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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Of Amazon and author earnings

You may recall that last year, I pointed out that John Scalzi was not only doing authors a serious disservice by denigrating self-publishing, attacking publishers who mitigate their risk by not paying advances, and throwing a public hissy fit over Random House moving into the 21st Century with its Hydra imprint, he was actually doing himself a disservice by throwing away more than half his revenues for the privilege of being able to say he is approved by the gatekeepers at Tor. Scalzi, of course, pretended that I had no idea what I was talking about, because he is a special snowflake who has a totally unique publishing contract that bears no similarity to any other publishing deal in the industry or something like that.

After all, who are you going to trust on such matters, the economics writer who correctly predicted both the bull market in gold and the 2008 financial crisis or the Bernie Madoff of science fiction with his "50,000 DAILY READERS"?

I mention this because Hugh Howey, the massively successful SF self-publisher, just released a fascinating report on the current economics of publishing and what he learned pretty much confirmed everything that I've been saying on the subject for the last two years. It also very clearly demonstrates that the current and past leadership of the SFWA consist of individuals who did not, and who do not, understand the electronic train coming down the tracks that is already in the process of crushing the traditional publishers.
Here is what our data guru found when he used sales per ranking data and applied it to the top 7,000 bestselling genre works on Amazon today: Looks good for the Big Five, doesn’t it? When it comes to gross dollar sales, they take half the pie. Remember, they only account for a little over a quarter of the unit sales. Also keep in mind that they only have to pay 25% of net revenue to the author. By contrast, self-published authors on Amazon’s platform keep 70% of the total purchase price.

 Let’s now look at revenue from the author’s perspective: It’s a complete inversion. Indie authors are earning nearly half the total author revenue from genre fiction sales on Amazon. Nearly half. This next chart reveals why: Blue represents the author. You can clearly see that for Big-Five published works, the publisher makes more than twice what the author makes for the sale of an e-book. Keep in mind that the profit margins for publishers are better on e-books than they are on hardbacks. That means the author gets a smaller cut while the publisher takes a larger share. This, despite the fact that e-books do not require printing, warehousing, or shipping. As a result, self-published authors as a group are making 50% more profit than their traditionally published counterparts, even though their books have only half the gross sales revenue.
But here is the money bit:
You may have heard from other reports that e-books account for roughly 25% of overall book sales. But this figure is based only on sales reported by major publishers. E-book distributors like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the iBookstore, and Google Play don’t reveal their sales data. That means that self-published e-books are not counted in that 25%. Neither are small presses, e-only presses, or Amazon’s publishing imprints. This would be like the Cookie Council seeking a report on global cookie sales and polling a handful of Girl Scout troops for the answer—then announcing that 25% of worldwide cookie sales are Thin Mints. But this is wrong. They’re just looking at Girl Scout cookies, and even then only a handful of troops.
In other words, any statistics you read concerning the publishing industry are even less credible than the fiction produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That being said, I believe Howey is right. I believe "the world of literature has its brightest days still ahead" and part of that is going to be the result of the destruction of the gatekeepers who have been methodically destroying science fiction and fantasy for the last 30 years. The gatekeepers cannot sustain their inflated prices, they cannot foist their favored authors on unsuspecting readers, and they can no longer pretend their books sell any better or are of any higher quality than those being produced by the myriad of other active publishers for much longer.

"It turns out that 86% of the top 2,500 genre fiction bestsellers in the overall Amazon store are e-books. At the top of the charts, the dominance of e-books is even more extreme. 92% of the Top-100 best-selling books in these genres are e-books!"

This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. In 13 months, ebooks have comprised 94 percent of the sales of A Throne of Bones. And keep in mind that Howey's statistics probably don't include the distribution of free ebooks. My free/sold ratio is 5/1. This is why Castalia House is only producing print books in hardcover for the hard-core fans who enjoy collecting as well as reading; if it's not electronic, it's no longer really relevant.

I should mention that another serious problem for the traditional publishers I predicted during my campaign for SFWA president has already surfaced, and it has done so even sooner than I said it would. Dreamworks Interactive recently announced that it will no longer be licensing the publishing rights to its works, but will publish its own ebooks. This means that the very lucrative media tie-in model that is keeping many of the larger genre publishers afloat is about to disappear. That means no more paying sizable advances to award-winning authors of terrible romances in space on the basis of Halo tie-in sales. It will be interesting to see which of the major genre publishers goes down first.

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97 Comments:

Blogger Shimshon February 12, 2014 6:23 AM  

But Vox, don't you know, after the SHTF, they'll all claim in unison, "No one could've seen this coming." This is even more obvious and requires less thinking than analyzing the financial system.

Besides, Vox is evil, because hurt feelings.

Blogger Shimshon February 12, 2014 6:40 AM  

The rating discrepancy is very interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if at least some part of it was due to the left-wing bias of the big-five published. Meaning, that while profit is still the primary metric, there is still a distinct preference to publish books either by authors they approve of, or books that don't veer from their world view.

Anonymous CrisisEraDynamo February 12, 2014 6:59 AM  

And your translation model might dig up a few untapped markets while you're at it.

Blogger Glen Filthie February 12, 2014 7:01 AM  

Well I hope so Vox, and I hope you and yours make some big $$$$ in the process.

For me, I would love to have just one SF book that didn't preach about the joys of faggotry and communism. I would love a book that WASN'T about some strong, independent woman obsessing over her emotions and PMSing in space.

Anonymous hygate February 12, 2014 7:01 AM  

Everytime I read an article on what self-publishing and ebooks are doing to traditional publishers the publishers try to justify their existence by pointing out that they are gatekeepers. That is they claim that their utility is that they filter out the "junk" for you. Cause, I guess, they don't think the readers can be trusted to decide what is "junk" and what isn't.

