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Observations and (literary) eructations

This week I’d like to zero in on a few items that have crossed my desk and/or screen over the past month;  things that made me think about our industry (writing and publishing), where it is, and where it (and we) are going.

Let’s begin with last month’s mammoth Author Earnings report.  I note that the authors of the report are now selling their data to the industry, and are therefore “graying out” a number of things for which they’d now like to be paid.  I can’t blame them for that, of course, but it does make their reports less useful to the rest of us.  Nevertheless, they do provide an immense amount of food for thought, for which I’m duly grateful.

Key points (for me, at any rate) from their latest report include:

70% of online purchases of adult fiction & nonfiction are ebooks & audiobooks, and online consumer dollars skew mostly digital, too. In fact, most of the remaining online print share here is nonfiction; further narrowing the scope to just adult fiction, we see that online sales are even more digitally dominated … the answer to “which format(s) now make up the majority of sales” depends entirely on the genre … Even within the broader category of Adult fiction, we see wide variation. Romance readers are overwhelmingly buying digital now: 90% of all Romance purchases are ebooks. And we can see that Science Fiction & Fantasy, with roughly 75% of sales now ebooks & audio, is not that far behind. On the other hand, readers of Poetry are still buying 82% of those Poetry books as print, and 85% of Drama & Plays are bought in print, even online.

. . .

So how much does release timing matter for your next title? Less and less, nowadays. It seems to matter mostly for print, and even then, only for bookstore sales. For online and digital sales, it appears the “pool is open” year round.

. . .

Throughout 2017, a frequent meme circulating in indie author loops was that self-publishing was hitting headwinds, and that self-published sales had slowed dramatically for “everyone.” Even the biggest indie stars of yesteryear were no longer pulling down what they used to, so times must be even tougher for everyone else.

A quick glance at the pie charts above reveal a different story. The indie share of the entire US ebook market, comprising the various blue wedges in the pies above, now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be, in our quarterly snapshots from previous years. In other words, far from losing ground, the overall indie market share has grown.

There’s much more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

Although this isn’t explicitly stated in the latest Author Earnings report, my takeaway from their numbers is that the “slice of the pie” for each of us is getting more finite.  We used to say that the old trope – that the pie is only so large, and that as more people enter the market, so the slice of pie available to each of them is getting smaller – wasn’t accurate.  We argued that the pie wasn’t finite, but growing;  that there was room in the market for as many people as wanted to enter it.  I think that was true for some time, in the hectic e-book marketplace, as more and more readers switched to electronic devices for their books instead of paper, and enjoyed access to decent reading material at prices far lower than those charged by mainstream publishers.  However, so many authors have now entered the market that a certain saturation point has been reached on the supply side.  (For example, when I checked a few minutes ago, Amazon’s Kindle Store now offers more than six million titles, both free and paid.  When I entered the market back in 2013, there were well under two million.  I get the impression that the number of titles on offer in the Kindle Store is growing by between 50,000 and 80,000 each month.)  However, new consumers have not entered the market in the same proportions.  The pie is not growing anything like as fast as it seemed to in the past.

There’s also the factor that many of the books on offer from independent authors are significantly better (in terms of quality of writing, editing, layout and production) than their predecessors.  We’ve all learned from past mistakes, watched who succeeded and why, and “raised our game” to match.  Also, with so many new authors entering the market, there are more “quality” writers around than there were before.  (There are far more “shoddy” writers, too, but the “quality” authors stand out even more against their turgid background.)  This means that all of us must work much harder to improve our market presence and visibility, so that potential readers can find our work.  Marketing is more important than ever.  It’s now probably the single most important factor in our success, exceeding even our ability to craft a well-written, attractive, enticing story.  Sadly, many of us aren’t doing a good job of marketing.  That will have to change, if we hope for any sort of success.  Remember the growth in the number of books on offer, to which I alluded in the previous paragraph?  In terms of the signal-to-noise ratio, that’s a lot of noise through which to make our signal heard – and it’s getting worse, every month.

