Thursday, May 05, 2011

Author Douglas Corleone

 DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series, published by St. Martin's Minotaur. His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Corleone now lives in the Hawaiian Islands, where he writes full-time. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel. The official book launch party for NIGHT ON FIRE took place last Saturday at Barnes & Noble at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. Today, though, Douglas is here with us to talk about e-books and royalty statements.

Please welcome Douglas Corleone.

Publishing Hardcovers During the E-Book Revolution

Book lovers (or rather physical book lovers) worldwide are panicking about the possible end to the publishing of hardcover books. The predictions are grim. Experts say that in 2011, e-books will account for 25% of all book sales, and that by 2014, that number will rise to 50%. We’ve already seen publishers cutting back on the number of paperbacks they’re putting out. My debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE is a victim of this cutting. Over the past half-century, authors who published with major houses could expect their novel to live a second life with the release of their book in mass market paperback. Nowadays, that’s no guarantee. Indeed, for me, it’s a harsh reality: I will never see a single paperback sale for PARADISE.

It’s to be expected, we’re told, because of the so-called e-book revolution. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against e-books. I own a Kindle and I use it. I’ve read at least 50 books on my Kindle over the past two years, and I have at least 50 more waiting to be read. Still, I love physical books…especially my own.

That’s why my first real royalty statement filled me with mixed emotions. E-book sales accounted for only 2.5% of total sales. According to industry experts, e-books currently account for approximately 17% of all book sales. So why such an anomaly on my royalty statement?

The only reasonable hypothesis I could formulate was a frightening one – that it’s even more difficult for new authors to be discovered by e-book readers than it is to be discovered by readers who still search the aisles of brick-and-mortar bookstores!

Wasn’t it tough enough already?

Then again, it makes sense. How many books do you see when you go to to make a purchase? I’d venture not nearly as many as when you walk into your local Barnes & Noble bookstore. How long do you linger on Amazon’s pages? I’d venture not nearly as long as you typically take strolling through the aisles of your local independent. As a reader I’m worried about losing the brick-and-mortar bookstore experience. As a new author, I’m absolutely petrified.

I see a lot of bad advice given to aspiring authors, both on the Internet and in the pages of writing magazines. But none worse than this: “You don’t need an agent or publisher. You don’t even need a physical book. Go to Amazon’s CreateSpace , put your book out there for $2.99, and market away.”

If you already have a genuine platform, maybe. (In fact, bestselling author Barry Eisler is doing just that). If you’re not so concerned about sales figures and just want a book out there, okay. But if you’re serious about the business of publishing – and if you’ve written a full-length novel, I assume you are – then I still urge you to take the traditional path.

I’ll happily update you on the e-book sales for my second novel NIGHT ON FIRE. In fact, if you’d like to prove me wrong, there would be no better way than by heading over to Amazon right now and purchasing NIGHT ON FIRE for your Kindle.

Thank you Douglas.

To learn more about Douglas Corleone, you can visit his website. But before you link over, leave a question or comment for him.

I’ll start the questions: Douglas, you mentioned publishers cutting back on issuing paperbacks. Do you think it may eventually come down to hardbacks being printed for those who love them and will continue to pay the high cost to have them, while e-books will become the “new” paperbacks?


  1. Interesting! I've never been one to purchase mass-markets - I've always purchased the hardback or trade paperback. Now that I have an iPad, most of my purchases are eBooks. Guess I was lucky with my book - according to my royalty statement, the sales are split evenly between physical and eBook.

  2. My e-book royalties came to 28.43% of my total in 2010 ... unfortunately, that only amounted $7.49.

  3. Doug, do you think your lack of ebook sales have anything to do with your publisher under reporting your sales?

    While I understand your position as an author who took the traditional route, I don't think that publishing is or should be a one size fits all business. There are traditionally published authors jumping ship for self-publishing and self-published authors making enough noise so that traditional publishers are coming to them with contracts. In a time of transition, such as this one, no doubt there will be chaos on both sides of the aisle and it will take time to smooth out the rough spots.

