Mark Coker from Smashwords has collated the results of a Smashwords author survey, and there’s a whole bunch of fancy graphs and juicy data in there.
I’ll just post the headers for each section, to give you an idea. It’s really great information, and if you want to optimise your strategy for selling books you certainly can’t go wrong with some Cold, Hard Survey Result Facts.
- Ebook Sales Conform to a Power Curve
- Viva Long Form Reading: Longer Books Sell Better
- Shorter Book Titles Appear to Have Slight Sales Advantage
- How Indie Authors are Pricing Their Books: $2.99 (USD) is the Most Common Price Point
- How Price Impacts Unit Sales Volume: Lower Priced Books (usually) Sell More Copies
- The Yield Graph: Is $3.99 the New $2.99?
- A Closer Look at the Yield Graph Reveals Why Indie Ebook Authors Have a Competitive Advantage over Traditionally Published Authors
There really is too much for me to post without spoilering the lot (yes, spoilering is a word now*), but I found this an interesting comment from Mark:
Already, many successful indies, borrowing from the playbook of publishers, are assembling freelance teams of editors, cover designers, formatters and distributors. Tell me again, what can a publisher do for the ebook author that the author already do for themselves faster, cheaper and more profitability?
In general I’m in the camp of ‘assemble a team of freelance professionals to produce a book’. I realise that some authors are capable of being the person who does that assembling, and that other authors are more than capable of doing all those tasks themselves, and I’m also aware that this approach is quite expensive. I think it produces the best books though. Not that I have any evidence of this.
Anyway, read the survey results and Mark analysis. It’s very interesting: http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html
(*send your hate mail to Shakespeare)
I was going to present this without comment, but any of you who know me realise that was a lofty goal indeed.
I … I don’t want to put the boot into Ted Heller for writing his article. But…well…he actually has an agent, and some books that the NYT has actually looked at. Despite the woes detailed in the story I think he’s actually not got it so bad… Ted does acknowledge that towards the end of the article, though:
Now, I happen to know a few people at magazines and newspapers; I’ve had novels published and I have an agent. But what is this experience like for Jane and John Q. Self-Publishing Author way out there in South Podunk, who don’t know anybody at all and who have zero connections? My heart goes out to them. I know why I do it (I enjoy the piss out of writing, I believe I might be good at it, I don’t know how to do anything else, and I was laid off from my last job). I cannot explain how I do it, but I really don’t know how those other people — the 99 Percent of Writerdom — can do this. Where do they find the time and the stomach?
Read it in full here: http://www.salon.com/2013/05/03/the_future_is_no_fun_self_publishing_is_the_worst/
Just an interesting article about Colleen Hoover, who managed to turn her self-publishing into a step to more traditional publishing contracts, including movie deals.
Although publishing, as we’ve said many a time before, is often a game of chance, there might be something in Colleen’s story that helps or inspires you:
Soon after self-publishing, people she didn’t know were downloading the book — even after it was only available for a fee. Readers began posting reviews and buzz built on blogs. Missing her characters, she self-published the sequel, “Point of Retreat,” a month later. By June, both books hit Amazon’s Kindle top 100 best-seller list. By July, both were on The New York Times best-seller list for e-books. Soon after, they were picked up by Atria Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint. By fall, she had sold the movie rights.
All sounds pretty easy, right?
When Hoover finished her third book, “Hopeless,” in December, she initially turned down an offer from Atria and decided to digitally self-publish again. By January, that book too was a New York Times best-seller and she signed that month with Atria to publish the print version, but kept control of the electronic version. The paperback is set to come out in May.
Although we can’t expect to hit the same streak as Colleen, I do find it interesting that here she has agreed to contract out the process of distributing, printing, and managing physical books, while retaining her electronic rights. To me, this seems perfectly reasonable, but I have the impression that the idea that authors would have this much power to negotiate with a publisher would have been utterly alien even a few years ago…
Read it all here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/colleen-hoover-skyrockets-to-success-as-self-published-books-lead-to-publishing-film-deals/2013/04/16/67a842bc-a6bb-11e2-9e1c-bb0fb0c2edd9_story.html
John Winters discusses the other, more common side of self-publishing:
An article in the New York Times claims that 81 percent of us believe we have a book in us. This sounds painful – both anatomically and for the readers of this potential deluge. In fact, extrapolated across the entire U.S., this 81 percent equates to 200 million books. Most of them no doubt about beloved dogs or written by celebrity chefs. I confess I was long among these wannabe authors. My cabinets and drawers are littered with more pages of fiction than the archives of the Nixon Library. However, recently I completed my first novel and subsequently set out after that dream of every writer: publication, followed by royalty checks of the six-figure variety.
