Sunday, December 27, 2009
As a result, this blog gets a lot of hits from people who don't know who I am. That's the point. As I've said many times, anyone can find you on the net if they're looking for you. The goal is to have people find you when they're looking for something else.
That said, I often get emailed questions that are already answered in my blog. On one hand, a newbie author discovering me is anxious to get answers, and often enthusiastically fires off questions to me without reading all 500 of my posts. On the other hand, anyone who wants to succeed in publishing needs to be in it for the long haul. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Reading all of my entries does a lot more than simply familiarizing you with my writing. It's an encapsulation of how this business works, and how one writer views it.
So it's worth it to the read old posts.
But it's almost 2010. We're in a technological tsunami. Instant gratification isn't fast enough for us.
So here's a blog post that distills the essence of what I've learned in this biz.
Luck Is Important
I say this all the time. In fact, I think it's the #1 factor in determining success in this business. But I've never specifically identified what luck is.
In essence: Getting someone within the industry with enough power and money to recognize they can make money from your work. That's luck. It involves having the right book, in the right place, at the right time. Too soon, too late, wrong person, not good enough--these all can minimize your luck. But hard work, paying attention, and being willing to roll with the punches and accept criticism can maximize your luck.
Still, at the end of the day, it always comes down to a roll of the dice. No one said it would be fair, easy, or fun. But if this is your dream, it is worthwhile to pursue it.
Why do I pursue it?
First, because I love to tell stories. I think it's a fundamental part of the human experience.
Second, because making a living doing something I love is the whole point of life.
Third, because I'm ensuring my little place in history. The most important thing I can do as a human being is be a good husband and father. And yet, who remembers husbands and fathers? How many can you name that you don't personally know?
But writers--everyone can name a dozen writers. That I'm able to reach people, and at the same time become immortal through my work; that speaks to to the essence of what I believe humanity is.
As a species, we love to create things. I'm doing my part and making my mark, in a way that makes me thrilled to be alive.
Understand The Industry
The publishing industry is broken. No doubt about it. Any business that allows returns,
where a 50% sell-through is considered successful, where no one can figure out why things succeed or fail, is fundamentally flawed.
But the more you know about how things work, the better you can manipulate the system.
Good decision-making comes down to facts. The better informed you are, the likelier your decisions will be correct.
Listen. Ask questions. Follow examples. Experiment. Take chances. Stay alert.
The Harder You Try, The More Books You'll Sell
You will not become a bestseller by doing all the things I tell you to do, no matter how logical or well-informed I appear.
You will not become a bestseller through your blog, your touring, your speaking efforts, your internet efforts, or you social networks.
The only way you will become a bestseller is to have your books available, at a discount, in as many places as possible. And that's beyond your control.
That said, every little thing you do to sell your books can help your career.
Books sell one at a time. If you're the one that sells them, one at a time, its one more that probably would not have sold without your efforts.
The Race Is With Yourself
You can't ever compare yourself to any other writer. EVER. This isn't like the business world, where certain positions have a salary range. You can make $100 a year, or $5,000,000 a year, with no discernible difference in your output or your quality.
If you want to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to yourself. Monitor your successes. Learn from your failures (and if you aren't failing, you aren't trying hard enough.) Try different things, make mistakes, grow, adapt, evolve.
Your peers are a tool you can use to better yourself. But they are NEVER something to aspire to.
Your only aspirations should be within your control. Which brings us to:
Set Achievable Goals
Goals should be within your power. In other words, anything that involves a yes or no from another human being isn't a goal, it's a dream.
You can and should dream, and dream big. But "I want to be a bestseller" isn't a goal. "I want to attend three writing conferences this year, polish my novel, and send queries to ten agents by November" is a goal.
Learn the difference. And don't forget to reward yourself when you reach those goals.
The term "tortured artist" is an oxymoron. Art is not food, clothing, or shelter. Art is what we do to express and entertain ourselves. If you slave over your writing, I recommend finding something more enjoyable to do. Life is too short, and too many bad things happen, to waste time making yourself miserable.
No one ever gets farmer's block. No one ever bitches about being too uninspired to wait tables.
If writing is so hard, perhaps you should find something easier.
This may seem to run contrary to:
Nothing worthwhile in life is easy. Victory is sweetest when it's hard-won.
You shouldn't EVER believe you deserve anything, or that you're entitled to success. But if you want to reach your writing goals, it often involves giving up other things in order to focus on writing.
You need to love writing. In fact, you need to love it so much you're willing to give up other things that other people (perhaps even you) deem important.
How do you know if your love is strong enough and worth the sacrifice?
When you write THE END, if it isn't the coolest feeling in the world, perhaps you should consider a different career.
But if writing THE END is so fulfilling that it was worth giving up TV, sleep, food, sex, and surfing the internet, then you're in the right profession.
Get Used To Insecurity
As a writer, you'll have the biggest ego in the world, and no ego at all, at the same time.
Money will sometimes be plentiful, and sometimes be scarce.
You'll have major accomplishments, and major setbacks. Your mood will swing on a daily basis.
Some dreams will come true. Some will be murdered.
There are no guarantees.
This business is unstable, and being an artist, you're probably a bit unstable to begin with. These things can feed on each other. Doubt, insecurity, and depression, are all part of the career.
There will be long periods of waiting. Lots of them.
There will be challenges (and by that, I mean you'll get screwed.)
But you need to roll with the punches. Set-backs are opportunities to grow. Rejections are learning experiences. This is a business, and can't be taken personally.
If you go into this understanding you're in for an emotional roller coaster, you can handle the turns and dips much better.
Know When To Quit
The measure of a human being is what makes them finally give up. The stronger the person, the more they can take.
In my previous blog post, I said that you are the hero in the movie of your life. Act like it.
What do you want? Who do you want to be?
That dictates what you need to do.
Quitting, like admitting you're wrong, is one of the noblest things you can do in life. It says that you understand, and accept. It allows you to grow.
But if you want to conquer, quitting isn't an option. No one ever accomplished anything great by quitting.
Know your limitations. But also know your potential for greatness.
Gracious. Grateful. Easy going. Helpful. Fun. Giving. Thankful. Courteous. Honest.
In other words, be a nice person.
While "nice" doesn't mean "successful", it does mean you'll sleep better at night.
I believe a successful life is one where people miss you when you die.
As a writer, you have the potential for a great many people to miss you.
But not if you're a dick.
There. Now you don't have to read 500 blog entries.
Happy New Year! See you in 2010!
I have a feeling it will be the best year ever...
