Pub Rants

Konrath Stats Outside of Traditional Publishing

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STATUS: It’s really time to go home now…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HOWLING AT THE MOON by Ramones

JA Konrath updated his blog today giving some new stats on how he’s doing selling outside of traditional publishing and selling ebooks on his own. He’s hit the 100k mark. A great number in any format.

He notes that agents won’t mention it on our blogs but heck, I don’t mind. I’m not remotely threatened by authors pursuing this. He’s also a fellow backspacer and I love that he’s sharing this journey publically so if you have interest, you might want to give it a look. (My original mention of it here.)

In light of his recent entry, I’d like to make one comment. I wish I could disclose figures but that is client confidential so I can only share general info.

For my top sellers in print, their ebook sales currently don’t equal 1% of their print sales (and yes, they are available in all formats across many e-distribution platforms). It’s changing rapidly mind you but right now, the disparity is still pretty large in the ratio of print sales to ebook sales.
I know that will change drastically in the next year or two.

Konrath mentions quite a few new authors are having success following an untraditional model as well. You might want to check out his list and find out what those folks are doing.

Because that’s the real question. As e-publishing allows a greater array of writers to have work out there, how will readers decide what to buy? What is creating notice for new writers outside of traditional publishing?

I imagine if you are interested in this, you might have the same question!

28 Responses

  1. Sun Singer said:

    When I talk to non-writers about what they read, most people are reading authors published by traditional houses and promoted in traditional ways.

    Younger authors and newer authors talk about the opportunities and the “democracy” of e-books and self-publishing and Internet-based book sales, but I’m waiting for them to show me the money.

    Tomorrow or next week, all of us may use some form of Kindle or another, but without the promotion engine of old-style publishing and loss of reviewers, I don’t know how any cream that’s out there can possible rise to the top and be found by readers.


  2. Edie Ramer said:

    I have bought ebooks by print authors, but usually reluctantly because the price is normally too high. For the last two ebooks I bought, the price was the same as for their print books. Considering there’s no printing, paper, mailing, etc. costs, they should at the least be a dollar or two less.

  3. ICQB said:

    I self-published a couple of ebooks, mainly as an experiment. It takes a heck of a lot of self promotion to get your work under people’s noses. Like hours every day trolling the various forums and book sites making conversation and hoping people notice that you have a book for sale (many places don’t allow outright self-promotion).

    If you already have a following, like Konrath, that makes things lots easier. There are self-published people in the forums who seem to be successful at the promotion and getting sales, but to me it’s exhausting.

    How are my ebooks doing? I’ve sold somewhere around 18 in total over the past few months. So that’s either because they aren’t great, or because I’m not good at pushing them, or both.

    Let me tell you, I’d rather go the traditional publishing route.

  4. Marie Lu said:

    Very cool! Good for JA Konrath–I’m really happy to hear that e-pubbing is working out for him, and for a growing number of other authors. 🙂 I love hearing about writers finding new paths to their readers. The publishing industry will soon catch up to where the music and game industries already are.

    I think the e-book industry will actually be (and already is) very similar to the games app industry. On the bestsellers list (or rather, the Top 25 list), you have the apps produced by larger companies (i.e. Sony, EA, Zynga) dominating most of the sales, and then a handful of apps produced by very small/indie groups, and then a couple that hit it big that were coded by a single person. All make good money. This mirrors the e-book bestseller lists and is probably what the future of e-publishing will look like as well. Independent e-book writers will exist side by side with the large publishers, just like their counterparts do in the music and game industries. There will be a natural, healthy group of “indies” that made it with their grassroots movements (just like indie singers/bands and indie game creators), and there will also be big-name authors grown by their publishers. It doesn’t have to be a gladiator fight to the death between writers and the “gatekeepers”. It’s not really one or the other. We can potentially exist in harmony.

  5. Simon Hay Soul Healer said:

    Konrath has a good platform, and he works hard at it. He did all the right things to build that platform when he was traditionally published and he maintains that growth now. I support what he’s doing because I believe writers aren’t getting enough for their e-book rights and royalties in general. From a business perspective it’s apparent the traditional publishing model is broken. Forget about the economic climate, it doesn’t make sense to continue to run a business that’s not profitable to everyone involved. Konrath has stats for newbies and unknowns who are doing okay. Would they have done any better if they’d published traditionally? I doubt it. The stats on books making money are pretty dismal and heart breaking, but I believe there’s more opportunity and options for everyone in publishing. Everyone, not just writers. Be brave, educate yourself and then do the best you can. We still have to have a great story and write well. I still think having an agent is the right way to go, but again, be patient and learn as much as you can about publishing. Thanks Kristin. I enjoy visiting.

