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Old 02-13-2014, 11:08 AM   #1
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Author turned down $1.5 million book advances to continue to self-publish

Saw this post from the PassiveVoice, it's interesting so I thought I would share.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/02/20...in-trad-deals/

From author H.M. Ward on Kindleboards:

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Over the past year I’ve been offered over 1.5 million bucks in advances offered by huge publishing houses. I told them to show me a marketing plan that knocks my socks off and I’d consider their offer. I had this notion that they knew what they were doing and could do it better than I could. They said they had all these ideas and they’re gonna blow my mind, which was a requirement for the deal, b/c the pay was too low.

About the money – if you have a book that hits #1-10 on the Kindle store, tons of people have the mistaken notion that it’s gonna blip and fall and you’re fun in the sun will end…unless a trad pub picks you up.

It’s math time! A book in the top ten sells around 5-10K copies per day. Let’s take the average and give the book some wiggle room and say it’s selling 7K copies a day @ $2.99. In 7 days you’ll have made (net, not gross) over $100,000. So BIG TRAD HOUSE offers you $200,000 for a three part series.

‘Sign here,’ they say. ‘Sign fast! You want to strike while the irons hot.’ ‘A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush.’ ‘It’s a sure thing and if you don’t sign, then you could loose everything.’ <–They actually said all the crap to me, and its crap. If the book nets $100K in a week, what will it do next week? What about next month? What about next year? Never mind those other 2 books. Bad deal.

The most recent offer was for a high six figure deal on my next novel, on spec, sight unseen from one of the big 5. I gave the same terms – show me a kick *ss marketing plan and I’ll consider it. They were excited and on it! They were going to wow me. Like I was gonna be so wowed that I’d die of the wowness. True story.

Dude, the marketing plan I got back was the equivalent of, ‘we’re gonna do stuff.’ Their email list – yeah, they don’t personally have one, but this archaic place does – had 2K people on it. That was the bulk of their plan.

My email list has over 30K ppl on it and I do a ton more stuff than they presented.
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Old 02-13-2014, 11:48 AM   #2
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There's really lots of those stories floating around.
Like this one from Lilliana Hart:
http://www.kboards.com/index.php/top...tml#msg2458287
Quote:
It's always about the numbers. I know Brenna's deal wasn't for 7 figures, but I always use an example of a million dollars whenever I do my workshops because that's an easy number to work with. I've been offered that much for a book deal before and turned it down. More than once. It's not really a million dollars. 15% will go to my agent, which drops your million to $850,000. And then you've got to pay 40% self-employment income tax on that, which leaves you with $510,000. More than likely, if you're being offered 7 figures, you're already making this much self-publishing anyway. But until you put it on paper and look at it that way, it's easy to let your head spin with the thought of a million dollars. So always work it out before you sign on the dotted line. It's much easier to turn down $510, 000. Especially when there are non-compete clauses and other ridiculous items in the contract that will bury your indie career.
There is a big disconnect between tradpub thinks writers are worth and what even a semi-successful indie author actually earns. To say nothing of the outliers.

The tradpub party line for the last year is that indie publishing will float up stories and authors that they can then swoop in and sign the starry eyed innocents for "six figure contracts!!!!"'.

Cue up Dr Evil:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKKHSAE1gIs

Now, Ward didn't get to where she is without a lot of hard work marketting herself and her books--she is no starry eyed innocent looking for validation, not with that photography resume--so she knows the kind of marketting program it takes to make $100k a week and, understandably, she wants to see something an order of magnitude better. (And paying B&N to place a couple stacks of books on a table isn't going to wow her.)

The publishers haven't really internalized the new publishing economics and what they mean. They think they can cherry pick today's indie author-publishers with advances right out of 2004. And much like time-warped Dr Evil are getting laughed at.
Those deals might get them a top-1000 indie author but not the Top 10 class they're aiming at.

They need to up the ante or cut back the predatory contract terms. Probably both.
It really is an entirely different era.

Last edited by fjtorres; 02-13-2014 at 11:54 AM.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:24 PM   #3
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I agree with you from the stand point of marketing. Many of the authors who are on my must read list have their own web sites and make quite an effort to connect with their fan base. Simply doing the book tour once a year just isn't going to hack it anymore.
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Old 02-13-2014, 02:14 PM   #4
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Is Jeff Bezos the only one in publishing who has read The Innovator’s Dilemma?

Amazon is the only publisher with a halfway serious campaign to promote independent authors (in fairness, they are the only one with the weight to get serious at this point). Amazon’s Day One and Kindle Singles imprints promote short stories, essays and shorter nonfiction. They they use their visibility in book-selling to highlight successful independent authors and their works. They pay independent authors a fair share of the profit from their work too. It seems as though while Amazon is innovating the future of publishing the big publishing houses seem merely to concentrate on killing eBooks. The only place Amazon backs off from promoting innovation in publishing is in their failing to promote independent bookstores as well. At least there is Kobo to pick that up and who knows where it will lead.

It’s exciting to watch the evolution of publishing. What's next: emerging markets in professional editing services with room for independent editors to offer innovative pricing to attract and hold onto promising authors? Perhaps revised expectations for what agents can and should do in a market where having contacts in publishing houses is less important than having keen insights into marketing a book?

