$609.37…that’s what I’ll be donating to AutismSpeaks.org, thanks to you guys and your purchases of Left with the Dead. Bravo, folks…it’s for a great cause, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
The talented and just plain old über-cool Jeroen ten Berge turned in his cover for the print edition of Earthfall yesterday, and I have to say, it’s a nice one. For those who aren’t familiar with his work, he’s probably most widely known as Blake Crouch’s artist of choice–check out his covers for Blake’s excellent novels Pines, Abandon, and Snowbound, as well as the trendsetting illustration for RUN.
Some thanks to Craig DiLouie for his cover blurb, and of course, the long-suffering Derek Paterson for his work on the product description, something I’m horrible at. Additional kudos to Joe LeBert, ultra-amazing author Fred Anderson, Scott Wolf, and ton of other folks.
And, oh yeah…thanks to those of you who bought Earthfall and actually liked it! It’s always a thrill to see a release creep up the charts, especially in a different genre.
Errata: the free period for White Tiger came to a close yesterday, and the numbers were almost 3,000 downloads in the US, and a surprising 685 in the UK. While giving away books for free seems like a dumb business move, it actually translated into some great sales–5 in the US in one day, and 14 in the UK. That’s a month’s worth of sales right there, and it’s also generated a few borrows through Amazon’s Prime program, for which I’ll get a couple of bucks as well. If this trend continues, Derek and I will have the best month ever for this book. Not a tough feat, since the highest sales numbers to date have been 21 in one month.
I’ve pulled The Gathering Dead from the other ebook sites and entered it into Amazon’s Prime program, as well. This gives me the opportunity to offer it for free, with the hope that it would spawn substantial sales of Left with the Dead and the two The Rising Horde books. I haven’t decided when–or even if–I’ll take this step, since The Gathering Dead is still my primary money-maker, but it is something to consider.
Anyway, that’s all for now, crew. Thanks for your patronage, and I hope this weekend is full of fun and excitement for all.
Perusing the ever-erstwhile blog The Passive Voice, I came upon this particular post, which in turn led me to the original article, located here at LouisvilleKY.com. It’s an interview with Sue Grafton, she of the Letter Mystery Novel Fame, and I want to alert interested readers that Ms. Graftom was interviewed by none other than the irrepressible Red Tash, who also had the misfortune to interview me last year.
Of course, Grafton’s interview was much more polarizing than mine, likely due to surely well-intended but needlessly incendiary bon mots like this:
Do you have any words of wisdom for young writers?
Quit worrying about publication and master your craft. If you have a good story to tell and if you write it well, the Universe will come to your aid. Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.
(Bold by me.)
Ms. Grafton then apparently went on to ignore the lifeline extended in the following question while simultaneously shutting down her internal censors so she might continue with:
In light of our Louisville neighbor John Locke’s blockbuster indie sales, and the growing percentage of each best-seller list being filled out by “indie” writers, do you still feel that advice is solid? I know it was the standard advice a few years ago, but is it still good advice?
If so, what hard work are indie success stories too lazy to complete?
Is it possible that indie publishing is more effective than querying agents & publishers, for the new writer? More and more agents and publishers seem to be treating indie books as the new slush pile.
Good questions. Obviously, I’m not talking about the rare few writers who manage to break out. [Knight Sez: Yeah, because EVERY trade-published writer breaks out… right?] The indie success stories aren’t the rule. They’re the exception. The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. I’ve got one sitting on my desk right now and I’ve received hundreds of them over the years. Sorry about that, but it’s the truth. The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall. Don’t get me started. Oops..you already did.
(Again… bold by yours truly.)
Sometimes, I just can’t contain my annoyance at folks who can’t read the writing on the wall… especially when they’re supposedly writers. One presumes reading would be an important implement in their writerly toolkit (or perhaps “trollkit,” in this instance), but apparently I’m farther out of touch with the whole “us versus them” matchup than I’d thought.
As one of the unwashed hoi-polloi, I hang my head in sorrow… until I remember the income projections from my writing this year, then I perk up and I haz a happy.
And oh yeah, my reviews are better than Grafton’s. I guess I can smirk about that one, as well.
I hope everyone’s doing well, and are healthy and happy!
I’ve been pretty quiet lately, but it’s not because I’ve lost interest, have been abducted by aliens, or wound up as Scarlett Johansson’s newest boy toy. (Though she apparently does like dalliances with older guys, so I might still have a chance at that.) While I needed some downtime after moving heaven and earth to knock off The Rising Horde books, I’ve also been busy at work on other related projects that I’ll briefly detail here.
Sales for The Rising Horde: Volume 1 and The Rising Horde: Volume 2 are moving right along, especially on Amazon. Even better, their release caused some renewed interest in The Gathering Dead and, to a substantially lesser extent, Left with the Dead. I’m very, very happy with the pace of the sales of all the titles, but I see the spillover hasn’t touched any of the non-zombie books. I’m a bit concerned about this, because it makes me wonder if I’m going to wind up as a one-note writer: those guys who can only sell one specific type of property. I have a widely divergent list of interests and skills, and I’d hoped to be able to tap into that for fun and profit in the years ahead. But when I see some pretty rich fare such as City of the Damned and White Tiger essentially withering on the vine, it does make me take pause. This is a business for me, after all, not a hobby. So I need to be mindful of what I can and can’t do.
