Archives for posts with tag: self publishing

This just in from Publisher’s Weekly:

“Bowker released its estimates of print book production for 2013, noting that what they call “traditional” output–which includes self-publishers like CreateSpace, but excludes public domain POD factories like BiblioBazaar — dipped 2 percent from 309,957 titles in 2012 to a projected 304,912 titles in 2013. Despite the decline as compared to the previous year (and general growth in the several years before then) Bowker said the result “points to a relatively stable market for print works despite competition from e-books.”

The public domain business (or what Bowker refers to as “nontraditional” titles) declined far more significantly, to 1,108,183 titles, a decrease of 46 percent from its production of 2,042,840 titles in 2012. It’s important to remember, as we have reminded in the past, that Bowker’s official stats continue to measure only books issued in print form (including print on demand). They still do not tabulate counts for ebooks issued during the year, so the numbers clearly under-represent the actual amount of new volumes coming to market.

Among “traditional” titles, fiction remains the largest single category with 50,000 titles, a slight increase from the previous year, with the broad listing of juveniles second at 33,000 titles, followed by sociology/economics at 29,300 titles.”

What does that mean for you and me?

It’s pretty dire. If you’re a traditionally published author, expect advances, print runs, and publishers’ commitment to you to decline. Get ready to have your series discontinued. I’m sorry to say it, but that’s the way publishing (or any business) is. When sales decline, expenses are cut.

If you’re an independently published author and considering financing a print-on-demand print book, think again. If you don’t know HTML, you’ll have to hire someone who does. If you use CreateSpace, the only place you’ll be able to distribute your books is on Amazon.com, which owns CreateSpace. Not other on-line retailer will list your book (hint: they hate Amazon.com). If you actually do a print run, most independent bookstores won’t stock your book.

As I cautioned you in State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 6: Ebooks Versus Print Books, print books are a very risky business for you.

So there you have it, my friends. Just saying.

Previous Blogs in this Series:

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 1: Introduction https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/03/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-1-introduction-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 2: Who’s Reading? https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/07/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-2-whos-reading-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 3: The Shady Case of Fifty Shades https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/17/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-3-the-shady-case-of-fifty-shades-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 4: The Comet and the Long Tail Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-4-the-comet-and-the-long-tail-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 5: Authors’ Market Share Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/07/02/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-5-authors-market-share-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 6: Ebooks Versus Print Books Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/07/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-6-ebooks-versus-print-books-lisa-mason-sfwapro

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 7: Unlimited or Not Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/08/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-7-unlimited-or-not-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, “Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy,” on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony; Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, five-star rated, “A fantastic collection,” on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo; My Charlotte: Patty’s Story is also on Amazon.com worldwide in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters. Thank you for your readership!

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In a blog Smashwords founder Mark Coker posted earlier this year, he discussed the issues of ebook pricing and royalty percentages among independent authors versus traditionally published authors. I discussed that issue, too, in my “Crunching the Numbers” blogs, the links to which I include below.

So I won’t repeat that material here. The gist of it is: an independent author is able to charge a competitively lower ebook price than a traditional publisher (a traditionally published author has no power to set the price at all). This is because an independent doesn’t have to support a Manhattan skyscraper, the costly print side of the business, or a high-priced staff. I would contend that professional authors (that is, authors previously or presently traditionally published, like me) but first-time and totally independent authors, too, are capable of producing an ebook with the quality (content and appearance) of a traditionally published book.

How does an independent potentially earn more if her ebook is priced lower than a traditionally published ebook? Because the independent earns a 70% royalty of the ebook’s price, as opposed to the 10—25% royalty paid by traditional publishers to their authors.

And traditional authors only earn that amount every six months, and the amount is funneled through the author’s literary agent, which adds yet more wait time. Whereas independents collect their royalties every month (two months after the close of the sales period, but if you earn royalties every month, as I do, that amounts to monthly checks from all the retailer sites on which you list your ebook. Every three months (quarterly) from Smashwords from the numerous e-sites they distribute your book to.)

That’s all well and good. But the question remains: how can independents compete against traditional publishing with its Big Media marketing power?