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 7:08 AM  

For me, I would love to have just one SF book that didn't preach about the joys of faggotry and communism. I would love a book that WASN'T about some strong, independent woman obsessing over her emotions and PMSing in space.

Have you read either Quantum Mortis book yet? There are two right there.

And your translation model might dig up a few untapped markets while you're at it.

Having an interesting discussion with one professional translator right now about that. Our current model has the translator making one-third what the author makes. But is that enough? I can see the possible benefit of making it half, which would amount to a 14-28-28 split between translator, author, and publisher. Especially in the case of smaller markets where the sales are likely to be smaller.

Anyone have any thoughts about this?

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 7:21 AM  

That is they claim that their utility is that they filter out the "junk" for you.

That's not complete bullshit, although what they are actually doing is branding. The core problem is that the branding is increasingly false on all levels. Scalzi doesn't write "mil-sf", what he writes is militarily ludicrous and downright anti-scientific. Take Old Man's War: aging is often even harder on the human brain than the human body. In reality, those reinvigorated bodies wouldn't be having celebratory orgies, they'd be walking around forgetting their own names and trying to remember their designated unit.

And what does it mean to be a "Tor" book now versus when Ender's Game was published? Baen is really the only genre publisher who has remained consistent, which is why their brand will likely hold up in the coming years.

Anonymous J February 12, 2014 7:33 AM  

That is they claim that their utility is that they filter out the "junk" for you.

Amazon lets you read a sample of the book. That combined with the reviews allows you to do your own filtering.

Anonymous Lucius February 12, 2014 7:38 AM  

I think you're missing something. Paperback print on demand for the readers like me who want to read a hard copy. With the front cover already designed and if you build a template in indesign for the interior, you can crank out paper copies at a very low one time cost per book.

I consistently get feedback from readers who want the hard copy of my books.

And if you price it right, (leaving yourself >2$ in createspace expanded distribution) your customers can even order the books through B&N or indie book stores.

Anonymous jSinSaTx February 12, 2014 7:42 AM  

I think the translator warrants a better split. Anything sold in another language is going to be instantly more than the author would have had before. The split could also be based a bit on market size he is giving access to. Imagine also that over time you will identify translators that are superior and warrant different compensation. Perhaps the various levels of talent can be presented to the author for them to decide.

Anonymous jSinSaTx February 12, 2014 7:43 AM  

Of course being neither an author or translator mine is an uninformed and no stakes opinion.

Anonymous Josh February 12, 2014 7:46 AM  

Paperback is 7% of the genre market. Vox doesn't seem to be missing that many readers by not offering paperback.

Anonymous Josh February 12, 2014 7:57 AM  

Anyone have any thoughts about this?

I have no idea what the foreign SFF market looks like, but the logic that a better translator results in a better book which results in more sales makes sense to me. Best case would be translators who already write SFF in that market and have a fanbase.

Anonymous jack February 12, 2014 8:00 AM  

Everyone realizes this at some level, but the lure of the ebooks is most certainly not just price. If you get to like an ereader, and much depends on the design of same, then the convenience of that method of reading is large. I can take the thing with me most anywhere and, with a few minutes of time, do some reading. It would be hard to lug around 30 to 50 books in paper or hard cover.

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 8:10 AM  

I think the translator warrants a better split. Anything sold in another language is going to be instantly more than the author would have had before.

I agree. I'm not sure the authors will.

Anonymous Josh February 12, 2014 8:16 AM  

Would the authors rather have 2/3 of sales in 5 languages, or 1/2 of sales in 10 languages?

Obviously the data is nonexistent at this point, but if you can attract more translators of higher quality you'll get to the point where a new book gets released in English and multiple languages.

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 8:34 AM  

Right. I think I've got an idea for a good model to protect both the translator's interests as well as the authors.

Anonymous emdfl February 12, 2014 8:37 AM  

+1 for Lucius, but of course you knew I'd say that, VD.

As for the 7% figure, It's a chicken/egg thing. If a book is only being published as an ebook, how can that 7% grow? I know right now that are about five authors doing series ebooks that I would buy IF I could get them on printed pages. And that 7% is probably still a pretty large number.

Just a question, VD, which ebook reader do you consider to be the easiest from the reader standpoint of visual and operational?
Understand that coming from the culture that I worked in for 35 years, I personally want nothing to do with the online "social networks" so any reader that required connecting to any of them automatically would be a non-starter - which of course is why I post here using the name/url sign in, heh, heh.

Anonymous Daniel February 12, 2014 8:39 AM  

Paperback is 7% of the genre market. Vox doesn't seem to be missing that many readers by not offering paperback.

That's not his model, true. But 7% is potentially a thousand (or more) dollars per month for all his books. Marginally small, but, and possibly not worth the extra effort to him, but isn't an insignificant channel to the author looking to maximize revenue in that way.

To me, it is like translations: sure there may be a lower margin, but if it gets the book into the hands of a reader who would not otherwise have access, I'm glad. Besides, you can buy my paperbacks and get the ebook for free.

Anonymous emdfl February 12, 2014 8:43 AM  

Wild idea just popped into my head. It seems to me that considering all of the "self-publish" options that are out there, it should be possible for an author to have a "code" that could be purchased from an author by a prospective reader. This "code" would permit said reader to go to a specific s/p house and order one copy of a particular book printed and shipped to said purchaser as a trade paperback.

Anonymous Harold Carper February 12, 2014 8:47 AM  

Until now i was assuming the split would be 50/50 : author/translator. That's still a better deal than an author could get from any of the big 5 in english.

