Barry Eisler Turns Down Major Deal

Okay, folks, major turning point today. Established New York Times bestselling author, Barry Eisler, turned down a $500,000.00 advance. Why would he do something like that?  To self-publish his own book, that’s why.

Now, if that doesn’t get your attention, nothing will.

He walked away from a half million.

Let me simply say, “Wow!”

And no, he is not crazy. In fact, in my opinion, after listening to him, I think he’s making one of the smartest moves I have seen in a long time.

Now understand, Barry Eisler is also one of the smarter business people working as a writer. He has studied the publishing business and has fought against some of the insanity going on in publishing over the last decade or more. And he’s talked and blogged about it a great deal over the last few years.

J.A. Konrath and Barry Eisler sat down together to talk about the decision. And for the rest of us, they recorded it and you can now read that conversation. And let me tell you, if you have ever wondered what professional writers sound like sitting in a bar talking, or over lunch, read this. It can be found on J.A. Konrath’s Blog and on Barry Eisler’s blog.

Trust me, it will be worth every minute of your time to read it. I have read it twice. I don’t agree with every word, but I do agree with 99% of it.

Barry and Joe and the others who have turned away from traditional publishing are not going to be the last writers to do so. I’m pretty much moving in that direction completely myself, and I know many, many midlist writers who are also moving away from traditional publishing quickly.

This is only the beginning and Barry is the first big gun to move.

And to be honest, I agree completely with his reasons.

Granted, a half-million advance is a lot of money to turn down. But it really isn’t when he knows that he can make more than that, more than likely in the year before the book would even come out of a traditional publisher, by doing it himself.

And keeping the control himself.

And that control aspect is the key.

My Opinion

Before I talk about more details in the discussion between Barry and Joe, let me be clear about my opinion about indie publishing in general. It is slightly different than both Joe and Barry, and they do not always agree either. That’s why opinions are opinions. (grin)

First, do I believe the indie publishing movement is important? Yes, critically.

For the first time, traditional publishers have lost their hold on the distribution system, and over the last decade have been offering less and less value in what they give in return to writers. Traditional publishers are holding a number of very silly lines in the sand that Barry and Joe talk about. The train has left the station and traditional publishers are still thinking they can dig up the track to stop the train from leaving. Clearly, that is not working.

Second, do I believe that traditional publishing will vanish? Nope, not in the slightest.

But as I have said in other places, I believe there will be a war between the writers who want agents and traditional publishers to “take care of them” and indie writers who want to control their own careers. I am clearly on the side of taking control of my own career completely. And because of these changes, for the first time in a very long time, I am enjoying writing again.

But that said, traditional publishers, unless they only want to work with really, really stupid writers, must start making some changes. As electronic distribution becomes more and more common, trying to hold a line where a writer basically gets 14.9% of the electronic money is just suicide for traditional publishers. (If you get in your contract a 25%/75% split with the publisher on your e-rights, you are effectively getting after agent fees 14.9% versus 70% indie publishing.) This has to change or any writer with a brain will move, as Barry and Joe and I are moving.

And many others.

Third, do I believe every writer who goes to indie publishing will make a lot of money? No.

But I do believe that books find their own level. I believe that most books can make more money over a period of time indie published than an advance the book might have gotten from a traditional publisher. And if you count the life of the contract, meaning about ten years or longer, an indie-published book will make many times an advance, even selling very few copies.

Fourth, am I a complete believer in indie publishing? Yes, for me, now. But not for all writers.

Some writers will not be able to handle the responsibility of taking control of their own work. Some need the pretend protection of being taken care of by agents and traditional publishers. No issue by me.

Fifth, do I believe electronic publishing will only make paper books a small part of publishing? Maybe in 50 years. But not in ten or twenty.

Bookstores are still going to be around for a long time and indie publishers need to learn how to drive their books to those bookstores now that traditional publishers have released the hold on their distribution systems.  It is very, very simple, actually. (I will write about that in a coming chapter or two in Think Like a Publisher series.)

The Discussion

I agreed with most of what Barry and Joe were talking about in their long discussion I linked to above. In fact, I kept underlining areas in the paper print-out I did of their discussion (yeah, I know, sort of ironic, huh?). In fact, I found myself agreeing completely with both of them far, far more than I expected to. I’m not sure who should be more worried, Joe and Barry or me? (grin)

A couple areas I agree so much I said, “Yes!” loud enough to turn heads in the restaurant where Kris and I were reading. One such area was when Joe said, “In other words, the more stories and novels you have available, the more you’ll sell.”

And Barry responded with, “Gotta just jump in here to point out the significance of this: It means that a writer’s best promoting tool is once again her writing. Advertising costs money. New stories make money.”

And then Barry Eisler went on to say, “Now, with digital books, once again there’s no more profitable use of an author’s time than writing.”

That sound familiar folks?? (grin)

But I have a slightly different take on a few areas that I want to be clear about (beyond Joe and my thinking on pricing).

First, I do not believe traditional publishing will quickly be marginalized. But I have zero doubt that it has to change and change quickly, and so far the moves traditional publishing has been making are not good ones. That I agree with. Completely. And the traditional publishers who do start moving will survive and those that hold old lines will soon be gone.

But I am back a few steps from the feeling that both Barry and Joe seem to have about all books in the future being electronic. Maybe in the distant future, but not in the next ten  to twenty years. And paper books will always be around, as they say. But I feel that indie publishers will be driving the paper books more than both Barry and Joe talked about. Indie publishers will quickly start catching onto ways to drive their POD books to indie stores. (I did it as an indie publisher in 1987 with Pulphouse. It is not hard. Honest.)

Both Barry and Joe have had no reason to pay attention at this point to that area. Joe has just been putting his books up on CreateSpace like it’s an electronic site and ignoring them, for the most part, instead of taking some of the good qualities of traditional publishing and incorporating them into his indie publishing program and driving his paper books to the paper readers. I am sure he will change that with time.

How is this done in a short sentence? Same as traditional publishers do it. Book catalogs. A book catalog out of an indie press, mailed to the ABA list of top indie stores with decent discounts will drive more books than can be imagined. With no real extra work. Barry Eisler has a lot of readers that may switch from paper to electronic to read his next book, of that I have no doubt. Or they may order his POD book through Amazon. But thousands of independent bookstores will want to have his next paper book on their shelves as well. And that’s a key factor both Joe and Barry seemed to play down.

So Joe and Barry, for your paper-reading fans, just because you are going indie publishing and electronic focus, don’t ignore us.

I will be talking about how to do that in detail in the Think Like a Publisher series, so hang on, folks.

Second, Joe thinks that agents will start being publishers and taking a percentage. Everyone here knows how I feel about giving a percentage of any kind of your property for day labor. (Such as giving the gardner a percentage of your house for trimming a hedge.) That’s back into the area that Kris talked about, the “must be taken care of” aspect of writers’ belief systems.

How to avoid this: As Barry said he did with his short story. Pay a day job labor fee to have someone for a set price do the things you don’t want to learn how to do yourself, such as covers and launching and so on. One time fee. No issue.  My opinion is that a writer should never pay anyone a percentage of their property that lasts for the life of the publication.  Joe, we can talk about this area later, and will. Stay tuned, folks. (grin)


Beyond those two minor points, I agreed completely with what both Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler were saying.

And I want to commend Barry Eisler on the pure guts and being the first of the bigger advance writers to jump.

One more belief, folks for the record. I think this is a turning point. A major one.

Just as last month Amanda Hocking helped writers understand that real money, meaning half-million per month and more, could be made indie publishing, Barry Eisler just helped many, many writers snap out of the thinking that traditional publishing is the only way.

Barry, my hope is that between now and the day your book would have been released through traditional publishing, you make four or five times that advance you walked away from. And had fun doing it.

So once more, thank you Joe Konrath, for leading this charge and making writing a ton more fun for all of us. And thank you Barry Eisler, for the strong signal to both traditional publishing and the rest of us that this is a way worth going.

Have I said lately how much fun this new world is?

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52 Responses to Barry Eisler Turns Down Major Deal

  1. James A. Ritchie says:

    I honestly don’t understand the logic of Konrath or Eisler. Yes, Eisler will make a lot of money in the short trun, but I think he’s screwing himself out of millions in the long term.

    Eisler and Konrath honestly make no sense to me at all, and always seem to be comparing apples to oranges. The truth is Eiesler, if not Konrath, could have both apples and oranges, but he’s simply too short-sighted to see this.

    This new world is going to work out well for a few, but not for very many, and it’s going to hurt a lot of writers. My guess is Eisler will be one of those harmed long term, but even if not, his example is just not sane for most writers to follow.

    This is a crazy, ground floor, no one knows what will happen world, but I see no evidence at all that it’s anything other than a ground floor world where only a few are going to benefit very much before stabilization comes. Many are going to be left out in the cold, and even many of those who are doing very well right now are going to suffer once this world settles down into its final form.

    I also believe this this book of theirs is going to lead a lot of new writers down a dead end path, and kill every chance they have for a writing career.

    • dwsmith says:

      Well, James, I don’t agree. As I’m sure you can tell. (grin)

      I don’t think that the publishing industry will collapse. In fact I’m sure it won’t. That’s just silly.

      But it’s going to take writers like Konrath and Eisler and many others standing up to traditional publishers to turn this ship and get writers back into a position where they can get decent deals and be treated in a fair manner.

      So if Eisler can remain a Times bestseller, can furnish books to his fans, and can keep a larger percentage of his rights and control of his books, I see no harm at all. None.

      • dwsmith says:

        And James, what kind of stabilization do you see coming? Clearly you are seeing something I am not, and I’m not sure how anyone can be left out in the cold as you said. Puzzled about both those. More please on what you are seeing that I am not.

  2. B.C. Young says:

    This is amazing. It really does show how things have changed.

  3. With the exception of a few form letters saying, in effect, ‘we don’t believe we can place your work with a publisher at this time’, the majority of the responses I received from Agents to my queries were ‘we’re over booked, too busy and wouldn’t possibly have the time to look at your work’ types of responses.

    I think I’m doing them a favor. I’ll still pay for the editors and get professional artists to work on my covers (from now on), and they won’t have to take 15% of my money. I’ll be in the market, selling something, which is more than I would if I waited for them to find some time to read my submissions.

    I don’t even like that word, submission. It’s like I’m asking their permission to publish.

    The market levels. If you write well, you will sell. If you don’t, you’ll get reviews like this:

    Great post. Thanks.


  4. Alexa says:

    Great artical Dean, I read the original piece too and think the importance of this is going to be missed on a lot of people (my friends certainly didn’t understand my excitement when I talked to them about what Amanda Hocking has achieved).

    I write a lot of short stories, and until now have always thought the only way I can make money off them is entering competitions. But with the self-publishing option I’m now wondering if this would be a better option? Or is it worth entering competitions as well to “get a name for youself”?

    Though I love what’s happening in the self-publishing world it has confused me (and doubtless others!) about what the best option is as a newbie wanting to make a career out of writing.

  5. “I honestly don’t understand the logic of Konrath or Eisler. Yes, Eisler will make a lot of money in the short trun, but I think he’s screwing himself out of millions in the long term.”

    Can you explain how this works?

    I can understand the argument that you think that he will not make enough money in the long run to overtake the short-run advance that he gave up. That makes sense.

    But most of the money made in publishing is made in the first year. Thereafter, there’s a tiny number of backlist sales–increasing with digital sales. And there’s no question on digital sales that 70% is > 14.9%. I can’t imagine a world in which authors can make more than 70% through a publisher.

    If Barry’s book is available forever and making sales forever, at some point he will make more self-publishing. The only question is whether it’s worth it, accounting for the time/value of money.

    • dwsmith says:

      Courtney, Eisler is going to make a ton more money in both the short term and the long term.

      Here is how it works: In the next month or two, Barry will put up his book himself, with some basic promotion for his major fans. He won’t give away 15%, he’ll pay for the upfront cover costs or do most of it himself. So suddenly he’s got a large percentage of his readers who will get his book early, at 70% for him. His numbers are so large, he’ll recoup the money he gave up long, long before he even would have gotten it from a traditional publisher.

      (I do not know the exact details of the deal he turned down, but normally, on a deal that size, the payments are split into 4ths or 5ths. He would get 1/5th on signing, 1/5th on approval of proposal, 1/5th on turn-in, 1/5th on acceptance, and 1/5th on publication. So to get the half million, it would have been spread out of 18 months at least. (Payments are often two or three months delayed after trigger point.)

      Assume it takes him 6 months to get the book out electronically and POD. So he’s got a year’s jump on the publication of the book the other way. My sense is he’ll make well over a million in that six months and then indie publishing is not in the produce model (the book doesn’t get pulled from the shelf in two weeks), so it will continue to earn on and on for years as more fans find the book. He could earn five to ten times with just his normal fan base going this way than staying with St. Martins and losing the control.

      It was a gutsy, against trend, but at the same time a stunningly good business decision that more than likely saved his career.

  6. EF Kelley says:

    I like the E-stributor concept posed in the text. If all the necessary functions provided by a legacy publisher could be obtained from one agency at a good price (and without asking for a royalty), I’d consider it carefully. Borders is attempting something of the sort (in fact, I think I saw the initial link on this blog), but they’re asking for cash up-front plus 25%.

    Ah, here it was. Michael Stackpole’s article: with his awesome quote: “You do not pay a royalty to anyone who is doing day-labor.” A solid point.

    I really believe that the form of distribution will eventually be determined by the customer, largely because books have varying values to each individual. I’ve read books that have changed my life. I’ve given them to friends who found them ‘okay.’ That’s certainly to be expected. Where I adore my Patrick O’Brian hardbacks, others might read them once and never think of them again.

    Thus, I think distribution will start at the electronic form. You pay $2.99 and you get the raw data. You want that in audio? Make it $9.99. Paperback? $7.99. Hardback? $29.99. Gorgeous leather-bound ‘ponderous tome’ edition? $49.99. And anyone that buys your work at that price will feel they got a good deal, because they had their choice of format. The book meant $X to them, so that’s what they paid.

    A colleague of mine who is very leery of self-publishing and the electronic format in general pointed out to me that ‘even in Star Trek, Picard still read from a printed book’. I reminded her that he could walk to the replicator and say ‘Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’, hot’ and have it appear in seconds. I have to fight the urge to tell my Kindle to ‘make it so’.

    • dwsmith says:


      Barry and Joe and I have a great discussion about the e-stributor concept as Joe called it. As you can tell in my blog, I didn’t much like the idea, so this weekend we got talking about it and we all kept that as well for a future release. Stay tuned. We didn’t convince each other, but the discussion was a blast.

  7. I don’t think I could turn down a half a million, and I’m someone who is having a lot of success as an indie writer. I fought the gatekeepers for years with a series of near misses and finally gave up two months ago and put my unsold novels online. I’m already making close to 5,000 a month and should have three or four more novels up by the end of the year.

    But 500,000 is a big gamble. I’ve seen some solid writers with a track record who have put their books out independently and haven’t been successful. Nobody like Barry Eisler, but still. The independent path is not a guaranteed path to success, even for someone with talent. A half a million is guaranteed, even if it cuts you off from the potential to make a million. It’s kind of like the Deal or No Deal decision and once the number gets big enough, it might make more sense to take the banker’s offer and walk.

    • dwsmith says:

      Michael, it really wasn’t as big a gamble as some people think it was. Barry has built an audience, a solid one, that love his books. Even if he can only reach a quarter of them, he’ll make a ton more money.

      And what all beginning writers don’t know is that New York is not a guarantee that a career will survive, even at that number. Sure, he gets a half million, but then St. Martins can’t figure out how to market it (they are known for having one of the worst marketing departments on the planet. They once told one writer, not kidding, that there was no point sending a book to the midwest because there were no black people in the midwest. And they were serious.)

      So sure, Barry could have gotten the half million and then had St. Martins kill his career and there where would he be? Folks, I hate to burst a bubble, but traditional publishing, especially in these times, is not a guaranteed anything. Never has been, but it’s worse, much worse now.

  8. Elijah Joon says:

    He’s still crazy. Then again, he already has a following, so it won’t be surprising for him to turn mucho profit outta this.

  9. J. R. Tomlin says:

    Actually, I think you got it in one word, Dean: “Wow!”

  10. J. R. Tomlin says:

    Would be nice if you added a twitter feed to your page for those of us who are lazy. ;-)

    • dwsmith says:

      Don’t I have that, J.R.?? I have something with Twitter up in the right corner of my front page. Or is that something different? Okay, Luddite in me talking there. (grin)

  11. SL Clark says:

    I don’t know how my author found this resource, but WOW, between you and Seth Godin…. Thanks for making available to everyone exactly what I’m thinking. ;-)))

    For the upcoming Indie Bookstore piece(s), how do you deal with returns. My hope is this will become a DOA practice. I don’t want to be bankroll other businesses.

    FWIW, my authors are happy with the deals I’ve put on the table; along the lines of revenue sharing, instead of IP abduction.

    -SL Clark
    CEO Heart Press

    • dwsmith says:

      SL, yes, I will deal with returns. And the practice is slowly, slowly headed toward DOA, but the ambulance is moving awfully slow. (grin…sorry, horrid extension of that metaphor.) The key is back to pricing and percentages offered to the stores and shipping costs. All coming soon. I got to work toward it in the series.

