Wednesday, May 25, 2011

BEA 2011 Day Three

The big news today is that Barry Eisler isn't self publishing his next John Rain book.

Barry Eisler announced today during his presentation at Publishers Launch Conference, an event held alongside BEA, that he has signed "within the hour" a deal with Thomas and Mercer, the new crime imprint at Amazon.

In response to the moderator's question, Eisler also revealed he was receiving an advance "comparable to the one offered by Minotaur" which is widely rumored to be near $500,000.

Eisler said the print royalties were commensurate with what he'd have received in his contract at Minotaur and the ebook royalty rates were much higher, near 70% (a percentage of what exactly was not specified.)

I'm sure there will be more complete reports in trades tonight.  Keep an eye out for scheduled pub date: one thing Eisler was dissatisfied with was how long it took "traditional publishers" to publish a book.

I'm keeping a very close eye on a couple things: the reaction from Minotaur; the reaction from Dan Conaway; and what term Eisler will now use to describe Amazon since "legacy publisher" appears to describe everyone else.


Critinka said...

This news makes me feel like going...huuuurrr?

So the self-publishing Kool-aid should only be served until Amazon comes along, offering up their mystery drink? Was this, in the end, just about ebook royalties? Not to say that that's insignificant, but what happened to all that talk about creative control? About "legacy" publishers not paying attention/valuing their authors?

When JA Konrath announced he'd signed a deal with Thomas and Mercer last week, he seemed to indicate that he hadn't signed a deal with a traditional publishing company (so no need to eat his words about never signing with one again). Amazon, apparently, is not a traditional publisher and it operates in a way that puts them in their own category (whatever that may be called). But funny enough, that category looks like it will include advances and it will be hiring people like Larry Kirshbaum to run things. Nothing traditional about that, eh?

Professional or not, this news makes me roll my eyes.

Unknown said...

Actually, I think Eisler made a wise decision. If Amz is offering a print deal (which they can surely do cheaper than if Eisler used CreateSpace) PLUS eBook royalties close to 70% then it's pretty much a no-brainer. That eBook royalty is going to make a HUGE difference.

So, actually, yes. This IS about eBook royalties. The difference between 70% to the author and 14% to the author is more than enough to mean an author will make more money ePubbing only. That's especially true with eBooks becoming a bigger and bigger share of books sold. As noted above, if you add in a royalty that's close to that 70%...

It's not "professional publishing" vs. self=-publishing" it's how best to make a living with your writing.

For established authors and authors with rights to their backlist titles, self-publishing isn't something to scoff at. I don't fault Eisler for a second for making the best financial decision.

Eisler's decision was a financial one. He's a writer and writers want to make a living at their profession.

Unknown said...

I should add that self-pubbing isn't to be scoffed at for any writer, but already traditionally published authors should be looking at self-pubbing as a way to make more money than they've been able to in the past.

Barry Eisler said...

Critinka, thanks for your thoughts. But why do you assume I gave up creative control? Or that my decision was just about ebook royalties? Have you read my contract? Along with my mind?

And while in my experience it's true that legacy publishers don't pay sufficient attention to and don't sufficiently value their authors, I would also say that if this insufficiency is the measure of legacy publishing, Amazon strikes me as anything but a legacy publisher. Beyond that, I don't think I've heard of a legacy publisher that's also a powerhouse retailer. But I don't know; it might be, as you suggest, that a legacy publisher is simply a company that pays advances and hires Larry Kirshbaum to run things, and that's all there is to it. I'm fairly new to these new publishing models, and I'm still trying to figure things out.


ryan field said...

"one thing Eisler was dissatisfied with was how long it took "traditional publishers" to publish a book."

I think most writers would agree with him on this.

Anita said...

Woo-hoo, Barry showed up! I love this blog!

Critinka said...


My comment was a bit premature as well as clumsy, but color me shocked at yours. I read it as kind of snide, though the internet makes it hard to interpret sometimes.

I obviously have not read your contract--or your mind for that matter, jeez--which is why I put it in question form. Sure the way I phrased the questions might have suggested the answer (clumsy, as I said), but they were still questions and could have easily been answered, their suggestiveness refuted.

After the thousands and thousands of words--many of them yours--all over the internet about your recent decision to turn down a big deal with a traditional publisher in order to self-publish, I'd think you'd expect a certain amount of speculation over your new move. As well as eye-rolling or nay-saying or whatever you want to call it. I think you'll be pretty busy if you personally respond to all of those.

