Friday, April 29, 2011

Konrath's New Stuff

Incredibly, I now have forty ebooks available. Thirty-two are self-pubbed, eight are with publishers.

Here are my latest releases. If you visit this blog a lot and haven't bought any of my books yet, I'll be spanking you later.

I'm pleased to announce my latest release, Flee - A Thriller, co-written with the incredible Ann Voss Peterson (Wild Night is Calling). This one is loaded with actions, suspense, twists, sex, and a body count that makes a Jason Bourne book look like a Disney film.

It is available for the Kindle and on Smashwords. It will very soon be available on the Nook, Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, and in print.

Flee is only $2.99 for a full 75,000 word adrenalin-fueled roller coaster. And it also has Jack Daniels in it.

Speaking of Jack Daniels, she's also part of the story universe I'm creating with the amazing Blake Crouch (who is currently a Top 100 Kindle bestseller with Run).

Those who have read the seventh Jack novel, Shaken, know that it features Crouch's villain from Desert Places and Locked Doors, Luther Kite.

Stirred, the eighth and final Jack Daniels novel will be co-written with Crouch, and it will put a nice cap on our oeuvre.

What is our oeuvre, you ask?

I wrote seven Jack Daniels novels (Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail, Dirty Martini, Fuzzy Navel, Cherry Bomb, Shaken) and Blake wrote two novels and a novella featuring Luther Kite (Desert Places, Locked Doors, Break You).

Then together we wrote Serial Uncut, which featured Jack and Luther.

Since then, we've been writing like crazy.

First came Killers, which brings back the serial duo Donaldson and Lucy from Serial Uncut.

Recently, we wrote Birds of Prey, which features Jack Daniels, Luther Kite, and over a dozen more serial killers from the Konrath, Kilborn, and Crouch novels.

Let me repeat: the three novellas in this trilogy are Serial Uncut, Killers, and Birds of Prey. These are each reasonably priced at $2.99.

But we've also released some lower-priced compilations for you folks who like things compiled.

Killers Uncut = Killers + Birds of Prey, and is only $3.99.

Serial Killers Uncut = Serial Uncut + Killers + Break You + Birds of Prey, and is only $4.99.

Serial Killers Uncut is a massive undertaking. Not only is it a double-novel featuring 21 serial killers, but it also explains where these serial killers fit into our other books.

To celebrate the release of these new ebooks featuring Jack Daniels, I've put two more ebooks featuring Jack on sale.

Jailbait (written with Ann Voss Peterson) is now $1.49. Floaters (written with Henry Perez) is now 99 cents.

Now some quick Q & A.

Q: So Flee is a spy novel?

A: It's a spy novel on steroids. It does for spy books what Kilborn does for horror. No-holds-barred action, hot sex, twists, double-crosses, and amazing body count, and a slam-bang ending. I love this book.

Q: Why so many different versions of your novellas with Blake? It's confusing.

A: These days, musical artists will release their songs one at a time. When they get four of them done, they release an EP. When they finish eight of them, they release an album.

Serial Killers Uncut took us over two years to write. It's 120,000 words long, and connects all of our backlists. It features characters from the majority of Konrath's, Crouch's, and Kilborn's novels.

We elected to release the book as we wrote it, in sections. So first came Serial (still free), then Serial Uncut, then Killers, then Birds of Prey, then Killers Uncut, then Serial Killers Uncut.

If you buy Serial Killers Uncut, you get everything. But you can also get each novella separately if you've already bought one or two of them. That way, we aren't making people buy the same story twice.

Q: Do I have to read the Jack Daniels books or Blake Crouch's books to enjoy Serial Killers Uncut?

A: No. But you'd probably enjoy it more if you're familiar with our other novels. Serial Killers Uncut takes place between our novels. It's a chronology of what these serial killers are doing when they aren't in our novels. It's new material, and it does stand alone. But if you've read our stuff, you'll notice a lot of familiar characters and situations.