Mark Coker asserted in his blog that independents are capturing more and more of the market share of ebook earnings. He predicts that independents’ market share of ebook earnings in 2014 could approach 60%. He predicts the independents will capture an increased market share in the years ahead, with independent authors (collectively, mind you) earning half of all ebook sales and four times the amount of royalties earned by traditionally published authors by the year 2020.

For every dollar of ebook revenue earned, the independent author earns 70 cents, whereas the traditional author earns 15 cents.

I appreciate Mark Coker and Smashwords very much, but bear in mind he’s got a vested interest in getting you excited by the prospect of ebooks. He and Smashwords earn money when you list with them.

Mr. Coker admits this assessment doesn’t include traditional advances paid by big publishers to authors and the sad fact that the great majority of advances never “earn out” (earn revenue at those low traditional royalty rates to pay back the advance). This is one of my greatest objections to traditional publishing. Not that the publisher failed to accurately assess the commercial appeal of a book (as Mr. Coker asserts), but that the publisher doesn’t give an author a print-run and media exposure to give the book a fighting chance to earn out.

Mr. Coker also assumes that print books will continue to decline in importance. That may be so, but I still think many avid readers want to hold a glossy book in their hands.

These days, of course, young people are being taught to go to all things digital. It may be that, by 2020, ereaders will more common on the beach or in the park as the print books I continue to see on people’s laps.

Mr. Coker correctly notes the inventory of high-quality ebooks that never go out of print means those books must compete with the steady stream of new releases. Every author—independent and traditional—will be competing for a limited number of avid readers.

Competition has always been fierce in publishing. It will become fiercer.

Mr. Coker sets out 10 reasons why independent authors will capture 50% of the ebook market by 2020. Many of his speculations are assumed in the list. I’ll summarize it here. My comments follow each point in paranthese:

1. Print will continue to decline as more readers transition from page to screen. (That’s a huge speculation.)

2. More brick-and-mortar bookstores will go out of business. (The closure of stores has loomed large in this last decade. But old stores find ways of surviving, people still love their local bookstore, and new stores are slowly cropping up. So I don’t know.)

3. The perceived value of a publisher will decline to traditional authors as print declines. Traditional authors will explore independent publishing. (Absolutely true. Every traditionally published author I know has his/her own publishing company and ebooks for his/her backlist. Including me.)

4. Independent authors have become more professional in producing better books. (Probably true, but a lot of detritus remains out there.)

5. The number of self-published books will explode. (Yep.)

6. Independent authors mentor other independents. (I haven’t seen this at all.)

7. The stigma of self-publishing is vanishing. (Probably true.)

8. Authors are discovering the ease, power, and satisfaction of self-publishing. (Absolutely true, for the reasons I set out above. There are even more reasons I haven’t mentioned.)

9. Readers don’t care who the publisher is. (Probably true, but I can’t say for sure.)

10. Professional writers are becoming more disgusted and alienated by the traditional literary agent/big publisher business model. (Absolutely true.)

All this raises a plethora of other questions. What percentage of the total book market do ebooks represent? The Hatchett Book Group, one of the Big Five Publishers, recently reported that 30% of its billion-dollar earnings in 2013 were from ebooks. That’s a stunning number. A mere four years ago, the percentage was only 10%, at best. So this is real progress. Yet 30% leaves the other 70% of the book market to print books.

That remains not a very good percentage.

The all-important issues of readership and market exposure loom large over independent authors. And the issues of quality of the writing and professionalism. A career path of hybrid publishing looks very promising, and traditional publishers and literary agents are starting to bow to a reality they never wanted to acknowledge before. I’ll address these issues in later blogs.

So there you have it, my friends. The news is good, but still not reason to break out the champagne. Being an author was never a get-rich-quick scheme. It remains a calling requiring your dedication, hard work, talent, and time.

Previous Blogs in this Series:

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 1: Introduction https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/03/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-1-introduction-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 2: Who’s Reading? https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/07/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-2-whos-reading-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 3: The Shady Case of Fifty Shades https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/17/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-3-the-shady-case-of-fifty-shades-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 4: The Comet and the Long Tail Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-4-the-comet-and-the-long-tail-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, “Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy,”on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony; Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, five-star rated, “A fantastic collection,” on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo; My Charlotte: Patty’s Story is also on Amazon.com worldwide in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters. Thank you for your readership!

