The business of self-publishing, especially ISBNs, and retail platforms for print. Also, raving about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and what creators can learn from it on prequels and riffing within the canon.
The business of self-publishing, especially ISBNs, and retail platforms for print. Also, raving about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and what creators can learn from it on prequels and riffing within the canon.
How Google thinks I’m being self-absorbed and other reflections on reentry and why I’m struggling with this new book. Also, thoughts on author incomes and the (annoying) Joanne Harris opinion piece.
Last podcast for a couple of weeks as I’m headed on vacay/writing retreat. Talking about connections in our lives, Buddhism, David Bowie, Taylor Swift, expectations on creators and a bit on BANDITS.
Some background on the difference between Back Cover Copy (BCC) and blurbs, how BCC remains the property of a publisher, even if rights are reverted, and what is a big NO to a publisher trying to retain.
Marketing vs. promo, what traditional publishing brings to the table (and some examples of big fails), why all authors-regardless of publishing path-should learn promo, AND crunch their sales figures. This means learning to read royalty statements!
Series and the difference in approach to them between traditional and self-publishing, including some numbers on my own series sell-through. Also insights into my filing system for writing projects.
This week at the SFF Seven, we’re discussing work ethic and asking each other what we do to keep balanced and writing regularly?
Many of you already know I’m kind of a fiend for building a writing habit. That’s because, once I stopped resisting the idea and starting doing it – by writing every day at the same time every day – that habit carried me through all sorts of difficulties.
It still does.
For example, I’m on a plane as I type this, heading to WorldCon in Chicago. I was reading a novel (Lisa Klepas, Marrying Winterborne, highly recommend!) as the plane taxied and took off. Once we reached cruising altitude, I began to feel the prodding of habit. “Time to write!” it urges. So, I pulled out the laptop to write this blog post. Then I’ll turn to my draft of Shadow Wizard, which I need to get done.
Yes, I write every (weekday) morning. That’s how I can count on getting the book done.
Last week I visited family and there were many family goings on. There was some emotional stuff to deal with, aging parents and all that involves, and it threw me for the remainder of the week. I wasn’t productive. I was feeling stressed. I’d been knocked out of my routine by life, which is the way of life. It would be nice (in theory) if I lived in some hermitage or remote villa where all days flowed by as serene as my view of the Mediterranean Sea, but I don’t. I live in a beautiful place (no ocean) and my life is relatively even and peaceful, but I’m connected to people and life happens.
By the following Monday, I was able to slide back into my writing habit like a pair of comfortable yoga pants. Morning writing was waiting for me, restoring the necessary balance. It felt good. That’s the beauty of habit – it does all the hard work for you.
Thoughts on author events and how much heavy lifting is placed on them to bring a readership – and financial support! – to the event. Also, on self-publishing, common mistakes, and how things can go wrong.
Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious today is Thursday August eleventh and beautiful morning here in Santa Fe sunny sunny morning I’m also running a bit behind so it’s sunnier as than usual, we went for a walk this morning I also set up the cover reveal for shadow wizard. Yes, so this will be a book one. And renegades of magic and it’s um, Jadren and Selly’s story for those of you who have not been following along I didn’t light the mosquito candle this morning. So um, I’m doing the cover reveal on Instagram bit by bit. In fact, that reminds me I should have done another one but I haven’t yet I’ll do it as soon as the podcast is done. So um. So I had to get that all set up this morning. Got the preorders set up last night. It’ll be out september Twenty Ninth um fingers crossed I’m I’m past 50000 words on it I think it’s it’s going all right. Not sure how it’s going to end where it’s going to end. But um, that’s typical for me, right? All part of the I think it’s funny when authors say that that’s part of the fun for them that they ah the gardeners of the pantsersers. The ones who don’t pre-plot. Ah, say that the fund goes out of it for them if they do that and I’m like I don’t know I don’t know if it’s if I would call it fun but it’s it’s how it works for me sometimes as those of you who are a long time podcast listeners will know. It’s decidedly unfun for me now. So um, a few different things to talk about today I even have notes. So.
I’m trying to decide if I could talk about this one thing. Ah I’m kind of sorry I’m waffling let me pause all right I figured out a way I can talk about it. Ah recently I was asked to be. Part of a thing I mean that’s great. That’s I appreciate being asked to be part of things but then it came out ah I was asked I was actually not asked. This was part of the problem I was given instructions on how to share it on social media. And I was told that I must share it on social media in order to bring my platform bring my readers to this thing which I find very interesting and it’s not the first time this has happened and I may have talked about this before but. There are any number of events who ah I don’t want to say demand but they they sometimes they demand they ask an author to participate and then. Expect that the author will bring their readership with them to support the event which is if it’s like for charity or something like that understandable um, you know like that pixel project that was raising money to end violence against women. Yeah, sure I’m going to ask my readers to come and be part of that but there are other events where they’re totally depending on the authors to bring their readership in order to float their event. And this is partly what was amazing about Apollycon was Apollycon ah invited us to participate and they brought the readers I recently heard of another convention I think I talked about this but I’ll I’ll revisit it because I still find it so shocking. Another convention that has for a long time been famous for ah Nick and diming authors and demanding demanding. You know say more money and this particular story. It actually counts as a demand where an author who attended this paid. Upfront and it was a considerable amount that you had to pay up front to attend this convention. Um far more than the readers or attendees have to pay and then there’s all sorts of opportunities for sponsorships that cost more and more and more money and this author was pulled aside.