Q: Are you doing a sequel to Flee?

A: Yes. Spree will be out this summer.

Q: Why so many collaborations?

A: It's fun, and two people can write faster than just one, meaning I can release more books for fans who want them.

Q: How do I buy these?

A: For Kindle: Serial Uncut, Killers, Birds of Prey, Killers Uncut, Serial Killers Uncut, Flee, Floaters, Jailbait.

Nook, Smashwords, Sony, Apple, Kobo, and print will be appearing soon. Keep an eye on those sites.

I'd also like to give a giant shout out to Blake Crouch. His book Run is in the Top 100. If you haven't picked up Run yet, you're missing the best thriller I've ever read.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest Post by Diana Cox

A lot of writers have asked me who proofreads my manuscripts before I self-publish them.

My answer: Diana Cox at

Here she is to talk about her proofreading business:

Not many people have careers they can honestly say they enjoy. Throughout my past fifteen years in accounting, I have constantly, in the back of my mind, wondered if there wasn't something I could do that would allow me to make a living doing something I truly enjoy. One of my favorite things to do is read. But who gets paid to read? I finally realized that I could put my OCD/perfectionist tendencies to use and get paid to read! Ever since I was in school and throughout my career, fellow students and co-workers have brought me writings and communications to check over. I already had my accounting bachelor's degree, so I started taking courses in proofreading and editing, as well as grammar and writing improvement. It was a perfect fit—I loved it and I was good at it! I find it very exciting and an honor to be part of the process that makes these great books available to the public. Although my part in the process is small, I feel my work puts the finishing touches on the book and represents both my work as well as the author’s—and I want us both to look exceptional!

Proofreading is necessary, even for authors who have excellent spelling and grammatical skills. It is not a matter of the author being capable of doing it himself; it is a matter of where the author needs to focus his energy. Plus, it is very difficult to proof one’s own work. The purpose of my service is to allow the author to do his job. Writers are very creative and they need to focus on that creativity rather than the small details. The author should be able to concentrate on the story and maintain momentum once he gets writing, not waste time and effort worrying about crossing every t and dotting every i. In order to compete with the traditionally published works, however, independent authors need to ensure their work is up to par and maintains the same standards set by the publishers.

Since my market is mainly independent authors, I try to keep my prices low. I know authors in this situation have to cover all the expenses themselves up front to get a book published. I want to help independent authors get published, not hinder them.

Joe has been gracious enough to give me this opportunity to introduce myself and provide some basic information on my proofreading services. I focus on novels and short stories. My rates are very reasonable—they start at $4.50 per 1,000 words for projects under 25,000 words, $3.50 per 1,000 words for 25,000 to 80,000 words, and $3.00 per 1,000 words for projects over 80,000 words. There is a $20.00 minimum charge for any project. Expected turnaround time for an average novel is three to four days. Requests for turnaround times of less than two days may incur additional charges, depending upon the project. I will do everything in my power to meet your deadline; however, that is not always possible. If there is any doubt in my capability to meet your deadline, I will let you know up front.

In an effort to build my client list, I am offering half off my first proofreading project for new clients. Please feel free to visit my website at You may also e-mail me at

Joe sez: Diana has proofed my last five or six projects. She's fast and thorough. She sends you a MS Word doc with her editing suggestions, which you can either approve of or reject directly on the manuscript.

I highly recommend her.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Two hundred and seventy-six thousand, one hundred and eleven.

That's how many self-pubbed books I've sold.

About 245k of these on Kindle.

20k on Smashwords,

5k on Createspace,

The rest divvied up among Nook, OverDrive, and my website.


The vast majority of this has been within the last six months. As of last October, I hadn't even hit 100,000.

So far, in April, I've sold over 30,000 books. I'll easily break 35,000 this month.

So, by Christmas, I'll have hit half a million books sold.

