Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, November 20, 2009

This Week in Publishing 11/20/09

Lots of links this week, so let's get to it.

First up, there has been a huge controversy sparked by Harlquin's announcement that they would be forming a self-publishing arm called Harlequin Horizons. Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware wrote a very helpful initial roundup of the plan and controversy, Kristin Nelson wondered if it was exploitation or empowerment, and How Publishing Really Works had similar questions. Following the uproar, the Romance Writers of America took the pretty drastic measure of revoking Harlequin's "recognized publisher" status, and Harlequin announced that they are dropping the Harlequin name from the self-publishing program in order to distinguish the two.

Setting aside this controversy for a moment and the specifics of Harlequin's operation, let me just say that in principle I don't think publishers facilitating self-publishing is necessarily such a bad thing. However, there should be complete transparency, fair pricing, total disambiguation between traditional publishing arms and self-publishing arms, and every good faith attempt made to educate writers about the difference between the two. This industry obviously needs new revenue streams, and provided that the publisher's program is genuinely nonexploitive and transparent I don't see the problem, and I don't see why publishers should continue to cede ground to self-publishing companies when they have every capacity to provide the same service. It just has to be done correctly.

Now then. Other news!

Mike Shatzkin has one of the most brilliant blogs on the future of publishing out there, and this week he had a great post about some conversations he's had with agents about how our role will be changing in the new publishing landscape. He explores a possible change in the way agents earn money, the challenge of facilitating self-publishing, and his opinion (which I share) that "power is moving from 'control of IP to control of eyeballs.'"

In e-book news, the NY Times noticed that quite a few people are reading on their smart phones, and raises the question about whether the future of e-books is with dedicated devices or devices people already have (my guess: a mix of both). And in gadget news, a (satiric?) beta tester of Apple's iTablet spilled the beans to HuffPo/blew my mind, and Engadget released a helpful holiday gift guide for all the different e-readers.

My awesome colleague Sarah LaPolla passed along a really cool ode to the e-book in comic form. And HarperStudio posted a video ode to making a physical book.

Meanwhile, with all of our recent talk about efficiency and self-publishing and e-publishing, Rachelle Gardner had a really interesting post that worries about what will happen if every novel ever written is published.

Over at Upstart Crow, Michael Stearns noticed an interesting thing about the new Stephen King book UNDER THE DOME: it doesn't have any jacket copy. He sees this as a sign that instant word of mouth is quickly becoming paramount, and it's eliminating the browsing process.

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Oprah is ending her daily talk show, which had quite a few book people gasping with panic. C. Max Magee at the Millions has a terrific recap of the history of Oprah and books.

Reader Eric Laing pointed me to this amazing post by Lynn Viehl where she shares her ledger publicly and shows the financial reality of a NY Times bestseller After taxes, commission, and expenses, Lynn made about $24,517.36 on her mass market bestseller TWILIGHT FALL.

Brace yourself for a month of decade retrospectives and best of lists. Quickly out of the gate is the Times UK, which has a list of the top 100 books of the decade, which is, incredibly annoyingly, spread out over 17 pages. Geez louise, Times UK, I don't need to click 16 times to know that Cormac McCarthy won.

The National Book Awards were held, and congrats to the winners! And, your nominee for best sign of the times: Google sponsored the after-party.

For all of you needing help with your last NaNoWriMo push, there's a pretty hilarious widget called Write or Die that punishes you in various forms when you stop typing. (via Neil Vogler)

And finally, as I'm sure you know the second Twilight movie New Moon came out this week. Writing in the Millions, Emily Colette Wilkinson examines the role of wealth aspirations in the TWILIGHT series. io9 has a pretty unreal gallery of the worst/most disturbing TWILIGHT products, and the Daily Beast has a gallery of the best TWILIGHT tattoos, including one of a woman who had an entire paragraph tattooed on her back. Wow. I'd just like to say right now that if anyone gets a tattoo of a corndog I'll send you a signed copy of JACOB WONDERBAR.

Have a great weekend!


Tina Lynn said...

Does placement count? I'm not sure if the sexiest woman on the planet can pull off a corndog tattoo.

John Ross Harvey said...

A little late for Harelquin to announce when I chose iUniverse for my current project. I've used Lulu and its ok, cheap, and my product is all me, they produce it, I create it. iUniverse offered some help with the process, editorial (not all of which I agreed with of course), and other services during steps before the printed copy. Much more expensive than Lulu, but I don't see Lulu titles getting bought by Simon & Schuster or McClelland Stewart, iUniverse titles have been. Quality costs. Passing editorial stage now, cannot afford to spend for further editing so have to rely on my own judgement. Yes my novel is in the RF genre more specifically the RC genre. It'd be great if it made it to Oprah before she says adios.
I'd like to hear more on this branch by Harlequin, I'm not done in this genre.

Unknown artists like me, need these services to get their product out until a more established publisher realises their potential. Many big name authors of today are only now releasing a second book. (Niffenegger) This book is my sixth, but the genres are different from my first five.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's inherently wrong for Harlequin to offer self-publishing services. The problem is they won't be honest and say, "Hey, the fact that we're Harlequin doesn't give you any advantage over going to any other vanity publisher. In fact, you're probably smart to create your own imprint, and then purchase services like printing based on price, rather than put our vanity imprint on your spine and group yourself with a lot of lousy books."

Jen said...

Is the Lynn Viehl link there? My eyeballs can't find it.

Marilyn Peake said...

I love Sarah LaPolla’s Blog, and am so happy to have a short story published there!

I’ve been following the Harlequin story and thought it a good idea when they bowed to the RWA decision and at least changed the name of their self-publishing venture. There’s a tendency for new authors to become very excited, sometimes spending exorbitant amounts of money to advertise their books, whenever they get to play ball with the big guys. I’ve seen it time and time again, e.g. self-published and small press authors thinking they’re going to get rich simply because their book’s sold on Amazon or they had short stories accepted for publication by the Amazon Shorts program. All that really happens is that all the self-published and small press books sold on Amazon form the long tail of the distribution curve of Amazon’s sales: lots of small sales that taken altogether make a really nice sum of money for Amazon, but very little money for most of the individual authors. Sounds like the big publishing houses are interested in creating their own long-tail distribution of income.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, Jen, fixed.

Anonymous said...

Not empowerment. EXPLOITATION.

Not self-publishing. VANITY PRESS.

Anonymous said...

Here's another bit of news the blogosphere has been curiously quiet about:

A NY Times bestselling author lost a lawsuit because she modeled oen of her characters after a good friend. Scary.

Emily White said...

Corndog, huh? I think I could do that. Anything for a signed copy, right? ;)

Thanks for all the info! I see that my dreams of making Oprah's Book Club have been dashed! Oh well.

DG said...

The topic of yesterday's post stayed with me all that day and well into the night. I went to B&N and saw a huge display for the upcoming Nook. There was a rep passing out slick brochures. I couldn't help but look around and up at the enormous store. He asked me if everything was okay. I asked him what will happen to the store if the Nook is successful. He stared back at me with that "dude I'm just here to promote the thing," look.

It left me wondering though, how an all e-book B&E will display its books. Will they use kiosks or large display posters that include the first few pages? I love to browse the first pages of new books. Again, the weight, the cover design, the smell of a new book, is all part of the experience. I'd hate to lose this experience for the efficiency of the e-book. Maybe they will tweak the distinct smell of a warm electronic device to make it smell like a new book. Surely Apple's engineers will find a way.

Then today's post came. I clicked through to the story about the iTablet. Now were talking! Please post a link that tells me where to line up to purchase that piece of technologic artistry.

Nikki said...