During the convention and told that she had not brought enough readers to the convention that her platform wasn’t big enough and therefore she needed to cough up a thousand dollars to sponsor something at the conference right? then and there and this author was devastated I mean. There are so many levels of awful and wrong about this this particular convention I’m not surprised that they did it I absolutely believe it happened the sources are impeccable. They might try to claim that there was a misunderstanding but the author in question was devastated. Ah, nobody first of all, nobody wants to hear that they’re supposed to cough up a thousand dollars especially if you’re a newer author and you can’t afford it ah and nobody wants to hear that that somebody thinks that you have like got. Shitty ability to bring readers to something.
Ah, so so it’s a thing um that this whole oh well, you need to bring your readership and in this particular case. Ah they were very specific supplied social media examples. And usually the right way to do this the right way to do this is people say um, hey here’s some graphics to share with love if you would share this on your social media boom they might give you some suggested stuff but you know you’re not required to do it. Um. Being told that I must do something that the event won’t be successful unless I do this thing is ah it gives me pause because as an author, especially if this is not a charitable event. Why am I doing this if. They don’t have the umph to bring their own readership to it. Ah you know I understand it’s hard. But yeah it um it it. It really bothered me it. It annoys me and. I talked to David about it and he said well you know can you imagine if somebody asked well he always uses big examples. He has an exalted idea of who I am but he’s like can you imagine if they asked Billy Givens to come play and then told him that oh but he needed to. Tweet certain things to make sure that enough people showed up for the event. Ah yeah, there’s just ways to do things and ways not to and um, you know one thing about social media and I know I say this often. Is even if you decide to schedule things or if you have people help you with it. Social media is about connecting personally right, it’s about doing things the way you do them. Ah and so you don’t I don’t do my social media like somebody else tells me to do it. Let’s let’s just say that’s a hard stop so that was something that was on my mind. Um, and then there’s been discussion. Um on Twitter and it’s interesting because I don’t follow enough on Twitter to. Always know the origins of things and I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of tracing back. So I’m not sure where all the conversation about gatekeepers has come from I know some of the things that I’ve been talking about in the last week about how much money authors do and don’t make on tread publishing so there was a.
Tweet thread from someone who said, um, talked about self-publishing and I will link to her Twitter thread. Ah, she’s gotten a lot of quote tweets and retweets and likes on it. Not an astonishing amount. But. Ah, she talked about her experience with self-publishing. Um, she said for her, it cost a lot and she earn very little and and I I think it’s great that she shared this. Um i’m. I’m glad that she ah you know gave the actual numbers and she says that the books were classified as new adult fantasy which is not really a thing in traditional publishing and they probably didn’t hit the right market in indie either because they weren’t sexy enough. Um, so I would kind of lie and then she goes on from there and she talks about how much money she spent. Um, she spent $5000 on the first book in its first six months which is a lot a lot to spend on a book when you’re. Ah, newbie self-publisher and I touched on this earlier this week where I mentioned that um if you don’t have a platform already. It’s hard to get started in self- publishing and and she did end up selling like the mythical. You know, average of one hundred and only to friends and family. But I think there are a lot of reasons for this and $5K is putting a whole lot of that money upfront into that first book without having the second one ready. Ah. And then the way that it sounded let’s see I won’t go into her whole thing. But.
Yeah, it took a long time for the second book to come out. She really invested a lot in trying to get that first book to happen which is just not how it works for self- publishing. Ah. She said when the second book launched she sold like 100 copies on the first day ultimately like one hundred and twenty nine copies of the first book and 112 of the second before she pulled them from the market and it’s not clear to me why she decided to pull them from the market. Ah. Once you have once you’ve invested once you have put them up. It doesn’t cost you anything to keep them up so it’s not clear to me why she decided to pull them. Ah, she does say at the end that you know her conclusion is um. There’s no easy way to publish. There’s no get rich quick path in this industry so that’s what she wants to warn people of and and that’s absolutely right? It’s a good take home message. She also says um, there are ways not to make the mistakes that she did. Ah, to make self-publishing a business and to succeed at it and I just wanted to talk a little bit about what I saw her doing she says um, $10000 she spent um, 2.5 years on these books. Selling two hundred and forty one copies of her books and netting something like $750 the transcript’s going to hate these numbers. It always hates numbers. Um, but 1 of the first things I notice I mean there are a number of things that didn’t go well. Ah especially if you are doing a series if you have both books ready. Maybe she didn’t but it’s really worthwhile to have that second book ready so that the people who do want to read can read right away once you have a readership they’ll wait if they’re still getting to know you they won’t wait. Especially if they’re not sure if you’ll finish the series and it’s a real thing if you’re an unknown quantity if there’s a you know destroy needs to be resolved with finishing the series or finishing the second or the you know second and third books. Ah, people want to know that it’s there before they commit because they’ve been burned before. Thank you George RR Martin um, the other thing that.