Of course, that's a conservative estimate. I'm releasing four more ebooks this month, have several more scheduled for the year, and I expect ereaders to keep selling as their prices keep going down. The market isn't close to being saturated.

I don't think I've really hit my stride yet.

In March, I earned over $68,000. But I know that number can go up. Other authors have earned more. A lot more.

It's been fascinating to watch how this has all developed over the last two years.

The media is picking up on it. Agents are changing their business models. I'm getting far more email than I'll ever be able to answer. Lots of folks thanking me. Lots of folks telling me they're convinced, and are going to self-publish. Lots of folks saying they already have, and sharing their successes.

This isn't just a few fringe outliers making a few bucks in a new, untested market. This is a paradigm shift. A full-fledged revolution.

If you're a writer, and haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, don't worry too much about it.

Sure, you'll miss out on making some money. But it will still be here when you're ready.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Are You Dense?

What the hell is wrong with you?

I'm talking to you. The writers who are still thoughtlessly defending legacy publishing.

Unless you're making over a million dollars a year with the Big 6, continuing down the legacy path is a crazy bad idea.

I see the same tired, lame arguments, over and over again. They include:

It's hard to make decent money self-pubbing.

Guess what? It's even harder to make decent money by legacy publishing. Legacy publishing requires a lot of waiting, and a lot of luck. If you're lucky enough to get an agent AND lucky enough to sell the book AND lucky enough that the publisher doesn't screw it up, you'll have a 1 out of 10 chance at earning out your advance. Maybe.

With self-pubbing, you WILL earn money. It may not be a lot at first, but ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time to accrue sales.

Only Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking make good money self-pubbing.

First of all, anyone who spouts this nonsense is a lazy researcher, because it's a simple Google search to find dozens of authors making good money.

Second of all, this statement could just as well be: Only Stephen King and James Patterson make good money legacy publishing.

If you had to take a shot to try to emulate my career, or try to emulate Stephen King's career, you have a much higher likelihood of success by doing it my way.

The majority of self-pubbed books don't sell many copies.

Neither do the majority of legacy published books.

Here's the simple math. If your book sucks, you'll never get a legacy deal, but you'll sell at least a few copies by self-pubbing.

If your book is awesome, you'll be giving up 70% royalties for 14.9% royalties.

Either way, you make more going indie.

Publishers are essential.

No, they're not. Editing and good covers are essential, and these can be procured for set costs. They aren't worth the 52.5% a publisher takes, forever.

Print is still dominant.

And the T-Rex was still the apex predator for a short time after the meteor hit. Then they all died.

While ebooks may not be an extinction level event, they will become the most popular way to read books.

The gatekeepers are necessary.

I agree. But I don't call these gatekeepers "agents" or "publishers."

I call them "readers."

With all the self-published crap out there, it will be impossible to find anything good.

There are billions of websites on the internet, the majority of them crap. Yet somehow you managed to find my blog.

We live in a world where it is easy to find things that are interesting to us. That won't ever change.

Publishers know quality. They know what sells.

Sure they do. Which is why Snooki got a big push and bombed, and Trapped was rejected by my publisher and is currently in the Top 100. Which means I owe First Book another $500.

If it gets into the top 20, I'll add another $500 on top of that.

The only way I can be validated as a writer is if I'm accepted by the legacy industry.

This is called Stockholm Syndrome. Sales are a much better, and more realistic, form of validation.

If I self-publish, then agents or editors won't want me.

Lazy research again. Agents and editors are actively looking at self-pub success stories, then snapping those authors and books up.

I'll only try to self-publish once I'm guaranteed it is a better move than legacy publishing.

Thanks for making me laugh by using "guarantee" and "publishing" in the same sentence. When you come back to reality, I hope you figure out that each day you don't self-publish is a day you could have earned money but didn't.

That's the bottom line, gang. Every minute of every day, there are new writers jumping on the self-pub bandwagon, beginning to make money.

