You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 10

My friend Joe Konrath, who inspired me to put my out-of-print novels on the Kindle, has posted a fascinating and informative account of his Kindle ebook sales and royalties. He compares how the Kindle versions of his Hyperion-published books are doing compared with his "self-published" Kindle titles. Here's an excerpt, but I recommend you read the whole post:

My five Hyperion ebooks (the sixth one came out in July so no royalties yet) each earn an average of $803 per year on Kindle.

My four self-pubbed Kindle novels each earn an average of $3430 per year.

If I had the rights to all six of my Hyperion books, and sold them on Kindle for $1.99, I'd be making $20,580 per year off of them, total, rather than $4818 a year off of them, total.

So, in other words, because Hyperion has my ebook rights, I'm losing $15,762 per year.

Now Hyperion also has my print rights, and my Jack Daniels books are still selling in print. But they aren't selling enough to make up the $15,762. Especially since all of them aren't regularly being stocked on bookstore shelves.

According to my math, I'd be making more money if my books were out of print, and I had my rights back. 

[…]Ebook rights began as gravy. I can picture a day when the print rights are the gravy, and authors make their living with ebooks.

Yes, it's still far off. And yes, print publishing is in no danger of going away anytime soon.

But I don't think I'll ever take a print contract for less than $30,000 per book, because I'm confident I could make more money on it over the course of six years than I could with a publisher over six years.

I wouldn't take this as a rallying cry to turn away from NY publishers and rush to the Kindle. Joe is a special case. Before "self-publishing" his Kindle titles, he'd already established himself with a series of hardcovers and paperbacks from major NY publishers. He also did a 500-store, multi-state book-tour and attended countless conventions. Joe selling thousands of ebook editions of his previously unpublished work is a very, very different situation than an unpublished writer hoping to accomplish the same feat.

As for myself, my Kindle sales are still going strong, though not Konrath-strong. 

 THE WALK has sold 1760 copies in 4 months @ $1.99 each, for a royalty of $1204.

has sold 236 copies in 4 months @ $.99 each, for a royalty of $82

has sold 254 copies in about 3 months @ $1.99 each, for a royalty of $175

has sold 69 copies in about 3 months @ $1.99 each, for a royalty of $48.30

I've also got out-of-print editions of TELEVISIONS SERIES REVIVALS, UNSOLD TV PILOTS, and my four .357 VIGILANTE novels that have been released on the Kindle at various times over the last four months. 

All told, my combined Kindle royalties from June 1 to 11:23 pm Oct 13, are: $1750. 

It's not enough to make me follow Joe's example and turn away from anything less than a $30,000 advance from a major publisher, but I'm very pleased. It's hardly a fortune, and clearly the lion's share of the royalties are from just one book, THE WALK, but it's found money. And it's gratifying to me to see THE WALK, which was out-of-print, on track to reaching more readers, and making more money for me, in a Kindle edition than it ever did in hardcover.

UPDATE 10/14/09: Joe posted this important disclaimer in the comments to his post:

I do not think that ebooks are able to replace the exposure, or money, you'd get with a print publisher.
To All New Authors: JA says try the traditional route first. Find an agent. Land a deal with a big NY house. Ebooks aren't there yet.
I'd hate to think some writer gave up on their print aspirations because of something I've said on my blog. I suggest you keep up the agent search. While I have no doubt others will be able to sell as many ebooks as I have, and probably many more, I still haven't made anywhere near the money I've made by being in print. Plus, everyone's situation is unique, and no writer should compare themselves to any other writer.

The Lee Goldberg Show

If you missed my live, interactive webcast last week, now you can catch the archive version. I've posted the first half of the show, where I talked about MONK with my special guest David Breckman (writer-producer-director of MONK), in three parts on YouTube or you can download it here. Unfortunately, there were technical problems at the studio and the second half of the live show, where I talked about my movie FAST TRACK, wasn't recorded.

The Mail I Get

I get two or three emails a day like this from strangers:

Forgive the intrusion. I want to connect with you and request your expertise as to the best way to pitch a series treatment to the cable and over the air TV networks.

I'm sure you've heard this story before. I have a treatment for a 60 minute scripted, dramatic series. […]My treatment is registered with the WGA and I have an NDA that I can send to anyone interested in reading it. Do you have any suggestions on who to approach and how? I realize I have no track record, but, I'm certain it will grab someone in the first 30 seconds.

I don't have time to answer the question individually for people, so I usually refer them to my book SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION WRITING and to this old blog post. Afterwards, they either tell me their situation is special because their Really Great Idea for a Television Series is the Best Really Great Idea for a Television Series to come along in decades…or they call me a jerk for not offering to read their Really Great Idea for a Television Series, refer them to my agent, and give them the names of people to contact in the industry.

And so it goes. You've heard it all before from me, again and again, and it's getting as tiresome for you to read about it as it is for me to deal with it. 

