Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Barry Eisler

How Many Sales Does It Take to Make a Book a “Success”?


The answer to this post’s title depends on who you ask.

Author Earnings and Book Sales

Image courtesy of Thiago Felipe Festa ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/thiagofest

The author, the publisher, and the readers would have different opinions.

My past post—What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?—says, “An extremely small percentage of writers sells more than 500 copies of a book…”

So, is a successful book one that sells 600 copies, a thousand, hundreds of thousands?

Again, it depends on who you ask

An article about book sales, from National Public Radio in the U.S.A., has Washington Post critic Ron Charles saying:

“When I saw that Anne Enright — [who] I think of as giant in literary fiction, beloved around the world — could only sell 9,000 copies [of The Green Road] in the U.K. I was shocked, that’s really low.”

The Authors Guild in the U.S.A. recently did a member survey that showed a decided drop in book sales per author; however, their members are either traditionally published or have book-earnings of around $3,300 a year

The National Public Radio article goes on to quote Barry Eisler (who’s mentioned in a number of my posts):

“I mean, there are lots of writers … thousands of writers who are making a good living from self-publishing.”

The article continues:

“Eisler is a self-publishing advocate who says the Authors Guild doesn’t represent all writers. Its membership skews older and it is mostly interested in maintaining the status quo of traditional publishing. Self-publishing may not be for everyone, he says. There is no question writers have to be more entrepreneurial. But he says it also offers them a choice when it comes to money and control — and the end result isn’t really all that different from traditional publishing.”

So, self-publishing might help sell more but doesn’t guarantee anything

Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild, says:

“We can’t tell people not to write for free. It’s not to their advantage to do it. But if they want to do it, they will do it.”

If you’re a writer and are still reading this post, would you consider responding to Roxana’s statement in the Comments?
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So, How Clueless Are Traditional Publishers?


I’ve featured Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath here quite a few times—the two most interesting posts being Some Publishing Advice from Two Extremely Successful Authors and More on The Konrath/Eisler Conversation.

Well, Barry gave a talk at the Pike’s Peak Writers Convention and got some surprising responses and Joe carried Barry’s explanation on his blog: Eisler on Digital Denial.

I’ll put just a few excerpts here and encourage you to click the link and read the whole article

“As I’ve noted, an author who wants to reach a mass audience in paper needs a paper distribution partner. But an author who wants to reach a mass audience in digital needs no distribution partner at all. It is simply a fact — a fact — that a lone author can distribute 100% as effectively by herself as she can with the assistance of a multi-billion dollar international conglomerate (again, editing, marketing and all the rest is a separate story; for the moment, we are talking only about distribution).”

“To put it another way: a publisher offering an author digital distribution services is like someone offering me air. I already have it and I don’t need to pay extra for it.”

“One difference I consistently see — and that consistently concerns me — between proponents of choice in publishing on the one hand, and proponents of establishment publishing on the other, is the willingness of the first group to engage critics, and the latter’s refusal. I know behaviors like sniping to your followers on Twitter, or walking out of a keynote in dudgeon, can offer some brief emotional satisfaction, but what do such behaviors do to help writers? I’ve tweeted this post to the people I named in it, and I hope they’ll come by to offer their thoughts. Why not? Wouldn’t writers benefit from such a discussion? And in the end, isn’t that what we all want?”

Do go read the whole article—eye-opening and informative

But, to round things out, here are a few statements that Joe Konrath gave in that same article:

“Self-pubbers can bring their books to market much faster, days or weeks instead of months or years.

“Self-pubbers have control over things that writers deem important, like editing, cover art, and title.

“Self-pubbers get 70% royalties.

“Self-pubbers set the price of their book.

“Self-pubbers can make changes to their books quickly.

“Self-pubbers can reach just as many, if not more, readers with their ebooks than legacy publishers can.

“Self-pubbing has no gatekeepers or barriers to entry. It doesn’t take months/years of querying with fingers crossed to reach potential readers.”

So, go read it :-)
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Public & Publishers Speak Out To U. S. D. O. J. on Pricing Collusion


E-book prices have been a high profile topic on the blogs for awhile now and so has the lawsuit against 5 of the Big Six U. S. Publishers plus Apple.

Back in March I posted Authors/Readers vs Publishers vs the U.S. Dept. of Justice and since then 3 of the Publishers, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and the Hachette Book Group, denied violating antitrust laws but are settling with the D.O.J.

Penguin Group USA and Macmillan, plus Apple, are gearing up to fight

The D.O.J. is accepting letters till June 25th and you can read some excerpts on paidContent’s Letters to the DOJ: Public speaks out on e-book pricing case.

One excerpt is from author Joe Konrath and he’s put his complete letter on his blog—Joe’s Letter to the DOJ.

There’s also a story in The New York Times with responses from Penguin and Macmillan—2 Publishers Deny Claim of E-Book Price Fixing.

Also, if you’ve not been following the story, the publishers involved are all pointing fingers at Amazon as the company that must be stopped

I’ll put a bit of conversation between authors Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, from the March post linked-to up there, with their opinions about Amazon as the Bad Guy:

“Joe: The Big Publishing Cartel monopolizes distribution for decades and that’s fine, but some upstart comes in and starts treating authors and readers with consideration, and it is a call to arms.

