Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


E-Book Self Publishing Rains Money for Some

In the last several months a few authors have self-published into monetary success (and fame)…You all have probably read something about them…You know, Amanda Hocking, Barry Eisler, J. A. Konrath and such.

Laura Hazard Owen, writing for, delves into the first of a developing A-List of  successful E-Book Self Publishing authors…with a little background and earnings info thrown in:

Meet The A-List Authors Of E-Book Self Publishing

Authors who self-published their books have traditionally done it out of desperation—it was the result of being ignored or rejected by publishing houses. And without the marketing muscle of a publishing house, most of those self-published books were doomed commercially.

But the world of self-publishing is changing fast in the digital era. A growing number of authors are making a nice living selling their own e-books, often at $0.99 a pop. Below is a list of four that are at the top of that heap. One of them earned between $1.5 million and $2 million last year from sales of her ebooks; another walked away from a $500,000 advance after calculating he could do better on his own; a third bypassed traditional publishers to sign an exclusive deal with Amazon; (NSDQ: AMZN) and the fourth sold over 360,000 ebooks in March alone.

In 2009 (the latest figures available), nearly 765,000 titles were self-published in the U.S., an increase of 181 percent over the previous year. The self-publishing business is heating up in other ways too. Just last week, Smashwords, which publishes and distributes about 45,000 ebooks, signed a deal with ScrollMotion to create mobile apps for all its 18,000 author clients. To be sure, the vast majority of self-published books never come close to a bestseller list and their authors aren’t exactly raking it in. But as the self-publishing business matures, more authors are carving out audiences—in some cases, in sizable numbers. Some of them now even have agents handling their foreign and movie rights, and big publishers knocking on their doors.

Amanda Hocking

Backstory: The 26-year-old from Austin, Minn., writes in a genre known as paranormal romance (romance with elements of fantasy and horror)—think Twilight. She has self-published a total of nine books in three series, with the tenth, Virtue, to be released on Memorial Day. Her Trylle Trilogy made the USA Today bestseller list and was optioned by Media Rights Capital, with District 9 screenwriter Terri Tachell adapting.

Agent: Stephen Axelrod, The Axelrod Agency

Revenues: Hocking says she sold over 1 million copies of her books on Amazon between March 2010 and March 2011, making somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million.

Trying Out Traditional Publishing: On the strength of her success at self-publishing, Hocking sold her four-book series Watersong to St. Martin’s Press in March for an estimated $2 million-plus at auction. St. Martin’s beat HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster—and Amazon, in what is believed to be the first time the company went up against major book publishers in an new-book auction. Amazon had partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to handle the print side and to ensure that Barnes & Noble would carry the books, but insisted on the exclusive rights to publish the e-book; though Amazon’s bid was actually the highest offered, Hocking and Axelrod rejected it because they believed its terms would lead to lost e-book sales.

Since the auction, Hocking has gotten even deeper into the traditional publishing world: Last week, she announced that St. Martin’s will republish her Trylle Trilogy in both digital and print formats next year. On her blog, she suggested that fans buy the Trylle e-books at their current $0.99-$2.99 prices, noting that St. Martin’s will likely raise the price when its version of the book comes out and replaces the self-published editions.

Barry Eisler

Backstory: Eisler’s bestselling John Rain thriller series was originally published by Penguin Putnam and Ballantine. But in March, the 48-year-old author and former CIA agent and technology lawyer, shocked the publishing world by announcing he’d turned down a $500,000, two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press to self-publish the next Rain novels. Eisler splits his time between San Francisco and Japan.

Agent: None

Why the self-publishing math works better: Eisler did the math and concluded that he could do better self publishing than going with St. Martin’s. With traditional publishing contracts, a 25-percent royalty on e-book net revenue is standard. In the case of a book sold on the Kindle Store, Amazon would take 30 percent of that royalty and the agent would take another 15 percent. That leaves the author with just 14.9 percent of ebook revenues. And authors have to earn out their advances—in Eisler’s case, that would have been $500,000—before they even see a royalty payment.