Anonymous CrisisEraDynamo February 12, 2014 8:51 AM  

@ emdfl

I definitely vouch for the Kindle and the Nook, neither of which require you to sign up for social media of any kind. The Kindle Paperwhite in particular strikes a good balance between cost and functionality, since it has a touchscreen that makes note-taking way easier than on a non-touchscreen model.

Anonymous Salt February 12, 2014 9:13 AM  

That is they claim that their utility is that they filter out the "junk" for you.

Gatekeepers make me think of Consumer Reports or JD Powers. Minimum information as to product worthiness.

A problem self-publishers have is that second set of eyes. A hobby reader, at least somewhat fluent in grammar, sentence structure, etc, could be invaluable. Such could be paid a stipend by the author. For instance, Castalia House could have an [laughs] HR department made up solely of registered hobby readers who can sift through submitted synopses, hosted for a small fee, of any genre, choose one of a type they might like to read and be in direct contact with the author.

Blogger Joshua Dyal February 12, 2014 9:15 AM  

Dreamworks Interactive recently announced that it will no longer be licensing the publishing rights to its works, but will publish its own ebooks. This means that the very lucrative media tie-in model that is keeping many of the larger genre publishers afloat is about to disappear. That means no more paying sizable advances to award-winning authors of terrible romances in space on the basis of Halo tie-in sales.

I'm not sure I'm following this. It seems like the only losers are the traditional publishers. If Dreamworks becomes a publisher, they still need to have freelance writers, and I don't see any reason why those writers won't be the same ones that are writing licensed fiction today. From the point of view of the consumer, the only thing that's changed is the publishing house mark on the book, which I doubt many readers pay much attention to anyway. From the point of view of the writer, the only change is the bank's name on which the royalty check comes.

The impacted ones are the Del Rey's or Tor's (or whichever houses have a large number of licensed titles released in a year) who see a big chunk of their output cut off. And of course, the Dreamworks (and presumably Disney/LucasArts and everyone else is likely to follow soon) who now have a new business unit to manage.

But the idea seems to be actually quite old. If you walk into a bookstore today (if you can actually find one) and look at the fantasy/science-fiction section, most likely you'll see a very large area dedicated to Dungeons & Dragons or Black Library fiction, which already follows this model--it's tie-in fiction that is published by the producers of the original tie-in product already.

Anonymous Obvious February 12, 2014 9:17 AM  

Interesting that you and Howey can take his post and reach such different conclusions.

Also, Howey jumped into TradPub as soon as he could get a deal.

Blogger Nate February 12, 2014 9:18 AM  

"I'm not sure I'm following this. It seems like the only losers are the traditional publishers."

/facepalm

That's his whole point son. It will kill traditional publishers.

Anonymous Novaseeker February 12, 2014 9:19 AM  

I also use a Kindle Paperwhite -- very light, cheap, long battery life, and ease of highlighting and notes make it a very attractive reader.

Blogger Nate February 12, 2014 9:20 AM  

"Also, Howey jumped into TradPub as soon as he could get a deal."

people make irrational decisions all the time. You can start your own fence building buisness or you can work for Ned's fensing. You may know you'll make twice as much money going it on your own... but its scary. So you go with Ned.

Anonymous Josh February 12, 2014 9:20 AM  

Joshua,

Dreamworks won't be publishing terrible romances in space. And the publishers that currently are will have less money to pay advances on those works.

Think of it this way: the WNBA exists because the NBA subsidizes it. What would happen to the WNBA if the NBA went away?

Blogger Some dude February 12, 2014 9:24 AM  

I think there's something that's being left out of this discussion of self-publishing. Which is that, it also gives the space for incredible creativity.

I imagine a publishing house has to tread a fine line between creativity and profit. Publishing what generally works, vs. exploring new ideas. And that's fine. But it can also be limiting to what is available to the reader.

One of the things I hated about browsing the scifi section in bookstores was how so much of it seemed to be the same thing. Even authors I like, would generally repeat their themes (which is human and natural). But how much of that repetition is the author playing and exploring inside his comfort zone, vs what he can actually get his publisher to agree to print?

One of my favorite authors (William King), has been self publishing a number of the novels he came out with, which range from renaissance fantasy, to the utterly fantastic, to a plain true-to-life detective story in the 18th century mundane no-magic London that at times literally brought me to tears with a how simple and decent it was. I don't think he would have been able to successful get any of those books published with a traditional house. And the world would have been poorer for it.

What's the point of having books and having freedom of expression, if no one actually expresses anything that they really believe or touches them because they are obsessed with gatekeepers?

Anonymous dh February 12, 2014 9:26 AM  

This literally can't be true, because JS told me repeatedly on his blog that it is impossible what I am saying, because good contracts have advances and he would never sign anything else. Plus TV rights.

Blogger Nate February 12, 2014 9:28 AM  

"A problem self-publishers have is that second set of eyes. A hobby reader, at least somewhat fluent in grammar, sentence structure, etc, could be invaluable."

If you're spending a grand total of .99 cents on the book... who cares if it turns out to suck? What have you really lost?

Also... amazon has a review system for a reason. They are all hobby readers.

Anonymous Josh February 12, 2014 9:31 AM  

Amazon owns goodreads, right?

Anonymous Salt February 12, 2014 9:37 AM  

@Nate

That's not the point. It's about raising the quality of the writing prior to ever getting to Amazon. A poorly written (edited) good story versus a better or well written good story.

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 9:38 AM  

Just a question, VD, which ebook reader do you consider to be the easiest from the reader standpoint of visual and operational?

Android tablet with Aldiko.

Also, Howey jumped into TradPub as soon as he could get a deal.

(laughs) He did nothing of the sort. He got the best of all possible deals. He held onto his electronic publishing rights and gave his traditional publisher the print rights only. I had two similar discussions with traditional publishers about a similar deal, but they weren't interested in only getting my print rights, they wanted the electronic rights as well. Which, of course, was of no interest to me.

