Self publishing gaining serious ground

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Eddyz Aquila

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http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2011/03/amanda-hocking-and-99-cent-kindle.html

To summarise, Amanda Hocking sold 450.000 ebooks in January alone, which makes her a millionaire now.

I'll congratulate her for the incredible achievement and now she's up there as a model for me to follow. :)

But here's the question Nathan put up - which he answered himself. Is the print world disappearing?

No. The print world will still exist merrily for many years to come, despite the surge in ebooks. Furthermore, the blog post contains a very good analysis of how the costs print vs ebook are broken down, which I encourage everyone to read.

Thoughts?
 

CACTUSWENDY

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Not sure if I am the devil's handmaiden here or not.
With the economy as it is right now I'm thinking/feeling that if I am an avid reader then e-books might be the way to go. If I can read at 99 cents a pop verses 8.99 and up a read.....ah, do the math. I can see the reason e-books are doing so well. If you find a good, well written story you will look to see what else that person has written. I also think word spreads fast among your peer friends and they too will be wanting to read the same book. Instead of them borrowing your copy they will just buy one online. Maybe when times get better folks will fork over the bigger bucks for 'real' books, but until then, I see online buys the best bang for the buck.

The problem I do see is that you may/might have to wade through a lot of junk to find the better ones. That might be why word of mouth would be a thing to pay attention to. Remember, this is just IMHO.
 

Sheryl Nantus

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It'll never disappear. My husband, who works all day on computers, refuses to look at ebooks. He's tired when he gets home and the last thing he wants to do is look at another screen.

Hocking is a wonderful light and a lucky writer and she says so. I loved her recent post where she declared that print publishing isn't "EVIL", unlike some of the other self-pub gurus out there who seem to have an axe to grind.

But she's the exception to the rule. And she admits it. And she's also got an agent, which tells me that while she may be held up as a Rebel Princess by some, she's still savvy enough in the writing world to know she needs an agent for some things.

Self-pubbing is a great option for certain genres and for certain writers. But it's not and never will fully replace the support, the skill and the connections that a good publisher can give your book.

As I noted in another thread - 35 cents on a dollar book may look good... until it's not there. And when a 40% royalty on an ebook selling for $5.50 gives six times as much money and it's more likely to sell because a publisher has its weight behind the book to get reviews, get into catalogues and onto bookshelves, get listed on multiple sites...
 

thothguard51

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1...Amanda Hocking sold 450,000 99 cent books of which she only gets 35 cents a copy. How do you figure she is a millionaire off that?

2....Amanda Hocking will be the first to tell you her success was a fluke that came from many years of hard work and more hours than she cares for in promoting her work and getting her name out there. She hates the amount of hours she spends that is not writing related.

3...Yes, she should be congratulated, but not used as a model any more than Christopher Paolini (sp?) was used as a self-publishing model years ago.

I agree that the print world is not going to go away anytime soon. Reason, the number of bad self published books is growing and readers will turn back to commercial publisher, in print and in e-books. I don't see e-books as gaining more than about 35% of the market share, and while that is a large percentage, its no where near what is needed to be a dominate form of publishing.

For more on Amanda Hocking, read her blog and how she feels about her success. She is very humble and realistic.
 

Eddyz Aquila

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1...Amanda Hocking sold 450,000 99 cent books of which she only gets 35 cents a copy. How do you figure she is a millionaire off that?

In January alone. :)
Count the other months as well.

2....Amanda Hocking will be the first to tell you her success was a fluke that came from many years of hard work and more hours than she cares for in promoting her work and getting her name out there. She hates the amount of hours she spends that is not writing related.

Which makes it even more interesting. She's busted her backside working so much for it and now it pays off dividends. Granted, nobody would want to work so damn much but she made it.


3...Yes, she should be congratulated, but not used as a model any more than Christopher Paolini (sp?) was used as a self-publishing model years ago.