  12. Mark says:

    Turning down a half million. That’s a high roller there. I’d have trouble turning down $20 and a used piece of chewing gum.

    I think paper books will be around for some time also, but I think they will be marginalized in fewer than ten years — especially for fiction, which I think represents the majority of ebook sales right now. Fiction is easier to do on e-readers than non-fiction with all those tables, charts, graphs, and pictures.

    I have no idea what the big publishers will be like once ebook revenue is more important than paper book revenue. I suppose they will really attack the ebook market.

    They will have to give writers better splits of the revenue though. That 75/25 split won’t fly.

    • dwsmith says:

      Mark, they are not going to give writers a better split. As e-books push paper back, the publishers who are making the reorganization will slowly come to depend more and more on that 75% in their favor split to keep the doors open.

      And they will not have a shortage of writers, not for decades, because as someone said, even Hocking, who is making a half million a month, is thinking of taking a deal. That’s the myth of big publishing and writers feeling they need the stamp of approval. The writers like me or Joe or Barry, who understand that myth will be the ones moving away from New York. And we are not the first by a long, long ways. But there are tons of really, really good writers who “want to be taken care of” by agents and traditional publishers, so there will never be a shortage of writers.

      And thus the war between writers I see coming is setting up. And over the next ten years, this ain’t going to be pretty… Sigh…

      I have already today seen Barry called a lot of names as his decision threatened a “want to be taken care of” writer’s belief system.

  13. Mark says:

    Whoa. Holy Irony, Batman. Amanda Hocking close to $1M deal with traditional publishers.

    • dwsmith says:

      Yeah, and another myth grabs a writer and shakes her. With luck, the deal will have limitations that will allow her to continue her normal path, but tossing a million bucks for four books at a writer who is making a half million a month is more of a way to slow her down. She scares hell out of traditional publishers and they will toss a lot of money to take her out of the picture. The problem is she is only 23 and always wanted a traditional career and doesn’t have the belief system or the business knowledge of a Barry Eisler. (In other words, she’s swimming in myths.) And her agent (why she hired an agent is a mystery to me as well) is an idiot. Sadly, I see this only turning out poorly. Bummer. I hope like hell I am wrong.

  14. And speaking of make it so, I’d like a quality POD machine (capable of producing a paperback of equal or greater quality to the shelved paperbacks) in my local B&N. I’d like it to print whatever book I discovered via Kindle browsing and decided “you know, I like this so much that I’d like to be able to read it after the zombie apocalypse comes and there is no way to recharge my Kindle.”

    I don’t actually expect the zombie apocalypse, but I’m still not ditching paper.

    At any rate, this is about authors deciding what’s right for their books. Just to make the example personal, I am completely not seeing how my self-pubbing a serial will “kill every chance [I] have for a writing career.”

    • dwsmith says:

      Kathleen, they are working toward that, but not there yet in cost per book and speed of printing. But getting closer.

      And self-pubbing anything won’t hurt your chances with traditional publishing in any way these days. Not in the slightest, and more than likely will help it if you build a following. But of course, if you build a following, then traditional publishing is going to have to toss a lot of money at you.

  15. Annie R says:

    This business has certainly gotten a lot more interesting in the last couple of days. I read Konrath’s blog last night after you linked to it on Twitter, and then I read your blog. I imagine I’ll be reading a lot more about Eisler’s decision in the weeks to come. I can’t wait to see how this all shakes out, and whether other NYT bestsellers follow his lead.

    One thing I do want to mention is how energizing the current climate is for writers, and especially for me. No longer do I have a limited number of places to market my stories. If my story isn’t a fit for traditional markets for whatever reason, it still has the potential to earn its keep rather than sit forgotten in a drawer, gathering dust.

    What an incentive that is to keep writing! To try new things. New voices. New techniques. New genres. And, strangely enough, to keep sending these new things to traditional markets because I know that those traditional markets aren’t the only game in town anymore.

    • dwsmith says:

      Annie, spot on. And that’s how I feel. I am going back to loved characters that I thought were long dead ten and fifteen years ago because traditional publishing didn’t want them anymore. I am writing stories such as My Socks Rolled Down that I never would have thought of writing just a year ago because of no place to sell it. And so on and so on. I also am feeling free for the first time since I was a beginning writer. And that’s a lot of years now. (grin)

      So I agree completely. This new world, the one that got a real shake today, is wonderful for writers and being creative. I wonder how traditional publishing had managed to put such a clamp on our minds. Stunning.

