If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

June Interviews

6/3 Gretchen Archer, Double Trouble
6/10 Kaye George, Deadly Sweet Tooth
6/17 Annette Dashofy, Til Death
6/24 Adam Meyer

Saturday Guest Bloggers

6/6 Mary Keliikoa
6/13 William Ade
6/20 Liz Milliron

WWK Bloggers:

6/27 Kait Carson
6/30 WWK Writers--What We're Reading Now


Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel, and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination! All are winners but without Agatha Teapots. Onto 20121!

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Kaye George's second novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Deadly Sweet Tooth, was released on June 2. Look for the interview here on June 10.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Publishing – The Plot Thickens

In mid-April I hypothesized how e-books would change publishing. In two short months, three notable events have crossed my radar (and I wasn’t really paying attention.) First, Barry Eisler went from eschewing a traditional publishing contract and planning to go the self-publishing route to signing a “non-traditional” contract. Second, John Locke became the first totally self-published author to sell a million downloads on Amazon. Third, agent Kristin Lindstrom gave up agenting and created Flying Pig Media, LLC, a firm to help self-published authors while Dystel & Goderich Literary Management just announced that for a 15% commission they will manage the e-publication process for their clients.

On another blog I discussed a human phenomenon whereby we slant our view of the world to fit our pocketbook. Self-interest, especially what puts bread on our table, affects our arguments and what we can hear from other people’s perspectives.

In changing times it is especially important to try to recognize our own biases while making sure to understand the biases of those trying to influence our thinking.

Publishers who built a business model around paper and bookstores and overstocking and returns maintain that e-books (especially as priced by Amazon) cannot stand on their own; hard and soft cover books subsidize them.

To e-book proponents, technology removes the waste from a Pleistocene technology and does it in an ecologically friendly manner since there is no paper involved. {Note that to loggers, wood (and therefore paper) is a renewable resource.}

Authors with agents and traditional publishing contracts point to the distribution network that comes along with a contract, not to mention cover design, professional editing, etc. etc. Those who recently fled traditional publishing point to their ability to control cover design, pricing, etc. The main features of Barry Eisler’s new publishing contract that differ from his old have to do with such control. For more information read Barry’s conversation with Joe Konrath.

The best way to gain insight into new technologies is by understanding parallel changes. Buggy whips did not become extinct as we moved from horse-drawn carriage to horseless-carriage. They became a specialty item. Perhaps that is the way the printed book will be a century from now. But, as Barry’s deal indicates, if the money is right many authors are going to continue to make a good living from printed materials and printed materials will still be plentiful.

We are decades into the digital camera revolution. People still print pictures, but people share more pictures by far electronically. Print photography still exists, but Kodak is no longer practically giving away cameras in order to sell film. Did Kodak predict the demise of traditional photography? Not in time to get ahead of the change.

Polaroid roiled the photograph world with instant pictures. Their quality was not close to Kodak’s print film standards, but you could see the result immediately. Kodak eventually came up with a copycat product (and promptly lost a patent suit). They had too much invested in film production and developing to recognize most people preferred convenience to quality. Polaroid, who invented the concept of instant results, missed this same truth. If you understood convenience and immediate sharing were consumer goals, you could do well abandoning print media and concentrating on manufacturing image capturing devices (cameras, video camera, cell phones) or providing sharing platforms (e.g. Flickr or even Facebook).

Enter Kristin Lindstrom and the folks at Dystel & Goderich into our discussion. They are taking separate approaches to the e-publishing business. Dystel & Goderich have a stable of well-known authors generating significant income for them under the traditional model. They also have clients, such as Joe Konrath, who are eschewing traditional publishing for some of their writing. Based on their announcement, their approach is to maintain a commission model for e-publishing. They will work with authors they considered publishable but who either could not get an acceptable traditional publishing contract or eschewed one.

Flying Pig Media, LLC
Kristin Lindstrom was a newer agent. WWK will publish our interview with her on July 9th in which we will learn more about her decision. Until then, I’ll assume {recognizing the potential of making at ass at least out of me) that she switched from being a literary agent who received commission compensation to a fee-for-service consultancy model because she believes she can make more money. She has listed her proposed services, including concept development, proposal writing, manuscript evaluation, craft/content editing, management of eBook/POD production, marketing and promotion, management of web content and design, ISBN numbers, barcodes, and copyright registration.

Same problem; two models of adaption. By using a commission basis, Dystel & Goderich are backing up their author/book choices with their future income. With an e-book flop they get very little back. Joe Konrath has indicated that paying 15% of his income for someone to manage the e-publishing process is well worth for him because he hates the business side of things. His analysis is that he will make more than enough extra money by spending that time writing to more than pay for the expense of hiring people to take on the production tasks.

It is unclear to me which, if any, of the publication expenses (for example, cover design) are included in Dystel & Goderich 15% commission, but I’m sure by reading Joe’s future blogs we’ll get the full scoop.

Kristin Lindstrom’s model allows folks who believe in their manuscript, but have been unable to get a publishing contract or sign with an agency such as Dystel & Goderich.