Every minute you waste is a minute gone forever.

And forever is a long time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Guest Post by Bob Mayer

I asked bestselling author Bob Mayer to give me a blog post about his decision to self-publish, and was pleased to get this response.

Here's Bob...

I appreciate the opportunity to blog here today, as it’s a very special occasion, not only being the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War, but the continuation of a new era for myself and other authors.

In the military, it’s a maxim that every army is always prepared to fight the last war, not the next one. That gets a lot of people killed. In the Green Berets, we were always looking ahead, preparing for what would be, rather than what was. That was my Special Forces experience and I’m applying it to my writing career. Instead of looking at was, I’m looking forward at will be.

That’s the reason I’ve made the switch from traditional publishing to self-publishing. My next book, the epic Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War is live today on Amazon Kindle.

I won’t go into the math as that’s been done many times, and you and Barry Eisler laid it all out clearly here. I’ve had the same publisher as the one who wanted to sign Barry, St. Martins, and my last three book deals with them totaled over a million dollars, so I’m walking away from something significant. I’ve also hit all the bestseller lists, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, but that doesn’t equate directly to the bottom line.

My first book came out in 1991 and it’s now over 45 titles later, over four million sold, and I’m more excited than I’ve ever been as a writer. As you know, a year ago I was questioning your numbers. I just couldn’t believe what you were selling. A month ago, I had to publicly admit I Was Wrong and You Were Right. Not only was I wrong, but here’s the thing authors need to understand: it isn’t as much about what’s happening NOW in publishing. It’s where things are going to be a year from now. I see the book deals every day in PW, and just shake my head at the pub dates: 2013, 2014.

Another reason I made the decision to publish Duty, Honor, Country myself was timing. As noted, today is the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War. There’s no way a traditional publisher could have gotten the book out by today. They’re still working on the same business model they had before computers became household items, where their production schedule is normally at least a year once they contract for a book. I’ve had it take as long as 8 months just to get the contract in hand.

Often NY decides whether to publish based not on the book, but on what they perceive the market to be. It used to be a 50% sell through in paperback was the norm. Now they want 80%. How to solve that problem? Retailers are ordering less copies. Higher sell-through but lower volume. Good-bye midlist author. I used to say you needed to make at least six figures for a NY publisher to give you any push. Now it’s seven figures if you consider Eisler and myself walking away from mid-six-figures. I’m consolidating all my titles at Who Dares Wins Publishing and soon will have over 40 titles available.

There’s a huge difference between an author promoting their book and a publisher tossing a book out there. I can give you the numbers. My Area 51 series sold over 1.4 million copies in print for Random House. I sell more e-copies of my Atlantis series per week than RH does of Area 51 in six months. Because I have an incentive to promote and also know how to promote, something NY is still behind the curve on. And I lead with the first book in the series at .99. All the rest of my fiction is at $2.99. I’m pricing Duty, Honor, Country at $4.99 because it’s epic, almost twice the length of my other books, at 175,000 words and took me two years to write and also includes 18,000 words from the opening of my next modern thriller, The Jefferson Allegiance. But follow-on books in the series will be priced lower, at $2.99, and come out faster, which is another key to success.

I don’t think success is any easier in self-publishing than traditional publishing. Both are very difficult. The main difference is that I have more control self-publishing than I ever did in traditional publishing.

I believe one key to success is niche. The Internet has made things more specialized rather than broader. I’ve written in many genres: thrillers, romance, science fiction, non-fiction, but, as I had to do making the decision to self-publish, I had to sit down and decide what I really wanted to write. I based it on my platform: West Pointer, former Green Beret, lover of history. Duty, Honor, Country is the first in a series of books that will feature West Point graduates fighting through history. As a plebe at the Academy we had to memorize a lot of information. I found one piece particularly intriguing and it’s the foundation of the book: in 55 of the 60 major battles in the Civil War, West Pointers commanded on both sides. I always thought—that’s why the war was so bloody and lasted so long. The books focus on the sword’s edge of honor vs. loyalty and the tragedy of how classmates ended up on opposite sides of the battlefield. I’m posting a new blog every day about the book and interesting facts about the Civil War as part of the promotion for this.

