Communion Of Dreams


11 months.

Happy Boxing Day! Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, filled with love & friendship.

Yesterday was also a “Promotional Day” for the Kindle editions of Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year, and both books saw a decent amount of traffic for a holiday.  More on HFY later — right now I want to chat a bit about Communion.

As it happens, yesterday was also the 11 month ‘anniversary’ for the paperback edition of Communion of Dreams — the Kindle edition came out a few days earlier, but January 25th is what I consider to be the ‘launch date’ for the book.

And in 11 months, there have been a grand total of 23,216 downloads of the Kindle edition of the book, sales of 25 paperback copies through Amazon, and something about twice that of paperback sales through me directly (including the Kickstarter copies). Of the total downloads, a bit less than 7% were sales/loans, totaling 1,507. Meaning that I gave away some 21,709 copies of the book.

Selling 1,500 copies of a first novel really isn’t too bad, to be honest, and that would have been about what was expected through a conventional publisher in the past for an unknown writer. And to be quite honest, I’ve earned more from doing this than I would have through a conventional publisher — the ill-fated Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named offered me an advance which was about one-third of what I have made on the book so far. It’s not a lot of money, but it is nice to be rewarded for all our hard work — thanks, one and all.

And “moving” 23,000 copies of the book all-told? That’s downright respectable.  In the previous 5 years when I had the earlier .pdf version of the book available on my website, there were a total of about 35,000 downloads. That right there shows you to power of Amazon’s system and Jeff Bezos’ vision.

I will again offer free a “Promotional Day” next month — probably in conjunction with the first anniversary. But don’t let that dissuade you from going ahead and buying a copy of the Kindle edition, the paperback, or even the hand-bound hard-cover — remember, you’re helping to support good independent writing and art!

Again, happy holidays, everyone!

 

Jim Downey



The future is indeed here.
May 20, 2011, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Amazon, Failure, Jeff Bezos, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Publishing

News item of interest today:

Kindle Books Outsell Print Books on Amazon

* * *
Before the Kindle, Amazon started selling traditional paper books in July 1995. But now, Amazon has announced that Kindle books are outselling paperbacks and hardcovers.

Since April 1, Amazon has sold 105 Kindle books for every 100 print books sold. These numbers include books that have no Kindle edition. Also, for all of 2011 so far, Amazon has had the fastest year-over-year growth rate for its books business due to the overwhelming Kindle sales and steady print book sales.

* * *

“Customers are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO. “We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly – we’ve been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years.

When the Kindle first came out, I was *very* skeptical that it would replace conventionally printed books. Here’s what I said in November 2007:

I think it is still a hard sell. $400 is a chunk for something which only kinda-sorta replaces a real book. And if you drop it in the mud, it isn’t just $7.95 to buy a new copy. But it does seem to be an intelligent application of the relevant tech, and sounds intriguing. There will be those who snap it up, just ’cause – but Amazon has a long way to go before it is mainstream.

That’s my guess.

Well, I was wrong, and Jeff Bezos was right. Well, sorta.

The Kindle 3, which came out last summer, is a lot different than the original Kindle. It’s smaller. Lighter. Works better. And costs less than half what the original did. In fact, just yesterday I ordered one for $189.

Yeah, let me repeat that: I ordered a Kindle yesterday.

I had been doing research into the e-reader in preparation for publishing Her Final Year and part of that preparation was going out and playing with the latest version of the Kindle at a local store. I’ll be honest, I was flat-out impressed with the current machine.

As I’ve noted before, I’m a ‘late adopter’ of technology, always willing to wait for things to mature enough that the bugs are worked out and the price comes down. And I’m also a professional bookbinder & book conservator. When *I* am willing to buy an e-reader, then things have changed. As I said 18 years ago:

For me, the book is a codex, something that you can hold in your hand and read. From the earliest memories of my science fiction saturated youth, I remember books becoming obsolete in the future, replaced by one dream or another of “readers”, “scanners”, or even embedded text files linked directly to the brain. Some say ours is a post-literate culture, with all the books-on-tape, video, and interactive media technology. I think I read somewhere recently that Sony (or Toshiba or Panasonic or someone) had finally come up with a hand-held, book-sized computer screen that can accommodate a large number of books on CD ROM. Maybe the future is here.

Maybe. Lord knows that I would be lost without a computer for all my writing, revisions, and play. The floppy drive that is in this book was taken from my old computer (my first computer) when a friend installed a hard drive. It is, in many ways, part of my history, part of my time at Iowa, and all the changing that I did there.

Yeah, the future is indeed here. Mine should arrive the first of next week.

Jim Downey



TEOT(book)WAWKI
September 22, 2008, 9:15 am
Filed under: Amazon, BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow, Jeff Bezos, Kindle, Marketing, Publishing, Science Fiction, Society

Via Cory Doctorow, a lengthy look at the End of Book Publishing as We Know It in New York Magazine.  It’s a very long piece, but worth going through for anyone interested in the current state of the publishing industry and some possible directions it may go in the future.

As I have said in the past, I think that the industry is essentially “broken.”  Increasingly, the traditional publishing system relies on gimmicks and celebrities (most such artifically created).  From the article:

But overspending isn’t going away, even with a rotten economy. Last month, Harvard economist Anita Elberse wrote a piece debunking the hypothesis of Chris Anderson’s anti-blockbuster blockbuster, The Long Tail (which Bob Miller acquired at Hyperion for a mere $550,000). Elberse led off with a tidbit from a study of Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing. Of 61 books on its 2006 list, each title averaged a profit of almost $100,000. But without the top seller, which earned $5 million, that average drops to $18,000. “A blockbuster strategy still makes the most sense,” she concludes.

It’s inherently risky, though. You have to wonder about the prospects for one new book that Elberse had her students case-study—Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. Grand Central, inspired by the best seller Marley & Me, is betting on the new mini-genre of cat-related nonfiction. Grand Central initially offered $300,000, then went up to $1.25 million. Gobs more will be spent on marketing. You’ll likely be hearing about Dewey when it comes out this month, and if half a million of you still feel that you can’t get enough heartwarming pet stories, it just might earn back its advance.

So, what happens?  Well, I think that we’re seeing it: the “publish it yourself” strategy, for authors on their own or teamed up with Amazon.  Yeah, I don’t like the Kindle, but it does look like otherwise Amazon is moving in the direction of becoming vertically-integrated, and Bezos’s baby may be a major component in that process:

Publishers have been burned by e-book hype before. A few years back, analysts were predicting we’d all be reading novels on our Palm Pilots. Barnes & Noble even began selling e-books. Though it doesn’t quite look the part, Bezos’s chunky retro Kindle is the closest so far to being the iPod of books. In mid-August, a Citigroup analyst doubled his estimate for this year’s sales of the readers—to almost 400,000.

Why weren’t publishers elated? What’s wrong with a company that returns only 10 percent of the books it buys and might eventually eliminate the cost of print production? Well, it doesn’t help that Amazon, which has been on an intense buying spree (print-on-demanders BookSurge; book networking site Shelfari), lists publishers as its competitors in SEC filings. Editors and retailers alike fear that it’s bent on building a vertical publishing business—from acquisition to your doorstep—with not a single middleman in sight. No HarperCollins, no Borders, no printing press. Amazon has begun to do end runs around bookstores with small presses. Two new bios from Lyons Press, about Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, are going straight-to-Kindle long before publication.

So, what does this mean for the average non-celeb writer?  In other words, what does it mean for me?

I’m not sure.  As I have said repeatedly, I would like to have a conventional publishing gig – “sell” Communion of Dreams to one of the imprints who handle Science Fiction (or even better, “speculative fiction”) and have copies of the thing sold in bookstores all across the country.  That’s what I grew up with.  But it may well make more sense to get go through one of the self-publishing services, and just sell the thing off my websites and through Amazon.  With almost 12,000 copies downloaded, there may well be a market for a hardcopy version.

Thoughts?

Jim Downey



Well, whaddya know . . .

. . . Cory Doctorow agrees with me:

My latest Locus column, “Put Not Your Faith in Ebook Readers,” just went live. In it, I discuss the fact what while there’s plenty of programmers who’ll hack you a little ebook business that runs on a phone, handheld game device or PDA; there’s a genuine shortage of high-quality manufacturers who’ll build you a great, cheap, hardware-based ebook reader, and that that’s likely to continue for some time.

He quotes his column at some length, which basically explains the economics of the problem. As I noted in my piece on the Kindle last November:

A friend dropped me a note last night, asked what I thought of Kindle, the new e-book reader from Jeff Bezos/Amazon. My reply:

I think it is still a hard sell. $400 is a chunk for something which only kinda-sorta replaces a real book. And if you drop it in the mud, it isn’t just $7.95 to buy a new copy. But it does seem to be an intelligent application of the relevant tech, and sounds intriguing. There will be those who snap it up, just ’cause – but Amazon has a long way to go before it is mainstream.

