The Business Rusch: Pushing The Envelope
The Business Rusch: Pushing The Envelope
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Monday morning, I ripped off the previous page on my Pearls Before Swine 2011 Day-To-Day Calendar to find Pig and Rat, sitting at a table. On the table, a steaming cup of coffee and an envelope. Pig’s hand (paw?) is on the edge of the envelope.
Rat asks him, “What are you doing?”
Pig says, “Trying to see why everyone thinks this is so risky.”
Rat says, “Why what’s so risky?”
Pig says, “Pushing the envelope.”
Pig sits alone, bruised and covered in coffee, his ruined mug next to him, and the rolled-up envelope stuck in his nose. “Now I see why,” he says to himself.
I laughed hard when I saw that and thought of both Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath. They made an announcement at midnight on Sunday PDT. I hadn’t yet gone to my computer to see what the fallout from their announcement was, but I suspected they were dodging rolled envelopes while wearing their Gortex to make certain they didn’t get too drenched in coffee.
For those of you who don’t know, this has been another one of those crazy news weeks. I was privy to the Eisler/Konrath news before it broke, because they asked my husband Dean Wesley Smith to blog about it. They sent him their announcement in advance and with him, I read all 13,000 words on Saturday at lunch. I’ll explain this in greater detail below.
But first, let me hit a few other high points of the last few days. The Association of American Publishers released its monthly sales estimates on Monday. The report covers only January, but everyone had been anticipating this because it’s the first sales report to have actual numbers since the big surge in e-reader sales in December.
The AAP says its numbers aren’t a complete picture of the industry because only 85 companies report to them. But those 85 include the major publishers (what everyone calls “The Big Six,” a term I loathe, but which apparently is in the lexicon now, whether accurate or not). The numbers are fascinating, and Publisher’s Weekly has a nifty chart so that you can see them all.
Here are the highlights:
•Adult Hardcover sales are still larger than e-book sales across the whole industry. The AAP says this is because independent and smaller publishers do not have the e-book volume of larger publishers. I say this is probably because many smaller publishers have been slow to convert books into the e-format and don’t have the resources to add formats when they become available (which will be a future topic on this blog).
•E-Book sales jumped 115.8% in January to $69.9 million. The sales are measured against the same time period in 2010. So that means that since January, 2010, e-book sales have risen almost 116%.
•Mass market paperback sales were down 30.9% in January. Unlike hardcover numbers, this one is much more accurate because the nine publishing houses that account for the bulk of mass market paperback sales report to AAP.
The surprise in the report is this: “The combination of soaring e-book sales and declining sales of print put e-book revenue [emphasis mine] ahead of both adult hardcover and mass market paperback sales in January.” [Publishers Weekly]
The difficulty with summaries of reports like this is the ease with which reporters confabulate “revenue” and “sales” which are not the same thing. So keep in mind that this report does not say that sales are higher. It says that revenue is higher because of growing sales. There are no actual sales figures in this report, only the sales revenue figures. So right now, e-books are earning more money than mass market paperbacks, but I’m not sure if the actual number of copies sold is higher or if that’s a function of the different costs of each product.
(If you’re not following me, you might be more familiar with this in Hollywood terms. Several years ago, Hollywood stopped counting opening weekend ticket sales in exchange for opening weekend earnings. The difference is simple: ticket sales were declining while revenue (from increased ticket prices) was going up. Mass market paperback books have a different price structure than e-books from traditional publishers. Hence my uncertainty about actual copies sold versus the amount of money earned.)
The AAP reports, which in previous years have been the cause of much undeserved handwringing (The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling! Even when it wasn’t), are now interesting to follow. They chart the growth of e-books. This month’s report is particularly fascinating for Publishers Weekly’s conclusion:
“A year ago, when PW asked mass market executives when they thought e-book sales would surpass mass market, the earliest date was 2012. While sales of mass market paperbacks are likely to rally later in the year, it still appears that e-books will become the third largest trade format in 2011, much quicker than anyone anticipated.”
(Try as I might, by the way, I can’t find why PW thinks mass market will rally. Apparently that’s one of those things traditional publishing assumes.)
Anyway, I led with this, and not the Eisler news because it’s relevant to the Eisler news. For those of you who are in some way involved in publishing and live under a rock, here’s what Eisler announced on Monday:
He turned down a $500,000 deal with St. Martins Press to self-publish his next John Rain novel. He explains his thinking behind this choice in a long dialogue with J.A. Konrath. The dialogue is exceedingly interesting and worth reading.
There are assumptions in it that I disagree with. (For example, both men think some writers should pay a percentage to get their books online—although neither man would do so himself; we’ve discussed the folly of paying a percentage here. [Although I have no problem with hiring anyone. I believe you should act like a businessperson and pay a salary or a flat fee, instead of a percentage. The percentage is a writer take-care-of-me model that has no place in this part of the business.]) I will, however, be using much of what they discuss as a riff in future posts. There is a lot of value here. Go read it.
As I mentioned, Dean and I got to read this early. And I regrettably did not realize the one small mistake Konrath and Eisler were making until Monday morning when I saw all the reports.
The men did not prepare a press release for this dialogue. They did not give the news in a format easily digested by the 30-second sound bite. As a result, they got hammered worse than they should have because most people would rather discuss a headline than get their minds dirty by actually reading the article.
Since I know many of you did not jump immediately to the link (but you’re all going to when you finish reading this, right???), let me summarize.
Barry Eisler, a New York Times bestselling thriller writer, turned down a $500,000 two-book deal with St. Martins Press to self-publish the next John Rain novel.
Eisler decided to do this after the success of one of his self-published short stories. This year he is “on track” to earn more than $30,000 from “The Lost Coast.” He paid a flat fee of $600 to have the cover designed and the book formatted. So that fee, plus his time, are the only costs against that $30,000.
He examined the short story sales, the loss of control of his rights to the Rain books for years to come, and did the math. He decided he would earn a great deal more money from self-publishing the next novel than he would ever earn from St Martins or any other traditional publisher even if he sold significantly fewer copies.
Got that? It would take fewer copies to earn the same $500,000 that St. Martins would have paid him.
And here’s the kicker: He will start earning money on this book, titled The Detachment, in June of this year. St. Martins hadn’t finalized the deal yet, which meant that the book wouldn’t come out until January of 2012 at the earliest.
Most of you who read this blog know that an advance is a loan against future royalties of the book. What most of you probably do not know is this: The advance is not paid in one lump sum.
So here’s what Eisler was looking at: earning significant money on e-book and in POD starting in June (at a minimum of 70% of the cover price) or getting the installments of the advance over the next three years.
Here are two ways the advance could have been paid out. I do not know the details of the St. Martins deal, but I have seen a lot of six-figure deals. They differ in every contract, but there are similar patterns.
