Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Dominance of Audiobooks

 In yesterday's post, I mentioned how well epic fantasy indie authors are doing with their audiobooks. I also mentioned that audiobooks is "where the money's at" and that it has become the dominate format for consuming epic fantasy stories.  Today, I'm providing some insight into this claim.

I went through the 100 Bestselling Epic Fantasy Books on Amazon and did a little graphic showing what formats were selling the most.  Now, of course, this data is always changing, so this was just a "snapshot in time" - But I've watched this trend for a few years now and it has been remarkably similar.

Some things to note:

  • 7 of the top 10 are audiobooks
  • 59% of all books in the Top 100 are audio (almost twice as many as kindles)
  • Only 8 books out of the 100 are in a "non-digital" format
  • Only 1 hardcover is making the top 100 bestselling list
It's easy to see why audiobooks are dominating how we consume our stories. You can "read" while exercising, doing laundry, or driving and in today's multi-tasking world that's really attractive.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Indie authors dominating epic fantasy audiobooks

The indie author community has come such a long way in the 13 years since we started self-publishing in 2009.  What was once looked upon as something to be used only for those who couldn't be picked up by a traditional publisher is now in full swing with authors taking their careers in their own hands.

Anyone who knows anything about publishing today is aware of four things:

  1. Audiobooks are where the money is at. Just as ebooks once dominated sales, it's now audiobooks that rule. We see something like 50% of our income from audio, 30% from the ebook, and 20% from physical book sales.

  2. The big five (four) traditional publishers WILL NOT write a contract unless they can acquire all three formats: printed, ebook, and audio.

  3. Although publishers are requiring the audiobook rights they aren't adjusting their advances to reflect the value of this format. If I were to publish traditionally my likely advance for a new title would be half to one-third for all three rights that I can receive by selling JUST the audiobook rights directly to audio producers such as Audible Studios, Podium Publishing, or Recorded Books.

  4. When a publisher is involved the amount the author makes per sale goes down significantly. If they sell the audiobook as a subsidiary right, the author will split the income with the publisher 50/50. Essentially cutting their income in half. If the publisher produces it themselves then they usually pay 25% to the author and keep 75% for themselves. And since the publisher is receiving only a portion of the TOTAL income (the amount after Audible takes their cut), the income can be as low as 3.5% which is only 23% of the standard 15% when selling to Audible Studios directly.
Given that, it's no wonder that so many savvy authors have decided to forgo traditional publishing and sell their audio rights in a smarter way.  My wife has helped broker a number of audiobook deals directly with Audible Studios (something she does for free - as she doesn't mind picking up the phone to match-make an author with a partner).   

But as they say on Shark Tank 80% of a watermelon is better than 100% of a grape. The implication being that you should take the route that increases your overall sales the most.  Logic would dictate that going with a traditional publisher would produce higher overall sales.  And yet . . . 

Let's look at the top-selling Epic Fantasy titles.


Three authors are represented and each of them is independently published for their ebook and print copies, and they sold their audio rights directly to an audiobook producer rather than involving a big traditional publisher. So not only are they making more for each sale, but they are selling more than titles released by the biggest publishers in the world.

What point am I making? Am I saying that traditional publishers are evil and should never be used? No. I've published with four different traditional publishers and there were valid reasons for each contract I signed, and we both benefited from the relationship.  But times change and authors have to keep abreast of what's going on in the industry, so I'm trying to do what I can to educate others. As far as I'm concerned, the two most important entities when it comes to storytelling is the one who creates the tale (the authors) and the ones who consume the tale (the readers), and I think it's best for both of these parties when there are fewer middlemen in between the two.


Friday, June 24, 2022

Another Farilane Contest


The winners for the last Farilane giveaway were announced and Robin has come up with a cool little idea for the next contest.  Guess the number of downloads!

You see, each month Audible tells us the total number of audiobooks sold, and if you can guess how many that are you can win.  What will you win?

Well, a fan had a great idea to do some really cool custom puzzles - they have Marc Simonetti's artwork on the front and Sarah's Limited Edition Design on the back (on a blue background with a silver foil).

We purchased some of these puzzles and we'll be using them for giveaways.  So, when we get the numbers for the end of June, whoever comes closest (and yes you can go over) will win:

  • One of these exclusive puzzles
  • A download code to get the audiobook of Farilane
Now, if you already have the audiobook of Farilane, no worries, you can give it to a friend and introduce them to the amazing narration of Tim Gerard Reynolds. And if you aren't an audiobook member, you can still win the audiobook - in other words, no membership is required.