By contrast, when Eisler self publishes, he earns 70 percent of each Amazon sale—forever. And though he doesn’t get an advance, he starts earning sooner. If Eisler had gone with St. Martin’s, his book wouldn’t have been available until next spring. By self-publishing, he says, he can make it available earlier and gain an extra year of sales.

Revenues: Eisler has started his self-publishing career by publishing short stories on the Kindle Store. He says that between Amazon, the Nook Store and Smashwords, which both publishes and distributes ebooks, his short stories generally make $1,500 apiece in the first month and $1,000 per month thereafter. “I’ll keep dropping the price of previous shorts as new ones go up,” he says. Each story contains an excerpt of Eisler’s next John Rain novel, The Detachment, which he plans to release this summer.

Read and learn more

And while you’re at it, get this informative blog right on your Kindle 


Ebook Sales Up 202% Over Last Year – Now King Format for American Publishing

Announcing King Ebook Format!

The digital revolution has caught up with, stomped and overtaken traditional publishing (TP) according to the latest report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

AND, this conquering of TP has occurred one year earlier than previously forecasted by industry analysts! How bout them apples?

Of course, anyone who wasn’t in denial saw this coming…the crowning of the e-book as the single bestselling format in American publishing. We just didn’t see it charging so fast!

Welcome, King “E”…how can we serve thee? Or, better yet, how will you serve us? Cheaper prices, faster delivery, more publishing opportunities, etc., etc.? 

I sincerely hope there is an infusion of real money in there somewhere…

Now these details from T3, The Gadget Website:

Ebook sales overtake US paperbacks for the first time

US figures show huge consumer demand for e-readers 

The digital revolution continues apace in the old-tech world of publishing. In the US, the eBook has become the single bestselling format in American publishing for the first time, a year ahead of analysts forecasts.
The report from the Association of American Publishers, showed February’s eBook sales were $90.3m (£55.2m), compared to $81.2m (£49.8m) in paperbacks, a leap of 202.3% on the same time last year. Philip Jones, deputy editor of the Bookseller, believes that the UK is set to follow the US trend in the take-up of the technology, “the UK are a year behind but they are catching up quite fast.”

Despite the challenge of the rapidly expanding tablet market, many of which come pre-loaded with an e-reader, the figures show standalone eBook readers have carved out an important niche in a hugely competitive marketplace. Their popularity is down to choice – there are over a million free books on the Amazon Kindle – as well as a lower price-point than tablets, speedy downloads and portability.

Read and learn more


Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sales Tax

Question: Should e-book retailers have to charge sales tax in the state where their books are sold?

Hummm, interesting point; and all readers are encouraged to chime in…

Amazon is doing everything in their power to avoid collecting sales tax…even to the point of  threatening to terminate its affiliate program in certain states that may enact e-fairness legislation that requires Amazon to collect sales tax due on purchases by residents in those states and thereby putting their online affiliates out of business. Fair or unfair?

This Amazon conundrum has caused B&N to try and recruit the probably-pissed-off Amazon affiliates.

Sure, why not?

This blurb from Publishers Weekly: 

Barnes & Noble Courts Amazon Affiliates 

With Amazon determined to avoid collecting sales tax in as many states as possible for as long as possible, Barnes & Noble issued an open letter to Amazon affiliates urging them to sign on to its affiliate program, which it says has over 13,000 members. As part of its strategy to limit the states where it collects sales tax, Amazon has ended affiliate programs in a few states that have passed legislation calling for all online retailers to collect sales tax from out-of-state e-tailers. 
“We understand that has threatened to terminate its affiliate program in certain states that may enact e-fairness legislation that requires Amazon to collect sales tax due on purchases by residents in those states.” the letter begins.”Barnes & Noble is disappointed to hear that Amazon would threaten small businesses’ livelihood rather than comply with state law.” In large part because its stores gives it “nexus” in all states, B&N already collects sales tax for both its bricks-and-mortar stores as well as its online business. “Barnes & Noble wants affiliates who have been terminated to know that you are welcome to join the Barnes & Noble affiliate family. If Amazon doesn’t want you, we do! And, we will take care of collecting and remitting all sales taxes due on sales to its customers so you and our customers don’t have to worry about being hassled or prosecuted by state tax auditors,” the letter, signed by John Foley, president of, said.
Read and learn more



Amazon vs Book Publishers

Filed under: Amazon,book publishers,e-book pricing,e-Readers,publishing,writers — gator1965 @ 7:40 pm

As many are already aware, there is a fight being waged to control prices of digital books. Amazon initially set prices lower than their own costs to boost sales and popularity of their Kindle e-reader. The Amazon $9.99 price for all digital books upset publishers who said this would destroy the publishing business…The publishers desired a so-called “agency model” that would let them set prices and have Amazon act as a vendor or retailer who would get 30% for selling.