If he was lucky, he would get the money in three payments: half (or $250,000) on signing of the agreement; a quarter on acceptance of book #1 ($125,000); and the last quarter on acceptance of book #2 ($125,000).
On-signing money usually comes two-to-four months after the contract is finalized. So say he signed the deal this week and it only took two months instead of four (boy, am I being generous), he would receive a $250,000 interest-free loan in June. Minus his agent’s 15% commission. So Eisler would receive $212,500 in June.
His turn-in date would be a year from now. So slate the next $125,000 minus 15% for next August. (His editor has to read the book and accept it before Eisler would get any money.) That’s $106,250 in August of 2012. The remaining payment would come up in August of 2013, and would be another $106,250 if the last book of the contract is accepted.
The second—and more likely way—that the St. Martins contract would be structured in these rough economic times is in five payments. The books would be accounted separately at $250,000 per book. Then he would get three payments on each book. One at signing, one on acceptance, and one on publication of the hardcover. So the payment structure would look like this:
June, 2011: $166,667 on signing (2 payments) minus commission = $141,667.
August 2012: $83,333 on acceptance of book #1 minus commission = $70,833.
June 2013: $83,333 on publication of book #1 minus commission = $70,833.
August 2013: $83,333 on acceptance of book #2 minus commission = $70,833.
June 2014: $83,333 on publication of book #2 minus commission = $70,833.
So instead of earning $500,000 in 2012, Eisler would receive $141, 667 in 2011; $70, 833 in 2012; $141,667 in 2013, and $70,8333 in 2014. And keep in mind: that money he would get is an interest-free loan, repayable should the contract get broken. Got that?
(By the way, I’ve seen contracts for $500,000 that divvy the payments into as many as six per book. Often it’s four per book: signing, acceptance, hardcover publication, paperback publication—which stretches out the payments now into 2015 or 2016 depending on the speed of the publishing schedule.)
Suddenly the fact that Eisler is turning down a $500,000 doesn’t seem so dramatic, does it? Particularly when you figure he’s earning $30,000 on a self-published $2.99 short story. Imagine what he’ll get from a higher-priced novel that his fans have been waiting for.
Think of it this way: he’s going to start earning money that he will be able to keep even if something goes wrong rather than receiving an interest-free loan that he would have to pay back if something went wrong in the business relationship with his publisher.
Earned money versus a loan. Which would you take? Especially when he’s already earning $30,000 on a $2.99 short story. Okay, for the sake of speculation, let’s say he prices the new John Rain novel at $6.99 and the novel sells the exact same number of copies that the short story sold (it won’t; novels sell better than short stories, even short stories by bestsellers). That means he would earn $90,000 in the first year of publication, only $51,000 short of what he would have gotten as a loan from St Martins Press.
The difference here, however, isn’t the short term money, the loan versus the actual earned income. It’s about the long haul. Eisler wants the book to earn over its entire life. Traditional publishing wants to earn back its investment plus a 4% minimum profit within the first six months of the book’s life. (I call that the produce model—traditional publishing acts as if books can spoil on a bookstore shelf, and those books must be moved aside for the next big thing.)
Eisler is going to invest less than $1000 to earn a minimum of $90,000 within a year. All by walking away from a loan that he isn’t sure of keeping.
If Eisler and Konrath had given some of this analysis in bullet points on Monday morning half of the kafuffle that greeted them would have dissipated.
I retweeted both of them just before I went to bed early Monday morning. After I got up and read my Pearls Before Swine cartoon, I opened Twitter and found dozens of responses to me saying that Eisler was crazy. I asked every one of the respondents if they had read the dialogue between Konrath and Eisler. The respondents hadn’t bothered to look before weighing in.
Some of that is a function of Twitter, but much of it is human nature. And had I been thinking like the journalist I used to be instead of the fiction writer I am, I would have told Dean in his correspondence with the two men to make sure they had a short (500 word) press release summarizing the main points.
But I didn’t think of that until the coffee was spilled and the rolled envelope got inserted into nostrils.
In the next week, please read the Eisler/Konrath dialogue. I will be discussing parts of it for the next month. They make a lot of good points.
At the same time as the Eisler story hit, Julie Bosman, a blogger for the New York Times, cited two unnamed publishing executives who claimed that Amanda Hocking (whom Bosman snottily called “the darling of the self-publishing world”) was “attracting bids of well over $1 million for world English rights.”
That’s it. That’s all anyone said or could confirm, until Hocking herself admitted in a blog post on Tuesday that yes, indeed, she was contemplating a traditional publishing deal while continuing to self-publish. Her post makes me sad for her, actually, because it’s clear what a toll the sudden fame has had on her. She wants help dealing with it, and hopes that help will come from traditional publishing.
As a person with nearly thirty years of experience in traditional publishing, let me tell you that “help” is not something they readily or even competently give.
But she needs to learn that herself, and if she makes this deal, which at the time of this writing is, in my opinion, a big if, she’ll still be publishing her other work—provided she doesn’t sign those sneaky non-compete clauses that are showing up in more and more contracts these days. There are a lot of pitfalls ahead of her in traditional publishing, and I hope she has good advice to help her through them.
The timing of the New York Times blog, coming as it did on the same morning as the Eisler news, made traditional publishing thumb its nose at Eisler. See? They all seemed to say in unison, Even Amanda Hocking is coming to our side of the table.
Only…that’s not what the blog said. And anyone who has been around news and publicity and negotiation knows what happened in that single, well-placed paragraph.
These unnamed publishing executives are losing the negotiation. Either they’re being outbid by their competitors, or more likely, someone—probably Hocking herself—is balking at some of the terms of the deal. I can tell you now that she’s not balking at the 1 million dollar advance (although I do hope someone explains to her that this is a loan). She’s probably balking at the e-book rights clauses.
Other self-published writers have been flirting with New York publishing deals. Some of these writers suck up the terrible e-book terms, and some have completely turned the deals down because they couldn’t get NY to budge on e-rights.
Personally, I hope Hocking makes this deal by getting traditional publishing to bend to her will on e-book rights. That would be a victory for all of us.
But I’m putting a lot of pressure on a beginning writer who at 26 has gone from a crappy job one year ago to earning more than a million dollars on her writing without traditional help. She’s also become famous in a small way, and that fame monster is a terrifying thing, especially if you’re handling it alone. Go read my posts in the Freelancer’s Guide about the problems with success. These things are what Amanda Hocking is dealing with right now.
Hocking’s deal isn’t finalized. Eisler’s is. And honestly, Eisler’s is the more interesting deal.
Because he shocked traditional publishing. Hell, he shocked me. I thought it would take more time for bestsellers to leave the traditional publishing community. I didn’t expect someone to depart this year.