“Barry: This argument is just bizarre. I mean, Amazon, which sells more books than anyone, is destroying bookselling? Amazon is destroying bookselling by selling tons of books?”

Would love to have your ideas, thoughts, opinions, or feelings in the Comments.
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The Best Book On How To Be Successful As A Writer?


What’s your definition of success as a writer?

Lots of money? Lots of books? Both? Something else??

I just may have discovered the best book to read, no matter how you want to be successful

And, even though it’s called The Newbie’s Guide To Publishing, I feel it can help those who’ve already attained a bit of publishing success to find even more.

The author is Joe Konrath, and, if you click-through on that name-link you’ll read stuff like this:

“Konrath…spent…12 years garnering close to five hundred rejections for nine unpublished novels.”

He now has 12 published novels, 15 tie-in stories, and 22 other stories.

If you want an independent and forthright blog to read, his is it!

In January of this year, Konrath wrote:

“One hundred grand [$100,000]. That’s how much I’ve made on Amazon in the last three weeks.

“This is just for my self-pubbed Kindle titles. It doesn’t include Shaken and Stirred, which were published by Amazon’s imprints. It doesn’t include any of my legacy sales, print or ebook. It doesn’t include audiobook sales. It doesn’t include sales from other platforms.

“This is from my self-pubbed books. The ones the Big 6 rejected.”

Needless to say, since I discovered him, Joe Konrath has been referenced on this blog many times.

So, that book by him has over 360,000 words. And, you can get The Newbie’s Guide To Publishing, only $2.99.

If you still feel hesitant, I’ll let Barry Eisler, best-selling novelist, speak to you from the forward to Konrath’s book:

“There’s no one in the industry more knowledgeable than Joe about both the craft and business of writing. A Newbie’s Guide is the result of years-worth of thought, research, discussion, and, most of all, experience. Want to know how to develop compelling characters? Write crackling dialogue? Run the kind of guerilla marketing campaign publishers only dream of? Put together a cost-effective, kick-ass book tour? Want to maximize your chances of getting and staying published? Then you need to read Joe. This is a guy who never accepts the conventional wisdom, who never does anything just because that’s the way it’s always been done, who’s totally unafraid to try new things, who’s remarkably honest in reporting the results of his experiments, and who’s obsessed with sharing for free his uniquely valuable insights. Yeah, you can get published without reading Joe. But you can drive a car with the parking brake on, too — it’s just not the fastest way to get there.”

And, if you still don’t want to download Joe’s book, here’s a video from 2009 with Joe giving quite a bit of advice:


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Authors/Readers vs Publishers vs the U.S. Dept. of Justice


It appears that Apple plus five of the Big Six publishers are being threatened by a lawsuit.

It seems to be revolving around the “Agency Model” of pricing

Personally, I have no rock-solid opinion, though I am leaning in a certain direction—which should be obvious when I include a few excerpts from the last reference-link below—in fact, even if you read all the referenced articles, I encourage you to read the last one first then go back and judge the others

Let me introduce you to a few published opinions:

From The Atlantic: How Cheap Should Books Be?

From the independent publisher, Melville House: Authors Guild head (and attorney) Scott Turow warns DOJ about the effects of law suit.

From The Guardian: Ebooks: defending the agency model.

From The Christian Science Monitor: Right pricing e-books: Is the government actually discouraging competition?

From TechDirt: Author’s Guild Boss On E-Book Price Fixing Allegations: But… But… Brick-And-Mortar!

And, From A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing: Barry, Joe, & Scott Turow.

Just a few excerpts from that last one [italics are Scott Turow, President of the Author’s Guild; Joe is Joe Konrath; Barry is Barry Eisler]:

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

“Joe: Translation: It will be grim news for bestselling authors and billion-dollar publishers.

“Barry: I always wonder what people mean by these vague references to ‘rich literary culture’ (and when I see the same phrase crop up in more than one place, it really sets my bullshit detector tingling). Ordinarily, these buzzwords sound appealing in the abstract, but dissolve like an urban legend when subjected to a bit of thought.”

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

“Joe: Translation: Under the Apple model, publishers can set their own prices. That isn’t Amazon’s model, but if enough of us band together (i.e. collusion), publishers can force Amazon to accept the prices publishers set.

“Look, a retailer should be able to sell whatever they want to sell, for however much they want to charge.

“Imagine going to a car dealer and being told, ‘We have to sell this Mazda for $19,999, and you can’t bargain.’ Imagine owning a store and not being able to put anything on sale.”

Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

“Joe: Translation: Amazon was using free enterprise to gain market share, something that worries inferior competition.

“Barry: Oh, come on. Amazon’s lower prices were intended to ‘destroy bookselling’? Not to sell more books and gain market share? It’s ipso facto evil to compete via lower prices?

“I really wish all companies would collude to charge higher prices. The world would be a better place.

“Joe: The Big Publishing Cartel monopolizes distribution for decades and that’s fine, but some upstart comes in and starts treating authors and readers with consideration, and it is a call to arms.

“Barry: This argument is just bizarre. I mean, Amazon, which sells more books than anyone, is destroying bookselling? Amazon is destroying bookselling by selling tons of books?”

So, what do you think about all this?

Are Apple and the Big Five right?

Is the President of the Author’s Guild in the pockets of the Big Five and Apple?

Is Amazon evil?

Are Joe and Barry crazy??
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