Our ability to make money is also being affected by changing levels of price consciousness among consumers.  Consider this graph from the latest Author Earnings report (click the image for a larger view):

Author Earnings report - January 2018 - Ebook Dollar Sales by Purchase Price


For the past couple of years, in genres such as SF, fantasy, etc., recommended price points used to be plus-or-minus $2.99 for short stories, $2.99-$3.99 for novellas, and $4.99 and upward for full-length novels.  Now, those levels are dropping.  The current “sweet spot” for full-length novels appears to be plus-or-minus $3.99.  If we can sell more books at that price point, that’s great;  but if we can’t, it means we’ll lose money by pricing at market level.  We can try to hold our book prices higher if we choose, but unless we’re offering a premium product for which our fans are prepared to pay that sort of money, we’re unlikely to succeed.  Subscription services such as Kindle Unlimited are also eating into author earnings.  I earn less than $1 for every KU ‘loan’ – much less than half what I make per sale.  That’s great for readers, but lousy for me!  However, we can’t ignore the impact that KU and similar services are having.  More and more readers are stretching their entertainment dollars by using streaming services for music, movies and TV.  They want and expect the same flexibility from books – and they’re getting it.  We can resist by withholding our titles from such services, but then we’ll get fewer readers and less income.  In Africa, we used to say that resisting the inevitable was “farting against thunder”.  That’s a good description for what holdouts against subscription services are doing.

Of great interest is a new competitor that’s just been announced.  Walmart is tying up with Kobo to sell e-books and e-book  readers, both in its stores and online.  Ars Technica reports:

Customers will be able to shop for e-books and audiobooks on Walmart’s website, and the retailer will sell e-readers in its stores and online. Walmart also plans to sell “e-book cards” in its stores, which seem to be physical cards customers can buy while shopping at a Walmart store that contain a download code for access to an e-book or audiobook after they leave the store.

While digital book shopping will be done on Walmart’s platforms, customers will access purchased titles through Walmart/Kobo branded apps for desktop as well as Android and iOS. Kobo already has apps across these platforms, but it seems the two companies will make new apps for Walmart customers in the US to use. Customers with Kobo e-readers won’t have to worry about downloading new apps since all Kobo titles can be read on its own e-readers.

Partnering with Rakuten for access to Kobo is one of the quickest and easiest ways for Walmart to enter the e-book market. While Rakuten has the chance to grow Kobo’s relatively small US footprint, Walmart has a better chance of challenging Amazon with this partnership than if the retail giant had attempted to enter the digital book space on its own.

Again, more at the link:  also here, here and here.

I wasn’t surprised by this news:  rather, I’d been wondering why it was taking Walmart so long to get into the e-book market.  Walmart’s executives aren’t dummies.  They may be late to the digital game, but they’re making a very determined effort to catch up to Amazon, just as Amazon is doing to catch up to Walmart in the meatspace market (by, for example, buying Whole Foods to gain access to its supermarkets;  there are rumors that Amazon may be interested in Target next, although that deal would also bring with it complications).  Its e-commerce division is now headed up by a new and dynamic executive who’s making a serious impact (I’ve noticed it personally when buying online, and as a result am now buying more from Walmart and less from Amazon).  Just look at Walmart’s deal with Kobo.  Not only will Walmart now sell Kobo’s e-books, but Rakuten will now sell Walmart’s goods in Japan.  Now that’s a switch!  (There’s also Walmart’s allegedly more… er… militant approach, of course!)

The Walmart-Kobo tie-up means that those of us who are (at least at present) selling exclusively through Amazon will have to re-evaluate our marketing strategy.  It’s early days yet, but if Walmart puts its full marketing muscle behind e-books, Amazon may have its first serious rival in that field.  I’ll be watching that very carefully, and getting ready to “go wide” if that looks more promising than “staying narrow”.  It would terminate my participation in Amazon’s KDP Select program (including Kindle Unlimited) if I did so, but if I can make more money that way, the decision will be a no-brainer.

Speaking of money, author Kameron Hurley gave details of her earnings from writing and related avenues during 2017.

