Pub Rants

Going Public

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Status: Most of today I felt like I still had BEA brain. And the Brenda Novak Auction is ending tonight!

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? ROSEALIA by Better Than Ezra

Many weeks before several authors started making headlines about their choice to self-publish, my author Courtney Milan, with my blessing and support (not that she needed it!), had already made that decision. She walked away from an offer on the table from her publisher Harlequin. There were several reasons for this decision but it will come as no surprise that it mainly hinged on the electronic royalty rate that had been offered. It’s no industry secret that Harlequin is well below what has become the “industry standard.” And it’s also not a secret what I think about Publishers’ current industry standard of 25% of net.

What was secret is that Courtney didn’t announce it—until now. Today she launched this new publishing direction with a novella entitled UNLOCKED in her Turner Brothers series that began with Unveiled & Unclaimed which will release in September.

In four short days, I can already tell you two important things about this digital revolution.

1. Pricing is everything. Pricing a title appropriately will move a great number of books in a short period of time.

2. Publishers are under-reporting electronic book sales in any given period on the royalty statements we are seeing.

That’s a fact.

34 Responses

  1. Ryan Schneider said:

    What is your opinion on pricing?

    I’ve read and participated in many discussions about ebook pricing, from $0.99 to $2.99 to $4.99 and up.

    I’ve seen people selling tons of books at $0.99 (John Locke; allegedly every 7 seconds 24/7), while others see their sales decrease when they lower their price to $0.99. Still others see their sales rise when they raise the price to $4.99.

    The debate goes on, it seems.

  2. Remilda Graystone said:

    It seems like more and more authors are choosing to self-publish, whether they could easily traditionally publish or not. It’s definitely something to think about as an (additional) option in this day and age, I think.

    I wanted to ask, though, and I don’t know if you’ve already answered this but: Would you allow your clients to publish some books with a traditional publisher and self-publish others? Or would that be something you’d frown upon? And if they’re still your client, would you have a say on how/when/what they self-published, or would it be a completely separate part of their career? Sorry if these are stupid and/or obvious questions.


  3. Anthony said:

    “2. Publishers are under-reporting electronic book sales in any given period on the royalty statements we are seeing.”

    That is bad, with a side of badness with some bad sauce.

  4. Courtney Milan said:

    Would you allow your clients to publish some books with a traditional publisher and self-publish others?

    I’m going to hazard that yes, yes she would. Why wouldn’t she?

    And if they’re still your client,

    I hope I am!

    would you have a say on how/when/what they self-published, or would it be a completely separate part of their career?

    Kristin is an amazing resource, and I would be stupid if I didn’t consult her. I listen to her because she is smart, and because I try to be smart, too. But if I said, “no, I don’t want to do that,” it’s my decision. She’s my agent.

    I told Kristin I wanted to do this. She said, “Awesome. Go for it. Keep me in the loop. I have some good ideas. Let’s talk.”

  5. Chris said:

    Would you consider doing a post on what your role as an agent is once a client decides to self-publish? I’m not really sure what an agent’s exact duties are in that context, and I’m really curious.

  6. JDuncan said:

    Kristin, are you saying all pubs are pretty much under-reporting? More importantly, do you believe this is being done in an underhanded fashion or just because they don’t have systems in place to accurately track sales data for ebooks? Curious.

  7. Caroline said:

    Re: underreporting, how can you tell? I believe it’s true, but how can you KNOW, especially if the error is due to inaccurate systems at the publisher?

  8. David said:

    Underreporting? Perhaps. However, when you state that pricing moves books and imply that Milan is having success, I don’t know if it’s accurate to then assert underreporting by publishers; it seems that the little fact of publisher’s ebook prices are being ignored. Might they actually be selling far less ebooks because they are charging $10? Seems to fit with your other observations. Konrath has said the same thing, that he can outsell Patterson in ebooks, not because Konrath is a better writer but because of price.

    It seems that when it comes to ebooks, volume and price are far more worthwhile than quality. Locke proves that. People think a cheap turd is far more palatable than a golden great American novel…though in defense of epubbing, I have yet to read anything by a self-published author that is truly amazing. I’m still waiting for the next AMAZING book to be self-published. Then we’ll see what effect price point really has. Will people pay $4.99 for a novel like The Lovely Bones or The Time Traveler’s Wife? I’d hope so. I’d hope they’d even pay $7.99, because it seems to me in relation, an $8 Time Traveler’s Wife is worth all of Locke’s novels put together.

    Actually… I wonder how Gruen’s book is doing on the e-charts. This might tell us.

  9. immotusfactura said:

    The more I read and discover about industry rules and directions in electronic publishing the more I understand why so many authors turn to selfpublishing. I published my first novel resently through ( While I still am looking for an agent, it’s good to know my decision to selfpublish first wasn’t as hasty or crazy as it seemed in the beginning.

  10. Jamie Sedgwick said:

    “2. Publishers are under-reporting electronic book sales in any given period on the royalty statements we are seeing. That’s a fact.”

