Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Post by Jeffrey J. Mariotte

On Never Quitting

I used to think Joe Konrath was full of shit.

Here’s the thing. Since 1980, I’ve worked in the book business. I’ve been a bookseller, a writer, a publisher. Currently I co-own an independent specialty bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy (locations in San Diego and Redondo Beach, CA). The bookstore has never made anybody rich, but we’ve been in business for going on 19 of the most tumultuous years in the history of bookselling, and we’re still going strong.
I’ve worked for two start-up comic book publishers, in different capacities, both of which printed comics and books on paper, and both of them got to be major forces in that industry, and were acquired or partially acquired by much bigger companies with lots of money.
As a writer, I’ve published 45 novels on paper, most from the so-called Big 6 (my main publishers have been Simon & Schuster and Penguin, but HarperCollins and Tor and Warner/Hachette have been in the mix as well). In addition to those, I’ve published more than 100 comic books and graphic novels, a handful of nonfiction books, some short stories. Again, I haven’t gotten rich, but I was working as a full-time writer, having quit the publishing jobs and bought my little dream ranch in the high desert.
And then Konrath—Joe, who had put ungodly amounts of his advance money into promoting his books—got a book rejected and self-published it digitally and said he was actually selling copies. Then he started blogging, bragging about how many copies he was selling, and how he had found a way to make a living as a writer without using the traditional publishers.
See? Full of shit. The industry doesn’t work that way.
Only, he wasn’t. He really was selling books and writing more books and selling those, and making money on this new e-book thing.
I couldn’t see it. I’m a print guy. For decades. I collect books, mostly signed modern first editions. Some of Konrath’s included. Working in publishing, I was responsible for felling dozens, if not hundreds, of trees. Ditto bookselling. Ditto writing. Trees and books went together.
Then last year, the game changed.
I was looking out at 2010 and there were no book contracts on the horizon. The Great Recession had finally clobbered publishing, hard. Editors were getting laid off, lines were being cut. And e-book sales were cutting into print sales, but the big publishers had not yet figured out how to monetize that end of the business. They were treating it like just another format, not understanding that virtually everything about it is different than selling paper books. Those editors who remained were being more cautious than ever about what projects they took on.

With the day job as buffer, I could afford to take some time and write the best book of my career, rather than having to write three or four or five books a year to make ends meet. I did that. I sent it to my agent.k on. My pitches went out, but no offers came back. I was forced—and this is hard to admit, even now—to take a day job again.
It has not yet sold.
I kept working on other projects. I’ve had two novels out this year from Simon & Schuster, one a CSI tie-in novel, one a revised and updated reissue of a teen horror series, now titled Dark Vengeance.
And over there sat Konrath and then Barry Eisler, and my friends J. Carson Black and Scott Nicholson and Lee Goldberg, and some guy with the unlikely monicker of John Locke, and others. The list was growing. These folks were publishing e-books. Self-publishing e-books.
And as an aside, let me just tell you—in the interwoven worlds of publishing and bookselling, the only thing lower than someone who self-publishes is someone who publishes through a “vanity” press, like Vantage or iUniverse. The rule was, if you had to pay money to be published, you weren’t really published. If the only criteria the publisher used before they accepted a manuscript was whether your check cleared, you weren’t really published.
So that Konrath guy—he had to be full of shit.
Because I was doing it the right way, submitting my work to the same big publishers that had published me so many times before, and I was getting nowhere. But he and those others, they were self-publishing and building audiences and selling books.
Okay, I finally thought. I’m a print guy. But I’m a writer, and if that’s what it takes to make it as a writer, then sign me up.
I put out an e-book reprint of my one-and-only small press novel, a horror epic called The Slab. I put out an original thriller that I didn’t even try to sell traditionally, called The Devil’s Bait. I pulled together a collection of short horror fiction called Nine Frights. I did it all myself, even the covers. I self-published.
Now, I’m not here to claim that I’ve had anything like the success that Joe et al have had. I’ve been selling some books, but not boatloads of books.
Nor am I going to claim that I’m giving up on the world of print. I love it too much. My agent is still out with the thriller, and in a few weeks he’ll have another novel to shop.
What I will say is that I want to write, and I want to be paid for my writing. And to that end, I will, as much as possible, try to keep a foot in both camps. Because—you already knew this—Joe was not full of shit, and there is a world over there in e-book-land. There are people there who love to read but who don’t need to hold a paper book in their hands to believe it’s worthwhile. There are people who don’t need to see a publisher’s colophon on the spine—who don’t need a book to have a spine, in fact.
Every bookseller knows writers who have given up. They get a book published, or a few books, and they don’t sell. Offers stop coming, and they stop writing. Who knows what great writing we’ve been deprived of because the business, as it has been established for decades, didn’t see a way to turn a profit on those people?
Some of us are more tenacious than that, or more driven. We write and if we don’t sell we write something else. We don’t quit because we have faith in our abilities, even if the people in New York don’t.
And, it turns out, there’s another way. There are options.
Who knew?
Yeah, okay, Konrath knew. Some others knew. It just took this print dinosaur a while to catch on.
Guess I have to apologize to Joe. Sorry, man. I take it all back. I was wrong.
But you? You were right all along.
Bastard.