Blogger Nate February 12, 2014 9:41 AM  

"That's not the point. It's about raising the quality of the writing prior to ever getting to Amazon. A poorly written (edited) good story versus a better or well written good story."

The editor problem is a big one for self publishers. Editors don't work for free. I wonder if one couldn't set up an e-business based on editing for self-publishers...

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 9:46 AM  

I'm not sure I'm following this. It seems like the only losers are the traditional publishers.

You're not. You're correct in that the traditional publishers will be losers. But so will their pet authors, who are repeatedly given book contracts despite inferior sales that don't justify them. This, of course, is why the SFWA and pet authors like Scalzi have been screeching bloody murder about the evils of self-publishing.

Anonymous Salt February 12, 2014 9:46 AM  

@Nate

Now, go reread my first post.

Blogger Harold Carper February 12, 2014 9:47 AM  

From the point of view of the consumer, the only thing that's changed is the publishing house mark on the book, which I doubt many readers pay much attention to anyway.

I look for the imprint for two reasons: 1) Some publishers (Baen and now Castalia) are more likely to publish authors I will like. 2) To sift the discount stacks at the used book store for SFF.

Blogger James Dixon February 12, 2014 9:47 AM  

> Just a question, VD, which ebook reader do you consider to be the easiest from the reader standpoint of visual and operational?

Well, not VD, but for just an ebook reader? Probably the Kindle Paperwhite, followed by the Nook SimpleTouch. From the respective websites, the Paperwhite is $120, the Simpletouch is $60 (I think I saw them at Best Buy recently on sale for $40), so the SimpleTouch wins for the cost conscious. We have both. My wife uses the Kindle and I use the Nook.

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 9:47 AM  

Editors don't work for free. I wonder if one couldn't set up an e-business based on editing for self-publishers...

Jeff from Marcher Lord is now doing that. I need to put up the banner I promised him.

Anonymous Josh February 12, 2014 9:48 AM  

Why not? Provide editing services in exchange for revenue share.

Blogger Harold Carper February 12, 2014 9:54 AM  

Editors don't work for free. I wonder if one couldn't set up an e-business based on editing for self-publishers...

There are a number of free-lance editors doing just that already.

Anonymous Harsh February 12, 2014 9:57 AM  

Interesting that you and Howey can take his post and reach such different conclusions.

Also, Howey jumped into TradPub as soon as he could get a deal.


Still trying to prove that you just don't get it, Obvious? Mission accomplished.

Blogger James Dixon February 12, 2014 10:03 AM  

> Jeff from Marcher Lord is now doing that.

Will they be looking for editors, Vox?

Blogger Nate February 12, 2014 10:08 AM  

"There are a number of free-lance editors doing just that already."

and no one knows who they are.

I'm talking about a business that would hire those people and get the word out.

Blogger Harold Carper February 12, 2014 10:11 AM  

Some people know who they are. I think. Not me, unfortunately. I heard interviews with one or two of them on the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast and maybe another podcast over the last few years. I assumed I wouldn't be able to afford them anyway, so I promptly forgot who they were.

Blogger Harold Carper February 12, 2014 10:14 AM  

First hit on Google: Editorial Freelancers Association. Don't know anything else about them.

Anonymous Salt February 12, 2014 10:18 AM  

Most free-lance editors do it for a living. Last one I talked to charges 60/hr. They're not the one's I'm thinking of.

My thought is towards a more central clearing house of registered hobby readers, chosing among synopses that looks of interest to them and can be in contact with the author. A hobby reader might do it because they enjoy it, and can make a buck or two.

Blogger Quadko February 12, 2014 10:22 AM  

My kindle 3 just bit the dust, and my wife is giving me a paperwhite for my birthday... but I have to wait a few weeks. I'm going through withdrawl. :) I'm also seeing if I can get it fixed, since my self-fix didn't work. Then I'll have two, haha. Not sure two is actually better, though.

I wish the kindle had a book-editing support feature, where readers could highlight mistakes and give notes/recommendations that would be rolled up to the author/publisher. That would help streamline fixing some quality issues, either pre-release or even after the book is in the wild. The existing highlight feature is so close but so far from that.

Anonymous Michael Maier February 12, 2014 10:59 AM  

VD February 12, 2014 8:34 AM Right. I think I've got an idea for a good model to protect both the translator's interests as well as the authors.

How do you translate a book into another language and preserve the author's prose "voice" in any meaningful way?

Is it even possible?

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 11:30 AM  

Is it even possible?

Sure. I've read Eco in Italian and in translation. William Weaver did a very good job of preserving the erudite flavor, complex sentence structure, and underlying humor of Eco's voice. But SF/F seldom offers much of a voice to be lost.

Anonymous FUBAR Nation Ben February 12, 2014 11:39 AM  

Is the experience of an e-book similar to that of holding a physical book in your hands? Or is the extra expense not worth it?

I think it's about the extra expense and the extra clutter.

Anonymous FUBAR Nation Ben February 12, 2014 11:40 AM  

Pink SF: I don't like the Hobbit because it doesn't have any women in it! Waaahhh!

Blogger James Dixon February 12, 2014 11:59 AM  

> Is the experience of an e-book similar to that of holding a physical book in your hands?

No. It's completely different. But on the other hand, I can't carry a hundred or more physical books around with me.

Blogger tweell February 12, 2014 12:00 PM  

IMHO, paperbacks aren't worth bothering with. My book purchases have mostly moved to ebook and/or hardback. If I buy paper, I want durability, and paperback doesn't cut it there.

Anonymous Don February 12, 2014 12:06 PM  

I was very dissapointed when Baen raised prices. Now with CH I no longer have to budget so closely when I'm looking for some books. I know it's not a lot more in dollar terms but did pixels suddenly jump in price?