I will say that much of my tone in my first comment was influenced--rightly or wrongly--by the skepticism I feel at the idea that Amazon is completely unlike traditional publishers or that they will remain that way. But as I'm sure you'd agree given your comment, what do I know?

Whatever else, I'm sincere when I say good luck to you Barry!

Critinka said...

It's interesting to me that my response to Barry's comment was deleted. I think the day job makes me forget sometimes that not everyone enjoys the thrill of disagreement--and buying their adversary a drink after.

Ah well. I hope this one won't be deleted b/c I do still want to wish Barry good luck! Regardless of how it's published, I'm still looking forward to the next John Rain book.

Janet Reid said...

It wasn't deleted. It got tagged as spam by the comment filter. I rescued it.

Melissa said...

Well, apparently I live under a pile of rocks, because I didn’t even know that Amazon had a crime imprint. So I tweeted (twittered?) Porter Anderson, and he sent me a link, and I find out that Amazon has five --?

Okay, so I live in a hole piled with rocks. A very deep hole.

I wish I could have been at the BEA conference to hear Mr. Eisler speak about this in person. From strictly a business perspective, it seems like a wise move. And it also makes me wonder about what Amazon will look like in one or two years.

David said...

Another interesting questions is... what retailers will actually carry the book, if they are in competition with Amazon? This is kind of like when supermarkets begin to produce their own brands. Do other supermarkets suddenly rush out to sell their competitor's food? I haven't seen that yet, but I guess if Amazon can get into Walmart, then all is mute.

If self-publishing is a way (in part) for writers to strike back at the big six, then what does it mean when a self-pubbed writer signs with a retailer? Is that the ultimate snub? An even more apparent effort to cut out those publishers? It will be interesting to see if Amazon's publishing effort gains traction. Will its 70% ebook royalty offer hold sway? Will authors with standard publishers begin to see movement in their boilerplates? Because I think we can all agree that the price of putting out an ebook warrants a little more than 14%. It's kind of like writing a 400 page novel and only getting paid for the first 56 pages. I don't know any reader who would be satisfied with only the setup of a story, and I'm pretty sure that neither are writers who are giving away 86%.

So Barry, when does Amazon begin to accept submissions? Will they even take offers from agents, or do they want to work with writers directly. ...I would hope they would work with agents. It's one thing to use Amazon to distribute your ebook. It's another to allow them a greater control in print. How many writers sign with the big six without agents? And of those who do... how does that work out for them? I'm thinking...not very well.

Editorial Anonymous said...

I was curious about your support of books sold at Walmart. Don't your clients have a high-discount clause that cuts their royalties in half?
I mean this in a non-alarmist way, but: a falling tide grounds all ships.

Blogger Assistant1 said...

I'm with a big six publisher, but I personally know a number of authors who have gone through Amazon Encore to publish books and based on what I see, the process for getting books out there is much faster with Amazon. Just a few months as opposed to a year or year and a half. Although I don't think they received advances, I think they got very favorable royalty rates for print and ebooks. And lest we not forget that Amazon's marketing power. They push their own titles big time which will probably mean more sales. So, I can definitely see that if you add an advance on top of that it's an offer you can't refuse. I just wonder how all the Encore offers will feel about the advance and if that will have to become the norm.

Anonymous said...

...what term Eisler will now use to describe Amazon since "legacy publisher" appears to describe everyone else.

"Cooler than you," maybe?

-M the Intern

Author Scott Nicholson said...

The absolute truths of yesterday become the learning experience of today. And I'll bet tomorrow will be different, too.


Unknown said...

Call it what you want, but I believe Barry has pulled off one of the most brilliant marketing campaigns I've ever seen in the writing world. His name is mentioned in almost every article that deals with print vs. ebooks and legacy vs. indie, two subjects that are huge in the industry right now. Barry, I tip my hat to you.

SBJones said...

It is very interesting to read about this as I release my first book.

Ben Campbell Novels said...

I'm pleased and not surprised with the turn of Eisler's events. Ebooks and their counter-part hard copy publications are more than competing against each other, they also complement each other. Fast-read contemporary topics on your ereader then collect the hard copy classics for your library.

Everything is right about freedom of choice and Eisler made the correct decision for himself. Of course money is a concern but speed of book publication is of the essence and ebook publication is instantaneous.

For a writer to wait one to two years for hard copy publication can equate to losing readership, instantaneous publication keeps readers eyes on the writer's ingenuity in storytelling.

For those of us who love reading books, either ebook or hard copy publications is not about giving up reading it's about expanding how and what readers want. The more types of publications the more choices we have to excite our visual senses.

Hard copy books forever, ebooks forever, too.

ryan field said...

I'd hate for people to get the impression that publishing digital books is instantaneous, or that it's less complicated than publishing print books. Yes, things move faster in digital publishing, but there are a lot of people working around the clock non-stop. They don't take summers off anymore. They work sometimes seven days a week well into the night. E-mails fly back and forth at all hours. And I know from personal experience the editing process and cover design process is just as in-depth as any book that's published by a print publisher.

I don't know why "traditional" print publishing always took so long. I've been wondering this for almost twenty years. But just because digital publishing is faster and books are released more often, it doesn't mean it's easier to do.

Melissa said...


I often wondered the same thing about traditional publishing. My experience has been in the newspaper and magazine world. If print and distribution can be pulled off every 24 hours or 31 days, what exactly accounts for the lag time in the book world? I don’t blame authors for feeling rather put out. I certainly would be.

A lot of the books released these days seem as though they were written before the recession/depression; the subject matter is wildly inappropriate. “In the sheltered, gated community of Pyrite Village, three housewives share each other’s darkest secrets – secrets that could destroy lives.” Can anyone tell my why a book like this is going to gather dust?

Sandra Cormier said...

In my inexperience, I believe traditional publishing takes so long because the publisher has a long queue of books in which each title must receive the attention and buzz it deserves as it it released, since they invested so much in it.

That's my take, anyway.

Do agents submit their clients' books to these Amazon imprints, just like with traditional publishers?

And yes, will these titles show up in, for example, my local Chapters bookstore?

I love Barry's writing and I'm very happy for his success, but I'd be disappointed if I didn't see his books ranged across a bookshelf while shopping downtown.

Robin Sullivan said...

Thomas and Mercer is moving fast...very fast. My take is they saw Barry's self-publishing announcement and saw an opportunity to pull in a NYT best selling author. They are not pussy-footing around - and are going at this full-throttle.

If I were to guess...they made the royalty share on ebooks better...and more importantly...the contract more author friendly: more input on creative control, no restrictions on future works, a good or non-existent non-compete. I say this because the people that T&M have signed to date: Eisler, Crouch, and Konrath know what to look for in a contract and no amount of money would make them sign one that restricted them from future income potential.

If any of this is true this is good for authors as other publishers will have to change their contracts in order to compete in such an environment. All it takes is one high profile publisher to change - and then dominoes will start to fall. I've been saying for sometime that self-publishing WILL be good for all authors as even those published will get better terms now that there is a viable alternative. This is just one indication that we might be moving in the right direction.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

CC MacKenzie said...

I am absolutely thrilled with this news. I love Barry's writing.

I've been following Barry and Joe Konrath's take on what's happening for almost a year now and they've certainly opened a debate amongst authors, agents and publishers. Including, the indie bookstores.

They've given a voice to the author and fight for the author's right to be paid in an open and fair way.

By signing with Thomas & Mercer, Barry is giving his readers a choice. E-book or printed version, he is listening to his customer needs. Nothing wrong with that.

You can rant and rave at Amazon all you like, but they are providing an outstanding reader service. Every time a reader buys a book, whether on Kindle or download or printed, they press a button. No point in shooting a company when it's their customers - the reader - who is deciding which way publishing will go. Give the readers what they want and they will stay with you - how hard is that for the big six to understand?

E-publishers will need to raise their game too and pay their authors accordingly. 15% without an advance is a disgrace imho. I realise the 70% offered by Thomas & Mercer is 70% of what? I'm sure Mr Konrath explained it somewhere, but I can't find the link.

Barry & Joe are happy and that says it all to me.

Thank you for posting this Janet.


Anonymous said...

I think that Barry made a smart move. It was a deal that suited him best. Having more creative control was important for him, since a point of contention (with a legacy publisher) was the marketing of him and his books.

Creative factors aside, it seems like a very smart business decision. It affords him the best of both worlds. As the publishing landscape shifts and changes, an author needs to figure out what fits him/her best. There's no right way. There are options.

Great post -- and very interesting comments. ~Ali