Katherine Hurley writing earnings 2017

She’s a relatively successful author by mid-list income standards, so those figures are (or should be) sobering to all of us.  They’re not very high, are they?  In fact, without the “add-on” earnings from Patreon subscriptions by her fans, she’d have earned less than 40% of that total last year.

I’ve considered setting up some sort of Patreon (or equivalent) account for my fans, because frankly, my writing income has been too low for comfort the past couple of years.  Episodes of ill-health led to long gaps between books and a much reduced writing output, and it’s hurt my pocketbook.  I’ve resisted the temptation so far, because I guess I’m old-fashioned about such things.  I reckon, if I want your support, I should earn it by selling you material that you like – books and stories that give you a return on your investment.  However, in today’s market, it may be that we’re going to have to consider some sort of “supplementary fan income” as a necessary sideline to writing.  In Ms. Hurley’s case, that “supplementary” income is actually over 60% of her total income from writing!  That’s definitely food for thought.  She’s not alone in that, of course:  more and more authors are setting up Patreon or similar accounts, and appealing to their fans for their subscription support.  Some earn significant amounts that way (for example, N. K. Jemisin or John C. Wright).

I’d like to ask for readers’ feedback on that subject in Comments.  Am I being too old-fashioned in resisting asking for that sort of support?  Should it be more widely used by indie authors?  Please let us know your thoughts.

Let’s close today’s column with a warning about your Web site or domain name, if you have one.

It all began when I received an email from some random company telling me my domain was up for renewal and offering to renew it for me. It had been purchased so long ago that I couldn’t remember who it had been set up with so I asked my techie, Carolyn to check into it. When she looked it up, the domain was registered with a company called eNom, which neither of us had heard of, and at an old address of mine where I’ve not lived for years. She suggested I call them.

The rep there told me that the domain name was listed under a reseller out of Toronto. They informed me that I could get it back for five years if I paid $249.00, seven years for $500+ or ten years for more than $700. By this time I was so upset I could not remember the exact figures. But I smelled a rat and sensed eNom, and/or the secondary reseller, were holding my domain for ransom.

More at the link – and very worthwhile reading, if you haven’t been keeping a careful eye on your Web “property”.  I suspect indie authors are particularly vulnerable to this sort of scam, because few of us are sufficiently tech-savvy to avoid it.

This can affect you even if you haven’t yet registered your domain name.  It hurt me a couple of years ago.  I used the name “Fynbos Press” for my indie “publisher” imprint, intending to set it up as a formal company in due course if things went well.  I didn’t think to register it as a Web site at the time, being a novice in such things.  By the time I got around to doing so, an outfit in Serbia had already registered “” in their own name, and were not-so-generously offering it for sale.  Clearly, they’d searched the Web for company or organization names that did not yet have their own Web sites, and glommed onto as many domain names as they could, in the hope of extorting a lot of money out of those organizations to get them back.  In my case, it wasn’t a problem;  I simply changed my indie press name, and made sure to register the domain names I wanted before using the new name.  However, if you have any investment (marketing as well as monetary) in a name for which you might one day need a Web site, you’ll do well to check on that.  It may no longer be available, except at an exorbitant buy-back price.

That’s all for this week.  Please react and respond in Comments, and let’s continue the discussion.

  1. c4zzzz g’nite all.

    February 9, 2018
  2. Thanks for putting all this together, Peter. It’s very helpful. The Walmart/Kobo partnership is especially interesting. It could be a new course that provides the kind of growth that Amazon did for a while. This, of course, is counterbalanced by the fact that so many readers in the U.S. already have kindles as their e readers.

    February 9, 2018
    • snelson134 #

      Depends on how far Left Bezos goes.

      February 9, 2018
  3. Huh. I *was* going to say that Amazon’s advantage is search and that Wal-mart’s problem is search being almost useless. But having just checked, evidently WM must have done a major fix since last I looked. Good.

    February 9, 2018
    • Wal-Mart is becoming more tech savvy. Sam’s Culb (owned by Wal-Mart) now has an app that lets you scan and pay for items from your phone and skip the checkout line (unless you’re buying certain chemicals such as some cleaning supplies). I love it. Wal-Mart has implemented the same thing, although I don’t have that one yet.

