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aikigypsy
05-28-2013, 04:40 AM
I came across this on my Facebook feed, where someone had linked to a Paris Review link (http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/23/choose-your-own-adventure-author-edition/) to this chart:

5 Key Book Publishing Paths (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3BkwFa5qpaINjViNjc4UHlOa1U/edit)

There's not much new here, but I thought it was a handy summary for those of us who aren't settled into one publishing path or another.

shelleyo
05-28-2013, 09:47 AM
I came across this on my Facebook feed, where someone had linked to a Paris Review link (http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/23/choose-your-own-adventure-author-edition/) to this chart:

5 Key Book Publishing Paths (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3BkwFa5qpaINjViNjc4UHlOa1U/edit)

There's not much new here, but I thought it was a handy summary for those of us who aren't settled into one publishing path or another.

It's a shame that the middle option is listed there. Fully-Assisted is just a new name for vanity publishing, which is designed to drain writers' wallets and not much else.

Partnership Publishing and Agent-Assisted self-pub are also ones to be wary of.

Old Hack
05-28-2013, 11:35 AM
I'm not overly impressed with that chart. It contains a number of subtle misdirections and is biased in odd ways. I wouldn't pay too much attention to it.

ljndawson
05-28-2013, 10:56 PM
In the original post (http://janefriedman.com/2013/05/20/infographic-5-key-book-publishing-paths/), Jane includes this statement:


Fully-assisted publishing: the old “vanity” self-publishing model, where you write a check and get your book published without lifting a finger. I don’t recommend this, but it’s still a significant part of the self-publishing market, now dominated by Author Solutions.

Jane is a fantastic resource.

Old Hack
05-28-2013, 11:02 PM
I'm still not impressed. Ms Friedman has her moments, but she does tend to sing to the gallery.

Ann Joyce
05-28-2013, 11:59 PM
Thanks for providing that link, ljndawson. I put Jane Friedman's site in my favorites for future perusal. I did find it to be an interesting resource.

Captcha
05-29-2013, 03:31 AM
Seems solid to me. I think the bottom spectrum is maybe a bit inaccurate, though - Rather than being lower or higher revenue/royalties, I think it would be more accurate if it was expressed as lower or higher revenue/royalties PER COPY SOLD.

James D. Macdonald
05-29-2013, 11:32 PM
The bottom spectrum, while true in certain senses, in misleading.

Pray note Survivorship bias: why 90% of the advice about writing is bullshit right now (http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2013/05/27/survivorship-bias-why-90-of-the-advice-about-writing-is-bullshit-right-now/)

Particularly note the charts from Mark "Smashwords" Coker. And note the quote from Mr. Coker:

In fact, most books, both traditionally published and self-published, don’t sell well.Yes, true. But "sell well" is an undefined term. A commercially published book that doesn't "sell well" will still sell orders of magnitude more copies than a self-published book that doesn't "sell well."

As I keep saying, "What's bigger? 70% of 100, or 10% of 1,000?"

christwriter
05-30-2013, 12:34 AM
If I can chip in my two cents...(which is about all it's worth)...

You really can't know why one person is successful and another one isn't. And you REALLY can't follow in the footsteps of a successful self publisher. IMVERYHO, they are usually a person or group of people who manage to find a void of some kind and fill it...which means by the time you get around to trying to do the same thing, not only is there no void, there's several thousand other people in front of you trying to do the same thing. It's kind of why MLM schemes like Herbalife worked for the two or three people who managed to be the first in town, and fails to work for everybody else. Anybody standing on a rooftop screaming "I'VE GOT THE GOLDEN TICKET KEY TO SUCCESS AS A SELF PUBLISHER" is usually trumpeting a path so glutted it isn't worth following anymore.

And personally, I think if you're self publishing, you should side-eye anybody wanting to "assist". Yog's law does have to be modified a tiny bit for self publishing (Obviously you need to hire a professional editor, typesetter, maybe ebook formatter and artist, and that's money out of your pocket) but it still holds pretty damn solid IMHO, once other people get involved.

Anybody who says "I can make you successful if you trust me with your book" and who doesn't have a checkbook out to invest in your success needs to get side-eyed hard. If you get a partner, they should be willing to go as far out on the pole as you are. If they're not, they're not your partner.

shelleyo
05-30-2013, 01:37 AM
The bottom spectrum, while true in certain senses, in misleading.

