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New writers are always going to have to find their own path, and it's a little bit different for everyone; but established writers also need to realize there are more paths than whichever one they're currently on. Unless contracts or other obligations prevent their doing so, I don't see any reason why a currently-published author couldn't also release one or more works as ebooks, as my friends Jim Hines and Toby Buckell have done. One doesn't have to be to the exclusion of the other.

I'm two-thirds of the way or so through a seven-book YA fantasy series with Simon & Schuster, and I don't have any plans to discontinue that relationship in the future. There are two books to come in the series, and plans for a new series after that, and for the most part, I have been very, very happy with my relationship with my publisher, and very grateful for the things they have done for my career. However...

...Like other authors, I often speak at schools and conferences, and I'm paid pretty well for it. However, most readers aren't aware that in the presentation I do at schools and libraries, which I've been doing for several years, I barely talk about my books at all. Instead, I deliver a presentation that's basically a motivational talk aimed at Middle-Schoolers and above. I average one engagement a month, with clusters of them in the Spring and Fall. It goes over well enough that a lot of librarians and teachers have asked for the presentation to be put into a book.

My manager didn't think a nonfic book from a fantasy author - which was mostly transcribed from a recorded presentation, and was edited and expanded in less than a week - was even worth presenting to my publishers. Several other publishers had expressed interest in it, but none could schedule releasing it in less than two years - years during which copies could be sold at every school venue I spoke at.

Because of my pre-novelist history in comics and graphic novels, I already had a publishing imprint, my own isbn's, and a working knowledge of how Things Ought To Work. And the way Joe Konrath has been doing things made a lot of sense to me, so a couple of weeks ago I finally released it as an ebook. This is the origin of DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS.

The reviews the book has already gotten have been humbling and gratifying, and it's affecting people in exactly the way I hoped it would. It has also sold around one-tenth as many copies as the ebook of HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS has (since whenever it was my publisher released that version - I can't recall offhand). In under three weeks.

(It isn't hurting the recognition factor that at Goodreads and Amazon and B&N.com, it gets listed alongside my novels; has "Dragon" in the title; and resembles my other books, which I both illustrated and co-designed, but still. Three weeks.)

I priced DotD at $4.99 based on some very unscientific reasons: one, five bucks is, to me, what an impulse buy price would be (and used to be at paperback racks and newsstands), and is still sort of a mental threshold. Five bucks is my "hey, I can give it a shot" price; the other reason is that at that price, I make about half again as much per sale as I get in royalties for a hardcover - so mentally, I'm thinking that around half is 'my' pay and half is income for my imprint.

I may or may not do a print edition, either through Coppervale Press or with another publisher - we'll see how it goes. And in terms of overall strategies, I certainly can't fault what Amanda Hocking is doing in getting a traditional deal - and the visibility it can bring her work, in venues she isn't in now - while she keeps her engine going with what she's already running so well.

I've BEEN a self-publisher. Go to Jeff Smith's History of BONE page and you'll see I was in the thick of things with self-publishing in the comics industry for a very long time. But in books, it's been a different scenario - until the last couple of years. I would not have the career I have now without my publisher - but none of the publishers I know would have been able to release this book in less than a couple of years.

A book that is professionally designed, with a cover by an award-winning artist, written by an author with very respectable sales and visibility.

A book that made money for me yesterday. And today. And will tomorrow.

That's something to think about - and I have. And announcing DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS won't be the last time I make an announcement about a new book from my own imprint. Far from it.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
quennessa
Apr. 19th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
Please, for the love of the little baby Jesus, at least make it available through CreateSpace as print.

I'm begging you. I need to be able to hand this thing out by the truckload.

I'M NOT KIDDING.

Don't make me send ninja.
scribblerworks
Apr. 19th, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
I urged him to do the same, because it's the sort of thing that really needs to get into libraries (public and school) as quickly as possible, ideally with multiple copies.
quennessa
Apr. 19th, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
We will keep standing on his head until he bows to our collective will. :D
scribblerworks
Apr. 19th, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
Wise words.

It's a big help on time preparation and production that the professional designer, the award-winning cover artist and the respectably selling author are all rolled up in one package.

:D

But it's true. I think writers need to consider that if they have a toe in any sort of audience pool, there may be some works that they can get in front of the audience faster than any publisher. Especially if it is what the publisher would consider "marginalia".

The key thing writers need to consider is what kind of pipeline they have on their own outside their publisher. It takes planning to achieve such things -- and you laid your pipe a long time ago, and know how to keep it from springing serious leaks or getting clogged up.

But the times they are indeed changing.
firynze
Apr. 20th, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)
I have a few author-editors arguing with me right now about eBook pricing, demanding that I keep my prices where they are rather than dropping them to $5, because doing so "devalues the work" and "participates in the race to the bottom."

My reasons for wanting to go to $4.99/$5 are exactly the same as yours - that's my mental "sure, why not?" point, and also what paperbacks used to cost. I also think eBooks should be a bit cheaper than the MMPB, which is currently around $7.99. So...yeah. Glad to hear that someone else has the same unscientific pricing rationale as me.

Also, I do have to say that it helps that you're a one-man powerhouse when it comes to writing and designing your book - and the name recognition certainly doesn't hurt. Hurrah for HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS flying off the e-shelves!
coppervale
Apr. 20th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
The impulse price was a big factor in my thinking, but I also get most of my income from hardcover sales. So my benchmark really is, "how much per copy do I make?"

At lower prices, I made less money, per copy, than I'm making at the $4.99 point. As it stands, I make a bit more - and at the same time, give the book to the customer at a reasonable price. So if I'm making the same amount of money - or more - it isn't exactly devaluing the work. And who else's opinion would matter on that?
firynze
Apr. 21st, 2011 12:56 am (UTC)
I don't think ebooks should regularly be priced much below $5, although novellas and short stories and spevial sales on backlist titles are another matter. I really do question why the folks I'm talking to are so sure that any price for an ebook below $8, preferably $10, is so "devaluing," especially if they're getting a larger cut of that money, but I suspect it's largely a knee jerk reaction to seeing 99c ebooks and fearing that any price modulation hastens a race to the bottom...
(Anonymous)
Apr. 27th, 2011 12:08 am (UTC)
pricing
To be honest, I won't pay more than $1.99 for an ebook unless I know what I'm getting. The "Look Inside This Book" feature at Amazon - or a free sample chapter - are absolutely necessary for me to pay more than impulse-level prices for something that I can't put on my bookshelf. $1.99 is my upper limit for an impulse purchase.

J. A. Konrath has done a lot of work over the years studying the optimal price points for ebooks (and has a lot of real data to back it up). His research pretty much backs up my personal spending limits.

In the end, any ebook I purchase will not be available to me forever. Media formats change fairly rapidly, after all. I also can't re-sell it when I'm done with it. I can't donate it to the library, or give it to a friend to keep. I'm not getting as much for my money, so I expect to pay much less.

On the other side of things, there is no cost to the author or publisher for printing, distribution, and (most importantly) accounting for returns. The "rising cost of paper" is irrelevant, and there is no point at which any ebook needs to go "out of print." After editing, simple formatting, and cover art, there are no further costs. It's pure profit after those initial costs are recouped, and there are a lot of ways to keep those costs to a few hundred dollars, if that.

Since most traditional publishers do very little editing these days, college students can do just as well, for much less. Good cover are is easy to find (cheap) on deviantart.com, and just about anybody can do the simple formatting required to put a text in various ebook formats. If you already have a following, there is even less need for a traditional publisher.

- James English
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