Friday, December 18, 2009
Newbie Writer Resolutions
- I will start/finish the damn book
- I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth
- I will attend at least one writer's conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers
- I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to
- I will join a critique group. If one doesn't exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library
- I will finish every story I start
- I will listen to criticism
- I will create/update my website
- I will master the query process and search for an agent
- I'll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something
- I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy
Professional Writer Resolutions
- I will keep my website updated
- I will keep up with my blog and social networks
- I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I'll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner
- I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won't send out more than four a year
- I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how
- I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher's
- I will stay in touch with my fans
- I will contact local libraries, and tell them I'm available for speaking engagements
- I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford
- I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion
- I will help out other writers
- I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy
- I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic
- I will do one thing every day to self-promote
- I will always remember where I came from
- Keep an Open Mind. It's easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no "next big thing" unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone.
- Look Inward. We tend to write for ourselves. But for some reason we don't market for ourselves. Figure out what sort of marketing works on you; that's the type of marketing you should be trying. You should always know why you're doing what you're doing, and what results are acceptable to you.
- Find Your Own Way. Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn't work, don't be afraid to ditch it.
- Set Attainable Goals. Saying you'll find an agent, or sell 30,000 books, isn't attainable, because it involves things out of your control. Saying you'll query 50 agents next month, or do signings at 20 bookstores, is within your power and fully attainable.
- Enjoy the Ride. John Lennon said that life is what happens while you're busy planning other things. Writing isn't about the destination; it's about the journey. If you aren't enjoying the process, why are you doing it?
- Help Each Other. One hand should always be reaching up for your next goal. The other should be reaching down to help others get where you're at. We're all in the same boat. Start passing out oars.
I Will Use Anger As Fuel. We all know that this is a hard business. Luck plays a huge part. Rejection is part of the job. Things happen beyond our control, and we can get screwed.
It's impossible not to dwell on it when we're wronged. But rather than vent or stew or rage against the world and everyone in it, we should use that anger and the energy it provides for productive things.
The next time you get bad news, resolve to use that pain to drive your work. Show fate that when it pushes you, you push right back. By writing. By querying. By marketing.
I Will Abandon My Comfort Zone. The only difference between routine and rut is spelling.
As a writer, you are part artist and part businessman.
Great artists take chances.
Successful businessmen take chances.
This means doing things you're afraid of, and things you hate, and things you've never tried before.
If, in 2008, you don't fail at something, you weren't trying hard enough.
I Will Feed My Addiction. Life is busy. There are always things you can and should be doing, and your writing career often comes second.
So make it come first.
Right now, you're reading A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Not A Newbie's Guide to Leading a Content and Balanced Life.
You want to get published and stay published? That means making writing a priority. That means making sacrifices. A sacrifice involves choosing one thing over another.
If you can't devote the time, energy, and money it takes to pursue this career, go do something else.
I Will Never Be Satisfied. Think the last resolution was extreme? This one really separates the die-hards from the hobbyists.
While an overwhelming sense of peace and enlightenment sounds pretty nice, I wouldn't want to hire a bunch of Zen masters to build an addition on my house.
Satisfaction and contentment are great for your personal life. In your professional life, once you start accepting the way things are, you stop trying.
No one is going to hand you anything in this business. You have to be smart, be good, work hard, and get lucky.
Every time you get published, you got lucky. Don't take it for granted.
When something bad happens, it should make you work harder. But when something good happens, you can't believe you earned it. Because it isn't true. You aren't entitled to this career. No one is.
Yes, you should celebrate successes. Sure, you should enjoy good things when they happen. Smile and laugh and feel warm and fuzzy whenever you finish a story or make a sale or reach a goal.
But remember that happiness isn't productive. Mankind's greatest accomplishments are all tales of struggle, hardship, sacrifice, work, and effort. You won't do any of those things if you're satisfied with the status quo.
Who do you want on your team? The kid who plays for fun? Or the kid who plays to win?
If you want this to be your year, you know which kid you have to be.
This year I'm only going to add one resolution to this growing list, but if you're writing for a living, or trying to write for a living, it's an important one.
I Won't Blame Anyone For Anything. It's tempting to look at the many problems that arise in this business and start pointing fingers. This is a slippery slope, and no good can come from it.
Do agents, editors, and publishers make mistakes? Of course.
You make mistakes too.
Hindsight is 20/20, so we can all look at things that didn't go our way and fantasize about how things should have gone.But blaming others, or yourself, is dwelling on the past. What's done is done, and being bitter isn't going to help your career.
So try to learn from misfortune, forgive yourself and others, and make 2009 a blameless year.
2010As A Newbie's Guide to Publishing closes in on its 500th blog entry, I can't help but reflect on how much the publishing industry has changed in the seven years I've been a part of it.
Here are some new resolutions that reflect these changing times.
I Will Be Wary. The medium in which stories are absorbed is changing in a big way, and it will continue to change. 2009 will go down in publishing history as Year Zero for the upcoming ebook revolution. Writers should explore this new territory, but we need to understand that Print is still King, and any goals and dreams a writer might have regarding publication should be focused on getting into print.
That's not to say that ebooks shouldn't be explored and experimented with. They should be, and in a serious way. Erights are a very long tail--one that can potentially continue long after our lifetimes.
Don't forsake print for ebooks without understanding what you're giving up, and don't give away your ebook rights to get a print deal.
I Will Be A Pioneer. Remember the old saying about how to recognize a pioneer? They're the one with the arrows in their backs and fronts.
I've tried to be forward-thinking in my career, rather than being content with my role as a cog in a broken machine. Your best chance for longevity is to question everything, test boundaries, experiment with new ideas, and be willing to change your mind and learn from your mistakes.
Your job is to survive, by any means necessary. So pull out the arrows and forge ahead. Discover the difference between determination and stupidity by being an example for one or the other or both.
Though this may seem at odds with the previous resolution about being wary, it's actually quite simpatico.
Q: What do you call a wary pioneer? A: Still alive.
I Will Read Books. I'm surprised I haven't mentioned this in previous years. If you're a writer, you must be a reader. I don't care if you read on your Kindle, or on stone tablets. Reading, and giving the gift of reading to others, is essential. Period.
I Will Stop Worrying. Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It's also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn't the way to get ahead.
You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.
Now quit reading blogs and get some writing done.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Sure, you should have a website, and assorted billboards that point to your website (like social networks and blogs), but if someone Googles your name and finds you, you really haven't won any major battles.
The goal is to get people to find you when they're looking for something else. When that happens, you're spreading your brand.
As long as I've been on the Internet, I've been playing around with various ways to get people to find me while looking for something else.
The pinnacle of this idealogy would be to do something that went viral--that spread word-of-mouth and captured millions of viewers.
Hasn't happened yet. Might never happen. But I have thought about it.
For as long as I've had a website, I've been giving away free ebooks. They've been downloaded tens of thousands of times, and recently the frequency is picking up. But I haven't gotten huge volumes of new surfers because I give away ebooks. It's worthwhile, but hardly viral.