  6. Joe Konrath said:

    Thanks for the mention, Kristin. I’d think being able to sell that many ebooks on my own would be interesting to industry pros, but only you and Publisher’s Lunch have acknowledged my accomplishment.

    It might be a genre thing (my genre is mystery/thriller), but I personally know four NYT bestselling authors whose last hardcovers were outsold by their Kindle ebooks. I really believe it’s only a matter of time before writers get smart and realize that a 70% ebook royalty is better than a 17.5% ebook royalty (25% of the 70% agency rate.)

    Smart agents won’t have anything to fear when this change comes. They’ll be able to provide the same services for their clients, except they’ll be dealing with ebook retailers rather than print publishers. And though my agent doesn’t get a percentage of my ebook sales (because I did that on my own), she has sold audio rights to those ebooks, and film rights to one of them. As you mentioned, she also negotiated my AmazonEncore deal, and David Morrell’s current deal with Amazon.

  7. Rachel said:

    Very interesting post–and I was surprised to read about your best selling clients’ e-books sales. Surprising and informative. Thanks!!

  8. Sandy Williams said:

    Thought this was an interesting post. Thanks for mentioning Konrath’s post, Kristin!

    @Edie Ramer: The cost to print and mail a book really aren’t that much. It’s the editing, promoting, staffing, etc. that costs the most. That’s why there isn’t always a huge difference between ebooks and printed books.

    @Marie Lu: Love your indie game/music comparison, and I can see that working well in the future. One of the things that bothers me about epublishing is finding the good books that are out there. Actually, I probably shouldn’t say “good” books, but rather, books that are for me. There are plenty of ebooks that people rave about, but for some reason – maybe their pacing, their content, their voice, their whatever – they aren’t what I’m looking for. Books published traditionally more typically are. So, if/when we do start selling primarily ebooks, I’d still purchase the books by the big name publishers unless I read a ton of great reviews for books from the smaller pubs.

    @Joe Konrath: It doesn’t surprise me that NYT bestselling authors’ ebooks are outselling the hardbacks. If I had a choice between a hardback and ebook, I’d go for the ebook, too. Given the choice between an ebook and paperback, though? I’m still most likely to choose paperback.

  9. Roni Loren said:

    I love my Kindle, buy from the bigger digital first/e-publishers often, and am excited to see where this whole e-pub thing goes.

    However, I agree with Miranda’s comment. I want gatekeepers. I will not spend my money on something that hasn’t gone through that traditional process with an editor (who the author didn’t pay). My reading time is too precious to spend time determining which self-pubbed authors have great books and which have crappy ones.

  10. Maryann Miller said:

    Very interesting discussion. Two things popped into my head. First, I wonder what your client’s e-books sales would be if that was the only outlet? If they already have a large fan base like Konrath, the e-book sales would be greater.

    Regarding the traditional publishers being the conduit through which the cream rises to the top, I would have to disagree. There are books coming out that way that are poorly written and poorly edited. I have noticed a real drop in quality for some commercial fiction.

  11. LaylaF said:

    Thanks for sharing that link. Congrats to Konrath for success in self-publishing, he is a trail blazer for other authors to follow.

    But I have to admit, it seems like he spends alot of time managing the business side and that can only take from writing time. He seems to do a great job of fitting both in; but I would rather spend my time writing and share my profits (if I had any) with an agent (if I had one) and have them do what they do best.

  12. Marie Lu said:

    @Sandy: I totally agree about the gatekeeper thing. 🙂 In taking a look at publishing’s cousins of music, movies, and games, publishers don’t have all that much to fear. They might downsize a little, but they’ll still be around. In fact, predicting publishing’s future should basically require just looking over at the rest of the entertainment industry. Just like consumers gravitate toward movies put out by Paramount or music put out by Jive Records or games put out by EA, they will still largely gravitate toward books put out by large publishers. Lots of indie e-book writers will still find success just like their fellow entertainers who have already gone through the e-revolution. Webisode creators online make great money just from iTunes and YouTube, for example. That doesn’t mean production houses are going out of business anytime soon, if ever. So JA Konrath is also absolutely right that e-books will usher in a new era of successful writers who don’t have to go through mainstream publishing. He is the pioneer and example of this and experiencing it firsthand.

