Sunday, August 19, 2012

Independence

Joe sez: Before I begin a major rant about why I'm quitting the legacy publishing industry, I'm handing the blog over to my friend, Melinda DuChamp, who has something interesting to say. Here's Melinda...

Melinda: I've written more than fifty novels in my career, most of them romances, and have been published by just about every major publisher. While I'm not a bestselling author, I have several million books in print, and I've had multi-book deals where I've gotten six figure advances.

Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland was the first erotic book I've written. While I've done graphic love scenes many times, they were always there to provide characterization and further the plot. In Fifty Shades of Alice, the love scenes were the plot. To be honest, I didn't know if I could pull it off. But, like many of my peers who have watched the sales of EL James with awe and more than a little envy, I thought I'd give it a try.

Joe suggested this guest blog when I told him how much I've earned on this book, because he thinks his readers might benefit from the knowledge. I've benefited often from the things Joe has disclosed on this blog (Joe is the reason I began self-publishing) so who am I to say no?

On July 23rd, I self-pubbed Alice on Amazon KDP, and enrolled it in the Select program. After two days, I'd only sold two copies, one to me (to check to see if it downloaded okay) and one to some stranger. Then I made it free for five days, from the 25th to the 30th of July.

The only promotion I did was the interview on Joe's blog. NYT bestseller Ruth Cardello was also kind enough to include Alice in a contest for her fans. Joe also was sweet enough to mention it on the Facebook page "What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey" because I'm not on Facebook yet (I know! I know! I need to get on Facebook. I'm trying to become more like Joe and Ruth and get into social media, but I'm a Luddite and I was on a deadline for another book.)

Other than that, I didn't do anything to promote Alice. I figured it would sink or swim on its own merit.

So how did it do?

During the free period, I gave away 22,740 copies in the US and 10,255 in the UK and hit the Top 10 free list in each. That surprised me, because I'd done free promotions before but had never given away that many.

Did that translate to sales?

Alice has sold 3560 copies in the UK, and 2540 in the US (plus 1275 loans in the Kindle Owner's Lending Library) priced at $2.99.

Assuming the loans are $2 each, Alice has made close to $15,000 in the last 20 days. That's more than many of my advances. How did this happen? Was it Joe's blog? Ruth's contest? The Kindle Select free program? Carl Graves's amazing cover art? Piggybacking on EL James? All the good reviews it has gotten? All or some of the above?

Alice peaked at #194 in the US, and #56 in the UK. It is currently #643 and #208. At its peak, it was earning over $1,000 a day. Things have slowed down, but it is still outselling all of my other novels on Amazon.

So, naturally, I did what any smart writer would do. I wrote a sequel.

Fifty Shades of Alice Through the Looking Glass is now available in the US and the UK for $2.99.

At the height of Alice's sales, I was fantasizing about money. What if I had twenty ebooks doing well instead of just one? Making $20,000 a day is almost impossible to comprehend. But is it really impossible?

I'm working on the third book in the Alice trilogy. When finished, I'll release it as a stand alone, and also package the trilogy as a set. So I'll have four ebooks (each individual title, and the combined collection.)  If I did this four more times with four more trilogies, I'd have twenty ebooks for sale. With twenty for sale, I could have one ebook always free on KDP Select. Twenty ebooks at five days per free promo is one hundred days of free promo. KDP Select resets every three months, and then you can use the free promo again.

Writing twenty ebooks might seem like a daunting task. But remember, five of those are box sets, and each ebook is only around 30,000 words.

So in order to have 20 erotica ebooks, and one title always free, I only need to write 450,000 words. That's less than five full length-novels. Writing 2500 words per day, that's only six months of writing.

Half a year to write twenty ebooks? It sounds crazy, but it is entirely possible, even though I really believe $20k a day is a fantasy that can never happen. It's just too big a number. And who knows when the mommy porn bubble will burst?

Anyhoo, thank you everyone who has read the first Alice, and I hope you give the sequel a try! Also, thanks to Joe for the blog, and to Ruth Cardello for her unprecedented kindness to a complete stranger. BTW, Ruth is self-published, and recently hit the NYT Bestseller List with Bedding the Billionaire. Pick it up, it's fantastic!

Joe sez: First of all, congrats to Melinda on her success. I know how she's had some tough knocks during her long, legacy publishing career, and it's nice to see her make money.

(Also, congrats to Ruth Cardello, who just turned down a seven figure offer to stay indie. I'm sure that decision didn't come lightly. It took a lot of guts, and a lot of smarts, and Ruth has my highest respect. If my blog readers haven't bought her ebooks yet, they should.)

While I don't agree with Melinda that the mommy porn bubble will burst (because ebooks aren't a bubble) I do think it is unrealistic to plan on any ebook earning $1000 a day for an extended period of time. But I have made many times that amount per day, as has Ruth and many others, so I think Melinda might be onto something.

If she wrote 20 ebooks (15 titles and 5 collections) and each one earns only $150 a day, that's a million dollars a year. That's just 75 ebook sales and loans a day per title, and I've hit that number many times and for extended periods.

What I haven't done is hit that number on an ebook that is only 30k words long. My bestselling ebooks are full length novels. Readers don't buy my novellas nearly as frequently. But after studying erotica on Amazon (reviews, rankings, prices) for a few hours, I'm shocked by how many of these titles ebooks are doing well while still being short.

If I switched to erotica, I could put out four ebooks in the same time it would take me to write one thriller novel. I could do one 90k word thriller novel, priced at $2.99, which takes two months to write. Or in that same two months, I could write three 30k word erotica novellas, priced at $2.99 each, and price the collection at $7.99.

It seems like a no brainer, doesn't it? Same time to write, but I could more than quadruple my profits by writing mommy porn.

Now, I'm not suggesting everyone chase the erotica trend and start writing smut, especially since it isn't easy. I say this as a man who wrote sex scenes in many of my books, but those don't come close to what Melinda did. Chasing trends doesn't usually work, because readers can tell when the writer's heart isn't in it.

But if you think you can write erotica, now seems to be the time to give it a shot. I've written in many different genres, and each time I try something new it's a learning experience. It's always worthwhile to experiment, even if it is just to learn your limitations.

Something else seems to be happening in this business that I find interesting. In the recent past, no legacy publisher would ever touch a self-published book, claiming it had already burned through its audience. But more and more indie authors are getting legacy offers. In the past, writers would spend months querying agents and publishers, hoping to get a book picked up. These days, agents and publishers are trolling the bestseller lists, looking for indie books to buy.

While it is tempting to take a seven figure deal a legacy publisher might offer, think long and hard about what your goals are before taking the money and running. A million bucks seems nice, but if it is for three books, and your agent gets 15%, you're only taking home $283k per title. Sure, that's a lot of money. But then that legacy publisher owns those books forever, while only giving you 14.9% royalties. Instead you could own those books, forever, making 70%.

If you  average selling 57 copies of an ebook, per day, you'll make $250k in six years. In a global market, that's entirely possible. And if you somehow managed to get on the bestseller lists as an indie, a hot title can make $50k a month.

Let's break it down another way. To make $250k on your own, you need to sell 125k ebooks at $2.99. To make $250k as a legacy pubbed author, you need to sell 500k ebooks at $6.99 (that's making 14.9% royalties, or 17.5% of the list price minus agent's commission.) Guess which is easier to do?

But Joe! Legacy publishers also print books!

Yes, they do. But print sales continue to fall each year, while ebook sales rise. Legacy publishers have begun "ebook only" publishing lines. As more bookstores close, fewer and fewer print books will sell, both the number of titles and number of copies per title. If Barnes & Noble goes under in the next 5 years, do you want your book held hostage by a legacy deal that will never earn out?

For that nice advance, you're giving up control over your title, your cover, and your price, forever. And it will be much more difficult to earn out that advance when you're making 1/4 of what you would self-publishing, especially when your ebook is priced too high.

Know your goals, know the risks, and act appropriately. I've been turning down foreign deals because I realize I'll lose money in the long run. It makes more sense for me to translate those titles myself.

So would I ever take a legacy deal? Let me put it this way. If a legacy publisher made me a giant offer, it would only be because I had a huge hit self-pubbing. There is no way in hell I'd ever sign over the rights of a hit book to a publisher. I've worked with three legacy publishers. I'd rather get my teeth drilled out than work with those folks again, because that would be less painful, even with a million dollar check.

Bullshit Joe! You'd take the money and run!

No, I wouldn't. In fact, if I haven't burned all of those potential bridges already, allow me to do so right now:

When in the Course of publishing events, it becomes necessary for writers to sever their ties with the industry that is supposed to have "nurtured" them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that we should declare the causes which impel those writers to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all writers should have an equal chance to find readers. That their successes or failures should be dependent upon their own actions and their own choices. That they should be paid fairly for their work. That they should have control over the works they produce. That they should have immediate and accurate access to their sales data. That they should be paid promptly. That they should not be restricted from reaching those who may enjoy their work. That whenever a publisher becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of Authors to abolish all connections with the offending parties.

The history of the legacy publishing industry is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over writers. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have given us take-it-or-leave-it, one-sided, unconscionable contracts.
They have failed to adequately market works they have acquired.
They have artificially inflated the price of ebooks.
They have refused to negotiate better ebook royalties for authors.
They have forced unnecessary editing changes on authors.
They have forced unnecessary title changes on authors.
They have forced crappy covers on authors.
They have refused to exploit rights they own.
They have refused to return rights they aren't properly exploiting.
They take far too long to bring acquired works to market.
They take far too long to pay writers advances and royalties.
Their royalty statements are opaque, out-of-date, and inaccurate.
They orphan authors.
They orphan books.
They refuse to treat authors as equals, let alone with a reasonable measure of fairness.
They make mistakes and take no responsibility for those mistakes.
For every hope they nurture, they unnecessarily neglect and destroy countless others.
They have made accessories of the authors' ostensible representative organization, the quisling Authors Guild, and are served, too, by the misleadingly named Association of Authors' Representatives.
They have failed to honor promises made.
They have failed to honor their own onerous contract terms.
They've failed the vast majority of authors, period.

This blog has documented nearly every stage of these Oppressions, and in many cases offered solutions to publishers, and has been answered with only silence and derision.

But that's okay. Because now authors have a choice.

I don't need legacy publishing, and I will never be taken advantage of again. I declare myself independent of the entire archaic, broken, corrupt system.

And I won't be the last to do so.

271 comments:

1 – 200 of 271   Newer›   Newest»
Tim Tresslar said...

Joe, you mention your thrillers are 90K words and Melinda says her novellas run about 30K words. What do you consider a minimum length for a novel?

Jonas Saul said...

I don't need legacy publishing, and I will never be taken advantage of again. I declare myself independent of the entire archaic, broken, corrupt system.

I love this line - well said!

Great cover too!

I'm with you all the way ...

Jonas

C E said...

Got It, Joe !

Joe Flynn said...

I received a request this week from a writer who just finished his first novel; he has film/TV credits. He asked if I might put him in touch with a literary agent. I gave him the name of my last agent, an honest, experienced, hardworking guy. Then I suggested that he should consider going indie first, telling him it's better to have agents looking for you than the other way around. He said he'd still like to try it the other way first. I'm going to send him the link for this blog post.

On another matter, I recently published my new Jim McGill title (McGill's the first private eye to live in the White House) The Last Ballot Cast.

The first draft came in at 442,000 words. I cut 30,000 words in the editing, but that would still leave me with the equivalent of 18 erotic novellas. That made me laugh.

As it was, I decided to divide The Last Ballot Cast into two parts, each selling for $3.99. So far this month, I've sold over 900 copies. Part 1 of TLBC is ranked: #36 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Political. Part 2 is ranked: #38 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Political.

I'm delighted with the results so far, but I'm nowhere close to earning $25K per month. I'll start writing the next book in the series early next year. If anyone can tell me — how about you, Joe? — how I can multiply my sales, I'd love to hear it.

Oh, yeah. Most of the other books in the series are rated four or five stars by readers.

chris said...

Well, Joe, I've made the leap to self-publishing and my book has sold more copies in 10 days that it did with my old publisher in 18 months. That has to count for something!

Chris Stevenson

Katie Hart - Freelance Writer said...

What if the legacy publisher only wanted print rights? Would that change things?

Archangel said...

carl's covers for this series are just great. Best of luck to you all.

Joe, Id like to see that declaration of independence as its own post.

drcpe

Athena said...

Congratulations on your success, Melinda!! Wooohooo!!

John Caliburn said...

I wondered about the same thing. Joe, if a publisher only wanted to buy your print rights (and leave your ebook rights alone), would you sign on with that traditional publisher?

This is a hypothetical question because I don't think a publisher would ever do this in a rising ebook market.

Joe Konrath said...

What do you consider a minimum length for a novel?

I'm beginning to believe that the word "novel" is limiting. If we say 50k words is a novel, then 49k isn't? And so on.

A story takes as long as it takes to be told. That might be 100k words, or 15k words.

In the legacy system, stories under 40k in length weren't profitable. Customers perceived value in longer works, which the publishers could then charge more money for.

I don't see that translating to the digital world. There are some niche erotica stories commanding $2.99 for 50 pages, and they're ranked well. And there are 500 page stories selling for 99 cents.

It all depends on the book and the audience. But I'm going to try to stop using length to describe stories; short story, novella, novel, double-novel, etc.