Two weeks ago at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference I suddenly realized something: as quickly as a writer can publish their book, is also as quickly as they can quit. It seems many think this is an easy path to great sales and wealth and fortune—a yellow brick road. But success will go to those who first and always, have a well-written book with a great story. Then there is the need for persistence and consistency. While the digital age has made all this possible, I think it has the potential to make quitting much easier since we live in a time of instant gratification. Writers are checking their Kindle numbers daily and bemoaning lack of sales within a week of upload. I think one trait those of us coming from traditional publishing have had is knowing it’s the long haul that counts. Also, in digital, it’s not the spike for the bestseller list, but the long tail of sales that is the key.

Duty, Honor, Country
ends on the first night of the Battle of Shiloh, where more Americans were killed in one day than in all prior US wars combined. The commanders on that first day were like many in traditional publishing, holding on to the old ways. That night, sitting in the rain under an oak tree, Ulysses S. Grant was reflecting on the pummeling his army had received, contemplating retreat and defeat, just like many writers are sitting on the fence right now about publishing, trying to hold on to the old. From the book, and from history, here is what happened:

General William Tecumseh Sherman stared warily at the glowing end of the cigar Sam Grant was puffing on. A flickering lantern highlighted the deep shadows on his old friend’s face. After consulting with the other division commanders and coming to a unanimous conclusion, Sherman was going to tell Grant it was best to immediately put the river between their army and the rebels, but something on Grant’s face stopped the words. Sherman stood still for a moment, rain dripping down on his hat.

“Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

The cigar glowed as Grant puffed and in that dim light he saw Ben’s blood on his hands. Then he spoke. “Yep. Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”

And that’s exactly how I feel about self-publishing.

Joe sez: Last year I predicted that legacy publishing wouldn't be done in by technology, or by readers retreating from print and embracing digital. It would be authors who kill the Big 6 by deciding to self publish.

Looking back at my old blog posts amuses me, because they're a combination of eerily predictive and massive underestimation (for example, a year ago at this time I believed I could earn $100,000 in seven months, and I've just done that in seven weeks.) But even though my thoughts about the future were conservative, the majority are coming true. Publishers still don't understand that they aren't going to have anything to publish if they don't immediately change their ways.

Once again, for all those industry folks who read my blog but are too chicken to leave comments, here's what you need to do:


1. Give authors fair e-royalty rates. 50% should be the ground floor, and it should go up from there using various escalators.

2. Share the e-wealth with authors by offering them higher rates on contracts that are still active.

Did you hear that, Hyperion and Grand Central? Pay me more money for my Jack Daniels books and for AFRAID. Let's redo the ebook clauses on my old deals so they're fair in this brave, new ebook world. Because if you don't, I'm going to exploit my interactive multimedia rights, release my backlist as enhanced ebooks, and UNDERCUT YOU ON THE PRICE.

You think people will buy your bare-bones version of WHISKEY SOUR for $4.79 when they can get my enhanced version for $2.99? Would some iPad of Nook Color owner rather have a black and white text version of AFRAID for $6.99, or one with games, artwork, author audio commentary, and annotated clickable links for $2.99?

That's right. They'll buy mine, not yours.


Yeah, I'm yelling. Because you need to wake up fast, or you're over.

3. Drop the prices of ebooks. If anyone in New York has been PAYING THE SLIGHTEST BIT OF ATTENTION TO ME FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS I've made it painfully clear how cheaper ebooks make more money than expensive ones, with reams of data and dozens of examples to support this.