The response he has gotten from traditional publishing has been amusing to say the least. They’re shocked, and as a result, they’re making a lot of stupid and ignorant statements about his move. Like this one from yet another unnamed publishing executive reported in Publisher’s Marketplace, “Can [Eisler] get the word out, does he have the fan base, and will people go looking for a new John Rain/Barry Eisler novel, to make [epublishing] at least as financially successful? He’ll have to sell a lot more copies than he ever has before.”
Um…what? Clearly this unnamed publishing executive is mathematically impaired. When a writer makes 70% of cover price instead of 15% of cover price (hardcover) or 25% of net retail (e-book), then the writer makes more money. Even with fewer sales. In fact he can have half the sales he had before and make more money with almost no upfront cost.
The unnamed publishing executive is suffering from two problems in his mathematically impaired brain.
1) He doesn’t understand that Eisler only needs to earn $250,000 to make the same amount of money on the first John Rain book. Eisler does not have to earn the additional $200,000 to $500,000 the publishing company will spend to get the book out to the public. Clearly our friend the unnamed publishing executive either doesn’t know this or forgot it.
2) the unnamed publishing executive doesn’t understand his own business. His company or one just like it spent millions of dollars creating a demand for Eisler/Rain novels, a demand that doesn’t go away just because Eisler has decided to become his own publisher. Readers don’t care who publishes the next book. They just want the next book so that they can read it.
Finally, if Eisler really needs help getting the word out about his next book, he can hire someone to do it for him. A publicist (like the publishing company does) or an ad agency (like James Patterson makes his publishing company do) or a single person on salary whose only task is to mail review copies and press releases.
Because the detail everyone seems to have forgotten here is that Eisler has had big deals before. Unless he’s bad with his money (and I see no evidence of that from the outside), he can afford to hire help. Hell, even if he takes his short story revenues and designates them to promoting the next John Rain novel, then he will get as much promotion as a traditional publisher will give a medium range bestseller, which is what he is.
Finally, on the promotion side of things, all of publishing as well as Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times has spent much of this week discussing the next John Rain novel which will appear in less than two months.
Think Eisler needs help with promotion? It seems to me that he just did quite well without spending a dime. (Although that coffee-dumping on Monday morning must have felt costly.)
Now, let’s go back to my first bit of news, the AAP sales figures for January which shows that sales of print books are down across the board. Adult hardcovers were down 11.7% compared to January of 2010. Adult trade paper was done 19.7%. Mass market was down 30.9%.
Then take into account this snide comment about the Eisler deal, also from an unnamed publishing person, also quoted in Publisher’s Marketplace: “One person notes that Nielsen Bookscan figures show Eisler print book sales, which have always been driven by mass market editions, declining steadily from book to book.”
Just like every other print book in the publishing industry.
Sales of electronic books are up 115.8% in that period. Eisler has given up a print deal to self-publish his own work and get 70% of the electronic book money instead of at best 17.5% (see the analysis he does to see how he came up with that number).
Looks like Eisler, and not the mathematically impaired nameless publishing executives, actually has his finger on the future of publishing. If you look at the deal with cold hard reality, and you do so using publishing’s own numbers, you realize that Eisler has made an extremely smart decision.
And that’s probably what made the traditional publishing establishment dump coffee all over his head on Monday morning.
As I’ve been saying, it’s an exciting time to be in the publishing industry. Things are changing on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. I’ve decided to use this blog to help writers and others in publishing through the change. I’ll try to explain what I do know and find out the answers to things I don’t understand. And sometimes, I might even change my mind [gasp!] So if you’re enjoying the ride, please continue to support this blog. I do it sometimes at the expense of my own fiction writing, so good words, good comments, good emails and (yes) donations help keep me motivated. Thanks for all the insight and links. I expect we’ll travel this new road together. Heaven knows where we’re going to end up, but the journey is certainly fun.
“The Business Rusch: Pushing the Envelope” copyright 2011 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
A lot of worthwhile info and opinion in the Eisler/Konrath piece, but 30,000 words! Both narcissistic and less effective than, say, 3000 words. Not to mention what you’ve pointed out re press release.
Actually, the Konrath/Eisler piece was 13,000 and aside from the goofy frog digression worth looking at for the various explanations of their thinking. But shorter is better for news pieces, so they also needed something short as well.
Just passing through: Thanks.
if you ever change your mind, Brian, please look me up at LuckyBatBooks.com. Your work is stunning — and makes me wonder what is lurking in those novels.
This is where I saw it ma’am:
And Russ, this is where I found a bunch of them:
I had never heard of the show before stumbling upon it “on a cold and grey Chicago morning” and found myself drawn to it. The early production techniques, tongue in cheek humor and interviews with professionals of all varied fictions was to me as charming as mom’s homemade apple pie that comes out of a Sara Lee box (which means in Just Passing Throughanese that I really liked it). I have to say, watching it, seeing the interviews with the authors especially, makes me think of how great it would have been to be in that group at that time- late 70’s to the mid 80’s. (Of course, I could totally be projecting my ideas onto it: Thinking that the authors would come together to talk of the first time that had to fight an editor to get their version of their story published over chicken and waffles while a 45 by ABC plays on the jukebox.)
Thank you ma’am for allowing me to go so far off topic that you can only see the very top summit of the original topic.
You’re welcome, Just Passing Through. And actually, those were filmed in the early 1990s. I’m not sure if I was editing F&SF yet, but I was editing Pulphouse when we did those interviews. Fun show. Thanks for the link!
Prisoners of Gravity was run on Canada’s Space Channel for a while but they dropped it. Great show, and very insightful into the SF/Fantasy writer community. I still look to see if they’ll run it again.
… though now that I think about it, I wonder if a Nebula would be more of an “IN” for an electronic book than a Hugo- granted I’m more knowledgeable about breakfast cereals than science fiction awards so I could have been right before, or maybe right now, or you could very well tell me to stick to Fruity Pebbles.
Actually, Just Passing Through, members of Worldcon can add categories and modify the Hugo rules. You have to go to Worldcon, of course, and you have to participate in the discussion/voting, something I haven’t ever done (for rules changes), but it can and probably will happen, probably sooner rather than later.
And where are you finding old Prisoners of Gravity?
Totally off topic ma’am, but I was just watching on old episode of Prisoners of Gravity and you happened to pop up talking about awards (though, now that I think about it, I suppose I could try and make it on topic by pondering out loud how long will it be before an electronic book wins a Hugo. Yeah. That kind of works).
Thanks, Ellen, for sending the link to the Connie Brockway interview. Very interesting.
My mistake, Kris. I downloaded a Kootnz novella and thought ti said Smashwords but ti’s a legacy publisher. (love that term legacy).