      February 9, 2018
      • Ohh … that would be nice. We do both Sam’s and Costco …
        About a year ago, I discovered that Walmart had most of my books in their on-line catalog. Don’t think I have had many sales through Wally World, but still, it was a pleasant surprise.

        February 9, 2018
        • adventuresfantastic #

          It is extremely nice. I walk by the lines several customers deep, usually with loaded carts or pallets, smile, and head for the door. You s still have to have your purchases checked before you exit, but that’s a quick process and even long lines there move fast.

          The interesting thing is a salesperson told us about it. They aren’t doing that anymore. Job security, I guess. I was in Sam’s recently looking at laptops, and there were two thick pads sitting on the display with tear-offs explaining the app, but no one was telling the lines of customers about the app. If I had not been pressed for time, I would have started handing them out to the people in line.

          February 9, 2018
  4. adventuresfantastic #

    I’m wondering if Hurley and Jemison are doing so well on Patreon because of their writing or because of their politics.

    February 9, 2018
    • That and the cynical, unkind part of me (which has not had much caffeine yet and so is rather uncharitable) wonders if it is a form of virtue signalling by the donors – they get virtue credits by supporting controversial minority writers (of color/orientation/whatever).

      February 9, 2018
      • adventuresfantastic #

        I’ve probably had a bit too much caffeine and so am also rather uncharitable (plus it’s Friday, which is Monday in my job), so I’m going to say you have a very good and valid point.

        February 9, 2018
      • Zsuzsa #

        Which one of the two was it who was complaining that if everyone came to hear her speak bought her book she would be a best seller?

        Regardless, I suspect that it almost has to be true that Hurley and Jemison (and probably Wright as well) are doing so well on Patreon because of activities outside their writing of fiction. At least from my perspective, I support writers whose books I enjoy by buying said books; I don’t feel the obligation to give them money in other ways any more than I would feel the obligation to contribute to my plumber’s Patreon account rather than just hiring him any time the toilet backs up. Where I might feel an obligation to contribute is when a writer is producing something that I’m not paying for otherwise but still enjoy very much: something like the daily blog posts over at According to Hoyt or the writing advice here.

        I suspect a similar dynamic applies on the other side of the aisle: whether people are contributing to Hurley and Jemison because they enjoy their rants or because they want to feel good about fighting the patriarchy, there’s something more there than merely likely their stories.

        February 9, 2018
        • Terry Sanders #

          Wright is also scrupulous about offering “value-added” to his Patreon. He’s already done a “Perils of Pauline” take on his usual universe-spanning fare (SUPERLUMINAL) and is presently in the middle of a Planetary Romance (LOST ON THE LAST CONTINENT, starring Colonel Preston Lost (Yes, he’s shameless…). Also artwork, private chats, etc. You might want to consider that, as you ponder the viability thereof.

          February 9, 2018
        • Roger Ritter #

          This is how I feel about it. I support the artists/writers I like by buying their books. I will also support them on a Patreon if want them to continue but for some reason don’t buy their books. In this case, I’d be willing to support a Patreon at about $2/month (all I usually pledge) because of the bayourenaissanceman blog that I also read. Consider the Patreon as my payment for that bit of entertainment.

          February 9, 2018
      • SheSellsSeashells #

        Without having to slog through the book! 😀

        February 10, 2018
    • Not meant as a slur against Ms. Hurley, but $29K is not “doing well.” It is “would you like fries with that?” level income. Part-time burger flipping.

      What I’m finding simply amazing is how little money these Name authors are getting. Hurley makes $47K a year, and most of it is from Patreon? Are you kidding me? That’s -terrible!-

      I look forward to my dozen sales with great anticipation. Publication of my works will certainly enable me to purchase a 6-pack to celebrate!

