On Writing,  publishing

The New World of Publishing: Spreading Out

SPREADING OUT: The 2014 Story of One Business and Two Writers

I figure it would be time to clear the air here at the beginning of the year on a few things about our business.

Now understand, WMG Publishing Inc. is a corporation that is privately held and I can’t and won’t spread financial information as many indie writers do without a thought to the consequences. But I can talk in general about things for teaching purposes.

The point of this is to help writers understand how we do it and also illustrate the idea that it is a bad idea to look to only one source for sales or information.

So here goes:

Some Basic Facts

Fact… WMG Publishing has 485 titles in print. A lot of them are also in audio, a lot of them are also in print. And more going that way every day, as well as new titles coming up. We are aiming for 600 titles by the end of 2015. That will be a push, but possible.

Fact… WMG Publishing is spread out over every distribution system we can find for our 485 titles. Our paper books are close to eclipsing Amazon US electronic in sales every month. We sell all over the world. And we are in library distribution and in audio, most of which is Kris going direct to audio and selling them books, but WMG also publishes a lot of audio through ACX and that is slowly growing.

Fact… We pay little attention to Amazon. It’s just another bookstore for us. In 2014 we did NOTHING exclusive (besides the audio books with ACX) and we price almost all our electronic books and stories from $2.99 to $6.99, with most the novels in the $4.99 to $5.99 range. And most standalone short stories in the $2.99 range. Not all, but most.

Fact… We own a brick-and-mortar comic book and collectable store and are looking to expand into a bookstore as well in the near future. WMG Publishing Inc. owns the store.

Fact… WMG Publishing has seven employees, down from ten in October. In October we finished the main push on getting up a major part of our backlist and just didn’t need everyone. Nature of a growing business. The seven employees we have now are handling everything wonderfully.

Fact… WMG Publishing Inc. is a debt-free corporation.

Fact… Besides running a brick-and-mortar store, selling books and magazines online and in other physical stores, we also teach workshops to try to help writers. About 1/8th to 1/10th of WMG Publishing’s annual gross income came from workshops in 2014 which include the online workshops I push here and the three coast workshops we do. The online workshops do fine as to costs since I do them, but the coast workshops tend to mostly break even with all the costs. We have five guest instructors, for example, in the anthology workshop in Feb/March here at the coast. That’s expensive.

Fact… We have a seven thousand square foot office (I put a few pictures of my area at WMG up earlier) in which we have offices and we also hold the coast workshops, plus some monthly professional coast writers meetings. In that office we also have an audio office and sound room. And two warehouses full of books and other storage. Kris and I alone, from all the extra copies of our books and overseas copies of our books we have been sent over the decades, have just under 120 file boxes full. That takes up a lot of room. (grin) Not counting the entire room full of boxes of our old paper manuscripts. (Yes, we kept them all from the hundreds of books.)

Fact… I just added up my last six month sales from one of my old publishers from a royalty statement I just got in the mail. I sold in six months 2,291 books (mass, trade, electronic). That was only from one of my old publishers. I have at least ten with multiple books in each. Not counting any of Kris’s publishers in traditional or any of my ghost-written books. Royalties still running from our old publishers.

So, if a person is only looking at all our 485 WMG Publishing titles on only Amazon and wondering how we make so much money to afford all this, it would be impossible to see.

A Quick Story:

Back in the traditional publishing days, we had editor friends we were working with in New York and when they would see our compound (three buildings on a ridge) overlooking the Pacific, or hear about us doing something, they would wonder where we were earning all the money. The truth was, from the editor’s perspective, it was a valid question. They only saw our advances from their one company.

As I said a few nights backs, we NEVER worked with just one publisher or editor. Both Kris and I would be with three or four or more book publishers each at any given time. But one book editor, looking only at one $25,000 advance spread out over two years would wonder how I was making over six figures a year. Logical question from a limited perspective of that one editor.

Looking at only Amazon is just as blinding when it comes to our work. Or any writer’s work who is doing this publishing business correctly.

Even though I love what Data Guy and Hugh are doing, they are blind to the real business with their numbers because they only focus on one bookstore in one form. They admit this, but many following them do not understand that fact. True professionals spread out as fast as they can, and never trust one editor, one bookstore, one publisher. Ever.

For example:

In November I sold just under 3,300 copies of my book Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. I got paid for each copy. If you looked at that book only on Amazon, I think maybe I sold 5 to 10 copies in electronic there. (I didn’t check and don’t care at the moment.) If it cracked the top 50,000 ranking I would have been stunned, if I paid any attention at all to that kind of stupidity. But overall, I sold just under 3,300 copies of that book in just November.