  4. It is great to hear a published author voicing my fears and worries as I'm busy writing my novel.
    I'm not ready to step into the world of E(self-published)books yet and want to go down the agent/publisher route, so thank you, Helen and Douglas for this posting

  5. I didn't do an e-book for my memoir for the very reason Douglas mentions here. I'm an unknown. Alex, you're lucky.

  6. Hi Doug! I was interested in reading your observations on the ebooks...I think the best course of action is to try to go the traditional path and *also* explore ebook options(but not in place of traditional publishing.)

    I think we'll end up seeing more of the Amazon algorithm ("People who bought *this* book also bought *these*....) which seem to work so well.

  7. I'd have to agree with J.M. Cornwell about the transition seeing authors going both ways.

    One small nitpick with your statement: “You don’t need an agent or publisher. You don’t even need a physical book. Go to Amazon’s CreateSpace , put your book out there for $2.99, and market away.”

    CreateSpace IS the physical book site for Amazon, not the Kindle site. That is KDP.

  8. All of this is still an ongoing debate. We used to have print or audio books. Now there are numerous options. I wonder if it will narrow down to ... what?

  9. I don't think it will narrow down, except maybe that there will be fewer hard cover books printed. Paperback is always a good deal, as are ebooks and audio books, especially for people who travel a lot or like to have someone read to them. However, paperback has a relatively short shelf life, usually five years, before it begins to disintegrate and fall apart. In that instance, hard cover books will be for the ones people treasure and want to keep around.

    Joe Konrath says that ebooks are forever, but then Bill Gates said that 96 meg was sufficient for anyone's usage and more powerful computers with more RAM, etc. would not be necessary. Nice to see how wrong he was about that.

    As an author who has done it both ways, I see room for both, but big publishers are going to have to put together a new business model because their prices on ebooks are outrageous for what amounts to ones and zeroes delivered at the speed of light. To price an ebook at roughly 1/3 to 1/4 less than a hard cover book is pricing themselves out of the market, which is what I think Doug is seeing in his royalties. People are unwilling to spend $14.99 for an ebook when they can get several more ebooks for the same price, even if they are self-published.

    The game is changing and traditional publishers need to get on the bandwagon before they get run over and their business taken over by smaller publishers who can do just as much and offer authors a bigger cut of the profits.

  10. Thanks for all the comments -- I thought this topic might spark some debate.

    I agree that traditional publishing and self-publishing can coexist peacefully together.

    I also agree that the Big Six needs to react faster to an ever-changing marketplace.


  11. I'm hoping the big publishers have learned from what is happening now and will adapt more quickly. Quite a few authors are not even bothering to query. They're going straight to e-pubbing.

  12. It takes a long time for a behemoth like publishing to turn itself around, and they will need to do a 180. I wouldn't look for anything to change for a while, but it would be nice if they did.

  13. Hi Doug, nice to meet you.

    I'm mixed about the world of e-publishing too. I'm a book lover - all that paper and heft to the story. I own a kindle, and reading on it is a vastly different experience. I love the portability of the entire bookshelf though.

    I don't think paper backs will go away too soon. Wishful thinking maybe. And I'm still querying for an agent. There's a lot of novels on createspace that need editor attention.

    Helen; Thanks for hosting Douglas. It has been interesting.


  14. It's interesting following the comments here. Not too long ago I received a Nook, and I've read books on it since that, if I didn't have the Nook, I would never have read. There are so many variables involved, I just hope that we always have the option of hardcover or eBook, and the best of both worlds.

  15. I'm nostalgic about print books, as well. They've been part of my entire life. But I am coveting an eReader now. I'd steal my husband's but it's always with him.

  16. Good points made here and I agree with Elizabeth about the advantages of going with traditional publishing and e-publishing at the same time. The transition away from paper totally is a long way off, and there are plenty of readers who still prefer the book in hand. And I will admit that I am like Doug, I love to hold my book in my hand. Can't do that with my e-books. LOL

  17. I wonder what the very young will read when they're our age, Maryann.


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