I've played with videos a few times, releasing my video to Hyperion on Youtube a few years ago, and last year doing a book trailer for Fuzzy Navel. All total, these have been watched about 5000 times. Not viral at all.
I went heavy into MySpace a few years ago, getting more than 12,000 friends. Then MySpace started to suck, so I spend my effort on Facebook and Twitter. I have a few thousand friends on those, but I'm not a "must see" destination, even though I try to make my daily updates amusing.
I put a funny little Flash game on the Jack Kilborn website, to promote Afraid. It's gotten over 1600 hits, but that's far from viral.
My goal, from the beginning, was to do something that encorages word-of-mouth. Something funny, different, goofy, and unique enough to stand out, while still resonating with the majority of people who see it. I've tried to do this with my writing, from the very start. My books, named after drinks (hook) are funny and scary (hook.) Easy to remember titles + a unique approach to thrillers.
They've caught on, but not virally. It's tough to reach a large audience when you've never had coop, or been in Wal-mart.
With Afraid, I didn't try to write a horror novel. I tried to write the scariest novel of all time. Did a blog tour (a hundred blogs in a month this March), which lead to better sales than my previous books, and over a hundred ratings on Amazon. But again, it didn't set the world on fire.
I wrote a novella with Blake Crouch called SERIAL, and that's the closest thing to viral I've done. I haven't seen the latest numbers, but I estimate it has had over 200,000 downloads. Nice, but it hasn't made Jack Kilborn a household name.
Keep in mind, aiming for viral is a lot like buying a lottery ticket. You can try, but don't have high expectations it's going to work. The stars have to align.
Still, the key word is "try."
My detractors (and I have a few) will often point to the many things I've done to promote my writing and say, "But all that didn't make you a bestseller."
I never thought it would. But I knew I'd sell more books by trying than by doing nothing, and the more I try, the more I do sell.
Which brings me to a new experiment.
Two days ago, I listed an auction on eBay for signed copies of all of my books. I've mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook, and now I'm mentioning it here.
There have been eBay auctions that have attained viral status, either by selling something outrageous (like a Dorito that looks like Michael Jackson), or by using a funny description. My old high school friend Dawn Meehan sold a baseball on eBay in a humorous way, which lead to a blog, an appearance on Good Morning America, and a book deal. She went viral, using only her wit.
So I decided to give it a shot. The main goal of the auction isn't to sell the books. It's to introduce people to my sarcastic brand of humor. The product description is essentially 500 jokes.
The point, of course, isn't to be viewed by people who alreayd know me. It's to be viewed by folks who had no clue who I was before looking at the auction.
So far, I've had over 200 hits on the eBay auction. That's a lot of hits for eBay, but nowhere near viral.
Here's the auction link: http://tiny.cc/JeuuU.
Feel free to check it out, and spread the word. I'm really curious to see if being a smartass, coupled with the social networks I'm already involved in, can translate to a lot of traffic, both on eBay, and by extension, on my website.
Worst case scenario: I sell some books.
Best case scenario: Billions of people visit the auction, leading to my being elected ruler of the world, where I will encourage public nudity and legalize drugs.
Please do your part to help.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
In case any of my blog readers are interested, I'll repeat some of the most asked questions and answers.
Q: When is the next Jack Daniels book coming out?
A: I'm flattered that Jack has so many fans. The sixth Jack book, CHERRY BOMB, came out in hardcover in July, and the paperback version will come out next June. I'm working on a 7th Jack book called SHAKEN, but I'm buried with other projects and have put it on hold.
SHAKEN is not under contract. Hyperion, the publisher of the other six, dropped their mystery line, me included. But I do plan to complete SHAKEN sometime in 2010, and will either search for a new publisher, or release it as an ebook. If you'd like to read the first few chapters of SHAKEN, they're in my ebook collection PLANTER'S PUNCH.
Q: Will you do a sequel to THE LIST? Will you do a sequel to ORIGIN?
A: Again, I'm flattered people are enjoying my early technothrillers, which are available for free on my website as ebooks, and elsewhere for cheap wherever ebooks are sold. THE LIST in particular seems to have struck a chord with people, and it has sold over 10,000 copies on Kindle alone.
Those who have read these ebooks know they've never been traditionally published. These were the books that helped me land my agent, but they never sold.
It seems pretty silly to write a sequel to books that never sold, and yet I do have an idea that would serve as a sequel for both THE LIST and ORIGIN. It's called THE NINE, and would feature characters from both novels. I don't know when I'll have time to work on this, but I do plan on writing and releasing it within the next year or two.
Q: What's the status of TRAPPED?
A: TRAPPED is a semi-sequel to AFRAID, written by my pen name, Jack Kilborn. There's an excerpt from TRAPPED in the back of the AFRAID paperback. I wrote two versions of TRAPPED this year, and my publisher didn't like either of them, so they passed on it.
TRAPPED is a very intense, gritty, and horrifying book, so I can't say that I really blame them. But TRAPPED will come out, eventually. I just don't know when. In the meantime, Jack Kilborn is almost finished with another horror novel called ENDURANCE which is pretty nasty, and is on track to be released in 2010.
Q: Who is Joe Kimball?
A: I'm Joe Kimball. That's my pen name for a science fiction series I'm doing for Ace. The first book, TIMECASTER, is sort of a Buck Rogers type of novel, with lots of sex and violence and even Harry McGlade. (The hero of TIMECASTER is Jack Daniels's grandson.) It will come out in 2010, with a sequel to follow.
Q: Should I forsake finding an agent and a print deal and release my book as an ebook?
A: I get asked this a lot. I've done pretty well with ebooks, and my sales aren't slowing down. But I also have a known name (two known names if you count Kilborn) and this is no doubt helping my ebook sales. So while I'm able to pay my mortgage with my Kindle profits, I don't know of many other ebook writers who can say the same.
Right now, the best way to pursue a writing career is to find a good literary agent and sell the book to a well-respected print publisher. In other words: DON'T DO IT ON YOUR OWN.
Are there exceptions? Of course. Before you pursue a writing career, you need to clearly define your goals, and decide what you want in order to be happy. If you want your book in stores, you need to go the traditional route.
If you've already gone the traditional route, and gotten rejected, I think ebooks are something you can try ALONG WITH continuing your agent/publisher search, not instead of.
Then again, if your goal is to simply have your book available, and to maybe make a few bucks, then visit Smashwords.com. You can upload your ebooks for free, set your own price, and they'll upload them to Amazon, B&N, and Sony. I recommend keeping your price under $2.
Q: How can I make my ebook available for free on Kindle like you did with SERIAL?
A: Go to Smashwords.com and upload your book, setting the price as free. It will be uploaded to Amazon for free. You can also go to Mobipocket, upload your book there, and charge 1 cent, and it will appear on Amazon for a penny.
Q: Will there be any movies based on any of your books?
