Posts Tagged ‘ barnes & noble ’

A cappuccino, a latte, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood. No sprinkles on the Atwood.

Nathan Bransford this week has been posing the question more and more indies are struggling with:  do they need a publisher at all?

With agents and publishers turning away new writer after new writer more and more authors are self-publishing and proving there is a market for the work the gatekeepers rejected. At which point the gatekeepers come knocking at the door, kindly offering to represent us.

But by that time it may be too late. The author has experienced the true freedom being an indie can bring, and even if a publisher can make them more money (which is increasingly not the case) fewer and fewer authors would be willing to sacrifice their freedom for the sake of a contract.

For established authors with a back-list like Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch, Bob Meyer, etc, the rewards of indie publishing increasingly outweigh anything a trad publisher can offer. More and more established authors are moving to the indie side.

Nathan says,

I think publishers are going to have to think long and hard about what exactly they will actually be providing authors in an e-book world. There needs to be a major mindset shift from a gatekeeper-oriented “You’re lucky to be with us” mentality where authors are treated on a need-to-know and your-check-will-arrive-when-it-arrives basis to a service-oriented “What else could we possibly do for you” mentality.

No more books that get dropped in the ocean without publisher support. Embracing and investing in new marketing tactics for the Internet era. Becoming an integral part of how consumers find books.

And innovating with new ideas and experiments and models. Some publishers are, yes, but is it enough?

Authors should want to have their e-books published by the traditional publishers, not be forced to grudgingly give them up in exchange for being published in print. Big authors are soon going to have a choice, and publishers are going to need to make themselves indispensable once again.

Meanwhile prospective thriller writer Jake Hardman was wondering on his own blog about the future of ebooks vs paperbacks. Jake diagrees with me and others that the future of paperbacks is bleak.

If you only read one or two books a year it’s probably not worth buying an e-reader. It makes sense, however, for an avid reader to own one. Electronic books are generally cheaper and easier to get hold of than paper. What’s more, there’s the growing range of exciting books that are only published electronically. These reasons, however, don’t stack up for the occasional reader who’s unlikely to review the book blogs or buy on-line via one-click.

You can’t pick up an e-book (and probably never will be able to) in a supermarket, train station or airport, which is where I believe most occasional readers buy books. When placed by the checkout, cover facing outwards (something most authors can only dream about), paperbacks have the potential to attract their attention. E-books don’t. My guess is that avid readers who haven’t yet moved over to electronic formats will do so shortly, but the vast majority of occasional readers may never do so.

Traditional publishers – selling a limited range of blockbusters – will, for this reason, I believe continue to dominate the occasional-reader market.  Promoting their books in the aforementioned outlets, the death of the independent bookshop won’t affect their market, but they will lose a slice to the indie authors.

Jake makes some interesting points, but I disagreed on some things here. I did try and debate this over at Jake’s site but Blogger ate my comment, as happens all too often. However, the points Jake raised, especially in view of Nathan’s post, deserve a wider discussion. Do publishers and paperbacks have a future?

Anne R Allen ran a post on publishing ten years down the line. She predicted the following will survive:

Top-Selling Superstar Books in Hardcover, Suitable for Gift-Giving

Humor Books

Coffee Table Books

Impress-the-Guests/Keepsake Literary Books

Bibles and other Iconic Religious Books

Decorator Books

Books for Small Children

And of course, Snookibooks

No sign of paperbacks there. I’m not privy to Anne’s reasoning for the demise of the paperback but suspect it will be something like this:

Jake’s right that the occasional reader and impulse buyer is going to be tempted by the high-profile elite the trad publishers have paid to promote. Those are the books you see on the plinths, in the window displays, and in the supermarkets.

But bookstores have no future, and nor do supermarket book sales. At least, not for paperbacks. Because it won’t just be the independent booksellers that fall. It will be the giants like B&N and Waterstone’s. Sure, they may still exist in name, just as WH Smiths exists in name as a book seller in the UK. But the token array of books they sell will diminish and diminish until it’s just those books identified by Anne that survive.

The paperback, even for the mega-names like Patterson and King, will fade into oblivion. Perhaps lasting a year or so beyond the rest, but they cannot stay afloat on their own.

A common argument of the anti-epub brigade is that only a minority will ever own an e-reader. This is true.

But e-readers per se are not the future of ebooks. Tablets are. Or whatever the next generation of e-reading smart mini-computers may be called. If dedicated e-readers were the only way of reading ebooks then the digital future would be bleak. But dedicated e-readers like the b&w Kindle are already all but obsolete.

Even if you only read one or two books a year you will most likely soon be owning a tablet / smart phone or other device.

Paper sales will therefore continue to decline and a vicious circle of economics will render the mass paperback commercially unviable because the book stores will be either closed or just selling ebooks and coffee, and the supermarkets will want prices so low to buy-in that the printing costs will no longer be covered.

Bear in mind stores like Tesco (largest UK retail chain) has its own ebook store. Others are following suit. Presumably the same is happening in the US. Nothing too exciting now but who knows where it might be in a year’s time.

The thing is, there’s nothing to stop Tesco or any other major retailer having an ebook display of the mega names at the till.  Maybe they can listen to an audio teaser on earphones while they queue. A click of a button and the book is downloaded to the customer’s smartphone, tablet or whatever as soon as they pay for their shopping.

Books take shelf space. Shelf space is money. The supermarkets will stock books only so long as they are bringing in more than they cost to stock. Why would they waste shelf space on wads of paper that fewer and fewer people will buy when they can instead sell ebooks with no shelf space?

If I were running a supermarket chain I would be looking at a leisure-cafe instead of those diabolical shoppers’ restaurants. A leisure cafe where customers can buy expensive coffee with huge profit margins while sampling ebooks from the supermarket’s own ebook store, clicking buy and having the ebooks added to the check-out tally when they pick up their groceries.

The ONLY way paperbacks can survive is if POD technology improves to the point where in those same cafes you can order a print version of whatever book you wish and have it printed in-store, to a professional standard and at a sensible price, and have it ready to collect at the checkout.

Yes, the technology exists, but it’s a novelty toy that will never ctach on in any meaningful way.  The practicalities of operating (staff), storage (paper and ink for printing) and maintenance would leave the supermarket or bookstore little better off than before, and catering for a diehard and ever-diminishing minority of readers.

It’s a matter of time before similar browsing cafes appear at major train stations and airports, most likely by the big e-retailers teaming up with the big coffee bars already in position. Many bookstores already host coffee bars. Books and coffee are already as one in the public mind.

New technology will determine just how the future pans out, but the mass paperback is on its death bed.

Which brings us back to Nathan. Why should mega-sellers like Patterson and King stick with their paper publishers, beyond special edition hard-backs, once digital fully takes over?

Nathan said,

Publishers are going to need to make themselves indispensable once again.