Hey Nathan! The link you posted to Rachelle's blog isn't for the post you were referring to. Here's the one you want:

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, Nikki.

Margaret Yang said...

Did you hear the review of New Moon on NPR's "Fresh Air" today? It skewered the movie so skillfully that I cried laughing. I never thought a movie review could make me laugh, much less laugh that hard.

Margaret Yang said...

Here's a link to the Fresh Air review...

Susan Quinn said...

No can do, on the corndog tat.

Unless it's one of those washable ink ones that the kids wear. Does that count?


p.s. that would be awesome swag for your book signings!

Marilyn Peake said...


Reading over the incredibly interesting information you provided about literary agents in situations where their clients go on to self-publish or e-publish, I have a question about the possibility of agents taking on authors who have already developed successful careers in self-publishing and e-publishing but don’t have huge sales due to lack of access to brick-and-mortar bookstores and advertising. I’m going to be fairly open here, take a risk and mention a few of my own experiences as an example. I’ve had many awesome things happen in my career as a small press author. I’ll describe some of the things that happened with three of my books. My trilogy of children’s fantasy adventure novels, THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY, has come close to being very successful several times before the rug was pulled out from under it in terms of distribution channels. It got to the point where I was receiving emails from people all across the country about how much they loved these books. I started meeting people in online groups who said, "Are you THE Marilyn Peake? Did you write THE FISHERMAN’S SON?" (That was both strange and exhilarating, I have to admit.) I had a TV Producer begin building a Reading Rainbow type of show around THE FISHERMAN’S SON. All pretty exciting stuff! Then a big company bought up the distribution channel through which THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY was being sold. After that, I received an email from a library. At the height of the HARRY POTTER craze, they had decided to devote an entire display cabinet to THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and announce it as another great fantasy for people who love the HARRY POTTER books. The library built the display. They even invited me to speak there, but it was in a different state too far away for me to travel at the time. I casually asked them if they could tell me who the publisher was, since I knew the distribution channel had stopped distributing small press books. Turned out the library had purchased POD copies from another company that had published the first two books in the trilogy for only a short time and no longer paid me royalties. I didn’t mention this to the library, I was just so thrilled that they were so interested in my books. But around that time I gave up on advertising the books. Overall, I’ve sold hundreds of copies of my books and have been asked several times to speak at Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, but I gave up on active marketing.

So here’s my question. In this time of flux within the publishing industry, do you think agents might be interested in representing small press authors based on a query letter describing lots of interest in their small press books, but not necessarily huge sales, since in the past distribution channels were limited for small press books? It sounds like agents might continue to represent their own clients for whom their own books sell this way. So I wondered if agents might agree to work in reverse: take on clients who already have a large collection of books selling in this way, with the potential to break out on a larger scale with an agent who could negotiate with larger distribution channels?

Thermocline said...

Michael Stearns' posting got me thinking about book trailers. I wonder if they will start to supplant jacket copy as e-books become more prevalent.

Amazon is already posting trailers for some books. It's not so difficult to imagine walking into B&N someday and trailers of the books they are promoting appear on your nook.

Nathan Bransford said...


With the commission model agents can really only afford to take on clients where the potential revenue justifies the time it takes. And right now, candidly, it's extremely difficult to place authors who have modest track records for the types of advances/royalties that agents need to justify the time because bookstores base their orders so heavily on what previous books sold, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That said, it may change down the line if agents become more like consultants or charge fees as Shatzkin wonders, or if the landscape changes and it's easier to break out authors than it is now.

Nathan Bransford said...

And this is another reason to like an e-book era - your success isn't dependent on bookstores guessing correctly.

Josin L. McQuein said...

One problem with the Harlequin mess is that they're calling it "self-publishing" when it's not. It's VANITY publishing. Hh owns the ISBNs, not the author. And the representative Hh had fielding questions didn't know how to answer many of them. She had no idea how to answer whether or not the use of 1st publication rights would impact a writer's chances of selling the book (in fact, she claimed that the writer never used up 1st publication rights when they published with Hh and placed the book up for sale...)

They're handing out bad advice, like "get a bound copy to send to agents!!!", which is contrary to the specifications on most agents' sites.

They imply that this might be a jumping off point for career success, but don't point out the chances of such things actually happening. Average sales for vanity titles are abysmal.

The tie-in with the Harlequin brand didn't just impact the company, but the reputation of every Harlequin author who went the commercial route, too.

And even though they've said they're removing Harlequin's name from the imprint (which would theoretically keep the Hh authors from running everywhere and claiming "I'm published by Harlequin") SFWA has said they won't appeal their stance on HQ until it drops the line all together.

HQ stepped in it royally.

And Nathan, what about people who already have a corndog tattoo? :-P

Finny said...

actually, the RWA/MWA/SFWA vs. HQN controversy is fascinating to follow. :) I was wondering when you'd weigh in, but you stuck to the facts and genealities so I guess I won't know how you feel about the whole bit?

ryan field said...

Another exciting week. It would have been impossible to predict some of these things three years ago.

Donna Gambale said...

You made my Friday afternoon with that worst/most disturbing Twilight products link. I think my favorite was the pillow with the "Stupid lamb" jumping off a cliff. Definitely laughed out loud. Creepiest? Either the Edward silhouette stalker or the Edward face shower curtain. The shower curtain reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, for some reason.

Terry said...

Thanks, lots to think about and the Twi-crap was fun.

Good weekend to you, too.

John Ross Harvey said...

Author Solutions through iUniverse do not own the copyright, you do, they provide the ISBN but it is yours. Why think that a new name by the same group is different?

I cannot sell my Lulu books to another publisher, they own that, as owning it yourself is not offered to Canadians. Published by You vs. Published by Lulu which all the choice I was given there.

I can sell my iUniverse title.

Gordon Jerome said...

Agents as consultants won't work. What are they going to consult on? Teach people how to format in HTML and upload graphics to the Kindle DTP? I mean really, that information is already out there for anyone who wants it.

The fact is, agents get authors money, and take a cut of it. There's nothing else for an agent to do. Consultation means they have an expertise, but the knowledge will be available mostly for free--in fact it already is.

But I don't think self-publishing is going to rob any agent of anything. Authors still want to be able to say that someone else published them. In fact, that will be the only glory left to the author besides the actual sales themselves.

Josin L. McQuein said...

John Ross Harvey -

You CAN buy your own ISBN through Lulu and self-publish with yourself as the publisher. It's one of their options.

Nathan Bransford said...


I agree that historically an agent's job has been to sell and handle contracts, but I still think agents could have a potential role in self-publishing. For one, we could be more like concert promoters/managers and leverage our own brand to help the books stand out. Second, we could function as packagers and help authors navigate the different elements of putting a book together and perhaps get them better deals with cover designers, copyeditors, etc. And third, we'd be here to sell subrights and to work out a distribution deal to get the book into bookstores in the event it starts taking off.

Admittedly the financial model for this is murky if it's strictly a commission-based structure, but I think you'll start seeing agents think about their jobs much differently if the industry continues to shed the midlist authors that used to be agents' bread and butter.

Anonymous said...

Great mix to this week's round-up.

The i-Reader-Phone app ... OMG, I might just jump the fence and get one of those. Though I don't drive, the drive app w/transparent camera view (so you can multi-task & view) and other features made me go, Huh. Maybe ...

Esp. liked the Shatkin link / post - I need to revisit tonight & read (long) comments but the issues he raised seem like a devoted blog post (for you) esp. since you're gung-ho digital and an agent & all (or, as many as you can publically discuss) dimensions this entails /reflects.