Again, Kris and I don’t focus on Amazon. It is only just another bookstore for us. Nothing more. A good one, granted, but nothing that special. (Yeah, that will make a lot of people angry and they will stop reading right here. Just remember, Kris and I have seen stores come and go over the decades. A lot of them.)

So besides selling a ton of copies of the 485 titles through all the varied bookstores (both brick-and-mortar and electronic stores) in paper and audio and electronic, how else does WMG Publishing and Kris and I make money???

Let me pull the curtain back just a touch without giving away any financial numbers of any sort.

For example:

Movie sales. Because our books are out there around the world, we are constantly getting approached for television and movies. (And we don’t have stupid agents blocking the way anymore, so we get a ton of the television and movie people approaching us with shopping agreements and options.) Did you know Kris is listed as the executive producer on the professional side of IMDB for one movie from one of her books?

For example:

Audio sales outside of ACX. This is all Kris and she’s been selling audio direct for decades now.

For example:

Kris also sells all the time to major short fiction markets. (I sell to my own magazine at WMG Publishing at the moment for the most part, except for a few anthologies I am in next year from Baen Books.)

For example:

Major story bundles. In late November and December alone, we had 7 different WMG Publishing titles in different major bundles with other writers. In just one bundle alone, I think I sold about 800 or so copies of my novel Dead Money with Konrath and Meyer and Buckman and other thriller writers.

For example:

Pre-Orders. Kris has the first three of the new Retrieval Artist Anniversary Day Saga in pre-orders through major bookstore sites. We almost always put Fiction River into pre-orders as well, plus other books.

For example:

Subscriptions. We have two different magazines running subscriptions and we had a successful Kickstarter subscription drive for Fiction River in October.

For example:

Don’t forget our comic and collectables store and three eBay stores comics and WMG Publishing books. Two of those stores are owned by WMG Publishing Inc. We are also selling on Amazon Marketplace. We are also working at ABE for signed books.

And, of course, we do the workshops as I mentioned above, and the traditional publishing royalties still running as I mentioned above.

And there is more, such as overseas translation sales, but you get the idea.

We believe, and have always believed, in generating many, many cash streams. Never focusing on just one thing.

Also, let me be clear here. Kris and I do not run WMG Publishing day-to-day in any fashion. We have worked very hard to stay out of that and keep the business separate.

So how many books (paper, audio, electronic) did we sell last year total among all the varied sources? I don’t have an exact total yet. I’ll know in a few weeks, but I sure won’t tell you all here the exact number. That’s none of your business. (I did have a rough number here, but Kris told me it was so low as to be laughable. Guess I should have waited to get the exact number. I just don’t track numbers so I flat don’t know.)

And not a one of those book sales was a free download as some writers count them. But we are fine with discounting at the right time and in the right place.

For example, we did do some discounting on places like Bookbub (four or five or six times, actually) and we did the bundles and we did a few other short sales along the way. I don’t count the fact that Kris gives a story away for free every week on her website.

So maybe now some of you can see why Kris and I are always shouting about not being exclusive and how writers should spread out as much as possible. If we had to depend on one source, such as just electronic books only to pay our expenses, we would be living a very different life. With no employees, no big office, and no big house on the ridge overlooking the ocean.

Also, all this takes time to set up, folks. Those of you in a hurry will make bad choices. Work to the long run. Always, as I have said a few thousand times here as well.

And expect to make some mistakes along the way. That’s part of any business and helps you learn.

So in summary, we don’t depend on one source. And neither should any of you. My opinion, my advice. Whatever you want to say about it.

Kris and I and WMG Publishing take risks to start new cash streams all the time. Sometimes the new cash streams work (such as the new store) and other times they fail (which happened with a distribution company we tried to start a few years back). But we take risks.

We will never stop taking risks.

And we keep writing and putting up new work. And that’s the most important of everything.

We do our best to keep up with everything new coming into publishing, but we don’t chase every fad. And we don’t write to market. We write what we love.

And it seems to work just fine in the long run.

We have fun. We make a lot of money. That’s also fun.

And we do our best to help others find their own road, even if it is different from what we are doing. Every writer is different. And thankfully these days, there is no one path.

I hope all of you out there have a good year. I know for WMG Publishing Inc and me and Kris, 2015 is going to be a great year.

Have fun.

(Oh, yeah, more cash streams right here. Important ones to me, more than the money, but the support that what I say sometimes makes a difference.)

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