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Old 26th August 2011, 07:05 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

Hi Guys,

As an epublished (yes one of those rubbish writers who couldn't get trad published) author, I'd have to say you can make a living at writing.

Having looked at the long tail argument in the article, I' say he's got it wrong. The tail grows longer for certain and many, many more books are selling only a few books a year, but thats only because there are many, many more books being published. It doesn't mean that the better authors aren't making money, it means that many, many more authors are out there, publishing things they could never have got published before, and making a tiny profit.

In reality, the midlisters, reasonable authors with good books and no agent simply have to follow a different model to make money. Traditionally they would have to find an agent, a publisher, and get a run down of so many tens of thousands, get promoted and then start working on their next book and hope that their first work sold well enough. Now ebook authors don't have to have a huge first work. They just have to have a work out there.

So lets break the economics of writing down, I'll speak about kindle writing rather then anything else since its the only one I know about.

You write your first book (in my case it was Thief which failed miserably in terms of sales - selling around one copy a month), and like me it goes nowhere. Oddly enough, under the traditional publishing system that would be the end of your writing career. Under epublishing its simply leaving you at almost the same place you were before, except that you have experience under your belt to make your next book better.

So a year later, April 25th I epublished Maverick. This time I worked harder on the editing, created a better blurb and a more eye catching cover, and I went through a number of fora like SFF and Creative Writers, not to sell my book, but to find and fix the holes. Maverick took off in sales so that now, four months later, I've sold a thousand copies (yeehah!!!). Now that's big for me, but still too small for a trad publisher to care about.

So lets look at the economics, I sell my books at 2.99 to get the 70% royalty, wich means Maverick has averaged $500 per month for me so far. I can't exactly live on this, but if I had gone the trad route, and I did try, my income would still be precisely nothing.

Next for me, when I realised that one book promotes another, was to get out more books. So I published Of Dark Elves and Dragons, and Dragon over the following months. (It helps to have fifteen years worth of writing and nearly finished books on my computer). Now each of those books has taken off as well (by my standards), and though they don't sell as well as Maverick, they still sell in the hundreds of copies per month. The reason being that Maverick is my market leader product, and people who buy it and like it will check out my other books, and even those who don't buy it may still take a look.

So currently I have three books selling in their hundreds per month, something I'm extremely proud of by the way. My sales last month were around eight hundred which is awesome, and even Thief which was languishing in the poles at one sale every month or so now sells thirty copies a month. This is still not a massive income, but it points the way to how even a modest writer like me can make significant money.

Here's the catch with epublishing that trad publishing simply can't match. You write your book, and its out there, and its technically out there forever, bringing in sales and money for decades to come. In trad publishing you write your book, and it sells at low volumes like mine, and your career dies. Its over. Now I expect my sales to fluctuate a bit, I'm down about 13% this month compared to last, but surviving, but my career hasn't ended. And the key to making more sales and more money, is to write more. So if I have three books out there currently selling eight hundred a month, and bringing in maybe $1500, and I know that an acceptable income would be around $6000 per month then my task becomes clear, I need four times as many books out there. (Guess what I've been doing lately!)

So to return to the topic at hand, yes e-authors can survive and make even a good income, provided they write books that people like to read, without having to get an agent etc. The key is volume, and having a good list of saleable works, and building a fan base of readers. You can make a good living writing ebooks without ever needing to have a best seller or selling a run of twenty thousand books at once.

That's what epublishing offers the writer as opposed to trad publishing, and its why the article is wrong. After all if I can do this I'm sure most people can. Epublishing isn't the end of the book or the professional writer, its the beginning of careers for the low volume selling midlisters who could never have made a start before.

Cheers.
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Old 26th August 2011, 08:08 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

Well I had a look at SFF in Waterstones today (Plymouth) and there were only big, best selling authors on display, certainly no fringe type SFF at all, except there was a large horror/vampire section attached to the SFF section. It was like MacDonalds: that's the menu, that's what you get, that's it. You have to go to second-hand bookshops to find anything but million selling authors.

Oh, and Harry Potter was shelved in the SFF section.

Now, the question is: Is this herd response to advertising? Or is it denying readers access to anything but mainstream? I mean, people were buying books there, paying at the till ...

EDIT: I'm referring specifically to SFF. I didn't really look at the other genres

Last edited by RJM Corbet; 26th August 2011 at 08:21 PM.
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Old 28th August 2011, 09:02 AM   #33 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

To be a successful retailer, they have to stock what'll sell and the fact of the matter is there are authors and certain topics (vampires still) that just keep on selling. Around those books will usually be placed other items that they think may sell, and these will be regularly changed. A lot of sales are driven from new release charts and promotional ends rather than the ranged displays. Waterstones and the like are trying to do what they can to survive, which is offering what people buy and leaving little bites around to see what else people might like.
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Old 28th August 2011, 10:18 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

I write because it's a fight I'm pretty good at. It's also the reason I play table tennis. But I don't write fiction or play table tennis for money, which is not to suggest that I wouldn't be grateful for it. It's just not my primary (or secondary) motivation or expectation.