Joe Konrath said...

if a publisher only wanted to buy your print rights (and leave your ebook rights alone), would you sign on with that traditional publisher?

No publisher will ever do that. John Locke had a deal something like that, but I believe he only used the publisher as a distributor and became his own imprint, and he incurred costs.

Ebooks are the future. Publishers know this. They won't sign any book that doesn't give them erights.

Hypothetically, if some publisher wanted just my print rights, I still wouldn't sell them. I hated working with publishers that much.

Elle Casey said...

Congrats Melinda on your success. I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but as a person who's used KDP quite a bit, I'd say it's a mistake to assume one promotion's results are necessarily repeatable. I'd say that you will more likely experience diminishing returns on the same title, made free more than twice. That has been my experience, anyway. Best of luck with your writing schedule. Sounds fun!

TK Kenyon said...

Yowza, that's quite a post.

1. Thinking seriously about taking a pen name and writing some mommy porn.

2. Yeah, those bridges were flammable. They were pretty while they burned.

TK Kenyon

Ruth said...

Melinda,

I'm glad to hear that you did so well. It was likely a mixture of all of what you listed...and, oh, maybe the fact that the book is hilarious? None of that would have been possible if the book hadn't been so good.

I noted that Joe mentioned my seven figure offer. If anyone wanted to see Jeff Rivera's article where I talked a little about it you can read it at http://jeffrivera.com/index.php/for-writers/758-why-indie-author-ruth-cardello-turned-down-a-7-figure-book-deal.html

I have a huge amount of respect for Joe. I may not always agree with him, but I admire people who not only speak their mind but also share what they know.

I'm so grateful that I found this blog back when I was starting out and I continue to come by to hear about the latest of what is going on.

So, here is to continued success for both Melinda and Joe.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Joe said - What do you consider a minimum length for a novel?

I'm beginning to believe that the word "novel" is limiting. If we say 50k words is a novel, then 49k isn't? And so on.

A story takes as long as it takes to be told. That might be 100k words, or 15k words

AND I AGREE FULLY - can't say it loud enough. Bestsellers of recent years have had so much padding to make them marketable that readers skip page after page of bull.

Ellen Fisher said...

I agree that the short erotic stuff does well. I've been writing it for a couple of years, and that's where I'm selling the most right now (though not anywhere close to $15,000 in a month-- with a kid going to college this month, I sure wish I could make that much!). It's fairly easy to turn it out rapidly, and there are a lot of readers of the genre out there. But like anything else, don't do it unless you enjoy the genre.

Vicki Orians said...

Erotica is a very popular genre right now. Glad to hear Melinda's book has been successful!

Anonymous said...

Does your independence include the Amazon publishing organizations (Thomas & Mercer, etc). Because you seemed to be pretty happy with them in the past.

Amber Jaeger said...

Congrats to Melinda. This was the first (only) mommy porn book I read and I liked it was because it was 'hot' without being creepy or violent (which perhaps is what mommy porn is?) and also seemed to make fun of itself.

Joe, I love your website, you really inspired me to take my writing seriously and take control of how I share it with the world.

I published my first ebook last week and couldn't be happier. I'm working hard on the next one and will work hard on all the rest because one day I *will* be able to make a living doing this.

Thanks for the great posts and advice.

Sean McCartney said...

Joe,

Do you think if Hyperion had kept the Jack Daniels series going you would have still gone indie?
For someone starting out aren't the costs of trying to go indie too much at some point? I mean from the stand point if you don't sell alot.

Melinda,

Congrats on a great book.

Sean

Jill James said...

Yeah Melinda! If a trend is something you want to try or you already do, why not go for it?! Congratulations on all of your success now and in the future.

Mike Fook said...

Smut sells. Find a niche. I have no idea what i'm doing in the erotic story market, but I've put a few out there and made a few thousand dollars from the effort. Am I still doing it? Nah, I just can't seem to do it as a long-term focus.

Why you might try it:

1. Smut is easy to write. Just draw on your own experiences and tweak them a bit... or not, depending what kind of crazy experiences you've had.

2. You can call a 15,000 word story - a book, and sell it for $1.99. If readers like the story they are happy as pigs in slop to buy the rest of your smut.

3. Smut sells smut. The more smut you write, the more readers find your other smut.

4. Smut, smut, smut. You see what I'm saying?

I wrote an article about a guy that was writing dozens of smut stories under 10,000 words. Sometimes under 2,000 words - and calling them books. His name was Carl something... East. Here's the article I wrote about him. Not sure what he's up to now - but he was KILLING IT a while back. Carl East.

Joe Konrath said...

Does your independence include the Amazon publishing organizations (Thomas & Mercer, etc)

Barry Eisler and I explained, at great length, what a legacy publisher is in BE THE MONKEY, and how Amazon is not a legacy publisher.

I've been pleased with Amazon. SHAKEN was just translated by them and hit #3 in Germany, where it earned me $5k in a week. STIRRED has done well, and Ann Voss Peterson and I sold them the Chandler trilogy.

Amazon is able to use its promotion machine to directly influence sales. I had a #1 book because of Amazon--something I haven't been able to do on my own (I got into the Top 10 several times, but never #1).

Amazon hasn't committed any of the deeds I spoke out against in my Declaration.

Dustin Scott Wood said...

Awesome post. Congrats, Melinda!

Joe Konrath said...

Do you think if Hyperion had kept the Jack Daniels series going you would have still gone indie?

Yes. I was giving away books NY rejected on my website, then began to sell those on Amazon and make money. Had nothing to do with my Jack Daniels books.

For someone starting out aren't the costs of trying to go indie too much at some point? I mean from the stand point if you don't sell alot.

What costs? Cover art, editing, and formatting? Compared to querying agents and publishers for months or years? Months or years while your work earns zero?

Legacy publishing is no guarantee your book will sell better. In fact, except for a few dozen name authors, I'd say legacy ensures your book won't sell as well, because they inflate ebook prices.

RD Meyer said...

Great post! Congrats on your success, Melinda.

BTW, Joe, I love the comment about a story being as long as it takes to tell. Very well put.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

What do you consider a minimum length for a novel?

Back in the sixties, the typical length of a typical genre novel was between forty and sixty thousand words. The early Travis McGee books came in at about 58,000 words.

Yet there was a guy writing under the name Carter Brown who sold millions of books and they typically came in at about 35,000 words. They were called novels, too.

When I wrote Trial Junkies, I intended to write about 60,000 words and it came in at 90,000 instead. Some stories just demand to be longer.

I can't imagine that The Bridges of Madison County was very long, yet it was promoted as a novel.

Best Printer China said...

hey Melinda.. congrats for your success..!

by the way Jill..what type of trend you are talking about, that according to you Melinda should follow..?

Alan Spade said...

Joe said : "Hypothetically, if some publisher wanted just my print rights, I still wouldn't sell them. I hated working with publishers that much."

I guess you are crossing the border to an ideological point of view, then. Still, it's only logical you, who are an author that gave so so much of yourself in the past collaborating with your publisher (Hyperion), would be the one to chastise the most traditional publishing.

My two cents : it's natural. And it's healthy.

I'm too much of an idealist for myself. But I've been wondering : if I was offered a seven or eight figures deal with a publisher, a life-changing deal, would I sign and be able to look at myself on a mirror ? Knowing the mighty publisher has prospered trampling countless of authors ? Knowing the deal could help him continuing to do so ?

In the past, you could say yes and still be able to feel good about yourself, because there was no other choice. But now...

Anonymous said...

Joe said:

"Ebooks are the future. Publishers know this. They won't sign any book that doesn't give them erights."

This isn't always the case. I have several friends who retain erights to their books. Sometimes the publisher has erights in the originating country but the author has them in foreign territories. Sometimes the author owns all the erights.

All contracts are open to negotiation. It depends how much the publisher wants your book. If they want it enough, they will negotiate.

On the other hand if author is the weaker party in the negotiation, then unfortunately you'll have to accept the deal if you want to be published by that particular publisher.

Rob Gregory Browne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Gregory Browne said...

On the other hand if author is the weaker party in the negotiation, then unfortunately you'll have to accept the deal if you want to be published by that particular publisher.

Unless you're fortunate enough to become the object of a bidding war, or are already a bestseller, this is the most likely scenario.

I've been told by more than one industry insider that "ebooks are the future." So I don't foresee too many publishers being willing to negotiate away what will soon be their biggest money maker.

Nirmala said...

"But Joe! Legacy publishers also do print books!"

I know I am stating the obvious but, indie authors also do print books. My wife, Gina Lake and I have self-published 20 books, and they are all available on Kindle, Nook, etc. and as print books via CreateSpace (and some of them as audiobooks via ACX). Currently we make about 2 times as much from ebooks, but that still means 33% of our income is coming from paperbacks and audiobooks.

It is true that our books are not in physical stores, but the trend in paperback sales has been towards online sales for years. Remember, Borders was headed for bankruptcy before ebooks had really taken off. And our paperbacks are on all of the major online bookstores.

As Joe often points out, good logic requires that you actually consider the real consequences of your alternatives. And the alternative to a legacy contract is not to have no paper book sales, and maybe not even any less paper book sales. Just as someone shopping on Amazon for an ebook does not usually care if a book is self-published, they also are not necessarily going to pass up a paperback just because it is published by CreateSpace.

A few years ago, one of my wife's titles was published by Hampton Roads. It never sold as well even in paperback form as our self-published titles were selling as paperbacks at that time, and it sold almost nothing as an ebook since they priced it at $9.99 when our other titles wer selling for $2.99. We finally bought out the contract by purchasing the remaining inventory so we could self-publish the title, and we are glad we did.

Merrill Heath said...

I haven't read erotica and I haven't read 50 Shades of anything. So I don't know how many different "encounters" there are in a book. But, Melinda, when you talk about writing 15 books (not counting the boxed sets) at what point do you begin to repeat yourself? I think that would be more of a challenge than writing 15 short books in the time frame you outlined.

Joe Konrath said...

I guess you are crossing the border to an ideological point of view, then.

How is it an ideology to not want to be abused? That's common sense, not ideology.

I have several friends who retain erights to their books.

Name names.

Anonymous said...

First of all Congrats to Melinda! That's an amazing amount of success by anyone's standards!

My only word of caution to other writers. Erotica is far from an "easy" genre to break into. The majority of the readers seem to women, and they want a little romance + adventure added to their stories.

Just writing smut with no hint of romance (even in the short stories) won't sell. There needs to be emotion and sensitivity in the writing. Which I think is really the definition of "Mommy Porn".

Alan Spade said...

I was meaning : if you did refuse to make a deal just on printed books, knowing you would sell far more printed books with a publisher than with Createspace for instance (and you would keep all your other rights).

As you said, I don't think a publisher would agree to play the role of just a distibutor like in Locke deal (where he kept all his rights) without requiring the author to participate in the financial hazards.

So, it was more of a rhetoric question. Nonetheless, maybe I'm totally wrong, but IMO, your response ("Hypothetically, if some publisher wanted just my print rights, I still wouldn't sell them. I hated working with publishers that much.") was implying resentment, and resentment can lead to some type of line of conduct.

By the way, I think we indie authors have to make the difference between big publishers who are more often than not screwing authors (what you call "legacy publishing", I think) and little publishers that love books and their jobs, that are often authors themselves and act driven on passion rather than greed.

Jude Hardin said...

But I've been wondering: if I was offered a seven or eight figures deal with a publisher, a life-changing deal, would I sign and be able to look at myself on a mirror?

Our friend Lee Goldberg recently signed a deal to co-author a series with Janet Evanovich. Through a traditional publisher, of course. How could anyone in his or her right mind pass on something like that? Will Lee feel abused as he's cashing all those checks and gaining all that worldwide exposure? Probably not.

Authors should do what's right for their career at the time. One size does not fit all. Like Barry says, it's a business not an ideology. Casting traditional publishers as The Evil Empire is a clear sign of misguided ideological thinking, IMO.

Joe Konrath said...

was implying resentment, and resentment can lead to some type of line of conduct.

I'm dispassionate about it. I won't get into a business relationship with someone who abuses me. That's a rational, level-headed response.

Legacy publishers don't treat authors fairly, as meticulously outlined in my Declaration. I'm not suddenly going to say, "It's okay to piss in my face if you pay me enough."

I'm a businessman. I'm all about the money. But business involves more than just money. I wouldn't get into another contract with a company that treats me poorly. The money isn't worth it.

I've been making $1500 a month on Createspace since 2009. I'm okay doing print on my own.

Joe Konrath said...

How could anyone in his or her right mind pass on something like that?

I would have passed. No matter what I was paid.

Working with Janet, writing her characters, would take away from me writing my own stuff. For what? Money? Fame?

Can you name five authors who have collaborated with James Patterson, without looking them up? How many of them are name brands on their own? What did working with Patterson get them, other than a paycheck? And guess who kept the lion's share of the money while doing the least amount of work?

I wish Lee the best, and am thrilled for him if that's what he wants. Lee is excellent at tie-ins, and his acerbic wit should blend well with Janet's.

My acerbic wit would also blend well with Janet's. And if she wanted to collaborate with me, it would be 50/50 and I'd bring in my own characters.

Joe Konrath said...

Erotica is far from an "easy" genre to break into.

I agree. And I'd take it further and say that no genre is easy to break into.

The formula for success is the same no matter the genre. Write a good book. Then another. And another. And another. Keep at it until you get noticed. If you don't get noticed, experiment.