Simply put, my dear interested readers (and I KNOW there are many out there!), we have two adversaries with very different motivations. One wants to set lower prices and accumulate a large content inventory (question quality) to sell digital devices. NOT good for writers…While the other wants the power to set high enough prices to pay for good talent to produce future quality content that will result in higher profits realized from content-driven work rather than “at-the-moment” digital devices. GOOD for writers.

Donald Marron, The Christian Science Monitor, says this about the subject waging war:

What will the future of publishing be as the book world goes digital? The latest battle between and book publishers may offer a hint.

Over at the New Yorker, Ken Auletta has a fascinating piece about the future of publishing as the book world goes digital. Highly recommended if you a Kindle lover, an iPad enthusiast, or a Google watcher (or, like me, all three).

The article also describes an unusual battle between book publishers and Amazon about the pricing of electronic books:

Amazon had been buying many e-books from publishers for about thirteen dollars and selling them for $9.99, taking a loss on each book in order to gain market share and encourage sales of its electronic reading device, the Kindle. By the end of last year, Amazon accounted for an estimated eighty per cent of all electronic-book sales, and $9.99 seemed to be established as the price of an e-book. Publishers were panicked. David Young, the chairman and C.E.O. of Hachette Book Group USA, said, “The big concern—and it’s a massive concern—is the $9.99 pricing point. If it’s allowed to take hold in the consumer’s mind that a book is worth ten bucks, to my mind it’s game over for this business.”

As an alternative, several publishers decided to push for an “agency model” for e-books. Under such a model, the publisher would be considered the seller, and an online vender like Amazon would act as an “agent,” in exchange for a thirty-per-cent fee.

That way, the publishers would be able to set the retail price themselves, presumably at a higher level that the $9.99 favored by Amazon.

Ponder that for a moment. Under the original system, Amazon paid the publishers $13.00 for each e-book. Under the new system, publishers would receive 70% of the retail price of an e-book. To net $13.00 per book, the publishers would thus have to set a price of about $18.50 per e-book, well above the norm for electronic books. Indeed, so far above the norm that it generally doesn’t happen:

“I’m not sure the ‘agency model’ is best,” the head of one major publishing house told me. Publishers would collect less money this way, about nine dollars a book, rather than thirteen; the unattractive tradeoff was to cede some profit in order to set a minimum price.

The publisher could also have noted a second problem with this strategy: publishers will sell fewer e-books because of the increase in retail prices.

Through keen negotiating, the publishers have thus forced Amazon to (a) pay them less per book and (b) sell fewer of their books. Not something you see everyday.

All of which yields a great topic for a microeconomics or business strategy class: Can the long-term benefit (to publishers) of higher minimum prices justify the near-term costs of lower sales and lower margins?


Publisher Says Print Not Dead Yet…Elsewhere, Publishing Wars Heat Up: Apple Offering Kindle on iPad

Two intriguing topics today re Apple, publishers, Kindle and other e-readers:

By Ross Marowits of Canadian Press: Transcontinental (TSX:TCL.A) says the print medium isn’t dying even though digital media is forcing Canada’s largest printer to adjust to rapid transformation in the communications and advertising business.

“We see print and the new media co-existing for a very, very long time,” chief executive Francois Olivier said in an interview Thursday following the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

The Montreal-based company said that the printing, newspaper publishing and marketing firm will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of customers.

While printed flyers will remain a primary way for advertisers to reach customers, book publishing faces dramatic challenges.

“We believe that things like the Kindle (and) iPad are probably going to take anywhere from five to 20 per cent of the printed market away . . . in the next couple of years, so it’s a big big big thing for us,” Olivier said.