      February 9, 2018
      • adventuresfantastic #

        Sorry, I see now that I wasn’t clear. And I agree that’s not necessarily doing well, although doing well is somewhat subjective. Please allow me to reword my statement to “doing well on Patreon compared to their actual writing.” I’m basing that statement solely on Hurley’s numbers that she made public, so I should also probably amend to “Hurley” with no mention of Jemison.

        I do find it telling that all her writing combined is more than $10k less than her Patreon income. I’m fairly certain Hurley is the one who complained about people coming to her panels but not buying her books. All of which implies that perhaps – perhaps, I said – it’s not her fiction writing that is finding an audience.

        February 9, 2018
        • Leaving aside any issues of style and content, Ms. Hurley is an award winning SF/F writer and enjoys lots of admiration from the establishment publishing set. Here’s an author with multiple books out, she’s got publisher push, she’s got a brand and marketing. She’s got shelving at the Big Bookstore Chain.

          Total book income, with all that going for her, under $20K. Holy. Crap. Why even bother? This is the thing we keep seeing with the lit-fic people. There is no cheese where they are.

          Is there more income than that in self-pub? I sincerely hope so. Income is good.

          February 10, 2018
          • No kidding – at that level of income from your books, for all that “push” why bother? She’d probably do better off, working at McDonalds, asking if the customers want fries with that.

            February 10, 2018
            • adventuresfantastic #

              My understanding is that these numbers are her writing income and she has a full time day-job. One that pays better than writing. She wrote a post about it after she was nominated for (and maybe won) a major award. I don’t recall which one because I’ve stopped paying attention to any awards other than the Gemmell, the Shamus, and the Dragon, in that order.

              February 10, 2018
            • I’ve been having that exact conversation on another blog. I’m writing these days, but not out of any need or expectation of money. Mostly because I finally have the time. Stories that have waited twenty or even forty years are finally getting written.

              Which is fine for me, but what does it mean for the SF/F genre as a thing in itself? How long does this stumble along if the only people writing are retired dilettantes and dabblers?

              February 11, 2018
              • Ben Yalow #

                We’d be where the field was for most of its existence.

                Only a handful of writers, during the history of the field, made most of their money as writers. Hal Clement, who is probably the finest hard SF writer ever, was a high school science teacher who wrote stories for decades, and sold many millions of copies of his books, Clifford Simak was a newspaperman. Or, to pick modern writers, Vernor VInge, when he first conceived of the Singularity, and wrote A First Upon the Deep was a compsci professor at San Diego State University (although he eventually retired to write full time — but most of his work was written before he retired). Alastair Reynolds eventually became a full-time writer, but wrote for decadeswhile being a full-time scientist for the European Space Agency.

                I could go on for a long time with people’s “real” jobs for most of the history of the field. Only a handful of writers made their money writing SF for most of the time the field existed.

                February 11, 2018
    • Draven #

      because they have to?

      February 9, 2018
    • Politics

      February 10, 2018
  5. That Walmart/Kobo partnership is quite interesting. Since the local Christian Bookstore closed there’s been no place to go look at a Kobo device in person. If Walmart is going to be selling them in the stores, that’ll be nice when it comes time to replace my Nooks.

    February 9, 2018
  6. I’ll repeat what I said over yonder:

    NEVER EVER NOT EVER “check a domain” before trying to register it. ALWAYS just try to register it — if it’s already taken you’ll be so informed, and no harm done. But if it’s NOT yet registered and the Whois (or DNS server, for that matter) you used is linked to a domain squatter, it’ll be squatted almost before you’re done checking it. This stuff is automated, and you can’t beat it to the punch.

    February 9, 2018
    • TRX #

      Yes. I checked the availability of several names for a club, they decided which one they wanted, I went back to register it, and it was taken. On a whim I checked the rest of the list, and they were taken as well.

      That was back when there were only a couple of registrars, and I don’t remember offhand which one I was using… but that sort of domain sniping has to be done at the registrar level, which I felt was pretty sleazy. They might *say* some place in Serbia squatted on your name, but if it was true, it was because the sold the enquiry to a second-level sleazebag.

      February 9, 2018
      • Ben Yalow #

        One whois that’s safe to use for those purposes (they don’t sell to anybody) is — and they can look at pretty much all of the TLDs.