Joe sez: This is a ballsy post by Jeff because it goes against basic human nature. One of my truisms is that people would rather defend their beliefs to the death before opening their minds and considering alternatives. Jeff is entrenched in the world of paper, yet is willing to pursue other options. That isn't easy to do, and kudos to him.
He's not asking me for advice, but that never stopped me from giving it, so here it is.
1. Change your self-pub covers. They look homemade, and are probably limiting your sales.
2. Obviously I think searching for a legacy publisher is a waste of time, but even if that is your goal, there is no reason why you can't self-pub those as ebooks while your agent shops them around. There have been many cases of self-pubbed ebooks being picked up by publishers, and you could be making some money on these titles right now. Amazon in particular is buying a lot of self-pubbed titles for their imprints, and they are incredible to work with.
3. Read the post I did with Blake Crouch about how to save indie bookstores. Not a single bookstore has taken us up on our offer, and I know many authors willing to do the same thing Blake and I are suggesting.
4. Start self-pubbing your out-of-print backlist. It's buried treasure, just waiting to be unearthed. The more self-pubbed ebooks you can release, the more virtual shelf-space you occupy, the easier you are to find.
5. Raise the prices on your novels to at least $2.99. Various mounting evidence, along with insider info I can't go into, has convinced me $2.99 ebooks are pretty much always more profitable that 99 cent ebooks. I know that "insider info" comment smacks of bullshit, but I've been talking numbers with certain entities who have proof of this.
I don't believe there is a race to the bottom, and even though ebook prices will go down, pricing a novel between $2.99 and $5.99 seems to, according to my super-secret sources, generate more income than the 99 cent price point.
Now, you shouldn't take my tight-lipped word for it. But you should, as I have always encouraged, experiment with price points. Raising your prices $1 per month (November $1.99, December $2.99, January $3.99) then comparing figures, is a smart idea. It takes some guts, but you've already shown you have guts.
Recently, Blake Crouch and I raised all of our novel prices to $3.99 on Nook. Amazon will probably be next, once we sort through the data. We've also agreed that Stirred, which will be released at $2.99 on November 22, will go up in price after the initial launch.
And to those who whine, "But Joe, you said $2.99 is the perfect price point!" reread my previous comment about keeping an open mind and considering alternatives.
Paper books won't ever go away completely. But they will become a niche market. The legacy paper publishing industry can't survive on a niche market, and they haven't shown authors any value when it comes to the ebook market (and certainly nothing worthy of keeping 52.5% royalties.)
I'll continue to warn authors against pursuing legacy deals until I see substantial change. But so far, no change has come, other than the pathetically laughable announcement that they're finally sharing sales figures with authors.
Are you fucking kidding me? After decades of purposely obtuse, criminally slow royalty statements, they've actually chosen to allow authors to see how many books they're selling? Atta boy! How very progressive!
Pinheads.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't this have been available to authors TEN YEARS AGO, when Nielsen Bookscan was launched?
How about just saying, "Sorry we've treated you thousands of authors so unfairly for the last decade in regard to your numbers, but now we're willing to release this data you already should have had."
There are multiple reasons publishers have been obtuse with sales figures. Because keeping authors in the dark suits a number of purposes, not the least of which is maintaining control over them. Because it is easier to hide the money that way. Because they themselves are so poorly run they often may not know how many they've actually sold. Because authors have never been treated fairly in other aspects of the biz, so why treat them fairly in this instance.
The fact that they decided to announce this in a big way is like a celebrity going on national TV and proclaiming, "I know I've said some shit in the past, but I really don't hate minorities anymore! Really!"
Ack. Fail. What a comedy of errors.
But I've gone off on a tangent...
Whichever path you choose to walk, keep an open mind and consider your options. That goes even if you are doing both legacy publishing and self-publishing. There are always more options to consider, more experiments to try. Don't get tied down to ideology, tradition, or loyalty.
You are the author. You are the essential component in the reader/writer relationship. Treat yourself accordingly.