Yes, I live in a capitalist society, but I've managed to weasel out an existence that defies many of its principles. Yes, I do have to earn money to survive (I can't think of any society on Earth that doesn't expect something to trade with), but I've tailored my life on living simply - you know, the saying, 'Live simply so others may simply live'. It's cliched and idealistic, but I've managed to make it a reality. Of course, no reality is perfect and that's why I'm happy to accept 'dirty capitalistic' money for the things I am compelled to do.

Just to clarify, the reason I say that I enjoy the good fight is because I know that the creative life is struggle. I've lived long enough to accept this struggle knowing that it will pass and in its place will come peace. It always does.

I waste my capitalist potential on writing songs that I'm happy to perform for 50 bucks, dinner and a few drinks. On so many levels, it suits me just fine. Admittedly, the only time I have difficulty being satisfied by this is when others tell me I should/could be doing so much better.

Better than what?

I'll mope around most of the day and find a moment's inspiration and work on a new song. I'll spend what time is required to get it right. Then, I'll find a venue to test it out. Sure, the owner of the club will pay me something, but the best reward by far is when strangers from the audience come up to me and say how much they liked my stuff. There is some ego stuff happening there, but I'm wise enough now to know that that is the real reason I put so much 'unpaid' effort into my creative process. It's like breathing - I just can't help myself and it hurts too much if I refuse the call.

As an artist I'm quite content. Sure, I'd love to move/touch as many people with my artistry as possible, but moving one person or a thousand doesn't change the fundamental joy of complete completion, i.e. seeing something from absolute nothing turn to a powerful tool. The only time I feel discontent is when I listen to the capitalist doctrine of my friends and family (and the odd stranger). My belief is that they just don't get it.

I can accept that I'm probably the fool and that believing in money will surely make me happy. I've had plenty of cash before, but with so little now I'm so much happier.

Are books dead? I don't think so. Vinyl records were mentioned earlier as an example of decline in a certain medium, but they are starting to sell quite well again. I suspect some will be buying vinyl for their audio qualities, but many will be buying them for another reason - the beauty of the product. I think books will be like that. There will be time when there is a shift towards e-books, but we are animals with hungry senses and, I believe, we'll long for the sensuality of paper and books. And, besides, a book is self-contained, requiring no batteries or software updates.

I'll put my hat back on ...

Last edited by Oskari; 28th August 2011 at 10:22 AM. Reason: Just trying to pre-empt The Devil's Advocate's red pen!
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Old 28th August 2011, 10:34 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

I want to make enough money from my books to support my reading and writing habit.

If publishers are willing to take a risk on one of my novels, do all the work of making it into a book, get their sales and publicity departments out there promoting the book, leaving me to keep on writing (while keeping a roof over my head), then they are welcome to make money off of the deal, too. Really, it's the small independent publishers that expect the writer to do the most to market their own books. If your books are successful, more than anything else the big publishers want you to keep on writing more. I've always thought this was an equitable arrangement, and I still do.

Right now, with my health problems, my former publishers aren't willing to take the risk that I won't meet my deadlines, and that's an entirely reasonable attitude on their part. I have the same concern.

So now it's up to me to make it all happen, at my own pace. I'm glad, at least, that there are a lot of options for doing so that weren't available before.
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Old 28th August 2011, 11:10 AM   #36 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

In these uncertain times, I put a lot of stock in the basic decency of the average reader. They are thoughtful beings almost by defintion, capable of seeing the bonuses, both practical and moral, in supporting their favourite writer to actually write.
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Old 28th August 2011, 11:22 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RJM Corbet View Post
Well I had a look at SFF in Waterstones today (Plymouth) and there were only big, best selling authors on display, certainly no fringe type SFF at all, except there was a large horror/vampire section attached to the SFF section. It was like MacDonalds: that's the menu, that's what you get, that's it. You have to go to second-hand bookshops to find anything but million selling authors.
Big chains like Waterstones have centralised buying - individual shops have little or no say over what they stock. This is why independent bookshops are actually thriving whilst the chains are slowly going bust - the independents can stock the stuff they know their customers will buy, rather than having to stock the one-size-fits-all lowest-common-denominator titles.

And with SFF in particular, readers are likely to be more internet-savvy than most. It's a vicious circle - you can't find the book you want in your local Waterstones, so you buy it on Amazon. Waterstones find that only the big names sell (probably gifts bought by relatives), so they stop stocking midlisters.