Your participation really matters. Thank you for your readership!

Hope everyone in the USA is having an enjoyable Memorial Day, honoring our military that serves to protect our principles of freedom and democracy. The San Francisco Bay area was sunny and cool today, one of those perfect crystalline California days.

So it is with some reluctance that I write this. The subject spoils what has been an otherwise enjoyable day for me and my family. I don’t mean to spoil your day, as well, but I’ve been promising this blog for a while. Here goes.

An article, “Blockbuster,” by Kelefa Sanneh appeared in the December 2, 2013 issue of The New Yorker.

This is not exactly breaking news. I’ve got an article in my archives from 1980 (or so) called “The Blockbuster Complex.” The earlier article discusses the case of Judith Krantz, a first-time unknown author, Beverly Hills housewife, and wife of a wealthy movie producer, who wrote a Danielle Steel-style potboiler romance, Scruples. She turned in the manuscript to a big-time literary agent (whom her husband knew), and secured a million-dollar deal. A big-time publisher invested in promoting the book, of course, and it became a bestseller.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read Scruples. But I did read a succeeding Krantz novel, Mistral’s Daughter, based loosely on Pablo Picasso’s life, and I liked it.

The 1980 article bemoaned the advent of cheesy potboiler novels devoid of literary quality, about rich people and their problems, and the giant advances the big publishers were willing, even eager, to pay for them. As a young writer, I had to agree since I had no desire to write (or read) such novels.

In the decade between the 1980s and the 1990s, big publishers were willing to take a chance on young writers like me who wanted to write serious fiction—by that I mean fiction with something to say about life, society, class, gender roles, and racism. That I wrote (and write to this day) science fiction and fantasy worked well with addressing all kinds of societal and philosophical issues. And that’s not to say such fiction isn’t fun, action-packed, and sexy. It most certainly is! (Mine is, anyway.)

And in fairness to readers, some of you want thought-provoking. Some just want to have a good time. I understand.

Mind you, this is all way, way before the Internet as we know it. Before ebooks and (somewhat affordable) print-on-demand and distribution by on-line retailers.

Fast forward to 2001.

What on earth does “the Comet and the Long Tail” mean?

Sanneh’s article starts out describing the pop music business in the late 1970s. The big record producers invested millions in just one recording artist—a “star”—and ignored the “baby acts.” “The pop-music business had a golden principle. There was an enormous amount of money to be made with a hit record, and no money without one.”

Then, in 2001, record album sales, even of “big hits,” sharply declined. “Executives from television, film, and publishing wondered whether this, too, would be their fate.”

“Disappearing” as in going out of business. Jobs, careers, livelihoods lost.

Now the picture gets a little confusing. In the 2000s, small record stores, big chain bookstores, and broadly popular television programs began disappearing.

But the editor of Wired published a book with an optimistic view, The Long Tail, which celebrated the demise of the Blockbuster due to Internet distribution. Browsing an “infinite aisle,” the culture consumer could utilize “smart suggestion software” to follow his or her own tastes, no matter how obscure. Consumers were traveling down “the tail” of miscellany away from “the head of the comet,” which popular Big Media products dominated.

Fast forward to 2013.

The article Blockbuster states: “’The Avengers,’ an NFL game, or a Taylor Swift album still draws a big crowd, showering profits on the corporations that invest in and promote through the Big Media. Popular culture remains Big Business.”

Now says the Wired executive who touted the long tail: “Though the tail is very interesting and we [on the Internet] enable it, the vast majority of revenue remains in the head [of the comet].”

But is the money really still there, comparing big-selling products to those of the past? The article Blockbuster points out that when you consider the domestic box office of Avatar, considered the top-grossing film of all time, with Gone with the Wind, the latter film earned twice as much, adjusted for inflation, at a time when the U.S. population was half as numerous.

And as the author of “The Long Tail” writes: “For too long, we’ve been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common denominator fare, brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop.”

Yet the chairman of Disney remarks, “Very few entities in this world can afford to spend $200 million on a movie. That is our competitive advantage.”

No kidding.

Both views agree that the “middle has disappeared.” This has never been more true that in publishing. Yet I can think of a number of “mid-list” movies that still got made. In financial terms, “mid-level acts” are by definition mediocre, and mediocrity is what a free market is supposed to drive out.