I suspect one way they will do that is by buying their way into those browser cafes (Starbooks?) and making sure ebooks by their own published authors get the big promotions, just as they do now in the bookstores with paper products. That way they might just hang on to some of their big name authors, and rely on the niche paper products Anne referred to for their other income.

The big issue for the future is whether those publishers that survive, leaner and meaner, will be able to buy or bully their way into the e-distributors’ favour, or challenge them head-on.

As Amazon moves more and more into publishing it seems there are two likely futures for the major publishing corporations:

1.     The so-called Big Six get their act together to buy rival e-distributors like B&N and the smaller e-book outlets like the UK’s Waterstone’s and set up their own e-store based on known names, while refusing to supply Amazon (and perhaps Apple too).

2.     The so-called Big Six collectively come to an agreement with Apple to exclusively supply, and go to war against Amazon, B&N and the smaller outlets.

Paperbacks have no future, but let’s not write off the big publishers just yet. They have the money and the muscle to evolve.

How do you see the future of paper publishing?

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Swimming The Atlantic Naked – Barbara Silkstone Investigates.

Day Fourteen

“Two is the beginning of the end.”

For anyone unfamiliar, it’s the iconic opening to Peter Pan. One of the great opening lines of children’s literature. And Wendy, of course, is one of the great female leads of twentieth century children’s fiction.

“Two is the beginning of the end” is also the opening line to a non-fiction WIP I occasionally get a chance to nudge along, called “Childhood: the Highest Stage of Evolution.”

I mention it for two reasons. First to remind MWi visitors that this blog is about all books, not just fiction books, and I’ll be hosting some guest non-fiction writers over the summer to explain how their craft differs from that of writing fiction.

Secondly because, as regulars will have realized, childhood and the world’s children are a passion of mine every bit as much as my passion for books and writing. And there’s nothing I like more than to combine them.

But curiously this post isn’t about children and childhood in literature. It’s about crossing the pond. The great Atlantic divide.

Regulars will know that while I’m classed as part of the “UK indie” scene I actually live in beautiful West Africa, in a mudstone hut with a rusting corrugated iron roof. No running water, no flushing toilet, and intermittent electricity. And when I’m not working on the next novel or writing this blog I’m to be found in local schools and clinics, because children and babies are my passion.

What’s this got to do with the trans-Atlantic divide and Peter Pan?

Very simply, the more books I sell, the more I can do for the children here. But despite successful UK sales we have been unable to “cross the pond.”

When I first asked our green room guest Barbara Silkstone to come and join us for the penultimate Girls Just Wanna Have Fun blogfest (which was supposed to run through June, but now seems to want to carry on through July) I was going to use Barbara as an excuse to devote an entire blog to the most famous fictional girl of all.

No, not Hermione Granger. Someone even more famous than Hermione: the one and only Alice.

The Alice, of Wonderland and Looking Glass fame. That’s the “real” Alice, Alice Liddell, on the right. nothing like the dizzy blonde Disney version. Just another example of the gatekeepers altering our precious stories to suit their own needs.

I had a lovely idea of a blog exploring surrealism in literature and how it led to the surrealist movement in art, and how art and literature have benefited one another through the ages. But that’s for another time.

Salvador Dali's Alice

What’s Barbara Silkstone got to do with Alice?

Just that Barbara wrote a great take on the classic Alice theme in her book, The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters, which managed an impressive four and three quarters review rating (out of five) from the highly estemeed reviewer Red Adept. No mean feat. And it sells great in the US, but has barely been noticed in the UK. Barbara’s other book, the Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman has been similarly successful one one side of the Atlantic but not the other.

Why? Why don’t e-books cross the pond easily? Paper seems to manage. You can’t move in the average UK book store for American mega-sellers. Or perhaps that’s the point? It’s only the mega-sellers with their Big Six mega-hype machines behind them that manage it.

If so, why? It’s not a one way process. We can’t seem to sell well there, and they don’t do so well here.

Yet in theory we speak and write the same language. So what’s going on?

Barbara and I discussed the matter at some length over virtual coffee and cookies / tea and biscuits, and after many hours of exhaustive deliberation came to a unanimous conclusion. We haven’t a clue.

So, given Barbara had written her autobiography (disguised as a  novel to protect innocent third parties) about naked investigators and is obviously obsessed with all things nude / naked / naturist (what’s the betting if I tag those words my visitor numbers will go sky high?!) I offered to take all my clothes off if she would launch an investigation into the trans-Atlantic divide.

Barbara Silkstone

Needless to say she ran a mile. Obviously she had heard about the luminous birth mark on my dic – dichotomy. Now there’s a great alternative word for divide!  The trans-Atlantic dichotomy.

So eventually we compromised. I agreed to keep my clothes on if Barbara investigated.  The report was meant to go live to coincide with July 4, but as is usual here at MWi, the best laid plans…

Here’s Barbara.

Celebrating our US Independence Day or Please Take Us Back…

A British friend of mine was fond of saying that Yanks fought so hard to get away from the Brits only to turn around and pursue all things British. “You can’t get back to us fast enough!” he laughed.

 It’s true. As a Kindle author and terminal Anglophile I couldn’t wait to offer my eBooks in the UK. Now as I sit back and watch my sales I wonder if we aren’t two countries separated by one online shopping system. We almost all agree that it’s much harder to sell your books across the pond… no matter what shore you’re sitting on.

I follow the discussions from both continents and note with surprise the differences in sales for “visiting” authors. Top Sellers here in the US have a tough time getting noticed in the UK. And the flip-side is just as befuddling. Take Catch Your Death by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards. It’s the #1 Thriller in the UK and doesn’t make the Thriller list in the US. It can’t be a matter of taste or genre as John Locke seems to be able to straddle the pond with ease. He’s a best-selling author around the globe. So it must be how we approach marketing. John is big proponent of making fan/friends via Twitter.

Newbie British Kindle author JA Clement and I shared a chat. She’s learning the ropes as her novel, On Dark Shores: The Lady   was released on Kindle in March.

JA:  Why should it be that sales are better locally? There are gaps in our use of language which may irritate or confuse the reader, perhaps – and larger gaps in the two cultures. For instance, using the hard-sell marketing tactics which seem to be acceptable in the US will vex UK readers, the flipside of which is that I’d guess UK marketing must seem a bit half-hearted and diffident to US readers.


I suppose it depends what the reader’s buying criteria are. If it’s word of mouth, maybe it’s logical that it will be more prevalent on the author’s home ground because the normal buying “hooks” ie local author, place the book is set in, shared experience etc will be more powerful when local, and there will be more stuff the reader just doesn’t know about in books set in another country. Having recently visited America for the first time I have just realised what a huge gap of knowledge there is between us; I went to a restaurant and had to ask what grits were, and how breakfast potatoes were cooked, and what a cornpone was (and am still not convinced that that isn’t a rude word. It sounds like it’s a rude word to me!). I discovered that I was just as lost in an American menu as I am in a Lebanese or Moroccan or Polish or Cuban one, which was unexpected. In the UK we have so many American TV programs that you assume that it’s all pretty much the same, but that’s FAR from true! And your MacDonalds kick the ass of ours!