  16. Jeff Ambrose says:

    All of this just blows my mind and makes me wonder about beginning writers who WOULDN’T at least try self-publishing just to see what it’s like and if it’s right for them. The few forums I’ve jumped on the past few weeks (not the Kindle Boards) have really opened my eyes to a.) how much I’ve changed as a writer with regards to the myths and b.) just how many beginning writers are influenced by the myths. Wow, what an education!

    And for someone like myself, who has never been traditionally published, my experience with indie publishing has been exactly like that of Annie R’s and Dean’s — namely, I no longer feel limited by what I can write. I just write, and publish, and move on to the next story, and whatever happens, happens.

    It’ll be interesting for me to see what I do in 2012 when I return to submitting short fiction to the magazines. Will I still feel that freedom? Or will I feel that I’ve let others into my office (as Dean once described it)?

    What a great road to be on right now. I love it, looking forward to the journey, and I’m having blast!

  17. “I am going back to loved characters that I thought were long dead ten and fifteen years ago because traditional publishing didn’t want them anymore.”

    I had to kill two series because publishers wouldn’t take a chance on them. My agent at the time believed in them but publishers didn’t think the specific sub-genre would sell, because one book of that type had recently bombed, a reason that still mystifies me. (Yeah, okay, the first book of the first series needed work but it was my first novel.) They said nice things about the books, though. I will be self-publishing these soon. Finally, I can tell the stories I want to tell. I know they’re decently written and I can let readers decide they’re worth instead.

  18. “I have already today seen Barry called a lot of names as his decision threatened a “want to be taken care of” writer’s belief system.”

    Sadly, I am certain this is going to get pretty nasty soon, with a number of authors complaining about indie publishing ruining traditional publishing and so forth. Sort of like the animosity between picketers and those who cross the line. Obviously not exactly like that, but I think those wanting to be taken care of will see it this way.

  19. David, I think you’re right that it will get ugly, but only somewhat right as to why.

    There are many people who have decided, in many cases with open eyes, that traditional/legacy/whatever publishing offers them the best deal. The “best” deal doesn’t always mean money. It could mean time, or education, or a dream. Whatever. It doesn’t matter to me, because what I prioritize isn’t what everyone else prioritizes.

    Those people do not appreciate being told that they are ignorant, or worse, for making a thoughtful decision. Kind of like the way indies don’t appreciate being told that self-publishing is only for people who couldn’t get a real deal, neh?

    I don’t see why I can’t do both. For *me,* at *my* point in my career, both make sense – and I’m not ignorant. I don’t care to be called names, either directly or by implication, on either side of the equation.

    Not saying you did that, David, just saying I see where the anger is coming from.

    • dwsmith says:


      I use both sides, to be honest. And so does my wife, Kris. We are fast and we know the advantages of both sides, both indie and traditional and are doing both at the moment. But I tell you, the indie side is making a ton more sense to me these days. And I am floating that way.

      Does that mean I won’t continue to sell traditionally? Nope. But to be honest, now instead of me jumping through hoops for traditional publishers, they have to jump through them for me. And honestly, that’s the way it should always have been.

      Thus the danger of a monopoly. The monopoly has been broken and that’s making some people who have a vested interest in the old path angry. And it makes those who are out on an edge fighting against the monopoly and going it on their own also angry at those who are critical instead of supportive.

      But I will stand by something I said. Writers, for the most part, are the dumbest class of humans allowed to play in business. For the most part. And any writer who makes a blind decision, without knowledge to defend one side or the other is just an idiot. I don’t care which side they are defending. And idiot is an idiot.

  20. EF Kelley says:

    I’ve even seen the term ‘Indie Publisher’ under attack, calling it a ‘blatant attempt to add legitimacy to self-publishing.’ Granted, this wasn’t from any big name, big publisher, or big agent, but from writers who don’t want to take on the publisher mantle.

    It felt specious and forced to me, and very much in with the ‘fight you’ portion of Ghandi’s famous quote. Shot are already being fired in the Writer’s Rebellion.

  21. Kathleen, I doubt the traditionally published writers who have made a thoughtful decision about their path will be the ones making angry tirades on the internet. (Which is seemingly, I realize, one-third of the internet’s purpose.) More like the ones who are desperately afraid of change. And anger at being targeted by pro-indies would, of course, be justified.