    I worry for the industry, and when I hear things like this it doesn’t help. Things coming to light right now don’t look good, be they malevolent or simply misunderstood. I’m one of those writers who bypassed the legacy route. Though it’s still early, I’m having reasonable success and I feel I made the right decision.

    Yet I can’t help but feel this evolution is moving a little too fast. This industry takes decades to evolve, but changes are happening almost overnight. I don’t think print will ever go away, but I think the Big 6 might not be 6 very soon.

  11. The Pen and Ink Blog said:

    So how’s you do at Brenda’s auction?
    I missed all the author things this year, but I got a dollhouse. Woohoo!
    Last year I won a query letter from Lauren Hawkeye and I plan to use it this month. I also got a great critique form Kelley Armstrong. I’m now ready to query that novel.

  12. Suzanne Warr said:

    I second Chris’s comment, that I’d love to see a blog post about the agents role in epublishing. Personally, if I do go the epub route at any point I’d still strongly prefer to have an agent in my camp. I know it’d be good to have an industry insider to chat with, who has wisdom and insights I haven’t yet earned. But, I’d love to hear where you see this relationshop going from the agents perspective.

  13. Russ Hart said:

    The discussion about price is irrelevant at this early stage of the new publishing model because you can’t compare indie pub with traditional pub because traditional pub is under reporting e-book sales. I am traditionally pubes and indie pubes and I know also this true.

    Check out these websites for more details about this discussion of under reporting e-sales. This is important issue for all writers.

  14. Rebecca Knight said:

    I love hearing the agent perspective on these changes :).

    It’s because of folks like Courtney over at the Kindle Boards (*waves*) that I decided to self pub my first novel, and I have zero regrets.

    Price is a huge marketing tool, and without a competitive one, you’re sunk. A great work will move faster and reach more readers at $2.99 than it will at $9.99, and with Amazon’s royalty structure, the author makes more per unit.

    It just makes sense, until things with the Big 6 can catch up.

  15. Ulysses said:

    Can you see a time, Kristin, when publishers are pressured to increase royalty rates on books by established authors in order to encourage them to continue publishing through their house? I can see the logic of publishing “traditionally” (how I hate the imprecision of that word) until the writer develops a brand, then relying on the popularity of that work to drive sales of subsequent self-published work.

  16. Anonymous said:

    Amazon’s new deal with Konrath and Eisler, with its emphasis on much better e-royalty rates among other things, is the beginning of pressure on the Big 6 to change their contract practices with authors.

    If Amazon continues to lure brand name authors to their publishing imprint, Big 6 will have to follow suit just to keep their authors from walking away. It won’t happen overnight, given the length of contracts, but it will happen. Amazon has the financial clout to offer some seriously better terms to authors, as well as built in incentives to get traditional bookstores to carry their imprint.

    Blood’s in the water, Big 6. Time to evolve or get eaten.

  17. Anonymous said:

    “Price is a huge marketing tool, and without a competitive one, you’re sunk. A great work will move faster and reach more readers at $2.99 than it will at $9.99”

    I don’t totally agree with this, and a would imagine most readers who aren’t familiar with the internet would agree with me. When I’m shopping for books and I see a full length novel for .99 it draws a red flag. On kobo they are listed as cheap reads. I’m not talking about quality, I’m talking about concept of pricing. I know I’m not going to be disappointed with Debbie Macomber at 8.99 or 9.99, but I’m not so sure about a lesser known author who is selling a book at .99. And, frankly, I’d probably pass on a Debbie Macomber book at .99.

    In other words, when I’m book shopping and I pay 9.99 for an e-book, I’m still paying less than I would have paid for a print book. But .99 conjures images of poor quality. I’m not saying that’s true or it’s fact. It’s just what the price implies. And I think a lot of readers who aren’t reading Internet blogs and aren’t familiar with online review sites would think the same thing.

    I also think it diminishes authors. Not everyone is going to be another Amanda Hocking.

  18. Thomas Sharkey said:

    I read somewhwere: “As far as publishing is concerned, one day, in the near or far future, your book will be read by someone.”

    I believe he/she was referring to Amazon, the world’s biggest bookshop.
    Look at the future, e-books or paper, your book(s) will be on the shelf (e-books of course) for eternity. Your paper book will be there for longer than six months. There are thousands of people, sorry, millions of people just itching to get their hands on readable material.
    Readable! Did I say – yes, stuff you can’t put down.
    But don’t forget, one man’s meat…
    Go ahead, self-publish your e-book, be an author/publisher. Someone once said: The good thing about writing is, you don’t have to get it right the first time, not like a brain surgeon, you can always go back and edit, add something, delete something. Well you can’t do that with a paper book can you, but you can on Amazon/Kindle.
    Look at the royalty diffences for paper and e-books, e-books are cheap to produce, no wastage, no storage problems. It’s a pity electronic publishing wasn’t taken up by all the publishers, then they could drop their silly house-rules – rejections because of an hastily written query letter to an agent seeking publication, with inadequate punctuation and typos or a wrongly spellt/spelled word.