Is a real red flag at the beginning is when she said that it was new adult fantasy which isn’t really a thing in traditional publishing and I’ve mentioned this before self publishing is great for grabbing niche markets that. Traditional publishing won’t touch. This is so true it’s true for my books it’s true for a lot of fantasy romance. It’s true for a lot of science fiction fantasy and romance crossover. There’s not a great place for it on the bookshelf at the bookstores the brick and mortar stores. Because those are 2 different bookshelves right? So they don’t know which one to put it on if and as soon as they have to make a decision. They feel like it’s gonna be bad. They’re not happy if it’s young adult yeah, something just hit my face I don’t even know what that was ah. Felt like it was flung but there’s a little bit of a breeze. So maybe that was just liberated by the breeze a young adult has now become its own category and when people rant as I’ve seen various editors and agents do that young adult doesn’t count as a genre. Because you have all sorts of genres within young adult. Well, it’s true except that there are young adult shelves in the bookstore and once it’s a shelf then they know where to put it and it has a market in the brick and mortar stores. The online stores. Often reflect the brick and mortar stores they have more shelves and can put things in multiple places but still, there’s there’s some some correlation between the 2 so all of this is a long way of saying that if you want to publish your book that you love which. You know, bless you? Of course you do and you know do it? Definitely do it but know that if it’s a book. That’s not really a thing in traditional publishing. It’s going to make it harder for you to sell as a self-p publisher especially if you don’t already have a readership. Right? It’s um, it’s just it’s and and especially if you’re you know, not already a savvy marketer which not many of us are especially when we start right? So you, you’re stacking the odds against yourself. Why this gal pulled them from the market I don’t know and I almost want to ask her and I could follow the Twitter thread if any of you have the leisure follow the Twitter thread and see if somebody asks her or ask her yourselves. Ah there there isn’t a good reason to pull it.
And maybe she had one but otherwise the money is spent leave them up and maybe they will gradually gain a readership part of the problem with you know, spending money on advertising is. If. You advertise something. That’s not really a thing. How do you advertise it? What I’ve got and now it’s itchy on my face where that thing hit me wherever it was. You know if how are you going to advertise it if you don’t really know what it is and you’re. Not able to tell the readers what it is new adult fantasy um with and you know it’s that’s an a frequent I don’t want to say excuse but I hear authors say a lot like oh well, it didn’t do well because it didn’t have enough sex in it because. I didn’t want to I don’t know there. There’s always a little and I don’t know that she means this at all. She may not but there’s always a little bit of a sense of you know I wanted to maintain my standards and not put sex in that and therefore um because I didn’t kowtow to the. Ah. Sex loving masses. It didn’t do well maybe that’s not what she means by that. But there are plenty of books that do not have hot sex on them that do very well I’m reading one right now I’m waiting to see if there ends up being a sex scene in it. I’ve read a couple recently that um you know, slow burn romances don’t have any sex in the first book at all, you know, maybe there’s a promise of it later we we kind of know by authors. That’s part of having the reputation having the readership. But no, you don’t have to have it in there. Um. Yeah I’m I’m sorry that this went badly for her but she also spent 2.5 years on this. Um, that’s a long time to spend getting two books out in self-publishishing. It’s just it’s way too long and I know that not everybody has luxury of. Ah, time to spend on it and not everybody writes fast, but it’s just something to keep in mind. There were a lot of things stacked against her on this and you know it would be great if somebody would step in and help her out and say you know let’s put those books back up and let’s see if we can get them to go somewhere. The other thing is is if you are are a new author and you have not yet published anything. It’s hard to know if your books are good. Um, or you know good. You guys know that you all know that I don’t like the use of the word.