The larger Waterstones will hopefully stock my book when it comes out (I've seen other Angry Robot titles in there), but I expect most sales (ebook and paper) will be online.
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Old 28th August 2011, 11:50 AM   #38 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

I think a few people - myself included - have missed what I meant by saying that people publish to gain money.

The point was exactly that. Writers may write for many many reasons (And it's a fool who writes purely because they want to get rich), but they publish for one reason only: to monetise their work. Whether to monetise this novel, or to open up avenues to making money from their next one, putting the time, effort and risk into publishing is done in the hope that they will get a financial reward, at some point in time, as a result.

I really don't understand the revulsion some people have over that. You've poured months and months of work into a novel, and potentially years of thinking, planning, research into it. You deserve the chance to make money from your work, even if it isn't much.

Why do some people think that is so wrong?
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Old 28th August 2011, 12:08 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

It's not wrong. As individuals we all have different needs. Of course there's a part of me that would like to be 'famous' and regarded as someone with something worthwhile to add to the ticker-tape of human endeavour, but, as an individual, my needs are few. I'm not suggesting that I don't have some pressing needs, like car maintenance or paying the ISP bill, but I'm fortunate to live in a house that is paid for and my diet of mainly fresh produce is not very expensive. As I alluded in my earlier post, for me the true riches of my creativity is the intimacy it brings me with my audience of one or more people, especially certain individuals, i.e. those I cherish dearly.
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Old 28th August 2011, 12:10 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

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Originally Posted by Anne Lyle View Post
The larger Waterstones will hopefully stock my book when it comes out (I've seen other Angry Robot titles in there), but I expect most sales (ebook and paper) will be online.
Sign as many copies as you can. Apparently, that helps
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Old 28th August 2011, 12:19 PM   #41 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

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Sign as many copies as you can. Apparently, that helps
Signed copies can't be returned to the supplier.

Anne - the Waterstones centralised buying policy may subtly change in months to come, apparently. Because of the new owner.
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Old 28th August 2011, 02:10 PM   #42 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

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Signed copies can't be returned to the supplier.
Indeed. Sometimes a shop will let you sign copies if you ask nicely, but it's inadvisable to just sneak in there and do it!

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Anne - the Waterstones centralised buying policy may subtly change in months to come, apparently. Because of the new owner.
One can only hope. My OH is a non-fiction sales rep, so I'm generally kept up-to-date on the gossip
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Old 28th August 2011, 02:21 PM   #43 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

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I really don't understand the revulsion some people have over that. You've poured months and months of work into a novel, and potentially years of thinking, planning, research into it. You deserve the chance to make money from your work, even if it isn't much.

Why do some people think that is so wrong?
I think it was the way it was put:

Quote:
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I'm sorry to shoot you down here, but people don't publish for the bragging rights. They do it because it is a business.
Most writers write for the love of it and hope to make money by publishing their work. The emphasis being on hope, because there are no guarantees in any creative endeavour, and lovely as it would be to be able to earn a living through writing, it's not something you have a huge amount of control over.

If you get a commercial publishing deal, you will make a modest amount of money - but it's not enough to live on unless you have a book that publishers think will earn them a shedload of cash. The amount of money that most published authors make (trade or self-pubbed) is not one that any standard commercial business would consider adequate. Hence for most writers, publishing is a side-business at best, and hardly their primary motivation.

ETA - And whilst bragging rights may not pay the bills, who wouldn't want to see their book on the shelves alongside the greats they grew up with? Or have fans tell them how great their book is and that they stayed up all night reading it? We write to connect with readers, and the money is just reasonable compensation for all the hard work.
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Old 28th August 2011, 02:23 PM   #44 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

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Thank you for making my point about the current shortsightedness of the industry, the agent will only take on what will sell, although the authors first novel may not sell many copies, as the vast majority don't, but it might be a series of novels, and, let's just say in 5 years time, he could be selling a lot of copies. The agent will still drop the author, and wave good bye to that future profit. This is exactly what I meant.
Err... that is not quite true, some agents see their clients as long term investments and push them to produce work of a quality that said client never dreamed they could write.(This is not hearsay, but personal experience.)
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Old 28th August 2011, 02:32 PM   #45 (permalink)
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Re: Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?

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Err... that is not quite true, some agents see their clients as long term investments and push them to produce work of a quality that said client never dreamed they could write.(This is not hearsay, but personal experience.)
It used to be that publishers would take chances on uncommercial writers because they could fund those books with the bestsellers, but megacorps and the bottom line have made that model increasingly untenable.

Nowadays it's the agent who is in a position to do the same. A good agent has a mix of clients, some of whom need nurturing but will hopefully be worth it in the long run, others (like me) just need him to negotiate an existing contract.
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