So, go to this link,  enter your guess, and maybe you'll win.  We will close the poll on July 1st, and announce the winner once the numbers come in from Audible. Oh, and here's some data to help you with your choice:
  • At the end of May we had 4,735 downloads
  • We got as high as #27 across the entire store upon its release
  • We are now at #131
  • Robin's guess is 15,000
Good Luck!






Thursday, June 23, 2022

Update on Farilane Hardcovers

Well, it's been a little over two weeks since Farilane's ebook and audiobook were released, and we've been getting a lot of emails about when the printed books will start shipping. I guess it's time for an update on that.  Let me start by stealing a bit from my wife's post on the Farilane Kickstarter.

To fully explain this I have to talk a bit about the state of printing in 2022.  Back when we started printing books there were many options for printing (well maybe not "many" but certainly more than there are now.  But over the last decade, a lot has happened. 

  • Many publishers either went out of business altogether or at least filed for Chapter 11
  • One printing organization has "gobbled up" many of the remaining smaller printers.
  • Publishers delayed a number of book releases during the pandemic such that the publishers have long "wait queues" that new titles have to wait in before they can get on the press.
  • There is only one binder in the entire United States that can do "hubbed spines" and they do a lot of other "premier binding" work so they are quite busy.
Okay, so in late April the book was pretty much done (we were still gathering names for the Kickstarter Backer area) but we knew how many pages the book would wind up at so we could get printer quotes - let's go!
  • Printer #1 - who has printed Age of Legend, Age of Death, Age of Empyre, and Nolyn. Came in with a price about 70% higher than I've had to pay in the past, which is a bummer but the real problem was the earliest press time they had was November 4th.  And that date is heavily dependent on paper availability - which is something they have been struggling with a great deal.

  • Printer #2 - bought up the printer that created the Death of Dulgath and The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter.  Their first quote was astronomical.  So they tried "running" the numbers from a different plant that "might be a better fit" and they got better, but still about 50% more than I usually pay. Their "wait time" was better - 60 days, but the special binding would be harder to predict as the one and only binder who pretty swamped so its almost impossible to know until after the books are printed and shipped to them how long they will be sitting and waiting.

  • Printer #3 - I've never used them for printing and binding a book - but I have had dust jackets printed from them. They wouldn't even quote a "full book" production because their queue is just too long and until they get some of their current jobs in.
Okay, so none of those are good options, but I had been contacted by an offshore printer who looked promising. Not only could they do the hubbed spines "in-house" but being in the country where the paper is manufactured means that paper supply isn't nearly as big of a problem as it is for the US companies.  But I worried about the quality.  The good news, is the company was willing to create samples using the exact stock that the books would ultimately be created in. So I thought, let's give it a try.

Now things like the dust jacket and the foil stamps for the spine of the book can't be made until the printer is selected because the "width of the spine" will depend on the paper used. I also wanted to do some "upgrading" (using higher-end papers) because that would help ensure a higher quality book, and if "low quality" was a concern (which it was for Robin), we might as well use "the good stuff" in the hopes of getting a better product.

So, while the samples were being made and shipped to us Robin and I went off to our long-planned vacation of white-water rafting down the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  After we hiked our way out and flew back home on June 6th the samples arrived the next day. And here they are!


The quality was excellent! Even better than what I've received from the other printers I've used previously.  And since they could get on and off the press in a fraction of the time as the other printers it made total sense to add this new printer to my list of places I can go to for books. So that's exactly what we did!

Now switching printers did result in a little bit of a delay because we had to layout the book a bit differently. Why? Well, these books are "Smyth sewn" rather than "adhesive bound." A sewn book is always better than a glued book and they have the added benefit of "laying flat" when you read them. When you layout an adhesive-bound book you leave a larger margin on the right side of the left-hand page and the left side of the right-hand page. In other words, you leave "more space" near the spine. And because we had intended to do adhesive-bound books, that is the way our original layout was. But when looking at the sample, that extra space wasn't needed so we had to move everything a bit.  This took us about a week to do and proof, but it was time well spent to get a higher-quality binding.

So, the books are due to come off the press on July 25th.  Once they are done, they have to ship to us, and that will take longer than shipping within the US. But even with that extra step, we will get them earlier than printer #2 would have been able to deliver and MUCH earlier than printer #1.

We'll be back with more updates as they get closer to us.  If you want to get the books as fast as you possibly can, I suggest buying them directly from us. Here's why.