I want to quote so much from this article, as John pushes his novel onto Amazon and gets bitten by the promotional bug after selling a few copies, pursues the dream of shooting a book trailer (“The Internet is full of tips on how to market your self-published book, and a trailer is high on the list.”) and generally continues along a path of increasingly expensive self-destruction.
There was one more avenue I’d yet to try in my pursuit of literary fame: give it away. That’s right; many self-published authors simply give the e-book version of their novel away in hopes of building word-of-mouth interest that will in turn result in sales. Roughly 800 people took advantage, and afterward there was even a sale or two.
John writes with a charming and dejected wit, so do yourself a favour and read the full article: http://www.salon.com/2013/04/02/im_a_self_publishing_failure/
Interesting story by Hugh Howey, author of WOOL:
When Kristin Nelson first contacted me about representing WOOL, I warned her that I didn’t think I’d ever sell the rights to a publisher. My series of stories were doing well enough for me to quit my day job, and I didn’t think it would be advantageous to alter course. Other agents had been in touch already, and I’d passed up their offerings of representation by explaining that a deal was unlikely, but Kristin got my attention by saying, “I’m not sure you should sell the rights.” She went on to explain that it might not be in my best interest to change what I was doing, but wouldn’t it be fun to feel publishers out? To see what they were willing to do?
So began our journey together. In all the ways Kristin warned, it was unfruitful. The first round of submissions included bizarre plans to change the title of a work that had already established itself as a brand and the plan to take the book down from Amazon and wait another six months or so to put it up for sale again. Granted, it is a silly title for a book. I will give them that. But we declined six-figure advances that I would have leapt at just a few months prior.
It’s a long but fascinating adventure through his publishing journey, and an interesting look at how the industry is trying to adapt to successful authors who’ve never felt the need for the traditional publishing route.
Original here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hugh-howey/how-wool-got-a-unique-pub_b_2852547.html
True: You need professional quality work if you are self-publishing.
False: You should pay a dodgy vanity publisher to do this for you.
True: Simon & Schuster emailed April L. Hamilton from Publetariat some spam, which included a bribe:
Your blog is an important resource to help authors navigate the variety of self-publishing options. We believe Archway is a unique new service for authors, and would be valued by your readers. The Archway Affiliate Program enables partners to earn a $100 bounty for each author they refer who publishes with Archway.
True: April eventually calmed down and replied:
I have always advised indie authors to avoid vanity publishers, and AuthorHouse is one of the most notorious among them. The reputation of AuthorHouse as an overpriced, under-performing scam agency far precedes its name. I have warned many a writer away from AH in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.
I am very disappointed to see such an august and respected publisher as S&S moving into this new, arguably predatory market area: pairing up a respected publisher with a vanity press to offer desperate would-be authors various, fee-based “services”—any of which the writer could retain him- or herself from freelancers at a fraction of the cost—and/or a publishing contract offering terms that virtually ensure the publisher will turn a profit, but the author will not. Surely the strongly negative reaction to HarperCollins’ Hydra imprint hasn’t escaped your notice?
Seriously, Simon & Schuster is a big publishing firm. This kind of dodgy behaviour sounds more like … Simon & Shyster.
SEE WHAT I DID THERE!
There is more, so do read her considered response here: http://aprillhamilton.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/simon-schuster-is-trying-to-bribe.html
Joe Konrath shares the structure he uses to format his ebooks, with explanations for each part. I’ll just post the headline items here. It’s quite a useful look at how an electronic book differs from a print book. Just because, for example, excerpts are traditional placed at the end of a print book doesn’t mean this is the best way to do it in digital format:
When someone downloads one of my ebooks, this is what they see in the order they see it:
Cover art. That should be at the very beginning, like a paper book.
If it isn’t a compilation, the very first page should be the product description. AKA the back jacket copy.
Title page. Include author name.
Hyperlinked table of contents.
Dedication, if any.
The book, with hyperlinked chapters.
Acknowledgements, if any.
About the author or bio.
I particularly liked how he puts the back copy at the front of the text – in the good ol’ dead-tree book days, the back is easily accessible. But if you want to give someone opening your eBook a quick reminder of what the book is about, it really needs to be visible as early as possible.