4. If you are an agent, begin to morph your business into an estributor model, or you'll sink along with the Big 6.

There. I've laid it all out for you. Now go have your meetings and act on it, or you're not going to survive the next two years.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Guest Post by Brett Battles

Brett Battles's first novel, THE CLEANER, is the first in a series about man named Quinn who cleans up messes, dead bodies in particular.

Like many traditionally published authors, Brett has been watching what has been developing in the world of self-publishing, and has recently released an all new novel, LITTLE GIRL GONE, as an ebook, along with two short stories.

Here's why...

Brett: Joe, I've been following you for years, thinking deep down that you were right. Sometime last year that "thinking" became "knowing," and I decided to focus my efforts on creating stories that I would self-publish.

For me, one of the most frustrating things to be about legacy publishing has been the time it takes from when a book is finished to when it actually comes out--something you and Barry talked about in your discussion. I'm a prolific writer, but with only one book coming out a year, I felt like a dog chained to a post, wanting to run, but unable to.

In the last 10 months, I've written three novels, and could have written at least one more. If I'd stuck to the legacy publishing route, who knows when any of them would have come out? I love to write, and with the way the digital world has open things up, self-publishing gives me the chance to cut that frustration out. Now, instead of missing months or even a year when a book could be out there making money, it's, well, out there making money right away.

It's also hard to ignore the writing on the wall, or, rather, the gigantic words written in the sky. Publishing is changing. Soon the main audience will be reading digitally.

The reasons not to self-publish have rapidly dropped away. I am in control of my manuscript. I am in control of my cover. I am in control of the entire process, and as the creator of the work, I've got to think that's the way it should be.

It happened to the music industry in the 90s, and it's happening to us now. Writers are the new indie-bands, and I think the world has just gotten considerably brighter for us.

Logan Harper's quiet life is upended when he finds himself in Los Angeles, searching for the missing granddaughter of his father's friend, and uncovering a sinister plot connected not only to the friend's Burmese past, but also to the boardrooms of corporate America. Logan must use skills from a life he'd rather forget to try and bring the girl home alive.



And the short stories:

Not everyone who gets shot is supposed to be shot. And those who are shot don't always die right away. It's not Quinn¹s job to kill people, but it is his job to clean them up. Sometimes, though, they're not quite ready to go.



The girls call Wade Norris, "Papa." He's not their dad. He's not even related to them. In fact, he was born thousands of miles from the Philippines, the place he now calls home. Wade's their Papasan. He runs the go-go bar where the girls dance. But that doesn¹t make them any less of a
family. And rule number one: don't mess with family.



Brett Battles lives in Los Angeles and is the Barry Award winning author of four novels in the acclaimed Jonathan Quinn series, including THE CLEANER, THE DECEIVED, and his latest, THE SILENCED. He has just released the first book in his Logan Harper Series, LITTLE GIRL GONE. And before April is over, he will be releasing two more novels‹a high stakes thriller, and a
roller-coaster-of-a-ride Young Adult novel.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Guest Post by Ruth Jordan

Crimespree Magazine is a longtime friend of this author, and the writing community in general.

Jon and Ruth Jordan, who run the mag, are two of the nicest people you could ever meet, and they've done a great deal for countless writers.

Here's a guest post by Ruth, seeking to turn a tragedy (over 200 Borders stores closing) into an opportunity:

Do You Have A Local?

by Ruth Jordan

This blog post is dedicated to all of the wonderful folk who feed my addiction for books in the most personal of ways. Sometimes it's nice to walk through the door and have everyone know your name. More importantly, it is astounding to think that I can go to 40 different cities in this country, roll up to the counter and the Bookkeeper is gonna be able to put my book of choice in my hand. This number would be even higher if I was better traveled.

This past weekend Crimespree flew to Minneapolis for Writes of Spring, an annual event held at ONCE UPON A CRIME. How heartening it is to see Authors rally around their local book store. Even better? Seeing the folks coming out to buy books. It warmed my heart to see that all that booky energy.