A: My novel AFRAID is currently under option with Principle Entertainment. The directors attached are the Dowdle brothers, who made a kick ass horror movie called QUARANTINE and another kick ass horror movie called THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES (which is a lot like WHISKEY SOUR, where a serial killer makes snuff films.) It's a good match and things are moving forward.
Options for my other books are currently available. Contact my agent, Jane Dystel, if you'd like to make an offer.
Q: I read you sent 7000 letters to libraries, signed at 600 bookstores in one summer, toured 100 blogs in a month, and got over 500 rejections before you sold your first book. Those numbers are insane. How am I supposed to do that?
A: You don't have to. You should never compare yourself to any other writer. We all have our own paths to follow, and we all decide what we can and can't do.
Q: I'm a new writer. Will you critique my story?
A: I'd love to. But I can't. I'm ridiculously busy these days. My advice is to join a writing group. Every big library, bookstore, and college has them.
Q: Why haven't you replied to my email?
A: If you've emailed me and I haven't responded, I am still having email issues. Since I have 10,000 people on my newsletter mailing list, certain spam bots have marked my IP as a spamming address. Which means there are some ISPs that don't get the emails I send them. It's annoying, and there's nothing I can do about it until I buy another computer and get a new IP. But I do still love you. I promise. :)
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
1. Ebook readers will be available in stores for less than $99. I believe this is the magic price point, and the ability for consumers to purchase their device at their favorite department store will finally allow this tech to enter the mainstream.
2. Amazon will adopt Epub standard format. I've blogged about formats before, and how proprietary formatting is preventing worldwide acceptance of ebooks. The closest to a universal format is Epub, and once there are millions of non-Kindle ereaders out there, Amazon will want a piece of the pie and offer different formats.
3. Ebook readers will improve. Well, no duh. All tech improves as time goes on. But I'm talking about the look and feel of the device, not just what it can do. As advanced as ebook readers are, they still look low tech. Compare this to the iPhone or iPod Touch. These devices look, and feel, 21st century. Some ereader manufacturer will come up with a device that just looks right (the Nook comes close) and it will sell like crazy.
4. Ebooks will go multimedia. The potential for ebooks to change the way a book is experienced has not been explored yet. Author annotation, interviews, video, audio, extras, music, deleted chapters, short stories--these are all benefits that could be added to content at no cost.
5. A third party etailer will rise to prominence. Currently, people buy most of their ebooks online at Amazon. But someone with deep pockets will launch a big website and begin to gobble up marketshare. My guess is this site will be the first to begin offering the out-of-print backlists of published authors. Public domain isn't the key to success. Copyrighted work that is only available used is the key to success, because ebooks can make these vetted, professional books available again. It's a gigantic, viable, untapped market.
6. Estributors will become common. Where there are writers, there are folks who help writers and take a percentage of their income. Agents currently hold this position. But it won't be long until some smart folks realize they can make money being a liaison between the writer and the ebook world, and offer services that include editing, formatting, uploading, and cover art, so the only thing the writer has to do is write.
7. Print publishers will get savvy. Some major publisher is going to realize they can make more money selling ebooks for under $3 than selling them for $15, and they'll give it a try and be successful. Others will follow suit.
8. Ebook bestsellers will emerge. As more reviewing sites and blogs dedicated to ebooks rise up, word-of-mouth will propel some independent ebooks author to bestseller status. It's inevitable, and both the print publishers and Hollywood will take notice.
9. Print books will be packaged with an ebook version. Perhaps it will come on a CD or an SD card. Perhaps it will come with a code so the ebook can be downloaded for free. But some smart publisher is going to include the ebook with the print version. A really smart publisher would also include a download for the audiobook version with the package. Then folks wouldn't mind paying $25 for a hardcover, if it came with those downloads.
10. Exclusivity. If an author is big enough, they are available everywhere: Amazon, Nook, Shortcovers, iTunes, Sony, etc. But someone is going to sign an author exclusively, so their book is only available in one etailer location, to lure people to their device and website.
11. I'll continue to pay my mortgage with ebook sales. I've been self-publishing ebooks on Kindle since April, and every month since I've earned enough to make my monthly house payment. I'm also going to release a novel exclusively as an ebook in 2010, as a long-term experiment, to see if I can earn more in five years than I could on my previous print deals. This is the beginning of a very long tail, and writers really do need to think about how much their ebook rights are worth over the course of their lifetime and beyond. Because that's how long this technology will be around.
What are your predictions for the upcoming year?
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here's a post about ebooks from writer Simon Wood.
GOOD STORIES NEVER DIE (THANKS TO TECHNOLOGY)
For me, print will always be king. You can say what you like about other forms of media, but print will always be important. A book is tangible. It proves I wrote it, that I jumped through all hoops required of me and someone had the faith to publish it. There it is. A book. It’s real. It’s solid. Damn it, I wrote it and you can't take that away from me. Hopefully, you get the gist of how important this is to me.
Forgetting the bible and the Da Vinci Code, the life of a book or magazine is fleeting. There's a point where the publisher pulls the plug and the lights go dim on a story. That has meant a lot of great works disappear, lost to generations who had the misfortune not to be around when that story was on a bookshelf. Reduce this down to my own case, where my early books were with the small press with print runs numbering a couple of thousand and sometimes a lot less. The same is true with my short stories. Some of the periodicals I appeared in were no longer available before the calendar year was out. All those words lost like tears in rain (that was the for the Blade Runner fans).
But that isn’t necessarily true with the rise of electronic media. Now I know there's a lot of wringing of hands and renting of clothes when it comes to the state of publishing. Electrons are out to destroy traditional publishing. Something is coming in the way of print publishing and it’s scary. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m sure it’s going to mean change for everyone involved from writers and publishers to booksellers and libraries. But I don’t want to talk about how eBooks, Kindle, and deep discounts will be the end of publishing. I want to focus on the positives of what technology is doing for me as a writer.
There are stories I’m very proud of that never got widespread release but thanks to e-publishing, these stories are being kept alive. Long before Amazon’s Kindle threw a wrench in the printing works, Fictionwise.com provided a home for previously published fiction—especially short fiction. It has operated on a similar platform as iTunes where users download stories like songs. This proved to be a marvelous home for many of my short stories that deserved to be read. The lifespan of short stories is brief. As soon as the exclusivity rights run out or the magazine or anthology is done, I send the story along to Fictionwise. My stories live and can be downloaded for around fifty cents. For someone who has never anything I’ve written, it’s a nice try before you buy scenario.