Good but you don’t know if the books will really grab people if you haven’t established a readership yet and it could be that those books should be trunk books I don’t know I haven’t read them. Not all books are gonna do well that’s just life. Um. There’s books of mind that you know, but the second novel I ever wrote I still love that novel. But if I’m gonna put it out there I’m gonna have to rewrite it because I I know a lot of the things that are wrong with it now and those are just things you learn with time. So. Just wanted to to talk about that. It’s it’s an unfortunate piece of self-p publishing that many many authors get into it because they decide to self-publish the book that they couldn’t sell the trat and. Certainly I’ve done that but I know at this point why it didn’t sell the tread. Ah you’ll have to know is it. Did it come close like was it really because they didn’t know what shelf to put it on. Or was it because everyone was like you know this book isn’t done cooking yet. It’s hard to listen to that feedback I saw meme the other day of somebody like showing like an author getting their ah feet criticism and like cutting up their heart on a plate and I it’s like well that’s probably. Probably you should um, have a little bit more objectivity than that. It’s not your heart. They’re cutting up. They’re talking about something you produced. But yeah, you got you got to listen to what kind of feedback are you getting on the book. Why why does traditional publishing not want it. And it’s not always because they’re messed up in the head which is tends to be the kool-aid on that note I am going to go get to work and write the book that I just put up the pre-order for ah, watch for the cover reveal. Taking shape today I think it’s kind of be kind of cool and preorder link in the show notes and I will talk to you all tomorrow you all take care bye bye.
Some more figures of what some authors are NOT making in traditional publishing, along with thoughts on agents – how to tell the good ones from bad (and there ARE good ones!), red flags, and how the business works.
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious. Ah today is Tuesday August Ninth Eight Nine sounds like a good date to me. Um, yeah, so I’m wondering. What I have to say today some mornings oh look if you’re on video. You’ll have an Isabel sighting in the background Isabel’s out here in the secret garden with me is it. She pretty. She’s a blue smoke Maine coon cat I love how she’s got that. Faintest hint of blue to her fur. So yeah, she’s feeling sprightly this morning. She’s the the queen the main Coon Queen cat she’s sixteen sixteen and a half now and she loves going out and messing around in the garden. So um, yeah, you know some mornings I come out here I have my notes some mornings I have lots of thoughts in my head other mornings I’m sort of like a a nice mellow blank today’s a nice mellow blank I’m feeling. Nicely relaxed. Got more stuff done yesterday kind of catching up on my list. Ah I’ve noticed how the lists have been creeping into the books. Ah, they always have so I suppose that’s just like one of my things. But I notice that they are in the covenant of thorns books they’re in the bonds of magic books. Not so much the one I’m writing not so much in shadow wizard but I got my two k on shadow wizard yesterday I got it in. Reasonable amount of time. Got it early in the day so that was great. Um I’m let’s see doing pretty well I think um, little shy of 48,000 words which I know.
That’s like I’m past midpoint I still have half the book to go but it’s feeling downhillish at this point I’m also reading a book I’m really enjoying ah and I’m hoping that I will be able to recommend it to you? ah. I need to get back on putting reviews on good reads Amazon book bub. Ah I kind of fell off of doing it I don’t know why I don’t know maybe I just sort of ran out of time but I would like to get back into doing that. Because I’ve read several good books lately and I say them on here but I feel like that’s fairly transient so I would like to go ahead and get that going again. Um I did have some um reaction to yesterday’s podcast a few different people asked me if they had heard correctly when I said that um and and it’s it’s really ebooks. That I’m talking about where an author can earn $3 a book $5 a book maybe depending on the price point. Um whereas yes from trash ah print books. We don’t earn nearly so much from ah and they’re already. They’re so expensive to produce. That’s the thing about being a self-published author is the print books are expensive because we can’t do it in bulk. We don’t have access to a printing press the the pod cost is fairly high. Ah, the like Amazon or Ingram delivery cost is fairly high so we are not able to get as much of a percentage from those not without pricing the book even higher and I think none of us wants to do that. It already feels like a. Egregious to charge you know like $18 for a trade paperback. But even when that happens a lot of times like I’m only making ¢50 on the book or something like that. It’s um, it’s fence service. It’s having print books is because. Some of you still want print books which is fine. That’s no problem at all. It’s just um, where you where you make the bulk of your income is on the ebooks if we didn’t have those we probably wouldn’t be able to do it. We wouldn’t be able to make sell enough books to make an income to live on.
But but yes, um, for tread publishing whether it’s print or ebook a dollar per book. Maybe that’s that’s good If you’re getting that much a lot of people are not getting that much and um. Yeah, it’s just a. It’s the way it is. It’s just a sucky cut. Um.