62 comments:

Darlene Underdahl said...

I look forward to these posts.

Thanks.

I.J.Parker said...

@Jeffrey: Bravo! May you be incredibly successful. And at least one of my books made it to your book store. :)

@ Joe: This is the day when I stopped shopping for traditional publishers completely. Alas, my last attempt with Thomas & Mercer fell through. New editor, I'm told, and different attitude. I'm determined to keep my future books out of the hands of traditional publishers until such a time when we can discuss e-rights as a separate issue, much the way foreign, audio, and film rights have been, and when I as the author get considerably more input.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Great post and response. Joe, you realize your hiatus responses are almost as long as your old posts, right? ;-)

You're funny. We're all glad you really weren't going away.

Chris said...

I just can't imagine working so hard to get some monolithic company to notice me. Every one of Konrath's/guest's posts I read pushes me more in this direction. Authors are finally allowed to have some self-respect, so I can't wait to take advantage of this e-book breakthrough.

Thanks for the helpful post!

Bridget McKenna said...

Bravely done, Jeffrey!

By the way, I HEART Mysterious Galaxy a whole lot. Back in my print pub career days, you guys had me in a time or two to read and sign. A wonderful store, and wonderful people.

jt Harding said...

I agree completely with both Jeffrey and Joe.

However, I think this is going to get dirtier before it gets better. "Old" business does not give up its monopoly position (in this case the publishing of author's work) without a fight, and although they are losing market share and kudos, they still have access to funding and resources individuals do not.

I self-pub. I'm not a success, but I've only been doing it since April this year. $4 is April has now steadied to around $500 a month. Not enough to live on but enough to pay for a couple of holidays a year, and a damn sight more than I ever made when I was traditionally published decades ago.

But I worry about how dirty and how long the fight is going to be, and if I have the stamina for it. Here's hoping I do.

And Joe, with you on price points. I initially priced at 99c then was loading my Kindle to go on vacation and discovered I was skipping over the 99c books because these were vacation reads, and sub-consciously I equated 2.99, 3.99 even 4.99 with higher quality. And even though I knew I was doing this and it was irrational, I still damn well did it! This either says something about me, or the general attitude to pricing.

Ruth Harris said...

A very interesting POV from Jeff. BTW, I agree with Joe: Please get some professional-looking covers. You'll respect yourself in the morning. ;-)

Luis Vila said...

Great story Jeff! I'm with Joe on this one. It's surprising to see someone go against their intrinsic nature by switching their ideals.

There is a lot to be learned from posts like this. I can't wait to hear more of them.

Jason said...

Jeffrey I see that those 3 self-pubbed books you mentioned are already $2.99 at Barnes & Noble, but are $.99 at Amazon. I'm curious if you see a significant sales difference at the two sites so far...

Edward G. Talbot said...

I have seen authors like Bob Mayer and David Wood sell quite well at $3.99 in recent months, so the pricing thing doesn't surprise me.

The $2.99 versus 99 cent debate seems like it has been answered. The vast majority of times, the double royalty means $2.99 wins, because both $2.99 and 99 cents are cheap. I'd be curious if your insider info shows that even promotional/temporary 99 cent prices wind up not being worth it. I think it would be very hard to introduce enough controls to conclude one way or the other on that, but certainly there is some evidence to suggest that such promotions can work.

Hiroko said...

It's nice to hear the stories of others in the industry; we're teaching, and learning, from each other.
How interesting it is to see a writer half-and-half getting books out. If anything, this is proof that it IS possible.

Joe Konrath said...

I'd be curious if your insider info shows that even promotional/temporary 99 cent prices wind up not being worth it.

That was the impression I got. It isn't worth it, even if it gives you a big sales boost.

Adam Pepper said...

