Saturday, April 16, 2011

Guest Post: Robin Sullivan

Here’s another guest post. Robin Sullivan has a great blog over at Write to Publish. She comments and evaluates both print and epublishing from a much wider and deeper knowledge base than I do.

Here she is:

I sent Derek an email recently about exchanging guest blog posts.  So here I am.  For those that don’t know I’m not an author, nor do I play one on TV, but I do know a fair bit about the publishing industry. I handle “the business” side of my husband’s writing (Michael J. Sullivan <>). I do a lot of public speaking on publishing (I run a writer’s group <> of 500+ authors in the DC area), and I also run an indie press (Ridan Publishing <>). My husband has been self-published, small press published (by AMI of MN), and now has a six-figure, 3-book deal from Orbit <> (fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group). As you can see I’ve had my toes in just about every aspect of publishing and while many accuse me of being a “self-publishing cheerleader” I can honestly say that I think all paths offer plusses and minus and the trick is to align yourself to what works for you.

Since Derek’s blog is “Adventures in ePublishing” I thought I would take a minute to give you some of “my” impressions on ePublishing which is, without question, the biggest thing to hit publishing since the Guttenberg Press. There’s a lot of talk these day about Hocking, Locke, Konrath and the like. I’m thrilled for each of these fine writers but recognize them as outliers. Just as Meyers, Rowling, and King are in the legacy publishing world. But to me, the “real story untold story” about ePublishing is how it has the potential, and is, changing the lives of many authors that are not in the top .01%.

It’s no secret that many in legacy publishing have to keep their day jobs. So I was shocked that starting in November 2010 I noticed more and more self-published (primarily e-published) authors making high five and six figure salaries. It wasn’t just one or two…it was 30, then 60, and that number is growing every day.  Now many critics say in the overall scheme of things this is small percentage of writers, and to that I agree. But I fully contend that if the only variable you changed for these 30 – 60 authors was keeping on a traditional publishing path, or going ePublishing their lives would have been MUCH different.

The February AAP <> numbers came out and ebooks are now *29.5% of the TOTAL trade publishing sales*. And this data is from 82 publishers and only 16 of them reported ebook numbers. Throw in all the uncounted self-published numbers and that is MUCH higher. For instance, in December I sold 10,500 ebooks of my husband’s Riyria Revelations but only 490 print copies.  I’m thinking if we had access to “all sales” data ePublishing would be 30% -35%, which is MUCH higher than the 12% – 15% that I was predicting when the 2010 AAP numbers <> came out showing only *8.34%.*

Now over on AW (Absolute Write) there are many that say, “don’t mix ePublishing with self-publishing.” And it is a valid reminder to keep in mind that one is a format and the other is publishing decision, but for the self-published, ePublishing has transformed what was once the last resort of the desperate to the preferred choice of the savvy.

One lecture I give frequently is *Which path is right for you?,* sometimes entitled *Publishing 101*, where I discuss big-six, small press, and self. I must have taught this lecture a half dozen times but for the February 2011 version I had to completely revamp the materials as the income *potential*for self completely up-ended. Six months ago, my husband’s self-published income was “play money”.  From November – February he made *more* than his * ENTIRE* six-figure, big-six advance. I crunch numbers….a lot of numbers and my analysis tells me by signing we’ll lose $200,000 to $300,000 by taking the deal.  Such a thing was unthinkable a year ago.

For those avoiding self-publishing, the ePublishing revolution will help you as well. As more authors like Bob Mayer and Barry Eisler turn down $750,000 and $500,000 deals to self-publish the 14.9%/52.5% author/publisher split will change. It has to. Publisher’s can’t attract and retain top talent with such disparity. Also, I think the business model of multiple books with short times between which has propelled successes for Hocking, Konrath, Locke, David Dalglish, B.V. Larson, J.R. Rain, and even my husband Michael J. Sullivan, will show traditional publishing to stop limiting their author’s output with long release cycles and non-compete clauses that prevent them from releasing books too close to one another.

Anyway you dice it…ePublishing is the biggest and best thing to happen to writers since 1455.  All of you will benefit from it.


That’s a lot of great info from Robin. As you can see, she keeps well-informed on the publishing world. You should definitely follower her blog so you can benefit from that in your own epublishing endeavors.


  1. I always enjoy reading Robin's posts. I usually hear/learn a little something each time :) Thanks for stopping by, Robin!

    YA: Cheat, Liar
    Adult: Shackled

  2. Great post Robin. I started following Konrath back in early 2009 when I was working on my novel, Belvoir. At that time, he still believed that legacy publishing was the best way to start in the industry. It took me so long to finish my book that by the time I did (2011), the world had changed.

    Robin, you are correct about the distinction between epublishing and self-publishing. I think that if epublishing had not started to explode like it had, there would have been fewer writers deciding to self-publish. This has now become a setting for the perfect storm. It will be interesting to see who's able to ride the storm out.

    S.A. Huggins

  3. Robin, I appreciate your thoughts. It's good to get data from all points in attempting to make valid decisions, and I'll read your blog from now on.

    And Derek, thanks for sharing your space with Robin.

  4. It's definitely an intoxicating time to be a writer. It's like being a computer programmer in the dot com boom.

  5. Great post! What I'm curious about are the Big 6 profit margins. If they are forced into giving up a higher percentage of royalties, while also having to lower their prices on e-books to remain competitive, how will they succeed? Will they switch to an all-electronic format? Will they walk away from e-books entirely?

    They've already shown an unwillingness to change. They created this perfect storm because publishers refused to open their doors to new talent, and at the same time slashed their midlisters. Konrath and Hocking (and many many others) had nowhere else to go.

  6. Jamie,

    The big6 are going to have to lower costs. Unfortunately, that means taking a chance on fewer unproven authors.

    I love how you're both going in 'eyes wide open.' Although, with the cost cutting, new authors look unlikely to break in without self publishing.


  7. Hey all - thanks for posting - and glad you liked it. Thanks as well to Derek for giving me the keys to his site for a post.

    @Jamie - switching to all ebook seems more likely than walking away from it. The problem in my mind though is that in that capacity their USP (unique Selling Proposition) - which is getting books into stores is greatly diminished.

    @wannabuy - I do think that self-publishing first was defintely key to Michael's VERY good offer. If he had come in thorugh regular agent/query etc he would have been treated much differently. I think self-publishing will be the "proving" grounds for authors in the future.

  8. Great post, Robin. Thank you for sharing and thanks to Derek for bringing in more guest posts.

    Like Sheila Huggins (above) I began reading Joe Konrath's blog in 2009. Following his advice, I pursued the traditional route. It was encouraging to be asked for some intitial chapters, but managed to ring-up 100+ rejections.

    Earlier this year, Konrath threw out his old ways and encouraged everyone to ePublish.

    I am sure you get asked this all the time, however, I'll do it again. Do you see any trends in terms of genre, pricing, book length, cover design, etc, that the ePublishing outliers have in common?

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