Um, yeah, it’s you know they they hold all the cards basically and you know and even then you know you’re almost certainly paying you know 15% of that then to your agent. So. That that could come before or after the dollar a book but you know a dollar goes down to ¢85. It’s um, unless you’re selling a whole lot of books. It’s just hard to make money to live on in trad. And so it goes and I’ve recently learned of a major publisher. Not one of the big 5 or big 4 um, it’s sounding like the merger is going to be improved. People are sad about it. But. And our current um climate of corporations running the country. It seemed almost inevitable running the world. Maybe so yeah, a lot of writers were lamenting it yesterday on social media. Isabel’s down next to me here. Isabel’s not concerned. She says cats don’t worry about acquisitions and mergers know course Pat cats are also arguably parasites is that right. She says as long as the cat food keeps coming. You know that’s why I write the books is to feed the cats. Yes yes, Minerva Spencer says that Isabel has a smoker’s meow. Ah she does kind of she. Um, she’s totally deaf now. So she has to be very loud to be assured that she is meowing and it’s hell on the vocal chords. Yeah, so um, so yeah, those are the breaks. What was I saying about the oh this other publisher. So. So those are the big ones and that’s why we say the big but then there are other like midsize presses or smaller presses. So you know like there other ones are like source books Kensington um. Oh I think the mosquito candles making me sneeze.
Who I tried to pause and then at impa. Sorry let me scoot this away I was clever this time and came out and lit the candle before I got out here and gave it a little while to drive the mosquitoes away that seems to be the effective method. So how? yeah like Tachyon there used to be other ones you don’t like skyhorse and all these others anyway, those are not the great big ones. That people mean when they’re talking about the big houses Isabel’s checking out that candle now. Yeah stinky here now she’s sleeping leaving in a huff we haven’t had um cat wrangling. On the podcast in a while. So um, so yeah I recently learned of another publisher that’s not 1 of the biggies. But that’s well known, especially in romance publishing that is offering a terrible percentage on ebooks and. 1 of my friends at Apollycon who has a very successful series told me that last year and she was sad about it that she made about $1400 in the whole year and I told somebody else this and they were like. That author but her books are doing amazing and I was like yeah um and her agent says that she doesn’t really understand the contract. Um, when my friend asked about well shouldn’t I be getting. Royalties for like the audio books or the foreign rights and stuff that our agent was like oh well I don’t know um and and I said to her friend I said that’s a really bad sign you know and it’s like. I love that people come to me for advice but I think sometimes people regret coming to me for advice because and you should all know this I’m happy to talk to you like at conventions or you know over drinks are many things I will say to in person that I will not say on the podcast. But. You know if if you do ask me for advice I’m I’m going to give it to you pretty straight and I told her you’ve got to leave this agent if your agent doesn’t understand your contract then this is a problem. It’s a problem.
Red flag and she says oh I know but you know she’s stuck with me. She took me when no one else would and you know I owe her and you guys I hear this story so many times and in its. Hard I know it’s hard because we love our agents. We do feel that um, it’s like the first love we. We are grateful to them and they it does feel like they took a chance of us when no one else would. And I definitely felt that way about my first agent and I don’t know why if I would have left her if she hadn’t gone into like a total spiral and left the agency and went to an agency where I couldn’t sign the contract. Um. I don’t know what I would have done I’m glad I didn’t have to make that choice leaving my second agent was a really hard choice even though I was terribly disappointed in him and I had gone through a couple of um, like performance improvement plans with with him. Which is that’s why yeah so I spoke too soon on the mosquitos that one went right for my nose. Um, that’s my corporate America coming out but it’s like okay you know I’m not happy with how this is working and so we’d come up with these things that you know for him to do. And then he didn’t do those things I was working with the senior agent in the firm. That’s the other thing about this from that I’m talking about is that her agent just has her own agency. There’s not even a senior agent to go to and so which is the first advice I would give is is if you are. Maybe not the first but still if you are unhappy with what your agent is doing or if you’re wondering if you should be managing expectations in some way you go to the senior agent at the agency and say here’s what I want and this is not what’s happening. And you know what do you recommend and and the senior agent in mine was very receptive but my agent still didn’t still didn’t do it and and break and that breakup felt like it felt like a divorce. It really did it was um, hugely emotional. My friends got sick of listening to me but it had to be done and and I feel like I’m still seeing echoes of of the ways in which he messed up my career.
Um, and and it’s very true and I’m sort of going off on this whole agent tangent I didn’t mean to but it’s probably worth revisiting. You know the the old adage that a bad agent is worse than no agent at all is really true and I feel like spending several years with my bad agent. And still seeing effects. But I’m still digging out of that and I love my current agent Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost literary agency who is unfortunately not taking more clients I I even asked her at Apollycon when ah. Because I was thinking maybe I could get my friend to move over to her if I could get my friend to give up this loyalty to this terrible agent and I I feel very comfortable calling this agent terrible if your agent says they don’t understand the contract I mean that’s literally their job. So I asked Sarah oh are you still not taking new clients or I said are you taking new clients and she actually physically flinched. She’s like and she said she’s just not able to keep up with all of her current clients and she’s still sort of digging out of that pandemic hole on that as well. so unfortunately and me someday but um so yeah why is my friend only making $1400 a year. She got paid twice in you know every six months and she said it was about $700 each time. And yeah yeah I mean she’s not gonna be out on the streets because she has a salaried spouse which is great but it’s disheartening when you have a very successful series. I mean I’m not kidding when I say this is a successful series. It’s it’s gotten amazing reviews and it’s very well known and how is she only getting this much money. Ah, it’s it’s criminal really. So. Um, I’m never going to be 1 of those people and there’s one in particular I can think of who like in in SFWA on discord and so forth or the forums every single time someone says something about an agent. This guy has to pop up and. Do a blast against how horrible agents are and ah it’s just like dude but he’s also I don’t know um, unpleasant in his opinions in many ways.