        I’d also recommend that you ensure, when you register the domain, that you don’t have yourself as all of the contacts, since, if something happens to you, you still want someone to be able to continue the domain. So have at least one of the contacts be someone other than yourself (for those not familiar, you’ve got three contacts — the registrant, the admin, and the tech contact). For something that I want to be sure would live beyond something happen to me, I usually stay as the registrant, and have someone else as the admin contact.

        The reason for splitting them that way has to do with the rules for transferring domains. The official requirement is:

        “The Administrative Contact and the Registered Name Holder, as listed in the Losing Registrar’s or applicable Registry’s (where available) publicly accessible WHOIS service are the only parties that have the authority to approve or deny a transfer request to the Gaining Registrar. In the event of a dispute, the Registered Name Holder’s authority supersedes that of the Administrative Contact.”

        February 10, 2018
      • Squatting is illegal, and you can push them off if you want to go through the trouble of doing it.

        February 10, 2018
        • Ben Yalow #

          Disclaimer: Just in case this looks like legal advice — it isn’t. I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not trying to practice law here.

          There’s an excellent page by Nolo Press talking about the two remedies for squatting. It’s illegal under US law (and they point you to the procedures necessary), and there’s the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (which is an arbitration procedure, usually faster, but doesn’t allow for damages — it just gets you the domain back).

          See for further explanation. I’ve found that to be a useful page to start from.

          For those not familiar with ICANN, it’s the organization that controls the domain naming system fr the Internet.

          Note that squatting is different from domain hijacking (where you’ve already registered a name, and somebody changes the DNS to take the name away from you) — ICANN also has a recovery procedure for that, as well. The key there is to keep the documentation to show that you’re the one who registered the name before someone took it away from you.

          A lot of the ways of dealing with someone else using the domain you want work much better if you’ve registered the service mark that the name would be associated with, So that if, for example, you’ve registered “Stuff Press”, then winning a dispute to get is much easier. Of course, there is a cost to registration, but it might be worth it.

          February 10, 2018
        • snelson134 #

          Of course, that has probably been made harder by Obama giving up ICANN.

          February 11, 2018
  7. C4c

    February 9, 2018
  8. Stanley Miller #

    A domain name like any other business plans should be kept quiet until they are put in place, doesn’t even have to be a Serbian bad guy to make you regret oversharing.

    I’d also recommend not going cheap on your domain registration, look for an established company with a good reputation, good responses to folks having problems and the services you want today or may want in the future. You do not want somebody that is going out of business soon, that is often ugly.

    Domain privacy is also something to look at, by adding it to your account your personal information is no longer public information, instead the domain registrar uses their information keeping yours private. This will save you from a lot of junk calls and e-mail, many of them pretty slick scams.

    Keep a couple copies of your registration information too, much easier to grab a backup copy to recover your access than trying to prove who you are after you have lost the original copy.

    February 9, 2018
  9. Peter, you said:
    “Subscription services such as Kindle Unlimited are also eating into author earnings. I earn less than $1 for every KU ‘loan’ – much less than half what I make per sale. That’s great for readers, but lousy for me! ”

    What I’d LIKE to be able to see is to what extent KU loan income cannibalizes book purchase income.
    In the worst case scenario, one KU loan means one book sale loss.
    In the best case scenario, one KU loan means (some value) book sale increase; slightly below best case, one KU loan means ZERO book sale loss.

    I hope this is making sense; I’m still not braining really well from the flu.

    I hold that the worst case scenario is NOT true, but I only have my own data to provide. And I’m not counting so well right now, but here’s what I THINK is correct:
    My formal reviewing queue for January consisted of 19 books; of those, 11 were KU, 6 were review copies provided by the publisher or author, 1 was a freebie from Gutenberg, and 1 was a Christmas present from my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. (I’m not finished with my January queue yet)

    I have read 3,286 Kindle pages so far in going through my January list, sidelined a bit by events in meatspace. Based on the December per-page payout by KU, that means my reading put $16.7586 into the coffers of authors, at the cost to me of $9.99. (Clearly, most subscribers don’t take advantage of the system as much as I do.)