    The key to success here, however, is still marketing and platform. You have to get into a new format EARLY and FAST. I work in the video game industry and saw this happen with Facebook apps and iPhone apps. Breakthrough format for games, instead of being tied to systems (PSP, DS, Xbox, etc). The first wave of independently-coded apps on both did phenomenally well, since consumers only had to scroll through a few dozen pages to see the offerings. Those indie coders became rich literally overnight. Inevitably, the market soon got crowded with hundreds of thousands of indie apps, prices plummeted, and users went back to trusting mostly apps produced by companies (Zynga, Playfish, etc) to find what they wanted to play. The occasional hi-quality indie app still rises to the top and does so with decent regularity (although nothing like the early app days). The same thing will happen with e-books. And things will be just fine for both writers and publishers. Most of all, for readers.

    Honestly, I’m not afraid for publishers but the ones I *am* afraid for are bookstores. It really hurts my heart because I love the sensory experience of browsing in a bookstore. Using the same analogy here, look at the fall of DVD rental/sale stores (Hollywood, Blockbuster), music record stores, and video game stores (GameStop). And the rise of Netflix, iTunes, and online game rental stores. The best thing for bookstores to do is to establish an early online presence and start seizing that market share. (Before Amazon takes over completely) Because it’s not the publishers/providers who will have trouble after the e-revolution dust settles, it’s the distributors. Sadly. 🙁

  13. Anonymous said:

    CNN had a spot on e- publishing, King, and the Kindle. Some are forecasting that by 2015 e sales will be 50%. I hope so, but not with big publishers.


  14. Anonymous said:

    also-when I went to the eye Drs a few months ago, the waiting room was packed with senior citizens–who were all talking about how wonderful the Kindle was, how they read more and the glory that was Project Gutenberg.

    I almost leapt up in the air and pumped my fist.


  15. rex kusler said:

    After being rejected by hundreds of agents, I put my mystery novel PUNCTURED up on Amazon Kindle, and priced it at 99 cents. I did no promotion, other than posting in the comments section of Konrath’s blog periodically. I don’t have a website or blog. The ebook has sold almost 11,000 copies in eight months. And last week I got an email from an acquistions editor at AmazonEncore.

  16. Susan S said:

    I’ve noticed a significant shift in my selection methods since adopting an e-reader (Kindle, in my case) for fiction. First, I buy a lot more, probably because impulse buying is a lot easier when I spend so much time on the ‘net. Second, I’m finding that over 75% of the fiction books I buy were recommended by one of the (many) blogs I read, or found via Twitter.

    Granted, I may read more than most people do, but I’m hearing the same things from others – recommendations from respected blogs and bloggers carry a lot more weight than other reviews, partly because a reader has a better connection to their likes and personality type (and therefore a better ability to judge the recommendation and whether it matches the reader’s preferences) than reviews in traditional media.

  17. Margaret Fleming said:

    When I buy a book in paper, I know it will always be in the form I boudht, and I can read it in that form all my life. Why wouldn’t I want a book I write to have that same protection from alteration?

  18. Chris Stedman said:

    I’m planning on putting his untraditional model to the test very soon. I have a children’s chapter book ready (minus a few illustrations done) and plan on putting it on the Kindle and Createspace.

    The children’s ebook market seems to be even further behind the curve than other traditional novels so I know it will be an even bigger uphill battle. But when it catches up I’ll already be established.

