Full details of the deal have yet to emerge, but Eisler stated that the advance was “comparable” to the trade deal he walked away from. He also stated that print royalty terms will be similar, but that he will receive “close to” 70% e-book royalties and retain creative control.
He also stated that the contract was the most “author friendly” he had ever seen and that he signed straight away.
In March, Eisler shocked the publishing world by turning down a half-million dollar advance with Minotaur (St. Martin’s Press), instead announcing that he was going to self-publish his future work.
He self-published two short stories, The Lost Coast, and more recently, Paris Is A Bitch, the first of which was said to have earned him over $30,000. He also become vociferous in his support for self-publishing, having two noted online conversations with Joe Konrath where they laid out where they saw the industry was headed.
Soon after Eisler’s announcement, self-publishing star Amanda Hocking signed a $2m deal with St. Martin’s Press, trumping Amazon, who had also made a bid.
A lot of commentary at the time was focused on who had made the right move, but I felt that they had both made the right move for them. Eisler’s audience in print was long-established, and he felt that he could make a lot more money by striking out on his own, given that he could earn a four times higher royalty rate by self-publishing.
Hocking accepted that she would probably make less overall through a trade deal, but that it would have other benefits in terms of editing and promotion – a burden she was tired of shouldering. She also knew that her print sales were minimal and a trade deal would give her the opportunity to expand her audience into those that hadn’t made the switch to e-books yet.
Cleverly, she retained some ability to self-publish other work outside the deal, allowing her to satisfy her existing audience that might be annoyed at both the higher prices of trade published work, and the restricted output.
Like with both these March news stories, the Eisler announcement has been met with some hysterical commentary. Some are labelling him a turncoat or a hypocrite, but this is a really blinkered way of looking at things.
Eisler has made the best deal for himself, as every writer should. And as I have consistently said on this blog, I think that in the short-term at least, the smartest writers will be those who combine both trade publishing and self-publishing. If e-books are at 30% of the market, there is still 70% in print (and much more globally).
While print is in terminal decline, it will take quite some time to become insignificant. Eisler has signed a deal with a publisher on the up, mostly retaining his juicy e-book royalty rates, and will now have a print distribution reach far in excess of what he could have achieved by self-publishing.
In addition, as one of Amazon’s front-list, they will be pushing him at every opportunity. Their new imprint’s fortunes, to an extent, are tied to him. They need to make him a success for their imprint to be taken seriously, so they will be pouring a lot of marketing energy into promoting his books.
If he exceeds expectations, they will not only make a ton of money, but they can then use him as their poster boy to snare even bigger fish.
Eisler is very smart. He knows that he will get a huge marketing push for free, and they will cover the costs of producing the books. This deal puts him ahead of what he could have achieved on his own, and way ahead of the Minotaur deal he walked away from in March.
In short, it’s a clever move by Amazon and a clever move by Eisler.
But it’s not all upside, some questions remain. While Amazon has an arrangement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to produce hardback editions, they are still searching for a paperback partner.
Some houses are wary. First off, Amazon is a competitor, and trade houses are cautious of giving them even more control over the whole publishing value chain. Second, some have expressed fears that Barnes & Noble (the largest US bookstore chain and the second largest digital retailer), won’t stock Amazon’s books.
Is this likely?
First off, while Eisler is an international bestseller, he is not quite a household name. Boycotting his books wouldn’t make a huge dent in Barnes & Noble’s balance sheet, but could knock a good portion off Eisler’s sales (both print and digital).
But is this a sustainable strategy? Could they keep it up as Amazon add more and more writers to their roster? I doubt it.
It will probably all come down to money. The discount Amazon will offer Barnes & Noble to stock the books will decide the matter. If they can come to an arrangement that suits both parties, a deal will be done.
It will also be interesting to see the reaction of independent booksellers, given that some have said that they won’t stock Joe Konrath’s latest book, as it is coming from the same Amazon imprint – Thomas & Mercer.
I would guess that all this doesn’t matter too much to Eisler. He stands to make at least the same from e-books that he would have on his own (but probably a lot more considering the extra promotional push he will get), and a lot more from print, even if every indie bookseller and Barnes & Noble refuse to stock his book.
I wrote a blog post at the beginning of the month stating that the rise of self-publishing was good for all writers, even those who had no interest in self-publishing. Some arch-defenders of trade publishing thought that this was nonsense.
However, here we have a trade published writer who was unhappy with the deal he was being offered. He walked away and self-published some short stories, made a lot of money, and was planning to do the same for his next novel.
Instead, he got offered a much juicier trade deal.
Anyone who is in trade publishing will be watching closely. Authors will be taking Amazon seriously, and agents will have increased leverage when it comes to negotiating e-book royalty rates.
Publishers will know there is a new, serious competitor, who is offering significantly higher royalty rates. They will have to raise their game to keep their stars.
As with the two major developments in March, I see this as a vindication of self-publishing, but also a confirmation that the smartest writers will leave all doors open.
It’s a great time to be a writer, and it’s getting better every day.