Anonymous jack February 12, 2014 1:07 PM  

@James Dixon: For my two cents really like the Kindle PaperWhite. I now have three Kindles. My old one without the built in light, my brothers old one without the built in light, and the newer paperwhite. I got the paperwhite to allow me to read in any light and to give my eyes a break. It gives me a longer reading experience before the blurring of vision sets in. And, with my backlog of reading, thats a good thing. Lordy, I still have not read War Bound or Man disrupted. Eco had me prisoner with Pendulum which is now done. I will have to ask Vox what of his to read next.
I know nothing of other readers and certainly want nothing to do with smart phones.
Note that this paperwhite is slightly smaller in dim. and thinner and about half the weight of an old style Kindle. You can get a Fire model but I don't want to stream movies and see no need for the extra expense.
Hope this helps.

Anonymous CLK February 12, 2014 1:16 PM  

"in hardcover for the hard-core fans who enjoy collecting as well as reading; if it's not electronic, it's no longer really relevant."

There's something about holding a text in my hand that I prefer over the e-book. Yes - my tablet has 25+ text books while I could never pick up 25 printed text books, I can search for keywords and I can zoom in so my old eyes can see without my glasses .. but the books I have the fondest memories are always in print and worn out.

Here's a question ... for Kindle (I use the kindle app on android) can I actually down load the books, store them on my tablet and maybe even back up to a thumb drive ?

I knew a cpo that despite the existence of an fancy electronic card catalog kept a large file cabinet with all information in paper form. When criticized by the XO for keep this old cabinet his response was because I can always find the generator parts # with a flashlight. ... I don't know if 10,000 years in the future whether books will survive but I certainly imagine future primitives tossing around CD's and being scared by their reflections.

Anonymous kalel666 February 12, 2014 1:20 PM  

I have a Nook Simple touch I no longer use, though I liked it very much. The advantage of the nook over the kindle, for me was the ability to use a micro sd card with it. I used a 32gb card and could load the unit with more books than I can read in my lifetime. I liked the idea of carrying around any book I wanted, everywhere. Now I use the Nook HD+ for much the same reason. I carry books videos, comics, pdfs, anything. I also like being able to read at night without an external light source. It is a lot heavier, but it has not proven to be a problem for me yet.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 12, 2014 1:22 PM  

Having an interesting discussion with one professional translator right now about that. Our current model has the translator making one-third what the author makes. But is that enough? I can see the possible benefit of making it half, which would amount to a 14-28-28 split between translator, author, and publisher. Especially in the case of smaller markets where the sales are likely to be smaller.

Anyone have any thoughts about this?


After the Lion's Den Escape from Tekmar and the post you had on Umberto Eco's translator a while back, I'm inclined to think a 50-50 split is fair, assuming the translator is putting that level of effort into it. Though from a pure economic standpoint, it might need to be a sliding scale with less common languages getting a bigger cut as jSinSaTx noted (same amount of work, lower potential revenue, smaller pool of qualified people).

Sure, giving a bigger share to the translator means a smaller share to the author, but 50% of something is bigger than 100% of nothing, and a crappy (or non-existent) translation won't sell, even if the story is good.

If the authors don't agree, well, I guess that gets into your own branding. You probably don't want to be known for crappy translations, so you might have to tell the authors that's just the way it is and give them a copy of Escape from Tekmar to make the point.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 12, 2014 1:32 PM  

There are a number of free-lance editors doing just that already."

and no one knows who they are.

I'm talking about a business that would hire those people and get the word out.


Hmmm, good point. A few threads ago someone suggested an alternative to the SFWA would appear, and I wondered what the point would be. Maybe this is it. The new org is for self-published authors and the folks they would work with (artists, editors, marketeers, maybe even an accountant or two who specializes in the field). Call it the Independent Science Fiction Creators Association or something.

My assumption is that what used to be called an "agent" will morph into someone who provides (either themselves or through associates) editing, marketing and epub layout/technical issues support.

Blogger Markku February 12, 2014 1:32 PM  

Here's a question ... for Kindle (I use the kindle app on android) can I actually down load the books, store them on my tablet and maybe even back up to a thumb drive ?

No. Kindle format is prettier, but you're Amazon's bitch now. It's an Apple sort of a deal. If they decide that you no longer deserve to read the book for any reason, or no reason at all, then you're kinda screwed.

However, the .epub format is truly open. That file you really own. You get epubs from Smashwords, but if Vox wants to continue his practice of sending the epub file free of charge if you email him the Amazon purchase receipt, then I have nothing against it.

Blogger Markku February 12, 2014 1:34 PM  

As for me, I have a point of view about which format I prefer, but I hope I didn't let it show.

Anonymous Doug Wardell February 12, 2014 1:35 PM  

In case anyone is interested, I did a quick analysis of Howie's data to see how indie authors compared on average to those published by the big five. Note that the data only covers a day or two of sales so these numbers aren't going to be great for authors who only sell a few copies a week. In order to combat this a little, I'm only looking at authors who sold at least two books during the period under review. If anyone else wants to do something more in-depth, I'd be interested to see what you come up with. Here are the numbers I got:

1 Book:
* Indie: $148.68
* Big 5: $157.84

2 Books:
* Indie: $205.57
* Big 5: $203.76

3 Books:
* Indie: $157.16
* Big 5: $111.49


Based on the above, it looks to me like Indie authors in the top 3000ish of sales who have one or two books are making approximately the same amount as those published by the big five. Indie authors in the same set who have exactly three books in the list are making about 40% more than their traditionally-published counterparts, however.