So I don’t think that all agents are terrible I think that agents are very helpful to a career particularly if you’re dealing with things like print and foreign rights and I don’t believe that hiring a lawyer is the same thing but um, but there. There are bad agents out there and they they gave give the good agents a bad name and so there it is um otherwise let’s see what’s going on I I feel like this is this is exciting news for me and not important to anything else. But I got my nails done yesterday and we may have gotten I’m trying to show you. It’s kind of better there. We go. Ah, we may have gotten a green that I really like since this is why birthday month and green is my favorite color I was trying to get a good green and. For some reason. It’s really hard to find a good green nail polish so much good green in nature. Not so much. It must be really hard to reproduce a green pigment because it’s hard to find good greens and clothing too. So I’m very happy with my green nails small things. Right? Ah, yeah, so I went long yesterday. So I think it’s okay to go shorter today I will um yeah, talk to you all on Thursday you all take care bye bye.
Some real numbers comparing the same book and series self-published vs. traditionally published – Spoiler: first month revenue is already 10% of 10 years of trad – & other thoughts on trad vs. indie.
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious.
Ah, so good. How are you all today is Monday August date 16 22 I don’t know why it seems like there’s so many good dates lately. Bumping the table here. So um, we are New Week New week hopefully a productive week I need a productive week. Um I’m still on track with shadow wizard I’m losing a little bit of my buffer. I did not have um, a rocking writing day on Friday for no good reason I am happy to report that. However I am caught up on royalty crunching who I’ve caught up two months ‘ worth. Always interesting. Um, just to have a break from the royalties and come back and sort of see what the sales are like and one thing that’s very interesting. Sorry if I’m using that word way too many times. Um, you can’t adjust hold on a moment. My chair is could be apart. Ah, you know it’s like one of those selfassemble patio chair things and so it has the. It’s probably gonna be too hard to explain but you know like the caps that you screw on to the ends that hold it in place and one of the caps came off and I had it sitting here on the table but very lazily had not put it back on ah because it was one of those you know like two step projects where it required me to go inside the house. To get a screwdriver to come back out and screw it on and somehow I just never would not take that freaking long but somehow I never made that complete circuit and no I’m not sure where the piece has gone hopefully some. Critter didn’t carry it off but now it’s um, bending enough that it’s like pulling entirely out of the socket without the cap thingy to hold it on so the ah problem’s becoming more pointed but. We already spent way too much podcast time on that. Ah, ah so interesting. So interesting fascinating I think that’s why they came up with fascinating for Spock because interesting just got too boring. Um.
On my covenant of thorns books this is a great example of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. You know what? and I’m even Goingnna oh I’m not going bring up the exact numbers. But. So I started releasing rereleasing Covenant of Thorn’s series Rogue’s Pawn being book one in July and then Rogue’s Possession came out later july and then third book Rogue’s Paradise is coming out in August and. For all three books considering this is a series that’s 10 years old fabulous covers beautiful covers um but old books I shared a um review on the podcast on friday. Was a very interesting review I shared it with Grace and she’s like wow that’s a great review and I was like well it’s sort of ah a mixed review but I would much rather have a review that notices. Um and notes how I’ve grown as a writer and for me going back and reading those first books. Is a little bit cringy. It’s a good reminder for me. Um, when I read new authors first books that I should probably like read one of their later books too because um, ah I mean thank goodness I’ve gotten so much better. But wow you know and people told me then that it was overwritten and I didn’t think it was ah but ah the hubris of youth and newbiness right? Ah yeah, ah. In one contest. Someone told me that it was um, overwritten like Anne Rice is overwritten and I took that as a compliment. Um I think I’m way worse than Anne Rice ah but um anyway these books are being well received but they’re not burning up the charts I mean they’re not like hugely high rankings I’ve got more preorders for book 3 than I have for books 1 or 2 I like twice as many which is really nice. So that means that the people that are reading it and loving it. Are wanting to read that third book. That’s awesome. Um, but you know it’s like it’s still double digits I mean I don’t even have preorders in the triple digits which is fine. You know it’s like that’s kind of what I expect for rereleasing an old series like this right? so.