That’s my guess.

As I mentioned in this post back in March, something like the Kindle has been a staple of SF going way back. Way back. But for all our progress in tech to date, I think it’ll be a while before actual paper & ink books are obsolete. It’s a simple matter of economics and risk, as I indicate in that note to my friend above.

I haven’t heard much about the success that Amazon has had with the Kindle to date, but I would guess that if it was revolutionizing publishing it would be more in the news. And I’d bet this is why.

Jim Downey



Chapter One
December 30, 2007, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Comics, Humor, Jeff Bezos, Kindle, Predictions, Publishing, tech

Berkeley Breathed echoes my opinion of e-books in today’s Opus strip.

Jim Downey

(Hat tip, ML!)



Binding “Beedle”
December 14, 2007, 11:33 am
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Book Conservation, Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling, Jeff Bezos, Promotion, Publishing, Society

Multiple friends sent me notes about the auction of J.K. Rowling‘s Tales of Beedle the Bard, which sold at auction yesterday for almost $4 million, proceeds of which are going to charity. This was undoubtedly because the book touches on a number of my interests and profession – if you haven’t seen the thing yet, it is worth looking at. Rowling created seven copies of the book, writing and illustrating the text herself.

Unfortunately, but not terribly surprisingly, I have yet to find any mention of who did the binding work, or created the silver bosses and clasp used. The artisans who executed this work did a fine job, based on what I’ve been able to tell from the images available, and it would be nice to see at least some acknowledgment of them.

There is already some discussion of the “value” of the book, as an artifact, due to the price it sold for. And that is understandable, since $4 million is a chunk of change, and most authors, artists and artisans will never see their work command such a price. I have been involved in many projects of this nature, creating custom bindings of personal texts, or very limited editions, or a commemorative binding. And never has my work commanded more than a few hundred dollars. I’d be willing to bet the same was the case with the remuneration paid to the artisans who did the binding for these seven copies of Beedle. And certainly J.K. Rowling doesn’t command millions for her calligraphy or illustration work, as nice as it is.

So, why the price? Reports indicate that it was expected that the book would auction for something on the order of $100,000. What caused the book to sell for 40 times that amount?

Well, it is likely that it was a unique combination of events. Most of all, J.K. Rowling’s reputation meant that the sale would attract attention. No doubt Amazon.com (and Jeff Bezos) felt that the purchase would be well worth it, just in terms of the free publicity and good will that it would generate for the company. And the money was going to charity, so that doesn’t hurt. Chances are, if someone who owns one of the other six copies of this book were to put it up for sale privately, it would not attract that kind of money – not at this time, anyway. In another generation or two, it is likely that whenever one of these books is sold it’ll fetch quite a high price.

Because that is how these things work. Initially, there is surprise – but over the long term the thing which will be remembered is that the first book sold for millions. With only seven original copies, each one will be seen as precious – purely because one already sold at auction for millions. Whether she meant to do so or not, J. K. Rowling has just made the other owners of these books (or at least their heirs) wealthy. I hope they each get a decent insurance policy and a fireproof safe.

Jim Downey



Still a long way to go.

A friend dropped me a note last night, asked what I thought of Kindle, the new e-book reader from Jeff Bezos/Amazon. My reply:

I think it is still a hard sell. $400 is a chunk for something which only kinda-sorta replaces a real book. And if you drop it in the mud, it isn’t just $7.95 to buy a new copy. But it does seem to be an intelligent application of the relevant tech, and sounds intriguing. There will be those who snap it up, just ’cause – but Amazon has a long way to go before it is mainstream.

That’s my guess.

As I mentioned in this post back in March, something like the Kindle has been a staple of SF going way back. Way back. But for all our progress in tech to date, I think it’ll be a while before actual paper & ink books are obsolete. It’s a simple matter of economics and risk, as I indicate in that note to my friend above. Joel Johnson at BoingBoing Gadgets says much the same thing in his review – here’s an excerpt:

Although I can hold a $400 eBook reader in my hand, it only feels truly valuable because I have a $7 book inside that I want to read. If Amazon can find a way to lower the barrier of entry on either side of the platform—a cheaper Kindle, or free content—it may then be worth wider consideration.

Bezos might be right, and me wrong. Certainly, I don’t have the track record he does, and haven’t earned the kind of money he has with his hard work and predictions. Then again, he has the wealth to afford being wrong for a long time before he is right, as may happen with this kind of project .

Jim Downey