Adam Pepper said...

Way to go Melinda and Ruth! Awesome success stories.

Giselle London said...

Too bad more authors don't recognize the self-evident nature of those truths. ;-)

You've got it spot-on, and when you get into the nitty-gritty of the details on these supposed seven-figure deals, you realize how much they hurt the author. In most cases, the author can earn more in a few months of self-publishing their bestseller than they'd get for the whole advance (which is parceled out over 1-2 years)...and without losing all the rights and control.

Jude Hardin said...

Working with Janet, writing her characters, would take away from me writing my own stuff. For what? Money? Fame?

For some of us, the money would be life changing. In the long run it would free up more time to work on our own stuff, and the exponentially-increased exposure would help that stuff sell.

Lee's deal with Janet is for a new series, btw, not the Stephanie Plum series. Not sure about the split, but he seems ecstatic about it. As I would be.

Joe Konrath said...

In the long run it would free up more time to work on our own stuff, and the exponentially-increased exposure would help that stuff sell.

That would depend. If Janet is a prima donna and requires constant changes, Lee will spend all of his free time rewriting to please her. If she's easy to work with, his free time would depend on the publishing schedule. How many books per year do they want?

Life changing money is nothing to sneeze at. But beware a big lump sum versus losing your rights forever. Or getting terrible royalties forever. I'd be curious what Janet's percentage of ebook rights are, and Lee's percentage of her percentage.

I'm fortunate to be in a position where an offer like that wouldn't tempt me.

But again, I hope he makes a fortune, gets a bunch of new readers, and reaps huge success. I'm sure the books will be fabulous.

Joe Konrath said...

In most cases, the author can earn more in a few months of self-publishing their bestseller than they'd get for the whole advance (which is parceled out over 1-2 years)...and without losing all the rights and control.

Yes and no. Let's be realistic. Not everyone will make $100k a month self pubbing, and not everyone will be offered a 7 figure legacy deal. But, in the long run, the math seems to favor those who keep their rights.

By my calculations, I've lost over half a million dollars on Jack Daniels and Afraid because I don't have those rights. That's more than I got from all my advances and royalties.

Think about that. I sold seven books to legacy publishers, made a few hundred grand, and am now hemorrhaging money. It kills me.

Tracy Sharp said...

Too funny. I just had a review the called my Mystery/Thriller porn. I do put a warning below the blurb, "Sexual Content, Language" but I still get people who say there's too much sex.

The thing is, my book are more mystery/thriller than erotic. So what can I do?

I stil gave away 11,475 ebooks the Friday before last :)

Tracy Sharp said...

Oh, also, at it's peak last weekend I reached #19 in Mystery/Thriller/Hard Boiled :) That was Monday a.m.

Things have slowed since. But I'm still stoked :)

Jill James said...

In legacy publishing we are taught to not follow trends, that by the time it becomes a trend it was 1 1/2 years in the making and probably fading fast.

In Indie publishing if something becomes a trend and you like it and want to write it, you can if you are a semi-fast writer.

That is what I was talking about.

Joe Konrath said...

In Indie publishing if something becomes a trend and you like it and want to write it, you can if you are a semi-fast writer.

Excellent point.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Lee's deal with Janet is for a new series, btw, not the Stephanie Plum series. Not sure about the split, but he seems ecstatic about it. As I would be.

I understand Lee's excitement and I hope it goes well for him.

Part of the reason I decided to self-publish, however, was because it seemed that my career might be headed more and more in that direction—co-writing or ghostwriting for bigger names.

I found no personal satisfaction in this idea, however, and wanted simply to write my own stories with my own characters. Plus, I wouldn't have to deal with anyone else's personality. You never quite know how that working relationship is going to work out.

So if offered the same offer Lee got, I'd politely decline. I learned the hard way that going for the big pay-off is something you may regret.

Again, more power to Lee. I'm sure it was the right choice for him.

Anonymous said...

I do love the success stories of (semi)famous writers stomping all over the less famous by self-publishing their own books while using a rip-off title that's all the rage at the moment.

A few years back, the posh title was "The XXXX's Daughter." I didn't read any of those books either.

Anonymous said...

Just to thought I'd throw in a word to those who think "ooh, I'm gonna write me a mommy porn and make me some money"... True erotica's hot now and always has been, because sex sells. But, as anyone who has ever written an erotica novel, novella or short story, loaded it up on Amazon and waited for the millions to come pouring in, knows... it aint not as cut and dry as all that. There's an ocean of books out there that don't sell but 1 copy a month - short, long, bad, fantastic - and no one can live on .35 cents a month. I've made about $30 all told on mine since I first put it up for sale this past May, and that's with a very modest amount of marketing to an extremely niche audience- African American women erotica fans. So, unless you're willing to spend a month or two writing a quality erotica product and spend 10 hours a day marketing it - networking (reaching out to people) takes more time than tweeting - and 24 hours a day angsting about it during the start-up phase, expect to get nowhere fast.

Joe Konrath said...

and spend 10 hours a day marketing it

The best marketing for your book is more books. Keep writing good work until you can no longer be ignored.

That ten hours a day marketing is much better spent writing. If, after 20 titles live, you still aren't making money, time to look closer at what you're doing: your writing, genre, price, cover art, description, etc. We all should be doing that with every book we write, but if you've got twenty ebooks available and nothing is selling, I'd say there's a problem somewhere.

bettye griffin said...

I haven't read through this entire post yet, but one thing jumped out at me: "While I'm not a bestselling author, I have several million books in print, and I've had multi-book deals where I've gotten six figure advances.

Trust me, there are plenty of people who have not done nearly as well who are putting "National Bestselling Author" on their indie books (although I am not one of them).

Anonymous said...

Another thought about making money by writing porn: there is already a lot of free porn out there, on websites.

Admittedly most of it is not good; most of it is, to put it gently, horrible. (And writing explicit sex scenes that don't sound as if written by a 13-year-old-virgin is difficult -- let alone a sex scene that is hot.)

Then again, some of the websites do offer advice on how to write better porn. And posting a few first attempts will at least give you some attention, if not a hint or two about what kind of erotica people want to read.

Stephen Miletus

Summer Daniels said...

Joe also was sweet enough to mention it on the Facebook page "What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey" because I'm not on Facebook yet (I know! I know! I need to get on Facebook. I'm trying to become more like Joe and Ruth and get into social media, but I'm a Luddite and I was on a deadline for another book.)

I'm Summer Daniels (admin of the What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey FB page) and I approve this message. ;-)

Thanks for the mention Melinda. For those who do not know - I set up the WTRAFSOG page on a whim to see if I could capture some of the new readers to the genre and point them towards other authors of romance and erotica - including myself.

I set the page up 117 days ago. The page is averaging 110+ books a day sold to some particularly voracious readers.

I do not limit author promotion to authors of erotica - although that is what is selling best. If you are an author - come on over to the page and post your books. With a good blurb and an eye-catching cover - you never know.

Congratulations on your success Melinda - I just posted Book #2 on the page.

As for Joe - thanks again for this wonderful blog - you were my inspiration for becoming an author - and I remain a big fan.

Summer Daniels
author of Summer's Journey
admin of WTRAFSOG

David L. Shutter said...

In legacy publishing we are taught to not follow trends, that by the time it becomes a trend it was 1 1/2 years in the making and probably fading fast.

Have heard and read that countless times myself.

Funny though, when you look at who and what get's the big royalty checks, the real promo and corporate push/pull for the movie deal, throughout all the connected arms of the media conglomerates that own the publishing houses.

Debate the artistic quality of trend chasing all you want, and I do, but capitalizing on a hot trend is just business. For better or worse, you can at least venture into those waters quicker and easier than ever now.

Last I checked, there's nothing un-American (yet) about making an honest buck.

Summer Daniels said...

The best marketing for your book is more books. Keep writing good work until you can no longer be ignored.

That ten hours a day marketing is much better spent writing. If, after 20 titles live, you still aren't making money, time to look closer at what you're doing: your writing, genre, price, cover art, description, etc. We all should be doing that with every book we write, but if you've got twenty ebooks available and nothing is selling, I'd say there's a problem somewhere.


This one took me awhile to figure out. I was having so much fun marketing and making connections with other authors and readers that I neglected my own writing.

I am finally putting the finishing touches on Volume Four of my Summer's Journey series with a plan going forward of making Volume One permanently free on Amazon ... emulating Ruth Cardello among many others.

Writing quality erotica is not as simple as it sounds when I hear people say such things as "I'll just switch over to writing erotica for awhile to make some money."

It IS a very hot genre in a lot of ways right now, but as always - as Joe says - it comes down to writing good books.


Summer Daniels
author of Summer's Journey - a True Romance / Erotica series
admin of WTRAFSOG

Brian Rush said...

Cute -- love the takeoff on Jefferson.

I do think, though, that there's a place for publishing companies if and when they come to their senses and stop acting like they have a God-given right to own authors. Joe, you've defined "legacy publishing" narrowly enough that a decent publisher doesn't fit, e.g. Amazon, and as someone pointed out there are small publishers that are not guilty of the listed sins. Eventually, that sort of publisher behavior will become the norm, and we will have a completely new world. Self-publishing will remain an option (because it's that choice that will require publishers not to be dicks), but will not automatically and obviously be the preferred option.

Of course, I might be naive. We'll see.

Joe Konrath said...

Eventually, that sort of publisher behavior will become the norm, and we will have a completely new world.

Show me an industry that adapted when new technology threatened to render it obsolete. Or show me a business that began to pay its employees double (or more) and survived.

During the industrial revolution, the government forced reforms on businesses, making them treat workers better. But that isn't needed here. Writers will figure it our on their own, that there are greener pastures. And by the time publishing has figured it out, it will have lost its workforce and it'll be gone.

I could be wrong. But I'm not wrong often, and on this issue I've been right a whole helluva lot.

Jude Hardin said...

Writers will figure it our on their own, that there are greener pastures. And by the time publishing has figured it out, it will have lost its workforce and it'll be gone.

I wonder if manuscript submissions, from authors to agents and from agents to Big 6 editors, have fallen off over the past few years. I doubt it, but it would be interesting to hear from some industry folks on the subject.

I'm guessing there will always be plenty of authors standing in line, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to sign a NY publishing deal. And if the slush piles ever do start thinning out, publishers can always harvest indie authors from the bestsellers lists like they're doing now.

The royalty rates on ebooks will probably have to get better eventually, but I really don't see traditional publishing ever going away.

Jude Hardin said...

So if offered the same offer Lee got, I'd politely decline.

Hard to say without knowing the terms.

But, regardless of the split (within reason, of course), just imagine what being on the NYT bestseller list week after week might do for your other titles.

Anonymous said...

Rob Gregory Browne said:

"Unless you're fortunate enough to become the object of a bidding war, or are already a bestseller, this is the most likely scenario."

It might be the most likely scenario or it might not. I've not seen any figures either way. But not all publishers are big publishers and not all books that sell well come from them. Also not all bestsellers command high advances. They become bestsellers. But at the time of the negotiation you might find yourself in the fortunate position of retaining various rights with a small or even big publisher for a book that eventually sells very well.

The point is don't assume that everything is lost before you have begun negotiating.

Rob also commented:

'I've been told by more than one industry insider that "ebooks are the future." So I don't foresee too many publishers being willing to negotiate away what will soon be their biggest money maker.'

You don't need to be an 'insider' to make that guess. But ultimately no one can tell the future insiders or not. Too many examples of huge industries being surprised by what the future brought, the big publishers and their 'insiders' being one notable case.

Do what you think is best for you now. Ignore anyone who tells you that you can't do something, until you discover it to be true for you.

With some publishers and on some projects it is still possible to negotiate both erights and media rights. The door is not yet closed.

Adrian Staccato said...

This post just motivated me to finish the erotica novel I've been working on.

Ty Johnston said...

Joe, just wanted to say thanks. I e-mailed you recently with a question/concern, and you've answered it today in your responses. Looks like I've some changes to make and some work ahead of me.

Which might just be fun. ;-)

Michael Ardenne said...

Congratulation Melinda! Fifty Shades of Alice has turned out to be an amazing success. I hope your sequel sells just as well.

Joe, does this declaration change your view on what direction a new author should be taking? Some of your early entries of The Newbie's Guide advocate the traditional route first, but this makes me feel like you've changed your tune?

Mari Stroud said...

I don't see the "mommy porn" (ugh, I hate that term) bubble bursting, either: women are half the human species, and there's comparatively little erotica out there for us. Erotic romance does so well as ebooks, I'm convinced, because you can keep the title page hidden on the subway.

Adrian Staccato said...

Seriously though, I love how she's downplayed all the free promotion she's received.

"Other than that, I didn't do anything to promote Alice."

Uh...yeah, other than getting plugged on Joe's blog and a promo by an NYT BESTSELLING AUTHOR, you really didn't do much :P

Joe Konrath said...

Uh...yeah, other than getting plugged on Joe's blog and a promo by an NYT BESTSELLING AUTHOR, you really didn't do much :P

Lots of people get plugged on this blog. Not everyone makes $15k in less than a month.

If you're reading this Ruth, does every book you endorse become a big hit?

Joe Konrath said...

Do what you think is best for you now. Ignore anyone who tells you that you can't do something, until you discover it to be true for you.

Agreed. No one should take anyone's word for anything, mine included.