    There is, of course, some anger at the traditional system from many unpublished writers. I am not one of those, largely because I’ve met a number of editors and a few agents and have found them to be exceedingly decent people. I have some gripes with the system, but no hatred or anger.

    I, too, am moving in both worlds. I have an agent reading my YA book at the moment. My current plan is traditional for my YA/MG books and indie for my adult books, though that could change. Mostly, it’s because I’m not certain indie is viable for middle grade books yet.

    • dwsmith says:

      David, very good plan in my opinion. I also am not sure about middle grade yet solid for indie. And traditional publishers handle that area very well.

  22. E F Kelly wrote: [Borders is attempting something of the sort (in fact, I think I saw the initial link on this blog), but they’re asking for cash up-front plus 25%.”
    Ah, here it was. Michael Stackpole’s article: with his awesome quote: “You do not pay a royalty to anyone who is doing day-labor.” A solid point.]

    Great article, thanks for pointing it out. And the comments were extraordinary. A couple of people really took Stackpole to task for being critical of this Borders program, a funnily neither one of them seem to have noticed what Stackpole was being critical *about*: Namely the 25% cut and not the flat fee.

    We need a new rule about money for this new world. I propose: “Percentages flow to the writer.” Writers/publishers get paid a percentage of gross from the retailer. Designers, formatters, POD printers, (and for conventional publishing contracts) IP lawyers, a paid a fee.

  23. Dean, I didn’t mean to imply that I was arguing there was no short-term advantage. I haven’t done a half-million dollar deal, but I have done a six-figure one, and I know what the payout looks like–and I didn’t see a cent until seven months after the handshake, and didn’t get the final payment until a year and a half after that.

    I just meant that saying that this is bad in the long-term seems like the worst of the arguments to make.

    • dwsmith says:

      Courtney, oh, I am agreeing with you completely. That quote you put up in your first response wasn’t from me, that’s for sure. (grin) I think Barry is going to make a ton more money in the short term and even more in the long term. As you clearly know, most money traditionally is made in a very small slice of time. I personally think that having lots and lots of time for a book to sell is much better than limiting the sales window to a couple of weeks. And getting a much higher percentage for all the short and long term sales will make the money so much higher as well.

      So I think we are saying the same thing. (grin)

  24. @David: You’re right about the purpose of the internet. Well, mostly. Altogether, it’s about rage, porn, and lolcats. ;)

    @DWS: FWIW, I’ve been lurking regularly here because your posts, screeds and comments don’t feel insulting. ;) Your posts sound all hardassed, but down here in the comment trenches you’re respectful to individuals.

    It’s also about information. I’m not an idiot for stepping into a pothole that I didn’t see. I’m an idiot if I step into a pothole clearly marked with traffic cones and a sign.

    At any rate, I didn’t mean to imply that either of you were part of the problem yesterday, just that the conversation in many places was overheating and I had a solid guess as to why.

  25. Thanks for the sober analysis! Konrath and Eisler are definitely making some big waves here, but I’m with you–traditional publishing isn’t going to go dark like a burned out lightbulb. Hollywood somehow managed to survive when it had to divest itself of movie theatres, and then weathered the videotape, DVD, and streaming media assaults. They make a lot less money here in the US, but they still rake it in by the tons in the foreign markets… and in home video sales.

    I think the traditional pubs will snap out of it and realign their business. After all, the alternative is bankruptcy.

    • dwsmith says:

      Exactly, Stephen. And we all want them to survive, otherwise we lose one of our alternatives when we are making choices in how to market our work to readers.

  26. Nancy Beck says:

    I’ve even seen the term ‘Indie Publisher’ under attack, calling it a ‘blatant attempt to add legitimacy to self-publishing.’ Granted, this wasn’t from any big name, big publisher, or big agent, but from writers who don’t want to take on the publisher mantle.

    Yup, I’ve seen it.

    And I think we frequent the same writers’ board (because I think I’ve seen you post there).

    Why is it that people don’t see this as a win-win for writers? That there’s now a choice?

  27. Lee Rogers says:

    Trad publishers will make a move soon, that’s for sure . . . but I can’t see what it might be that will make much difference.

    Lower prices maybe, better commissions, better deals, erights to the writer (I don’t think so).

    I agree with Dean that there is room to market POD more effectively.

  28. EF Kelley says:

    Nancy, it was on which has a really exceptional forum, full of pros, semi-pros, agents, editors, and newbies. To say I was shocked to see the flames of war being fanned by writing professionals is to understate the case by a thousand times. Then I remembered that we’re all humans, and it didn’t surprise me as much.