But who determines what is quality in the culture? If you, the reader, can’t find an author’s book because Amazon’s algorithm directs you elsewhere and Random House’s publicity machine pays for PR journal pieces and reviews in respected venues, does that make the undiscovered book mediocre? Is Fifty Shades of Grey a quality book because corporations invested in it, the author herself invested in it, and readers bought it? I don’t think so.

A final bit of good news (I suppose) from the article, Blockbuster: “Cultural consumption has grown more self-conscious….consumers have grown intensely aware of the ‘commercial weight’ of their purchases. Every consumer has a vote….Many connoisseurs have come to think of themselves as patrons, eager not just to consumer culture but to support it.”

Have we the consumers got the movie and publishing executives wondering whether they will soon be out of a job? A career? A livelihood?

I hope so. The fear needs to be a little more evenly distributed.  But I’ve got a movie project at Universal Studios and am looking to get back into traditional publishing along with my independent efforts. We shall see.

So there you have it, my friends. Is the entertainment business and the popular culture truly changing thanks to the Internet and the plentiful opportunities available to independent creatives to produce and promote their books, films, music, and art? Changing how? Changing for whose benefit?

Or is it the case that the more things change, the more they remain the same?

I ask myself these questions every day as a traditionally-published author, now an independent author and publisher. I don’t have any easy answers for you.

Neither do any of the pundits cited in the article above. They don’t know how to advise creatives because no one really knows what you, the public, will do. What will grab your imagination.

But many authors like me are soldiering on, searching for new solutions and strategies. So on a more positive note, next in this Series will be:

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 5: Market Share Lisa Mason #SFWApro

Previous Blogs in this Series:

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 1: Introduction https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/03/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-1-introduction-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 2: Who’s Reading? https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/07/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-2-whos-reading-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 3: The Shady Case of Fifty Shades https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/17/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-3-the-shady-case-of-fifty-shades-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, “Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy,”on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony; Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, five-star rated, “A fantastic collection,” on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo; My Charlotte: Patty’s Story is also on Amazon.com worldwide in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.

Thank you for your readership!

In 2013, the highest earning entertainer, who also is an author, was E. L. James, who earned according to Publisher’s Weekly and other sources, $100 million dollars in worldwide royalties from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Those books were published by Random House as ebooks and trade paperbacks, not even hardcovers, and earned Random House so much money, the publisher gave $ 5,000 Christmas bonuses to every employee, including the mailroom staff.

E. L. James was an unknown amateur writer and, by every account I’ve read, her writing is at best pedestrian and at worst dreadful. Full disclosure: I haven’t read the trilogy but I did check out the first 50 pages of the first book on Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. Stephen King decried Fifty Shades as porn, and, as you probably know, those books are about the BDSM relationship between a naïve, awkward, unpretty college girl and a devastatingly handsome, cold and calculating twenty-seven-year-old billionaire who seems to have a lot of spare time on his hands.

The “relationship” is set up by a legal contract. I’ve seen articles over the years about pre-nuptial agreements between women of lesser wealth and the billionaires they marry. Such contracts usually stipulate what is required in intimate relations, as well as what happens financially when the “relationship” ends. I even read an article about a well-known billionaire who, in between marriages, had one-year contracts with his girlfriends.

So this type of thing isn’t exactly news, but may have been shocking to those who don’t follow the Media as closely as I do.

It turns out Fifty Shades isn’t even all that racy as porn, according to many reviews.

I, and many other feminists including the mega-bestselling Janet Evanovich, voiced our concerns that such a theme set back women’s empowerment by fifty years. I mean, men go to prison for torturing women. Full disclosure: I personally don’t find BDSM or controlling men attractive at all. But other erotica authors rushed forward to defend the theme, if not the books. Ardent fans variously declared in reader comments that “it’s so bad, but it’s so addictive” or “how far will Ana let Christian go for love?”

Are there really seventy million readers out there who find the fantasy of being a submissive to a sadist enticing? Or who really are submissives? Or who are sadists trying to pick up a few pointers?

What zeitgeist did James tap into? If it’s true the “average reader” reads only one book a year, was that book Fifty Shades? And what does that say about our society?