Check it out here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/02/ebook-parts.html
In a way Joe Konrath feels like the Richard Dawkins of self-publishing: unapologetic and divisive. But I’m not interested in people’s reaction to him today, I’m merely reposting a link to his detailed financial breakdown of sales. Obviously this isn’t a guide to how to make a lot of money – Konrath doesn’t operate in the space of up-and-coming writers, and his sales don’t reflect how well your own ebooks are going to sell.
What is interesting here is two-fold: the significant disparity between his income from Amazon and all other platforms combined AND Konrath’s own ambivalence about Amazon’s demands for exclusivity. It seems that despite the much larger income he’s receiving from Amazon titles, even Joe Konrath is starting to consider the slow rise of alternative platforms (I note Kobo gets a mention).
Now this might simply be how I’m reading it, and it might be my own bias against Amazon coming through, so do check it out yourself. I did find it noteworthy though:
Amazon still demands KDP Select [Kindle Direct Publishing - ed.] be exclusive, and recently offered a 70% royalty in India for KDP Select titles. They seem to like the exclusivity of it, even though their customers get fewer titles, and Amazon scares away many authors from the Select program.
Kobo is on the rise. Nook seems to be holding steady. The same with Apple.
So what is an author to do? Pull all titles and go all-in with Amazon, to hopefully make more money? Or self-publish on multiple platforms, encouraging competition, and perhaps earning less?
I want to hear from writers on this issue. Do you go with Amazon Select or not, and why?
I’m going to remain on multiple platforms for the time being. But come the holidays, I’m not sure what I’ll do. A lot of my KOLL [Kindle Owners' Lending Library - ed.] earnings, and KDP earnings, were the result of the Select freebie program and resulting bounceback to the paid bestseller lists. But all signs point to the bounceback being not as effective as it once was. I want to hear from writers on this issue as well.
Read the breakdown here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/konraths-sales.html
I love literary experiments, and this is a great one by Jason Arnopp. So great, that I’m posting another post on Friday, when I should be relaxing instead of thinking about the publishing industry:
A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home, on the other hand, is a whole other kind of experiment. As you might expect from the title, it’s a ghost story: one which takes place in YOUR home. Yes, the place where you, the reader, lives. This 10,000-word story takes the form of a creepy letter which arrives at your property, telling you things you really don’t want to hear.
This story is available in two ways:
1) A Kindle ebook on global Amazon sites for 96p (approx $1.49/€1.23). [...]
2) A physical, typed, paper letter which will be snail-mailed to your home address. Twenty-three sheets of paper in a card-backed A4 envelope. This, clearly, is the most authentic way to receive and experience A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home. It’ll look like this [check out the image here], except with your name and address at the top…
Why your name and address? Because the text will be personalised in several ways.
- It will include your first name, eight times throughout.
- Your exact property type will be incorporated (ie flat/apartment or house)
- Your address, road name and town/city will feature
- There’ll be one or two other surprises in the text, concerning your local area
The letter will arrive with no cover artwork, story title, author credit or advertising blurb: just the URL of the official webpage (ScaryLetter.com
) at the end, in case the letter is ever ordered for someone maliciously!
I love this sort of stuff, and Jason has put a lot of effort in to help customise the story a little bit. I’m half inclined to get a copy, just to see how more effective a personalised horror story will be.
I hope he makes a huge amount of money with this project.*
Read more about it here: http://jasonarnopp.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/a-sincere-warning-about-entity-in-your.html
And find the home page here: http://www.shorthorrorstory.com/
*’huge’ in the context of the writing industry, ie. a couple of lunches or a new XBox game, at least.
Ian Sales fills us in on his experience with self-publishing:
Adrift on the Sea of Rains has been in print for just over six months and has so far sold around two hundred copies in all three formats. I didn’t set up Whippleshield Books and self-publish because I thought it was a sure-fire route to riches and success. I’d much sooner someone else had published the book. But I did it myself because a) I wanted it done quickly, and b) I didn’t want to compromise on my vision. Happily, I got the book out on time, and no one has had a problem with the way I structured the novella.
Ian breaks down some of the things he has learnt on his journey into these headings:
- Most forums have indiscriminate zero tolerance spam policies
- It’s not a level playing field, and Amazon has its thumb on the scales
- Never mind the quality, feel the weight
- Reviews are better for the ego than the bank balance
- Once tarred, that’s you forever that is
Click through to find out what this might mean for your own self-publishing journey: http://iansales.com/2012/10/22/more-self-publishing-home-truths/