Great job, Jeff. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong. It isnt easy to reassess everything you've learned, especially with the years of experience you have under your belt. Heck, we all thought Konrath was full of shit! Many people still do and it's to their own detriment.

On the 99 cent thing. When I released my book in July, it was priced at 2.99. It did well for the first month, then sales dried up. I did guest blogs, interviews, giveaways got good reviews and nothing was translating to sales. Last week I dropped my price to 99 cents and sold more in 2 days than I had the previous 6 weeks. Then, I did the guest blog here and really saw a nice spike (thanks again Joe! and to everyone who bought a copy). But even if we take out the support I received from Joe's following and all the cool folks at this blog, I sold more in 2 days at 99 cents than 6 weeks at 2.99.

I havent decided how long I'm going to leave my book at 99 cents but so far it's been a no brainer.

Anonymous said...

Jeff: Quite a journey in the written word, that life of yours!

Joe: I love this format for the same reason reason i loved _Be The Monkey_...thoughts worth sharing rise more quickly and incisively through dialogue then monologue. Keep it going!

Sarah Woodbury said...

Thanks for coming on Joe's blog and sharing your story, Jeff. The first time I read Joe's blog, nearly a year ago now, it was a game-changer for me. I find now that every time we get another post, I have to nod and say, 'Yup. This is the right place to be.'

Mary Stella said...

Great post, Jeff. Thanks for sharing with such honesty.

Great followup, Joe. Knowing how you've studied covers, I figured you'd have something to say.

I just got back from the NINC Conference last night. The buzz word was "discoverability".

There was also a lot of discussion about the e-tailers Amazon and BN.com eventually charging for co-op placement online like bricks and mortar stores. We know it's coming. We don't know if the opportunities will be open to independent authors and, if they are, if they'll be affordable or effective.

Yuwanda Black said...

I'm loving these guest posts!

Good luck Jeffrey. It takes a wise soul to recognize when the tide is turning -- and to steer the ship in a new direction.

RE pricing -- I publish in the non-fiction genre and have ebooks on Amazon priced from 99 cents to $59.95. About 20% of my sales come from those priced at $19.95 and above.

Just FYI . . .

Stephanie Void said...

Wow, I really didn't know that about the 99c prices. Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

"Authors who use Simon & Schuster’s site are instructed not to share the data with anyone other than their literary agents."

Jerks.

Archangel said...

Jeffrey, you are one of the most hard working word people in this world. May there be many successes for you. Luck is an erratic train: you've got many passengers on many station platforms to increase the chances. How hard you have worked, man, for your craft and also for other authors. You deserve all good things.

dr.cpe

Swands said...

I actually own The Slab in it's paper imprint and thought it had a really good cover. I agree with Joe's comment that the new eBook cover you're using doesn't do the book any justice. Was there a rights issue with the cover?

bettye griffin said...

Swands, when you have a book published by a publisher, they own the cover image they paid for and the back cover copy their people wrote. If you get your rights back you have to come up with a different cover and write a different summary.

As for pricing, I just released a new eBook (my fifth). A Kiss of a Different Color is priced at $3.49, $.50 more than my other single titles (I also have a 3-book bundle selling for $7.99). I haven't yet announced its availability--I want to tweak the cover copy but have to wait for its status to officially go "live" before I can do this--and have already sold half a dozen copies since this morning. The price doesn't seem to be holding people back.

Sean McCartney said...

Wouldn't it be fair to say that .99 cents for a short story is right? I mean it seems a little high to charge 2.99 for a short story or two of them. I could understand a book of short stories but for just one or two 99 cents.

Sean

Todd Trumpet said...

Jeffrey J. Mariotte said: "Because — you already knew this — Joe was not full of shit..."

Dammit, next time "SPOILER ALERT"!

Todd
"THE TELLING OF MY MARCHING BAND STORY"
www.ToddTrumpet.com

fictiondish said...

@Jeffery: Loved it. Shared it on FB.

@Joe: I've loved the guest post as much as yours. Reading through them you get the undeniable feeling that something very real is happening to the industry and it's happening here on this blog. Like a virtual occupancy. I'm not published yet, but I'm working on my first novel so I've considered the routes I might take. While I haven't ruled anything out, more and more I'm begin convinced to take the ebook route. Your blogs and successes have been very convincing arguments.

Tara Maya said...