Even with fairly low but climbing preorder numbers I’m trying to walk the line here I I don’t want you to Um, oh what am I trying to say I’m trying to set the correct expectation here because I figured. If I was lucky if things went well that I could recoup my investment in putting a new cover and reformatting the book putting it up for sale. Ah in the first month and I’m going to do that easily more. For the first two books and with pre-orders alone for the third book each of those books has already I mean you’ll just like in numbers I don’t have the money yet, but they’ve already earned 10 to 12% of the lifetime sales. Of the books that did that they earned through Carina press. Okay, so let me rephrase that just in case I put that in a confusing way because I track all the sales of all my books. So in all the time 10 years that those books were with Carina Press and Carina paid me quarterly royalties on those books. So I know how much each book has earned over its lifetime via Carina in the time that I have had these up self-published a month for the first book. A month the two days they’ve already earned 10 to 12% of those lifetime sales one month versus ten years right? So when we talk about self- publishishing. And the money that you can earn in self-p publishing. There is a concrete example now why didn’t these books earn more money through Carina press. There’s a couple of factors and if you all already self publish or if you are um, you know, follow. Self-pubbers then you know this information but I’m going to share it here anyway because it does bear repeating part of it is the percentage. Um from Carina press even though they gave me a very generous I think 45% something like that of the. Net so that means of the money that they get after the wholesale price and all of that they gave me 45% of that price. So and actually.
Okay, so I went ahead and opened the spreadsheet just so I could give you some actual numbers because I calculate approximately how much I earn per book. Um, well this is going to be a little bit deceptive. However, okay, well let me give you the the numbers. From through Carina Press which is harlequin which is under harper collins. We’re looking at big consolidation of presses. So it’s worth it looking at that tiering. Ah penguin already emerged with random house. Now Simon Shuster is looking to acquire penguin random house. So anyway before and you know under them. My books were earning I would get ¢71 to a dollar for per per book. Now I have to do some quick baths self publishing I’m getting $3 per book. Um, so easily 3 times I’m making per book so that adds up fast. The other piece of it is. Marketing. Um, and we were having this conversation over the weekend. Ah Minerva Spencer and Katie Lane are their writing names came to brunch at my house on Saturday and we. Set out in the grape arbor and talked business. It was lovely and the demystifying thing is is because we have all published traditionally and self published. And it can just be mystifying what the traditional publishers are doing I do pretty basic marketing on that Covenant of Thorns series and it’s like a 1,000 times more than Carina press did on them especially 10 years later um we were gossiping about one friend of ours who’s who had a bestselling book Usa today but still bestselling book did enormously well but it came out a long time ago now. Um, somebody was saying 3 years but I think it’s longer than 3 years because 3 years was beginning of pandemic that amazing. Um, well it was like leading up into ah it’s on my mind because like Minerva Spencer I had not seen her since September of 2019 so it was nearly three years since I had last seen her in the flesh.
And it’s funny to think that um you know three years ago August of 2019 I was at world con in Dublin and we traveled around Ireland just seems ages ago. So um, anyway I think this this gal’s book came out. Probably five or six years ago yeah could be even six or 7 definitely pre 2017 so that gives us a ah range anyway. But she gets very upset that her traditional publisher is not. Pouring more publicity that they’re publicizing other books newer books and not hers which ah you know sometimes that happens that way. Oh. Mosquito so it’s this is what traditional and publishers do. They’re always about the new shiny. They don’t care about the older books. Um.
And and it’s to the detriment of the author because I mean you know like this girl’s perfectly right to be upset that they’re not publicizing this book. Especially I mean everybody could be making money on this but they just don’t they also. Just don’t seem to know how to position books which is bizarre and they fully believe that they do know I mean they’re just certain that they are in the right? So it’s this very interesting thing. Um that there are what, one of the gals I don’t remember who they might have both said it is like well why are people still going with traditional publishers and I still think there are good reasons to publish traditionally. But as far as making a living and getting your books out there. Ah. And makes all the difference and and what’s funny is that the traditional publishers and we all know this because we have editors and agents saying this to us as they’ll say well you know you just can’t make real money self-p publishishing and they always want to go back to the Statistic. You know that most self-p publishers. Only ever sell a hundred copies a year and and it’s like yeah, but then you have to look at the the other end of the spectrum that you know you’re not looking at the person who decide to you know, write their memoir and. Printed it out for their kids and grandkids. Um, besides which we don’t have to sell as many copies to make really good money as evidenced by this statistic I’m just fascinated by that it has made this big of a difference because I thought well. You know should I even republish. These am my sinking good money into this for no reason it’s going to be great. It’s going to be awesome. I was also counting up like how many books I sold at Apollycon because in the world of the convention. You know, ah it was just like sale sale sale I sold a lot of copies of Rogues Pawn I didn’t realize how many but that was the right crowd for that book I did not sell as many copies of dark wizard as I thought I would I do have a mosquito candle out here now to fend off the mosquitoes. Ah, see if that works I’d scooted it closer because there’s a couple of mosquitoes hovering hovering hungrily. So um.