But this time I'm leading up to a variation I received on the usual request and I think the exchange is worth sharing with you. I got the following email a few days ago:

I'm writing you because I read your blog and I thought that you would be a great source for information on finding writers. I am currently looking for writers for a couple projects that I'd like to produce and/or pitch and I was wondering if you could give me advice on finding writers for TV and Film. Are there any great messages boards or events to attend? Also, I know you're not a lawyer, but how should I protect my ideas and the writers ideas/work if they were to send me anything. Hope you can help!

That was a new twist on the old question for me. So I replied:

First, let me ask you a couple of blunt questions…with no offense
intended (these are questions you need to ask yourself, too, before
setting out to work with writers). What does a writer need you for?
What is the incentive for a writer work with you developing your ideas
into screenplays or pitches…as opposed to just trying to sell his
own ideas? You mention that you'd like to produce…but do you have
any actual producing experience?

I got a very nice reply, but it was clear that she was still missing the point of my questions:

I appreciate you taking the time to get back to me. I'm actually an actress here in LA and I see so many voids on TV and in Film and it's really been frustrating me lately. I have several projects/ideas that I'd like to put together, not for me to act in, but to produce to fill those voids, specifically, in single camera comedy for TV. I don't have any connections in Hollywood or producing experience, but I have the passion and desire to do what I need to do to make things happen. Also, I know people with producing experience who would be more than willing to help me along the way. The only problem is, I'm not a writer and I feel that writing for TV, especially comedy, requires great skills. If all else fails, I will write. I just thought that in LA there has to be writers that are looking to get their work out there as well and who are trying to target the same audience that I'd like to reach. This is my reason for reaching out to writers.

Here's an excerpt from my response:

Please don't take offense at what I am about to say, I just want to be
honest and straight-forward with you, it is not my intent to insult
you or hurt your feelings.

In Hollywood, ideas are cheap and execution is everything. What is
NYPD BLUE? A bunch of cops in NY solving crimes. ABC didn't buy the
idea…they bought Steven Bochco doing cops in NY solving crimes. What
is EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND? A married guy with kids whose parents live
across the street. CBS didn't buy the idea….they bought popular
standup comic Ray Romano and veteran comedy writer/producer Phil
Rosenthal executing that idea. What is BOSTON LEGAL? A bunch of
lawyers in Boston. ABC didn't buy the idea…they bought David E.
Kelley doing lawyers in Boston. The networks buy voice and experience
and relationships and proven success. I'm saying all that because what
you have are ideas…and you are looking for writers to flesh them
out. But since you aren't a writer, and you aren't (as far as I know)
an actress who has a huge following or production deals, you don't
really bring anything to the party, so-to-speak. You don't have the
voice, experience, the relationships, or the proven success.

The best way for you to find writers is to network among your friends.
Perhaps you can find a friend of a friend of a friend who has writing
talent but lacks inspiration (perhaps a friend of one of those producers you know)
You need to find someone who wants to
work with you because they like you on a personal level…not because
you are offering any real opportunity…because, let's face it, you

Why not try writing the scripts yourself…why wait until "all else fails?"

I haven't heard back from her yet, but I'll update this post if I do.

The Mail I Get

There’s something almost as bad as the complete strangers who want you to read their unpublished manuscripts, read their scripts, and listen to their pitches. It’s the people who expect you to be at their beck-and-call for discussion, whether you want to talk with them or not, simply because you are in the public eye. Here’s an example.

I got an email from a stranger on Facebook who wanted to share with me a bad experience she had with a vanity press. She wrote, in part:

My name is X and I had a book published with XYZ. Please tell me more of what you know. Having my story published didn’t feel like a skam. I had to do all the editing, which I knew nothing about. It was a long process only because I was learning as I went along. […] Yes they try to get you to buy alot of thier gimmicks. Afraid I fell for a couple because we want to believe it will help sell our books. Have any good advice for me?

I replied, in part:

My advice is NEVER pay to be published. You are throwing your money away. As far as XYZ goes, they are a vanity press and they prey on the desperation and gullibility of aspiring authors. They will tell you whatever lie you want to hear as long as your credit card is valid

She took issue with that and wrote me another email. Here’s an excerpt:

You made a remark that has really bothered me. It came across as degrading talented authors, saying we were being taken for a ride. That we were desperate and our desperation was making us gullible, really sounding like we are all stupid. I see you have accomplished a great deal with your writing. I am sure a lot of self pub. authors are doing as well. I’m working on that my self with my book. I’ve had great responses and reviews. I was not desperate. I just wanted a fast way to get my book out.

I ignored it because I had nothing more I wanted to say. So, she started nagging me for a response by posting comments on my Facebook wall every few days, like this one:

Still waiting Lee.
Please tell me you’re a nice guy.