    (I had a point I was working toward; what was it?)
    (Oh. yeah: cannibalization!)

    Is my reading of KU books at the expense of sales? Heck, NO! If I had purchased those books on Kindle, it would have cost me $30.91, and paid out to authors (@ 70%, which I guess is where they are all placed) $21.637, and the big problem with THAT is: I don’t have $30.91 per month to spend on books.

    I DO have $9.99 per month, it’s a budget item, just like the mortgage and insurance and utilities.

    Maybe this analysis doesn’t mean anything, which is quite likely the case since I can hardly follow my own logic, but what I THINK it means is this: for a certain percentage of people (myself included), KU means that YOUR books are going to generate income for you as soon as they hit the shelf. With KU, you get Patterson Bux. Without KU, you don’t. Whether the Patterson Bux and other similar Bux offsets the potential loss you get from sales, I do not know.

    But, I wish someone would figure out how to find out.

    I apologize in advance if I have been incoherent. I’m going to eat pizza and take a pain pill now.

    February 9, 2018
    • I have a lot of books in print. On average KU has cost me about 50 percent of my royalties per sale. That means I’m selling on KU (on average) for a 35 percent royalty, instead of 70 percent.

      However I’m selling three times as many books (on average) through KU than I am through normal sales. In 2017 I sold about a hundred thousand copies, so this isn’t data on just a few sales, it’s on a large number of sales. I’ve heard of similar results from other writers. Yes, it would be nice to get 70 percent on everything, but that’s not the market. 35 percent is still more than the trads will pay you. Amazon is also 95 percent of the market.

      So I tell everyone, do KU. That’s where the money is currently.

      February 10, 2018
    • snelson134 #

      My wife and I use KU to try out authors we otherwise wouldn’t unless they put the book on sale. As in under $3.00. If we like it and will re-read it, we buy.

      February 10, 2018
    • Very best case, they borrow the book on KU, decide they want a permanent copy, and buy it to free up a slot.

      February 10, 2018
  10. The frustration I have with the ebook sales chart – and thus point of debate with your contention that ebook prices are dropping – is that they never split ebook prices out for only fiction, much less genre. If textbook sales go from $500 to $250 per average textbook, that’s massive price drop… and still doesn’t impact science fiction in the slightest. (Except that some student might be slightly less in debt, and able to afford some fiction to escape into when their classes get too much.)

    Looking at Military SciFi as a genre, the ebook prices for the top 20 contain one heavily pushed trad pub series for $11.99 each, a .99 center that might be a bookbub deal, and the rest range from $4.99-$2.99. The 47 North (Amazon imprint) books are $4.99 in this genre, indicating that Amazon thinks that’s the sweet spot for the sales/income split.

    The other day I went looking for some Old Greek Philosopher. There were dozens of versions of the Classical Texts available, each clearly scanned from Gutenburg or other open source for out-of-copyright works, most for $0.99. Do two hundred variants of Aristotle’s Poetics or the Iliad impact the price of, say, urban fantasy? Only in the mass “all ebooks” chart.

    February 9, 2018
    • I agree. In SciFi and Fantasy, ebook prices are climbing. Now maybe they’re falling in romance, because the romance sweetspot was 5.99 for many years. That might be coming down, but I don’t write there anymore, so I don’t care.

      This is why I’ve been telling people lately to look at their information a lot more critically, because a lot of people are focusing on the wrong data and coming to wrong conclusions. Data manipulation is something I understand extremely well because I’m an engineer, and because I used to be the guy who had to make the data make sense for the programmers and the scientists. Too many people look at trailing indicators and think that those are the things effecting change.

      February 10, 2018
  11. my patreon account brings me in about a hundred dollars a month.
    my mailing list JUST went over a hundred people last week.
    my advertising budget has gone from a about a hundred a month to about ten dollars of late (though I may increase it here again soon).
    I’ve been making over 50K a year for three years now.
    In the last six months I’ve made over 200K.
    I figure I have about 20K fans at this point, maybe more. It’s hard to point to any single factor that has gotten me to where I am currently (and who knows how long this ride will last, right?) but I can definitely point to a several things that I have learned and that have worked for me.