Which leads me to wonder if I should release Tribes, a decidedly non-zombified science fiction adventure novel set in the Antarctic, under the Stephen Knight monicker or if I should consider breaking out with another name. There’s a lot to be said for this approach, and there is some data that indicates folks only buy specific books from specific authors. While I like writing about zombies, their retinue is fairly limited, and I’ve already encountered resistance even to my mild attempts to spice up the genre by inserting some feral intelligence into some of the stenches. I get the desire on the part of the reader to want to enjoy similar good experiences, but as a writer, it does leave one feeling a bit boxed in. This is stuff I’ll have to contemplate strongly over the next couple of months as I finish Tribes and send it into the editorial stage.
After that, I have several other projects waiting for my tender ministrations. I haven’t decided which one I’ll do next, though I do have a lot of folks clamoring for more Gathering Dead-like fare. Will I, or won’t I? I’m afraid I don’t know myself, just yet.
Oh! And if you’ve read any of my stuff, please do leave a review wherever you purchased it. That’s always a thrill!
Yeah okay, the Indiegogo crowdfunding stuff is kind of sucking wind. But that’s all right, because at the end of the day, I wasn’t expecting a groundswell of support from that venue. The Gathering Dead is a very specialized product in that it deals with the military response to the zombie apocalypse, then specializes it even further by focusing on Army Special Forces. A lot of folks know about SEAL Team 6 (which hasn’t been called that in years, by the way), but the last time the Green Berets were on anyone’s mind was during the Vietnam War and because John Wayne played one who miraculously took in a glorious sunset where the sun somehow set in the South China Sea. But to that end, look for an Indiegogo Version 2.0 campaign sometime in the summer. By then, I’ll have my multi-thousand dollar trailer locked and loaded, and I’ll be able to better show people what I’m looking to do.
And about the trailer? Work is coming along nicely. Very nicely, but it’s not stuff that I can easily show. This is going to have to cook for another couple of months, and to reveal anything that’s not fully formed is going to hurt the initiative more than help it. I haven’t even shared it with my partners yet, because I know seeing partially-formed footage is going to be something of a downer at this point in time. They want something they can use to raise funds, and gray scale polygons and non-rigged animatics ain’t gonna do the trick. So I need to wait, and let the effects team do what they need to do.
But, there are other things happening on this front as well. I can’t speak about them directly just yet, but people are beginning to take notice of my little zombie picture and are inspecting it here and there. Some of these people are quite famous people as well, people the casual reader of this blog would know and say, “Really? XYZ is interested in The Gathering Dead? Wow!”
But interest is a fleeting thing, and balances are all very delicate. So for now, the less I say on that, the better. But things are continuing to progress in this area, albeit in more stealth mode than I would normally like.
I’m still following up on converting The Gathering Dead into a 100+ page graphic novel. Since I’m a bit of a control freak, I need to ensure that I fully vet the possible printers out there and understand their requirements fully. The folks who print my current books, Lightning Source, aren’t really adept at this kind of product, so I need to determine just who the final contenders will be and move from there.
In addition, I’ll need to assemble the following team:
Overall, it looks like the project will have an out-of-pocket pricetag of around $7,500-$15,000, which is enough to make me take it slowly and ensure that I take the right steps in the right order. Because hey, I really don’t want to have to spend twice as much as I need in order to get this done.
And for all three projects, it’s pretty much the same set of circumstances. I’m committed to doing as much by myself, for myself as I possibly can. Why? Because it’s my property, and while I recognize I’m going to need the participation of others–especially for the film!–I’m not going to cede any control unless it’s absolutely necessary. Because at the end of the day, everyone else gets to walk away from these projects with money in hand. I’m the one who has to shoulder the mistakes and failures, while everyone gets to share in the glory.
And my aim is ensure there’s more of the latter than the former. Approaching it in any other way is just looney, and I’m sure you guys would agree!
Anyway, more to come. Stay tuned, folks.
Just a little snippet to further advertise Joe Konrath’s continued self-pub success:
Now THAT’S something to brag about!
Damn, I’d better start looking at color swatches for my new Gulfstream 650!
All right, back to reality.
The real deal is, 15k in my first year is pretty outstanding. I know other writers with greater skill when it comes to avoiding split infinitives and the like who can spin a better, tighter story in their sleep or while going through the morning ablutions…and they haven’t broken the $1,000 barrier yet. A lot of those works have great covers, fantastic descriptions, awesome characters, and storylines that practically crackle with energy…but buyers generally ignore them. So with that in mind, I’m not going to bitch a lot about what I wound up with.
But what if I’d published traditionally? Gone the distance with the whole agent/author route? Others are better with numbers than I am, but I’ll let the irrepressible Kristine Kathyrn Rusch speak for me in this regard:
Let’s look at this in two parts. First, money.