Joe, I know you probably get tired hearing it, but your advice has been gold to me. I read your entire blog from the earliest to the latest posts, and took your advice to heart as I was struggling to move from small presses to self-publishing.

For a year I struggled with mediocre sales despite rave reviews from book bloggers and readers. You said, just keep writing, so that's what I did. I published the first 3 books of a series, an anthology and several novelettes.

Then I got lucky. Yes, I know you say that is an essential component of success... so is being ready to be lucky.

Now Initiate, Book 1 in my epic fantasy series, has been made free on Amazon, and sales of Taboo (Book 2) and Sacrifice (Book 3) have soared.

So, sorry if you're jaded from hearing it, but thanks, Joe!

Tara Maya
Initiate...FREE! (Grab it now!)
Taboo
Sacrifice

Bob said...

The book sales figures things is so funny, it's ridiculous. Like publishers are giving authors something valuable. While I just got a royalty check today for my June 2011 statement. It's almost November, Random House. You're telling me we're still working on a model for payment that predates computers? And by the way, since you don't have the rights to these books for over 8 months now, why are you still selling them?

Tara Maya said...

"You're telling me we're still working on a model for payment that predates computers?"

I think that sums it up.

Tara Maya
A writer's tribute to Steve Jobs

Jeff Mariotte said...

A few responses... First, thanks, Joe, for the opportunity to post, and for the feedback and suggestions. And thanks to the rest of you for joining in the conversation. I think it's worth having and worth continuing.

I am still interested in traditional publishing, because it has paid me a good living for years, and I believe it can continue to. I also remain interested in it because I know far more writers who have gained large readerships through traditional publishing (and, not incidentally, made a lot of money) than through e-book publishing. There are exceptions, of course--more all the time. And we may hit the tipping point soon that reverses that. I don't think we're there, and folks with successes like Joe's are still the noteworthy rarity rather than the rule. For now. I hope, as I said, to keep a foot in both camps, in order to be ready for it however it comes.

I will revisit covers when I'm able. I've had varying responses to them--some people really like The Slab and the Nine Frights covers, and I've never been happy with any of the options I've come up with for The Devil's Bait. I'm having a designer look at that one, to start.

I have had the books priced at $2.99 since they came out (with the exception of a sale on The Slab, coinciding with the San Diego Comic Con. Knowing this guest post was coming up, I dropped them again, to make it easy for the readers who might be curious to give them a try. After Halloween (horror book season) I plan to raise them again, so buy now! Basically, I'm experimenting to see what works for me. That's the thing about this new world--there are no hard-and-fast rules yet. We all have to try whatever we can think of.

Bookstores? Mysterious Galaxy is thriving, having just opened our second location last month. We are successful because we experiment, we innovate, we create community and we keep readers, books, and authors coming together in a perpetual conversation. At MG, you can find QR codes on the shelves, for books available as Google e-books. If you think a book looks interesting but you'd rather have it digitally than on paper, you can scan the code and purchase it from us, on the spot. Or go home and order it from the website. Your choice. I hope other e-book publishers/distributors follow suit and make their books available through indie bookstores, and I believe they'll recognize the value in it. Indies aren't just for paper. We're also exploring other avenues, including publishing. As with everything else in this rapidly evolving industry, it's a never-ending process of reinvention.

Oh, and backlist--I am trying to get rights reverted on backlist books. Because I have written a lot of licensed fiction, none of that stuff is mine to sell. But the books that are mine, I'm trying to get my hands on to release myself.

Thanks, one and all. Looking forward to more dialogue.

Margaret Falk said...

Jeff, great post -- thank you for being forthright and honest in your views -- you've done a real service to all who read this post. I like to think of print publishing as traditional broadcast radio. The medium dominated for decades until the advent of satellite and Internet delivery, and now struggles to maintain audience share against multiple competing technologies. Yet even now there are those who cannot see themselves working anywhere other than broadcast or wish they could go back. What we've seen over the past year is only the beginning. The reading experience is evolving and quickly. I loved RIVER RUNS RED, you all do yourself a favor and get a copy (it's on Kindle and Nook too!) this Halloween season. A positively thrilling, chilling read.

Melissa Douthit said...

Hahahaha! That's great!

The Other Stephen King said...

Excellent and enjoyable post, Jeffrey and Joe. Great to read another perspective on what's going on in the traditional side of the industry.

Snooki Spunk said...