Paolini made it partly because his parents worked in the business. And a lucky strike with the editor's nephew or son or something like that. Nevertheless, he's another good example. Sorry, I'm an optimist. :tongue:
 

gothicangel

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Paolini made it partly because his parents worked in the business. And a lucky strike with the editor's nephew or son or something like that. Nevertheless, he's another good example. Sorry, I'm an optimist. :tongue:

Paolini's parent's own an independent publishing company. They remortgaged their home to fund the publication of Eragon, and where on the verge of going bankrupt. The Carl Hiassen's step son picked up a copy while on holiday, Hiassen then passed it to his publisher at Knopf, who passed it on the children's department.

Not a good example of a career plan. ;)
 

cameron_chapman

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1...Amanda Hocking sold 450,000 99 cent books of which she only gets 35 cents a copy. How do you figure she is a millionaire off that?

Not just $.99 ebooks, though. The first book in each series is $.99, but the rest are $2.99. And the way she ends her books, if you enjoy one, you're going to want to read the next one. I've bought all but one of her books since I got my Nook Color just under four weeks ago. And on the $2.99 books, she's getting 70% (~$2.04) in most cases, so that adds up a lot quicker. If you figure a third or so of those 450,000 books were at $2.99, then she probably made somewhere north of $400,000 in one month. And in December, she sold over 100,000 books. No numbers out yet for what she did in February, but I have a feeling it was over 450k. It's already been established that she's sold more than a million books on Kindle alone.
 

gothicangel

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Not just $.99 ebooks, though. The first book in each series is $.99, but the rest are $2.99. And the way she ends her books, if you enjoy one, you're going to want to read the next one. I've bought all but one of her books since I got my Nook Color just under four weeks ago. And on the $2.99 books, she's getting 70% (~$2.04) in most cases, so that adds up a lot quicker. If you figure a third or so of those 450,000 books were at $2.99, then she probably made somewhere north of $400,000 in one month. And in December, she sold over 100,000 books. No numbers out yet for what she did in February, but I have a feeling it was over 450k. It's already been established that she's sold more than a million books on Kindle alone.

She won't have 'made' $.99/$2.99 per sale. As a previous post pointed out she made $.35 per sale. So that means she's recieve royalties of $35,000 for 100,000.

I bet there are a lot of publishers out there offering her far more than she made self-publishing right now.
 

gothicangel

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From wiki:

As of March 2011, she had sold about a million copies of nine books and earned two million dollars from sales, something previously unheard of for self-published authors.

Oh reeaally. She's sold a about a million books, and some how made $2 million. That's an average of $2 per book, with a large proportion coming from a ebook retailing at $.99.

I smell PR spin . . .
 

efkelley

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Yes, the numbers are incorrect. She sold a lot of books at .99 and a lot at 2.99. She's never publicly stated her total, and it would be rude to ask.

There are axe-grinders on both sides. It's always rather distasteful. I appreciate her candor and egalitarian approach.
 

Ineti

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Yes, the numbers are incorrect. She sold a lot of books at .99 and a lot at 2.99. She's never publicly stated her total, and it would be rude to ask.

There are axe-grinders on both sides. It's always rather distasteful. I appreciate her candor and egalitarian approach.

It's really distasteful, esp. when the writer herself posts about it on her blog and the details are right there.

http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2011/02/misinformation-corrections.html

Here are some pertinent bits from that link for those too lazy who don't want to click the link and verify the information yourself:

I have published eight books and one novella, so there are nine works that you can purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Smashwords.
I've written 19 books.
All of my published full-length novels are available in both ebook and paperback.
Three of my full length novels are priced at $.99 in ebook, and my novella is priced at $.99. The other five books are priced at $2.99. All my paperbacks are priced at $8.99 and $9.99.
I was never traditionally published. I still have not been traditionally published.
A few books have foreign deals in place, but the books have not been published yet.
I have an agent - Steve Axelrod - and I've had him since August [2010].
I first published two books in April 15, 2010. Since then, I've sold over 900,000 copies of over nine different books.
 

efkelley

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Perhaps I've stated my point poorly. She has listed her gross sales. She has NOT listed her gross income from self-publishing, and I don't think it's our business. We can guesstimate that she's somewhere between a solid half million to 1.25 million. That's just superior.

As for the lazy jab: distasteful.
 

Amadan

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I'm with Nathan Bransford in that I don't quite understand why people are willing to pay $12 for a movie ticket but bleat that $12 for an ebook is too much.

It depends on the book, of course. If it's a book that I can easily order as a used paperback off of Amazon for 3 bucks, or find free on BookMooch, then I'm not going to spend $12 on an ebook. On the other hand if I want Wise Man's Fear on the same day it comes out as a hardcover? Sure, I'll pay $15 for that, ebook or not.

Amanda Hocking put in a lot of hard work and also got a little lucky and now she has a sizeable fanbase, and almost certainly if she started raising her prices, her fans would continue to buy her books. (For marketing reasons, she'd be unwise to suddenly go from $1.99 to $12 -- her fans would scream and crucify her -- but she could probably get away with bumping the prices of her next novels up a buck or two.)
 

Izz

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She won't have 'made' $.99/$2.99 per sale. As a previous post pointed out she made $.35 per sale. So that means she's recieve royalties of $35,000 for 100,000.
That's not what Cameron was saying. Like he said, for her $2.99 books she would be getting $2.04 per sale. And she'd be getting more than that for paperbacks. Also, depending on where she's selling her .99c copies she may be getting more than .35c per sale (at Smashwords, for instance, you get .56c per .99c).

It's most likely well over half of her sales in the month of Jan were in the $2.99 range. I dare say she would've sold plenty of signed paperbacks, too, but i'd be hesitant to guess numbers.

Of the 900,000 books she's sold, it's possible that 60% of those sales were $2.99 books or above as people read one book and then bought the rest of the series (so just at the 2.99 royalty rate: 540,000 x 2.04 = 1,101,600).

So yes, it is feasible, if a touch on the unlikely side, that she's made $2 mill in royalties. Of course, this is all speculation, because she's never stated gross income. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle of the two extremes both sides are spouting.

Of course, her success doesn't rule out the fact that the great majority of self-pubbed authors do well to sell 200 copies of a book total.
 
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gothicangel

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I'm with Nathan Bransford in that I don't quite understand why people are willing to pay $12 for a movie ticket but bleat that $12 for an ebook is too much.

It depends on the book, of course. If it's a book that I can easily order as a used paperback off of Amazon for 3 bucks, or find free on BookMooch, then I'm not going to spend $12 on an ebook. On the other hand if I want Wise Man's Fear on the same day it comes out as a hardcover? Sure, I'll pay $15 for that, ebook or not.

Amanda Hocking put in a lot of hard work and also got a little lucky and now she has a sizeable fanbase, and almost certainly if she started raising her prices, her fans would continue to buy her books. (For marketing reasons, she'd be unwise to suddenly go from $1.99 to $12 -- her fans would scream and crucify her -- but she could probably get away with bumping the prices of her next novels up a buck or two.)

I would be very surprised if she remained self-published for much longer. I'm sure a $1 million + book deal is already on the table.
 

gothicangel

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That's not what Cameron was saying. Like he said, for her $2.99 books she would be getting $2.04 per sale. And she'd be getting more than that for paperbacks. Also, depending on where she's selling her .99c copies she may be getting more than .35c per sale (at Smashwords, for instance, you get .56c per .99c).

It's most likely well over half of her sales in the month of Jan were in the $2.99 range. I dare say she would've sold plenty of signed paperbacks, too, but i'd be hesitant to guess numbers.

Of the 900,000 books she's sold, it's probable that 60% of those sales were $2.99 books or above (so just at the 2.99 royalty rate: 540,000 x 2.07 = 1,117,800).

So yes, it is feasible, if a touch on the unlikely side, that she's made $2 mill in royalties. Of course, this is all speculation, because she's never stated gross income. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle of the two extremes both sides are spouting.

I agree with you - also saw too much creative book keeping in my time. There was one story about ten years ago - in the national papers - saying how this debut writer signed at £300,000 book deal. Turned out to be BS on the part of an over zealous literary agent.
 

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I'm with Nathan Bransford in that I don't quite understand why people are willing to pay $12 for a movie ticket but bleat that $12 for an ebook is too much.

I can kinda understand it - I mean, a movie ticket entails much more than just watching something on a screen. It's a social interaction thing. An eBook is (in the minds of many) like downloading anything off the 'net - it "shouldn't" cost much. Plus they may feel it's not like getting a 'real' book with all the back costs involved, or the nice cover, etc etc

I myself haven't gone to a movie since ticket prices went above $2, and I wouldn't buy an eBook for $12, although I have no problem buying a 'real' book for twice that.

I guess that's a bit of de-rail...
 

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After thinking it over, I think I am going to contradict myself. I disagree with people who think $12 is too expensive for an ebook, but I understand the mindset.

I can kinda understand it - I mean, a movie ticket entails much more than just watching something on a screen. It's a social interaction thing. An eBook is (in the minds of many) like downloading anything off the 'net - it "shouldn't" cost much. Plus they may feel it's not like getting a 'real' book with all the back costs involved, or the nice cover, etc etc

I myself haven't gone to a movie since ticket prices went above $2, and I wouldn't buy an eBook for $12, although I have no problem buying a 'real' book for twice that.

Yes, it's a sort of gut reaction. Nathan Bransford addresses that: basically, it's completely irrational, but it's how people do react, so the publishing industry is up against a mentality that says anything on the Internet "should" be either free or very cheap.

This is another reason I think that Cory Doctorow is pretty much on the right track. You can argue until you're blue in the face about editing costs and the economics of scale and how much authors make and blah blah blah, but the average person doesn't really care about the future of the publishing industry or the writer's mortgage. Convincing them that what's basically a text file wrapped in software that makes it inconvenient to read is worth 12 bucks is, I think, not going to be sustainable in the long run. I wish it were, but realistically, it isn't, and the price point for ebooks that the publishers are trying to maintain (and I sided with the Big 6 against Amazon re: the Agency pricing model) is not going to hold. I am willing to pay 12 bucks or more (and have) for an ebook I really want to read, but most people aren't.

Ironically, part of Doctorow's argument is that along with giving away your books, you have to relentlessly market your work and have new stuff in the pipeline in order to build an audience and keep 'em coming back for more. That way, you rely on the fraction who will pay to carry the majority who will not.

I think Doctorow's model breaks down for many authors -- it doesn't work if you don't also have print copies in bookstores, a large online presence and/or a fanbase, and/or an ability/willingness to get out there and hustle, like Amanda Hocking does. But I think the future really will be authors who make their ebooks available cheap (with a few being available free, once they have a large enough catalog that they can give away some of their older stuff or the first books in a series).

What's going to happen, though, is that all these zealous new converts to self-epublishing are going to discover that the same thing that was true under the old model will be true under the new one: a few authors will become runaway bestsellers and make tons of money, but the vast majority will not make nearly enough to quit their day jobs, and many will make practically nothing.
 

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I think Doctorow's model breaks down for many authors -- it doesn't work if you don't also have print copies in bookstores, a large online presence and/or a fanbase, and/or an ability/willingness to get out there and hustle, like Amanda Hocking does. But I think the future really will be authors who make their ebooks available cheap (with a few being available free, once they have a large enough catalog that they can give away some of their older stuff or the first books in a series).

This makes me want to scream. Not you, Amadan, but the idea that some appear to have that an author DOESN'T HAVE to do these things to be successful!!!!!!!

Insert SCREAM here...

Look, e-books and traditional publishing are not different - you have to work your ass off. Period. You have to market your book, create a fan base, and keep them happy with either new products or new promotions regardless of whether you go the POD, e-pub, or traditional route, because this is how business is done!

The only thing that IS different is that e-book authors can work their asses off and make it on their own, while traditional publishing requires working your ass off under the supervision and guiding hand of someone else.

Any writer who thinks they will be successful just because they get an agent and a contract really hasn't done their research. And any e-pub author who thinks they can write one Amazon Kindle .99 cent bestseller and cruise for the rest of their life off the proceeds is delusional.
 

gothicangel

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Any writer who thinks they will be successful just because they get an agent and a contract really hasn't done their research. And any e-pub author who thinks they can write one Amazon Kindle .99 cent bestseller and cruise for the rest of their life off the proceeds is delusional.

I think Ms Hocking said it best in her blog. To achieve the kind of sales she is, she no longer has the time to write. I think she's an incredible business woman, and will be incredibly grateful when a publisher offers to take over the reigns so she can get back to writing.

I believe she already has an agent - that's going to be one vicious auction.
 

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After thinking it over, I think I am going to contradict myself. I disagree with people who think $12 is too expensive for an ebook, but I understand the mindset.

I think $12 is probably too expensive for most books, but I think the important thing is the relative price compared to the print edition. Insisting on price parity with print is not going to be a good long-term strategy. I think you probably agree:

Convincing them that what's basically a text file wrapped in software that makes it inconvenient to read is worth 12 bucks is, I think, not going to be sustainable in the long run. I wish it were, but realistically, it isn't, and the price point for ebooks that the publishers are trying to maintain (and I sided with the Big 6 against Amazon re: the Agency pricing model) is not going to hold. I am willing to pay 12 bucks or more (and have) for an ebook I really want to read, but most people aren't.

I don't really agree with agency pricing; I suspect it is likely to be struck down before too long by the UK regulators. It's disappointing that Random have gone agency in the US purely in order to get into the terrible iBooks store, anyway. (Apple really need to fix that up, by the way; Amazon is kicking their arse at the browsing experience.)

Was reminded the other day of Allen Lane's observations about the book trade which led him to start up Penguin - paperbacks at the time could be cheap, or good quality, but not both, and they weren't available in convenient locations like railway stations. "We believed in the existence of a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price," he said, "and staked everything on it."

I think that's a strategy worth exploring. We ought to realise that even if we decide not to go that way it still amounts staking everything on the status quo.
 

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The only thing that IS different is that e-book authors can work their asses off and make it on their own, while traditional publishing requires working your ass off under the supervision and guiding hand of someone else.

I submit that while you may have to work your ass off with a traditional publisher, it won't be to the point of not having time to write. That won't make money for anyone in the long-run - and I'm quite sure Ms Hocking has this in the back of her mind as she goes yet another day without having time to write.
 

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Look, e-books and traditional publishing are not different - you have to work your ass off. Period. You have to market your book, create a fan base, and keep them happy with either new products or new promotions regardless of whether you go the POD, e-pub, or traditional route, because this is how business is done!


Traditionally, the benefit of having an agent and a publisher and all that was that they did the marketing; the writer wrote. A book tour, some signings, if you're popular enough? Sure. But it is fair to ask what the benefit of an agent and a publisher is if they don't really do any of the work that a self-pubbed author has to do.

I know, the business is changing. One of the reasons why for me, even though I'd like to be published and have that "professional author" title, writing is a hobby for me and will be even if/when I do get published. I'm keeping my day job; I'm just not willing to invest all my spare hours in marketing myself.

(Now if Hollywood comes a'knocking, I might reconsider. ;) )
 

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I think Ms Hocking said it best in her blog. To achieve the kind of sales she is, she no longer has the time to write.

I read that blog post too, and in the context of the rest of it, I really got the impression that it wasn't so much that she had to work so hard to achieve the success she had that she had no time to write, but that because she'd achieved so much success, she'd felt an incredible amount of pressure to keep it up and didn't feel like she had enough time to write. I think, sadly for Amanda I'm sure, much of the attention she gets now is about how much money she's making, not about her stories. I think she feels overwhelmed because she's getting so much attention and because she's so suddenly wicked successful.

This post of hers is quite enlightening: http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2010/08/epic-tale-of-how-it-all-happened.html

Essentially, she says that in terms of marketing, all she did was send out her book to book bloggers.

And that when she first released two books, without any marketing of any kind, she sold 45 books in two weeks. Her fourth month of self-pubbing made her over $3000.

It really is, I think, magic (as she says) and word of mouth.
 
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