Pray note Survivorship bias: why 90% of the advice about writing is bullshit right now (http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2013/05/27/survivorship-bias-why-90-of-the-advice-about-writing-is-bullshit-right-now/)

Particularly note the charts from Mark "Smashwords" Coker. And note the quote from Mr. Coker:
Yes, true. But "sell well" is an undefined term. A commercially published book that doesn't "sell well" will still sell orders of magnitude more copies than a self-published book that doesn't "sell well."

As I keep saying, "What's bigger? 70% of 100, or 10% of 1,000?"

I think the stats from Smashwords are pretty much useless as presented for several reasons and tell me absolutely nothing about my odds of anything.

But the other day I read the survivorship bias article (http://youarenotsosmart.com/2013/05/23/survivorship-bias/) Buckell links to. It's well-worth reading if for nothing else than the little WWII history lesson.

I've always looked at failures--my own and others'--for clues about what not to do. Either I don't suffer from survivorship bias as much as many other people, or I've just had a lot more failures to examine. :) Maybe both.

Old Hack
05-30-2013, 10:55 AM
I was just going to link to that same article, shelleyo! It's fascinating, isn't it? I read it a few days ago and have saved it to show to my eldest, who is a maths student and codebreaker with a bit of a WWII obsession.

Sheryl Nantus
05-30-2013, 02:21 PM
I was just going to link to that same article, shelleyo! It's fascinating, isn't it? I read it a few days ago and have saved it to show to my eldest, who is a maths student and codebreaker with a bit of a WWII obsession.

GREAT article! Showed it to engineer hubby/ex-AF last night and never got the computer back....

:D

Terie
05-30-2013, 04:02 PM
Yog's law does have to be modified a tiny bit for self publishing (Obviously you need to hire a professional editor, typesetter, maybe ebook formatter and artist, and that's money out of your pocket) but it still holds pretty damn solid IMHO, once other people get involved.

Yog's Law doesn't change at all for self-publishing. If a person decides to wear two hats, one 'writer' and the other 'publisher', it's the 'publisher' job that's paying the bills. To paraphrase Uncle Jim, the money comes out of the publisher's pocket, not the writer's pocket, and if one is both writer and publisher, then the publisher needs to be sure to put some of the money in the writer's pocket along with paying the other bills.

AngieDixon
05-30-2013, 04:30 PM
Yog's Law doesn't change at all for self-publishing. If a person decides to wear two hats, one 'writer' and the other 'publisher', it's the 'publisher' job that's paying the bills. To paraphrase Uncle Jim, the money comes out of the publisher's pocket, not the writer's pocket, and if one is both writer and publisher, then the publisher needs to be sure to put some of the money in the writer's pocket along with paying the other bills.

This. Money always flows to the writer, even when self-publishing. If you're paying a publisher, money's flowing to the publisher. If you are the publisher, you pay your writer self.

Katie Elle
05-30-2013, 04:35 PM
I'm glad someone said something because I'd never clicked through to the original article about WW-II. My father flew 33 missions on a B-17, so it was definitely of interest!


Particularly note the charts from Mark "Smashwords" Coker. And note the quote from Mr. Coker:
Yes, true. But "sell well" is an undefined term. A commercially published book that doesn't "sell well" will still sell orders of magnitude more copies than a self-published book that doesn't "sell well."

As I keep saying, "What's bigger? 70% of 100, or 10% of 1,000?"

What's lower is 10% of "your manuscript does not meet our current needs." If you want apples to apples, you need to include all the rejected manuscripts in trade publishing. If I'm understanding the concept, that's exactly what survivorship bias is about. Metaphorically, you're only taking into account the planes that make it through the flak of agents and editors and not the ones that get shot down with a red pen.

I really did like this one line from the publishing article:
I am trying to say ‘please approach this with some rationality.’ I’m slowly building up a portfolio over time of work that I hope will offer me an additional income stream.

That seems to me to be one of the disconnects with journalism on this topic as everyone I know is thinking exactly that. While I know a few people who have gotten rich, I don't know anyone who expected to. Most of us are doing exactly what he suggests. In my experience, digital direct publishing isn't oriented around "the blockbuster," but rather around making a living on the "midlist" because the higher royalties allow it. Most of us are dreaming of $50k a year so we can quit our jobs, not the $50k a day OMG moneyhats!

Old Hack
05-30-2013, 05:25 PM
I'm glad someone said something because I'd never clicked through to the original article about WW-II. My father flew 33 missions on a B-17, so it was definitely of interest!

Send him my thanks. It takes a brave and clever person to do that. It would scare the socks off me.