Thank you JA!  Yes… grits are one of the truly confusing American dishes. But spotted dick is not easily understood, either.

I questioned Ali Cooper whose Girl on the Swing  has been a consistent winner in both stores.

Ali: Two weeks ago, I’d have given you a completely different answer. For the first time in thousands of sales in the US someone has criticised my book for spelling and grammar. I suspect the commercial end of literary/general fiction sells well in its away market because it has less colloquialisms to form a language barrier. My second novel, Cave, contains more local slang and I’m finding it much harder to market in US than in UK. I think spending time on the forums in the different markets makes a big difference. Finally, if you factor in the number of Brit readers who have ereaders compared to the number of US readers who do that may account for some of the sales difference.

UK people are completely seduced by a) a bargain and b) a ‘properly published’ author. So if someone who has already been trad published sells their books for under £1 then most times over here they’ll do very well. And I think this is another point that keeps getting overlooked in the blogs: Several of the people heralded as indie leaders have already been trad published. They’re not showing what an indie can do, they’re showing what a previously trad author can do. Their books have already been ‘approved’ and that’s why they started getting good sales in the first place.

Thank you, Ali
Time to make a stop at the Princess of Upbeat: DeeDee Scott author of so many fun books….and the incredibly helpful blog ~   The Writers Guide to ePublishing 

DeeDee:   I think what is just way beyond superfab exciting is that, for the first time, thanks to Amazon’s US and UK presence, Indie Epubbed Authors from both sides of the pond are having these A-mazing conversations & learning how to build bridges & join our reader & fan bases!

I luuuvvv that thanks to fantabulous blogs & grogs like Mark’s blog and my grog The WG2E – The Writer’s Guide to Epublishing – http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com we are discussing our target audiences & how to build those audiences on an international scale.

Sibel Hodge

And not only are we talking, we’re then taking action! For example, UK Kindle Superstar Author Sibel Hodge & I are now placing excerpts of each other’s books in our own books to target each other’s fan bases which we know are very similar.  How super savvy is that?! And fun too!!! Plus, a great way to pay it forward!!!

Thank you DeeDee for that fantastic idea!

Here’s Karen Cantwell, a best-selling author in the US.

I’ll never forget when I sold my first book in the UK.  I got so excited, I posted it on Facebook and Twitter, and I sent out a huge email to friends and family.  Sales were slow there after that first one.  They trickled in – one here, one (a few days later) there.  These days, I average 5 sales a day for my first Barbara Marr book, Take the Monkeys and Run and  two sales a day for my newest release, Citizen Insane.  

I’m  not on any bestsellers lists, but I’m happy for the sales since I do absolutely NO marketing of my books in the UK AT ALL.  I’ve been told it’s frowned upon, so I’ve stayed away from it, and work to keep my US sales up.  Would I love to be selling Barbara Marr Mysteries by the truckload to our friends across the pond?  You bet!  Like you, Barbara, I’m a huge Anglophile, and I dream of one day traveling there and bumping into some person who will ask with abundant enthusiasm, “Are you THE Karen Cantwell?  The one who write those HILARIOUS books?  I nearly peed my pants I laughed so hard!”  Okay.  I said it was a dream.

So I guess to boil things down, I would say that I treasure every UK sale and I treasure every UK review even more, but I don’t actively promote and that I’m open to any new ideas for finding new readers there that wouldn’t offend.

Thank you Karen!

Goodness, this has been fun. It reminds me of the early days of trying to establish my Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman. I sent the men out from our virtual US shores and had them swim the Atlantic to make a grand entrance on the other side of the virtual pond. I am still waiting for them to return. Ladies of the UK… you’ve had my naked men long enough.

Thanks for that, Barbara.

Worth briefly mentioning our experience with Sugar & Spice. Although Louise and Mark (see previous post) are fast threatening our crown we are still, just, the biggest selling indie e-book authors on Kindle UK, with over 75,000 sales behind us. Yet almost none are from the US.

We’ve been to #2 in the Kindle UK charts on no less than three occasions. After nine months we’re still in the Kindle UK top 50, out of three quarter million titles. Yet our position in the Kindle US charts is too embarrassing to mention. As for B&N… I haven’t dared look, but guessing we’re still in single figures.

So what’s the experience of you guys? Have any of you found a magic formula to cross the pond? Or any thoughts on why indie books are struggling while paper appears not to?

I leave you with this wonderful cover from Barbara’s next book, Wendy And The Lost Boys, to link the Peter Pan quote at the beginning. (I know how important it is to some of you that collars and cuffs match!) Check out Barbara Silkstone’s site for more details on this. It’s not due for release until August, but the cover alone is worth making a date for.

Dumb And Dumber. The Myth Of Stupid Readers.

Well, you found this blog and you’re reading this post. How on Earth did you do that?

There are literally millions and millions of blogs out there, and the number of web pages just doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet somehow you found the MWi site and are reading this now.

Chances are you’re a return visitor, which means you’re a real masochist and have decided to forgive my occasional typos, lax editing and lack of formatting skills to come back for more.

If this is your first time (and a warm welcome if so) then most likely you came here by way of a link or recommendation from someone you trusted, or just out of curiosity having seen a reference to MWi on twitter of Facebook, or any of a thousand alternatives.

The one certainty is that no-one forced you here, no-one tricked you here, and no-one is making you stay.

~

Simple fact is, people aren’t stupid. Okay, we all know an exception, but by and large we do not need anyone to lead us through the internet maze and find good sites that suit our particular needs. We manage.

When we go into a supermarket isn’t it just incredible how we don’t need someone to guide us down the aisles telling us which products are good quality and which aren’t? We’re quite capable of making up our own minds.

We even manage this remarkable task of making an educated choice when we go into a major book-store.

All those tens of thousands of books, mostly spine out by authors we have never heard of, all clamouring for our attention. Yet somehow we manage to emerge brain cells intact, with a handful of books that we have decided, after careful consideration, are what we would like to read.

Help me! I'm too stupid to find a good book I'd like amongst all these.

Sure, the author’s big name may be a factor. We all love the comfort of an author we know and love. But before we part with our money we’ll also look at the cover art; the title; the blurb; maybe the font used and the shade and texture of the paper pages. Most likely we’ll stand there and read a few paragraphs, or maybe find a seat and read a few chapters.

What we certainly don’t do is go into a bookshop and grab ten books at random from a shelf and hope for the best.

Yet when it comes to buying e-books it seems common sense goes out of the window. Or so the gatekeepers would have us believe.

~

We are told constantly how the gatekeepers’ sole reason for existence is to protect us from being drowned in the drivel self-publishers are swamping us with.