Fifty Shades spawned a rash of BDSM books, most of which tanked except for Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Trilogy. Day, I should note, is a talented, professional writer of science fiction and fantasy going way back. Her writing is far superior to James’, but she hasn’t sold any seventy million books. After a good run with the Big Five Publisher of Crossfire, she’s continued her brand of porn through Harlequin, a genre publisher.

How does an unknown author with a mediocre style and a questionable theme earn a hundred million dollars inside of a year or two? How did Fifty Shades happen?

The Spin was this: James wrote fan fiction under a kooky pseudonym in the Twilight universe, imagining BDSM sex between Bella and Edward.

Twilight is another trilogy Stephen King has decried as “teen porn,” and has stated outright that “Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a damn.”

I’m not sure from the Spin if James hosted her own fan fiction site or if she participated on someone else’s site. Whatever the case, how did James dream up such a crazy idea from a YA book?

As a professional author who makes it her business to follow what’s selling, I’ve read Twilight (but not the rest of the series). I find Meyer’s prose not as dreadful as a lot of people think. While I don’t understand another unknown author selling seventy million books inside of four or five years, I get that Meyer tapped into teen angst and the thrills and chills of a first obsessive teen love. But BDSM?

Well, Edward is cold—he’s dead, he’s a vampire. He’s gorgeously handsome, while Bella is plain. But he chooses her.

You would think Stephenie Meyer, a Mormon wife and mom of three who doesn’t drink or smoke, a fan of Jane Austen no less, would have written a nice morality tale about two Mormon teens who fall in love and have to wait until they are of the age of marry to do more than kiss.

But she didn’t. And here, at page 302 of the trade paperback, “His long hands formed manacles around my wrists.” And at 305, “I tried to pull back, but his hand locked my wrists in an unbreakable hold.” And at 345, when Bella tells Edward he’s not such a scary monster, he unexpectedly seizes her and leaps across the room. “He curled me into a ball against his chest, holding me more securely than iron chains.”

Holy Shades of Grey.

At some point James’ fan fiction got noticed by readers of the site. She changed the characters’ names (note that Meyer’s husband’s name is Christian, though she calls him by a nickname) and got picked up by a very small independent Australian publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, which published the books in print as well as ebook format. The Writer’s Coffee Shop really is a very small publisher currently carrying three authors, all of whose books are BDSM and none of whom are much higher than a million-six in Amazon ranking.

No deep pockets there. But they (or someone) did a masterful job of crafting brand-name-looking covers for Fifty Shades. No faces. No half-naked bodies. Just the fetishes—tie, mask, handcuffs—against a gray background. Romance authors, take note.

The Spin then says Fifty Shades got noticed by a site for new mothers called “diva moms.” I remember that, at the beginning of 2013, a feature story about “the new mommy porn” flashed at the top of my AOL Home page. A lot of excitement generated around this hot new book from an unknown fan fiction writer. Suddenly, puff pieces about the book—decrying the writing, drawing analogies to BDSM erotica of yore, especially The Story of O—popped up in all kinds of mainstream media. And suddenly, hundreds of thousands of ebooks sold. A publishing deal was struck with Random House, a five-million-dollar movie deal with Universal Pictures, and voila, seventy million books (print and ebooks, I assume) sold worldwide.

I remember thinking—at some point, Big Money stepped in. You don’t just go from mediocre fan fiction writing on an obscure website, no matter how big the source material, to megamillions. But at what point?

About two or three weeks ago, I received a notice on my Newsfeed on LinkedIn. Here’s the link:

http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Jane-unfortunately-money-talks-In-65681.S.5839718902900207620?view=&item=5839718902900207620&type=member&gid=65681&trk=eml-b2_anet_digest-null-5-null&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=0jYFovonz1oSc1

The post claims that E. L. James invested $100,000 of her own money into promoting 50 Shades of Grey. At some point.

This is unsubstantiated rumor. The woman who posted this item doesn’t cite a source. Of course, the Spin says E. L. James and her husband are television executives in Britain. Or that E. L. James is a middle-aged, stay-at-home mom trying to revitalize her marriage. Or that E. L. James was a new mom spinning fantasies off her favorite book to please herself. Or…..I don’t think we’ll ever know the truth about Fifty Shades.

And neither do the Big Publishers.