What's lower is 10% of "your manuscript does not meet our current needs." If you want apples to apples, you need to include all the rejected manuscripts in trade publishing. If I'm understanding the concept, that's exactly what survivorship bias is about. Metaphorically, you're only taking into account the planes that make it through the flak of agents and editors and not the ones that get shot down with a red pen.

Good point: but although I've seen it used a lot online, I'm not entirely sure it's accurate. It implies that "all writers who self-publish" are a similar set to "all writers who submit to agents and editors", and I'm not convinced of that. I need to think about this some more before I can put my finger on exactly what's wrong, though.


That seems to me to be one of the disconnects with journalism on this topic as everyone I know is thinking exactly that. While I know a few people who have gotten rich, I don't know anyone who expected to. Most of us are doing exactly what he suggests.

Everyone you know might be thinking that, Katie, but that doesn't make it true about everyone who self-publishes. I'm glad you and the writers you mostly associate with appear to have your heads screwed on the right way round: but I suspect you're not typical of the majority in this instance. I hope I'm wrong, though.


In my experience, digital direct publishing isn't oriented around "the blockbuster," but rather around making a living on the "midlist" because the higher royalties allow it.

My bold. I assume you mean self-publishing in e-format only here. You do like your euphemisms, don't you?

I don't think that only self-published writers of any particular format occupy the midlist; it's true of most trade-published writers too, whatever the format their books appear in. No matter which market writers serve, the majority of those who enjoy a modicum of success are going to make up that midlist. The outliers will make up the frontlist; and the older titles create the backlist. It was ever thus.

I'd be interested to see some proper, verifiable statistics about the differences in front, mid and backlists with regards to trade and self publishing. That would be very interesting, don't you think? I'd like to know how many writers are in each group, how much each group earns on average, and how many books they sell. We could do some very useful comparisons with those numbers.


Most of us are dreaming of $50k a year so we can quit our jobs, not the $50k a day OMG moneyhats!

Anyone who thinks $50k a year equates to "OMG moneyhats" lacks ambition. But I do so love that phrase. I am going to steal it from you. Ha!

Sheryl Nantus
05-30-2013, 05:43 PM
This. Money always flows to the writer, even when self-publishing. If you're paying a publisher, money's flowing to the publisher. If you are the publisher, you pay your writer self.

And you have to be prepared to LOSE money. As I've said before, I can't afford to self-pub (other than the odd short story) because I can't risk the money to do it right. And if you can't afford to lose the money then you shouldn't be doing it at all.

Not everyone can afford to strike out on their own. And as we know, success is not guaranteed despite doing "all the right things".

Katie Elle
05-30-2013, 06:45 PM
Send him my thanks. It takes a brave and clever person to do that. It would scare the socks off me.

Bravery and a note from the local draft board. He volunteered for air corps because there was a lot of training and he hoped the war would end before he got deployed :) I think the pilot is the only member of the crew still alive, but there's an incredible memoire which I'm begging the other families to put into some kind of published form. It's only 30 pages and too short for a publisher, but it would sell well as an ebook and the airfield they flew out of has a museum group restoring it and could use the donations.


Good point: but although I've seen it used a lot online, I'm not entirely sure it's accurate. It implies that "all writers who self-publish" are a similar set to "all writers who submit to agents and editors", and I'm not convinced of that. I need to think about this some more before I can put my finger on exactly what's wrong, though.

It's not exact, but I think it points to the problems with this comparison.


Everyone you know might be thinking that, Katie, but that doesn't make it true about everyone who self-publishes. I'm glad you and the writers you mostly associate with appear to have your heads screwed on the right way round: but I suspect you're not typical of the majority in this instance. I hope I'm wrong, though.

I think we're the majority who have stuck with it past a month or two or who've made more than the average of $500. Where I think the get rich quick people are concentrated are among the victims of Authorhouse etc. Though that's nothing new, vanity presses prey on that fantasy.


I don't think that only self-published writers of any particular format occupy the midlist

I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. What I'm saying is that given the 60-80% royalties, it's far easier to make a living selling a relatively low number of books. Ones that would never get you noticed. Where you'd otherwise be a midlist author with a day job.


Anyone who thinks $50k a year equates to "OMG moneyhats" lacks ambition. But I do so love that phrase. I am going to steal it from you. Ha!

I meant $50k a year as a sort of minimal middle class income that could replace a day job with writing. $50k a day was what I referred to as moneyhats (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2000/10/23) (no, I can't take credit for the phrase).

I will also say that a lot of the people I know who are writing are people who were working McJobs for whom $50k is moneyhats and the $500 or $1000 they're bringing in a month is life changing.

Old Hack
05-30-2013, 09:34 PM
Bravery and a note from the local draft board. He volunteered for air corps because there was a lot of training and he hoped the war would end before he got deployed :) I think the pilot is the only member of the crew still alive, but there's an incredible memoire which I'm begging the other families to put into some kind of published form. It's only 30 pages and too short for a publisher, but it would sell well as an ebook and the airfield they flew out of has a museum group restoring it and could use the donations.

He might have been conscripted (is that the right word?) but he still went out there and did his job. I'd have hidden under the table rather than fly those missions. And do see if you can get something done with that memoir: it sounds very interesting, and I bet there are plenty of people who'd like to read it.


I think we're the majority who have stuck with it past a month or two or who've made more than the average of $500. Where I think the get rich quick people are concentrated are among the victims of Authorhouse etc. Though that's nothing new, vanity presses prey on that fantasy.

True about vanity presses. I hate them; and I don't like that so many people equate self publishing with vanity publishing. The two just don't compare.

I'm not sure, however, that you and your friends represent the majority of self-publishers who have persisted for more than a couple of months. Your earnings alone suggest otherwise. You're doing well.


I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. What I'm saying is that given the 60-80% royalties, it's far easier to make a living selling a relatively low number of books. Ones that would never get you noticed. Where you'd otherwise be a midlist author with a day job.

Ah, ok. I didn't get that at all from your previous comment, but I see where you're going now. Thanks for the clarification.


I meant $50k a year as a sort of minimal middle class income that could replace a day job with writing. $50k a day was what I referred to as moneyhats (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2000/10/23) (no, I can't take credit for the phrase).

I will also say that a lot of the people I know who are writing are people who were working McJobs for whom $50k is moneyhats and the $500 or $1000 they're bringing in a month is life changing.

Agreed again. I wasn't trying to suggest that it wasn't a significant amount of money: just that I like to think big, and aim high. I certainly wouldn't sniff at an extra £5k a year, let alone an extra £50k.

James D. Macdonald
05-30-2013, 10:01 PM
I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. What I'm saying is that given the 60-80% royalties, it's far easier to make a living selling a relatively low number of books.

That's true if and only if you're selling the same relatively low number.

Taking a hypothetical, someone who publishes with Amazon at the highest price that still gains a 70% royalty ($9.99), and who sells the typical 150 copies that a self-publisher who really hustles sells per title over their life, that book will bring in $1,048.95. That's less than half of what a first-time newbie writer typically gets as an advance from a commercial publisher.

stranger
05-31-2013, 01:22 AM
That's true if and only if you're selling the same relatively low number.

Taking a hypothetical, someone who publishes with Amazon at the highest price that still gains a 70% royalty ($9.99), and who sells the typical 150 copies that a self-publisher who really hustles sells per title over their life, that book will bring in $1,048.95. That's less than half of what a first-time newbie writer typically gets as an advance from a commercial publisher.

But this hypothetical book, is it good enough to be trade published? And if it is, then likely it sells more than the typical 150 copies. And if this hypothetical book is part of a stable of books run by a canny selfpublisher than it could be many many times the typical 150 books.

Kboards recently had a thread where they collected a list of indie authors making a living as a selfpublisher. They quickly came up with 200/300 names. Most of them haven't had a blockbuster, and hardly anyone outside their fans will have heard of them. It isn't just the marque selfpublishers who make a living at it--but everyday writers with a fanbase, a steady stream of books and the know how to sell them.

Katie Elle
05-31-2013, 01:26 AM
We're also back in the survivorship bias because the "typical" trade published submission doesn't sell 150 copies, it's rejected.

Nobody on God's earth is suggesting that someone who sells 150 copies of a book on average is going to make a living. That's just a silly straw man.

Old Hack
05-31-2013, 01:02 PM
We're also back in the survivorship bias because the "typical" trade published submission doesn't sell 150 copies, it's rejected.

Nobody on God's earth is suggesting that someone who sells 150 copies of a book on average is going to make a living. That's just a silly straw man.

Katie, if you find it impossible to explain yourself without resorting to sneery name-calling, don't post. OK?

James D. Macdonald
05-31-2013, 02:12 PM
But this hypothetical book, is it good enough to be trade published? And if it is, then likely it sells more than the typical 150 copies.

