Monday, November 24, 2008

The Reader and Writer Agreement

Any form of fiction is really an agreement between the writer and the reader. The writer says, I will tell you a story, and you will believe it while you are reading it.

The reader agrees that, as long as the story remains true to its own telling and is interesting, he will keep reading and believe what he is reading. This is often called suspension of disbelief.

The writer can create the most bizarre rules imaginable for the way his world works and have creatures that aren't possible in the real world, but there are two rules he can't break. He must have his humans behave as humans should, and he must not break his own rules. To do either ruins the story.

AGENT INTERVIEWS: Interview with Penguin editor Kristen Weber who oversees Obsidian, their mystery line.

Kristin Nelson blogs about what NY editors are looking for in children's fiction. No specific editors or lines are mentioned, unfortunately. November 20th.

PUBLISHER CLOSED TO SUBMISSIONS: Double Dragon Press, the largest ebook publisher of science fiction and fantasy, has closed submissions for the year. I'm not certain if this includes their erotica line.


Oxford University Press' Word of the Year Awards


Oxford University Press' Word of the Year Awards



leisure sickness
selective ignorance

To see them defined and to vote on your favorite, see the youtube presentation here.


HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone who celebrates this day of food, family, and football!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Publishing Should Do, PUBLISHING

Last week on his blog, agent Nathan Bransford asked his readers what they'd like to see the big publishers do to help the ailing publishing industry.

Not being shy, I offered these solutions.


Publishers have failed to look toward the future of book distribution which is ebooks.

Like it or not, ebooks are the future. They are simply too efficient a delivery system, and with the price of paper and transportation skyrocketing as well as the slow death of the bookstore industry, they will soon be the only way many books will reach readers' hands.

Already, they are the growth industry within publishing. In September according to the AAP, they rose 77.8% in sales. To see the kind of growth ebooks are experiencing, go to the International Digital Publishing Forum ( and click on the industry statistics.

The publishers need to rethink their distribution deals with ebook providers, particularly Amazon which demands 66% of the cover price. This is utterly ridiculous since this covers computer storage and automated sales, not warehouses, human labor, and shipping.

Agents and authors with clout need to fight back against the 15% ebook royalty which in an insult, particularly for books that are going into paper where a vast majority of the book costs -- acquisition, editing, and cover -- are factored into the book's costs. If authors can't make a living in the system, the system will fail.

Ebooks may also be the solution to the shrinking midlist. The surviving bookstores and box stores are increasingly focusing on the bestsellers and list leaders, and the midlist has very few sales outlets.

The midlist is where the new authors and the next superstars come from so the publishers simply can't abandon it. They should move many of these books into ebooks or use the small ebook publishers as a farm system similar to what professional baseball teams use. This method has already been used by wily romance editors when they saw the immense success of erotica.

I cover this topic as well as the POD situation in more detail and give an overview of the current state of publishing in an article available on my website, . Click on the short story and article icon to find it.


Amazon is in the process of trying to take over the POD market. Currently, they are only going after the small publishers, but, as its history shows, the major publishers will be next.

Right now, a few small publishers are fighting back with lawsuits, but the conglomerates are ignoring the situation. They are fools not to become involved.

Sure, Amazon is only a small percentage of the POD market right now, but with bookstores disappearing, Amazon is setting itself up to be the major player in this form of distribution, as well.


The conglomerates need to move their offices out of NYC to cut costs. Baen Books moved to Wake Forest, NC, a tiny town outside of Raleigh, and they are doing just fine courtesy of the Internet, etc.

The money saved should be invested in better pay for editors and for reinvigorating the midlist by finding new talent.


CONTEST: Amazon and Penguin are holding a second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in early February. For more information, go here: .

MARKET NEWS: Agent Kristin Nelson blogs about what some NY editors are looking for in Young Adult fiction on November the 11th.

AGENT: Emmanuelle Alspaugh is interviewed at Novelists, Inc. blog

Be sure to check out the related post section for links to other agents interviewed.