Fact is, of course, the sole reason for the gatekeeper’s existence is to make money. Nothing wrong with that, by the way.  We all have to make a living, and they are just doing their job.

But in pursuit of their shareholders’ needs the gatekeepers have ensured that what readers get to read is what they believe will make money for them. And for the past century or two they have done that by having an effective monopoly on the production and distribution of books.

That monopoly is now ending, and no-one is screaming against it louder than the gatekeepers with a vested interest in the Old Model.

And yes, they have a point. There are writers out there who are self-publishing their aunt’s memoirs, their children’s homework and their love-letters to their pets. There are writers out there self-publishing their first novel having not even run a spell-check. There are writers self-publishing their novels that have no idea about sentence structure, let alone how to create a cover or format to e-book standard.

And yes, if you know where to look and are so-inclined you can probably find an example, pay good money to download it, and then shout to everybody about how bad self-published books are.

Equally you could find a self-published blog or other website and say the same thing. But you wouldn’t. Why waste your time and energy? And you certainly wouldn’t part with hard-earned cash to do so.

You know, I know and everyone else knows that lousy blogs and websites exist. So do lousy e-books. So do lousy paper books. Big deal! Who cares?

Joe Konrath this week wrote a great piece entitled, in his inimitable way, The Tsunami Of Crap.

Some people believe the ease of self-publishing means that millions of wannabe writers will flood the market with their crummy ebooks, and the good authors will get lost in the morass, and then family values will go unprotected and the economy will collapse and the world will crash into the sun and puppies and kittens by the truckload will die horrible, screaming deaths.

Or something like that.

This is bullshit, of course. A myth. A fabrication. One rooted in envy and fear.

Envy and fear. As often as not I disagree with Joe, but on this one he has it almost spot on.

There is real envy from those locked into the Old Model, through existing contracts, or just as likely from simply being afraid to take control. Institutionalised writers who have always had mommy there to hold their hand, and now just can’t imagine having to make decisions for themselves.

There’s also real fear from those who have always hidden behind the writers. The gatekeepers.

Publishers, agents and editors to name but a few, who suddenly see their job-for-life existence is coming to an end. Suddenly, instead of sitting behind their desks awaiting the writing minions to come begging for their approval, the gatekeepers are having to go out and seek the approval of writers. Their world is being stood on its head.

Note the present tense. There’s still life in the Old Model yet, and so long as paper remains the predominant means of distribution then no question they still have a role to play. But in the English-speaking world, at least, that role is fast diminishing.

As Konrath says, envy and fear are driving these attacks on the e-publishing Revolution.

But he would say that, of course. He’s nailed his colours to the mast and while he still straddles the paper and e-market there’s no question which way he’s going. Surely we need another respected commentator to give this argument some validity?

Enter Kris Rusch.

In a great post entitled Slush Pile Truths Kris drives another few nails in the coffin of the gatekeepers’ tiresome We Know Best mantra.

Kris also deals with another of the gatekeepers’ myths – that low start-out sales for many e-books show they have no future. It’s something many new indie writers fail to grasp too, so this from Kris’s post:

I’ve seen blog after blog from writers who put their books up on Kindle, then watch the numbers, and bemoan those two or three sales in one month.  Yeah, yeah, those writers complain, the next month I had six sales, and the month after that twelve, but eighteen sales in three months won’t make me rich.

And yet…the book is on an upward trend.  Which means that the three original readers probably told a friend or two who read the book, and those friends told more friends, and so on and so on.  Yeah, you won’t get rich in 2011 with those numbers, but with some patience, and a willingness to write and publish more books (instead of spending all your time promoting), you might make a small living on that book in 2013.  And by 2015, you might have enough to kiss your day job good-bye.

Which is better than most traditionally published writers can do four years after their first publication.

David Gaughran also deals with gatekeepers’ myths in Battling For A Broken System, and thanks to David for linking to a great post by Michael Stackpole here.

~

Official APP figures show most paper published books sell less than a thousand copies. But still the gatekeepers churn them out. They sit in book stores for a few months and then get returned, and are pulped or remaindered. The authors are never heard of again, even though the few readers that did find them may have loved them.

They failed to make enough money quickly enough for the gatekeepers and so they were discarded.

E-books are forever.

Our own Sugar & Spice sold almost nothing in the first three months. Had it been a paper book with that track record it would no longer be available. The gatekeepers’ monopoly would have meant (not that they ever wanted it in the first place) it failed the Can-It-Make-A-Quick-Buck-For-Us test.

Game over, Sugar & Spice. Game over, Saffina Desforges. Failed writer.

Yet in the next three months Sugar & Spice sudddenly grew wings and sold 60,000 copies. Almost nine months on and it’s still selling thousands every month.

To all you writers out there disappointed with low start-up sales, take heart and keep on writing. The great thing with e-publishing is you don’t need to waste years seeking the gatekeepers’ approval. You don’t need to wait years from getting their approval to actually seeing the book published. And you don’t have a three month window to prove yourself or see your career finished forever.

Just make sure you have a good book.

If your book is good enough readers will find it. Just like you manage to find good music, good web sites, good blogs and good books on the net. It may take time, but readers will find it. And they’ll tell their friends. Who will tell their friends…

On the other hand, if your book’s not good enough it will just become another statistic in the “tsunami of crap.”

The choice is yours.

There are still gatekeepers, make no mistake. But the new gatekeepers are the readers. And they only have one vested interest. Finding good books to read.

Pass their test and your future as a writer is assured.

Reformation & Renaissance – the future of publishing.

I’m an optimist.

In this game, you have to be.

I’m optimistic that you’re reading this blog. Okay, perhaps not quite so optimistic you’ll ever come back, but it’s a start.

But this post is about optimism. Because anyone who has written a book, let alone submitted it or had it published, is an optimist.

It is a triumph of hope over experience to stare at that blank page / screen and start hitting keys with the intention of producing x-thousand words of coherent story that will interest and entertain a complete stranger. No sane person would even contemplate it!

But optimism is what keeps us sat at the keyboard until the very last word is in place.  Optimism is what has us sending the ms out time and again despite the cruel and heartless rejections from evil agents on a mission to make our lives a misery. Optimism is what has us stick our books on Kindle and let “real people” judge them.

So why are we so pessimistic about the future of publishing?

To be sure the Konrathian soothsayers haven’t helped. Predicting the demise of publishing is their stock in trade. And of course we all love to read Joe’s latest rant on how evil the publishers are, how paper is dead, and how everyone should rush out and indie e-publish this very second. We all love to read how Barry Eisler turned down x-gazillion dollars to be a self-published indie, etc, etc.

But sometimes we have to take a step back and make sure we’re all reading from the same script. That same Joe that is telling us paper is dead is bemoaning indie booksellers not stocking his paper books. And haven’t these two just signed up with Amazon’s new publishing venture to have Amazon produce their books both as ebooks and on paper?