Somewhere in the 1920s, writers convinced publishers to give them advances on their royalty income so that the writers had enough cash to write the next book. Let’s not discuss how profligate many of those writers were with their cash—how F. Scott Fitzgerald blew through a small fortune in those years or how Ernest Hemingway always ended up short of cash. Let’s just assume that advances actually help writers write a book. Because that’s what an advance is for: to fund the writer while he is spending all of his time writing. Not part-time while teaching. Full-time.
So, you folks can live on $1666.67 a year? Seriously?
No wait! It’s not $1666.67. I forgot to remove the agent’s forever 15%. You guys are apparently so good at money management, you can live on $1416.67 per year.
Because that’s how a $5000 advance, divided into three payments minus agent, pays out. $1416.67 over three years.
And because no one is paying any kind of interest on savings accounts, you can’t even bank that money and have it earn for you. Yeah, you might get more immediate sales on that book—it might go out to bookstores at 7,000 copies or 10,000 copies, and on those at $6.99 you will get 55 cents per copy. But half of those books will come back as returns, meaning you have yet to earn out your advance.
E-book sales might be a lot better, but you’ll only get 25% of net, which some publishers never even define. I’ve been doing the math on every single royalty statement I’ve received since this whole ebook thing ramped up, and no disrespect to those who say that 25% of net equals 17.5% or 14.2% or whatever figure they’ve come up with (in the teens), but on all of my royalty statements, the actual e-book royalty rate I have received is less than 10% of the retail price for that book. And from the so-called Big Six publisher that also routinely underreports e-book sales by factors of 100 or so, I only received 8%. (And according to that contract, I should’ve gotten 50% of retail. Ooops.)
Math doesn’t lie, y’all. Most of you traditionally published midlist writers—you’ll never earn your measly $5000 advance back, y’know, the one paid in installments over three years? The thing you licensed most of your rights for to get 5,000 or 10,000 or maybe, if you’re lucky, 20,000 copies of your book into stores in the first six months of publication.
What happens after six months? The paper editions go away. Out of print, out of sight, out of mind. The e-book will remain in print, but you try earning back an advance with inaccurate sales reporting, and some kind of math that turns 25% of net into 8% of retail. Good luck with that. If you get any royalties at all, they’re years down the road.
You’ve licensed almost everything you could on that book for an extra 5,000 or 10,000 sales in a six-month period that is rapidly disappearing in your rearview mirror.
And oh yeah, she’s Dean Wesley Smith‘s wife, so she’s probably got it all right.
So I guess the answer is, if I’d gone the traditional publishing route, I’d be sucking wind. But I didn’t, other than licensing the print rights for The Gathering Dead and Left With The Dead (which I won’t do again), so I guess this makes me a winner. Somewhere. Somehow.
Amazon US: $13,680.49
Amazon UK/EU: $752.37
Barnes & Noble: $436.29
Print Royalties: $58.28
So for the first year (of which I was only active for ten months), I guess it’s not a bad haul. And I’ve only accounted for money that was actually transferred to me in 2011–I did not pad with royalties from November or December 2011, as I haven’t received those yet, so in actuality, I’m accounting for eight months of sales.
I’ve had expenses, of course…cover art, editorial work, buying ISBNs, printer setup fees, miscellaneous software and hardware purchases,
the occasional hooker or two, all that good stuff. But I still end 2011 squarely in the black. One thing about the numbers–it’s pretty clear that Amazon is king, and that it absolutely blows everyone else out of the water. If this trend continues, I might have to seriously reconsider the whole KDP thing. If Barnes & Noble and Smashwords can’t generate more market penetration, then I might have to pull the plug on ’em so I can participate more fully in Amazon’s offerings.
Speaking of which, Left With The Dead just came off the freebie list at Amazon this morning, and it went through over 1,700 downloads (for which I receive nothing, hence the “free” download). I haven’t seen that number since the title first came out, and I did accumulate two more five star reviews. I can’t really tell if it had any impact on other sales or not, but if I look really, really hard, I might see about a 2% increase in The Gathering Dead sales and maybe a 1% bump in City of the Damned. Was it worth it? I’m not sure yet. Answer hazy, try again later.
Would love to hear about other authors’ performance over the course of 2011. Post your numbers in the comments, if you dare.
And with this, I leave you now to return to The Rising Horde…
Happy 2012, everyone. I’m a bit behind in things these days (such as updating this blog), but hey, life is tough and then you die. Hopefully not this year, though. Clearly, I don’t buy into any of that “the world ends in 2012” nonsense that’s going on.
I will tell you that I just entered Left With The Dead into the KDP program, and it will be available for FREE starting tomorrow. So if you don’t yet have it, grab it! Nook and Smashwords customers, don’t fret that it’s disappeared–it’ll be back in 90 days.
Keep cool, y’all…or if you’re in my sector of the world, keep warm! In the meantime, enjoy the pic. Zombies…so cute and cuddly, once you get past the bad smell and their desire to eat you…