That said, go into any negotiation forewarned. And if you manage to negotiate better ebook royalties (or keep your ebook royalties), and you aren't already a Top 10 NYT bestseller, please let me know.

But until that happens, don't go into a legacy contract expecting to be anything but abused. Even if I'm 100% wrong, tempering your expectations never hurt.

Anonymous said...

the mommy porn bubble may swell pretty large, but of course it will eventually burst. the teenage vampire bubble eventually burst in time following the Twilight phenomenon. mommy porn isn't any different.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, does this declaration change your view on what direction a new author should be taking?

Everyone has a unique goal, and should take unique steps to reach that goal.

I advise people to experiment, learn all they can, and write a lot. I also share my experience. Your mileage may vary.

Joe Konrath said...

the mommy porn bubble may swell pretty large

Ack. Ebooks aren't a bubble. But they certainly can be trends.

If mommy porn is a trend, it'll slow down eventually. Everything does.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

The point is don't assume that everything is lost before you have begun negotiating.

Absolutely. I was, of course, speaking in generalities. The key is to make sure you have a GREAT agent who is willing to demand certain rights in negotiation.

I do wish you great luck, however, in getting terms that are as favorable to you as they are to the publisher. Even without seeing "the figures," I'm pretty sure we can safely say that your chances aren't great.

Should that stop you from trying? Of course not.

Rob Gregory Browne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Riley de Lis said...

I love the cover, Melinda! I've been waiting for the sequel, and just downloaded a copy.

Anonymous said...

Is there there some legal issue with using another author's work, i.e. ALice in Wonderland? How do pen names work? Howdo taxes work?

Christy said...

So, unless you're willing to spend a month or two writing a quality erotica product and spend 10 hours a day marketing it

I've had success under three separate pen names, and three distinct genres. I spend the money for professional formatting, professional editing, and professional cover design. Believe me, it makes a difference.

Each time, I was patient, but I didn't do much book promotion. I have websites, but I don't have a single Facebook account or a Twitter account. I just made sure my books were good and kept writing.

I don't make as much as Joe, but I make 15K a month on about 20 titles, and I write an average of 6 books a year, full time.

I'm not a genius, and I'm certainly not what you would consider a "gifted" writer. This is a job. A great job, with flexible hours and lots of opportunity. But it's still a job. The harder you work to make your material professional and timely, the more money you will make.
-Christy

Violet Graves said...

Anonymous said: "the mommy porn bubble may swell pretty large, but of course it will eventually burst. the teenage vampire bubble eventually burst in time following the Twilight phenomenon. mommy porn isn't any different."

Incorrect. Erotica is a genre, like sci-fi. Some gimmicks will be popular for a while (bad boy billionaire, brooding vampire, cowboys) and then the tired themes will recycle as the next generation of readers comes along. Meanwhile, the genre will remain intact. Delta of Venus, anyone? And I remember reading about teenaged vampires when I was in high school in the 80's. More like a merry-go-round than a bubble.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone! Thanks so much for all the kind words!

*I'd say that you will more likely experience diminishing returns on the same title, made free more than twice.*

We'll see. If I have enough titles, and one is always free, I'm hoping that one will boost sales of the others. I may not hit top hundred, but why not try?

*I'm glad to hear that you did so well. It was likely a mixture of all of what you listed...and, oh, maybe the fact that the book is hilarious? None of that would have been possible if the book hadn't been so good.*

You're too sweet, Ruth! I love your Billionaire series. Congrats on all the success!

*Smut is easy to write.*

I'm not sure of that, Mike. I was running out of ideas by the end of book two!

*But, Melinda, when you talk about writing 15 books (not counting the boxed sets) at what point do you begin to repeat yourself?*

That's a problem I'm running into, Merrill. I can't think of anymore kinky fetishes!

*Thanks for the mention Melinda.*

Thanks, Summer! I'm getting your books!

*This post just motivated me to finish the erotica novel I've been working on.*

Much success to you, Adrian! I don't mean to be downplaying the kindness of my peers. I'm very much indebted to Joe and Ruth and Summer. But the point I'm trying to make is that I didn't do much of anything to promote Alice. I've read a lot of stories about self-published authors who spend all their time promoting their ebooks. I know I've been fortunate, but I'm also an example that there doesn't have to be endless promo.

-Melinda

Anonymous said...

*Is there there some legal issue with using another author's work, i.e. ALice in Wonderland? How do pen names work? Howdo taxes work?*

Alice in Wonderland is in the public domain, which means anyone can use it without copyright issues.

As for pen names, I simply file my 1040 under my own name and count Melinda's income as mine.

-Melinda

Summer Daniels said...

Thanks, Summer! I'm getting your books!

That is very sweet of you Melinda - please let me know what you think. You can reach me directly at summerdaniels71@gmail.com ... or have Joe post on the FB page again.

I'll repost Through the Looking Glass again in a few days. As far as marketing goes I am a big believer in the old axiom about it taking up to seven impressions to make a sale.

I don't mean to be downplaying the kindness of my peers. I'm very much indebted to Joe and Ruth and Summer. But the point I'm trying to make is that I didn't do much of anything to promote Alice. I've read a lot of stories about self-published authors who spend all their time promoting their ebooks. I know I've been fortunate, but I'm also an example that there doesn't have to be endless promo.

I'm certainly not trying to be contrary (I don't have to try - it comes naturally!) - but the spike you got from being featured here on Joe's blog (and Ruth's as well of course) - certainly was the main contributing factor to the surge up the Amazon charts. That is primarily why you did not need a ton of self-promo. (In my humble opinion of course. Your mileage may vary.) ;-)

After surging up the free side of the charts - you gained valuable exposure. After that - good writing, great covers and a little bit of luck come into play.

By the way - love the second cover as well - just downloaded a copy.

Summer
author of Summer's Journey - A True Romance / Erotica series
admin of What to read after Fifty (50) Shades of Grey

Joshua Simcox said...

"Can you name five authors who have collaborated with James Patterson, without looking them up? How many of them are name brands on their own? What did working with Patterson get them, other than a paycheck? And guess who kept the lion's share of the money while doing the least amount of work?"

First of all, those paychecks are huge. I doubt you'll ever hear any complaints from a Patterson collaborator. I'd wager that most of those authors are actually making far more from their joint efforts with Patterson than they would on their own.

Secondly, do we really know for certain that Patterson's co-authors are doing the lion's share of the work? That's long been assumed in the publishing world, but without a confirmation from one of those authors or someone intimately familiar with the inner workings of Patterson's fiction factory, we can't know for sure.

What we do know (or at least what Patterson has told us) is that Jim outlines each novel extensively and then rewrites each manuscript multiple times after a co-author completes a draft. If that's true, then I think it's fair to say that Patterson does his fair share with each book project.

Or maybe that's all bullshit and Patterson actually does nothing more than stamp his name on a manuscript written by someone else. But either way, his co-authors are certainly NOT indentured servants earning a pittance while slaving away in Patterson's fiction sweatshops.

And finally, Andrew Gross seems to be doing pretty well on his own after years of collaborating with Patterson. Aligning himself with the Patterson brand name gave him the platform he needed to become a bestseller in his own right.

I'm not a huge fan of Patterson, but I imagine there are certainly worse gigs out there for struggling writers than collaborating with brand name publishing superstars.

--Joshua

Amber Dane said...

Finished the 1st book the other day and left a comment. Awesome success, Melinda! Love the new cover. I've been following Joe's blog long before I published the 1st book in my series, Gem of Gravane. And so far it is still doing well and it's not even 2 mths old yet. I am deeply grateful for Joe's blog, his journey and the ever helpful/generous tips. One being, a nice cover is very important in the process along with all else. Continued success to both you and Joe. I have a 3rd book coming out by the end of the month. Maybe Joe will one day ask me *wishful thinking here* to guest on his blog. :) Although I am still a little shy about being so open-but got to crack through the reef sooner or later. (oh and thanks for the tip on taxes with pen names,Melinda)

Anonymous said...

An E-book on Ebook authors in English:

The German Guy with The Typos

Kindle authors from the US are getting more spotligt because the kindle and non-kindle ebook market started to grow in United States first. But thanks to the worldwide shipping of Amazon’s gadget and growing rivalry of ebook stores, other parts of the world are catching up, too. This ebook, written by Attila Lukacs, author of Slow But Growing – The Hungarian Ebook Market, deals with ebooks and authors having impact on the sales charts around the globe.

http://www.amazon.com/The-German-Guy-Typos-ebook/dp/B008ZBROE6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1345537470&sr=1-2&keywords=attila+lukacsLYg

Joe Konrath said...

Perhaps I know something you don't, Joshua. ;)

Alan Spade said...

Thank you, Joe. Based upon what you have said :"I've been making $1500 a month on Createspace since 2009.", upon Dean Weasley Smith's experience in publishing and upon my own calculations, I've decided to work with Createspace for the distribution of my books on Amazon.fr.

I will keep Lightning Source for my small print runs (between 150 and 500 books), but regarding the distribution to Amazon, I'm now pretty sure Createspace is the most competitive and confortable deal for a self-published author, even here in France. I will just have to test the quality of the physical books.

Alan Spade said...

Jude Hardin said : "I wonder if manuscript submissions, from authors to agents and from agents to Big 6 editors, have fallen off over the past few years. I doubt it, but it would be interesting to hear from some industry folks on the subject."

I couldn't agree more; Jude. The diminution of submissions would be a clear sign of the downfall of legacy publishing.

We don't need the account of top-rated executives who work with the Big Six, here. Just of the persons who receive the mailed manuscripts for these publishers.

Alan Spade said...

Joe said : "Ebooks aren't a bubble".

That excellent article seems to prove exactly that : http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2012/08/15/publishing-is-broken-were-drowning-in-indie-books-and-thats-a-good-thing/

Finally, ebooks were not a revolution, but an ineluctable evolution. It is clear for me after reading that post. Ebooks are here to stay.

Ruth said...

Joe,

Coming out of negotiations with the big six myself, I'd say you're spot on correct with so much of what you say. I'm a NYTs bestseller, not in the top 10, and it was a humbling experience for me. Ebook rights were definitely a line in the sand.

As far as promotion, I believe in moderation. I promote an hour a day. I balance maintaining with adding on something small and new everyday.

Is it too much? Is it not enough? Last month I cleared over $120,000 on two books alone. I'm not changing my recipe -- no siree, Bob.

I love your focus, Joe. In fact, I'm breaking my golden rule by following the comments on this post. Usually I read your articles and run away -- on your advice. Reading the comments is a time suck that I cannot afford.

"Your best promotion is your next book." I could not agree with you more and I tell new and old writers that advice all the time.

When I got wrapped up in the NYC "auction" craze, I lost two weeks of writing -- and an author friend of mine warned me to pull back. She said, "Don't chase the money. You keep writing and the money will find you."

So, if you read Joe's blog and think he's full of crap -- know that he's who I called when I wanted to prepare for my auction. He wasn't the only one I called (I like to get a well-rounded view of a situation before I go into it.). His advice pretty much matched what all the other big authors told me. No, he didn't pretty it up for me -- but that's what I love about Joe. He says it as he sees it. I didn't need encouragement to navigate those negotiations, I needed to be armed with facts -- and Joe had them.

Thanks Joe!

Tracy Sharp said...

Just had to say, I'm reading Trapped, and you're scaring the bejesus out of me.

Merrill Heath said...

Ruth said: Last month I cleared over $120,000 on two books alone.

Congrats, Ruth! I'd be tickled to death to make that in a year.

Brian Rush said...

Joe: "Show me an industry that adapted when new technology threatened to render it obsolete."

New technology is not threatening to render publishing obsolete; it is only threatening to render the old business model used by the Big 6 obsolete. Or rather, it's already done so and we're seeing the death throes.

Whether any individual company now included in the Big 6 will successfully adapt remains to be seen and that's not what I was saying. What I was saying is that publishing as an industry will adapt, and in fact already is adapting, and the existence of publishers (NOT part of the Big 6) that provide a real service to authors proves it. It may be that every single company and label incorporated into the Big 6 at this time will fail to adapt and they'll all shrivel and die, and if so good riddance to them. But that only means more sensible publishers will replace them. It doesn't mean publishing companies will all die out forever.

I can see a model in which a publishing company offers an array of services to an author including editing, cover art, and (most important) marketing -- that is, marketing to READERS -- and in return takes a REASONABLE share of revenue, say reducing the 70% I can get from Amazon's KDP to 50% (the publishing company taking 20%). I believe I would accept a deal like that. Maybe you wouldn't, but I don't have your marketing brilliance; few do.

I wouldn't accept the garbage deals offered by the Big 6, of course, and that's not a point of disagreement here. And it's really what you meant in your DOI, and I agree and applaud.

Nirmala said...

Wow, my wife and I are making almost as much as Joe on Createspace every month! Now if only our ebooks were doing as well as Joe's. Maybe it has to do with our books being non-fiction and also in the spiritual/self help genre. I wonder if non-fiction somehow still does relatively well in paperback, and not as many non-fiction readers have made the switch to ebooks. Has anyone ever broken down the sales ratio of ebooks to paper books in the fiction versus nonfiction categories?

Alan Spade said...

Nirmala :"Has anyone ever broken down the sales ratio of ebooks to paper books in the fiction versus nonfiction categories?"