The impact would be significant, he cautioned, but it won’t mark the end of printed books. The market already has overcapacity and will lose further volumes.

Transcontinental recorded $150 million in book printing revenues in 2007, the last year it was broken out separately from magazine and catalogue revenues.

Transcontinental continues to see rapid growth of new media but Olivier is cautious about pursuing dramatic changes to its operations.

“We’ve got to be careful because sometimes we and our customers get carried away,” he said.

The company has created a new sector that is focused on one-to-one advertising and new digital communications such as email-based marketing, e-flyers and custom publishing.

Digital media generated about $150 million last year, less than seven per cent of total revenues. But the sector grew by 30 per cent in each of the last two years. Its email marketing business has doubled its sales annually.

Olivier believes new media will increasingly be used to complement flyer printing, which remains popular and well-read.

Next month, Transcontinental will launch a web version called for English consumers and in French.

The goal is to help retailers get more bang out of their advertising dollars while giving consumers another venue to search for and compare shopping deals.

It will also give the company a further window to changes in marketing spending and allow it to adjust to any impact on its traditional business.

Founder Remi Marcoux, who has endured several recessions, said change is inevitable but there will always be printing.

“Transcontinental was born out of change,” Remi Marcoux told shareholders.

“We will continue to evolve in pace with our customers, whether businesses or consumers, to meet their new needs and new expectations.”

Transcontinental acted quickly to counter the effects of the recession by closing plants and shedding 2,000 workers. The moves will trim $110 million in annual costs, including $80 million in savings last year. More jobs could be lost as the company shifts work to more efficient operations.

It also plans to dramatically reduce its U.S. footprint by agreeing to sell its direct marketing business. It remains the leading direct marketer in Canada.

The company expects its key printing sector will continue to grow slowly with a gradual recovery of advertising, which directly or indirectly drives more than 80 per cent of its business.

“What we have seen so far in the beginning of the year is no further deterioration but so far we don’t have a whole lot of growth,” he said at a news conference.

While Olivier said Transcontinental is willing to consider acquiring a portion of Canwest Global Communication’s (TSX:CGS) newspaper assets, it has no interest in becoming a daily newspaper publisher.

“We have no interest if the assets are sold as a block. If they are sold as a piece there might be a few pieces of the Canwest assets that we might be interested in,” he said.

Transcontinental is Canada’s leading publisher of consumer magazines and the second-largest community newspaper publisher. Its digital platform delivers content through more than 120 websites.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, its shares gained 10 cents to $12.67 in trading Thursday.

And in other publishing circles:

By Chris Seabury of Financial Amazon and book publishers have been having heated discussions about how to sell the different e books using Kindle. At the heart of this issue, was the overall amount that would be charged to access the different e books. In the case of Amazon, the fee was determined to be $9.99 (which is to low according to the publishers). In a move to offer e books on the i Pad, Apple opened independent negotiations with publishers. The company agreed to sell e books through Kindle for: $12.99 to $14.99.

What this shows, is that various ebook readers are becoming a common feature that will be offered with different electronic devices. The news from Apple is significant, because they have been known as an innovator in technology over the last ten years. As a result, it would not be surprising to see similar deals that Apple made with publishers, involving Kindle in the future with key competitors.


More On E-Books: Will E-Books Be Napsterized?

Filed under: digital downloads,e-book piracy,e-book pricing,e-books — gator1965 @ 8:14 pm

Article from the New York Times that contrubutes to my discussions in this blog about the coming-of-age of e-books:

By Randall Stross Published: October 3, 2009

YOU can buy “The Lost Symbol,” by Dan Brown, as an e-book for $9.99 at…Or you can don a pirate’s cap and snatch a free copy from another online user at RapidShare, Megaupload, Hotfile and other file-storage sites.

Until now, few readers have preferred e-books to printed or audible versions, so the public availability of free-for-the-taking copies did not much matter. But e-books won’t stay on the periphery of book publishing much longer. E-book hardware is on the verge of going mainstream. More dedicated e-readers are coming, with ever larger screens. So, too, are computer tablets that can serve as giant e-readers, and hardware that will not be very hard at all: a thin display flexible enough to roll up into a tube…Read more at

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