  • Right now, our store is the ONLY place you can do a pre-order. The pre-order for the stores won't go live until we can guarantee our distributors when they'll have books in hand and then they usually set the pre-order date about 60 days after they have the books. 

  • Both our warehouse and the distributor's warehouse will get the books at essentially the same time,  but we can ship ours as soon as they are in hand and the "retail books" have to get "checked in" at the main distributor, then he pre-orders have to be made, and THEN the books start traveling to the retailer's warehosues and they have to get checked in there And only after that can they start fulfilling their pre-orders

  • All books bought from me will be signed!

  • All books bought from me will have a matching bookmark (also signed)!

  • When buying retail, approximately 80% of the amount you pay goes to other people: the printer, the distributor, and the retailer.  When you buy direct that goes down to about 10% because all we have to pay for is the printer, the credit card company, and pay the labor to package and ship the books. So if you would rather have 90% come to the writer of the tale rather than 20% - then please buy direct!
And that's where we stand. I can't wait for people to start receiving these beautiful books. But supply chain issues are a big problem right now - and probably will be for some time to come.






Monday, June 20, 2022

Esrahaddon - Most Popular Book of July 2023

Now that Farilane is out of our hands (audiobook and ebook released, hardcover with the printer and waiting for it to come off the press), we turn our attention to Esrahaddon (the last book of the trilogy.  For those that don't know, it's my longest work yet.  Usually, I write 110,000 - 140,000 words per novel but Esrahaddon is 275,000 words long - so it'll be twice the fun, right?

Robin is going through her alpha read of the book now, and so far so good. She's noted a few little "minor tweaks but nothing earth-shattering. The plan is to have the book released next summer - so the clock is ticking.

It looks like a lot of people are excited about this one, we have more than 2,100 people on Goodreads who have shelved it.  That's enough people to make it the #1 most popular book to release in July 2023 month.


And that works out to be the 69th most popular book for the entire year. Not too shabby. Now, as other books posted, we are sure to slide from those enviable spots - but if you happen to have a Goodreads account, please go here and click "want to read" and that will help us help other people find out about the book.



Saturday, June 18, 2022

Farilane hits the Top 10 List

I actually saw this news a few days ago from the Associated Press (and picked up by a bunch of other outlets like the San Francisco Chronicle and ABC News), but I didn't have time to post about it.

Anyway, Farilane hit the Top 10 Bestselling Audible Books for the week of June 12th!

Robin and I would like to thank everyone who pre-ordered Farilane or picked it up during its first week on sale. That's how this kind of thing happens.

As someone who has been a bit of a trailblazer when it comes to embracing audiobooks in general, and doing so as an indie author in particular I want to note that there is a good crop of indies in this group, including the #1 book - which is absolutely killing it.  Craig Alanson's latest in the very popular ExForce series has 2,552 ratings (as compared to Farilane's 445, so people are just gobbling that book up!

Anyway, if you like supporting authors who blaze their own path and are going the independent route, here are some in the Top 10 to check out:

  • #1 - Match Game by Craig Alanson
  • #8 - House of Blades by Will Wight (which is free, you don't even need a credit)
  • #10 - Farilane by Michael J. Sullivan
Also, Colleen Hoover is on the list. This particular book is published through Amazon's Romance Imprint, so not a true "indie, (and she is also publishing these days through a Simon and Schuester imprint) but Colleen was also a trailblazer of the indie author movement so it's worth giving her a shout out as well.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Winners of the Farilane Audiobook Giveaway

 Hey all, Robin here.

Our thanks to the 259 people who signed up for the drawing to win a copy of the Farilane Audiobook.  The winners are:

  • Suzanne from New York
  • Ella from Arizona
  • Russell from New Jersey
Each of you has been sent a download code to redeem your copy.  Check your email for the subject: Congratulations, you one an audiobook of Farilane.  And, yes I now realize the typo in that but when I was typing the subject I was thinking "you are one of the winners" - sorry about that.  My mind is not what it used to be.

For those that didn't win.  No worries, we will be doing a few more drawings in the coming weeks, so you are still entered.  

If you didn't enter but want to be eligible for the next drawing, here is the link.  As you can see from the screenshot above, people enjoy the book.  A 4.9 rating with 335 people weighing in!

Here are some of the things that people are saying:

WOW!   •  I have no words. Just read.

An absolute joy   •  SUPERB!

Amazing!  • Heartbreakingly Spectacular

Exceptional  • One of his best works yet

It was emotional, funny, and entertaining  • PERFECT!