I would be very happy to have the answer too, and also to have the ratio of ebooks to paperback/hardback books in each category (fantasy, sf, thriller, romance, erotic, etc.). Hard study to do, I guess.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

Maybe it has to do with our books being non-fiction and also in the spiritual/self help genre.

I'm also in the spiritual (channeling) category. I have 18 titles one of which is a compilation of eight others. Of those 18, nine are available through Createspace.

Quantity wise I sell about 1 paperback for every 10 ebooks. Income wise it comes out to about 20% paperback/80% ebooks.

Spiritual books are often given as gifts so I think that is one reason that we may have higher paperback sales than some fiction authors.

It will be very interesting to see if the percentages change during the Holiday season as this year I have many more titles available than I did last year.

Late last year I sold the Russian rights to one of my titles. A few days ago I was contacted by a reader who bought the translated title from a shop in Moscow! That was quite a thrill. That might just be my favorite paperback sale so far!

Veronica

Nirmala said...

Thanks Veronica for sharing your experience which pretty much matches ours. We also sell 10 ebooks for every paperback sold, but our income ratio is more like 75%/25% (which shifts a bit further away from ebooks if we include our audiobooks). This is because our ebooks are generally cheaper than yours and our paperback are generally more expensive, based on the prices on your website. With 18 books, I would suggest you consider giving one or two away for free. We reach thousands of new readers every month this way, and hopefully some of them move onto our other books. (http://endless-satsang.com/free-ebooks-free-spiritual-books.htm)

Would love to hear from more non-fiction authors...although this discussion may not be completely relevant to the original topic.

Polly said...

I love hearing about the successes of indie writers. In 2011 I published two erotic romances under a pseudonym with a well-respected ebook publisher. In April of 2012, I published a third with another good epublisher. Between December of 2011 and today, I published four suspense novels under my own name. Last month and this month, individually, I earned 4-5 times the money I earned with my erotic romances. I'm talking about each month. At one time I had two books on the Kindle top 100 bestseller list. My free days netted me anywhere from 38-44,000 downloads.

I had an agent for two years who couldn't sell my books. Now people are reading them that would probably never have read them, both here and abroad. To me that's what it's all about. Am I happy about indie publishing. You better believe it!

Larry said...

Does anyone know if there are any mommie porn titles written from the male POV?

beverley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beverley said...

Congrats to you Melinda. I love hearing the success stories. And I know it's very very possible to make 1k (and more) a day, especially when your book first comes out. I write historical not erotic, but my first 30 days of sales out earned what I made with my NY pubbed books -- 2 books in 2 years (and that includes foreign right deals). I've now earned 80k in 4 mos for a genre that's not all that popular so I'm happy with that. :)

Again, wonderful news and I hope to hear it keep coming.

Larry said...

I'm reading a lot of comments that equate erotica with porn. I don't think the terms are the same. To me, porn is just the sex and minimal set up. In other words, might as well watch a video (if you're a guy anyway). Erotica has erotic encounters as the draw, but builds a believable story and characters (or it should). That's why it makes sense that most women, who are turned on less by the visual and more by the whole sensation, and story, are drawn to erotica, while men, well, you know, like to watch porn.

Walter Spence said...

Joe, I just self-published my first solo novel, House of Shadows, and have a query or two.

How do you see the relationship of price/quality/length in terms of deciding on a price for one's ebook? At $5.99, I know mine is richly priced, but it's longer than many at the $2.99 price point (75,000 words approximately), and those admittedly few who so far have read it and communicated such with me have been wildly enthusiastic.

I have been thinking of perhaps keeping it at the current price while writing the second (I'm visualizing a twelve volume series at this point). Then, when I'm ready to put the second one out and if the first has had underwhelming sales, reconsidering a $2.99 price. But I'm concerned I might be missing a few pitfalls with this tactic due to inexperience with self-publishing.

Your thoughts?

P.S. Power said...

Walter Spence:

Obviously I'm not Joe and like you I haven't been at this too long. (A little over nine months, actually writing for about two years, a bit less.)

Here's what I've found so far however.

First a bit of math:

A book that sells for 2.99 on Amazon has a royalty of 2.09 per book, minus about six cents for the digital processing fee.

A 5.99 book gives you twice that in royalties almost exactly. 4.19, form which the exact same digital fee is taken.

On the surface it;s a no brainer, except that the selling rate can vary from price to price.

It is VERY possible that a fiction book selling for 2.99 will sell more than twice as many copies as one for 5.99.

That means not just more money, but a greater amount of exposure, which can lead to more sales.

Now, as to how people buy things (from me at least, keep that in mind, it can vary a lot.)

Now, I've written 20 books since I started, all full length novels, with the short ones being near 70,000 words (those are young adult) and the longest ones being over 200,000 words, in the adult fantasy genre.

The average is about 90-110,000.

The thing is, no one seems to care about length. No one. I have the first books in my different series selling for .99 cents and the rest all at 3.99. No one notices length, except compared to my other books. Not other peoples, not compared to price, just the length of other things I've written.

So I'd drop that from the equation. Possibly worry about it if you have something only a few pages long to sell, but other than that? Nope. Price to sell the most and make the most money for your works.

If you have the time and ability to do it, I suggest being a quick writer, years ago this was frowned on, but it turns out that writers seem to do about the same work if they write fast or slow. The fast ones just have more to sell.

We are, like it or not, entering a realm where volume is king. People still have to like your work, but being visible is important and online that means having a lot of things for people to see.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joe for this article. How is Melinda "giving" the ebooks away? In other words, a free download from a download service or off her web site? Or off Amazon?
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Joe, thank you for the article. How is Melinda "giving" away her copy? In other words, is she using a download service or just a link to the file on her web site? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Joe...and everyone...this recent Guardian article has pretty compelling arguments for the demise of the author, mainly that digitial content will soon be 100% to the point of not providing writers with Any viable income.And that writing will soon be an archaic profession that has no income options. It's easy to dismiss the article without reading it, but it has some pretty hard facts to back up the argument. Would really love people's opinions on it:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

Anonymous said...

Sorry....I meant to say 100% FREE.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

Joe Konrath said...

Morrison is a pinhead. I fisked that article a long time ago.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/08/race-to-bottom.html

Dave S. said...

@Anonomyous "digitial content will soon be 100% [free] to the point of not providing writers with Any viable income"

I think that people that compare average income among all indy/e-pub authors to average income among the few authors that manage to get an advance from a trad. publisher are intentionally making an apples to aardvarks type comparison.

Plus, they don't really consider just how long "Free Books" have been around without hurting authors too badly. Personally, I estimate that I've bought only about 10% of the books I've ever read. Even "worse" for authors I think about half of the books I paid for came from the bargain bin at one of the chain bookstores. For a while many years ago the books I borrowed from friends were typically ones that had the covers removed and returned for credit. There was a group of about four of us; one was our supplier and after he was done, the "destroyed" books would circulate.

Jane Doe said...

I would like to self publish my first book "The Diary of Jane" I would like to do it as you have described without selling my rights and avoiding all the scams out there. Can you reccommend where I might do this? Can you give me an idea of the cost? I do not know where to begin since there are so many and the legalities of contracts overwhelm me. I did find your blog helpful and informative but would like additional information. Thanks!

Jacob Chastain said...

I couldn't write what I wanted to here, but here is the link to my blog post in response. http://www.jacobchastain.com/1/post/2012/08/ja-konrath-self-publishing-slush-pile-hell.html

David L. Shutter said...

Joe...and everyone...this recent Guardian article has pretty compelling arguments for the demise of the author

Anon

It sure seems that way, reading his article, but look at the several pages of replies in the comments section, or D. Gaughran's dismantling of his three pieces, or the long thread on PG. His comments have been fisked to death left and right.

His intellectual prowess makes his argument seem compelling, but read carefully and his faulty logic and made-up data stick out like road flares.

"80% of all indie writers spend their time on social media."

Really...wow! What scientific study provided that data pt?

I'm sorry, but in "real" journalism I thought made up data was supposed to be a public drawing and quartering offense? Not at the Guardian, I guess.

Where his faulty and incorrect data was called out he replies only that he was taken out of context or that he mis-interpreted what he had read...without any admissions or withdrawal, of course. BTW he later admitted to getting that quote off Kindle Boards.

Holy shit, that's amazing journalism there!

When his views have been dissected, debated and completely fisked as nothing more than elitist condescension for indie pub, he either ignores them completely or replies with more impressive sounding, elitist philosphy regarding culture preservation.

Pinhead's far too nice a word for him, but, as Dave G. pointed out from the EUR point of view, they're about a year behind us in terms of e-book adoption and popularity. So, all of our 2011 arguments, debates and stone throwing is really just getting started over there.

And then Morrison will be proved every bit as out of touch, entrenched in an old model and as afraid of changs as all the critics and "experts" in the US have been.

Anonymous said...

"The best marketing for your book is more books. Keep writing good work until you can no longer be ignored." Thanks Joe for responding to my comment. I was more responding to anyone who thinks that being a success as an erotica writer is about typing up some trash talk and sticking it out there:) I've taking some notes from your blog for a while now, and have had success giving away freebies, converting into sales. So, it's all good. It's definitely about filling up the shelf space. One thing I would like point out as well, strong graphics are great, but they also have to work for the target market. I write African American erotica, and man oh man, that image on the cover of Melinda's book that looks like a phallus (as cool as it is), that would so never fly with my target market. So, strong graphics are important, but they also have to appeal to the niche. Anyway, thanks.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

I'm sure many of you received Amazon's email about the ability to alter our KDP prices for India.

I just emailed a friend who lives in India about this asking for a sense of how much people in her country spend for books.

Her response, "48 rupees (the minimum Amazon lets us charge) is way too low I feel. You can keep to 100 to 150 rupees. It will be around 2 to 2.50 USD. Those who are drawn to online shopping will mostly go for that much price range."

Hope that helps!
Veronica

Mike Dennis said...

Quote from Melinda: "Assuming the loans are $2 each, Alice has made close to $15,000 in the last 20 days. That's more than many of my advances. How did this happen? Was it Joe's blog? Ruth's contest? The Kindle Select free program? Carl Graves's amazing cover art? Piggybacking on EL James? All the good reviews it has gotten? All or some of the above?"

Joe's blog.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe's blog.

Which is why every guest poster I've ever had gets rich.

Not.

Walter Spence said...

Thank you for the feedback, P.S.

What little background I have is in legacy publishing, from a collaboration I did with Holly Lisle back in the mid-nineties which was put out by Baen Books. I've been scrabbling like mad to gain some traction on the self-publishers learning curve, and am well aware how far I have yet to go.

And I may run into trouble if, as you say, volume becomes king. I am well aware that there are no small number of authors who can write both quickly and well. But my best work takes a bit of time. And that's what I want to give my readers, the best I am capable of.

So if I struggle for a time, well, few choices come sans consequences. :)

Summer Daniels said...

Which is why every guest poster I've ever had gets rich.

Not.


I'd like to personally test this theory a little more extensively. ;-)

Summer Daniels
author of Summer's Journey: A True Romance / Erotica Series
admin of WTRAFSOG

David L. Shutter said...

9803 Likes for WTRAFSOG

I think it's amazing how that's taken off. Go Summer!

Kimberly Steele said...

Thanks to Joe and the advice on this blog, I've stayed independent and am just starting to see money coming in from my ebooks. Joe, I am so much in your debt that if I were going to have children in this lifetime, which I am not, you would be owed my firstborn.

My strategy was to offer my first novel, Forever Fifteen, as a free audiobook. The ebook of the same is priced at 99 cents. I have never regretted offering a free audiobook. I highly recommend that authors copy me in this strategy, it absolutely worked. My book has now been downloaded nearly a million times. With very decent USB microphones pricing out under $100 and free recording software like Audacity (and cheap software like Garageband, and tons of free sound effects on freesound.org) what have you got to lose except potential fans?

Now the sequel to my book isn't free, nor is the ebook. This month I've sold 226 copies of my 99 cent book and 57 copies of the sequel which sells for $5.99. No, it's not Joe's or Melinda's numbers, but believe me, I'll take it!

Kimberly Steele said...

Jacob Chastain said...
I couldn't write what I wanted to here, but here is the link to my blog post in response. http://www.jacobchastain.com/1/post/2012/08/ja-konrath-self-publishing-slush-pile-hell.html

You've done no less than blatantly insult Melinda's work as crap as well as J.A. Konrath's. Elitism and arrogance drips from every sentence of your blog post, and furthermore you've gone and spelled Neil Gaiman's last name wrongly. I refuse to believe that being signed to a Big Six publisher is the only way an author can create a legacy of great work. I am not the next Great American Author, nor am I the next Orwell, but your efforts to try and dissuade someone who has that peculiar potential from "becoming great" by insisting they take a Big Six deal to legitimize their work smacks of a certain bitter mendacity.

Take a lesson from the music industry, which the publishing industry is quickly emulating in almost every single way: just because an artist is "signed" does not mean that artist is quality.

T. M. Simmons said...

Never commented before here, but I have to say, "here, here," to this one. Took me five years after I left "legacy" publishing, but I found my writing joy again. Until then, they had kicked all the creativity out of me after 13 books. I am getting ready to put up my 19th and 20th indie books. I'm not making the big bucks so far, but people are interested in ghosts and like my true stories and mysteries, so it's starting to take off. I'm even selling those romances I wrote for the legacies again. No, I would NOT go back to legacy publishing, even for two million bucks.