    • dwsmith says:

      And remember, there are numbers of posts I don’t let through here. If you are critical of another writer, it doesn’t belong on this blog. This is a writer learning and support blog, not a stupid flamewar blog. And I get to be the dictator. (grin)

  29. Ramon Terrell says:

    Very very enlightening! The more I’ve been researching and reading these and other blogs, the more excited I get! The freedom to create what we want is just liberating. Also, I believe it is a healthy thing that now the audience has more say in what is successful and what they want to consume. This is how it should be. There is room for both big publishing and indie. (assuming big publishing gets its head out of its a$$ and stop ticking off their audience and content providers) Either way, it seems to me that its a win win for writers.

    One thing that is still eluding me is cover art. I’ve been trying to follow you on this but it is still escaping me. Since i write fantasy, I need characters on my covers, etc. (No drawing talent)

    I know this is on aside of the subject, but its at least remotely related. *grins sheepishly*

    • dwsmith says:

      Ramon, lots of Royalty Free art sites with great art that you can buy rights to use for $3.00 to $20.00. They you have to learn PowerPoint or a program like that to do the covers and save them as a jpg. No issue, really, and fun. But it takes time to learn what a professional cover looks like. Study bestselling covers on the stands.

  30. Megs says:

    Per your answer to Ramon: I too would like to know about those. In a later chapter on covers maybe? How to find a professional cover designer (if you can’t recognize professional, how do you know you aren’t just paying someone for a lousy job — I know, but I study covers and read books at an insane pace), how to find art/photos (I know photos, but art? not so much), and how to DIY?

  31. Good points. I wouldn’t call Amanda Hocking’s agent an idiot, though. I’d call him a diabolic genius (although a self-serving one). She self-pubs, he gets zilch. She signs a million plus, he makes six figures. And thus a myth lives. But I’ll bet she leaves up her self-pub and still takes the million, so there’s no real loss to her, as she writes rapidly. You could even argue it’s a good business move to reach two different audiences (though again, with the long tail, the finances may not be as favorable)

    I know of three 99-cent indie authors hitting the Kindle top 100 who got sharked by agents, and it’s that lure of “legitimacy” that clouds these writers’ brains–they simply cannot see how being taken out of the market is going to hurt them, not help.

    But the rules are becoming more flexible–one was allowed to keep her self-pub up even after signing a deal for that book. Innovative authors, writers, and agents will co-exist successfully. I just don’t think many will be innovative.

    Scott Nicholson

    • dwsmith says:

      Scott, oh, I hope I didn’t call her agent an idiot. He’s not. He’s one of the best in romance, actually, and has many bestsellers on his list. And yeah, he’s going to make a ton of money. Again, very smart.

      And it is very smart for Hocking to go both traditional and indie. That I agree with, if she keeps doing both.

      And yup, if her real reason was more time, she would have just hired a team. I could have done any of her novel covers in about fifteen minutes each and I’m just learning covers.

  32. As a legacy published author, this pretty much scares the shit out of me, but at the same time it, oddly enough, gives me a feeling of power.

    I keep hearing the argument that if you go with a legacy publisher, you’ll have the benefit of their marketing department, publicity folk, editors, etc. Yes, you do, to a point, depending on the publisher. Some work hard for their authors, while some let their authors (perhaps due to the sheer volume of books being released) twist in the wind. The mid-listers are often ignored. The higher your advance, the more attention you’ll get.

    No matter what house you’re with, however, nowadays they expect their authors to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the promotion department. Blogs. Facebook. Twitter. Conferences. Tours on your own dime, etc.

    So, in essence, you’re already doing a lot of the grunt work even if you have a traditional pub deal. And anything you need help with, like editing, cover art, copy editing, you can easily farm out for a reasonable amount of money.

    As much as I enjoy the legacy publishing experience, and don’t regret a moment of it, I can certainly see the argument to go indie. If for no other reason than that feeling of CONTROL. Something writers haven’t had for a while.

    • dwsmith says:

      The feeling of control is wonderful, I can tell you that. And not having someone, agent or editor, in my office, looking over my shoulder as I write is also great. I still do both “legacy” (traditional) publishing and indie publishing and at the moment I’m having a ton more fun indie publishing. I’m going to keep doing both and suggesting people do both into the future until indie publishing settles in a little. Things are just moving too fast on both sides to commit fully either direction at the moment. Which honestly, is also freeing. (grin)

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