I have my own blinders when it comes to the publishing game. I’m an author who seeks compensation for time spent producing a product. I have a contract with a traditional publisher for a specialty nonfiction book. (One Trick at a Time: How to Start Winning at Bridge with a projected release date of Spring 2012 by Master Point Press.)

My novels have not yet found a traditional home. Is that because they aren’t quite good enough, or that I am just unlucky? Should I self-publish? If only considering one book, the answer is perhaps yes, since I need invest little extra time to gain some compensation. However, I would have to pay for a professional edit or go without. I would need to pay for a book cover design. I can’t look at one individual book and make a decision; I need to also consider how self-publishing one book might affect future projects.

To whom should I listen (if not myself)? Traditional publishers would have me believe self-publishing is full of junk; not having any book published is better than self-publishing. Yada, yada, yada. Perhaps they are correct, but their "advice" is clearly designed to bolster the current publishing model.

Let’s turn now to John Locke’s story. His background was in marketing and, near as I can tell from stuff I have read on the internet, he approached being an author primarily from a business perspective. Find a niche; fill the niche. He writes what in earlier days might have been called pulp fiction, and currently only for e-readers. He originally priced his books at $2.99 to get Amazon’s 75% royalty rate, but discovered that at $.99 so many more readers downloaded his books that he made more money. That decision led to his becoming Amazon’s first million-download author without any books in print.

Even in this success story we again find publisher interests (this time Amazon e-books) bumping against the author’s. Amazon makes its money on volume and delivery. Electronic delivery is inexpensive and their volume numbers are unaffected by quality—as long as people keep reading. Statistics show that people with e-readers increase the amount they read because of the ease in getting product. The Kindle is the new Kodak Instamatic. It isn’t free, but the real profit to Amazon comes when people buy electronic books. Amazon provides a 70% royalty on books priced $2.99 - $9.99 only 35% on less expensive books, including all those Locke sells at $.99. Amazon stated in its press release that its cost of delivery was $.15/MB, which translates to about $.06 for a typical book.

Right now Amazon is the gorilla of e-books, but that will not last forever. Given current royalties, Amazon makes only about 1/3rd more on a $2.99 book than it does on one selling for $.99. If the volume of $.99 purchases is much greater than for $2.99 purchases because of impulse buying (as Locke would suggest), then Amazon is currently making more money on the lower priced inventory—and at authors’ expense. At some point another e-publisher will offer authors better royalties on books priced under $2.99 and the pressure will be on Amazon to justify its pricing differential.

That may be the reason J.K. Rowling has set up her interactive online store to sell Harry Potter e-books. Is there any reason other authorial superstars can’t do the same? Why not James Patterson or Nora Roberts? Well, since readers and writers of WWK aren’t in that category, we’ll leave that ionosphere for now and return to earth.

Getting paid for producing work is where the comparison of writing with photography might break down. Producers of most digital pictures and video are amateurs who are willing, anxious even, to share their product for free. Perhaps that will also be true of those who provide electronic books and stories. Perhaps the time will come when what we read will no longer be determined by which books agents choose to represent and publishers choose to produce. Perhaps we’ll learn of authors primarily through social media buzz, similar to finding a YouTube video: put in some keywords and see what everyone else likes.

Will this same model work when the literature isn’t free? Would people watch YouTube videos if there were a nominal charge attached to each one? I’m skeptical, yet it seems to me many authors are trying to break into the business using social media. We can’t look to the Barry Eislers and Joe Konraths and JK Rowlings to understand what will work for us. Not that we can’t learn from them, but John Locke may provide a better clue to the future. His approach is much closer to what nonfiction authors currently do: they develop a targeted platform.

This is the only thing I really know: not only has the dust not settled, much of it hasn’t even been stirred. Stay tuned next week for my interview with Kristin Lindstrom.

~ Jim


E. B. Davis said...

As an unpublished author, these changes in the industry are confusing. The industry is fragmented in that the traditional organizations, such as MWA, won't recognize self-published authors or include their novels for consideration for awards. The possible financial gains of self publishing are seductive, and yet, I know my weakness will be marketing and promotion, so having a bigger press behind me will be to my advantage. I also know that for a new author without a track record, there will be few dollars spent by publishers to market my book. It's all very baffling.

Warren Bull said...

As a published author by small presses the confusion pours down on my position too. I have a short YA novel of publishable quality finished. It has award-winning material in it. I am not sure whether it would be better in terms of a career to continue to shop it to agents, try another small publisher or self-publish as an e-book. If I publish it myself I don't thank that will hurt my reputation but I don't think it would help either. And who would buy it?

Pauline Alldred said...

We live in interesting times as the saying goes. If a person isn't already a well-known author, being published the traditional way doesn't guarantee sales or success. I know authors who've published 5 to 10 books and then got stuck in the mid-list. They've been dropped by their agents and publishers. They struggle with alternative choices.

Marketing is the key. We could learn from the Palins. Mother and daughter are great at advertising. The woman on trial for murdering her child could write a best seller. A recovering addict can sell books. A terrorist could print his memoirs. Murder, addiction, and terrorism can't be easy. Oh well, back to platforms, blogs, cards, speeches.