Note: I don't know why the data is showing that authors with 2 books make more than authors with 3 books, on average. My assumption is that there are more very-high-selling authors with 1-2 books and more mid-listers with 3, but that's only a guess. I haven't dug deeply enough to know for sure.

Blogger James Dixon February 12, 2014 1:57 PM  

> For my two cents really like the Kindle PaperWhite.

That's why I rated the Kindle one and the Nook two. The Paperwhite is definitely better overall, but it's more expensive and does have some limitations, as discussed below.

> Here's a question ... for Kindle (I use the kindle app on android) can I actually down load the books, store them on my tablet and maybe even back up to a thumb drive ?

You do copy them down to the device when you read them. But you can't easily move them off the device, and there's no thumb drive or SD card interface. The SimpleTouch comes with an SD card slot. That and the epub format are the only real two advantages it has. It's display won't rotate, to give just one example of it's limitations. But it's cheap.

For Kindle folks who want to back up their books, I'd recommend using the Kindle for PC app. You can back up the files from it. And there are other reasons to use both it and Calibre, which we won't get into here. :)

Anonymous dh February 12, 2014 2:10 PM  

Markuu--

but if Vox wants to continue his practice of sending the epub file free of charge if you email him the Amazon purchase receipt, then I have nothing against it.

Let me know if you want to investigate a method of automating this process. I did a similar project that used Amazon's RVS web-service to validate that a purchase happened, and then automate distribution of an electronic corresponding file (not for books, but same idea). The file we sent out was customized to the purchaser and I wonder if that could be replicated in epub (not exactly DRM, but you could put the purchasers name down on the title page).

Anonymous RedJack February 12, 2014 2:24 PM  

You're not. You're correct in that the traditional publishers will be losers. But so will their pet authors, who are repeatedly given book contracts despite inferior sales that don't justify them. This, of course, is why the SFWA and pet authors like Scalzi have been screeching bloody murder about the evils of self-publishing.


On Kindle Boards, there is a trad author who likes to post and run articles about how Indie writers will destroy the written word, and and end the practice of reading forever.


I think he likes to write mysteries and took out a full page ad in the paper warning of the dangers of ebooks.

Anonymous RedJack February 12, 2014 2:27 PM  

If you want to back up your Kindle, a free program can be downloaded here.

http://calibre-ebook.com/download_windows

Calibre will also manage Nooks and other ereaders. It does not remove the DRM, but there are plug in and other ways to do that if needed.

You can also go to the Amazon account page, manage my Kindle, and download the file to your PC/Mac. Again, the DRM will be device specific, but if a chemical engineer with little programing knowledge can bypass it, you guys should be able to do it in a tenth of the time.

Blogger Joshua Dyal February 12, 2014 2:45 PM  

/facepalm

That's his whole point son. It will kill traditional publishers.


Facepalm yourself. No, it's not. The whole point is that this scares the Scalzis of the world and their like-minded authors. Why? Why is there an assumption that the Dreamworks Tie-In Book Publishing Department, or whatever they end up calling themselves, will be any different than the publishing market today? Why would it be run differently? Why would it contract different writers? For that matter, why wouldn't it poach "talent" directly from the traditional publishers themselves?

For the point to be true, there has to be an assumption that those things will change, but from where I'm sitting, I don't see any reason for that to be the case. If there is one, please--let the cat out of the bag. I'm genuinely curious.

Blogger Joshua Dyal February 12, 2014 2:51 PM  

Dreamworks won't be publishing terrible romances in space. And the publishers that currently are will have less money to pay advances on those works.

Think of it this way: the WNBA exists because the NBA subsidizes it. What would happen to the WNBA if the NBA went away?


Ah, I see. You're suggesting that tie-in novels today are somehow different from non-tie-in novels in the genre today. Or that tie-in novels tend to be more straightforward and less "messagey."

I suppose that I'll just have to trust you on that one, since my own sample size in recent years isn't big enough from which to draw an intelligent conclusion. My sampling in the past would tend to make me somewhat sceptical of that claim, though.

Anonymous RedJack February 12, 2014 3:05 PM  

J. Dyal,
There is a lot of downward pressure on the Trad publishers. I won't pay $20 for a trad published book. I may pay $11 for an author I know and like from them, and I will try out a new guy for $4 or less very easily.

For the trad publishers, that is a HUGE hit. My $4 or less purchase to the indie author will make that author as much if not more money than my $11 to the trad author.
The big 5 are getting under cut, and they will not be able to change fast enough.

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 3:17 PM  

Why is there an assumption that the Dreamworks Tie-In Book Publishing Department, or whatever they end up calling themselves, will be any different than the publishing market today?

Look at the difference between video games and current SF. There is your answer. Also, they won't pay big advances, and sometimes they won't even pay royalties. They'll just hire people.

Anonymous jack February 12, 2014 3:54 PM  

James D. Heres what I do re Kindle backup. Works well; last a long time.
I get a new title or three onto the kindle, usually from Amazon. I immediately, though with the cloud archive there's really no hurry, connect the Kindle to usb on the laptop. I highlight the material in question within the Kindle folder; by going to documents within the Kindle folder. I highlight the material to transfer then do a send to in the direction of a dvd loaded in the dvd drive on the laptop. I use two of them and back up the same material to two separate disks [just because paranoid]
I then have hard copy backup. If you need to reverse the process [assuming that the Amazon cloud archive gets the hiccups] and reload them onto the Kindle. If you have the PB app for kindle on your computer you can even play the books there. And, if Amazon gets their panties in a bunch, then just turn off the wifi on your computer and enjoy the book, via the computer, anyway. Another option, if you have two kindles as I do, is to load the material there and leave the wifi on that kindle turned off. But, then, Amazon does allow your material to exist on 5 devices at the same time, unless they've messed with their business model. I have yet to lose anything. I, very cleverly, label the two dvd's Kindle Backup 1 and 2. You can load a lot of books onto one dvd. I have yet to have one max out.