Hey, I just wanted to thank J.A. Konrath for continuing to feature these insightful guest posts, and imparting his wisdom about the self-publishing industry in general.

The other day I got a wild idea and decided, what the heck? Let's go for it. And so my infamous erotic comedy Hair Pie Surprise was born, for better or worse.

Thanks for showing me that I could do it, however inane the idea, and that it's all about the power of the pie! :D

Snooki Spunk

Tracy Sharp said...

Awesome post, Jeff. As usual :)

Werner said...

Kudos to you Jeffrey for having the courage to try self-pubbing - and - admitting Joe was right all along.

@Joe - Is there be a realistic percentage split between Amazon and the author where a 99 cent ebook would make viable business sense?

Chip Anderson said...

Welcome back Joe.

I guess this was the short version of a hiatus.

forensics4fiction said...

Very interesting article. I'm getting ready to self publish my first and working with a cover artist right now. This gives me a lot to think about

Adriana Dascalu said...

It so much easier to know what you have to do!

I find your posts and information really useful. You should charge for guidance!

It's really nice you are helping the others (me included). Though I bought many books about publishing your blog is 1000 times better. It's personal, it's accurate, it's what I need to know.

Thanks again for the insight!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks for the revelations. Right before I read this post, I lowered the price of one of my $2.99 books to $0.99

However, I think if you've got the name and the following, you'll get more sales at the higher price points. If you're a less-known, even though it's a back list book that did moderately well with the publisher, it's been stuck at the same low sales level as an indie book.

I recently added two other back list titles and decided to leave them at $2.99, so I'll wait and see what the sales look like.

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Nancy Beck said...

I wish I lived in San Diego - Mysterious Galaxy sounds awesome! :-)

Re price points - I just follow what Dean Wesley Smith has suggested and haven't looked back. Of course, I still haven't released a full-on novel ;-) - I have a novella series going right now - but I'll price my novels next year at $4.99.

Re covers - I initially did my own for the first in my novella series, then I saw a pre-made cover that was perfect for the 3rd in my series, and I decided to open the wallet - and I'm glad I did; they look much better than anything I could have come up with. And I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg to get them done, either.

But I'll still do my own covers for any short stories I write. :-)

Thanks for the guest posts!

Night Terrors

Nancy Beck said...

If you think a book looks interesting but you'd rather have it digitally than on paper, you can scan the code and purchase it from us, on the spot. Or go home and order it from the website. Your choice.

Fantastic, just fantastic, Jeff. Other indie bookstores should follow your lead.

Nancy Beck said...

Wouldn't it be fair to say that .99 cents for a short story is right? I mean it seems a little high to charge 2.99 for a short story or two of them. I could understand a book of short stories but for just one or two 99 cents.

@Sean - you're right (esp. if you follow Dean Wesley Smith's suggestion).

Josh said...

I've raised the price of my three novels. I was surprised when the one at $3.99 sold a copy in the US two in the UK and one in Germany. Folks don't mind spending money for a good read.

Judith said...

Just my $.02 as a reader/civilian on the whole price point issue. The $2.99 price point strikes me, personally, as the limit for an impulse purchase - maybe $3.99. The thing about Kindle that really sells to me is the "Start reading in under a minute." That's incredibly enticing. If the price isn't too high - if it doesn't make me stop and think - then it is SO easy to make that impulse purchase - no reason not to, really.

Just this morning I was on Amazon and they had a few recommended ebooks. I clicked on one - read a few pages, which were promising - and then, because it was only 99 cents, went for it (this was Michael Prescott's Last Breath).

Even $2.99 is a bit high for my finances right now or something I have to think about - am I throwing money away? Get to $5 or $6 and it will no longer be something that I buy without thinking about it.

I'm sure the experts Joe has been talking to have a lot more data across a lot more consumers and maybe slightly fewer sales may nevertheless be more profitable.

Just stating the off-the-cuff reactions of one reader to talk of raising prices.

Christopher John Chater said...

Mysterious Galaxy is in my hood, so I really hope they take your advice because its a great store run by great people.

Patrice said...

Hey, Joe! I'm really enjoying these guest posts. Hope you're enjoying the break!

Tahlia Newland said...

Yay! Go for it. I'm doing the same,ie both. My agent is STILL trying to find a legacy publisher for my novel, and in the meantime I'm publishing shorter works myself. Just got my first one (ya urban fantasy) out. I'm not expecting big sales (it's only a short story,) but I've got novellas to come and plan to build an audience step by step, so if the legacy guys don't come through, I'm all set to go.