So, in other words, by not responding to her email and her constant nagging, I am, by default, not a nice guy. Josh Olson was right in his essay when he says you really can’t win with these people. You are damned if you respond and damned if you don’t. So here is what I wrote:

That last line — “I just wanted a fast way to get my book out” pretty much explains why you got taken by a vanity press. The truth is, that very few self-pub authors are doing well…99.9% of them never even come close to making back their investment. The only ones who make money going to vanity presses are the vanity presses. I’m sorry if you were offended by my remark but the fact is, regardless of how talented you are, you were gullible and naive…and, by your own admission, desperate (“I justed wanted a fast way to get my book out”). XYZ counts on people like you.

One other thing, a bit of advice on dealing with authors and people you don’t know: I don’t work for you. I am not your child, your teacher, or your shrink. I am responding to this email as a courtesy. Chiding me repeatedly on my Facebook page as if I am your employee, or as if I have nothing better to do than talk with you, is NOT a way to win friends or influence people.

Believe it or not, I have other priorities in my life …all of which are more important than responding to a complete stranger who didn’t hear what she wanted to hear about her self-publishing mistake…and instead of leaving it at that, decided that nagging me was a bright idea.

I fully expect to get an email back where she tells me her tale of woe and then informs me that I am an insensitive prick who doesn’t want to help others.

UPDATE 10/11/2009: I don’t know whether she read this post or not, but I heard back from her. She did end up telling me her tale of woe, and about all the hard work she put into the book…but instead of calling me I’m a jerk, she apologized very politely:

Please accept my apology. I am not the person you have perceived me to be. I would like to be a friend. If you don’t I will understand. I am no one special, not looking for fame. I do admire anyone that writes for a living. It’s not easy. I feel really bad for the way I went about trying to interact with a stranger. We both felt like we were being disrespected.

UPDATE 10/13/2009:I didn’t reply to her apology. So I got this email from her today:

Alot of my facebook friends that are alot more famous than you, did not like what you said. You could have posted an apology as I did.

Some people never learn. She doesn’t realize it, but she is exactly the person I perceived her to be.

Stuart Kaminsky Has Passed Away

6a00d8341c669c53ef00e5537a6b858834-800wi  My friend Stuart Kaminsky died today. I really don't know what to say, so please forgive me if I ramble a bit. Stuart was not only a wonderful writer, he was a wonderful human being. He was unfailingly kind and supportive to his fans and his fellow writers. I was both. 

I first met him decades ago when I was a kid and a fan of his Toby Peters books, which I saved up to buy through the Mystery Guild (and wrote in each one "This book belongs to Lee Goldberg and Not You). I wrote him a fan letter and he wrote me back, and that started a correspondence that lasted off-and-on as I went from being an aspiring writer to a professional one. LeeJanStuart2a  

We became friends. He was one of the first writers to blurb me and gave me a lot of great advice over the years (and I was ridiculously honored, and thrilled, the first time he called me for advice on something. Actually, that never wore off). We've been produced together (NERO WOLFE) and published together (HOLLYWOOD AND CRIME) and worked together on various MWA committees over the years. The last time I saw him was a year ago in Kentucky, where he was staging an original Sherlock Holmes play at the International Mystery Writers Festival. We spent a week together and his boundless enthusiasm energized the whole event. That was the thing about Stuart, he never lost his love and his passion for writing…and it was contagious. I will miss him very, very much.

(The photo on the upper left is Bob Levinson, Stuart and me at the International Mystery Writers Festival last year. The picture in the lower right is me, Jan Burke and Stuart at the 2002 Edgar Awards. You can click on the images for a large view)

.357 Vigilante #3: White Wash

Whitewashcover0002 After inexplicably holding up the book for over a month, Amazon has finally made available the Kindle edition of my long out-of-print novel .357 VIGILANTE #3: WHITE WASH.

Now ALL of the VIGILANTE novels I wrote back in the mid-1980s have been released, including the never-before-published fourth book, which got caught up in the publisher's bankruptcy. (All the books are also available at Smashwords and Scribd for those of you with other e-readers or who would like to download a PDF)

Here's the back-jacket copy on WHITE WASH:

A Clock Is Ticking — And the Hands Are Dripping Blood! 

A red-leathered sadist with a hunger for black victims is talking the streets of Los Angeles — leaving a trail of rapes, tortures and mutilations, which threaten to engulf the city in racial violence. And he's calling himself…Mr. Jury. 

Now vigilante Brett Macklin, the real Mr. Jury, is hitting the killing ground with just seventy hours to hunt down the deadly impostor and clear his name. All he has to do is take on an army of fanatical white supremacists, stop a news-hungry reporter from digging too deep into his past, and save a tough black cop from being buried alive.
Time and luck are running out. 

"As stunning as the report of a .357 Magnum, a dynamic premiere effort […] The Best New Paperback Series of the year!" West Coast Review of Books

TV Main Title of the Week – Special Edition

With so many doctor shows on the air now…GREY’S ANATOMY, MERCY, HOUSE, HAWTHORNE, MERCY, TRAUMA, THREE RIVERS…it seems like the only thing missing are doctors-in-space.  Of course, it’s been done, but don’t feel bad if you don’t remember. The show barely lasted longer than THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE.