Drink the Kool-Aid

Yesterday, an agent blogged about a speech she recently gave to Sisters in Crime. Some of the advice was fine. Some was archaic (no, writers don't need to attend conventions or volunteer for anything), but this was just downright awful:

"Do NOT drink the kool-aid on E-publishing. It's too early to be making sweeping statements about any of it. We're all learning this as we go and the right answer to almost everything is "we'll see what happens."

I threw up a little in my mouth when I read that. It's terrible advice, especially coming from someone who should have writers' best interests at heart.

Here are some sweeping statements I'll make, which can be verified:

1. Ebooks sales are going up, paper sales are going down. This trend WILL continue. This means that you need to worry less about who handles your paper rights, and more about who handles your erights.

If you handle your own erights, you keep 70% of the list price (that you set.)

If you let a publisher handle your erights, you get 17.5% of the list price (which they set.)

2. There isn't much a publisher can do for you that you can't do for yourself (or hire someone to do.) In other words, paying a publisher 52.5% to create cover art and do some editing is crazy.

3. More and more self-pubbed authors are doing well. And more and more legacy pubbed authors are trying self-pubbed. On this blog I've had dozens of guest posts, and listed hundreds of authors by name, who are making good money. Some are getting rich. None of them would be making bupkis if they didn't drink the Kool-Aid.

4. Bookstores are closing. The only thing a publisher could do for you, that you can't do yourself, is get your book into bookstores. But with paper sales down, and ebook sales rising, getting into a bookstore shouldn't be the priority.

5. Every day you don't self-publish is a day you aren't making money. This is a tough concept to wrap your mind around. We're used to thinking in analog terms. With paper, there's a release date, then sales eventually trickle down to nothing, until the book is out of print.

But ebooks are forever. There can be a big surge in sales when a book is released, but I've also seen books that surge regularly, like waves in the ocean. Lulls and peaks, over and over. Sometimes it tapers off, but then something happens and it gets new life.

When a book has the potential to not only make money, but to sell better than it did yesterday, it no longer has a lifespan. Which raises the question:

If you have a book that will sell forever, do you want to start earning money today, or next month?

If you wait a month, you won't make-up the month you lost. That month you lost will be income that you never earned.

I can't think of a single advantage to waiting around. Even if you really, really want a legacy deal, I know lots of authors who self-pubbed and then got legacy offers.

Barry Eisler also had some thoughts on this, which he offered as comments to a previous blog post. I'm going to post them here, too, with a few interpolated thoughts:

Barry: "Do NOT drink the kool-aid on E-publishing." What does this mean, other than that the declarant thinks in cliches?

Joe: I think it means, "If you do something without me, I don't get my 15%."

Barry: Then she said, "It's too early to be making sweeping statements about any of it."

Isn't that itself a sweeping statement?

Never mind. As with the Kool-Aid reference, these sorts of massively vague pronouncements are difficult to address because, as articulated, they're fundamentally meaningless. But if you think about it for a second or two, just why would it be too early to come to various conclusions about the nature, trajectory, and speed of the revolution we're seeing in publishing? We have a lot of data, after all, to which we can apply logic while extrapolating from experience. Isn't analyzing broad industry trends, and trying to understand, extrapolate from, and exploit them, exactly what smart businesspeople ought to be doing? If you have to decide -- today -- between a legacy deal and self-publishing, should you just stick your head in the sand and your ass in the air?

Joe: I think it means, "I'm worried about the future, and my livelihood, so I'm not going to think too hard about it."

Barry: Next she said, "We're all learning this as we go…"

Well, no, there are clearly many people who are *not* learning as they go, or learning at all, for that matter. The rest learn different lessons and at different rates. The different lessons people are learning -- that is, the different conclusions people are coming to as experience continues to accrue and as data continues to come in -- are interesting and potentially valuable for anyone who thinks understanding today where the industry will be tomorrow is useful thing to do.

Joe: I've been learning this as I go. And while learning, I've made several hundred thousand dollars. Because I wasn't waiting around to see what happened. I was taking control of my career, experimenting, trying new things, sharing what I've learned with others.

Scores of writers who read my blog also gave it a shot. Some became very successful. Because they tried, rather than waited around.

Barry: Next she said, "...and the right answer to almost everything is 'we'll see what happens.'"

Absolutely! If something that looks like a tiger pops out of the underbrush and is hurtling toward you, it's best not to make sweeping statements. Better to learn as we go and just see what happens. Running for a tree would be foolish.

Same thing in intelligence work. Who really can say where Pakistani nukes are stored, or how soon China might be able to deploy a blue water navy, or who are the true power brokers in Russia? Better to just sit back and see what happens.

And isn't the same inevitably true in business? If you're in the horse and buggy business and you hear about a thing called a car, or if you're in the the candlelight business and you hear about a thing called an electric light, or if you're in the eight-track cassette business and you hear about a thing called a CD, or if you're in the paper book business and you hear about a thing called Kindle, you should absolutely avoid trying to understand -- let alone exploit! -- any of it, and should instead sit back and just see what happens. In fact, sitting back and seeing what happens is the one common denominator of profitable businesses and successful businesspeople. Amazon, for example, became a a hundred-billion-dollar company by doing little else but going along and seeing what happens, while legacy publishers are dying precisely because they've always ruthlessly examined, prepared for, shaped, and exploited industry, technological, and cultural trends.

Joe: "Daddy, those lights are coming straight for us!"

"Don't move! Just remain standing in the middle of the street, and we'll wait and see if they run us over or not."

Barry: "Drinking the Kool-Aid" means "to become an unquestioning believer in some ideology, or to accept an argument or philosophy wholeheartedly or blindly without critical examination." Who's really doing that here? And the phrase is derived from the Jonestown massacre, where cult members followed one another into a massive group suicide. Again, not a bad metaphor for following "advice" like Janet's, which consists of nothing but cliches, sloppy thinking, and bromides.

It's one thing to be not very good at making predictions yourself, and Janet's track record is not the best:!/trow125/status/51355244587794433

But to advise that everyone else refrain from trying to understand where the industry is going and how we might profit from how it's changing? That's just irresponsible.

Joe: Barry, I meant to ask you about that above tweet. Now that The Detachment has launched, do you regret working with Amazon and not taking that $250k St. Martins deal?

Barry: Let me put it this way. Amazon sold more digital copies of the Detachment as preorders than Ballantine sold digital copies of my previous book, Inside Out, ever. After that -- that is, apart from and in addition to all those preorders -- the book surged to #6 in the Kindle Store, stayed in the Kindle Top 20 for over a week, and currently (two weeks in) is at #57. Yesterday it was at #3 in the UK Kindle Store. The paper version doesn't even come out for another two weeks, and they're planning another big push then. I've earned more money from this book in two weeks than I've earned from some of my titles to date -- and I've had eight previous novels published, starting in 2002.

Joe: The money you've been earning since The Detachment was released makes the money I've been earning on Kindle look paltry.

You hear that, NY Publishing Industry? You thought Barry was silly, turning down a Big 6 contract. In two weeks, he's made more money than he did with any of you.

You hear that, name brand authors? You want to know who to sign your next contract with? It's Amazon.

Barry: And that's just The Detachment. Sales of my backlist have surged, too. Since April, my short story, Paris Is A Bitch, has been earning me about $1000 per month. This month it's going to be more than three times that -- as of today, it's sold 1677 copies in September, at about two dollars profit per unit. Sales of my other short story, The Lost Coast, are up, too, though I did drop the price of that one to 99 cents, which obviously affects the experiment. But even sales of my legacy-published works are significantly up -- at one point, my first book, Rain Fall, was at #146 in the Kindle Store, which is insane for a book that's coming up on ten years old. The other Rain books are all up significantly, too, though not as much as they should be, because Putnam insists on pricing them at $7.99, the same as the paperback. If I had control of those books, I'd repackage them, drop the price to $2.99… and I can't even imagine how many I would have sold in conjunction with The Detachment.

Joe: Golly, why doesn't Putnam do that itself? It's leaving a ton of money on the table.

Barry: Heh. You know why. Legacy publishers aren't primarily interested in maximizing profits from digital titles. They're primarily interested in preserving the position of paper and retarding the growth of digital. To that end, they price digital books artificially high and hold back the digital release until the paper one is ready. And that hold-back, by the way, for the reasons you discuss above, costs the writer a ton of money -- the money she would have been earning if the digital book had been made available earlier.

Let me preempt the response I know is coming from the Reidian antediluvian naysayers out there: "But you didn't self-publish The Detachment, Amazon published it! So all this success, all these massive sales, none of it counts!"

If that's what you think, read the section on either/or and other erroneous thinking in Joe's and my free ebook, Be The Monkey. My goal isn't to make any one of my titles a success. It's to make *all* my titles, collectively, the greatest possible success. As I've said many times, I think my best strategy in that regard is a mix of self-publishing and Amazon publishing-- not an either/or approach. And I think my experience so far suggests I'm right.

Since walking away from the St. Martin's offer, I've self-published two short stories, I've self-published a political essay, and I've self-published (with you) a short book on the changing landscape of the publishing industry. And I've published a new novel with Amazon. What I haven't done -- what's conspicuously absent from my business strategy over the last six months -- is a new work with a legacy publisher. And I'm doing far better than I ever have before. Maybe that's a coincidence. Maybe it's all just dumb luck. Maybe I would be doing even better if I'd gone with the legacy deal (though we wouldn't know yet, because if I had gone the legacy route, The Detachment wouldn't have been released until spring 2012).

Or maybe there are some principles in my experience that are worth pondering, and that might be applied by others who don't believe business is best conducted by just waiting to see what happens.

Joe: I look back on the past few years, and all the bad decisions made by legacy publishers, along with agents who think they're working for those publishers rather than for their authors, and I keep wondering at what point they're going to realize they aren't in a Jacuzzi, enjoying a luxurious soak, but actually in a stew being boiled alive.

High ebook prices, low ebook royalties, windowing, poor formatting and conversions, the agency model, retroactive erights grabs, DRM--each of these are bad decisions on their own, but add them all together and it's one huge crock pot of fail that they're now marinating in.

But we authors have more opportunities for success than ever before.

Legacy publishing is a vestigial organ. And it's about to be cut off.

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Gifts for the boys in your life

Micah loves his fishing games. He has two of them. One has batteries that always die, the other has a suction cup that doesn't work very well. So I decided to make him a new fishing game that will be easy and fun to play with. And if something gets broken I'll know exactly how to fix it.

(excuse the poorly-lit-needed-to-use-my-flash photography...gotta craft at night so the youngins don't know what they're getting for Christmas!)

What you need:
Fiber fill
Start by making a fish pattern on a piece of cardboard. I like to make the pattern on a folded edge so that I only have to draw one side of the fish but get a symetrical fish! Make sure that the fish pattern is big enough for your magnet to fit through the tail section and into the body.

Then trace your fish pattern onto the felt and cut out the fish. Make sure you have two pieces of the same stack your felt or just fold a piece in half when you're cutting it to make sure you have to exact pieces.

Sew around your fish but leave the bottom open so you can put the magnet and stuffing in.IMG_1050
Stuff the magnet in and then add some fiber fill to make the rest of the body puffed up. Then sew the end shut making it sorta look like scales.
My suggestion is to sew all the fish together before sitting down to stuff them in front of the tv. Then go back to your machine and sew them all shut. Of course you could sew them all by hand, if you have the time and patience to do so!IMG_1052
Then make a fishing pole. I just folded a black piece of felt in half and made a large J for the hook, making sure that my magnet would fit in the end. I then used a blanket stitch and stiched around the whole hook leaving a LONG piece at the top to be the fishing line. Then I stitched the fishing line to the yellow felt and hot glued that onto the dowl. I also added a little bit of felt by the handle.
And if you don't want to make your own I will have
ONE set in my etsy store in a couple of weeks!

Here are some other BOY gift ideas:

Car Play/Storage mat

Happy Crafting! can't wait to see what you're making for all the little boys in your life! Feel free to leave a link, I LOVE looking at boy projects! I've got lots of little boys in my life that I need to make gifts for!

Konrath's Ebook Predictions from 2009.

I wrote the following blog post in 2009, a list of ebook predictions.

I'll put my recent updates in bold:

1. Ebook readers will be available in stores for less than $99.I believe this is the magic price point, and the ability for consumers to purchase their device at their favorite department store will finally allow this tech to enter the mainstream.

As of today, the Amazon Kindle is now available for $79. The new Amazon Kindle Touch is $99. Kobo has been $99 for several months.

I expect B&N to drop Nook prices sometime soon.

Also, ereaders are now available in stores, Best Buy, Staples, Target, and many others.

2. Amazon will adopt Epub standard format. I've blogged about formats before, and how proprietary formatting is preventing worldwide acceptance of ebooks. The closest to a universal format is Epub, and once there are millions of non-Kindle ereadersout there, Amazon will want a piece of the pie and offer different formats.

They haven't done this yet. But they are releasing titles without DRM. Now that Amazon has launched several paper imprints, and B&N has refused to carry those paper books unless they can also sell the ebooks, it will be interesting to see how this gets resolved.

3. Ebook readers will improve. Well, no duh. All tech improves as time goes on. But I'm talking about the look and feel of the device, not just what it can do. As advanced as ebook readers are, they still look low tech. Compare this to the iPhone or iPodTouch. These devices look, and feel, 21st century. Some ereadermanufacturer will come up with a device that just looks right (the Nook comes close) and it will sell like crazy.

Amazon Kindle Fire tablet just announced, for $199.

4. Ebooks will go multimedia. The potential for ebooks to change the way a book is experienced has not been explored yet. Author annotation, interviews, video, audio, extras, music, deleted chapters, short stories--these are all benefits that could be added to content at no cost.

Not quite. There are a few companies doing some innovative things, but nothing that has caught on in a big way. Yet.

5. A third party etailer will rise to prominence. Currently, people buy most of their ebooks online at Amazon. But someone with deep pockets will launch a big website and begin to gobble upmarketshare. My guess is this site will be the first to begin offering the out-of-print backlists of published authors. Public domain isn't the key to success. Copyrighted work that is only available used is the key to success, because ebooks can make these vetted, professional books available again. It's a gigantic, viable, untapped market.

Smashwords and Kobo are doing very well. I just launched my own ebook store.

As for the copyrighted work I mentioned, Amazon is buying many out of print backlists from name authors, including Ed McBain and Max Allan Collins. Al's book just hit #1 on Kindle.

6. Estributors will become common. Where there are writers, there are folks who help writers and take a percentage of their income. Agents currently hold this position. But it won't be long until some smart folks realize they can make money being a liaisonbetween the writer and the ebook world, and offer services that include editing, formatting, uploading, and cover art, so the only thing the writer has to do is write.

I'm working with my agent in an estributor capacity. We'll see how it goes.

7. Print publishers will get savvy. Some major publisher is going to realize they can make more money selling ebooks for under $3 than selling them for $15, and they'll give it a try and be successful. Others will follow suit.

In the past two weeks, I've seen no fewer than eight Big 6 titles crack the Kindle Top 10 by selling them for $.99 to $2.99. Once they hit it, they jack up the price back to normal and the sales fall off. But they're learning...

8. Ebook bestsellers will emerge. As more reviewing sites and blogs dedicated to ebooks rise up, word-of-mouth will propel some independent ebooks author to bestseller status. It's inevitable, and both the print publishers and Hollywood will take notice.

Amanda Hocking and John Locke, anyone? I wrote this prior to their successes. I've also sold a movie option on an ebook.

9. Print books will be packaged with an ebook version. Perhaps it will come on a CD or an SD card. Perhaps it will come with a code so the ebook can be downloaded for free. But some smart publisher is going to include the ebook with the print version. A really smart publisher would also include a download for the audiobook version with the package. Then folks wouldn't mind paying $25 for a hardcover, if it came with those downloads.

I talked about this when I spoke at the Google Unbound Conference a few years ago. I've heard rumors of it happening, but nothing concrete yet. BTW, that blog about the conference is from January 2007. This is one of the things I said:

"On the subway today, I counted 7 people with PDAs, Blackberrys, and Palms, and two more with mp3 players. People need their media so much they're taking it with them when they leave their desks. Only three people on that train were reading newspapers. What does that say about the future of print media?"

All the major publishers were there, listening to my speech. None of them listened to me.

10. Exclusivity. If an author is big enough, they are available everywhere: Amazon, Nook, Shortcovers, iTunes, Sony, etc. But someone is going to sign an author exclusively, so their book is only available in one etailer location, to lure people to their device and website.

Barry Eisler. Boy, he did make the right choice signing with Amazon.

11. I'll continue to pay my mortgage with ebook sales. I've been self-publishing ebooks on Kindle since April, and every month since I've earned enough to make my monthly house payment. I'm also going to release a novel exclusively as an ebook in 2010, as a long-term experiment, to see if I can earn more in five years than I could on my previous print deals. This is the beginning of a very long tail, and writers really do need to think about how much their ebook rights are worth over the course of their lifetime and beyond. Because that's how long this technology will be around.

I've earned more in the last eight months than I did on all eight of my previous print deals, combined, since 2003. And this holiday season looks to be even better than last year.

So I got 8, maybe 8.5 out of 11 right.

So what do I see for the future?

1. Publishing houses closing. Maybe it will be bankruptcy or maybe their parent company will just shut the doors. These houses once controlled paper, and because of that they could control authors. Now paper is a subsidiary right (something I wrote about last year, before ebooks were actually outselling paper) and authors can do better on their own.

No lock on distribution + authors now having choices + readers unwilling to pay $12.99 for an ebook = game over.

2. Interactive multimedia. I've been talking about this for over four years. Vook and Hybrid Books are only the beginning. One day enhanced ebooks will be the norm.

3. Ads in ebooks. This is something else I've been talking about for years. The $79 Kindle is ad-supported. As ebooks drop in price (or become free) authors will supplement their income by selling ad space and taking corporate sponsors.

4. Ereaders under $49. It'll happened quicker than the drop to $99 took.

5. People abandoning paper. I've already gotten rid of several hundred paper books, replacing them with ebooks. Watch as more and more people do the same thing, just like they dumped their vinyl and VHS. Thrift shops, Goodwill, the Salvation Army, will stop taking book donations because they already have too many.

6. Global market. Ebooks will be worldwide. Smart authors will work with translators (or smart estributors will have translators on payroll) to exploit these new avenues, which had been closed off to all but the luckiest authors. And even then, foreign deals were notoriously small, and hardly ever earned out. Watch for self-published authors becoming international bestsellers.

7. Bookstores, book fairs, writing conferences, and writers organizations will have to change, or perish. As paper popularity fades, and self-pubbing ebooks becomes more prevalent, there will be fewer and fewer people who gather around paper books.

Companies like Autography will allow readers to get personalized autographs on their ebooks. Add some video-conferencing, and no one will even need to attend another genre convention.

Conferences that sucker authors into paying $500 for a chance to pitch to a Big 6 editor will disappear.

Used bookstores will do well in the beginning, due to all the people dumping their collections, but eventually won't be able to give books away.

All the professional writing organizations will have to admit self-pubbed authors, or their ranks will thin.

8. Pottermore is just the beginning. Watch as more and more authors lure their fans to their websites, without any need of a publisher.

9. We'll see a lot of new stuff from old writers. All writers have shelf novels, or ideas that they couldn't pursue because their publishers wouldn't allow it. There are no longer any barriers to ideas, and we're done with all that bullshit about buy-in and sell-through. The fate of books will be decided by readers, not by a handful of people in a room looking at prior sales figures.

10. Libraries. There are tens of thousands of libraries in the US alone. I currently have 30 ebook titles available. If I sell one copy of each of my ebooks to every library, I've made over a million dollars--and many libraries will buy multiple copies. When Canada, the UK, Australia, and eventually the world get in on the library thing, it's going to be gigantic.

11. I won't continue to pay my mortgage with my ebook sales.

That's because I'm paying off my house with my ebook money. :)

What about you folks? Any predictions for the future?

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Build a Dream Playhouse Review and Giveaway

Build a Dream Playhouses are awesome! Do you remember as a kid being so excited to see mom and dad get a new fridge or washer and dryer? Only because you got to dive into the box and make it your secret fort!!! I do! That is exactly what I thought about when I saw these very cool playhouses. I sure wish I had these when I was a kid!

Build a Dream Playhouses™ was founded by a Cleveland father dedicated to the futures of the City of Cleveland, the State of Ohio, and the imaginations of children. To achieve that, and reflecting on his city’s hard times, he collaborated with the world famous Nottingham-Spirk Design Associates, a group of 3 to 9 year old children, and the Smurfit Stone Container Corporation, Build a Dream Playhouses™ is now proud to introduce to you what we believe to be the most innovative, fresh, and fun playhouses on the market. We hope you enjoy our products and we look forward to introducing many more in the near future. Info taken from site.

We were so lucky to get the chance to review the Snack Shack Playhouse. It is so cute. We love that you have the options of making it wither a lemonade stand or a snack shack!

– Two serving windows
– Double layered counter-tops for increased weight bearing
– Under-the-counter storage space
– Interchangeable signs and menus
– Includes luggage rack, ice cream signs and light bar

So when life gives you lemons, squeeze ‘em, sell ‘em, and keep ‘em comin’ back with Build a Dream Playhouse’s™ Snack Shack.™ Whether you’re selling grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, fresh veggies from your garden or a refreshing glass of lemonade, the Snack Shack™ will be the talk of your neighborhood.

How cool is it that you have a menu board and Display name! My kids were so excited. It made them feel so important. I used to love setting up a little store at my parents yard sales and now my kids can too! Want to know what they sold? ;o) I'll tell ya, but first I have to say how easy this was to put together. We had ours put together in no time and then let the kids go to town on painting it! That is the other amazing thing about these playhouses, they get to decorate their own playhouse. Colors, stick figures, drawings of their available snacks!!! The imagination this brings to kids is priceless! And we love seeing our kids imagine!!!

Check out this video on how easy and quick these are to put together!

Build a Dream Playhouses are the gift to give this season. Christmas, birthdays or anytime. I can't wait to get another one for my kids. 

Check out some more of their playhouses.
Below is just a couple...their will be a favorite for everyone!

Would you like a chance to win Build a Dream Playhouse for your family?
Well, they are generously offering a playhouse of your choice to 1 winner!
... How to enter ...
You will have until  Oct 25 @ 9:00 p.m. Pacific Standard time to enter this giveaway. The winner will be chosen by and announced here. If the winner has provided an email address I will contact you. If you don't provide your email, you will want to check back here and see if you are the winner. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is open to those living in the US. You must be 18 years or older to enter. Thanks for entering at Trendy Treehouse. Good Luck and Have Fun!

The featured product {s} in this post were provided to me free of charge by the manufacturer or pr company representing the company. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by anyone. By entering this giveaway you agree to Trendy Treehouse Disclaimer/Terms of use.