Is the Big 6 about to become the Big 7?

So in fact paper isn’t dead at all. But all credit to these guys for knowing how to generate hype and get sales boosted. Who needs a Big 6 publisher to buy you a plinth in Barnes & Noble when you can have the virtual plinth on Amazon?

~

But the statistics speak for themselves. Paper sales are declining. And as ereaders become the norm it seems likely paper will continue to decline, to the point where it is a luxury niche market.

So is this the end for publishing?

Back in 2009 there were two schools of thought. Either this “new” epublishing fad would die a death and paper would remain king (the experience of the newspaper industry being a classic example) or the Big 6 were finished.

As one leading pundit said in April 2009, the Big 6 were not even “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – they’re staying put and ordering more piña coladas and charging them to rooms that are already underwater.”

Two years on the Big 6 are most definitely still with us, and while there’s no question they are changing, there’s little sign that they are going under. Which will be a great disappointment to Konrath, but should be a big relief to the rest of us.

But there’s no doubt opinion is divided about which way things will go. And two of my must-read bloggers have run posts recently which have epitomised this debate.

First came Meghan Ward (left) in a post called 10 Ways To Save Publishing.

I commend the post to you for its list of things we all should be doing, as readers and writers. Buying more books. Reading more books. Reading to our kids. Etc, etc.

But as I said in response to Meghan’s post, “I agree with everything you said bar the reason for saying it!”

As an aside, Meghan’s Memoir May event over at writerland is just drawing to a close, but be sure to check out her guest Rachel Howard (right) who has a post this week on writing memoir using the second person singular.

Meghan by the way is a professional editor. Surely everyone’s dream job?! Getting paid to read all the latest books before anyone else knows they exist! If you ever need an apprentice, Meghan…

Then this past week along came Lexi Revellian with a great post entitles Who Chooses What You Read?

By which Lexi meant who chooses the choice available from which you choose to read. In Lexi’s own words:

If you go to a bookshop, what catches your eye, the piles of books in the window or on a table near the entrance, or books spine out on the bottom shelf at the back of the shop? Most members of the public are unaware that the prominent books are not those the manager has selected on merit; publishers have paid a lot of money for particular books to be well displayed.

Please tell us your desk isn't always the tidy, Lexi!

Thanks for that poignant reminder of reality, Lexi.

Invariably what sells best is what the publishers put most money into to make sure it sells best.

As for the rest… The simple fact is, most traditionally published books are lucky to sell just a thousand copies.

Which is why Lexi has every reason to be delighted her latest book, Replica, which is a feel-good thriller with a sci fi element, has already sold nearly 5,000 copies, and has only been out five minutes.

Although that pales into insignificance compared to her first feel-good thriller Remix, which has sold over 22,000 copies. And no, not by pandering to the least-savoury elements of the thriller market. If you like fast-paced thrillers that you wouldn’t  be embarrassed to read out loud to your grandmother, then Lexi’s books are for you.

But despite 25,000 happy readers Lexi has yet to capture the interest of the UK agents.

Why? because her books don’t tick the right boxes to be commercially viable . Which comes back to the matter of the huge expense necessary to publish a paper book.

So can we assume the publishers only publish books they know  will sell? Far from it.

Another tragic reality of traditional publishing is that most bookstores stock “new” books for maybe three months before returning them. To be pulped. Yep, brand new, unread books, many still in their packing cases, being pulped. Those that escape this ignominious fate go to the discount stores, having been bought up in bulk for a pittance by an optimistic reseller. There simply isn’t enough room in even the biggest bookstore to stock everything

The fact is, publishers print far more books than they expect to sell, just in case they have a successful breakout book on their hands. They expect to have substantial returns, even on big names, and budget accordingly.

Put simply, most books fail to sell. Fact.

Yes, the majority of books that pass the gatekeepers’ test and get into print are then rejected by the true gatekeepers: the buying public. Although again, by reject I mean that in most cases the buying public just never knew these books existed.


So one can understand the pessimism of both Meghan and Lexi about the future. Paper sales are plummeting, giant bookselling chains like Borders are in liquidation, and Konrath and co have already written the orbituaries for the Big 6 and are there, spades in hand, digging their graves.

But I disagree. I simply cannot see the end for the Big 6 or for publishing.

Just the opposite in fact.

~

No question there is a revolution in publishing taking place. It is a Reformation unparalleled in publishing history.

But far from seeing the death-throes of publishing I think we are seeing a painful rebirth. A revival – dare I say a Renaissance? – on an unprecedented scale, where every author who has a good quality book will, in the near future, have a chance to reach an audience.

Of course, those that are unwilling or unable to adapt will go to the wall.

Yes, there will be casualties along the way, and real people will lose real jobs in publishing, printing, book-selling, distribution, et al.

But get real. The days of carting shed-loads of printed blocks of paper around the country so people can buy them is coming to an end. The loss of huge stores like Borders is of course a tragedy, but dinosaurs become extinct.

Are less books being sold since Borders closed? Less paper, perhaps, but e-books are surely more than countering that, and ebook sales will increase exponentially as technology improves and the range of available titles is widened.

The epublishing revolution opens up huge new opportunities for those willing and able to take advantage.

Agents and editors will need to adapt and change, for sure, but their skills and service will still be needed. More so than ever before as the indie movement finds that quantity alone cannot compete with quality.

The big publishers are investing massively in digital, however much they try to appear aloof from it all. They have the financial muscle to do so, and at the end of the day they will make more money, not less, as the industry stabilises in the new world where paper will be the luxury niche.

The future for readers, writers and those publishers willing and able to move with the times, is brighter than at any time in history.

How so? Consider:

Traditionally an author’s chances of being published were governed by one single factor: can the publisher hope to get a return on the huge financial investment needed to bring a book to market.

For those that get the coveted place in the window display or on the plinth, yes. But unless you’re a celebrity, a mega-selling author, or are sleeping with the CEO the chances of that happening are remote.

If you are published, your fate will inevitably be a few book signings in your local store and then a place on the shelf, spine out, among however many hundreds of thousands of other books that are in the store with you.

And this is why, day after day, week in week out, perfectly good books are being rejected by agents and publishers across the globe.

The points Lexi makes about being an anonymous spine in a bookshop are exactly why so many perfectly good books are rejected. Former Big 6 editor turned million-selling author Ruth Harris spills the beans about reasons why agents may reject your book in her guest post over at Anne R Allen’s blog.

Of course agents rightly turn away appallingly written manuscripts by the hour. But they also turn away perfectly good ones. And the key reason for that is quite simple:

It’s because they are not commercially viable.

That doesn’t mean no-one will buy them. It means not enough people will find them and buy them such that they will recover the tens of thousands of pounds / dollars outlay required to publish in the first place.

Let’s hear that once more: It doesn’t mean no-one will buy them. It means not enough people will find them and buy them such that they will recover the tens of thousands of pounds / dollars outlay required to publish in the first place.