Was this past week just one when the stars aligned, or is some kind of slide starting? Over at All About Romance, established romance author Connie Brockway talks about “going rogue” with two new books. Marsha Canham joined the discussion. After success putting out backlist books, she’s going to put out new after quitting writing 6 years ago when her publisher told her she needed to switch from what she wanted to write to vampires or regencies. I’m not sure how to make this a link:
Thanks, Ellen. I’m on my way to teach a class, but I’ll check this out when I get back. I suspect enough time has passed to show that the e-book trend is working for writers. Will think more on it this weekend.
Fascinating piece, Ellen. Thanks for forwarding it. A whole lot of us are feeling this way. Interesting…
The way I look at it, if Barry’s plan doesn’t work out, he can always go back to traditional publishing (assuming they’ll still have him) and the same (but vice versa) for Amanda. But both writers seem to have made sensible decisions based on solid financial and personal calculatiosn.
Btw, Kris, pigs have trotters 😉
Trotters, Jane? Cool word, but I suspect it’s British, not good ole American. Separated by the same language & all. 🙂 And you’re exactly right about Eisler/Hocking. Very good point.
I must concede to someone with far more experience that I. I’m hoping he succeeds in a big way, it would complete my hypothesis and validate the new world of publishing (as if Hocking hasn’t already).
Legacy seems to think they’ve won, but far from it. I expect more salvos from them and their allies. (Hmmm…sounds like war doesn’t it?) But I think what they’re missing (at least in the press reports) is that the readers don’t care who publishes the books as long as the story is one they want buy.
BTW I noticed Koontz has done some self pub already and I expect other bestsellers will soon follow.
Really, Russ? I hadn’t seen that Koontz is self pubbing too. Can you send me the link?
Re: Hocking’s deal. Might she also be tired of being called a “self-published bestseller”, and just want a little of that “traditional” label on her?
My bigger question is the Eisler deal. While the numbers here are bigger than I’ve been hearing in other such discussions, the theme is the same: “An author can make more money self-publishing to his huge audience than he can by letting a traditional publisher do the publishing.” The point of that discussion that seems to be brushed under the rug is “How did the author get that audience in the first place?” Sure, it’s a great move for Eisler. But is there any chance a first-time author can do the same? Random House published my first book in 2008, and it is by no means a best-seller. On the other hand, it’s sold more copies than the total number of Facebook friends, LJ friends, and SFScope subscribers I have. So their distribution network sold more copies than I imagine my distribution network could have sold. Even for my little book, they put copies in how many physical bookstores across the country, where the book could be browsed and purchased on a whim. As a self-published author, I couldn’t have managed that.
And, of course, what about the ravening hordes of self-published authors who aren’t Hocking or Eisler? How do they (individually) get noticed? That, I think, is one of the abiding uses of traditional publishing.
Ian, I love this perception that Hocking is someone special who came into all of this with an audience. A year ago now, she self-pubbed some books. She did no promotion outside her usual social media sites. The books spread by word of mouth. And now she’s “Amanda Hocking” someone that no one else can catch. I’m sorry. I find that change in perception hilarious.
What everyone seems to forget is that e-books are constantly available. So if you, Ian, recommend a book to me at lunch and I have my iPhone. I can go to one of my book apps and download a sample of that book during our conversation. Word of mouth is exceptionally effective now. I don’t have to go to a nearby bookstore and try to remember the name of that book Ian recommended.
Dean has dealt with the numbers a lot on his blog, which I suggest you all visit, particularly his “Think Like Publisher” series. He’ll deal more indepth with the Produce sales model (selling books fast and only for a year: which is NY publishing) or the new sales model. But he touches on it in this post: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=3603. He also touches on it in his New World of Publishing posts. Search the term “produce model.”
You should look at the Kindle bestseller lists. They’re now filled with writers who are first-timers, people I’ve never heard of, people traditional publishing rejected. And their books are outselling most print books in book stores. It’s word of mouth, Ian, the best way to sell books. Of course, that puts more pressure on the writer to write a good story, but hey, isn’t that our job?
I didn’t say Eisler wouldn’t make money, he will. But I know lots and lots of readers who are pretty stubborn when it comes to e-books versus print. He MAY lose some of his audience, then he may gain some new readers, or it may all stay the same. From studying what he’s been saying there are aspects he’s uncertain about. (Foreign rights being one example). I still believe he’ll do just fine, but as Amanda says in her own blog her books (and Eisler’s) MAY just stop selling as of tommorrow. There are too many unknown factors in this business that have nothing to do with us. This is true in legacy (I like this term BTW) publishing and e-pub.
From Amanda’s post she has taken a very business like approach and knows the risks. My take from reading her blog is she’s not at all concerned if the St Martins books do well or not. (Not that she doesn’t want them to) She will continue to self pub, which is significant. This validates the self pub model as a viable supplement to legacy publishing for all of us writers.
She is very savvy as is Eisler. I’m impressed by both and we’re all benefiting from the education we’re getting and the new ways these business models are unfolding.
Thanks, Kris. Love this discussion.
Russ, Eisler’s not going only to e-books. He’s also doing POD. So how can he lose his print audience?
(He’ll learn about foreign publishers. They work directly with the writers quite often. I’m speaking from experience here.)
Thanks for clearly showing what Eisler actually walked away from. The only piece that is unknown is if his books earn their advance he could see some royalties, but there’s no way to gauge what or if this will happen, and we don’t know the details of the contract as proposed to him. With e-books rapid growth Eisler talked about receiving 17.5% for those from the traditional model, versus 70% from Amazon, for example.
Some say he’s fool, some say he’s savvy. Time will tell if he’s right. My thinking is it depends on his audience. Will they follow him? I think so because readers will still get the quality story at a cheaper price.
The same is true for Hocking though hers is riskier in my opinion because her audience is used to her pricing. St Martins pricing will definitely be higher. Her books are urban fantasy YA’s so her audience demographic is likely skewed younger. You have to wonder if they’re willing to pay $10 or more for something they could get for $3 before the deal? If she’s the story teller she appears to be I think they will but you just never know. In my view St Martins is risking a lot her audience will follow regardless of price. When you throw in she’ll still be self pubbing at $3 you really have to wonder how this will all play out.
Lastly, I too don’t know where she thinks this magical writing time will suddenly appear. I’ve never been able to find it.
Why wouldn’t his audience follow him, Russ? That’s a traditional publishing argument and it’s quite silly. Readers don’t care who publishes the book, only that they can find the book, which believe me, Eisler will make possible. He’s being very smart about this. And I’m sure Hocking will establish a new audience. Check out her carefully thought through blog post on this topic: http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog.html
Kris, like you and Cindie, I’m rooting for her too. As I mentioned on Dean’s blog, I was a bit worried that she was letting her critics get to her but am glad to see that isn’t the case.