So there you have it, my friends. The Shady Case of Fifty Shades. What does this portend for other authors, traditional, hybrid, or independent?

To me, traditional publishing is starting to look a lot like the “indie” movie business. Once upon a time, the Sundance Film Festival featured indies—movies made on a shoestring by talented amateurs hoping to break into the Hollywood Machine. By “shoestring,” I mean maybe ten or twenty thousand dollars raised from credit cards or sympathetic family members (and even that is a lot of money for most people to squander on something that ninety-nine point nine times out of a hundred will never see a return of investment, let alone make money). Now “indie” movies at Sundance cost five million and up to make, feature actors like Nicole Kidman, and vie for distribution from the studios. Does that sound like an “indie” to you?

I don’t think so.

Next: State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 4: The Comet and the Long Tail Lisa Mason #SFWApro

Previous Blogs in this Series:

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 1: Introduction Lisa Mason #SFWApro

https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/03/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-1-introduction-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 2: Who’s Reading? Lisa Mason #SFWApro

https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/07/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-2-whos-reading-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony; Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo; My Charlotte: Patty’s Story is also on Amazon.com worldwide in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

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The April issue of Wired Magazine ran an article, The Plot Thickens, by Evan Hughes, focusing on the latest indie author phenom, Hugh Howey, and his multi-million-dollar self-published book, Wool.

(Full disclosure: I haven’t bought or read any of the books cited here nor am I affiliated with the authors in any way. I don’t personally know Mr. Howey but, by all accounts, he’s a great guy.)

The story goes that Howey self published a series of post-apocalyptic science fiction novellas on Amazon.com that collectively are now known as Wool. The books quickly gained a following of enthusiastic fans and readers and, within a year, Howey grew his sales to an astonishing $130,000—a month.

(And the doom-and-gloomers in the business have long complained that science fiction is dead! Tell that to Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games. Oh, but that doesn’t count. That’s YA.)

You’ll not be surprised to learn that such numbers got the attention of Big Literary Agents and Big Publishers. According to the Wired article, they flocked to Howey with seven-figure offers to acquire his book. As I’ve described in the previous “Crunched” blogs, such offers typically demand print and digital rights (and have done so for the past ten years). Such offers are non-negotiable, especially the digital rights portion, now that ebooks have taken off like a NASA space shuttle. (Unlike a NASA space shuttle, ebooks are here to stay.)

Howey turned them down! In a year’s time, he was making more than their offers on his ebooks alone—and getting paid every month. Why should he sell his golden goose to some controlling media conglomerate (as I’ve described in Crunching, Part 1)?

Fortunately, an agent stepped out of the pack of howling wolves with a rare understanding of Howey’s point-of-view. She negotiated for him an unprecedented, unheard-of deal with Simon and Schuster: the Big Publisher bought the rights to print Howey’s book for high six figures, but he retained full control of his digital rights.

Wow! Such a concession to an author’s empowerment by Big Publishing is mind-blowing. Not to mention very, very heart-warming.

I’ve cautioned you before in this blog that self publishing fiction is not a get-rich-quick scheme. For every Amanda Hocking, E.L. James, Colleen Hoover, or Hugh Howey, there are a million or more people who only sell a handful of ebooks to their immediate family and that’s it. Moreover, time will tell whether the breakout authors will endure or whether their sudden huge success is truly a stroke of luck, or striking a deep nerve in the public psyche, or effective invested promotion, or some other X factor. Writing a novel or memoir takes hard work, time and dedication, working knowledge of grammar and usage, and, last but not least, talent.

Two salient factors about Hugh Howey give me reason to believe his success is not such a fluke as perhaps some of the other breakout successes. (1) He previously published a book with a small press, which qualifies him as a professional author. (2) He worked in a bookstore, which qualifies him as a dedicated and knowledgeable reader.

So there you have it, my friend. The plot thickens, indeed. Big Publishing is still absorbing this latest body blow. We can only wait and see how everything plays out. In the meantime, Wool is on my To-Read list and I wish Howey continued success!

From the author of The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle, Summer of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle, and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more, on my Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a work, please “Like” it, add a bunch of stars, write a review on the site where you acquired it, blog it, Tweet it, and spread the word to your friends. Your participation really matters.

Thank you for your readership!