Thank you, Joe. You were a big help to me. Should have said it before, but now I have. And now back to writing.

Merrill Heath said...

Off topic, but it's interesting to see The Hunger Games back atop the Kindle Top 100...priced at $1.99.

Joe Brewster said...

Congratulations to Melinda!

I love to hear about good writers having massive success with indie publishing.

I thought it was against TOS to publicly disclose sales figures. Am I wrong or is it simply unenforced? Or is it a case of Amazon looking the other way for authors like this because their success stories are good PR for Amazon?

It would be helpful if we could all share our numbers without fear of being shut down.

In any case good for you Melinda. I wish you continued success!

Mike Dennis said...

Quote from Melinda: "Assuming the loans are $2 each, Alice has made close to $15,000 in the last 20 days. That's more than many of my advances. How did this happen? Was it Joe's blog? Ruth's contest? The Kindle Select free program? Carl Graves's amazing cover art? Piggybacking on EL James? All the good reviews it has gotten? All or some of the above?"

Mike replies: Joe's blog.

Joe replies:
Which is why every guest poster I've ever had gets rich.

Not.

Mike replies:
I don't know if they get rich or not, Joe, but I do know that I've checked Amazon rankings of all your guest posters over the last year or so, and I can't recall a single one who didn't experience a healthy leap after appearing on your blog.

You know you have a huge following (of which I am one). You've worked hard to get it, and you know when you feature an author on your blog, they're going to sell a ton of books.

Joe Konrath said...

You know you have a huge following (of which I am one). You've worked hard to get it, and you know when you feature an author on your blog, they're going to sell a ton of books.

I hope they do. I hope every author sells a ton of books. This isn't a zero sum game. We all can do well without harming each others' sales.

That said, there have been many authors I featured on my blog that didn't get a big sales boost. Also, in almost every case where I do feature an author, that author is also running some sort of promo campaign at the same time, meaning I'm just one of many photo ops. So it is hard to say conclusively that this blog spurs sales.

In fact, there is ample evidence it doesn't. I've blogged about both of my Timecaster books here, several times, and sales are dismal. If this blog won't give my own work a boost, and I'm the uber-popular blog writer, why aren't I seeing that magic for titles I promote?

I'm convinced that this blog is primarily for writers, and has little effect on my sales, or the sales of those who guest post. But that is still a guess on my part. We'd have to devise some sort of experiment to prove or disprove it.

Joe Konrath said...

I refuse to believe that being signed to a Big Six publisher is the only way an author can create a legacy of great work

At this point in history, going with a legacy publisher is the only way to make it EL James or JK Rowling huge. But the chance of that happening are a million to one, whereas the chance of making money self-publishing is practically guaranteed. It may not be a lot of money, but it is wiser to get your work in front of the paying public immediately, rather than wait months or years with fingers crossed for the pinheads in publishing to discover you.

I stopped reading Jacob's article after the faulty math. Some agent with 2000+ Twitter followers gets 40 people to say agents have helped them and that's a lot? That's 1.6%, which sucks. And of that 1.6%, how many were EL James? Bad math, bad argument.

As for Melinda's work being crap, I found it to be extremely clever, hot, and funny. It isn't wise to cast aspersions without actually reading the material.

Joe Konrath said...

@Summer - Began reading your first ebook in the series, and really enjoy the voice. Email me.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

Hi Joe,

Regarding "the experiment."

When you have a guest author contribute, use affiliate links or bit.ly links in their posts. That way you can track how many people click through. It doesn't track sales, but it would give a data point.

Perhaps blogger gives you this information already, I don't know as I use wordpress.

If you don't want to use your own affiliate links (and get 6%+ commission on each referral), I'm sure there is a charity out there that would LOVE to give you their code.

I really enjoy the Timecaster books as your horror stuff is waaaaayyyy to creepy for me. I hope more folks find your scifi.

Veronica

Maggie @ Snag A Bargain said...

Congratulations on her success goes out to Melinda!

Summer Daniels said...

@David

9803 Likes for WTRAFSOG

I think it's amazing how that's taken off. Go Summer!


Thank you David - closing in on 10,000 likes today ... ;-)

Now averaging over 115 books sold a day from the page!

Summer
author of Summer's Journey - A True Romance / Erotica series
admin of WTRAFSOG

David L. Shutter said...

Summer

115 for you, or for all your participants?

Beautiful, rolling snowball you've created.

Not a trend chaser as I've always been interested in writing erotica, so maybe I should move that pen-name proect up higher on the to-do list. ;)

Summer Daniels said...

Summer

115 for you, or for all your participants?

Beautiful, rolling snowball you've created.

Not a trend chaser as I've always been interested in writing erotica, so maybe I should move that pen-name project up higher on the to-do list. ;)


David,

Not all for me - there are many days where I don't sell a single book through that page. Other authors are reporting some very nice sales spikes as a result of being mentioned there however.

I am enjoying giving back to the indie community that supported me when I first got started.

Summer

P.S. Power said...

Joe:

It's been pretty well shown that the effect of being promoted by someone else is far stronger than doing it for yourself.

When you promote your book, it's bragging.

When I promote it, it's giving direct praise.

Let me do a write up for your Timecaster books and then put it on your site and you should see a lot more action than you do for yourself.

Especially if you couple that to coincide with a free giveaway, so that your numbers go up.

*It doesn't have to be me, anyone will do really, as long as it isn't you talking about yourself.

The more familiar the name the better, but people don't have to know the person introducing the other person or work.

Brandon Simpson said...

After reading this blog about Melinda DuChamp's success with erotica, it made think how I could write something similar.

But since I write/publish books on Spanish/French grammar, there's not much I could do. Then it hit me: write a book on how to say the "naughty" words and phrases in Spanish. I know this has been done before, but these particular books have not been released as e-books.

The only problem I foresee is whether I want to have my name associated with such books. I guess I could use a pen name for those books.

jon said...

Here is what i dont get. Saying you made all those sales yet you havent got even 1 review on amazon? Hows that happen????

jon said...

I think a danger with the self publishing is that self publishers are trying to get as many books out as possible and in turn

1. The writing is suffering for it

2. The stories are suffering for it.

3. The entire INDIE community suffers for it.

People experience success with one book and BOOM oh quick if Had 20 books i could make X amount of money blah blah blah..

Sure its human nature to think that way and there is nothing stopping you

BUT.... GREED can get the better of you and there is a MASSIVE issue that arises from that..

People start to.

A. Write worse stories
B. Write less pages ( crappy 50 or 100 page books )
C. Write worse, just churn them out.

I think people need to just slow the hell down and stop seeing this as a race they have to win, dominate and pretend they are king of the world in.

Your more liable to sell MORE books if you

A. Write a decent bloody book. That takes time
B. Spend longer on the editing/proofreading instead of just throwing it up hungry for that 99 cents
C. Write longer books. Don't chase the money by churning out crappy 50 or 150 page books, unless your doing a series of kids ones. If they are adult books give people some bloody value. For god sake!

Mike Dennis said...

snctufhs 235Joe said:
In fact, there is ample evidence it doesn't. I've blogged about both of my Timecaster books here, several times, and sales are dismal. If this blog won't give my own work a boost, and I'm the uber-popular blog writer, why aren't I seeing that magic for titles I promote?

I'm convinced that this blog is primarily for writers, and has little effect on my sales, or the sales of those who guest post. But that is still a guess on my part. We'd have to devise some sort of experiment to prove or disprove it.

Mike replies:
I don't know why your Timecaster books aren't selling well, Joe, and I won't hazard a guess since I haven't read them. But I'm still certain your guest posters enjoy a major sales spike following an appearance on your blog (I'm also fairly sure you fend off numerous daily requests from writers to appear on your blog, because they're eager to cash in on the spike).

Having said that, an experiment would be interesting, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

jon wrote:
C. Write longer books. Don't chase the money by churning out crappy 50 or 150 page books, unless your doing a series of kids ones. If they are adult books give people some bloody value. For god sake!

I couldn't let this go without comment. The idea that word count is in any way a symbol of quality or value is absurd and needs to be slaughtered every time it comes up. I'd rather spend 5 bucks on 'Of Mice and Men' than 2 on 'The Grapes of Wrath'. Why? Because I feel Steinbeck's writing is a hell of a lot better in short form than long form. The quality is in the story, not some arbitrary length.

To take it further, I'd take 'Oliver Twist' and 'David Copperfield' over 'Great Expectations'. Why? Because I find the latter to be a bloated mess that I'm convinced was padded for a bigger paycheck.

I'm using examples from writers that are pretty much universally hailed as great for a reason. The length of their works had nothing to do with the, admittedly subjective, quality of them.

The length argument causes folks to seriously undervalue their work. Churning out crap with a long word count is infinitely worse than carefully crafting a good short story or novella. A story's bang for the buck isn't in the word count, its in the story itself.

Merrill Heath said...

Agreed, Anon. I'd say the same for the writing of Hemingway and Faulkner. I much preferred their short stories and novellas to their longer works.

jon said: Write longer books. Don't chase the money by churning out crappy 50 or 150 page books, unless your doing a series of kids ones. If they are adult books give people some bloody value. For god sake!

What if you're "churning out" quality 50 or 150 page books? Just as page count is not a valid measure of quality, neither is the time it takes to write a short story or book.

Jude Hardin said...

Just as page count is not a valid measure of quality, neither is the time it takes to write a short story or book.

True, but I've seen scores of self-published books that were obviously thrown together way too fast. In some of them the writing itself was decent enough, but the research was lacking or the storyline didn't make sense at times or the protagonist was too stupid to live. Etc. The editing process had either been skipped completely, or it had been performed by someone who wasn't really competent at it.

So the old saying haste makes waste definitely applies to publishing.

David L. Shutter said...

True, but I've seen scores of self-published books that were obviously thrown together way too fast

That's the more important takeaway I think Jon was going for, and I agree.

Yup, lots of the greatest novels ever are particularly short in length and word count alone is not a measure of quality.

From what I've seen as a humble reader with most indie work, aside from shorts, is a tendency to be on the short side. Have seen a lot of great stuff in the 30-60k range that I would not have minded one bit paying more than $1.99-2.99 for. Have also seen really short duds that could have been worlds better if only scaled up, banged out and sweated over some more.

I think the cautionary word is to not take the have lots of work available advice too literally. Keep the horse in the front of the cart and focus on quality.

Broken Yogi said...

Joe,

"Ebooks are the future. Publishers know this. They won't sign any book that doesn't give them erights.

Hypothetically, if some publisher wanted just my print rights, I still wouldn't sell them. I hated working with publishers that much."

I understand and even agree. But that still leaves the question as to how self-publishers can get print distribution into stores, etc. I know that POD is available to self-publishers through Createspace and others, but is that really good enough, or comparable to what publishers can provide? Maybe it is, or maybe it will be, or maybe it won't matter if print dwindles down to a marginal niche market. But right now, I'm very curious as to what the actual economics of this are, and how much it effects the equation as to whether to accept a traditional publishing contract for the sake of the added market power.

In other words, is self-published POD enough to offset this?

Jude Hardin said...

In other words, is self-published POD enough to offset this?

If you want your books to be on bookstore shelves, the only way is through a traditional publisher. Even then, they won't be there for more than a few weeks unless they become bestsellers.

This is one of the reasons it makes sense for bestselling authors to stay with the big houses. For now, anyway. A good portion of their sales still come from paper. But, if you're not already a bestseller, or have a deal with a big advance and a huge print run, it's probably not going to do you much good to be in bookstores.

Nirmala said...

Jude wrote:

If you want your books to be on bookstore shelves, the only way is through a traditional publisher. Even then, they won't be there for more than a few weeks unless they become bestsellers.

This is one of the reasons it makes sense for bestselling authors to stay with the big houses. For now, anyway. A good portion of their sales still come from paper. But, if you're not already a bestseller, or have a deal with a big advance and a huge print run, it's probably not going to do you much good to be in bookstores.


Great points Jude. Especially the part about how if your book does not sell well in the first few weeks or months, then it gets pulled off the shelves anyways.

And I would add again that even with paper sales, the trend has been towards online sales for a very long time. So being on the shelves at physical bookstores becomes less and less important every day. POD and paperback sales on the internet have many of the advantages of ebooks especially for less well known authors. The books stay up on the "virtual shelves" forever and can take their time in finding an audience, or simply provide a steady stream of income at whatever level they do sell at. Neither of these is true when physical stores send your books back to the publisher after a few weeks.

In addition, there is no inventory to handle, changes and updates to your work are easy to accomplish, you have complete control over editorial and cover design decisions, sales reporting is transparent and up to date (at least on Createspace --stay away from Author Solutions!), and finally the percentage the author earns is well above the standard contract terms with legacy publishers, so once again you can make more money selling fewer books....or make lots more money selling the same number of books ( we make roughly 25-35% of list price on our paper books through Createspace). This also means you can lower prices relative to what the big publishers charge and thereby try competeing with different prices to see what gives the best profits.

In many ways the advent of POD has done for paper publishing what ebooks did for digital book sales. Put the two together, and it becomes even harder to justify pursuing legacy contracts.

Christy said...

I know that POD is available to self-publishers through Createspace and others, but is that really good enough, or comparable to what publishers can provide?

POD through LSI or Createspace is the best option for anyone who needs paperback distribution as well as digital.