Obviously, the expansion of the eBooks model has moved on leaps and bounds since the introduction of the Kindle. People, for better or worse, are latching onto eBooks. While this may be a platform for self-publishing, it’s also a lifeline for all those books going out of print—and I’ve done this with a couple of my titles that are going out of print. Dragged into Darkness went out of print in 2004 and only a handful of copies of Working Stiffs are still available. The chances of either these books getting picked up by a new publisher are slim. The demand at this point doesn’t support a new print run, but is plenty to an eBook retailer. I have to admit that I was slow at making Dragged into Darkness available, but I’ve been more on the ball with Working Stiffs. I’ve made both these books available through the Kindle store and over at Smashwords.com. Recently, I’ve been expanding my e-résumé with some of the nonfiction pieces that I wrote for Writer’s Digest. E-publishing also provides an outlet for stories that don’t fit into traditional buckets such as novelettes and novellas.
I have to admit, I’ve found it quite satisfying resurrecting work that I continue to be proud of.
So does this mean I’ve abandoned my print-is-king principles? Hell, no. My primary printing goal is to get published in print, but also in audio, graphically and electronically. What can I say? I’m greedy. I want it all. But what is of primary importance to me is that my work be available for people to read for the long term and the electronic revolution provides that. The thing to remember here is paper is finite, but electrons are eternal.
Yours keeping the stories alive,
Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. He's had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines anthologies, such as Seattle Noir, Thriller 2 and Woman’s World. He's a frequent contributor to Writer's Digest. He's the Anthony Award winning author of seven books. As Simon Janus, he's the author of The Scrubs and Road Rash. His next thriller, Terminated, will be out next June.
Learn more about Simon at www.simonwood.net and his work at:Kindle Store
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In a nutshell, Harlequin is starting a vanity imprint, where authors can pay to have their books printed.
My feelings are mixed.
On one hand, Harlequin is a smart company, good at making money, and this seems to be a smart way to capitalize on a growing trend.
On the other hand, it could hurt their brand, and their many authors who get paid for (rather than pay for) their books.
The debate doesn't interest me much, though I do give Harlequin props for their forward-thinking, even if their implementation leaves something to be desired. After all, they're the first major publisher to recognize how much the average person yearns to create.
As a species, we're a productive bunch. I take daily walks, and force myself not to take my surroundings for granted. When you look around your world and realize how much is man-made, it's rather humbling. We build. We manufacture. We plant. We bend the landscape to suit our needs. And we create. A lot.
It's probably genetic. Our self-worth is very much wrapped up in things we're able to produce. Art is one of those things. And while it's less practical than a Chevy, or a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, it is more accessible.
YouTube is one of the most significant, and interesting, products of the modern world. Since the beginning of film and video, those with deep pockets decided what the masses would see.
But with the advent of cheap technology, and the inborn desire to create, regular people without deep pockets have been able to share their art (movies, rants, music, commentary, critiques, how-tos, etc) with the world.
At first glance, this could have been a self-indulgent disaster. And there certainly is a lot of crap on YouTube.
But there's also some really cool stuff. Stuff even cooler than the stuff being produced by the people with deep pockets.
The most amazing thing about YouTube isn't the ability to share your videos. The most amazing thing is that people are TUNING IN to watch these videos.
A whole lot of people.
If you go to Alexa.com and look at the top websites on the Internet, you'll notice many of them share a common denominator called user aggregated content.
In other words, regular people contribute to these websites, which makes them big.
If you look at Google, it is actually 100% user aggregated content. Wikipedia, Yahoo, Amazon, file-sharing lockers and sites, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook---the list goes on and on.
People dictate what people want to visit, and want to see.
Which brings us to reading.
The same genetic need that drives human being to write Amazon reviews, join Yahoo groups, share photos, upload videos, Tweet, and otherwise contribute to the overall output of humanity, also drives people to write books.
Amazon, and Smashwords, are catering to these writers by allowing them to upload their ebooks, for free. They understand the importance of user aggregated content.
My advice to Harlequin, and to all publishers, is to follow in the footsteps of Smashwords. But in a way that strengthens, rather than diminishes, their brand.
Here's what I'd do if I was in charge of Harlequin.
1. Create a community forum, where newbie authors can upload ebooks for free. These ebooks can also be downloaded for free.
2. Allow these free ebooks to be printed on demand for those who want to by them. Make a small profit on the printing, but keep the price reasonable, and the authors own the rights. This is a printing service, not a publishing service.
3. Let the community vet itself. Allow for discussions, reviews, ratings, author chats, and comments. Crap will be avoided. Cream will rise.
4. Hire editors to mine the ebooks, looking for gems. Then cherry pick those and traditionally publish the best of them.
To draw extra attention to the website, the publisher should also release their backlist as ebooks. But rather than give these away for free, they should be sold in a variety of ebook formats, for a low cost (say $1.99.)
So picture this:
You go to Harlequin's ebook website, which has thousands of inexpensive ebooks. It also has free ebooks, uploaded by newbie authors.
You can join the forums and discussions and rate and review ebooks. You can also order print-on-demand copies of any ebook there, newbie or backlist.
Editors can monitor the downloads and the comments, to discover new authors they can traditionally publish.
Harlequin exploits their extensive backlist, makes a lot of money (that they don't have to share with Amazon), and discovers talent by letting the users aggregate the content and vote on the best. They don't get into trouble by becoming a vanity press, and they also secure their spot in the upcoming digital revolution. At the same time, they become an ebook version of YouTube, drawing both writers and readers.
It all comes down to this: People want to write. In the past, unscrupulous folks have preyed on this desire, making big promises and charging big fees.
Publishers can capitalize on this basic human desire, make some money, and still be the good guys. You don't have to be a vanity press to nurture dreams.
Writers will eventually get their YouTube. It's just a question of who will create it first.
Monday, November 16, 2009
My ebooks are now live on Nook. I was able to do this through www.Smashwords.com. Upload your books to Smashwords, and they'll upload them to the Nook (and also Sony.) I'll be tracking my numbers and posting them as the holiday season gets into gear.
For those who have already bought a Nook, or are planning to buy one, you'll be able to find my Nook links on my website, and also right here:
THE LIST by J.A. Konrath - Nook version $1.99
ORIGIN by J.A. Konrath - Nook version $1.99
SUCKERS by J.A. Konrath & Jeff Strand - Nook version $1.59
FLOATERS by J.A. Konrath & Henry Perez - Nook version $1.59
SHOT OF TEQUILA by J.A. Konrath - Nook version $1.99
DISTURB by J.A. Konrath - Nook version $1.99
TRUCK STOP by J.A. Konrath - Nook version $1.59
If you've been following my blog, you know I've made these books available on my website, on Smashwords.com, on Kindle, on iTunes, and they'll soon be for sale on Sony.
I have no idea what to expect in the way of Nook sales. I had zero expectations of Kindle, and was surprised how well they've sold. I had moderate expectations for iTunes, but have sold less than 100 books total in the two weeks they've been available.
In the case of iTunes, I've since tweaked the product descriptions to make them easier to find, and so browsers have a better idea of what they were buying. I'm watching to see if those numbers grow.