  19. Ruth Francisco, author said:

    Authors are providing their own “gatekeepers” by recommending books on their blogs. There are several Kindlebook review blogs now, many of which are getting excellent reputations. So move over Publisher Weekly. Here are some to check out:

  20. bowerbird said:

    > For my top sellers in print,
    > their ebook sales currently
    > don’t equal 1% of their print sales
    > (and yes, they are available
    > in all formats across many
    > e-distribution platforms).

    oh, c’mon. corporate publishers
    are intentionally sabotaging the
    e-book sector now, since they
    know that it spells their doom…

    so this “comparison” is rigged…

    overpriced e-books don’t sell.
    big surprise! it’s just a big lie,
    to try to keep authors in line…

    meanwhile, konrath is making
    his big money, hand over fist…


  21. Kim said:

    My self published children’s books are off to a great start. I worked hard to get a traditional publisher, but now, after speaking with traditionally published authors, am feeling excited at my fate..beautiful ebooks next:)

  22. Nicole Chardenet said:

    Ironically I just finished reading this article posted by a Facebook friend on how traditional publishers themselves have contributed to the decline of publishing:

    It covers, among other things, crap put out by established authors who no one at the publishing house, apparently, had the cojones to tell them was crap and to go back and rewrite it.

    J A Konrath, Seth Godin & others are demonstrating that traditional publishers aren’t as necessary once one has an established following/audience; now it’s up to others to figure out how to strike out on their own and build their own audience. I haven’t given up on traditional publishing but I’ve put it aside for now to start my own experiment in self-publishing; if it doesn’t work out I can always try traditional publishing again or simply, try try again!

  23. Erin Edwards said:

    Thanks for posting this link, Kristin. I’ve been watching ebook developments for a while now and your blog was one of the places that first got me interested in educating myself. You were early there, and here you are again.

    I learned a ton just from the comments. Thanks for commenting everyone!

  24. S.G.Royle said:


    Would you represent an author who didn’t want to get published via the traditional route?

    @Sandy “I think traditional publishing will and should win out, because readers need the publishing “gatekeepers” to find the best books and to know what to buy.”
    – Actually Sandy, Readers don’t need anyone to help them find what to read. Most ebooks allow sampling, and there are a ton of blogs, websites and forums where books are passionately, and in many cases objectively (as far as that’s possible with a novel) reviewed. Go take a look at Librarything or the list above, or Amazon reviews.

  25. BorneoExpatWriter said:

    Thanks, been wavering on this issue for two months now, but for some reasons still holding out for traditional agent/book route.

    I’m giving it one last big push, trying the five agents a day approach and see what happens. I’m in my second week, varying my approach, my pitch, rewriting my synopsis. It’s forcing me to think, does my passion come through? Am I excited about this? Is the book exciting? How can I make it seem more exciting? How can I fix it? What else can I do to grab an agent at hello?

    These questions are steering me in the right direction and I like what I’m seeing. I like my chances a whole lot better this week than last week because of all these changes I’ve made.

    For now I’d rather sell myself to an agent who knows how to sell mu work professionally than me desperately trying to sell my ebooks, which sounds like exhausting work. Then again someone sold 11,000 copies without doing much of anything, and found that rather interesting, too.

    There are good arguments for both. God luck in making the right choice, or doing a little of both, depending on the book…Then you can compare apples to apples.

  26. CIBond said:

    I have found the Amazon reviews to be shockingly misleading. Well, I am new to this so perhaps everyone else knows what is going on, like tipping in a foreign country or how much to declare on your taxes in Italy. In any case I picked up the worst book I have ever read, an Indie book, by following Amazon reviews. I was interested in Indie authors because I plan on becoming one and this was in my genre (Urban Fantasy). It got 4 and 5 star reviews… now that I know better I see that the reviewers were all the same people who reviewed all the author’s work and were never verified buyers but I was still surprised. In one case the same person left multiple 5 star reviews for the author (for a different book). It skews everything. I’m not sure what they can do about it but if the author has enough friends and those friends have enough different accounts and vote for each others review… well. It means that Amazon looses cred as far as having a rating system that works but I am not sure how you can fix it and still leave the forum as open as it is.

  27. Mary McDonald said:

    I have a book I published via Amazon and Smashwords. In just over three months, I’ve sold over three hundred. Promotion is hard to some extent, because it does involve spending time on forums. However, I’m a forum kind of gal, and if weren’t my ebook I was trying to promote, it would be some other kind of forum with a different topic. For instance,when my daughter was a baby, I hung out on mothering forums.

    I am not a huge success, obviously, but if someone would have told me back in June when I uploaded the book, that by the end of September I’d have sold over 300 books, I’d have laughed.

    The coolest thing is stumbling upon a thread where someone I don’t know plugged my book.

    When I upload the sequel in a month or so, I hope that my sales will increase quite a bit and I might join the folks Konrath names on his blog.