@Brian: I’ll second what Kris said about doing freelance illustration for writers. I took a look at your work and it’s top notch (I’m gonna take a wild guess and say you already knew that.) I think you could probably do well with freelancing.
I was happy to read what she said about why she is taking the deal. She is definitely trading up on her problems. She has a good point on distribution, especially the Walmarts and Targets of the world. If she can still self-publish AND become a household name, this might be a really savvy investment — a big one, an expensive one, but a calculated one. I am looking forward to watching her career continue to evolve. And I am really rooting for her.
Christopher, you’re welcome. Better you earn the interest instead of the publishing house, if they’re willing to give you the money.
Cindie, like you, I am rooting for her. I’m quite pleased she thought this through. In my experience with writers (some of whom have commented on the various business posts), such business savvy from someone so new is really, really rare.
Hm. That may a wise idea. Thanks for that.
[…] notably Kris Rusch, have commented on Amanda Hocking’s deal. Like Kris I hope Hocking’s agent has kept the e […]
Big NY publishers can foul up the marketing of a book big time. I read your Fey series in the 90’s and thought it was great. Beyond great even. But i have to say, the cover for the first novel was ghastly awful. And one poorly done cover can kill a reader’s interest in a book, or a series as a whole. I will admit, it took me a while to bring myself to buy a copy of your first Fey novel. Why? Because i was so soured by the cover art. And that’s a shame. There are far too many great illustrators out there doing great art. There is zero excuse for poor cover art. Zero. Yet i see books stricken with awful cover design all the time. And these are books coming from the big 6 in NY. Anyway, i want to thank you and Dean for your wonderful Blogs on this e-reader vs traditional publisher subject. I am an artist who has dealt with many many publishers of all shapes and sizes. It aint easy for us artists either. I wont even do freelance illustration any more. I got so fed up with publishers. Just gallery work for me now, thank you very much. Cheers.
Brian, thanks so much for the comments on the Fey. You’re exactly right about the problems with cover art. The publisher (Bantam) did not have the budget to redo the cover, even though they had purchased 3 books for a good advance. So they did the best they could, but then they were stuck with that horrible design. The new artist (book 2) was better, but still not good.
Here’s the good news. The Fey will be reissued–the first book as an e-book next month, with trade following. And the new cover artist is spectacular. Each piece of art gets better and better. When I finish Springtime Deadline Hell (that would be when I go to Writers of the Future in May), I’ll put up a Fey website with all of the upcoming covers. The entire series should be reissued (along with the Black King/Queen) by this time next year, with 2 books to follow: A Guide to the Fey, with the help of writer Dan Duval, and a brand new Fey book. (Yes, I’m busy. Yes, I’m happy.)
Have you thought of getting back into freelance illustration for writers? If so, you might want to talk to Cindie who just commented. She does Lucky Bat Press and suggests illustrators for projects. I’m sure there are a lot of other places (and writers) who need illustrators who care about the books now. You have access to this new world of publishing too and might want to take advantage of it. 🙂
The paper itself unapologetically leans to left wing (from a Spanish POV; from the US, probably commie). It is, also, the best paper these days, by far, explaining the background of news –for example, it’s been the best trying to explain the reality of Fukushima, getting a nuclear physicist on board the forum… even if the articles, from time to time, were written by pretty scared/party line journalists–.
Thanks, Ferran. I will look that up and struggle through it later today. 🙂 I’ll let you know if I need translation help for the column or if I can just paraphrase.
As someone who wishes to live debt-free and stay that way (Dave Ramsey-ite, here), I suppose when I publish traditionally I’m going to have to forgo an advance. Either that or stick to self publishing till I have the clout to stick that non-repayment clause into any contract I sign. Or something. Thanks for answering a question I’ve had for some time.
What most writers with your attitude do, Christopher, is put the advance in escrow and don’t spend it until the contract terms are exercised. That way, you’re earning interest on the money. Seems sensible to me. (Asimov is the only author I know of who never took an advance. But he had more and more trouble over the years getting publishers to agree to that.)
Great post as always, Kris! I get so much out of these, I can’t even tell you. I look forward to everything you and Dean write on the industry…I feel like I’m soaking it up like a sponge.
On the loan point – only because I had a mini-heartattack on that comment, too – the key to me is, you’re not earning *any* money until that loan is paid back. If that takes 10 years, that’s 10 years you get not a single cent. I thought about this a lot in relation to Hocking, as well, because I always think about that blank stretch of time where you owe, and essentially get nothing. In that sense, the size of an advance almost strikes me more of a vote of confidence and commitment than a true payout.
Anyway, sorry for the rant – you answered it clearly enough, Kris. 🙂
Funnily enough, I just stumbled on the Konrath/Eisler interview last night. I found it completely fascinating, and ended up reading most of it even though it was like 1am and I was exhausted. I also really liked the observation that the changes came from outside the industry…really fascinating. Also made me think about how differently it would all have looked if they’d been initiated by the industry itself. Probably would have been introduced in such a way that it didn’t give writers this much freedom, that is for sure! So for that, I for one am quite grateful they’ve been slow to change.
Ooooohhh, I love your point about Eisler’s book sales declining right along with the entire industry. What a good slap in the face for those who are getting snotty about his sales numbers.
Really, there is so much great information in this post. So many ‘bullet points’ of information what if people just stopped, stepped back, and looked objectively, would see. But, it’s easier to have the emotional response.
I read Eisler and Konrath’s conversation the day it was out (poor frog), and spent the entire day wondering what the fallout in the traditional news media would be. They didn’t disappoint in their grandstanding and pointing why it was so wrong, and why Eisler would fail. Then they had the opportunity to flaunt Amanda Hocking’s news. Again, emotion, and protecting their castle.
Between Konrath, Eisler, Dean and you, the math has been so much fun. I love this kind of math. 😀
It’s been quite a show to watch. :hands out the popcorn:
It has been interesting, hasn’t it, JA?
Julie, we were just discussing that change at lunch today, only if it had come from within the industry. We were discussing our smart phones (Android v. IPhone) and how certain things were counterintuitive in them because they had to avoid each other’s patents, not for any good reason. As one person said, “Imagine if cars had been designed that way: steering wheels on the left, right and in the middle, wings on some, wheels on another.” I suspect the same thing would have happened in publishing with e-readers, and you’re right–the contracts would have been an absolute nightmare for the writer.