Blogger James Dixon February 12, 2014 4:31 PM  

> James D. Heres what I do re Kindle backup.

Yep. That will work fine. Of course, the backups are still drm'ed, but that's another issue. Backing up from the Kindle for PC app is probably easier for most people though, as they're already on the PC.

Anonymous Obvious February 12, 2014 6:50 PM  

(laughs) He did nothing of the sort. He got the best of all possible deals. He held onto his electronic publishing rights and gave his traditional publisher the print rights only. I had two similar discussions with traditional publishers about a similar deal, but they weren't interested in only getting my print rights, they wanted the electronic rights as well. Which, of course, was of no interest to me.

First, so he didn't sign with a TradPub company to get his books out into bookstores as soon as he had that oppurtunity? That's nothing of the sort he did?

Second, so you're saying that TradPub companies can give good deals given the right incentive?

Blogger Marissa February 12, 2014 6:59 PM  

Also, Howey jumped into TradPub as soon as he could get a deal.

This was your statement, Obvious. Which was wrong. Howey passed on seven-figure deals for a six-figure one which allowed him to keep his e-pub rights. He clearly didn't "jump into TradPub as soon as he could get a deal".

First, so he didn't sign with a TradPub company to get his books out into bookstores as soon as he had that oppurtunity? That's nothing of the sort he did?

No, he waited for the oppurtunity [sic] which allowed him to keep his e-pub rights.

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 8:04 PM  

First, so he didn't sign with a TradPub company to get his books out into bookstores as soon as he had that oppurtunity? That's nothing of the sort he did?

No, he did not. He still controls the more important, better-selling elements of his rights. Moreover, the type of deal he signed is a highly unusual one.

Second, so you're saying that TradPub companies can give good deals given the right incentive?

Of course they can. I don't hate all traditional publishing companies. One of the top executives at one of the Big Five publishers has been a friendly acquaintance of mine for 18 years. And Pocket Books always treated me very well indeed.

However, they have a lot of structural problems and especially in the SF/F area, they have been overrun by ideological individuals who have zero interest in classic SF/F.

Anonymous Obvious February 12, 2014 8:05 PM  

Shopping around to get the deal he wanted doesn't negate the fact that he took the opportunity to publish with a traditional publisher. Hugh Howey himself talks about why he wanted to get into TradPup in addition to self publishing and that being a hybrid author has helped him on a number of levels.

As I pointed out earlier, and which neither you, nor the blog owner, nor any of the people who have lambasted me for missing the point have touched, is that Howey draws a MUCH different conclusion from his data than the one presented by the blog owner.

But that's cool. I mean you mocked my typo so that's way more effective, right?

Anonymous Obvious February 12, 2014 8:11 PM  

First, so he didn't sign with a TradPub company to get his books out into bookstores as soon as he had that oppurtunity? That's nothing of the sort he did?

No, he did not. He still controls the more important, better-selling elements of his rights. Moreover, the type of deal he signed is a highly unusual one.

So... you're flat out lying now? I asked "Did Hugh Howey sign with a TradPub company to get his books into bookstores when the opportunity presented itself?" The answer to that question is yes. I didn't ask you if he controls the more important aspect.

Answer the question asked. You certainly tell people to do the same on a regular basis.

Anonymous jayb February 12, 2014 8:15 PM  

Re: Deals for translators.

Surely, unless you are providing an upfront payment, any sale from a translation is a bonus to the author. The difficulty is in assessing the quality of the translation and its effect on the reputation of the author (assuming that people criticise the author rather than the translator). I can imagine some writers being precious about quality control.

On a more ideological note, isn't part of the point (of these translations) that other languages are nurtured by fine storytelling? I'd love to have my work published in Finnish, or Hungarian, or Faroese, or anything really. I would have thought knowing more people are enjoying your stories, in their own language, would be a source of satisfaction for an author. But, maybe that's something reserved for nationalists and hobbyists.

Anonymous jayb February 12, 2014 8:21 PM  

Obvious originally said: "Howey jumped into TradPub as soon as he could get a deal." and "First, so he didn't sign with a TradPub company to get his books out into bookstores as soon as he had that oppurtunity?"

The quoted himself as saying: "Did Hugh Howey sign with a TradPub company to get his books into bookstores when the opportunity presented itself?"

I'll leave the ilk to spot the important words that have obviously been omitted...

Anonymous VD February 12, 2014 8:21 PM  

So... you're flat out lying now? I asked "Did Hugh Howey sign with a TradPub company to get his books into bookstores when the opportunity presented itself?

No, I'm not lying. The answer is no. He did not. When the opportunity presented itself, he rejected it.

Publishers began to take notice. But instead of accepting the first offer that came along, Howey partnered with a literary agent, Kristin Nelson, and embarked on a mission. The pair began having conversations with publishers about the type of contract they were seeking—one that would allow Howey to broaden his reach to bookstores worldwide while still thriving as a digitally self-published author.

Not surprisingly, a lot of publishers weren’t even willing to discuss a print contract that didn’t encompass digital rights—and really, even Howey didn’t expect to land that kind of deal. He saw himself as advocating for an eventual shift that might help other authors in the future. “We figured that … it would take 20 or 30 published authors like myself having these conversations before some author down the road got the kind of deal we envisioned,” he explains.

But then something else amazing and unexpected happened: Holding his ground worked. After walking away from several six-figure advance offers and two seven-figure advances, Howey became the first self-published author ever to be offered a print-only contract-and a significant six-figure advance-by a major publisher.


And, in fact, he actually walked away from a small press contract in the beginning.