Digital or print (and I'm in the pro-print side), as someone who has representation, I'm keenly interested in this issue - esp. digital rights. What posts like Shaktin leave out, in my opinion, is the relationship element with an agent. I don't view my agent as - how do I put this? - some submission appendage or gopher. He is a partner in everything I'm doing - not writing but I run stuff by him and let him know what I'm working on. Yes, it's a business relationship but he also knows more about my life-life than most people and I trust his advice, implicitly and totally.

I have a hair trigger (temper, tendency to respond w/out thinking, obsessiveness) etc. that needs to be kept out of public view. If I can remember to stop, pause, wait a day and then send him an email and wait for his response, I'm better off. He's the filter I don't have (or, because I'm off in la-la writer land) consistently.

I don't even know how to describe what that one (of many) crucial function is that he provides. But, given that I know my shortcomings well enough to know I'm incapable of certain business dealings - like, um, contracts and royalties - I'm very good with the 15%.

This is going to probably sound snobby, but there's a prestige element to having representation, esp. if you're with, say, Curtis Brown. And people don't factor that into the 15% - your rep. as a writer gets a bump by being signed and opens other doors to resources and people.

As for the digital revenue that people (mostly, it seems, ones w/out agents) obsess on "losing" & how that plays into the 15% .. I say, guess what people, we're in the middle of something and the resolution's being played out in real time (or, really slow publishing time.) Agents generally want to make as much money for their client as possible AND think about their long-term prospects. I have (a lot of) confidence, if anyone can figure out the business of digital (I still love books, paper & glue fetish I suppose), it will be the agents. That's my take, at least. Again, insofar as you can discuss, Mr. B, I and others would be interested in your take. :)

Moses said...

I just got my Kobe Bryant tattoo. Thanks for the copy of your book!

p.s. why should a new writer go with a traditional publisher today when ebooks could rule the earth by the time his book hits the shelves? I still have plenty to learn about the industry.

Adam said...

It is telling, and a bit unsettling to see that apparently there is more money in exploiting wannabe authors than there is in publishing books.

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks for answering my question, Nathan. I guess it’s too early to see where all this will end up. If many self-published and small press authors are presently without distribution channels, the same would seem to hold true for agented authors who self-publish or publish through small press. Now, if the big publishing houses like Harlequin open up self-publishing branches and have access to major distribution channels even for those books, this could wipe out their present competition from places like AuthorHouse and iUniverse. At that point, though, is it really self-publishing, or are the big-imprint self-publishing companies actually small press companies that will defeat competition from the long-tail distribution success of places like AuthorHouse and iUniverse? It will be interesting to see where the future leads.

eBooks from small publishing companies can’t compete with eBooks from the major houses because of another financial consideration: money for advertising. An advertised eBook with the imprint of a well-known big publishing house usually sells many more copies due to advertising. Right now, though, everything’s in flux. The small eBook publisher where many of my books are published has opened up eBook services to authors from the big publishing houses and has started signing contracts to publish some of their books in eBook format. For many years, he’s already been publishing non-mainstream works written by authors with other books published by the big publishing houses. For example, Senior Fulbright Fellow and Thurber House writer-in-residence author Randall Silvis is published both by the big publishing houses and my own publisher. I’ve had the great pleasure of working with him on book promotion projects in the past.

Nathan Bransford said...


I actually don't know that it's advertising (most books published by major publishers don't have much advertising) as much as bookstore placement that drives word of mouth about a title. I think in the future things are going to be much much more word of mouth driven, and e-books will be spread much more virally than print books because they can be bought instantaneously and because people are more plugged in and connected than before. We'll see though.

Dara said...

That whole Harlequin thing has disturbed me since it was announced. Mainly it's because of what RWA and MWA have said and them saying they really won't recognize books published by Harlequin (which is a lot because of all their imprints). It confuses me that RWA would say that since there's a substantial number of their members that have been or will be published by their traditional presses.

I'm hoping that RWA and MWA can see how their new guidelines really hurts many of their members. I guess time will tell...

Anyway, the Twilight links were funny and made me smile despite the whole Harlequin fiasco. Thanks!

L. T. Host said...

*waits for someone with a corndog tattoo to show up in the comments*

Joseph L. Selby said...

Seems a little unfair to announce the best books of the decade a year before the decade is over. What if the best book comes out next year?

Matt Mc said...

Not to be repetitive, or annoying, but my question regarding yesterday's post got lost in the hundreds of comments. I think it applies to this post too, and I'd like to see what some people think.

Will the increase of e-books lead to an increase of books self-published digitally? That's the whole glory (or curse, depending on your POV) of the digital age--that anyone and everyone can join in. I'm just curious if e-books will do for writers what MySpace did for musicians, and YouTube did for everybody. It takes zero time, and very little money to convert a Word document to a PDF and upload the thing online.

Matt Mc said...

Not to be repetitive, or annoying, but my question regarding yesterday's post got lost in the hundreds of comments. I think it applies to this post too, and I'd like to see what some people think.

Will the increase of e-books lead to an increase of books self-published digitally? That's the whole glory (or curse, depending on your POV) of the digital age--that anyone and everyone can join in. I'm just curious if e-books will do for writers what MySpace did for musicians, and YouTube did for everybody. It takes zero time, and very little money to convert a Word document to a PDF and upload the thing online.

Nathan Bransford said...


I think that's inevitable. Rachelle's post today has some of the drawbacks. I think it's just going to necessitate new gatekeepers and tastemakers.

Shanann E. Schnell said...

@NathanBransford; of course self publishing will be more adherent to those who are wanting to be noticed and just get their work out there, easy peasy japenesey, sorry to be so hasty! HA! : uh hummm like always, does not make a difference as to the opposed stay worthy of the righteous act of becoming a well known author introduced to the public, under traditional terms, opposing the marketing and sales grouping that can back the betrothed. Agents can really make a difference in determing whether self publish or traditional is best accounted for...However corndog tattoos are terrific fun! -just opinionated... and happy!
Wonderful Wishes,

Marilyn Peake said...


If advertising doesn’t play a role, maybe right now it’s other things that help eBooks from the big publishing houses sell more copies, e.g. previous advertising and the fame of the paperback and hardcover copies already in the market. For example, if you look at, Dan Brown’s eBooks and Stephen King’s eBooks are selling there. Despite that, Darrell Bain, a small press author from the same small eBook publishing house where I’m published, made Fictionwise eBook Author of the Year in 2005 for most copies sold plus best reviews. However, that was in 2005 before eBooks were more mainstream. I’m guessing that now, in 2009 with the new popularity of eBooks, Dan Brown and Stephen King will make a lot more money on their eBooks than small press eBook authors ever did. After Brunonia Barry self-published THE LACE READER, she spent $50,000 on advertising and marketing, so that her book might get picked up by a big publishing house. It did get picked up and went on to become a best-seller. I think advertising money is usually necessary to allow a book to become well-known enough to succeed. Darrell Bain’s books caught on through word of mouth at Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions. Had Darrell Bain had access to huge sums of advertising money, I think he might be well-known by now.

Shanann E. Schnell said...

P.S. e- books and kindle just doesnt cut the senses when it comes to "smelling a good ol' paper page turning classic!" love that! S*

Marilyn Peake said...

How about a henna tattoo of a corndog? Henna tattoos are pretty cool. I once had a henna tattoo of a tiger done at an amusement park. Have a great weekend!

Mary said...

The 17 page spread of the Times list riled me, too! I quit at page 5. Thanks for telling us who won. :)

Tori said...

Are you serious about the corn dog comment? Because I would so get one! I would love a copy of your book:D

Nathalie said...