But now, with epublishing, there’s suddenly infinite shelf space for infinite categories and sub-categories, and the most intimate niche markets can be catered for with negligible outlay by the publisher.

Far from being less books, publishers can now reproduce their entire backlist of everything they’ve ever published (if they have the rights) and once that happens readers will be able to read that book they loved as a child, long since out of print, or a novel previously only available in some far off land.

And prices will come down.

Publishers will only need to pay for the time of the editor, proof-reader, formatter and a few other key staff.

Cover design is now a simple front page. No back cover or spine to worry about.

No time and resources spent physically producing, storing and distributing  heavy books.

No collecting and pulping the unsold titles. In fact, not a single wasted product.

Whether it sells a single copy or a million copies the production cost is identical (bar the author’s advance, perhaps).

And of course, the book will never again be “out of print”, “not in stock”, only available in if you live in a big city, or any of a thousand other reasons that buyers previously could not buy a book they wanted.

Far from turning away perfectly good authors because their book is commercially unviable, publishers will be queuing up to find new authors with a decent product, because any good book wll be commercially viable.

And it won’t matter whether the author or reader lives in New York or New Zealand. Don’t tell Barnes & Nobel, but there’s a whole wide world outside the United States. (When will it occur to them that’s why Amazon is leaving them standing?)

A revolution is taking place that we are not just witnessing, but are participants in. It’s up to us how far we get involved, but burying our heads in the sand is no longer an option. Peer-review sites like authonomy and youwriteon, are you listening?

It may take a few years to stabilise, and there will be casualties along the way. But when it does settle down there will be a whole new world of opportunity for both readers and writers.

Not to mention the publishers…

The glass is half full!

The future is bright. The future is digital.


PS Literally just having posted this article my attention was drawn, via the above mentioned Lexi, to a post over at The Daily Beast where Dale Peck has a very different take on the future. Check it out. Join the debate!

Bloodbath at the Kindle U.K. Corral

Just a few weeks or so ago I warned of the floodgates opening, with the news that JK Rowling was to finally release her Harry Potter novels as e-books.

This would, I suggested, have every dead-tree publisher in the country re-evaluating their position on e-books and accepting, however reluctantly, that e-books had come of age.

B&N: useless in the UK

Amazon were already selling more e-books than paper, and the CEO of Barnes & Noble (just as Borders went into liquidation) had stated e-books would become the dominant delivery format within two years.

In fact things are moving faster than anyone dared predict. The APP just produced figures for February showing e-books outsold paper across ALL trade categories in the US.

Here in the UK e-reading has been slower to catch on, and traditional publishers here slower to take advantage. With B&N’s nook completely useless here (non-US citizens cannot buy from B&N) e-readers were very much “an American thing” until Amazon gave us all a boost with the latest Kindle. Suddenly not only could we read e-books easily, but we could upload them easily too.

“Indie” writers like us have been able to take full advantage of the stagnation of the dead-tree publishers and to get a good foothold before the dam burst.

But as I’ve warned time and again, it was a window of opportunity that could not long last. Publishers would, any time now, realise that charging the same price for an e-book as for a full price paper version was not the way forward. How long before they realised they can actually make more money by selling cheaper to far more people.

Answer: not very long at all. This weekend saw the first wave of the tsunami as the dam was breached.

Publishers let loose a raft of back-list paper-published books with “names” and an established readership onto the Kindle – but at “indie” prices. Battle commenced.

Except, it wasn’t so much a battle as a bloodbath.

The Kindle Top 100 this morning is a different world from the weekend just gone. It’s a morning-after battle-field and the casualties are littered everywhere. The casualties being the big-name authors with e-books at paper prices, and of course the “indie” publishers.

This morning Kindle UK indie-publishers will have looked at the charts through barely parted fingers, not knowing what to expect.

Just this weekend fellow indie Jake Barton’s Burn Baby Burn had bounced confidently into the Kindle top ten and was threatening to join us in the top five. This morning Jake’s excellent book has almost dropped to the top forty.

Steve Carter’s quirky romance novel Love, Sex and Tesco’s Finest Cava, which gave us some sleepless nights just a week or so ago, is right back in the seventies.

And so on and so on…

It may be this is just an Easter promotion and things will return to normal for the summer, but I suspect not. Even if it is an experiment, the sheer volume of sales now being picked up by the back-list e-books will more than justify the tiny margins, and more cheap e-books will inevitably follow. The dam may not have burst, but it’s definitely been breached.

And what of Sugar & Spice? Well, that seems to be, as Berthold Brecht might have said, the exception that proves the rule.

Somehow we managed to cling on to the number one thriller spot, and as I write are still in the top five over-all. Which proves it can be done!

So yes, the battle just got a whole lot harder, but it is still possible to compete with the “names” as an indie.

And the sooner we see a few more indie writers back in the top twenty the better. So get to it, guys!

Harry Potter and the Dam-Busters

The dam is about to burst, with the announcement that JK Rowling is negotiating for all her Harry Potter books to be released as e-books.

Not only will this trigger a huge rise in e-reader sales, on top of the phenomenal expansion already happening, but more importantly this will be the day e-books come of age.

At the moment most paper-based publishers treat the e-book market as a useful sideline to their main business of selling books on paper.

That point is worth dwelling on.

Publishers have spent their entire past existence selling paper with a book attached. Just as, until oh so recently, the music industry sold first vinyl and then CDs with music attached.

When music downloads first became available, the music industry went out of its way to dismiss the digital alternative as inferior quality that would open the flood-gates to any old Tom, Dick or Harriet producing their own music and making it available to the public.

How dare the up and coming musicians think they could by-pass the music industry’s gate-keepers?!

What about standards? Quality? Professionalism? The gate-keepers ensured the public’s well-being and protected them by preventing the market being flooded by rubbish music from wannabes who hadn’t followed the rule book.

But despite the music industry’s best efforts to ignore and belittle them, digital music downloads just got better and better, until finally a tipping point was reached and the music industry embraced them.

True, CDs are still available, and even vinyl, but the main delivery system is now digital.

And the key factors in making that happen were consumer choice and technological innovation.

Consumer choice meant that suddenly a music lover did not have to restrict themselves to whatever their soon to go out of business local store could offer, nor even to the bigger but oh so predictable and commercial range offered by the music superstores.

Technological innovations meant you could carry around with you more music than you could ever listen to in a life-time.

Books were slow to follow suit.

Technology held back progress and consumer choice held back progress.

Reading a whole book sat at a computer screen was never going to be a pleasant experience, and consumer choice was pretty much non-existent.

As e-readers became better and cheaper that began to change. Barnes & Noble’s Nook was a reasonable success, but as it did (and still does) prevent anyone outside the US actually downloading anything it never deserved to do better. The limited competition from Sony and the cheap Korean imitations had the same problem of limited consumer choice.

Then along came the Kindle…

We all know the Kindle’s success story, and we can see, day by day, how the Kindle is transforming the e-book market.

The CEO of Barnes & Noble conceded last month that digital downloads would be the primary delivery system for books within two years. This hard on the heels of Amazon confirming they sold more e-books than paper books last year.

The next twelve to eighteen months will see e-readers radically improve in quality and rapidly reduce in price as the trend to e-reading accelerates.

At the moment the one big advantage paper has is that it is universal. Language aside, a paper book is a paper book. Whether you buy it from B&N, Amazon, your local book-store or a charity shop you can read it. Sadly my Kindle cannot easily download a book from B&N or Waterstone’s, so if Amazon doesn’t have it it’s not an option.

Sure there are numerous apps and other ways and means to transfer books between devices, but it’s not straight-forward.

It looks like we’re in for a year or so of mix-n-match marketing, rather like the old days with Betamax and VHS, until an industry standard is agreed for delivery and all devices will be able to receive e-books from all suppliers.

And all books will be avalable as e-books.

Like it or not, it’s going to happen. Your personal preference for a good old fashioned chunk of a dead tree in your hands will still be an option for a good while yet, but the direction is clear and nothing is going to stop it.

Borders paid the price for ignoring it. B&N are desperately struggling to keep up with it.

For the big publishing houses it’s crunch time. The publishing world in five years time will be a wholly different place from what it is now. Paper books will be a niche market. Lucrative for the few, but most definitely a niche.

The Barnes & Noble CEO predicted it would be two years before the balance swayed in favour of digital. This despite Amazon already having reached that point.

But this before the announcement that the venerable JK herself was about to go digital.

That’s the same JK who has previously deliberately distanced herself from the e-book markets.

Not that she needs it, but Rowling expected to net one hundred million pounds from the deal – and that just a small percentage of what her publishers will make.

Make no mistake: e-books have arrived, and the other big names will soon follow suit in a big way.

No timetable has been given, but safe to presume Christmas 2011 will see e-reader sales hit the stratosphere as a Kindle / Nook/ Sony / etc becomes a must-have accessory, and Harry Potter will hold the top seven places in the e-book charts.

For anyone still on the fence about e-publishing, now is most definitely the time to take the plunge.

In a year’s time it may be too late.

At the moment very few publishers seem to be taking e-books too seriously. Just as Borders didn’t…

There will be a huge shake-up as e-publishing hits their margins and those that emerge stronger from the battle will almost certainly become the gate-keepers for the new e-book publishing world, able to introduce loss-leaders (as we saw at Christmas on Kindle) and able to invest huge sums in promoting the select few, just as they do now.

We (Saffi and I) been extraordinarily lucky. We’ve beaten the likes of James Patterson and Steig Larsson in the Kindle charts and are currently locked against the almighty Wilbur Smith for third place.

We’re not so arrogant as to think our book, Sugar & Spice, is better than theirs, or that we are actually out-selling theirs, of course.  Obviously we can compete with mega-stars like these only because most of their buyers will still be opting for the paper version.

Nonetheless, despite being complete unknowns without an agent or publisher, and with no loyal following from previously published works, we’ve come from nowhere to sell over 20,000 e-books on Kindle so far (no, you won’t see that on Novelrank, but we have sent Mario our figures) and are on target this month to double that, with sales edging (slowly!) towards 1000 a day.

That’s nothing compared to Wilbur Smith, of course, or even our main chart rival Stephen Leather, who has consistently held the top places on Kindle UK.

Our point being, it’s 20,000 more than we would have sold if we’d sat back waiting for a paper publisher…

The fact is, 15,000 of those e-books have been sold since we last sent our manuscript to an agent, and we are still waiting for a response…

And much as we’d love to straddle both paper and digital markets, it has to be said we’re doing pretty well on our own. So far we are ONLY selling to Kindle owners. Next to target B&N on the Nook, Waterstone’s on Sony, etc, etc.

And if the right offer comes along, maybe to go to paper too, while it’s still an option. There’s no question that a good contract with a paper publisher could offer opportunities  we as “indies” could not take advantage of. Again, Stephen Leather leaves us looking on enviously as he gets his paper works translated and sold across Europe while simultaneously keeping us off the number two spot on Kindle UK.

But Stephen is an old hand at this game, and has been on the circuit a long time, with a raft of published books to his credit. He also has a little help from above, as this never before seen in the UK photo shows. (Oops! That’s us two off his Christmas card list!)

This blog is aimed at the new and up-and-coming writers who are currently on the fence about e-publishing. At the moment the door is wide open and those with a combination of energy, good marketing, a reasonable product and a degree of luck have a golden opportunity to jump the queue, get a head start and establish a brand.

An opportunity that almost certainly won’t exist this time next year.

Christmas 2011 is pretty much guaranteed to see Harry Potter sweeping the board, and where JK leads, the rest will surely follow.

This time next year a new and unknown “indie” publisher will be lucky to get into the top hundred.

Which is why we are now going full out now to get as many titles out there as quickly as possible to establish a brand and develop a wide readership that will hopefully carries us through the turbulent waters ahead.

We thought we had a period of grace of maybe two years, as the B&N CEO suggested, but JK Rowling has just upped the ante.

Carpe diem! Make your lives extraordinary!



The numbers game.

Okay, today’s blog is about… numbers.

Yes, I hear you. We’re writers, not mathematicians, and words are our tools.

I know how you all hate maths, or even math, for our American readers.

But this is about real numbers. Numbers that matter to us as writers.

Royalties, in other words.

Yeah, thought that would get your attention.

As previously blogged, Barry Eisler’s turning down half a million bucks to “go indie” and darling Amanda “selling out” (not my words!) to the dead-tree guys has over-night changed the way the world views publishing.

On top of that, as Borders US finally succumbed to the inevitable and went into liquidation (Borders UK did so a year or two back) the CEO of Barnes & Noble stated on record that digital books would be the primary delivery system for books within two years.

For Amazon, that’s already the case. They sold more e-books than paper books last year, and that was before the Kindle took off big-time (eleven million Kindles sold).

Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco now sells Kindles over the counter and rival groups are selling rival e-readers. Six months e-readers were virtually unheard of in the UK. Now we see them everywhere, and the trend is growing by the day.

In the US, as the B&N CEO concedes, that trend is far more advanced.

A tipping point has been reached.

The next generation of e-readers will be more savvy, more creative, more must-have, and perhaps most importantly less costly.

There can be no question that e-books are the future. The question is just when, and how it will effect us, both as readers and as writers.

Nathan Bransford has just published a most informative blog that spells out the reality of numbers as they relate to us as authors. You can read his full blog here.

Essentially, he asks, is it better to go “indie” and e-publish, or to keep chasing the dream of a real, printed book in your hands and try to get an agent and publisher?

Of course we all want the pleasure of a real book, our book, in our hands.

