Sunday, May 23, 2010

Libby Fischer Hellmann

I am so pleased to welcome guest blogger Libby Fischer Hellmann to Type M.  Libby is the author of half a dozen novels, including  DoublebackEasy Innocence, and An Image of Death, as well as innumerable short stories. She enjoys a successful career as a traditionally published author, but has seen the e-future and tackled it head on. 

To E or Not To E

That does seem to be the question. Should we go ebook, and, if we do, how much should we charge? What about brick and mortar stores? What about the iPad? And hey --  what about royalties?

I don’t know any more than any of you about the current market. But I do believe that ebooks are here to stay. Furthermore, I also believe the estimates that in 10 years or so, ebooks will commandeer 30 per cent of the market. (Some say higher, some lower, but let’s go with that for the moment)

But what kind of a market will it be? Everywhere you turn, you hear about the amazing opportunities ebooks offer: namely, that as authors we have the chance to bypass publishers altogether and go directly to potential customers, ie readers. Joe Konrath, who is a good friend, heralds this Brave New World regularly on his blog. (Btw, if you haven’t read him, you should. He has a unique– and disturbing to some – viewpoint) But who are those readers? And what are they looking for? 

That’s the rub, at least for me. We already know that the numbers of those who regularly read fiction have declined year after year, especially in this economy. We also know that those who download ebook fiction (I’m generalizing here) tend to be younger. So it kind of makes sense that the stories those readers like are not necessarily the same stories the previous generation of readers liked. 

The good news is that it appears that crime fiction may be the most downloaded type of ebook to date. I have no hard data, but scanning Kindle bestsellers, it appears that within the crime fiction genre, thrillers and women’s stories dominate. 

About prices: we know the publishing industry is in a quandary, wondering whether to charge $6.00, $10, or more. For mid-list authors, I think Joe Konrath has the right idea –the prices we charge should be MUCH lower. I have the rights to EASY INNOCENCE and DOUBLEBACK, and I’m charging $2.99 each. But my objective isn’t to make a pile of money.  It’s to get new readers to try me, and they’re much more apt to do so if I keep the prices low.  And, btw, I did see the volume effect. When I first lowered the prices, I sold a LOT of ebooks. For about two months, I made over $100 per month. And my share of that $2.99 royalty was barely one dollar. That’s going to change in July, btw, when Kindle gives author/publishers 70 % rather than 30%.

So, what should you do? 

Bottom line, IF you can keep the erights, and IF you can publish a nice-looking version (I don’t do HTML – I send it to someone who does), and IF you can promote it effectively (which is the subject of an entirely different blog), I think ebooks are a great opportunity. Even if you don’t have the rights, or any control over the price, you can still promote your ebooks and let the world know you’ve gone digital.

I think there’s a good reason to do so. It’s important to get your books out now, before the market gets too cluttered. If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that B&N, among others, has created a division for self-publishing. The floodgates are about to open, and I’m concerned that the ebook market  is going to be a vast sea of self-published work.

Which is where we midlist authors have an advantage. We have been vetted. We have been edited. Our work has been deemed worthy of publication. I think, therefore, that we need to get our work out there—now – so that people know that we’re not part of the self-published masses. That we do have something of interest that should be read

In that spirit, I jumped in. Over the years I’ve written over 15 short stories that were published in various magazines and anthologies. So I decided to put them together in a collection. NICE GIRL DOES NOIR (Volume 1 and Volume 2) should be up on Kindle and Smashwords in a couple of days. I had a friend create (what I think are) smashing covers. I had other friends (Joe Konrath and Kent Krueger) write introductions.

I intend to promote them online, and maybe, if you want, I’ll report back on my results later this summer.  For now, though, I’m considering this an experiment. It’s the first “original” work that I’ve put strictly online. It wasn’t expensive. It wasn’t painful, and I’m anxious to see how they do. You can find out more about them at my website. And if you want to buy a copy or two, I sure wouldn’t mind. 


 Libby's books have JUST gone up on Kindle and Smashwords. For anyone who's interested, here are the links:


NICE GIRL DOES NOIR on Smashwords:


John Corrigan said...

Nice post. Makes a lot of sense.

Robert W. Walker said...

Not only is it about making money, which is nice for a writer, like something out of an alternate universe, but authors like myself who have many out of print titles are able to ressurect these titles on Kindle to find an entirely new audience. Aside from all this, too, is the sense of absolute control over the end product and the surprising sense of FREEDOM this control gives an author. All I ever wanted to do as a novelist was to be able to support myself in my chosen profession, and for the first time in 30 yrs. I just may be able to do that thanks to the earnings I am building at Kindle. The economics of it is great and I can SEE every sale and every result of every sale at any time I wish (no watiing months for results to come in on an unreadable royalty statement). I have some 44 'odd' books on Kindle, this month have sold over 800 books for a nice chunk of dough and I can tell you in 30 yrs of publising with traditonal publishers I never once had those kind of figures going out of brick and mortar stores, and guess what? All my books are priced at 1.99 abd 2.99.
One more thing, some five of my titles are Original to Kindle titles, never before in print, and my work in progress is not going to be shopped around for a year but rather go straight to Kindle with me as publisher as well as author.
It's a brave new world and I am following in Joe Konrath's footsteps; he is carrying the flag for us all, and I am beating the drum.

Maribeth said...

Informative post. Lots of thought material.
" We also know that those who download ebook fiction (I’m generalizing here) tend to be younger." I think I love you--I haven't been young or called younger in a long time! LOL
Giggles and Guns

Libby Hellmann said...

Just found out the books have JUST gone up on Kindle and Smashwords. For anyone who's interested, here are the links:


NICE GIRL DOES NOIR on Smashwords:

jenny milchman said...

I think you make a great point, Libby, about content filtering as more and more works flood the new e market. Coming in towards the start is one way to set yourself apart, but there are going to be countless opportunities for smart filters to bring the kind of content X reader likes to his/her attention, and to form a hierarchy of quality in the available works. I can't imagine how it will all shake out, but I wish you much luck in your first forays!

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