Hocking just put a post on her blog about her decision and it sounds like she went into it quite clear-eyed. She hasn’t signed a non-compete clause (she hasn’t signed anything yet) and it sounds like she won’t. It’s a very sensible decision, and I for one am relieved: http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog.html
I was sad when I read how Hocking just didn’t want to do all the non-writing stuff and that her solution was traditional publishing. I can’t wait for the day when the world is filled with a third option — presses that work for the writer on flat or hourly fees. Though I don’t know if knowing about that option would change her mind. I can’t help thinking how hard it has been for me to look at where publishing is and decide that my 40+ year dream of a NY book deal was simply outdated. It’s still hard to let go of that stamp of approval — even if that stamp costs me money. The change in mindset has been a real challenge for me. I’m glad to have you and Dean reminding me of what me real goals are.
That’s right, Cindie. Dreams do get out of date, and they can hurt a person (let alone a writer) when that happens. It’s tough. But if we let go, then we can move to better things. I’m having trouble with some of the changes myself. All that stuff I learned on how to survive in publishing applies less and less. I spent my life studying the art of bestselling buggy whips. 🙂 Now I’m learning how to operate cars, to stretch the metaphor to its breaking point. 🙂
Um… no, an advance is not a loan. A loan must be repaid. When Baen pays me an advance, they’re OUT that money, and they are never getting it back, not even if they fail to sell a single copy of the book in question.
Also, whether it’s paid out in one sum or two or three is purely a matter of when what they’re paying for — your manuscript — is done. If I walk up to a publishing house and hand them my book, and they accept it, there’s no “pay part now and part later” — they give me the whole thing. I should know, that’s how it worked with my first book, and — if any of the three I have currently circulating are taken — how it will happen with any other completed work.
All that happens with the split advances is that they’re not going to pay you all the money if you haven’t actually FINISHED the book. But they’re not loaning it to you in any sense (at least, they aren’t if they’re a reputable publisher). They’re PAYING you, specifically, for the right to publish that book exclusively.
Read your contract, Ryk. Every single publishing contract lists an advance as an advance against royalties. If the book does not get printed, it does not earn royalties, and you must repay the advance. Only a few authors get a clause in their contract saying they do not have to repay, and those folks are huge bestsellers. There have been lawsuits on this, including the Joan Collins suit. Your advance is contingent on the publishing house accepting the book. If they do not accept it, you must repay that advance. Your contract with Baen might not have the “acceptance” clause, but I’ll bet there are a bunch of other clauses in your 20+ page contract that would force you to repay that advance if the contract gets broken and/or canceled.
That makes it an interest free loan until all terms of the contract are met. And in many cases, there are other things that will trigger the repayment clause, not just the fact that the publishing house hasn’t accepted the book.
Your post has me terrified, and makes me wonder how many publishing contracts you’ve signed without understanding them. This is Publishing 101. It’s a loan. An advance against payment for work you have yet to do. If you do not do the work to someone’s satisfaction, if you somehow break that contract (and every contract is different), then you must repay that loan.
Every writer you know who’s signed with SMP has at least one horror story? That would explain what happened to J. C. Hutchins. Poor guy’s a bit cynical about publishing now.
Heh. I love the furries! They’re polite and enthusiastic, and their cons have always treated me well–better in fact than SF/F equivalent. I wrote a furry high fantasy serial that I made good money from back before a lot of people were monetizing that format, and am looking forward to re-issuing that story in paperback and e-book format to continue earning on it now that it’s finished.
There are paying furry markets for both short stories and novels, and they do good business serving their niche. Furries get a bad rap, in my opinion. 🙂
Besides, half the stories in the SF/F section already ARE furry. They just also have humans. You could throw a rock in that part of the bookstore and hit a story with a talking animal or an alien race that looks like giant cats!
Wow, an existing subgenre I didn’t know about. Cool. Thanks, MCA!
Yep, afraid so, Christopher. Horror stories in traditional publishing are more common than uncommon, no matter who your publisher is. That’s one of the things Eisler talks about today in the Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-03-24/barry-eisler-explains-self-publishing-decision/
Thanks for the inside Kris. You and Dean provide a metric ton of useful info for us …
I can’t blame Hocking for doing that deal, at least not as much as you and Dean do (well, blame is probably the wrong word, but you two think it is a big mistake).
Let’s leave aside for a moment the reasons she stated for doing it. I think there was a point where she just couldn’t turn down the money they were throwing at her. Yes, they won’t pay this on signing the deal but still.
Also, that deal cost St. Martin’s a lot, so they will market the hell out of her and that deal. This in turn will bring massive publicity to her and her previous work, on top of what she is already receiving. So I think her numbers of the past few months will increase even more. By the time the first book of this deal comes out, she’ll have made that money a few times over.
And that is even if she is prohibited from publishing anything else until then. If she is not probihibited … the sky is the limit.
Yes, she probably will pass up money with this deal … but I think the overall publicity effect will more than make up for that and will catapult here into another stratosphere.
I don’t blame her, Frank. I’m quite worried about this because I know publishing and she doesn’t. Also, I was mistaking her agent for another agent who is an activist agent on the part of writers. The agent she has…um…isn’t.
And let me say as a former St. Martin’s Press author for 10 years, I doubt she’ll get as much benefit as she thinks. SMP is the company that told me with the Smokey Dalton novels that they wouldn’t market me in Chicago because “there are no black people in the Midwest.” This from the head of the sales force in 2002 (I’m sure he now knows differently). This is the same company that sent me on a book tour and did not provide books to the bookstores. I could go on with other writers experiences, but I won’t. I’m just sharing mine. But suffice to say, I have no confidence in their ability to market well. Not after the things I’ve seen and the things that have happened to bestselling writers of my acquaintance. And, oh, if you want another St. Martins horror story, check this out: https://kriswrites.com/2010/06/07/hitlers-angel-reissue-technically/
These are just my SMP horror stories. (And not all of them.) Every writer I know who has been with SMP has at least one.
I hope you’re right. I hope they’ll do right by her. I hope they’ll remember they have a $500,000 investment in that first book. But what you people don’t understand is this: If the first or second book tanks, they can cancel the remainder of the contract. And still tie up the rights while doing so. Better hope things go well.
I do hope. I hope that she got some good e-book concessions and that everything works out well for her and she doesn’t have a noncompete clause and she doesn’t sell her backlist to them. I hope, but I’m not holding my breath.
Going to take me a while to re-read that and absorb it, Kris.
But this: “Adult hardcovers were down 11.7% compared to January of 2010. Adult trade paper was done 19.7%. Mass market was down 30.9%…”
Is the elephant in the living room or the rat with a coffee mug or something that a lot of people in the industry are trying VERY hard to ignore. Not Eisler, obviously.
LOL, Jeanne. Yes. 🙂
What struck me most about the Eisler/Konrath conversation was the fact that the innovations in e-publishing we’re all talking about did not come from WITHIN the industry. As they point out, Amazon invented the Kindle, not St. Martin’s or HarperCollins. It took an outsider, some entity not locked into the mindset of pushing paper, to come up with the idea of an e-reader. I liked Eisler’s analogy about railroads: they thought they were in the railroad business, but they were actually in the transportation business, so when interstate trucking came along the ground fell out from under their feet. In the same way, Big Publishing thinks it is in the book business; we readers think they’re in the *story* business. That failure to a) understand their real value to the market and b) think outside the box turned them into a niche market in only a few years. I agree with Eisler and Konrath that this is where paper publishers may be heading, while the more innovative among us have leaped into the digital age with both feet.
Thanks for, as always, giving us all so much to ponder.
I think it’s also worth noting that when traditional publishing was the only game, the only way to make good money was to become one of those bestselling outliers. Now that the distribution lock has broken, however, you can make a living by selling to niche audiences that would never have supported the print runs necessary for traditional publishers to take a chance on them, but who still want books and are willing to pay for them.
These days, it’s possible to be a big fish in a small pond and earn your daily bread. You couldn’t even reach those small ponds before because they were too small to be worth the time of bigger publishers.
So if you’re thinking that you’ve never been traditionally published and the only way self-publishing can pay off for you is to become an Amanda Hocking, remember that if you love writing furry space opera, you might make a great packet selling to those furries. Or other underserved markets like F/F or M/M romance.
Oh, M.C.A., I’ll never get “furry space opera” out of my head now. Particularly when the next book I’m going to write is a new pen name that is space opera romance. 🙂 Oh, no! LOL! Your point, however, is a great one. Exactly. Maybe it’s something I should deal with in a future blog, and not just mention in passing.
Sarah, I had forgotten they said that. It’s absolutely right. I really need to go over that discussion again. It’ll be fun to dissect & refer to in the next few weeks. (I still run on a slower schedule than the rest of the world, I think.) Thanks!
I read Eisler and Konrath’s conversation and then Dean’s blog about it Sunday night before I went to bed. I think I got to bed around 1:30, which was way past my bedtime, but there was simply so much stuff to process. Such interesting things going on in the publishing world these days.
I’m sad to hear Hocking actually did the deal, especially if the terms prevent her from continuing to self-publish when she wants to.
Thanks for the insight, Kris. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one suspicious of the timing of the leak about Hocking’s deal.
While I agree with a lot of the basics that you outline I don’t think the numbers are as clear cut as they may first appear. First it is important to remember that the self published author isn’t getting paid for multiple formats. The projected revenue of each format is factored into the publishers offer. Hardback, Trade Paper, and Mass Market books can all sit on the shelf at the same time that you have an ebook out. You get paid for all of those.
But the real difference is assumed risk of relying on the consumer rather than the retailer and not getting your advance paid on titles shipped instead of sold to a customer. If Eisler keeps 70% of the 7.99 for a Kindle edition and it sells as well as his last mass market edition then it is true that he will make $90,000 his first year based on Bookscan sales but like most books the majority will be sold the first 3 months of on sale and the bell curve falls off after that. The second year sales will drop by nearly 75% and if he is lucky it will level off the 3rd year to 2,000 or 3,000 units a year at the original retail. (Of course these numbers also assume every one of his current readers owns an eReader or buys ebooks.) A lot of the numbers he cites are probably Dec/Jan daily units reflective of the misleading Xmas Gift eReader loading spike. Additionally in order to keep sales inflated you need to continually manage the retail and The potential is there to keep more of each unit sold and it is not clear that these are sustainable numbers at all.
Amanda Hocking on the other hand has decided that it is more profitable to get paid up front on a contracted schedule(even with a reserve against return) for books shipped to retailers and may never be sold to a consumer than to have to bet against an unpredictable rate of sale in a fickle as of yet immature consumer market. It is much easier to make a mortgage payment when you have 6 guaranteed and scheduled payments.
Again I agree with you it is very true you can make a lot of money self publishing but you can still make more from a publisher desperate for a home run and kudos to Amanda for taking advantage of it.
Wow, Jim, lots of assumptions in your post. Clearly you haven’t read Eisler & Konrath’s discussion. Of course he’ll be paid for multiple platforms. He’s doing print books as well.
As they mention in their dialogue (go read it), he doesn’t expect the book to continue at the same numbers year after year. He will be publishing other books, which will then bring new readers to the older books. You’re working off the produce model, which does not apply. Also, the number of e-readers are growing and so new readers will be coming to old books. It’s already happening to all of us writers who have older titles on e-book.
Bookscan numbers are irrelevant and have always been so. They can’t track 50% of book sales (from Walmart, or discounters, just for 2 examples), and they’re designed to track velocity, which again, is irrelevant in the new market.
It’s easier to make the mortgage payment when you get a monthly paycheck, which is what e-books provide. They pay every month. So do POD sites. If you do the math, Hocking is going to make significantly less money on her deal than she ever would by keeping her books self-published. Take a look at the money she’s made monthly that she posted on her own blog if you doubt me. She’s making more than 6 figures per month right now. Dunno how $500,000 per book (4 books) spread out over 3-5 years is greater than $1.2 million per year–and that’s only if she’s earning $100,000 per month on her e-books, which her own numbers say is about 3 times too low. She’s making about $300,000 per month right now. She’s going to traditional publishing for reasons other than money.
And once again, an advance is a loan. She will have to repay it–and many authors do each year–if she doesn’t get along with her publishing house. So she’s giving up guaranteed income to take a $2 million dollar loan. Tell me again how financially that’s more sensible?
One other thing, JIm, on Bookscan and numbers. Of course, a book’s numbers will go down in following years: there aren’t as many copies for sale. Sometimes there aren’t any copies for sales in brick-and-mortar stores, which have limited shelf space. What e-publishers of all stripes, traditional and indie, are discovering is that the unlimited shelf space means old titles continue to sell at consistent numbers, and sometimes take a jump when a similar book has success. So the Bookscan numbers are not applicable in the new world of publishing. (And never really have been because they couldn’t track most sales.)
Interesting times . . . I loved your comprehensible analysis of it, as I am a publishing newbie. I will be following your blog.
And the Hocking deal has been announced.
Thanks, Livia. Note that there are no details of the deal here except that it’s $500,000 per book, which is double what Eisler walked away from. With the same company, who could afford this partly because Eisler walked. I hope to hell she doesn’t have a non-compete clause in the contract or she can’t self publish any more. However, at this kind of money, I suspect my hope is in vain. We’ll see. She’s in for a ride, and not necessarily a pleasant one.
Now that y’all understand payouts, you can do the math on the kind of money she will receive over the next 5 or 6 years. That’s how long it will take to get the books out unless SMP does a sped-up publishing schedule. Then she’ll get the bulk of the money in 3 years. Still less than she has been earning monthly on her own. Clearly money’s not the factor for her. But I hope to hell she got good advice on the rest of the contract, or she’s screwed. (I don’t have much faith that any agent will protect a writer’s interest on a deal this size. Especially a writer as new as Hocking who probably has no idea what contracts can bind her to.)
Fantastic update to the TBR, Kris! Your points are spot on.
Now I’m wondering when/if one of the Annual Bestsellers will move to self-pub. Will Stephen King try e-pubbing again, and if so, will he do it in a smart way? Will publishers try to maintain a two-tiered system of royalty rates on ebooks to keep their big names from walking, but to milk the most they can from their bread-and-butter midlist? Exciting stuff, and a great time for writers who are aware of their options.
As for Hocking…well, I’ll be watching. I hope she makes a more informed decision than the one she seems to be making from her statements and knows what she’s going to be getting into.
I can’t thank you and Dean enough, by the way, for doing so much to help inform and educate writers!
Re Hocking’s overwhelmedness: Axelrod missed the boat here. He could’ve made more money being her BUSINESS MANAGER and handling all that for her than he can being the contract-looker-atter for 15% off the top. Agents are missing the boat on this.
[…] Money Now Makes Sense: Ditch Your Publisher The Business Rusch: Pushing The Envelope Suddenly the fact that Eisler is turning down a $500,000 doesn’t seem so dramatic, does it? […]
Thanks once again for the excellent post. I appreciate the depth of knowledge you bring to the table.
The Konrath/Eisler discussion is very much worth reading, and in many ways one of the best pieces I’ve seen out about what is happening to publishing. I must go read it again soon.
I look forward to your explorations of the topics they brought up.
What a week! My first thought when I read the Konrath/Eisler exchange on Monday was ‘I can’t wait to see what Kristine says about this on Thursday!’ Thanks for a very interesting over view. Hearing about this ‘unnamed’ publishing source trying to spin it in his favour is fascinating. Change seems to be accellerating for the publishing industry and it’s going to be very interesting to see how it develops over the rest of the year. And to think it’s only March!
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. So, so, so much good information. But for someone like myself — someone who hasn’t been traditionally published and is experimenting with indie publishing this year — the best and more important bit of information I learned is that an advance is a “loan.” It puts the Eisler decision in a whole new perspective. Anyway, just great information.
Glad to clear that up for you, Jeff, before you had a traditional book deal. 🙂 Thanks, Rebecca! Robert, I agree. The entire Eisler/Konrath piece is well worth reading.
Moriah, great post. You’re exactly right. Dean’s quite worried about Hocking and her agent, thinking he’s giving her bad advice just to even go into traditional publishing right now. I have no opinion on that because I don’t know what’s going on with either principle, and I’ve never heard a bad behind the scenes word about her agent. So I have no idea. But you’re right: he would be much better off helping her cope with her new-found fame & fortune as a manager than as an agent trying to make new deals that might not benefit her at all.
Thanks for a thoughtful analysis of the 2 big publishing stories and of the industry responses. Interesting to see how much emotion gets thrown into the mix.
I spent eight years in a writing group. Several of us wrote short stories. We invested many hours over many months to produce the best possible quality, only to find no publishing outlet wanted them. If they did, they didn’t want to PAY for them, unless you count 2 free copies of a journal almost no one has heard of as payment.
I’m combing through my stories for self-publication. Everyone from my writer’s group thinks it’s the kiss of death. After all, self-pub is for losers who can’t get a deal. (A story like Eisler’s would be seen as either insanely exceptional or sadly commercial.) At least this loser will have a chance to find some readers.
Wow! What an insight into the publishing business. Sounds like Eisler made a great decision. But what about those who don’t have a well-known series to draw readers? Is self-publishing still the way to go? Hocking seems to be far more the exception than the rule.
Thanks, Sherry and Candice. Hocking is an outlier, but in this way: Not every traditionally published writer becomes a bestseller. That happens when great storytelling combines with timing in the culture to create a demand for a certain kind of book. Also, the books have to be available, which is where traditional publishing falls down. Hocking has great storytelling chops, and she is writing the stories that people want to read right now. So she’s an outlier the way that John Grisham is an outlier.
Does that mean it can’t happen to other self-published writers? Heck, no. Other self-published writers are hitting bestseller lists, like John Locke on Kindle. What it means is that other writers shouldn’t expect to hit the list just because they publish their work. Most traditionally published writers never do either, but they wouldn’t give up being published. So try. What can it hurt? You’ll build an audience. Btw, go read Dean’s “Think Like a Publisher” posts as you start up. Also, Candice, read his entire post on writing fast. Sounds like your whole workshop needs it. http://www.deanwesleysmith.com. Also my post earlier in the publishing series on what New Writers need to do.
Thanks for the post, Kris. I just finished reading Dean’s latest “Sacred Cows” post on security in indie and traditional publishing and your posts complement each other well. I appreciate hearing your insights into the publishing world. Just what I need to make informed decisions.
Thanks for a very level headed analysis of these most recent events. Like you and Dean I look at the business side of all this and am amazed at people’s inability or unwillingness to see the common sense of Eisler’s decision. Also, from what I’ve read there appears to be other “control issues” beyond the financial driving his decision as well.
Thanks for the AAP stat reveiw as well. Always interesting to see these numbers explained by someone with your years of experience and without a vested interest in how they are interpeted. A comment about Eisler’s declining sales, which you addressed, but I also read his last books were standalones and not part of the Rain series. I would assume that has something to do with it as well. Stand alones typically do not outsell series books, wouldn’t you agree?
Thanks, Kris. As always very interesting to get your take on all this.
Thanks, John. I just read Dean’s post before he put it up. We wrote simultaneously and it was interesting to see that we were working in tandem.
David, usually traditionally publishing recommends stand-alones to goose a writers’ sales upwards. It doesn’t always work. Clearly readers want more John Rain from Eisler rather than the stand-alones.
Again, a Spaniard.
Man, the world is small! I will buy Barry’s next book. Among other things, I know some of his characters in real life –even if he killed most of them–.
BTW, can you read Spanish? I found a news article on ebooks in Spain you might find interesting, but if I have to translate it it’s going to take a while.
I do read Spanish, Ferran. Please send the link. I’m happy to look. (If I quote, I might have to ask for help with translating a paragraph, though. I don’t trust my translation skills.)
May we continue to live in interesting times. The two of you have been shining beacons of truth in this otherwise highly flawed realm called publishing.
Even today, I am *stunned* by how slow this giant ship moves; and then wham (ten years in the making), some tech types change the game, happily for most everyone.
Keep up the AWESOME work.
-Seth Godin, Poke The Box
Seth, I think we’re lucky that the tech change happened. It really benefits writers, taking us out of some very bad (for us) practices that I’ve seen destroy friends of mine. Thanks for the good words.