Your blog is a guilty pleasure. Thanks for the Friday Recap.

Nathan Bransford said...


Well, I'm afraid it's not until 2011, so I can't make good on the promise yet!

Jil said...

Will everything on e=books disappear when the satellites are knocked out as predicted on Sixty Minutes the other week? Is future work doomed to extinction if there are no print copies?

Karen Schwabach said...

Hm, no jacket copy on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows either, at least not the first printing-- lemme look. No, there is. It says:

"We now present the seventh and final installment of the epic tale of Harry Potter."

And that's all. I like it. Understated, like those old New Yorker ads for decadent things made of gold.

Nathan Bransford said...

The e-readers that have wireless use cellular networks, not satellites.

Michael Broadway said...

You've done it again, Nathan. Provided us with a wealth of information. It's going to take me some time to click all those links to get enlightened.

One thing I'm especially appreciative of is the correct spelling of "Geez." I'm prone to using it, and I never knew if it started with a "G" or a "J."

Now I do. Thanks to you.

Valerie Geary said...

Thank you for another delightful TWIP!! I look forward to this day all week long. :)

Thomas Burchfield said...

I read the e-books list with interest, but made no choices as I'm trying to look at it from all sides. I'm trying to look at it like buying a TV, except it's a TV for books. And I wouldn't want to buy a TV that only carried a certain number of stations or programs would I? Anymore than I'd want the Sharp TV company deciding whether or not to carry "The Daily Show/Colbert Report." Be interesting to see how it shakes out, but I'm keeping my Mastercard in my wallet for now.

Tori said...

Oh, and Lynn is amazing. I read her blog every day. I was very surprised. I thought that someone on the Times list made a crap load of money. She gave a lot of needed info.

It confuses me that Harelquin seems surprised over what happened. They knew in advance that what they were doing was wrong, and they did it anyway. I don't feel bad for them. I feel sorry for the authors. I can't imagine what they are going through right now.

Tori said...

nathan- Thank you for clarifying! Well, either way...I will get a copy of your book! Will you continue writing? Or was this sort of just something you wanted to try?

Nathan Bransford said...


Thanks so much! And yes, I do believe there will be more than one JACOB WONDERBAR book, though as I always say, it's not a series until the second book is published.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a smart phone. :( Probably won't be able to get one in a while (though I'd probably lose it if I did).

Hm I keep hoping for more academic essays on Twilight from a Cultural Studies perspective. I mean the books themselves are a treasure trove of analysis.

Also I think e-stuff is cool except it's only gonna make it that much easier for people to pirate books online, like music, which is actually already happening much to my dismay.

Oh well TGIF (though not the awesome TGIF that showed on ABC back in the 90s. I miss that TGIF).

Marilyn Peake said...

One more comment, then I think I probably used up my comment quota for the day. :) I just love discussing eBooks because I’m so familiar with them! In regard to RWA’s decision to deny membership to Harlequin because of their new self-publishing branch, this isn’t the first time they've barred authors from membership based on how their books were published. In the past, RWA has barred eBook authors from membership. Quite a few people, including author and literary agent Deidre Knight posted comments on the Internet regarding that RWA decision.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Harlequin decision, I am wondering why so many authors are surprised at this decision. Publishers are, after all, in the business to make money. I agree that if one were to go the self-publishing route, they might as well do it and keep all the profits.

The other thing that is making me laugh is all the kudos being handed out to RWA and other such organizations who kicked Harleqiun out.

These organizations dictate who they think are published authors and they discriminate big time. It's a clique, superficial organization, but that's another discussion.

I say, if someone wants to pay Harlequin to publish a book, it's their money, their perogative and hopefully before they do it, they will research to ensure they are making the right decision.

I won't be surprised if more big publishers go this route in the future.

mirlacca said...

The issue is not self-publishing, although Harlequin is trying its damndest to make Horizons look like a self-publishing venture. Harlequin Horizons is a vanity press, not a self-publishing venture. Not only does it charge authors for every element that a traditional publisher offers as a part of the regular publishing process, including editing (up to $6,100 for an 80K ms), but it offers no distribution, and charges for any marketing efforts--and THEN collects 50% of the net of any sales the poor author happens to make. This is NOT self-publishing. This is a ripoff venture to which Harlequin is directing the authors it rejects. In other words, Harlequin won't buy your book, but you can PAY them to get the chance to... continue paying them.

Anonymous said...

mirlacca, good points, and I think Harlequin is doing more damage for people who are thinking to submit to them. Unfortunately, I don't think it will phase on the readers though. It's mostly people in the industry that are blogging and commenting on this new venture of theirs.

I hope anyone who even thinks about submitting to this vanity press, would do some research and get solid, sage advice before they hand over a dime to this company

Terry said...

Gordon, I have to disagree that agents won't be needed. They know the ropes and they can do things that I simply would not want to deal with. You may be a savvy businessman, I'm not.

Also, Nathan makes a good point. He said: "For one, we could be more like concert promoters/managers and leverage our own brand to help the books stand out."

Much like Alfred Hitchcock, who once said to a group of directors, to the effect, we promote our product. Rather a new idea then. He didn't really write. He hired writers and worked with them. He may be the first director to brand himself, to promote.

And it worked.

I would love to work with someone like him. If an agent does that, I want him or her.

jjdebenedictis said...

Anon 3:49PM said:
Regarding the Harlequin decision, I am wondering why so many authors are surprised at this decision. Publishers are, after all, in the business to make money.

And when you make money by taking advantage of people's naivety, it's evil and borderline criminal.

The information Harlequin has provided on the Horizons imprint is misleading and mercenary.

Gee, people are surprised see a respected publisher behaving this way.

Anonymous said...

Seventy years on now since the introduction of the mass market paperback book opened up access to literature for all. James Hilton's 1933 Lost Horizon 1939 Pocket Books' edition is widely credited as being the first U.S. mass market paperback, although Pearl Buck's The Good Earth was first in 1938 as a proof of concept publication.

That's a bit of history relevant to the business model of publishing then. The Hilton paperback cost 25¢, early British mass market paperbacks cost six pence. The timing is important too, at the time a 6-1/2 oz. pop bottle deposit/return was 2¢. What I call the pop bottle marketing paradigm is what made the fiction market accessible to young people. Two six packs plus one bottle of coke bottles paid for a paperback novel. Nowadays, paperbacks cost at least eight bucks. About an hour and a half of drudge labor at minimum wage.

In my days of youth, it took me about a half hour to collect a few dozen pop bottles, redeem them for a few comic books, perhaps a paperback book, a bottle of pop, and a few candy bars.

The modern-day publishing business model has forgotten its roots and lost sight of the consumer. Too much fat, for one thing. Maybe all the chaos will settle out into a new "pop bottle paradigm."

Genella deGrey said...

Nathan – If you get a chance, go see 2012 - there is a great plug for literature in that movie.

Have a great weekend.

britmandelo said...

Stamp me with "elitist" but as a bookstore employee, I can genuinely say that every single (fiction) self-published or vanity author who tries to give us a copy of their book to get us to order them... Have been terrible. Truly, truly awful books. Bad writing, shoddy plots, boring, pointless, or offensively misogynistic.

There is a reason we have gatekeepers in professional art. Sure, you can go to places like Deviantart and see some really good art--but 80% of it is childlike scribbling, and writing is no different. Go to somewhere like and you'll see why self-publishing will never take over traditional publishing: because people don't like bad books, and nobody comes into the writing world capable of a masterpiece on their first try. Nobody.

If you weren't willing to go through the effort of submitting your book to agents or editors, doing the work to improve it or realizing where you made mistakes and starting a new project... I'm sorry, you cheated the system. Rejections, while painful, are for a reason. I'm on my seventh novel, four of which were contract romance work, and I'm just now getting to a level where I've got agent interest for my fantasy work.

And you know what? I'm okay with that. Because I see now that those first two or three were not quality manuscripts. I grew and learned.

If I would have said "well screw you meanie pie agents I know I'm good!" and self published, I would never have improved my writing to the level it is today. Rejection hurts, sure, but it means you need to get better. Not waste your money paying someone to print your book for you.

@JR Harvey

I'm sort of baffled by this "need these services" thing. Why do you need to pay someone up to $12,000 dollars to break out? You don't. You really, really don't. I'm acquainted with or friends of several authors who debuted this year or last by getting an agent and working on their manuscripts. That $12,000 is in their pockets, not a vanity press's. (Also, on the Niffenegger thing: it is rare that an author's first published novel is their first novel. It's usually #3 or more. Practice comes first.)

Christine H said...

Does the corndog tattoo have to be visible?

Anonymous said...

No time to read all the comments just yet, but for the "livliest" discussion on the Harlequin Horizons snafu (HQHo), Smart Bitches Trashy Books is the place to be. I mean, seriously, they're about to crash servers over there, and the to-the-death cage match with Zoe Winters and La Nora is worth the price of admission (starting on page 2 of the comments).

Make no mistake. HQHo is vanity. RWA, MWA, and SFWA done good on this one.

Jarucia said...

Lol...the Twilight products include the sparkle peen...while thankfully my younger sister doesn't have that item, she admits to owning a dozen posters, the bedspread and an Edward pillow.

Did I mention she's 21?

Oh, and next time you want to skip ahead to the end of a 17-page article look at the end of the URL Address:


See the trend? Mostly it works with a little guess work, but you can skip ahead if you like.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Boy, there was a lot of news in the publishing world, besides HQ. Some interesting links. I enjoyed reading quite few of them, thank you. Mike's was interesting. I'm on overload as far as HQ is concerned. Any bloggers wondering where their readers were today, you can find them in one or more of the loops.

I will say only this on HQ type buisness platforms--I agree on:

"complete transparency, fair pricing, total disambiguation between traditional publishing arms and self-publishing arms, and every good faith attempt made to educate writers about the difference between the two."

I also agree publishing has to change and adapt with the times.

Thanks for the thoughts Nathan. BTW how goes your book?

Mandi said...

Wow. Freaking WOW. Some of those Twilight products are cre-e-py.

Bella's womb?? Edward's shadow standing over your bed?? An Edward-head shower curtain?? And, and, and Edward's penis??


MzMannerz said...

I recently purchased a self published book for the first time and while I'm sure it is not representative of all self published books, I'll be much more cautious about them in the future.

There is something to be said about a book that has been vetted by someone other than the author as worthy of publication.

Also, editing is a good thing. I essentially purchased a book of typos.

Mira said...

Wow. So many great links and so much going on, I'm not sure what to address......I'll have to come back after I've read what's posted.

However, two very important things caught my eye.

First, do we have to PROVE that we have a corndog tattoo? Because if not, I have 57,000 of them.

Okay, so where's my 57,000 books? And I'd rather not wait until 2011if that's okay, I really want to read it. Don't you have a copy of the unpublished manuscript at home? You can forward that, I don't need the cover. Hey! Do it by e-book! Thanks, Nathan.

Okay, for my next topic, I plan to pass out in utter horror. $24,000 for a bestselling novel!!!!!! AARRGGHHH. That's utterly ridiculous. You can't even support yourself if you have a best-selling novel????? Who could live on 24,000 a year? ARRGGGHHHH.

And I'm not even in this for the money, but I can't take it.

So, if Lynn brought home 10%, that means that OTHER PEOPLE made $230,000 off her novel.


I need to go lie down now.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

My math sucks.

And 24K - San Francisco is a very expensive city.

But the point is this was a best-selling novel. That's as good as it gets.

Moira Young said...

Wow, that's actually a stroke of brilliance on Harlequin's part. Instead of fighting the tide, they're going with the flow of self-publishing. This gives Harlequin the chance to quietly *monitor* who among the self-published is selling well, and then snap them up and offer them opportunities with traditional publishing. It's almost better than taking a chance on a new author, because in order to sell well, the self-published author has to prove her or himself first. Very much like Keenspot vs. ComicGenesis with webcomics — ComicGenesis is for anyone, and the successful comics are invited to Keenspot.

Nathan Bransford said...


Well, bear in mind that most titles don't make money, so the ones that do sell have to make up for the ones that don't. Publishers aren't exactly making out like bandits either.

Moira Young said...

Brilliance from a business standpoint, I mean. And "almost better" for Harlequin. Regardless of the other controversies surrounding the matter, this idea does have financial potential for the publisher.

Mira said...


24,000 to 216,000 is a pretty big gap. Also, the author only has this one book to profit from

I'm curious, though. Do you think the reimbursement system is fair?

AM said...

The video of Abigail Uhteg constructing her books by hand was art itself. Amazing.

Thanks for sharing the link.

Nathan Bransford said...


All I know is that between publishers, authors and editors and agents, no one's getting rich unless you have a true phenomenon like TWILIGHT or THE DA VINCI CODE. If publishers are busy exploiting authors they don't really have much to show for it because they can barely turn a profit.

Anonymous said...

Royalties are an author's cut. On top of that are production costs, operating costs, overhead costs, and what profit a publisher makes.

The simple business model is 30% production costs, 30% operating costs, 30% overhead costs, and 10% gross profits out of which corporate income taxes must be paid.

$24,000 in royalty income is for one year, one season, really, for one title. Presumably, and not uncommonly, an author has more titles earning residual royalties from back list sales. Perhaps a few thousand each from several titles, although the average annual income for authors is roughly $30,000.

At a 30,000 copy print run, a $25 cover price casecover title costs about $5 each to manufacture, and about another buck in publisher costs for warehousing, shipping, and handling to supply distributors. Author royalties are typically included in production costs, as are editing, layout, design, and artwork costs.

Average actual profit before taxes for a publisher is about the same as an author's royalties.

And a $24,000 royalty earning means about 24,000 copies sold. If that's bestselling, that's a low performing bestseller, though it's certainly far above the global average 2,000 copy sell through.

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @ 6:08 PM – Whoa. I followed the link you provided and read the post and some of the comments there. Looking at the prices authors would have to pay Harlequin to be self-published by them, I’m flabergasted. There are small press eBook authors making $40,000 and more per year from sales of multiple romance books WITHOUT having to pay anything at all for publication. Some eBook authors have retired from their day jobs as a result of income from their romance books.

If a New York Times Best-Selling book often earns only $23,000 and the author can be dropped if their next book doesn’t sell enough copies, this starts to make successful small press companies look like a good choice. I wonder where the future will lead. Right now, some literary agents including Deidre Knight are submitting romance books to small eBook publishing houses. If wealthy individuals decide to get behind specific small press eBook companies by investing significant amounts of money in them, these houses could begin to offer real competition to large publishing houses charging money for the same type of publication. Right now, small press companies can’t afford many of the services that richer companies can afford: free ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) for review, qualified Editors, book promotion, and so on. All that could change with investors.

Gordon Jerome said...


I agree that historically an agent's job has been to sell and handle contracts, but I still think agents could have a potential role in self-publishing. For one, we could be more like concert promoters/managers and leverage our own brand to help the books stand out. Second, we could function as packagers and help authors navigate the different elements of putting a book together and perhaps get them better deals with cover designers, copyeditors, etc. And third, we'd be here to sell subrights and to work out a distribution deal to get the book into bookstores in the event it starts taking off.

Admittedly the financial model for this is murky if it's strictly a commission-based structure, but I think you'll start seeing agents think about their jobs much differently if the industry continues to shed the midlist authors that used to be agents' bread and butter.

Good points, Nathan. I hadn't thought of it that way.

Gordon Jerome said...

@ britmandelo

because people don't like bad books, and nobody comes into the writing world capable of a masterpiece on their first try. Nobody.

Harper Lee did. But in general, I agree with you. Most self-published works are not very good. One needs a second eye, an editorial eye.

Even in the world of e-publishing, the process of publishing will remain the same. The slush pile may become available to all who want to slush around in it, but the books that sell will be put out by publishers who can provide the quality fiction in that genre. No doubt about it.

Sandra said...

Thought I'd tuck this in here. In regards to your efficiency blog, check this out:

There are people and cities around the world who are joining this movement. I think I'm going to sign up. As authors, maybe we all should - after all reading is (for most people) a slow activity.

MzMannerz said...

I'd like to adjust the expectation of what doing well means. I have a client who operates in a high rise luxury office building in Manhattan. Is their balance sheet exploding from all the extra cash? No, but that does not mean they are not doing well.

To suggest that overall profit is the only measure of doing well is to present an incomplete picture. Maybe it's accurate for stock value, but really - if only my leftover money were tallied as an indicator of how well I was doing, my financial health would look quite different.

All that rambling to ask, what is the net worth of said publishing house? How much do the C-level executives earn? What real estate is owned? What art graces the office walls? What investments and holdings do they have?

Just curious.

Christine H said...

Nathan ~

I have a question on a totally different topic than the other comments(but related to your post.)

My son is seven, and his teacher just told us he is reading on a sixth-grade level. She suggested we find more challenging books for him. He's currently working his way through all of the "Geronimo Stilton" stories, which he really enjoys. She recommended "The Boxcar Children" books, but I've looked at them and they don't seem interesting enough to hold a seven-year-old's attention.
He's been reading everything Star Wars he can get his hands on, but I had to say no to a book (Scholastic's "The Story of Obi-Wan Kenobi") because some of it was too graphic.
As the author of a middle-grade book, can you recommend anything that might challenge him and still be really fun, and not above his maturity level?
Thanks! I am looking forward to "Jacob Wonderbar" coming out.
But I think I'll wait on the tattoo.

Nathan Bransford said...

christine h-

At that time I really really loved everything by Roald Dahl.

Anonymous said...

I like the model you describe of how an agent-freehand might help shape self-pub books like a brand.
It sounds like the agent will become more like a publishing partner if that happens.
How would you put the word out? How would you distinguish the one job from the other to avoid conflicts of interest?
Lots of questions to explore.


On the other hand, looking at some awful titles with no editing, no promotion, just floating out there in cyberspace like all those biz models that didn't know how to locate customers...
almost as sad (and often embarrassing) (note to self: wow, I always forget two r's and two s's)
as the pathetic permanent kitsch Twilight tattoos (two t's, two o's)
that is covering all that previously baby perfect teenage skin.
THAT will make the Twi-Moms cry.

Anonymous said...

This seems likely:

1) author establishes their own brand with an existing publisher

2) author transitions to publishing eBooks on their own

3) eBooks are made print books either via POD or through traditional publishing

I think the future will be better contracts for existing authors through traditional publishers. Self-publishing creates competition, which will force publishers to pay authors more or lose them completely.

I foresee publishers changing their business model. Retail and online vendors will continue to push down publishers margins, and established writing can utilize self-publishing either via eBook or POD as an alternative. This is gonna force publishers to offer more lucrative contracts or lose their top tier authors. This is going to mean that publishers are going to need to cut their overhead.

Will this happen this year? Probably not, but I can see it happening over the next decade.

Mira said...


Before I continue, I want to express some thoughts.

First, I feel daunted at engaging in a debate with you where I feel so strongly about the issue. I truly hope you understand that if I don't back down from my stance, it's not out of disrespect or stubborness. I feel very deeply about this.

Given that, I do wonder if it's worth discussing, because things are about to change. But I worry that writers will hand over their power in the new paradigm simply because they are used to it in this one.

And finally, I hope I don't sound callous or greedy. I understand that people in the industry are affected by these changes, and are worried about their future. I don't want to be insensitive to that. I'm taking a stance on principle and to advocate for the writer. I'm not in any way saying that people who work in the industry are unimportant or I don't care about what happens to them.

But I am a writer's advocate.

I'll address the issues in a different post, or this one will get too long.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this.

Mira said...

Okay, now I'm addressing the issues.

I have three things to say.

a. The reason agents aren't getting rich is because their income is tied to the author. If authors made more, the agent would make more.

b. If publishers are struggling to make money.....well, I thought Mz Manners has some very good points about overhead. They may also want to take a look at their businsess model. If most books don't sell out, there is a problem with the way books are being chosen and/or marketed. Publishers might want to consider market testing their product, market research of targeted audiences and marketing the product once it's finished. The web offers huge opportunities to market for low cost or for free.

c. I don't mean to sound callous, but again, as an author, why on earth should I care about (b.)? My job is to write the book. The publisher's job is to run a viable business. Unless the publisher is willing to open their books to me and ask my advice on their business practices, frankly, how they run their business is none of my business.

A writer creates a unique product. They deserve to be compensated for not just for their labor, but for their talent, skill and vision.

Please don't ask me to drop the price of my unique product because you are running your business in a way that doesn't make any money.

Pay me what I'm worth.

John Ross Harvey said...

There is a big difference between $12000 and $1200, I will never pay $12000.

As for parent looking for next level up from Geronimo Stilton, my son age 12 and daughter age 10 are reading Here There Be Dragons series, and I read it as well, its excellent. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is also good for that age.

Lulu prints, and lists. I'm paying to get my books on shelves with iUniverse, if it doesn't happen, then its a waste.

For many posts on this site talking about paying $4000 to $6000 for editing, as normal. I cannot have that kind of budget, period.
I shouldn't be expected to.

I still see nothing evil about Author Solutions as they are established with the other branches a successful self-publishing services. I conversed with an author that won awards and had his book bought by a large publisher, he spent over $6000 to get it out as no publisher seemed willing. iUniverse got it out, McClelland Stewart bought it. It's called The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis, it won Stephen Leacock Humour Award, and an IPPY 2008 award as well. I cannot pay that amount, he was a lawyer, I'm a draftsman, big paycheque difference. I will keep trying to win though. I will never stop writing because some heretic thinks a self-published book alone means its garbage. Until you read it you have no right to claim it.

Because agents and publishers don't know me, and don't think my stories are what they want, this is the route I must take to be heard. My book is good, my female draft reviewer loved it.

Nathan Bransford said...


I definitely think there are things that publishers could do differently and better targeted marketing is a good start, but you can't ask a publisher to both start focus grouping every book and increase their marketing efforts while also suggesting that they should lower their overhead. You can't ask someone to raise expenses and cut costs at the same time.

At the end of the day this isn't a business where it's easy to focus group and predict a book's success ahead of time. There is way more luck and guesswork involved than that. When you're starting with something so inherently uncertain, more focus grouping and predicting ahead of time isn't going to get you very far.

In fact, they do focus group for movies, and what they've found is that it's not particularly effective in predicting the eventual gross of a movie, because what someone will say in a controlled setting is much different than what happens in real life when someone is thinking of spending their own money.

So yeah - I do think there are things that publishers can do differently, and I think there should be more opportunities for authors to forgo an upfront advance for a larger share of the backend profits, thus sharing risk and reward a bit more equitably. But at the same time, I recognize that there are some uncertainties in every business with this much subjectivity.

Mira said...


Well, that's a really interesting point about market testing with movies. I wasn't aware they found that ineffective.

Maybe what's needed is a better market testing instrument. One that's designed to measure people's reactions to books more closely.

If I were a publisher, I might hire someone to conduct pure research on why people like the books they like. I would try to find objective criteria in their responses.

I wonder how much this has been explored? How much really is due to luck vs. how much could be measured and addressed?

Nathan Bransford said...


Well, even if publishers don't do that much Amazon sure does. They and companies like Netflix try really really hard to predict what you might like. But they're working with books that have already been written and published and they can look at who liked what and who bought what and use that data to try and predict what you might like.

How do you plug in the variables ahead of time? How can you quanitfy writing ability and plot lines and characters ahead of time?

I mean, I don't find Amazon's or Netflix's recommendation programs particularly effective, but they're working with way more data than publishers could possibly have before a book is published.

And, of course, basically what you're suggesting is that publishers make predictions based on past data and what people have liked in the past, which essentially translates to way more trend chasing. I think bookstores trying to be "scientific" about their ordering and pigeonholing authors with uncertain sales tracks is one reason we're in the situation we are now, with way too much trend chasing, not enough new thinking, and authors' careers derailed by one book that doesn't sell, no matter the quality of their future work.

Mira said...


Yes, you make really good points, and I was thinking about this....

Honestly, I just don't know enough about market testing to know if there is a way to quantify variables. Not past trends, but in general: what do people want in books? Why do they read them, and what do they enjoy about them?

I don't know if you could measure this outside of a time frame, but if you could, it would be very useful in terms of book selection.

I'd love to see a bunch of graduate students write their theses on this. :)

I will say, though, that Amazon book recommendations really work for me. I've found lots of authors that way. In fact, it's one of the best ways for me to find new authors. I check the recommendations, and read the reviews. I found Shannon Hale that way.

But I'll concede, I may be wrong about the focus testing issue. It seems like it makes sense, but maybe it's too difficult to quantify what will sell in terms of entertainment, given changing times and trends and taste.

Marilyn Peake said...

This is a really interesting discussion. I personally think that one of the major marketplace forces keeping most writers, literary agents and individual publishing houses feeling underpaid, stressed out and as though they’re under constant threat of losing everything is something that’s rarely talked about as part of the overall picture: the fact that, as of 2004, only 5 corporations (as opposed to 50 corporations in 1983) began controlling most of the U.S. media. The owners of these corporations are worth billions of dollars. Most of the people working very hard within the book industry are working to keep the heads of these businesses wealthy and stock holders earning. That’s the model. Within that model, a few authors – such as Stephenie Meyer with her TWILIGHT series – will sell such a huge number of books that their small royalty percentage on each book will add up to substantial income. At this point, it is what it is; but I think it’s helpful to at least acknowledge it.

I decided to look into who owns Harlequin. Harlequin’s a Canadian company owned by the Torstar Corporation, a media company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TS.B). I went to the website of the Torstar Corporation - they actually have a chart showing the Current Activity of the Toronto Stock Exchange on their home page!

Anonymous said...


When I read this:

I was shocked to learn that the publisher passed on the supply chain risk to the author. The author is only being paid 8%. Why should they also have to share in the supply chain risk?

The author should not have to share the supply chain risk. If the publisher over prints a book because the publisher did not adequately predict demand, the author should not have to eat that risk. The author was not involved in the decision making process as to how many books should be printed.

Why should any author have to eat this risk when they're only being paid around 8%? Do publishers just assume writers cannot do simple math or are desperate enough to take on the risk to see their name on a spine of a book?

Help me understand this insanity.

Marilyn Peake said...

More interesting facts. Harlequin is partnering with Author Solutions to create their self-publishing company. If you scroll down to the end of the announcement, Harlequin and Author Solutions Announce Publishing Partnership, you can see that Author Solutions also owns AuthorHouse, AuthorHouse UK, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris and Wordclay – which means those other self-publishing companies are not true competitors.

Mira said...


Exactly. When I talked about overhead, I didn't mean workforce reduction - that's the last thing that's needed. I was talking about higher end expenses and Manhattan real estate.

Who owns these companies? How invested in the business are they? If they have other lucrative businesses, can't they send some money toward publishing to get it back on it's feet?

I have to leave for now.....

Thanks for the wonderful converstation.

Mira said...

Anon - just saw your comment. I'm late, I'm going to get in trouble. Later.

Nathan, you're amazing. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"There are small press eBook authors making $40,000 and more per year from sales of multiple romance books WITHOUT having to pay anything at all for publication."

This is true. I'm one of them. But it's a lot more complicated than just submitting books to an e-publisher. You must have books out with multiple e-publishers. You have to absolutely love doing it. You have to be experienced and dedicated enough to know how to produce a book a month. And you have to promote endlessly to build a fan base (and not on comment threads like this). It consumes your life, and like I said, you have to LOVE doing it otherwise it won't work.

Marilyn Peake said...


My impression is that they don’t perceive a need to get publishing "back on its feet". My impression is that they worked hard to make publishing what it is. Making billions of dollars (over $100 billion for one of the companies) was and continues to be the goal. Here’s an interesting Media Ownership Chart.

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @12:27 PM,

Congratulations on your success!! I understand completely that that’s what’s involved. I belong to EPIC, and discovered that some of EPIC’s romance authors were earning that much money in royalties from multiple small press romance eBooks. Writers who work just as hard in other areas of publishing don’t often earn enough money to quit their day jobs, with some dropped by their publisher if their first book doesn’t sell enough copies, so I found the information about authors in your situation rather enlightening. Congrats, once again!!

Ink said...

Anon 12:12,

What do you mean by "supply chain risk"? The author was paid an advance of $50,000. She keeps that regardless of how well the book does. If it had flopped the publisher would have eaten a large loss and the author would still have the $50,000. Publishers keep reserves against returns to play it safe... and some of that reserve will probably reach the author eventually when further sales figures are confirmed (ie. less books will be returned than they're guarding against). And if the book earns out the author will receive royalties (and might already be receiving royalties on earlier books).

Is that what you're asking about? Or something different?

Christine H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Some firmer numbers;

Viehl states she earned a $50,000 advance and had $24,500 net off it. So that's what, 20% for Writers House, LLC? $10,000. Leaving $40,000 gross, so 15,500 in taxes and expenses. At 32% income taxes, including self-employment tax, that would be about $12,800 and allow for $2,700 in expenses, probably promotional expenses, travel and lodging for events and so forth. Not unrealistic.

However, I don't find her claim that Penguin grossed $453,839.68 realistic, nor her supposition that they netted $250,000. In order for 61,663 copies to earn that much, the average sale revenue per copy would have to be $7.36. Condsidering the cover price is $7.99, that means the distributed wholesale discount is only 8%. Not realistic.

Most of a publisher's mass market paperback sales are at 60% of cover price, allowing 5% for disributor rake, and 35% for retailer markup. The realistic numbers are $5.45 average revenue per MMPB copy, for a publisher revenue on 61,663 copies of $281,563. (10% MMPB direct retail sales at 100% cover price, 20% wholesale sales at 80% cover price, 70% wholesale sales at 60% cover price.)

One other point of interest, most returned paperback books are not physically returned. They're remaindered, meaning the cover is stripped off and returned for credit and the book block is sent off to be pulped. And of late, more and more booksellers are merely filing an affidavit for returns rather than stripping off covers and mailing them back for credit, ripe for abuse. One stat I encountered suggests that remainder fraud runs between 20 and 40%.

Anyway, that means that returns are not available for restocking. At 40% average remainder on MMPBs, and Viehl's royalty statement bears that out, that's a cost of publishing that no one legitametaly makes revenue from. I project there were 100,000 books printed. A paperback costs about a buck to make and another 35¢ for handling, so that's roughly $135,000 in production costs, add in Viehl's $50,000 advance, $185,000 out of $281,563 revenue. $100,000 gross for the publisher for distributed operating costs, like payroll, utilities, Internet, postal expenses, etc., rent, if they don't own, but Penguin largely does own it's work space. Then there's distributed overhead costs, interest on mortages, capital expenses like computers, office furniture, carpet, vehicles and so on. I don't think there was a whole lot of net profit on the novel.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, I slipped a digit. I calculated on 51,663 copies, actual61,663 copies times $5.45 equals $336,063. Minus $185,000, maybe Penguin did realize a little net profit.

Ted said...

That HuffPo article on the iTablet sounds like a joke to me.

iDrive? iTrim?

iDon't think so.

word ver: wings
no thanks, I'll stick with beer and pretzels

Courtney Price said...

Seriously, this was a big week, right? I mean, my mind is reeling with ideas!

Steve Fuller said...

The self-publishing debate always drives me insane.

In the music world, if someone believes she has talent, she will form a band, record a CD, play local clubs for pennies, post the music online, and hope to hit it big.

In the art world, if someone believes he has talent, he will buy some supplies, paint some pictures, open a gallery, post his work online, and hope to hit it big.

Why should writers be denied the same opportunity? If the work is crap, oh well, it would have never been published anyway. But if it's good, now writers can establish themselves without assistance from traditional gatekeepers.

The publishing industry reminds me of a grumpy old man yelling at the neighbor kids.

Nothing happening is good or bad, it's just different. Those who embrace the new reality will thrive. Those who don't will fade away.

Marilyn Peake said...

The Penguin Group is doing fine, though, making money on its books. I did some research tonight to add to the interesting conversational thread going on about Penguin here in the comments section. Interesting article written in March 17, 2009: Penguin Posts Record Profit in Down Economy. According to the article, "Nearly every segment of Penguin Publishing showed improvement in 2008 helping the company achieve a growth of 26% over 2007 and a profit margin of 10.3%. Sales were up 3% not withstanding the increased value of the dollar." In addition, Penguin is owned by Pearson PLC. Pearson PLC operates through three primary groups: FT Group, Pearson Education, and the Penguin Group. According to the Pearson PLC Profile, Pearson PLC’s overall sales for 2008 amounted to $6,963,000,000.00 with a net income of $467,500,000.00. And here’s information on the earnings of their top executives.

Jil said...

In today's Sunday paper there is an article about how many more people are reading now, but they borrow from the library instead of buying their books. In this economy they can't afford such high prices so many towns are building huge new libraries while book stores are closing,

Does this not pose a difficult situation in a few years=for everybody?

Mira said...

Marilyn, your research is amazing, and fascinating! So, that raises the question of just how much publishing really is struggling?

Maybe it's not. Maybe it's just cost-cutting.

Cost cutting that the author, in part, absorbs. And yes, Anon 12:12, I agree with you. I think that writers have bought into the idea that they are incredibly lucky to be published. They should be grateful and accept anything they are offered.

I noticed, though, that Nathan is out of town, so I just erased the rest of my post. :)

I'm reluctant to get too controversial on his blog, while he's off in another State.

But maybe when he gets back.....

Donna Hole said...

That NY Times article brings out my delimma exactly regarding the purchase of an e-reader (kindle or nook) or just getting the iPhone with all the added extra applications.

One of my supervisors at work has the iPhone and allowed me to sample the "notes" kindle features. The trouble with the iPhone is simply the size of the screen.

I can't imagine reading an entire novel on a space no bigger than this comment window. It would work short term - as in standing in a long, long supermarket line - but would cause headaches and eyes strain, I'm sure over a long period of time.

And when I sit down with a book, I intend to spend serveral hours if not several days with it. And who needs the distraction of the internet while reading. I get mad enough during the last few chapters of a good book if my family interrupts for for silly things like dinner and rides to their friends. Getting an IM or blog update would frustrate me.

Thanks for the links Nathan. I really enjoyed that the general public outcry was able to change the mind of a conglomerate like Harlequin. Nice to know purchasing power has its influence still.


Ink said...


I don't know... what does it mean that one publisher out of many is doing well? I mean, if there's any publisher with a "brand" in the public consciousness it's Penguin. Because they've made wise investments doesn't mean everyone else has. And if Penguin is doing well, that means Penguin's authors are doing well, too. That's the whole point of royalties - the author shares in the success of their book. If the book exceeds expectations they'll make money on top of their advance. And those advances are a protection for the writer - they don't share in the same risk as the publisher if the book fails to garner an audience (except in the long-term career sense).

Now, if publishers were raking in big money and authors never saw any of it... then I might see a case for exploitation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Marilyn P.

I'm anon @ 12:27

It ain't easy :) But it's a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

"Does this not pose a difficult situation in a few years=for everybody?"

The newpapers (and the mainstream media in general) aren't taking everything into consideration and they aren't giving out all the info. Many people buying five - ten e-books a week from e-publishers at one time. And it continues to increase instead of decrease.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Bryan, I just wrote up a response to you, but then I took it down.

I really don't want to talk about controversial things while Nathan is out of town.

Let's wait until he gets back, okay?

Donna Hole said...

@ Steve Fuller:

I have to say I agree with your basic argument. Afterall, it is rare for a music group or artist to be recognized nationally if they are not producing work locally and making a name for themselves. Creating groupies - followers.

It would seem to reason that aspiring author who have a large following on their personal blogs would also attract the attention of an Agent once the work comes across their desk (in the form of a query).

It seems to me this is the only artistic/entertainment business where self promotion is a detriment, not an asset. Over at Pub Rants last Monday, Kirsten posted that she sent a rejection letter to an author who not only had talent, but was previously published and had a very good manuscript (

I think this sort of rejection happens a lot. My question is: what are the chances of this talented author remaining unpublished because she/he recieved enough of that type rejection that the Author gives up and remains in a less fulfilling profession? Does the Author self publish and thereby ruin the chances of ever attracting the notice of a Big House?

I attended a workshop with an agent who said an author with a poor track record is harder to sell than an unknown author. Does that mean if you sold 150 copies of your self published novel an Agent is still unwilling to represent you with another project because you flaunted tradition and self published?

Many inde presses were started by people with the drive to search out markets for their impatient authors.

Not that I'm saying "all" self published authors are decent writers; but I'm guessing a good part of them may be at least mid-list if given the chance.

And then there's that self published guy recently in the news (Scott something, or something Scott, I forget his name) who is now a national best seller.

Your comment Steve just brought up a lot of my own questions on why it is so wrong for an author to put their wares - so to speak - out in the local markets for public opinion. Like local bands, artists and theater actors do.


Tina said...

Wow, I'm so excited to have found your blog. I'm going to read every scrap! Thank you for the insights into this much desired world..

Anonymous said...


I was just wondering if you have stopped visiting AbsoluteWrite?

Nathan Bransford said...


It's been a really busy couple of weeks. I hope to stop by soon.

Anonymous said...


You're forgiven. We miss you ti all.

John Ross Harvey said...

Joisin (hope I spelled that right)

It is offered only to Americans
Canadians are not eligible for Published by You, or I'd have used it. I am trying iUniverse now to see if it's better quality product, and keep my ISBN.

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