I sell non-fiction textbooks (as well as some other genres) and the textbooks are all POD. It's been a very good choice for me, and the royalties are very nice, considering I do almost no work after the manuscript is finished, beyond the initial design and upload. You could always go offset, but why? I don't want a bunch of books mouldering in my garage.

Alan Spade said...

"I don't want a bunch of books mouldering in my garage."

I would nuance that, because the situation is not the same everywhere. In France, where ebooks have not yet quite taken off (2% of total book sales), indies have still to rely on books in their garage.

I use LSI for that, and since march, 2010, I have handsold more than 1700 books.

It's not much, and as I said, I proceed with caution (max print run : 500 books). But it's better than nothing. It helps us survive in hope of better days, and the royalty this way is superior to that of Createspace.

BTW, now I sell more ebooks than printed books (since 2012, in fact, but I still make far more money from printed books). And if quality is OK, I'm going to work with Createspace, but just for the distribution on Amazon.fr for the moment.

Melinda DuChamp said...

Thank you again everyone for all the support and kind words!!! Looking Glass is in the Kindle Select program, but I haven't made the book free yet. I believe free is what helped Wonderland attain such a good ranking and sales.

But even without going free, Fifty Shades of Alice through the Looking Glass has made $1100 in just a week, though I'm not entirely sure because India sales seems to be lumped in with US sales, but India is only 35% royalties.

Anyhoo, I couldn't be more pleased. But I have a question for everyone. Does my pen name really need a web site and Facebook page? Is it really that important? I have a web site for my real name, but it never gets updated and doesn't get many visitors.

What does everyone think? Is it necessary? Can you tell me the pros and cons?

Lucy Tucker said...

After reading the first half of Melinda DuChamp's Alice novel I decided to have a go at this game for myself. I came up with a pen name, and so far I've written and published ten shorts and a novel during August, all of them erotica. More importantly, I'm having a blast.
The shorts were a good way to get a feel for things, and I reckon the novel is the best thing I've ever written. It's possible it's a load of crap, but I was laughing myself silly writing it.

Clytie said...

I'm a voracious reader (and purchaser) of ebooks, and a regular reader of this blog. Authors, please supply your full name and the title of any ebook you mention, as that makes it easier for us to find your books. Polly, I hope you're Polly Iyer, because I grabbed one of your titles when it was free, and have since bought three more.

I'm not into erotica as its own plot, absolutely loathed Twilight (and Fifty Shades if Grey is only repurposed Twilight fanfic), but good mystery/suspense? OOH yeah!

Tracy Sharp, I've also just bought Repo Chick Blues, and will buy the rest of the series if I like it. The blurb didn't attract me much, but one of the reviews talked more about conscience and people working together in a difficult situation, which did.

Joe, I bought Supersymmetry a while back when you first mentioned it, but the first Timecaster ebook was too expensive for me (still under legacy contract at the time?). Today it was 99c, so I grabbed it happily.

I loved Raymond Benson's Black Stiletto and Spike Berenger series, which I discovered on this blog.

If I'm not an author, why am I here? The imposition of geolims cut me (an Australian) off from most of the authors I previously bought. I scoured the Web to find out why. Like most keen book-buyers, I had no idea how little publishers paid authors, or how publication was restricted and prices were fixed. Now I buy indie. :)

Demographics: middle-aged female
Likes to read: Golden Age mystery, noir, SF, mystery/suspense, romantic mystery/suspense, some thrillers, some fantasy

Every bit of relevant information helps. ;)

Incidentally, why don't you indie authors form your own association, and commission it to research the comparative figures (and other occupational data) you want?

Veronica - Eloheim said...

Just left the Jack London Lodge. On display were some of Jack's 600 rejection letters. They also displayed personal correspondence about his world wide fight for his copyrights as people were trying to make unauthorized movies from his books.

This was 1908ish.....

Melody Prat said...

I want all Indie Authors to know InD'Tale Magazine is her for you. Please see what we can do to serve you!
http://indtale.com/

Melody Prat
InD'Tale Magazine
melodyprat@indtale.com

Lucy Tucker said...

Melinda - I set up a second copy of Firefox with a different profile, and it allows me to leave blogspot/facebook/smashwords/twitter logged in under the pen name, while my regular browser is still set to my own name & logins.

I recommend setting all the various accounts up, even though it's a pain.

Also, if you want to cross-promo on erotic comedies, let me know. My pen name is still unknown but I'm steadily building it up.

stella josphine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ramo 1 said...

Kızlık zarının kanamasıyla ilk ilişki olduğu düşüncesi çok yanlış bir düşünce olup Tıp'a aykırı oldu bilinmektedir. Bazen doğuştan kızlık zarının olmadığı da bilinmekte fakat esnek olması sebebiyle de kanamanın olmayacağı bilinir.

Walter Knight said...

We will throw our lacacy books into New York Harbor?

Josephine Wade said...

I am just catching up over here. I wanted to point out that since indie writers network with each other and the word has gone out about what makes a good ebook I've noticed the quality of the covers, editing, blurbs, etc. go up over the past 6-8 months. There have been many times I couldn't tell a self-published book from a traditionally published book before I bought it (or after). I don't think the line can be drawn as distinctly as it used to be and I do think it will come down to pricing and being able to put out works quickly (depending on the genre).
The whole worry that there will be a bunch of muck to wade through might be replaced with the surprise of an embarrassment of riches in the end.
Good luck to Melinda, Ruth, and Joe.

SFO said...

Joe,
It's quite trying to attempt to make comment on this monster.
You're pushing Amazon hard and stomping the hell out of the traditional route (which, in my view, is something equal to the seventh ring of Hell). Are you getting something for your efforts?
Because you have an evangelical bent about Amazon or KDP, I took the liberty of printing up a copy of their contract. YIKES! It seems that Bezos simply hired an industry insider to write up a behemoth in their favor. How can you negotiate with a click? Where can you insert any word-phrase-clause-point that lays the foundation for your own benefit? I spent four days on the phrasing of that contract (it cannot be called an agreement) and couldn't find more than: Amazon Big Bwanna Instantaneous Master of a Million Magnets. Once you upload, your life may instantly be housed on magnets worldwide and in space. And you have absolutely no control. Have I missed something? I'm new to the game (except for querying), so I'm looking to keep as much of my shirt as possible.

Adjacent Note:
Why is it that authors don't regard themselves as manufacturers? Manufacturers like GM, Apple, IBM, Boeing mine raw materials, refine them and form them into marketable PRODUCTS for which they charge a price or rental fee. Dealers have to pay to sell those products and consumers have to pay to use or own the very same products. The manufacturer doesn't forfeit remuneration after the product is purchased (even by a supplier/broker/dealer/retailer). Is that too mundane a concept for imaginative authors to comprehend? You made a product and you own it; you sell or trade it for money today or money tomorrow. But you don't accept returns because the buyer had ample opportunity to sample the product before buying it. Books are not subject to defect. The story might not make the consumer happy; it might not fly off the sellers shelves (but they thought it would when they ordered it and took a measured RISK).
The way I read your upset (and many others) is: the manufacturer BEARS ALL THE RISK, insulating all other persons or entities in the chain of ownership. Have I missed something?

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I think a danger with the self publishing is that self publishers are trying to get as many books out as possible and in turn

1. The writing is suffering for it

2. The stories are suffering for it.

3. The entire INDIE community suffers for it.


While I agree with the sentiment, I don't agree that the entire indie community necessarily suffers.

Do you know how many truly crappy indie bands there are out there? Or truly crappy mainstream bands, for that matter?

Yet, I continue to listen to and enjoy music and am constantly trying new bands, both indie and traditional, because I LOVE music and I love making new discoveries.

I don't think it's any different with books. People who love to read will continue to seek out indie books and will continue to support the authors they respond to.

Jude Hardin said...

Anyone read the NYT article about paid fake reviews? The practice must be widespread for the guy who ran the company to have been making $28K a month. Isn't this going to slap another big stigma on self-published authors in general? Not fair.

Joe Konrath said...

And you have absolutely no control. Have I missed something?

Yes. Something very important. With KDP, the author keeps his rights and can withdraw any time. This is HUGE, because it means freedoms.

Anyone read the NYT article about paid fake reviews?

I'll be blogging about that soon. The thing I'm most shocked by is how authors are giving John Locke 1 star reviews without having read his book. Shame on you people doing that. Can you say HYPOCRITE? Can you say IRONY?

Locke paid to get, in his words, honest reviews. If anyone can show me how that is any more dishonest than Kirkus, PW, or the NYT, who GET AD MONEY FROM PUBLISHERS WHOSE BOOKS THEY REVIEW, then I'm willing to debate them and make them look very, very stupid on my blog.

My advice: don't engage me on this one. You'll lose. Badly. And I won't be kind.

C.E. Wolfe said...

I'm confused as to how titles such as "Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland" don't constitute copyright infringement. I understand Alice is now in the public domain, but, it's seriously OK to name your book "Fifty Shades of [Blank]"? I'm not knocking the author for doing this, but I am confused as to how one gets away with this legally. I would be scared to death of a lawsuit...? Companies can sue for anything that looks or sounds too much like their logo, for instance... authors cannot? Just looking for clarification for my own future reference... I need to know what I can and can't do with titles.

Joe Konrath said...

You can't copyright a title.

Alan Spade said...

@C.E. Wolfe : I think in this case, the judges would have to take into account a deliberate counterfeiting purpose.

The cover does not look like any of 50 Shades of Grey book, and the name of the author is also different.

I don't have read these books, but I think the content is not the same either.

So yes, there may be a risk, but very limited in my opinion (I'm not a lawyer).

Archangel said...

joe wrote: "I'll be blogging about that soon. The thing I'm most shocked by is how authors are giving John Locke 1 star reviews without having read his book. Shame on you people doing that. Can you say HYPOCRITE? Can you say IRONY?
"

Never understood why kirkus and pw never ever sign their reviews. Some say they have grad students reading the books and propounding their professors points of view. Dont know.

Conor McCreery said...

Hello Joe,

My name is Conor McCreery and I was (very) recently tabbed to give a keynote speech at the Writer's Conference in Decatur this Friday.

However, being a comic-writer, I haven't had much experience with self-publishing/e-publishing.

I'm finishing a draft of the presentation and was wondering if you would send me your three most important things regarding self-publishing a work.

I've been poking around the blog and the Newbie Guide and I'm betting #1 is Entertain your audience, and I can imagine that #2 or #3 would be a variation on "Carve out time for marketing and promoting your book on-line", but after that I'm torn on whether it's about the value of demonic cats to a plot or how to launch a DOS attack on Harlequin...

So, if you DO have the time to fire off three thoughts I'd appreciate it. More importantly I know my audience for the day would REALLY appreciate it.

If not I understand as this request comes late in the game.

All the best from Toronto,

Conor McCreery
Co-Creator: Kill Shakespeare
muchado@killshakespeare.com

Anonymous said...

Joe, Congrats to you and Melinda on all your success. I self-pubbed one book and it's doing okay, though nowhere near your levels.

My new novel is middle grade fiction. I was wondering what your take was on self-publishing middle grade fiction. Do kids 4th through 8th grade use e-readers?

Christy said...

Anyone read the NYT article about paid fake reviews?

I did. everyone's fixated on the "fake reviews" issue, and seems to ignore the fact that a single disgruntled author (named in the NYT article) sunk this book review company shortly after it started.

Kirkus has been offering paid reviews for as long as I can remember, and no one seems to balk at that.


Anonymous said...

OK Joe, I hear you on the idea of John Locke and his reviews.

What's getting to me is that, and this comes from industry insiders, some bad authors are paying these fake reviewers to bash other peoples works.

I've noticed activity that seems to be like that on some of my work too.

Can I prove it? No. All the hallmarks are there though...

Now I've noticed that some of the good reviews I've had are vanishing, one by one, but only on certain works. (On Amazon)

to me this fosters a requirement for people to game the system to prevent being sunk. If I feel like that, how many others do as well?

It's a serious topic. I find that I can't blame Locke at all for what he did.

I'm putting this in as Anonymous, because some of the attacks have come directly after posting here, even though I haven't attacked anyone. Could be a coincidence and I hope it is.

Such attacks force people to respond with counter reviews and if we keep doing that the system will eventually break.

Joe Konrath said...

@connor

1. Don't write shit.

2. Remember you're a writer, not a promoter. Your best advertisement for your writing is more writing.

3. Experiment. Don't take anyone's advice, including mine, until you've tried it yourself. Don't be afraid to change, to try new things, to take chances. Nothing worth doing is easy.

Joe Konrath said...

You can't win an argument of morality or ethics. Period.

If you think you can, you're welcome to try me.

Anonymous said...

I'm posting anonymously for the same reason as Anon 2:02, because of the idiots who might retaliate with one-star reviews.

I'm willing to give the authors who used the service profiled in the NYT article the benefit of a doubt. Maybe they initially thought they were going to get honest reviews, but at some point it seems they would have realized that wasn't the case. And now that the scam has been exposed, they certainly realize that wasn't the case. They now know, for a fact, that the reviews were not honest in any way shape or form. Not with one reviewer admitting to writing seventy reviews a week.

I think you need to reconsider your position on this issue, Joe. Not only were the practices of this company unethical, they also violated FTC regulations and Amazon ToS.

Kirkus has been offering paid reviews for as long as I can remember, and no one seems to balk at that.