    Hurray for e-books.

    Hurray for self-publishing.

    Publishers want to make money.

    I just want to write.

    T.S. Vandelocht, sci-fi writer.
    (Writing as Thomas Sharkey.)

  19. Karen Duvall said:

    Anon 5:46, I couldn’t agree with you more. Pricing does equate with quality in a lot of people’s minds. I will pay more for something if it’s an item I value for quality reasons. If it’s cheap, I subconsciously question its value. It’s how people have been programmed to think over the years. It’s what’s been repeatedly pounded into us through ads and commercials. You get what you pay for. Quality comes at a price. Etc., etc., etc.

    So unless society can be reprogrammed in its way of thinking, it will take a while for .99 books to garner the respect they may deserve. Personally, I have my reservations about self-pubbed books only because I’ve read (or attempted to read) some really bad ones and have yet to read a good one. One bad apple shouldn’t spoil the whole bunch, but sadly it often does.

  20. Libbie H. said:

    I really enjoyed reading Courtney’s reasons for self-publishing this book. I have considered self-publishing certain of my books electronically while still pursuing a traditional publishing career with other books. All the new developments and news surrounding houses’ reporting of electronic sales and all the established authors taking the leap into quality self-publishing is something I’ll follow with great interest.

  21. Carmen said:

    Etsy sellers see better sales when their products have higher asking prices. Low price implies low quality. I’m with the person who said a $.99 price tag on a novel would not be attractive. If it could command a higher price, it would, so chances are it’s not worth my time or even my $.99.

  22. Heather Wardell said:

    Five of my self-published novels are $0.99. (The other is free.) I have chosen that price because it makes it easier for readers to pick up the entire collection once they’ve read one, and my sales figures suggest they’re doing just that.

    I could indeed command a higher price. My books are carefully written and thoroughly edited, and readers have told me they’d pay more. But I’ve chosen to keep the price low to encourage people to buy them because I am more interested in having lots of readers than in making lots of money.

    I see a lot of the “if it’s 99 cents it must be garbage” theory, and it bothers me. The two do not have to go together.

  23. Jamie Sedgwick said:

    I agree, Heather. I’ve sold my books for more but the fact is, I sell more books at the lower price point. Legacy published authors have a captive audience. You can only fit so many books in a bookstore. With e-books, the game is different. You have to attract the attention of readers in a completely different way.

    Frankly, whether we like it or not, price does that. Obviously there are some buyers to whom price is no object and they will pay more for something than they have to, simply for the bragging rights of having paid more. That doesn’t necessarily mean they got something better. They are also a minority, as every author with a $.99 e-book can testify. A lower price means more sales.

    Now for the sequels, that’s a whole different story…

  24. Anonymous said:

    All sale rankings are available on amazon, even those for .99 e-books. And if you check them out, which I do, most aren’t that great.

    Maybe this all comes down to what self-published authors consider good sales? Maybe the standards have changed? If at least 5,000 e-books are sold at .99 in any given quarter, this isn’t bad at all. But if we’re talking about 500 (or less), it’s not that great, especially when you break it down into the amount of hours spent writing the book. The general objective is to make money, not pennies. This isn’t a hobby; it’s a business. And I think the general public is wary of .99 e-books. I don’t think .99 e-books will last either. Authors will grow seriously tired of working so hard for such a small amount of money. In other words, it’s finally reached the point of ridiculous. And, best of all, the book pirates will tell you that even .99 is too much for them to spend.

  25. Callie Kingston said:

    I have two thoughts about this. First, if royalties are the highest goal for the author, it makes more sense to e-pub on your own — provided you can market your work to sell sufficient copies. Second, if readership (libraries, etc.) is the highest goal, perhaps it makes sense to go the traditional route — provided that your agent & publisher put some energy behind your launch. At least until the barriers keeping self-published works off bookshelves fall away.

    If you get past the typo in your query, that is.

  26. Richard said:

    writing contest…..My blog “Amish stories” is having a “Witness farm tour contest”. What i’m looking for is readers to write their own sequel to the movie “Witness”. I’m not looking for the entire movie script, just about 300 words or less so it would be a concept for another movie. The winner will win 2 tickets to tour the actual farm where the movie was filmed, plus the winner will tour Lancaster county and will see most of the locations that was used in the movie . The farm where the movie “Witness” was filmed is now owned by an Amish Family, so the family is giving permission for maybe the last time for this tour. The winner will also receive a small gift which will be provided in the tour. 1st prize winners will also receive 2 tickets for Jacob’s Choice. There will also be a 2nd prize for 2 tickets for the Amish Homestead. This contest starts today(Monday) with a deadline set for saturday. The contest is sponsored by The Amish Experience in Bird in hand, pennsylvania. Please go to to enter this contest. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

  27. Jan Michael said:

    I like to participate in this writing contest, but I’m new in writing a books. it’s good to see all the best authors in that day.
    One of my friend writing about going public for an IPO service in canada. it’s really effective book.