I'm talking about dandy books that could have been commercially published. But the 150 number is a pretty rosy projection -- I'd actually expect closer to 75... or fewer.




Kboards recently had a thread where they collected a list of indie authors making a living as a selfpublisher. They quickly came up with 200/300 names.

Out of how many hundreds of thousands?

RichardGarfinkle
05-31-2013, 04:29 PM
What's lower is 10% of "your manuscript does not meet our current needs." If you want apples to apples, you need to include all the rejected manuscripts in trade publishing.


This is inaccurate. You're confusing the sample spaces and creating an invalid comparison.

Rather than looking at absolute sales figures consider that the goal of publishing is to connect a book with its potential audience.

That audience can be defined as people who fulfill two characteristics:
1. They would wish to read the book if they were made properly aware of it.
2. They are able and willing to pay the cover price.

The first is essentially an immutable characteristic, the second depends on pricing.

Most rejected manuscripts are sufficiently poor in quality that they have almost no potential audience. Anyone who has ever looked through slush can tell you this.

Manuscripts that are accepted for publication are essentially gambles on the part of publishers. They are betting the costs and effort of publication that they can connect to and sell enough copies of the book to the book's audience that they can more than recoup the costs.

Publishers are also betting that their editors can improve the quality of the book and thus increase the potential audience.

Self publication loses many of the benefits of trade publishing (this has been detailed in all sorts of threads by far more knowledgeable people), thus reducing the likely amount of audience that the book reaches.

So in comparing one form of publishing to another and comparing potential success rates, one needs to compare the following:
1. What is the potential audience size? Not so easy to calculate but one can examine the writing quality of a book and determine that if it is too poor, the answer here is quite small.
2. What percentage of the audience is reached? Here it's quite clear that trade publishing beats self publishing in any reasonable metric.
3. What income comes to the writer from the actual number of people reached?

This leads people to different kinds of decisions on the matter of what kind of publication to pursue.

For me personally, I always try for trade publishing first. I have three trade published books. If that doesn't work, I'll consider self publishing. I have four e-published books that I think have an audience out there and that I think are worthwhile enough. The potential audience may well not be big enough to make these books worth it for a trade publisher (that's a wholly rational decision on the part of the trade publishers). Since e-publishing can be done without violating Yog's Law, I'm willing to do it for those of my books I think are worth it.

The point here is that rejected manuscripts fall into two categories:
1. Those that simply don't have an audience at all because of their quality and therefore do not belong to the sample space of comparisons. The vast majority of that 90% of slush belong to this category.

2. Those that publishers do not think have big enough audiences or simply don't fit the publishers.

Only the second set is relevant when comparing potential income.

Katie Elle
05-31-2013, 06:23 PM
The point here is that rejected manuscripts fall into three categories:
1. Those that simply don't have an audience at all because of their quality and therefore do not belong to the sample space of comparisons. The vast majority of that 90% of slush belong to this category.

And those are not included in the average sales of trade publishing.

However, people upload crap like that all the time to KDP and they are included in the average sales figures--the ones that say the "average" author on KDP sells fewer than 50 copies.

That's apples to oranges and it makes it very hard to really gauge the power of these new mediums.

At the bottom of all of this is my firm belief that I'm not a good writer and that if my partner and I can make thousands of dollars, anyone can.

James D. Macdonald
05-31-2013, 07:02 PM
Not "average," typical. The average is skewed considerably higher than the mode by the best-sellers.

If you have a thousand books, one of which sells 1,000 copies while the rest only sell one copy each, the average sales are nearly two hundred copies. The typical sales, however, are one.

What no one has ever been able to explain is how a wonderful book that thousands might read with pleasure somehow makes it out of the endless mudflats of KDP without invoking pure blind luck or miracle.

shelleyo
05-31-2013, 07:50 PM
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What no one has ever been able to explain is how a wonderful book that thousands might read with pleasure somehow makes it out of the endless mudflats of KDP without invoking pure blind luck or miracle.

I wrote a long, detailed reply to this. I'm moving it to a separate thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=271135) where discussion of all or any of it will be on topic.

stranger
05-31-2013, 09:44 PM
Out of how many hundreds of thousands?

How many of these hundreds of thousands are quality writers with multiple books following the best practices for selfpublishing success?

Old Hack
05-31-2013, 10:36 PM
Let's see if we can swing this conversation back round to the original topic, shall we?

And in the meantime, if everyone could please remind themselves of logic and fallacies, and how they work, that would be great.

I thank you.