Monday, April 4, 2011

Response to a Traditionally Published Writer Regarding eBooks

Of course it differs from one writer to the next, and you certainly shouldn’t move to ePublishing only if you’re already traditionally published and earning a living from your traditionally published work. However, I have noticed there’s a reason why your ebooks aren’t selling as well as they could be, a reason that you’ve apparently overlooked and that can be easily remedied.

EPublishing is a great option for writers who haven’t been able to find a traditional publisher yet, as well as traditionally published writers whose books are out-of-print. For most of those who choose to epublish, the choice isn’t between self-publishing and traditionally publishing a particular book: it’s between self-publishing and not publishing that book at all.

It goes without saying that a game that allows anyone to play would have many players who don’t know what they’re doing, so of course the average self-published writer would earn less money than the average traditionally published writer. Traditional publishing has a vetting process that self-publishing doesn’t.

However, if you’ve been in this game as long as I have, you know the vetting process isn’t perfect. Christopher Moore—my favorite writer—supposedly sent out a hundred query letters to agents and received nothing but rejections. He only got an agent through a connection in show business. The writer of the Pulitzer Prize winning A Confederacy of Dunces committed suicide because he couldn’t get that book published while he was still alive. Great writers are looked over by agents and traditional publishers all the time. In fact, it’s the norm. And we’ve all seen terrible writers who have somehow managed to get their books traditionally published. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have your own reality TV show, like Snooki on Jersey Shore.) Luck plays a huge part in the traditional publishing game—more than talent, hard work, or anything else. In Self-publishing, however, luck only plays the smallest role. Success is determined by talent, writing the kind of book people want to read, marketing it well,  and learning from those who have successfully epubbed their own books, like Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, and John Locke.

As for why you personally would have a 66% drop in earnings if you decided to only epublish your books, I checked out your books on Kindle and discovered that you’ve priced them out of the market. A book you sell on Kindle for $7.99 can also be bought on Amazon used in hardcover for $.01 plus $3.99 for shipping for a total of $4.00. It doesn’t take a genius to realize people aren’t going to pay twice as much for the Kindle edition as the hardcover. If you reprice your books on Kindle so that they’re less than $4.00 ($2.99 is the price recommended by both J.A. Konrath and Amazon), you should see a significant rise in your sale of books on Kindle. Keep in mind that you don’t earn a dime on the used copies of your physical books that Amazon is selling, but you could be making $2 for every Kindle edition priced at $2.99 that you've epublished yourself.


  1. The books posted at $7.99 are by my print publisher.

    If you go to my website, you'll see I spent a year experimenting with different price points on books of my own, from 99 cents to $4.99, to dispel the 'volume by cheap' methodology.

    I'm also the eBook manager for a medium sized press, and have data for the sales of some 30 odd books at various price points as well, and am a consultant for a handful of other businesses.

    Again, running the math doesn't make sense. I lose 66% of my income by going eBook. Doesn't hold true for all authors, obviously, but the sort of blanket statements by you don't really hold water.

  2. I went to your website and noticed you posted about Random House's gains in 2010 to dispel the notion that traditional publishing is losing ground to electronic publishing. But is that really what Random House's profits statement shows?

    I looked it up, and according to Publisher's Weekly, "Driven by strong sales in the U.S. and a 300% increase in digital sales, worldwide revenue at Random House rose 7.7%"

    "Driven by a 300% increase in digital sales"? If anything, this proves my point about ebooks.

    “'In the past half year we have really embraced digital transition throughout our companies, replacing anxieties about the format with forward thinking and with well-executed action,' Dohle said with Random on track to generate e-book sales of over $100 million."

    If Random House is embracing digital and sees this as "forward thinking," it seems that smart writers should do the same.

    You could argue that Random House's ebook experience is what it is because Random House is a huge traditional publisher, and that self-publishers can't compete with it when it comes to ebooks. But that's not what the Kindle bestseller list shows. Seven-out-of-twenty Kindle bestsellers are self-published; and in science fiction (your genre) nine-out-of-ten bestselling Kindle books are self-published. The only one that isn't in that category is Orson Scott Card's classic, Ender's Game, which comes in at number seven. There's even a self-published ebook at the very top of the general Kindle bestseller list. All this indicates that self-published ebooks can compete with the big boys just fine.

    But you really shouldn't be having this argument with me. Right now, I'm just an unpublished author on the verge of epublishing her work after nine years of writing, seven completed novels, about 100 submissions, numerous conferences, contests won, and nothing to show for it. The person you should be having this argument with is J.A. Konrath. He's the expert.

  3. Found a oomment I liked on The Intern, followed you her, and have to officially Follow you - one goddess to another.

    I think e-publishing is one venue I have yet to rule out, but for now, I do have an agent, and she's getting my work read (and rejected, but they're GOOD rejections. sigh.)

    Looking forward to reading more of your stuff.