In the case of Nook, B&N hasn't even put up the product descriptions yet, so I did that myself as user reviews--which is something I'd also done with Kindle when I first uploaded the titles.
While tweaking the descriptions this morning, I had a few interesting thoughts.
1. The process of uploading ebooks, no matter where they are uploaded to, is time-consuming, laborious, and inefficient. But it still can be done in a matter of hours or days, whereas in the print world it takes months to publish a book.
2. Prices of ereaders are going down, while features are getting better.
3. I still don't have any clear answers why agents aren't getting their clients' blacklists and unsold books on these various ereaders. Shouldn't they be innovating?
4. Etailers still haven't courted any major writers for exclusive deals. Considering Amazon, Sony, and now B&N lose money for each ebook sold, it would make sense for them to directly approach some authors and perhaps actually turn a profit selling ebooks. Are they afraid of publishers? Why would they be, when the publishers are screwing them by charging hardcover prices for a bunch of ones and zeroes which cost nothing to copy or distribute?
5. Ebooks are being talked about more and more, and many sources predict they're going to be a hot holiday item.
6. There are still haters.
Let's talk about #6 for a moment. While I grew up reading print books, and have thousands of them, and love them dearly, and have many fond memories associated with print, I'm getting bored with the knee-jerk "print is the only way a story can be read" reactions I always seem to see whenever ebooks are discussed.
People love the feel and smell of books. They love owning the physical object. That's fine. I do too.
But it's the stories that I really love. The paper, or the ereader, is only the delivery system for the story.
And the ereader is simply better than print in every way, except when it comes to nostalgia.
This reminds me a lot of the early 90s, when many folks were hesitant to buy computers because they simply didn't see the advantages of owning one.
Yes, tech is scary. Yes, the old ways are comfortable. Yes, owning a physical object like a book satisfies some primeval hunter/gatherer gene.
But the story isn't on the paper, or on the ereader screen. The story is in your head. It will be in your head no matter what you read it on.
Why are some folks so resistant to a technology that will make books cheaper, easier to read, easier to buy, more accessible, and at the same time save 40 million trees per year and save a great deal of space around the house?
What exactly are the haters objecting so strongly to, other than disliking change?
That said, who here is interested in buying a Nook? Why or why not?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I take out my ereader. At the push of a button, I bring up several different ebook stores, and begin to browse for something to read. Several stores are having sales. One of them gives all the books away for free--the only catch is each contains ads, much like a magazine.
I peruse the free site, download the latest thriller from my favorite author, and jump into the pool, floating on a raft while I read. There's no worry; the reader is waterproof.
There's construction going on in my neighborhood, so I put in my wireless ear buds and press the SFX button. As my eyes pass over the words, I'm treated to some background music, much like a movie soundtrack. There are also ambient sounds--crashing waves during a beach scene, crickets at night, the blowing wind when the main character goes to the desert for a showdown.
An ad comes up. It's a coupon for my local pizza joint. Pizza actually sounds pretty good. I touch the screen and order a pizza, using the coupon, paying for it immediately.
Then I hit the AUDIO button and close my eyes, letting the book read to me for a while as I float around. The narrator is good--using dialects and different voices for different characters. I pause the book, and access a search engine to see what other books he's narrated. I find two that sound interesting and download them on the spot.
I go back to the book, then get an announcement that my pizza has arrived. I climb out of the pool, thank the delivery guy (I already tipped him electronically) and then go into the family room with a slice.
I sync my ereader to my TV and adjust the words to scroll down the screen as I'm eating. During a particularly exciting helicopter chase, I see an author footnote. I click on it, and the author appears in a video clip, explaining the research he did for the scene, and showing the actual helicopter in flight. Normally I wait until after I finish the ebook before I delve into the extras like commentary, footnotes, vid clips, previous drafts, etc.
I get to another ad, which I skip, and then my wife comes home and says that her favorite author is appearing at a nearby bookstore. She grabs her ereader and we head out.
We get there early. The store contains over 300,000 paper books, but they're all shelf copies, not for sale. I hang out in the thriller section, and thumb through a few paper books. I find one I want, and scan the bar code on the back with my ereader, instantly buying it.
The author arrives. We sit and watch while he does a little talk. He has some printed books for sale, and if they run out, the bookstore says it will print more while we wait.
After the presentation, he signs some ereader covers. My wife has a clear plastic cover for her ereader, and the author has a cardboard covers he signs, which slips into the plastic.* Then he gives away some exclusive content to anyone who buys the book--a deleted chapter not available online. My wife buys an ebook. She promises to lend it to me when she's done, transferring it from her reader to mine--which is how e-lending at the library works.
On the way home, I sync my ereader to the car stereo, and let it read the next chapter. Another ad comes on, for a new book by this author. I bookmark the ad. I'll either buy the book, or download the ad version, later tonight.
I go back to the pool, alternating between reading and being read to. When the book is finished, I delve into the bonus features. The author included a tie-in short story, which I love. I contact the author's website and tell him so, then spend a few minutes posting my book review on his forum. This leads to me text chatting with another one of his fans, who suggests a new author I'd never heard of.
Two clicks later, I buy this new author's latest, for $1.99.
My wife asks if I want to watch a movie. I decline. I've got more than enough here to keep me entertained.
My ereader text box opens up. It's the author, thanking me for posting a kind review. He asks me if I'd like to be a beta reader for his new thriller, which won't be released for another two months.
Hell yeah, I do. He sends it to me instantly.
Boy, do I love this thing. It's easily the best $99 I've ever spent.
* The plastic slip cover is Boyd Morrison's idea, which is smarter than my original idea: publishers making ereader covers that look like book covers.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
You don't need to download a separate ebook reader onto your iPhone to read these. These ebooks come with a built-in ebook reader. They exist as applications on your iPhone. Just press the icon and the ebook opens up.
By clicking "Get App" on this page you will open up iTunes on your computer, allowing you to buy it and download it.
For a limited time, only 99 cents.
Before the events of Jack Kilborn's epic horror novel AFRAID...
Before the events of J.A. Konrath's critically acclaimed thrillers FUZZY NAVEL and CHERRY BOMB...
Before the events of Jack Kilborn's and Blake Crouch's #1 Amazon Kindle bestseller SERIAL...
Three hunters of humans meet for the ultimate showdown at the TRUCK STOP.
Taylor is a recreational killer, with dozens of gristly murders under his belt. He pulls into a busy Wisconsin truck stop at midnight, trolling for the next to die.
Chicago Homicide cop Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels is a long way from home, driving to meet her boyfriend for a well-earned vacation. She pulls into the truck stop for a quick cup of coffee and stumbles into her worst nightmare.
Jack's no stranger to dealing with psychos, but she's got her hands full trying to stop Taylor. Especially since he's getting help from someone just as deadly; a portly serial maniac named Donaldson...