I agree that novels shouldn't be 99c. It's too cheap for the effort that goes into writing them. Short stories should be that price and novellas designed to lure readers into your longer works, but that's all. At least that's how I see it.

Nice to see people with open minds.

Selena Kitt said...

So are you saying short stories should be $2.99, Joe?

Joe Konrath said...

So are you saying short stories should be $2.99, Joe?

I'm saying that $2.99 makes more money than 99 cents.

My data also shows that novels outsell short stories, even though I've priced my shorts at 99 cents.

It stands to reason that if I switch shorts to $2.99, I'll sell fewer, but I bet I make more money.

So the next step is to raise novels to $3.99-$4.99 and short stores to $2.99 and see what happens. Assuming I have the guts to do so...

Jeff Mariotte said...

I think it's all about trying different things. I tried lowering the price to coincide with this exposure, and maybe left some money on the table. But if I pick up some new readers who will buy and read my books in the future, then a couple weeks of loss leaders might prove to be a wise move.
Or not...

Publisher's Lunch (an e-mail publishing news service) linked to this post today, with the headline "Konrath Says $2.99 and $5.99 Is The Most Profitable Price Range for eBook Fiction." So we're having an impact far and wide, or at least being talked about.

Thanks, everyone, for the great comments (and e-mails, and for whoever has been buying books). Good luck to those of you who are putting your own out, and congratulations!

Stephen Prosapio said...

As a San Diego resident, I can say that Mysterious Galaxy is the best bookstore in the county!

As a writer, I can say I'm STOKED to be doing a reading/signing event at the Redondo Beach Mysterious Galaxy this Friday!!!

Jeff -- I hope I see you there!

Stuart said...

I agree you need to change up your cover. I just found a guy named Richard Green who did a complex cover for me for under $200. Out of the gate, I had over a 100% sales increase. It makes a big difference. You can always get hold of him and he returns emails on time. http://www.richardkgreen.com/portfolio.html

J. Viser said...

Excellent post, and thank you Joe and Jeffrey for sharing your experiences.

I have to admit, the initial excitement of watching sales volumes increase with the $0.99 price has worn off with the lower royalties!

Thanks again, but Joe, I thought you were taking a break :)

Jon Olson said...

Godspeed on your publishing journey, Jeffrey.

Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone
The Ride Home

Jeff Mariotte said...

Stephen, glad you'll make it to the RB store! I did an event there last Friday. Tonight I'm at the San Diego store, as part of the World Fantasy Convention Meet & Greet, and then I'll be in SD all weekend for the con.

Walter Knight said...

How can I get my "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" books into your bookstore?

I can sell over 20,000 E-books, but I can't get even one paperback onto a bookshelf. I still seek that thrill.

jennifer horsman said...

I got the rights back to my romance novels from Zebra and Avon Books and posted them on Kindle, Pubit and smashwords and I sell them for 9.99. Every time I LOWER the price I lose sales. I don't get it, I really don't. You say 3.99? Why not 6.99? or, for that matter 9.99? Has anyone experimented at the upper end?

Jeff Mariotte said...

Jennifer--I do know people who have priced e-books at various levels, and done well with some of the higher priced ones. It's always hard to know what will work, and why.

And Walter--get in touch with the stores (each location buys independently) and talk to the store buyers. They'll probably want to see copies, and the terms have to be at least at professional norms.

Griffin Hayes said...

I love when Joe goes on a rant. I also thought his advice to Jeffrey about his books was right on. A self-published author needs to make sure his books have four things:
1) A kick-ass professional looking cover
2) A crackling product description that speaks to the book's target audience.
3) Great sample pages
4) Solid, clean content

Sure there's more, but in my view, without these four, you're essentially riding a two legged horse.

Selena Kitt said...

Konrath said:
So the next step is to raise novels to $3.99-$4.99 and short stores to $2.99 and see what happens. Assuming I have the guts to do so...


I dare you. :)

I just did it. Raised my short stories to $2.99 and everything else to $4.99...

*gulp*

Red Tash said...

Jeff Mariotte rules.

Ron said...

Great post Joe!! Hope that this self-publishing revolution remains here once and for ever!!
Goodluck!:)