We discussed that here on Joe's blog a long time ago, and if I remember correctly a lot of folks slammed Kirkus pretty well for that practice.

But it's really an entirely different issue. Are the Kirkus reviews fake? Do some of the reviewers working for Kirkus write seventy reviews a week?

Of course not.

The reviewers for Kirkus, and the other trades, actually read the books, and then evaluate them with a critical eye. That's totally different from what the company in the NYT article was doing.

Apparently scores of authors used that service, so it's not fair to single one out; but, I would encourage everyone who was part of that scam to contact Amazon and have the phony reviews pulled.

That would be the honest thing to do.

Joe Konrath said...

The reviewers for Kirkus, and the other trades, actually read the books, and then evaluate them with a critical eye. That's totally different from what the company in the NYT article was doing.

Is it really?

I've gotten some terrible professional reviews, and I could easily go point-by-point explaining in great detail why the reviewer is wrong. I've been reviewed by "pros" who don't even like the genre I write in. And that's ethical?

Do you think getting slammed in the LA Times has more of an effect on a book than getting a 5 star Amazon review that says, "I really loved it!!!!!"?

Whenever there is a system, there are people trying to game the system. When we start judging what is moral and what isn't, it becomes very easy to argue the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Whenever there is a system, there are people trying to game the system. When we start judging what is moral and what isn't, it becomes very easy to argue the opposite.

I don't think anyone would argue that it's ethical to pay for phony five-star reviews in order to artificially boost your ranking/profile/sales.

As a society we are governed by rules, and gaming the system is cheating, plain and simple. It's no different than sock puppetry, and those of us who do depend on honest reviews have every right to be appalled.

I've gotten some terrible professional reviews, and I could easily go point-by-point explaining in great detail why the reviewer is wrong. I've been reviewed by "pros" who don't even like the genre I write in. And that's ethical?

We're all treated unfairly sometimes, but two wrongs don't make a right. Perry Ponzi screws Bill Bonehead out of a million dollars, so now it's okay for Bill to steal a car? Not really.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between trying to make your work seem hugely popular and loved when it isn't and resisting concentrated attacks though isn't there?

I haven't faked anything at all, but now I'm under daily attack, with not only bad reviews, but apparently people managing to have good reviews pulled. (Probably by reporting abuse) (again Amazon)

Is that OK? Amazon won't touch it or explain it, for anyone.

If the star ratings go low enough, I won't have a career.

So I should do the good and honest thing and fade away because some a-hole has decided that I'm the competition and must be destroyed?

That doesn't make sense either.

Ethical only works when no one attacks you. At least that's what I seem to be learning from all of this. Maybe John Locke had it right?

Maybe the only way to stay ahead of those that would tear you down is to go outside of the system that is supporting the unethical and holding the honest people down while they do what they will?

Joe Konrath said...

I don't think anyone would argue that it's ethical to pay for phony five-star reviews in order to artificially boost your ranking/profile/sales.

How do you artificially boost sales? To get a sale, someone must buy the book. If someone feels cheated because they bought it because of reviews, they can get a full refund for the book and post a 1 star review.

Do you buy every ebook you encounter that has more than a hundred five star reviews? No?

Hmm. But apparently you think that everyone else does. That a lot of good reviews automatically equal big sales.

Where's your evidence for that? I have evidence of the opposite, and can show you a few dozen bestsellers with hundreds of 1 star reviews.

As a society we are governed by rules, and gaming the system is cheating, plain and simple.

Please show me a system that isn't gamed. Until you do, you need to live in the real world, not your ideological conception of one.

KJ said...

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Anonymous said...

How do you artificially boost sales?

Better rankings=increased visibility=increased sales potential. That's why scores of authors bought thousands of dollars worth of fake five-star reviews.

You still have to have a good cover and a good description and a good sample, but reviews help get the ball rolling.

Please show me a system that isn't gamed.

You're right. There are cheaters everywhere. And in the real world--the one I most indubitably do live in, my friend--those cheaters are punished when they're caught.

Here's a Huffington Post article that compares buying phony reviews to doping in sports.

In the real world, cheaters lose titles. Medals. Money. Even freedom.

So yes, let's definitely talk about the real world, not the fantasy one where dishonest authors thought they were going to get off scot-free forever.

Joe Konrath said...

Better rankings=increased visibility=increased sales potential. That's why scores of authors bought thousands of dollars worth of fake five-star reviews.

First, show me how the number of reviews factors into Amazon's ranking system.

You can't show me that, because Amazon has never admitted to it.

Second, don't confuse authors buying fake reviews with readers buying their books. If buying reviews was a guarantee of success, and that website was making $28k a month selling reviews, WHERE ARE ALL THE BESTSELLERS THAT RESULTED?

We see Locke, and... no one else?

So much for the effectiveness of bought reviews.

Here's a Huffington Post article that compares buying phony reviews to doping in sports.

Funny, I just made that same argument in a converstation I had with a buddy.

Why are we trying to prevent doping in sports? Lance juiced, so that means he didn't actually win? It was actually 200 pounds of steroids on that bike, not a man?

Prohibition doesn't work. Never did, never will. Let athletes take whatever they want, and have doctors monitor them closely for safety.

People are going to do it anyway. Some will get away without. Let them all get away with it, if they chose to.

Cheating, in my opinion, is throwing a game or paying off an umpire. It isn't taking a performance enhancer when the athlete is working his ass off anyway.

Anonymous said...

So much for the effectiveness of bought reviews.

So if paid-for reviews are not effective, then it would follow that all reviews are not effective. Is that what you're saying? Why, then, are authors so eager to get them? Why do so many authors give copies of their books away in the weeks preceding release, in exchange for online reviews? What's the Amazon Vine program all about? Why spend all that money on ARCs? Etc.

Cheating, in my opinion, is throwing a game or paying off an umpire.

It's intentionally breaking the rules to gain an unfair advantage.

There are a lot of cases in life where it's very easy to cheat. We've all done it at one time or another, but it's really not much fun winning that way. Or maybe to some people it is. I think we call them sociopaths.

Eric Christopherson said...

"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."

Joe Konrath said...

So if paid-for reviews are not effective, then it would follow that all reviews are not effective.

You tell me. When you read a good review, do you automatically buy? When you read a bad review, do you never buy?

How about fifty positive reviews? Would that make you one-click purchase without bothering to read a sample?

If you buy a book, can you return it if you don't like it and write a 1 star review of it?

I'm not a fan of reviews, or awards. But I recognize they may be helpful. How helpful is open to debate.

Locke's buying of reviews is a good topic for debate. It is not a good topic for a dudgeon mob. The holier-than-thou moral outrage being expressed is laughable. Especially coming from some people who are posting 1 star reviews of Locke's books without reading them, and who solicit reviews themselves.

Anonymous said...

Locke's buying of reviews is a good topic for debate. It is not a good topic for a dudgeon mob. The holier-than-thou moral outrage being expressed is laughable.

Agreed.

If you've noticed, I haven't mentioned any names in my post.

And like I said initially, I'll give all the authors who bought phony reviews the benefit of a doubt. Maybe they didn't know.

But I do think they should admit to their errors in judgement now and work to get those bogus reviews removed--even the ones who still don't consider what they did a mistake. Because regardless of their moral stance on the issue, paying for fake reviews has definitely damaged the public perception of indie authors. It has definitely given self-publishing a big black eye.

Anonymous said...

I still say and think that the real topic here isn't being addressed.

People pay for good reviews? Fine that's on them and kind of obvious if you care about things like that and want to look.

But the systematic attack reviews that can bump a person from visibility are closing in on actual crime.

I DON'T CARE if you want to have three hundred and twenty-one obviously paid for reviews of your first novel! (even without hitting the top one hundred, because that happens...) I think it's a little funny actually.

When you see that I'm on the charts next to you though, don't freaking hire someone to run hit pieces on me. Is that too much to ask for?

Why is no one addressing this topic, even when the "fake review" industry is telling us that it's a major part of their business?

JOE: OK, the difference between a 4 star average rating and a five probably makes no real difference to sales. Maybe you can weather having a three star rating...

But can you even find the books that have one star ratings? Or all those two star books? It doesn't matter much at the top, but if you get forced to the bottom it might just destroy an author fast. (Or at least a single books sales)

Anonymous said...

And now we've also got Stephen Leather doing hit jobs against fellow authors. Charming.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2012/08/28/fake-reviews-amazons-rotten-core/

Think long and hard before making that post, Joe. This is fast becoming another Operation Puerta.

-John Q. Successful Indie Author, posting as an anon because I'm scared authors like Stephen Leather will attempt to destroy my career.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to point out to the folks that don't go read the article pointed to above, there is nothing saying that Stephen Leather is leaving negative reviews.

Although I don't agree with writing fake reviews to boost your sales, I think it's equally bad to start a lynch mob.

Alan Spade said...

This is bad. That dishonest practice doesn't only taint John Locke's success. It taints all books which have been reviewed and noted a lot, legacy publishers and indies included.

I have the feeling that article has been written because legacy publishing feel threatened. Better break the system than fight in a system you are not suited for.

And if you can cast disrepute on indies in the process, it's better.

Still, this practices have to be denounced, and the debate on reviews is necessary.

I will not see reviews on Amazon and other sites with the same eye now, specifically when there are a lot of them.

I don't know what Amazon could do to prevent that. Some ideas, anyone ?

Merrill Heath said...

I've never made a purchase decision based on the reviews on Amazon. I read them occassionally for the entertainment value - especially when other readers comment of the review. Sometimes the back-and-forth sparring gets pretty funny. But I decide whether to buy a book or not by reading the description and a sample.

If Amazon completely did away with reader's reviews it wouldn't affect my purchasing habits at all.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what Amazon could do to prevent that. Some ideas, anyone ?

Get rid of customer reviews altogether. You have to wonder about their usefulness when the reliability of the reviewers is constantly in question, as it is now.

Or maybe some sort of system where reviews are weighted. A Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval kind of thing.

Joe Konrath said...

It taints all books which have been reviewed and noted a lot, legacy publishers and indies included.

Honest question: Would you rather have tainted success, or untainted obscurity?

Neither is mutually exclusive, but I think it's silly to base Locke's success on 300 fake reviews. The guy sold 2 million ebooks.

Anonymous said...

But I decide whether to buy a book or not by reading the description and a sample.

But you had to see that book in the first place. The more five-star reviews a book has, the more likely it is to catch some algorithms and become visible to a broader range of customers. That's the theory. That's why the company in the NYT article was making $28K a month. It doesn't matter if anyone actually reads the reviews or not.

Maybe Amazon could change their algorithms so that they completely ignore customer reviews. That would work. Scam artists wouldn't be able to sell nearly as many phony reviews if it became publicly known that reviews no longer increase a book's visibility on the site.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

But you had to see that book in the first place. The more five-star reviews a book has, the more likely it is to catch some algorithms and become visible to a broader range of customers. That's the theory.

It's my understanding that only sales and, possibly, price, affect the Amazon rankings. Reviews are not part of the algorithm.

Anonymous said...

Would you rather have tainted success, or untainted obscurity?

Tainted success is an oxymoron.

Winners never cheat, and cheaters never win.

Alan Spade said...

"Honest question: Would you rather have tainted success, or untainted obscurity?"

None. I do want a honest success, if possible. But is it ? I hope so.

Yet I'm well aware you have to do something to dynamize the whole thing. For that, I think your advice of writing a lot is good.

The NYT article says the reviews helped J.Locke to go from one or two hundreds of sales to 15 000. That created the dynamic to get the ball rolling.

But the whole success of Locke's is mainly due to his talent and his business savvy, in my opinion, because if they were not there, the ball would have stopped rolling.

Still, he shouldn't have cheated. That type of practice threaten the whole reviewing system of Amazon and other websites.

As Stephen King once said, don't spit where you eat (or something like that).

Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that only sales and, possibly, price, affect the Amazon rankings. Reviews are not part of the algorithm.

Amazon keeps their algorithms a secret, but there had to have been an observable cause and effect relationship between reviews and sales for so many authors to shell out so much money.

When you buy a bunch of reviews and you're suddenly selling 15,000 books a month instead of 1000, you tend to think the reviews had something to do with it.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Amazon keeps their algorithms a secret, but there had to have been an observable cause and effect relationship between reviews and sales for so many authors to shell out so much money.

With all due respect, did you just pull this out of your ass or is there a source you can link to on this?

I don't think there has to be any kind of observable cause and effect relationship for authors to pay money for reviews, other than they like seeing a lot of stars on their books. It's all wishful thinking, to my mind.

Leonard D. Hilley II said...

"But that's okay. Because now authors have a choice.

I don't need legacy publishing, and I will never be taken advantage of again. I declare myself independent of the entire archaic, broken, corrupt system.

And I won't be the last to do so."

Well stated.

Leonard D. Hilley II said...

Joe said: "Locke's buying of reviews is a good topic for debate. It is not a good topic for a dudgeon mob. The holier-than-thou moral outrage being expressed is laughable. Especially coming from some people who are posting 1 star reviews of Locke's books without reading them, and who solicit reviews themselves."

I noticed those 1 star reviews yesterday, too. I've also noticed people posting 1 stars for books not read based on the "price of the ebook" in retaliation toward publishers. While I see their point, they are hurting an author they "supposedly" support. No logic there.

Best,

Leonard

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