TRUCK STOP is a 15,000 word thriller novella that ties together Konrath's and Kilborn's works, with terrifying results.
A prequel to SERIAL, which has been downloaded more than 70,000 times, TRUCK STOP is an eighteen-wheeled ride straight into hell. Not for the faint of heart. Let the reader beware.
This ebook also includes an exclusive interview: JA Konrath talks with Jack Kilborn, plus excerpts from their latest books, CHERRY BOMB and AFRAID.
1906 - Something is discovered by workers digging the Panama Canal. Something dormant. Sinister. Very much alive.
2009 - Project Samhain. The best minds in the world have been recruited to study the most amazing discovery in the history of mankind. But the century of peaceful research is about to end.
BECAUSE IT JUST WOKE UP.
All hell is about the break loose. For real.
Masters of the comedy thriller genre, J.A. Konrath and Jeff Strand, team up for the humorous horror novella Suckers.
Featuring horrific violence, bad jokes, and lots of name calling.
Originally, published as a very expensive limited-edition hardcover, Suckers is now available as a super cheap ebook.
But the fun doesn't stop there.
Also included in this ebook are six other stories, many of them rare and long out of print.
A medical investigator tormented by secret guilt.
A beautiful doctor with an illicit desire.
A millionaire businessman indulging a passion for murder.
And a human guinea pig who has been awake for seven straight weeks.
You’ll never sleep well again...
Disclaimer: This novel is filled with extortion, conspiracy, taboo sex, hidden secrets, shocking violence, and murderous betrayal. Not recommended for the faint of heart.
This ebook version also includes the bonus horror short story, "Dear Diary," about a very special pom pon girl.
When a dead body turns up in the Chicago River, newspaper reporter Alex Chapa and Police Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels reluctantly join forces.
Thriller writers J.A. Konrath and Henry Perez have teamed up to create FLOATERS, a mystery tale that combines humor with thrills.
Included in this 30,000 word collection are the shorts LAST REQUEST and FAMILIAR PLACES.
It also includes a conversation between the authors and excerpts from each of their new novels, CHERRY BOMB and KILLING RED.
A billionaire Senator with money to burn...
A thirty year old science experiment, about to be revealed...
Seven people, marked for death, not for what they know, but for what they are...
History is about to repeat itself
THE LIST is a technothriller about a group of ten people who each have tattoos of numbers on the bottoms their feet, and don't know why.
One of them, a Chicago Homicide cop, has had one of these strange tattoos since birth. When he investigates a violent murder and discovers the victim also has a tattooed number, it sets the ball rolling for an adventure of historic proportions.
A GUTSY ROBBERY
Several million bucks, stolen from the mob...
A PERFECT FRAME
All caught on video, with no chance of redemption...
A RED HOT RECIPE FOR RAMPAGING REVENGE
Now one man must face the entire Chicago Outfit, a group of hardened Mafia enforcers, a psychotic bookie, the most dangerous hitman on earth, and Detective Jacqueline Daniels...
His name is Tequila. And he likes those odds.
SHOT OF TEQUILA by JA Konrath
JA Konrath is the author of the Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thrillers (Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail, Dirty Martini, Fuzzy Navel, Cherry Bomb.)
If you'd like to see the actual order page, you can visit: http://www.apptism.com/apps?query=konrath&x=0&y=0, where you can still get SERIAL for free.
This requires iPhone OS 2.2 or later. And the apps are really cool and simple to use.
Welcome to the future.
If anyone is interested in doing the same thing, you can contact the company that created my apps at http://www.indianicinfo.com. Apple takes 30% of the list price, IndiaNIC takes 35%, and the author takes 35%. So I'm earning between 35 cents and 70 cents per download.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Are ebooks going to replace print books?
Right now, ebooks are a supplement to print, much like audiobooks are. They're less than 2% of book sales. Some industry pros think they cater to a completely different audience than print, and the two can coexist peacefully. Other industry pros are in complete denial. At a recent convention, I was talking to a well known agent about how publishers are artificially inflating the cost of ebooks by charging etailers hardcover prices, and this person told me "You're making me angry. I can't talk about this with you."
Amazing. Ebooks are the big elephant in the corner of the room that everyone sees but refuses to acknowledge, even as it craps all over the floor.
I don't reach hasty conclusions. I like to gather information and learn all I can about something before forming opinions or predictions.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I do believe ebooks are the future. I believe this based on my personal experiences in publishing, and what I know about the industry. I can also draw conclusions based on my knowledge of other media industries, namely music and newspaper, and my interest in the Internet, digital media, file sharing, and formats.
I'm still in the minority. People are fond of quoting me, or pointing others in my direction, but I haven't seen any industry professionals brave enough to either agree with me, or open a debate with me to disprove my assumptions.
But I have seen a lot of statements, and heard a lot of questions, repeated over and over. Here are a few that stand out:
I love the feel of a regular book.
I hear this a lot. The tactile experience of cracking open the spine and turning the pages. The smell and feel of paper. We grew up reading paper, and we have a good relationship with it that fosters warm feelings.
But what if we grew up reading ebooks? Would paper have a single advantage? Who's to say you can't form that same bond with an ereader?
Actually, if you've ever listened to someone who owns a Kindle, you'd know that not only can you have feelings for digital books, but the feelings are even stronger than with print. Whenever I meet an ereader owner and ask them if they like it, they don't just say yes and move on. They evangalize.
These people are so enthusiastic, so happy about their discovery, that they gush on and on AND ON about it.
Remember that the written word can be written on anything, and it still has power. Books aren't on the page--books take place in our heads. While you can be nostalgic about the delivery system, I highly doubt you still listen to music on 8-track or 78.
I want a tangible product.
Me too. I have over five thousand books. I love owning them. I love how they look on the shelf. I love perusing my library.
But I'll be honest here. I used to have over a thousand cassette tapes. I loved owning them. I loved how they looked on the shelf. I loved perusing my music library.
Then CDs came along, and I repeated the love affair.
Eventually I got my first iPod.
I don't even own a CD or cassette player anymore.
I still love to own. But now I own digital files. I still love to persuse my music library. Except now I do it on iTunes.
Tangible is only a state of mind...
Ebook readers are too complicated.
If a computer is too complicated for you, than an ereader might be, too. But no too long ago, vacuum cleaners, clothes washers, and microwave ovens were considered complicated. Fear of technology is pretty common with the older generation. But the longer a product is around, the easier it becomes to accept, and to use.
Future ereading devices will become simpler and simpler as the developers strive to reach those late adopters.
Ebooks are a niche market.
Well, no duh. All new technology begins as a niche market.
But this is a niche market based on the written word, just like printed books. Except it has many advantages over books, and doesn't kill 40 million trees a year or involve shipping and returns.
By all accounts, more companies are developing ereaders, and more consumers are buying them. Ignore this at your own peril.