At first, Hugh Howey’s decision to walk away from a small press contract and self-publish didn’t seem all that remarkable.

Also, stop being such an asshole, Obvious. It's tedious.

Anonymous Obvious February 12, 2014 8:58 PM  

Yup. I read that article too. Writers Digest. Rejecting shitty offers is part of being a successful author. Walking away from a small press to sign with Simon and Schuster is like walking away from a JuCo to sign with Alabama. It's just good business.

Also, stop being such an asshole, Obvious. It's tedious.
Oh. My bad. Is that your schtick?

You going to talk about the obvious disparities in the conclusions you and Howie came to?

Anonymous emdfl February 12, 2014 9:07 PM  

Thanks for the help there, guys, I'll give the paperwhite a looksee when I get the time.

Anonymous kh123 February 12, 2014 10:47 PM  

Troll Ban, the 2014 edition. I see the first nominee for the list.

Anonymous kh123 February 12, 2014 10:49 PM  

...Scratch that. Is worth watching the inevitable.

Blogger Markku February 13, 2014 5:35 AM  

Let me know if you want to investigate a method of automating this process.

I'll think about it. However, if we formalize the process to such a level, we may run into trouble with the Kindle Select contract and its exclusivity clause. The author sending the epub file with no knowledge - NO KNOWLEDGE I ASSURE YOU - of the publisher is one thing, and an automated form on the publisher's website is another. Will have to take a hard look at the legal language until I even entertain the latter idea.

Blogger Markku February 13, 2014 5:37 AM  

"two seven-figure advances"

Shitty contracts, says Obvious. Obviously small publishers, says Obvious.

Blogger Markku February 13, 2014 7:29 AM  

Howie says, and I quote, "Genre writers are financially better off self-publishing, no matter the potential of their manuscripts." and "Our data suggests that even stellar manuscripts are better off self-published."

Obvious says, and I quote, "Howey draws a MUCH different conclusion from his data than the one presented by the blog owner."

Anonymous Obvious February 13, 2014 8:13 AM  

A seven-figure advance is a shitty deal if it takes away your your primary income of 150k a month.

And, good job, Markku. You can cherry pick statements out of the report. But you and I both know that in the paragraphs AFTER that the Howey talks about the future of the publishing industry and his belief that TradPub will survive as a whole, though some publishers may fall by the wayside. He also acknowledges that self publishing isn't the right choice for everyone.

Blogger Markku February 13, 2014 8:35 AM  

A seven-figure advance is a shitty deal if it takes away your your primary income of 150k a month.

Only because the generic TradPub deal IS shitty, because it doesn't allow you to self-pub your ebooks. Which is the whole point about there being a revolution. He managed to get a unique deal by rejecting even the best of the generic offers. And that was your claim, whether or not he accepted or rejected a TradPub deal when the opportunity presented itself. You can only salvage that argument by claiming that a seven-figure advance implies an offer from a small publisher. True, he accepted a TradPub deal, regarding the clear minority of the sales, namely hard copies. But he didn't accept it when the opportunity presented itself, which was your claim, and of which you accused Vox of lying.

his belief that TradPub will survive as a whole

What he states as a positive (albeit tentative) belief is that LITERATURE will survive (and not only that but improve as a whole):

"If I had to guess what the future holds, I would say that the world of literature has its brightest days still ahead."

However, that TradPub will participate in this is merely a "hope":

"Our ambitious goal is to help change that, but we can’t do it alone. And so we hope others will run their own reports and analyze our data. We hope they will share what they find and that this will foster greater discourse. We also hope publishers and distributors will begin sharing their sales figures."

And that IF TradPub adapts, THEN it will benefit:

"Publishers can foster that change by further lowering the prices of their e-books. The record margins they’re currently earning are certainly seductive, but taking advantage of authors is not a sustainable business model. Hollywood studios had to capitulate to their writers when a new digital stream emerged. Publishers will likewise need to pay authors a fair share of the proceeds for e-book sales. 50% of net for every author is a good start. If they do this, they will stop losing quality manuscripts, back catalogs, and top talent. If publishers nurture their authors and work hard to satisfy their customers, they will see those average ratings go up and sales increase. They will see more people spending time with a book rather than on a video game or on the internet. And then the entire publishing industry, as well as those who love to read and those who hope to write for a living, will benefit."

(Emphasis mine)

So, the conclusions are not different. It's merely that Howie doesn't know if TradPub will adapt, or whether the revolution happens through self-pubbers and new kinds of publishers. He just thinks it will happen one way or the other. Vox merely has the additional belief that TradPub will not, in fact, adapt.

Anonymous Obvious February 13, 2014 9:42 PM  

That's a semantic point. "TradPub WILL BE crushed" and "This is what TradPub needs to do to survive" are two very different things. One is an absolute, the other a course of action that acknowledges the vagaries of the future.

It's nice to have a discussion on this site that's not thinly veiled ad hominem or dick measuring. Thank you.

Blogger Markku February 13, 2014 10:10 PM  

They are different, as in, opinion vs. no opinion on a matter, but any reasonable person would interpret "very different" meaning "opposite".

Anonymous Obvious February 13, 2014 10:16 PM  

And there it is. Nevermind!

Blogger Markku February 13, 2014 10:17 PM  

Also note that the word "crush" is in the context of a metaphor involving a train.

"understand the electronic train coming down the tracks that is already in the process of crushing the traditional publishers."

It doesn't necessarily mean that every TradPub company will go bankrupt, but just that they'll have to go through serious economical turmoil.

Blogger Markku February 13, 2014 10:30 PM  

It would have been different if the phrasing had been something like "Castalia House will crush Simon and Schuster". In that context it would have meant that the profits of the former will be much higher than the latter.

An "electronic train off the rails" is much more vague.

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