    Key among them is ‘what are you doing here?’ Are you here just to write a few books, or to make a living at it? Or to try and become highly successful? It’s a long hard slog to get to be successful and you have to have talent to do that (whether learned, trained, or simply bred).
    It isn’t easy to become a successful writer, it’s not a get rich quick scheme, it takes a lot of work. take a good look at your past if you want an indication of your future.
    And if you want to do better than that, be prepared to make some changes.

    Also, you have to learn to stop listening to the myths that so many people seem to believe about this business. You need to stop taking advice from those who are not successful, but simply act like they are (which means learning to tell the difference). You need to understand that there are many paths to success, there is no one ‘true way’, but you’ll notice that all of those paths do seem to head in the same general direction and have a lot of similar steps.

    It came as quite a shock to me, to learn that I have fans who are far more successful financially at writing than I am. Who became writers solely because I inspired them to. THAT led to some very interesting insights about this business.

    Yes, I had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment which is why I went from 50K a year to significantly more. If I have the opportunity, I’ll do a presentation on it at LibertyCon this year. I suspect in some ways it will sound a lot like the video Nick did last week. Or the things that Larry has been telling us for years. But that brings me back to the first point, why do you want to be an author, and just how much do you really want to make as one? Understanding of course that you’re going to have to work hard for what you get.

    February 10, 2018
    • OK, who is NIck, and is there a link to the video?

      February 10, 2018
      • Nick Cole, and I don’t have the link handy at the moment, but I’ve already scheduled an article on it tomorrow morning with link, if someone else doesn’t reply with it first 🙂

        February 10, 2018
      • I think this is it:

        February 10, 2018
        • Cheers.

          February 10, 2018
        • Dorothy Grant #

          Thanks! Just now got to being able to paste links, and you’ve beat me by hours!

          February 10, 2018
        • Man, I wish I’d seen this three weeks ago right before I published my last book. I’d have controlled the social media activity to make sure I was being sold in the right genre. Oh, well. Next book comes out this summer.

          February 10, 2018
    • Draven #

      Thanks for being willing to give your information to state a contrary opinion, John.

      February 10, 2018
      • I’m not so sure it’s contrary, it’s just that I think people are looking at the wrong things. A lot of people think mailing lists are important, but they’re not. And depending on just how you built your mailing list, and what your market demographics are, your numbers may just be worthless. Everyone likes to point to Mark Dawson, but they forget that Mark Dawson is selling them classes and not books. Look at his audience’s demographics for the books he has out there. If your audience isn’t in it, his advice is worthless.

        Another key piece of information shared with me and a bunch of others back in 2011 when ebooks were just starting to take off: Know your market’s demographics. My market isn’t into mailing lists and they’re not much into buying things they see advertised online (because most of them are using adblockers). I probably could increase my patreon following, if I pushed it, but I’ve decided to experiment with a different route on patreon and have actually cut all of my higher tiers out.

        I do highly disagree with the information on price points listed above however. Price points are moving up in Scifi and Fantasy now, not down. The sweet spot for novels for the last 7 years was 2.99 – 3.99. It’s now moving to 3.99 – 4.99.

        February 10, 2018
  12. Brett Baker #

    Working my way up to actually writing a story. If I get it done where should I send It? The magazines, Smashwords, or find an agent?

    February 10, 2018
    • Amazon. Getting an agent is a waste of time, effort, and money.

      February 10, 2018
    • Also, Draft 2 Digital is good for all the non-Amazon sites. To the extent I sell elsewhere than Amazon I go through D2D and find them easier than Smashwords.

      Also, you’ll want to start reading the old posts in Kris Rusch’s Business Musings at They are a real eye opener.

      February 10, 2018
  13. FOr items shorter than novels, there are only so many magazines, so it would not hurt to try there. Smashwords and Amazon can be used simultaneously.

    February 10, 2018

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