To me, it all looks to be good--or at least necessary--but I can't wait to see what happens when big publishing quits their rear guard approach to innovation and embraces the changes.
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Old 02-14-2014, 06:26 AM   #5
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This part is also interesting. H.M. Ward wrote:

Someone asked about paper only deals – NO ONE IS INTERESTED. I thought that was insane, but it’s not. It lines up with Hugh’s report. Paper is not where the money is at- ebooks are. I made the NYT list this week. Ebook only rank was #7 and Ebook and paper combined was #8. No preorder. Minimal paper sales – a few hundred. That also lines up with what Hugh’s report. Which makes me think, there isnt a lot of money in paper and the risk is greater than the reward. I am trying to do paper distribution myself. It’s too early to say what will happen. I’ll let you know, but I’m thinking there is a reason why the trad pubs are backing off of paper sales. It’s not arbitrary, despite their other actions I think they’re right about paper.

If Indies stopped chasing paper, if they stopped thinking that paper would be the difference, well, that would be major.
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Old 02-14-2014, 09:14 AM   #6
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This part is also interesting. H.M. Ward wrote:



Someone asked about paper only deals – NO ONE IS INTERESTED. I thought that was insane, but it’s not. It lines up with Hugh’s report. Paper is not where the money is at- ebooks are. I made the NYT list this week. Ebook only rank was #7 and Ebook and paper combined was #8. No preorder. Minimal paper sales – a few hundred. That also lines up with what Hugh’s report. Which makes me think, there isnt a lot of money in paper and the risk is greater than the reward. I am trying to do paper distribution myself. It’s too early to say what will happen. I’ll let you know, but I’m thinking there is a reason why the trad pubs are backing off of paper sales. It’s not arbitrary, despite their other actions I think they’re right about paper.



If Indies stopped chasing paper, if they stopped thinking that paper would be the difference, well, that would be major.

I don't understand the downside of a paper only deal. Can someone explain? Some people prefer to read paper.
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:39 AM   #7
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I don't understand the downside of a paper only deal. Can someone explain? Some people prefer to read paper.
The people turning it down are the publishers,not the authors.
The publisher reps come in with low-ball offers and/or toxic contracts and the authors counter with an offer to license print rights.

When Howey negotiated a print-only deal for SILO it was assumed to be a sign of things to come. It wasn't. Publishers now run from print-only deals like vampires from full-spectrum lamps.

As is, many indies are in fact doing pbooks side-by-side with their ebooks but they are finding they serve mostly as marketing tools and holiday gift editions. Even when they get them into B&M stores (easily done these days, even without a publishing house behind you) sales are a trickle.

All signs are that print, especially at B&M, is primarily the domain of bestsellers and specialty books. No shock, really, as the price advantage of indies vanishes in the print domain and people that will risk buying a $5 ebook from an unknown are not going to risk $13 on a pbook by the same author.
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Old 02-14-2014, 12:29 PM   #8
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The people turning it down are the publishers,not the authors.
The publisher reps come in with low-ball offers and/or toxic contracts and the authors counter with an offer to license print rights.

When Howey negotiated a print-only deal for SILO it was assumed to be a sign of things to come. It wasn't. Publishers now run from print-only deals like vampires from full-spectrum lamps.

This might provide the perfect opportunity for Barnes and Noble.

1) Set up an print-only imprint
2) Sign print-only rights from successful indie authors like HW Ward, Hugh Howey, A.G. Riddle, Liliana Hart, Courtney Milan, Bella Andre etc...

Amazon is wildly successful with its imprints. Mostly through ebooks.

B&N could be successful too with physical books.

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Old 02-14-2014, 12:49 PM   #9
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The problem with self-published print books is that the economics just don't work the same way as for ebooks.

POD is expensive, and the same book that runs $3-5 in ebook format comes out around $15+ in print. That's moving from coffee to lunch prices, so people take fewer chances.
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Old 02-14-2014, 01:08 PM   #10
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The problem with self-published print books is that the economics just don't work the same way as for ebooks.

POD is expensive, and the same book that runs $3-5 in ebook format comes out around $15+ in print. That's moving from coffee to lunch prices, so people take fewer chances.
And the list price needs a fairly large discount baked-in to get into the B&M channels. A TP book that would deliver a $2 profit at $12 might need to be priced at $15-17 to be picked up by bookstores.

Now, however, the more successful indie publishers don't have to limit themselves to POD. Nowadays it is possible to order up small print runs of books from chinese print operations at sub-POD prices and get books indistinguishable from tradpub hardcovers. Works for the folks who have been around and won.t sweat a few thousand dollars' investment.
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Old 02-14-2014, 01:48 PM   #11
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And the list price needs a fairly large discount baked-in to get into the B&M channels. A TP book that would deliver a $2 profit at $12 might need to be priced at $15-17 to be picked up by bookstores.

Now, however, the more successful indie publishers don't have to limit themselves to POD. Nowadays it is possible to order up small print runs of books from chinese print operations at sub-POD prices and get books indistinguishable from tradpub hardcovers. Works for the folks who have been around and won.t sweat a few thousand dollars' investment.
Once you're able to spend a few thousand dollars on a print run, you've moved out of the standard self-pub wheelhouse and are effectively running an independent publisher, and of course the books are indistinguishable from commercial publishers' output, they're the same thing.
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Old 02-14-2014, 03:46 PM   #12
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Once you're able to spend a few thousand dollars on a print run, you've moved out of the standard self-pub wheelhouse and are effectively running an independent publisher, and of course the books are indistinguishable from commercial publishers' output, they're the same thing.
You heretic!
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Old 02-14-2014, 04:02 PM   #13
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You heretic!
And proud of it! Both sides' boosters are pushing their message without real analysis...
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