You know it’s just really interesting what you sell in different venues and I think this is one of the things that self-publishers are able to do is that I can go and I can see which of my books sell on site and what I can say to readers that elicits their attention. I think it’s really super cool that I sold so many copies of the print version of rogue spawn um, for $10 right? Ah, but they love that it was a face story. So um. My point and I do have one. You know that there are people in traditional publishing who make a huge amount of money but there are lots who don’t and even the ones who are making a decent living the dreaded midlist right? which has become kind of a curse. But. There was a statistic that came out the other day that said that um I don’t know if they put a percentage on it but it was most and and I believe that it is most traditionally published authors are making $25000 a year or less which is. Below poverty level in the us and I I don’t know if that’s before or after taxes. But it’s still It’s not much money. Actually I think it was $20000 a year because the person who retweeted it into my timeline said that they were. Doing relatively well compared to many of their compatriots and they’re making $25000 a year. Um, which is still not enough to live on and traditional publishing persists in this idea that um. You know that we should be grateful for the money we are making I think ah one of my friends has been kind of struggling because ah, her traditional sales have fallen off. Um, we think we know why I think I know why actually I gave her. Um. A really good insight and I’ve seen this happen to a number of my friends that’s bragging isn’t it I thought it was great insight. She agreed. Okay, so in in two cases I’m thinking of specifically and I could probably think of a lot more There was an author who was selling incredibly well in a particular thing and their publisher changed the branding of it in 1 case, an author was told no no, we don’t want more of these of this subgenre. We want you to write this other subgenre.
And the books just didn’t do as well and the publisher is like huh I wonder what happened? Well you went off of the main readership and this other friend of mine who has done fabulously well in. Traditional publishing to the point where she didn’t really want to self-p publishlish because she’s like I’m making better money and trap and it’s like well wherever you’re making better money and go for it but now ah her most recent series. The sales are really tanked and I realized how they changed from her main branding that these books don’t. Look or feel or have the same wording as the ones where her main platform is and and it’s a departure and and once I pointed this out to her. She’s like you know what? I’m going to put these words in my next title and I’m going to see what’s what happens and it’s like great. We can do this as self publishers meanwhile in traditional publishing land. Her editor actually said to her that it’s because she’s self-publishing that she’s diluting her sales and that’s and it’s her fault and this is what they do in traditional publishing is they tell the author that it’s their fault and because it can’t possibly be theirs. And it’s nonsense. It’s I I was telling this story to Minerva and Katie this weekend and both of them immediately said that’s bullshit because we all know that readers read much faster than we can write and they they want more books. They don’t. Get tight. They don’t say oh ho ha another j– oops sorry another Jeffe Kennedy ah slight slip there wonder if I could fudge it out I bet I didn’t say as much as I thought I did we’ll see. Ah, but yeah, another Jeffe Kennedy Blah you know it’s maybe there are some who say that but the passionate readers they want more and this idea that um, which tread really holds onto that you know that they feel that it should be 1 book a year and I even had that. Um, on my last traditional publishing excursion. You know when we were talking about the frequency of the books and they said well our market research shows that the books do best if we release some nine months apart I kind of wanted to say well, what market research is that. Because it’s sure not how it looks from our perspective. The other interesting thing about self-publishing and this is a conversation that Minerva Katie and I were having was how we know what it takes to make a good cover. We know exactly how expensive a cover is.
We know about layers and putting them together. You have to learn I mean it’s just like at first you don’t know and you gradually learn so when a traditional publisher comes to us and this has happened to all of us. And says look at this beautiful expensive cover and we’re like that’s clip art and this part doesn’t look right? Can you fix this and they’re like oh no, it would take so much to fix that we’re like no, no, no, all you do is go in and tweak that layer. Um and they still want to act like we don’t know this that they can still blow sunshine. Ah. So this has turned somewhat into an indictment of tread which I don’t mean it to be because um I there are a lot of things I love about traditional publishing. Um and I will still try to publish traditionally but there. I feel like we’ve been saying for more than a decade now that traditional publishing is going to have to change what they’re doing and they are somehow mysteriously still not doing it. Um, but yeah, just being able to. To make a living as a writer. There are not many people who can do that without also self- publishing or without having a sidegig. So um I do think and we were all agreeing is in our conversation Saturday that. It was huge for all 3 of us that we had already traditionally published and had that readership they’re they’re good at establishing that readership and so it made self publishing much easier. It’s it’s harder when you’re coming right out of the gate as a self-p publisher. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is. So on that note I’ve chattered on long I hope you all have a wonderful Monday and a wonderful week and I will talk to you all tomorrow you all take care bye bye.