Joe, he's really stuck in the middle on this one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not Either Or

July 13, 2011
Sometimes I have to remind myself that things in life are not necessarily "either/or." That is to say, yes, I'm a real pragmatist and I believe it's important to set your priorities and be aware of what they are. I've been rather delighted with the Oxford Middle School track and cross country programs. They tell the kids - regularly! - what the priorities are. And they lay it right out like this:

1. Family
2. School
3. Track/Cross Country

In my experience, sports coaches may be forced to live by that standard, but they rarely say so or even preach it. So, Go Coach Forrester and Coach Klein!

Of course, I have a problem related to this. I want to do everything!

Here's a non-writing example from my life. Over the last 7 years or so, especially, I have been studying karate (I have a black belt now), riding my bike, lifting weights, and running. My least favorite of those activities is running. It's also the activity that seems to cause me the most injuries. Most recently I strained an Achilles tendon, forcing me to give it a break for a while. (But I didn't give it a long enough break and I re-injured it. Now, 2-1/2 weeks after the last strain, I tried running again this morning, so far so good).

Part of my thinking (and yes, I understand for non-runners you don't get this concept at all, that's fine, I understand) goes like this: I should just quit running. It's the activity you enjoy least, it's the one you do worst, and it's the one that causes you the most problems. Why don't you just quit it and add that extra time to your karate practice? Do that and you'll be that much better at karate and you'll still burn plenty of calories and have plenty of health benefits.

And some of why I go back to running is:

1. I actually like it, especially on nice summer mornings like today
2. I like being a runner.

In fact, I probably like being a runner more than I like running. That's slightly different from karate and biking. Biking in particular, I like biking more than being a biker. A lot more. I don't much care if anyone thinks of me as a biker, I just plain like getting out on the bike and riding. Leanne has noted that if I'm in a crappy mood a good bike ride will change my mood around better than anything else.

So, apply to writing fiction.

1. I actually like doing it. A lot.
2. I like being a novelist. A lot.

There are definitely things about publishing that I'm not a fan of and there is the whole balance of writing time that pays the bills versus writing fiction that barely (if that) pays for itself.

Nonetheless, if I don't write fiction I feel like I'm missing something that the nonfiction paying work doesn't necessarily provide.

Writing fiction for me may be a lot like biking. I prefer writing even more than being a writer.

How about you?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Predicting the E-Reader Market

July 7, 2011
Mark A made a comment today on my blog post about Dear Readers a couple days ago and I made a very, very lengthy reply. So lengthy that I decided to repost it here as well:

Some of the projections I see from currently successful e-book authors seem to suggest the growth will continue for a long time, but I think they're being wildly overoptimistic. I'm also waiting for a certain backlash.
One recent poll found that most eReader buyers were women, while most tablet buyers were men. Additional surveys have found that most people don't use tablets as reading devices. 
Sometimes I read articles talking about the growth of ereading devices that include tablets and to me that creates a really distorted view of the e-reading market.
Also, although I'm not really pessimistic on this front, I'm just skeptical of anything that shows anything greater than, say, 12 or 15% growth. In my experience analyzing the clinical diagnostics market, where some companies show growth of 150% a year, that's not sustainable, it's just a sign of new companies exploding into an open market. Once they "mature" their growth tends to be in the 8 or 9 or 10% range.
At the moment e-readers and e-books are showing 150% and things like that and it's just plain naive to think that will continue for more than a few years. And contrary to what some people say, I don't think EVERYBODY'S going to want an e-reader. For the person who reads one or two books a year, primarily when they're on vacation or that they received at Christmas, I just can't imagine them wanting to justify the expense of an e-reader.
I personally suspect - without any numbers to base it on, just a gut feeling based on experience - is we'll see explosive growth for a couple more years in which paper sales drop, then the market will reach some level of saturation. Some e-reader owners will decide they're not as fond of e-readers as they thought and will want paper. (After all, the book doesn't require electricity!)
But I seriously doubt that e-readers are going to lead to an increase in reading in general.


Find Some Bliss

July 7, 2011
My biking budding, Mark, (he's Markie-Mark and I'm Maaarrrrrrrkkkkkkk) started his vacation today, so he texted me last night about riding today. So we got going around 9:00ish and went out for 18 miles, up and down hills and on bike paths and paved roads and dirt roads and gravel roads and through farmland and countryside for about an hour and a half.

This makes me happy.

And now I'm back at my desk, glad that I have a job that allows me sometimes to do things like grab a couple hours on a bike. That makes me happy, too.

And writing for a living. Makes me happy as well.

As one of the trainers at the gym almost always says, when you ask him how it's going: "I can't complain."

Well, I'm sure I can, but I'm not gonna.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Hypothetical Business Question

July 6, 2011
I have a hypothetical business question for you.

If you were running a business and you were spending 1/8th of your time on one aspect of that business and it was accounting for approximately 1/80th of your income, what would you do?

In addition - hypothetically - that 1/8th of your business requires an outlay of money to keep it operating at all, resulting, usually, in that 1/8th of your business essentially being subsidized by the other 7/8ths of your business.


p.s. And for today's bit of synchronicity

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Dear Writers

July 5, 2011
Dear Writers,
I know that the ebook self-publishing trend has been a great thing for you. Your out-of-print backlist is now live and in many cases bringing you well-deserved income. Also, you were able to write more than one book a year, but your publisher wasn't interested in publishing them, especially if they were outside your "brand" genre. As a result, you have suddenly e-published about 10 books in the last year.

Now, as a reader, I generally like to read all the books my favorite authors write, even if they're outside the genre.

However, I have discovered that I have significantly more books on my Kindle than I have time to read, and you keep publishing books, which I have somewhat limited funds to purchase.

In other words, although I am trying to be loyal to you, you're overwhelming me with product and I feel a need to become more selective about what I purchase. Some of you, for sure, I intend to buy everything you write. Some of you, well, you've heard the phrase "cull the heard?" Yup. It's a gamble, I know.

Sorry. Hope you have a nice day.

Mark Terry