QUESTIONS? I take writing and publishing questions. Contact me via this blog or at marilynnbyerly at .

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ebook Prices, PUBLISHING

In an interview, (link below), nonfiction author Seth Godin talks about ebooks and publishing. He's a proponent of free ebooks to sell paper books, but in this interview he suggests that ebooks be priced between one and two dollars each.

As someone who's watched the ebook industry for a number of years, here's my reply to his impractical suggestion.

Cheap ebooks are a lovely thought, but if a publisher wants to sell their books through the major book venues like Fictionwise and Amazon/Kindle, they must price the book with that in mind.

The vast majority of buyers only buy through the big venues instead of through the publisher website so most publishers can't break even if they don't have their books at places like Fictionwise.

I know that for every book I sell through one of my publishers' sites, I sell 50 or more at the big venues.

Here's why books have to be priced more expensively if they are to be sold through the big venues.

Fictionwise makes 50% on each ebook sold so even if the publisher prices the book near cost, he would have to increase the price by 50% just to break even. Amazon/Kindle takes 66% of the cover price. The same problem.

What's left is usually divided evenly between the publisher and the writer if it's an epublisher, 15% for the author for major publishers.

And if the publisher doesn't put the book's price high enough, the middleman venues where a majority of ebooks are sold aren't interested in the product because they can't come out even after they do their usual price markdown.

If the publisher wishes to keep his books at the big venues, he can't undersell the books at his own site so he can't lower the price there, either.

In the best of all possible worlds, the reader would pay a few bucks, but readers want the simplicity of buying at one site, not many, so the prices go up. Sad, but true.


EDITOR INTERVIEWED: On November 6th, Novelists, Inc., interviewed Peter Senftleben, an editorial assistant at Kensington. He talks about what he's looking for.

NETWORKING SITES PROMOTIONAL VALUE: Author Courtney Summers discusses the value of various networking sites for book promotion.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ebook Royalties, PUBLISHING

Random House has just announced that it is lowering its ebook royalty rate from 25 percent of the retail price of the ebook to 25 percent of the net price (book price minus the distributor's percentage equals net) . Since most distributors take 50% or more as their distributor percentage, this is a hefty cut.

Other major publishers give a 15 percent royalty on the book price.

In comparison, most epublishers give between 35 to 50 percent of the book price. They must also pay for the cost of editing, covers, Internet infrastructure, etc., which the major publishers have already paid for when they create the paper books.

Is there anything wrong with this picture?

The big publishers keep saying that ebooks are expensive to produce, but most epublishers will tell you that all that is needed is a digital copy of the book in a specific format like PDF which the distributors will format themselves for a fee.

The big publishers, so far, have been no more willing to sell ebooks on their sites than they will sell paper copies of their books so all their talk about expenses is smoke and mirrors to hide their grab for a cheap royalty on what will become the major method of book distribution in the years to come.

Some agents have said that the publishers promise to raise the royalty rates when ebooks become more profitable, but that's a lie that has been used a number of times.

For example, during the paper shortages and rapid rise in price of paper, some years back, the publishers asked for a rate cut from authors and promised that the rate would go back up after the crisis. As you can guess, the rates have never risen.

All of this gives me such a glorious, yet painful, sense of irony about the situation. When ebook publishers started becoming successful, many traditionally published authors screamed like virgins at an orgy because they thought epublishing would harm their careers and incomes. By accepting 15% as "standard," they may be harming the epublished if epublishers follow suite and accept this new standard.

MJ Rose talked about book promotion at agent Nathan Bransford's blog on Thursday, October 23rd. She's a genius at marketing so it's more than worth the read.

She also continues on the subject at .

On Tuesday and Wednesday the 22nd and 23rd, on Nathan's blog, Michelle Moran also discussed promotion.

QUESTIONS, YOU HAVE QUESTIONS? Send me your questions about publishing and craft at marilynnbyerly @ (Remove spaces in address.)