We approached agents before we decided to e-publish, and had one offered us the chance at the time we would almost certainly have signed on the dotted line, agreed to anything they wanted, and now be sitting waiting for our book to appear in the shops in maybe a year’s time.

Hopefully having been given a huge advance, but as an unknown author with an unknown book the chances of any advance being offered was slim, let alone a life-changing one.

As you all know, the agents were intrigued but not convinced. So we put our book out as en e-book and got on with life.

Had we signed up with an agent and then a publisher, and leaving aside any advance (which is clawed back from future sales – it’s not a gift from the publisher!) what could we have expected?

Nathan has kindly laid out the figures for us and I reproduce them here with due acknowledgement.

Standard royalties via traditional publishers (note: these may vary):
Hardcover: 10% retail, sometimes escalating to 15% after sales thresholds are met
Trade paperback: 7.5% retail
Mass market: 8% retail
E-book: 25% net (usually translates to 17.5% retail)

Kindle revenue share for self-published authors:
Priced higher than $9.99: 35% retail
Priced between $2.99-$9.99: 70% retail
Priced below $2.99: 35% retail

B&N revenue share for self-published authors:
Priced higher than $9.99: 40% retail
Priced between $2.99-$9.99: 65% retail
Priced below $2.99: 40% retail

E-distribution fee:
Smashwords: about 15%. Usually translates to about 60% of the retail price.

Approximate E-book market share:
Amazon: ~55%
B&N: ~25%
Others (Kobo, Apple, Google, Sony, etc.): ~20% combined

Okay, so what does that mean in real money?

Let us suppose that we had been offered, and signed, a deal for Sugar & Spice and it had not been e-published independently by us.

What would have happened?

First off, you would not be reading this, because you would never have heard of the groundbreaking debut crime thriller Sugar & Spice, or Saffina Desforges or Mark Williams.

Possibly by the end of 2011, but more likely 2012 (according to Publishers’ Lunch most manuscripts now being signed up will not see print until spring 2013!) our book would finally be published.

Now unless that publisher is taking a huge interest in us, is buying us a plinth in Waterstone’s (don’t for one second think bookshops hand over the plinth and poster space out of the kindness of their heart!) and is sending out sample copies and lunch invitations to all their well-connected reviewers, etc, then our book will be just another spine on the shelf.

Again, who ever heard of Saffina Desforges?

In 2012 the name would be as just as obscure as in 2010.

But we’ll be hoping that readers who have never heard of the author or the title will risk ten pounds (or whatever the dollar equivalent may be) on us rather than spend that ten pounds on Stephen King, James Patterson or another big name they know and trust.

Come to that, dollar equivalent? Forget that!

Our book would only be available in selected high-street stores in the UK.

Okay, so sometime in 2012, a year down the line, our book is finally published and if we’re really lucky people buy it.

Nathan states royalties of 10% for hardback and 7% to 8% for paperbacks. E-book royalties if put online via a publisher are 25%, but in  reality only 14% to 17%.

Now this month, March 2011, we have sold approximately 13,000 e-books at our chosen retail price of 71p. That could go up or down next month, though the trend is most definitely up.

We were only a top twenty seller at the beginning of March. As I write this we are a top five seller. On our current daily sales we are on target to sell 20,000 next month if nothing changes. And believe me, those figures pale into insignificance compared to Stephen Leather’s sales!

And our sales are only for Amazon Kindle. We haven’t listed on Waterstone’s yet, and we haven’t started marketing ourselves on Barnes & Noble properly.

But let’s take 13,000 sales in one month as our base-line.

Now the Amazon royalties are public knowledge. No trade secrets here. We make 35% of retail because we choose a low retail price.

What chance our paper-published book selling 13,000 copies in a month? Virtually impossible.

Of course, the mega-names like Cornwell, Patterson, King, Grisham, etc, do it all the time, sure. But this is an unknown author with no history, no loyal readership built up over years, and no publicity machine behind it.

So in a year’s time Sugar & Spice is published by a “real” publisher, and released through them as an e-book on Amazon. And we’re lucky and it does as well as it is now, and we sell 13,000 copies in a month.

Read out those figures again, Nathan!

E-book: 25% net (usually translates to 17.5% retail).

17.5%!!! And Barry Eisler reckons the real figure is nearer 14%.

But let’s stick to 17.5%.

So we sell 13,000 e-books at the same price, with the same amount of marketing effort on our part.

But instead of getting 35% of the royalties we hand over half of that to the publisher!

Suddenly we have to sell over 25,000 e-books a month just to get the same money back we earn by selling just 13,000 as “indie” publishers.

True, only people with a screen can read our book now, and we are missing out on a huge number of prospective readers who only read on paper.

But by the time the book actually sees print the number of e-readers will have multiplied a zillion times while the number of paper readers will have dwindled.

Not fantasy. That’s the very near future as seen by the CEO of America’s biggest bookstore chain, B&N.

Now go a step further. Supposing our book continues to sell in volume over the coming months, or even increases as word spreads. Supposing we get our act together (remember, this is all new to us – we’re learning as we go) and get our book on Waterstone’s e-books list and somehow make it happen on Barnes & Noble too…

Supposing we maintained 13,000 sales a month over the coming year. That’s 156,000 sales that, if we had signed a contract and were waiting for our book to be published, would not exist.

And as previously said, we’d then have to sell 25,000 e-books a month (300,000 a year!) just to make the same money.

We have several more books in the pipeline this year and many more after that. The first of our Rose Red crime thriller series is due on Kindle this summer, and the first of our dark fantasy trilogy Equilibrium will be on Kindle in September. Two follow-ups to Sugar & Spice are planned for the future (Puppy Dogs’ Tails and Cold Blood), and the projects list beyond that is a book in itself!

None of these would be seeing the light of day before 2012/ 2013 if we were with a dead-tree publisher.

Perhaps more importantly still, we would not have had the confidence to be planning this far ahead if we hadn’t already proven we could do it through e-sales.

Of course, a “real” publisher can potentially offer so many things we’d love to take advantage of.

Professional proof-reading (if you’re not a writer you can have no idea how time-consuming that is – time that could be spent writing the next book), foreign language translation, etc, etc.

Don’t think for one second we are trashing “real” publishing.

We are most definitely not.

If the right deal comes along of course we’ll grab it and run!

We still have bills to pay, families to provide for, and we still subscribe to Private Jet Monthly, just in case… (The one in the pic is mine. Saffi wants a pink one!)

But if the offer ever comes, we will have to balance the short-term delight of being able to hand over a real, made of paper, signed copy of our book to our loved ones, against the realities of the new publishing world that is now emerging.

If you’re on the fence with your manuscript, still sitting on the hard-drive while you weigh up the same issues, ponder the following conclusion from Nathan.

If you can sell print copies, all things being equal there’s still the bulk of the money to be made there.

But if you’re not going out in print in a big way, a self-published e-book is absolutely the way to go.

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