You can't autograph an ebook.
I've signed over a dozen Kindle covers, and one Sony cover.
When is some smart publisher going to give away skins or ebook covers that feature the cover art for their latest novel? Or at least sell them cheaply? Wouldn't it be cool to carry around a Kindle that looked like Whiskey Sour or Afraid? I think so too.
Ebooks can be shared and stolen.
The fear over digital rights being abused is real, but there are no clear indicators that sharing ebooks, free ebooks, or stealing ebooks have any effect on sales.
In fact, I think freebies promote sales. Which is why I still give away ebooks on my website, even though I'm selling the same books on Amazon and elsewhere.
Copyright can't be enforced in a digital world. Those who try are going to get more frustrated, protective, and paranoid, and ultimately they aren't going to protect a damn thing. Ask the MPAA, the RIAA, and the billions of people file sharing.
EReaders are too expensive.
The Kindle debuted in 2007 at $399. Two years later it's $259. Give it another two years, and we'll see $150, or less.
Tech prices come down. Always.
Books will never disappear.
I agree. There are billions of them on the planet.
But will the printed book remain the main mode of delivery for the printed word?
I doubt it. Anymore than newspapers remained the main form of delivery for news, or CDs remained the main form of delivery for music.
Remember all the music stores? Remember Coconuts, FlipSide, Tower Records, Musicland, and Sam Goody? Where are they now?
Amazon sets the price on ebooks, that's why they're expensive.
I've had a few industry pros echo this. So let's clarify it.
Yes, Amazon does set the price, BASED ON WHAT THE PUBLISHER SELLS IT TO THEM FOR.
Guess what? I bet Amazon, Sony, and the other etailers would love to open negotiations for fair and reasonable ebook rates, which would result in the price of ebooks going down, which would result in more people buying ereaders and ebooks.
But the print industry doesn't want that.
Ebooks hurt my eyes.
I hear this all the time. And, in the case of standalone ereaders, this is wrong.
E-Ink technology doesn't cause eyestrain. At all. It's as passive as reading paper.
Some lament the tech of ebook readers, saying black and white displays are so 1998. They're waiting for color models.
But the fact is, E-Ink is very technologically advanced, and reading in black and white (or grayscale) is the easiest on the eyes. Include the no-flicker technology, and E-Ink is high tech that just looks low tech.
If ebooks are so great, why haven't they taken off yet?
In one form or another, it can be said that ebooks have been around since 1993. So why haven't they dominated the industry like mp3s?
I believe there are two reasons.
First, there has never been a universal format. I've blogged about this before.
Second, because publishing doesn't want ebooks to dominate the market. Why would they? The traditional role of publishers in this industry is to print and distribute books. In an ebook world, their role would be largely reduced, if not completely eliminated.
If I were a publisher, I'd be doing several things in order to prepare for the future.
1. Drastically lowering the prices on my ebooks.
2. Making ebooks available on my website, so I didn't have to share profits with etailers.
3. Publishing my backlist inexpensively in ebook format, and securing rights to as many out-of-print titles as I could get my hands on.
4. Directing the majority of marketing and advertising dollars toward ebooks.
5. Partnering with etailers and ereader manufacturers and offering them exclusive content.
6. Moving toward a digital future where all ebooks are free, funded by advertising.
But I'm not a publisher. Or an agent. Or an editor, or sales rep, or publicist.
I'm just a writer.
Here's the thing, though. I'm secure I'll still have my writing job in ten years.
Since April, I've sold over 6000 copies of THE LIST on Kindle. It will soon be on Sony, iTunes, and B&N. I expect these numbers to climb dramatically over the next few years.
Now I'm actually contemplating a sequel to this book--a book that was rejected by NY publishers--to release exclusively as an ebook.
That's crazy. That's absolutely crazy. I've dedicated my life to getting into print. I've dreamed of having this career since I was a little kid. I've busted my ass trying to succeed in this business, and have the battle scars to show for it.
I love print books. They're the reason I became a writer.
But my career isn't about printing my words on paper. It's about reaching readers with my words.
If readers want to read my words on a Kindle, I'd be stupid not to give them what they want.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
It made complete sense. Why split money with publishers when you can publish it yourself and make a larger profit?
Yet, none of them ever took the next logical steps--signing a big-name author to an exclusive publishing deal. Or reprinting backlist titles that continue to sell on the used book circuit.
Seems like a missed opportunity. But then, they're retailers first and foremost, and expanding into publishing carries a lot of costs and risks.
Now, in the days of ebooks, we have the Kindle, the Sony Reader, the iPhone, and the Barnes and Noble nook.
The savvy, ewise author knows how to get his books on these devices. Mine already are, or soon will be. Kindle in particular makes it very easy to do, and Sony is stepping up as well. I'll be on iTunes soon thanks to IndiaNIC, and B&N thanks to Smashwords.com.
But Amazon, Sony, Apple, and B&N are missing out on a way to make a lot more money.
Publishers get rich by having exclusive content. Only one publisher has Stephenie Meyer. The others do not.
And yet Amazon, Sony, Apple, and B&N all carry Stephenie Meyer on their sites, for their ereaders. They're sharing the pie.
Sharing is not the main problem. All bookstores share. But in the case of Amazon, Sony, and B&N, they LOSE money on each book sold. Print publishers, in an effort to stave off the inevitable, charge these companies several dollars more for the ebook than the companies are selling them for.
The result? Every time Twilight sells, the etailer loses money. In fact, a good portion of the ebooks sold lose money for the etailer.
If the etailors got wise, they'd try to make deals with authors directly. But they won't, or can't. Because there is a cost and risk associated with publishing ebooks, the same as there is with publishing print books.
This is a shame. I'd love to sign an exclusive ebook contract, and have the etailer promote it. Sell it at a low price, and we'd both make a nice bit of change.
Maybe this will happen in the future. In the meantime, it seems like a smart person, or company, could capitalize on the current situation.
Let's call these people estributors.
In the book world, a distributor such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Partners, or Anderson, is the middleman between the publisher and the retailer. They warehouse the books from the publisher, and fufill orders to the bookstores and bookselling outlets.
What the ebook world needs is a middleman who can facilitate sales between Luddite authors with backlists but no tech savvy, and etailers selling ebooks.
An estributor could contact NAME authors (not self-pubbed newbies) for shelf novels and out of print backlists, arrange for cover art, format for Sony, nook, Kindle, and iTunes, and take a small percentage, say 10%, of the profits for a set amount of time.
The etailers would be making a profit from estributors, rather than hemorrhaging money like they're doing right now. Ebook prices stay low, which the customers want. And authors can concentrate on writing rather than all the tech stuff.
There are millions of out of print books still under copyright but not under contract. Estributors could position themselves to rival the sales of large publishers, if they get in while they can.