Show me the money!

By Joe Moore

dutch11First, some breaking news to share–MONTEZUMA’S WRAAK, the Dutch version of my new thriller, THE PHOENIX APOSTLES (co-written with Lynn Sholes) was released on August 18 by my Netherlands publisher Karakter Uitgevers.B.V. Here’s a look at the cover.

And now for today’s post.

According to a recent article in Forbes, the sale of adult hardcover novels was down 23% in the first half of this year. Despite the downturn, some authors are holding their own. Their names may be familiar. Chances are you’ve read a few of their books. So why are these guys doing so well while most of the industry is in a state of funk? Forbes attributes it to the increasing popularity of ebooks, but even more so the diversification of these writers’ personal brands.

money (Small)James Patterson is a good example. Mr. Patterson signed a 17-book, $150m book deal in 2009 with Hachette. Teaming up with a number of co-authors, he placed 20 titles on Publishers Weekly’s year-end bestseller list. Those titles totaled 10m copies. In addition, he sold 750k ebooks. He’s also expanded into the YA market with great success.

Other examples of authors doing well in tight times is Stephenie Meyer, whose Twilight series at one point accounted for 15% of all books sold in the US; and J.K. Rowling, who is about to jump into the electronic book market by launching Pottermore, her new virtual online bookstore. Pottermore will offer ebook versions of her novels compatible with any e-reader. Other collateral merchandise will be offered as well.

What the numbers don’t show is the quality of the writing. That, of course, is in the eye of the reader. Much criticism has been leveled at James Patterson that his books lack the depth and magic of some of his early works. I see comments on writer forums saying that Patterson has sold out and become an assembly line pouring out books just to make money. The commenters don’t understand why people keep buying his books. It reminds me of what people say about a very popular local restaurant. “No one ever goes there, it’s always too crowded.” The reason James Patterson makes so much money is because bazillions of readers around the world are willing to buy his books. Why? Because they like reading them.

Now for the list of the highest paid authors (May 2010-April 2011). Get out your royalty statements and compare.

James Patterson ($84 million)
Danielle Steel ($35 million)
Stephen King ($28 million)
Janet Evanovich ($22 million)
Stephenie Meyer ($21 million)
Rick Riordan ($21 million)
Dean Koontz ($19 million)
John Grisham ($18 million)
Jeff Kinney ($17 million)
Nicholas Sparks ($16 million)
Ken Follett ($14 million)
Suzanne Collins ($10 million)
J.K. Rowling ($5 million)

What does this mean for writers that make less money that these folks? It means that people still want to buy books and be entertained with good stories. I consider all this to be a very positive sign. How about you? How does this list of mega-authors make you feel? Are you deflated or defiant?

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Publishers Trying Stuff

We’ve been all over the e-book revolution here at TKZ. Last month I asked what the publishing industry would look like in six months. We’re starting to see some things taking shape.
First, the news. The publishing industry’s first quarter stats are in, and here’s the headline:
E-book sales are up 159.8%. Adult hardcover and mass market paperback sales are down 23.4%.
If you were an American car manufacturer and you saw that sales of Japanese made cars were up 158.8% and sales of American cars were down 23.4% in the first quarter, what would you do? I’ll tell you what you would do. You would run to the federal government and ask it to bail you out.
Traditional book publishers can’t do that. (Well, I guess they could try, but it would be a tougher sell than a Charlie Sheen self-help book.)
So what should they do? Try stuff. Innovate. Move fast.
There’s a problem, though. It’s not easy for major industries to change. Publishers have been operating under a model that is a hundred years old. But the market does not care. It is merciless. So adapt or be left in the dust.
This week one of the major Christian book publishers, Tyndale, announced a “digital first” imprint. They are going to bring out four fiction titles in July that are e-book only, by new authors. Then they’ll add non-fiction titles. If a title performs well, they will consider giving the author a print run.
Tyndale issued a press release that read, in part:
Lisa Jackson, Associate Publisher explains, “The world of publishing is shifting rapidly, and it’s important that we as publishers deliver content in as many ways as possible. The Digital First project allows us to get fresh, new voices into the marketplace more quickly and efficiently than ever before.”
“I am very excited about this new initiative,” says Ron Beers, Senior Vice President and Publisher. “Tyndale has always been known for its innovation. Now we are working hard to be at the leading edge of the digital publishing revolution and to use that creativity and expertise to most effectively launch new voices into the marketplace. We are one of the few houses that has invested heavily in in-house digital expertise and this has allowed us to be more nimble yet strategic in bringing digital content to market.”
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Looking at this from a business angle, this seems like a solid move. Whether this will be a net positive for the bottom line cannot be predicted. There are too many variables and the landscape changes almost daily. But it’s proactive and “outside the box,” and that’s what it’s going to take to survive. Plus, it lowers the risk of finding new authors the old way, via advance and print runs and hoping to sell through. It’s like a farm system.
Now, what about the writers? How is this deal for them? I have not seen an actual contract, but I have heard informally that we’re talking very low advances with a higher percentage on the back end, between 30 – 50% royalty.  IOW, shared risk and reward.
Seems like a win-win.


Yet the stats above indicate that print is in a downward trajectory. So will being “in print” mean the same thing a year from now? Will there be enough shelves for the new writers to occupy?

What do you think? 
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Do you buy new or used?

By Joe Moore

When you buy a book, do you buy new or used? If your favorite author just released a new hard cover, do you snatch it up immediately or wait for the mass market paperback? And in either case, do you buy a used copy or new?

booksstack As writers, how should we look at used book sales? I’m not talking about out-of-print books where about the only way to get a copy is on eBay or an Amazon used book vendor. I’m talking about the book you just had published a month ago. Do you look at used book sales as money lost? After all, neither you nor your publisher earns any revenue from used sales.

If you were lucky enough to have a book that sells well, but you started seeing hundreds of used copies for sale on Amazon, eBay and other sources, would you be upset knowing those were royalty-less sales?

Here are some random thoughts in no particular order for and against used book sales.

For: If someone buys a used copy of my book and they like it, they might buy a new copy of my next one when it’s first published.

Against: If my sales were approaching the point where the publisher considered a second (or third) print run, I may never get it because the used sales took the place of the additional run.

For: Used book sellers sometimes hand-sell books that eventually help build a writer’s career.

Against: The biggest used book seller in the world is Amazon and there’s no hand selling going on there.

For: All used books were originally purchased as new so there’s the royalty.

Against: For each new book sold, 5-6 people may read it as a used book equating to lost royalties.

For: Used books help perpetuate my "brand" and name recognition. It gets my name out into the market place to readers who can’t afford the price of new books.

Against: Used books provide the same level of enjoyment to the reader as a new copy but with no return for my efforts.

The argument for and against is a polarizing debate. For every point in favor of used sales, there’s an equally opposed view. What is your feelings on this? Do you get hot under the collar when you see your books being sold used or do you rejoice that your name is getting out there to a new reader? Should we look at used book sales like car manufacturers look at used car sales? Are used book customers a segment of the reading population that probably will never start buying new books? Did you feel different about buying used books before you became a published writer?

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Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Thomas B. Sawyer, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, and more.

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