The last four times I've been to my own local, MYSTERY ONE BOOKS in Milwaukee the crowd has also been good. It's worth mentioning that on Super Bowl Sunday .. in Wisconsin, Robert Crais had an audience of 70 people. Not bad at all.

Have I lost you? Are you thinking there goes Ruth with her Rose Colored glasses? If you're still here I have an idea... a crazy, silly & wonderful idea. All I need is a little help from my friends. All I need is a little help from the people I haven't met yet but stumble across this blog. All I need is a commitment.

Do you remember the rush when you stumbled across that perfect book? Do you recall a cover calling to you, the flap copy adding to the harmony, and possibly a blurb that sealed the deal? When you read that book it was yours. The book belonged to you and was yours to talk about, share, put into other folks hands. It was the discovery that made it special.

For most fiction readers that feeling I just described along with print reviews is the way they find these treasures, for now. The casual reader likes to walk into a store and find the book that's going to get them through that chilly weekend or long plane ride.

Summer is coming and with it the beach & vacations. An outlet is gone for those who are part time readers to get their fix. The closing of Borders presents any number of problems to everyone with any conscious awareness of the Publishing Industry. Last year the box store accounted for 13% of all book sales.

There's an opportunity here. Last year Indy stores accounted for only 2% of Sales. Let's change that this year. Let's Make it 8%.

That co-worker who asks you what to read? The friend who asks you what you think they might like? Surely all of us can find two people to walk into an independent bookstore of our choice who've never been to one before.

That's it. That's my plan. If all of us do this we can help the Indy dealers who lay the footprint for the best sellers of tomorrow. These smaller stores may not have as many end caps or focal points as a Borders but they are full of reading goodness and staff who knows how to put the right book into the customer's hand.

There will be hard choices for writers, publishers, distributors and the consumer in the months ahead. But for the now, let's gift our family, friends and acquaintances with a choice they never knew they had. The Indy Book Store.

This idea is so simple I bet Joe Konrath has time to play and a desire to help.

Joe sez: I've always loved, and supported, bookstores. I've visited and signed at over 1200 of them, over the last eight years. I've thanked thousands of booksellers in my novel acknowledgments. Even though I've embraced digital, I still buy print, and I have over 5000 print books in my personal library.

What Ruth is asking here is simple. We all love bookstores, and unfortunately a lot of them are closing. But maybe those indy bookstores can take up that slack.

So visit your local indy, and tell two friends about it. Or bring those friends with you the next time you go. And if a bookstore has closed in your area, seek out another one.

And also, if you're a mystery, thriller, or comic book writer, subscribe to Crimespree. It's the best mag in the business.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

First Book

For those who missed it, last week I offered to donate $500 to First Book if my novel, ORIGIN, cracked the Top 100 on Kindle. It did, and I gave them the money.

This inspired some other authors to do the same. I urge you to support those authors, and First Book.

I've just lowered the price on my horror novel, TRAPPED, to 99 cents, and here's my new offer:

If TRAPPED breaks the Top 100, I'll give $500 to First Book. If TRAPPED breaks the Top 20, I'll donate another $500, for $1000 total.

So spread the word, and make me give away my hard-earned money to this worthy cause.

I recently contacted First Book and asked them a few questions about their organization, so my blog readers can better understand what they do.

Joe: What's the goal of First Book?

FB: First Book’s mission is to provide access to new books to children in need. We reach programs that serve kids from low-income neighborhoods, no matter what sort of program they might be: schools, classrooms, libraries, tutoring programs, shelters, food banks or church groups.

Joe: How did First Book get started?

FB: First Book was started in Washington DC by Kyle Zimmer (who is still the president of the organization) and some others in 1992, using donations from publishers and local volunteers. We have expanded the scope of our operations since then, and developed new channels that help us get books to the programs we serve more efficiently and at greater volume.

Joe: How many books have you given away so far?

FB: 80 million and counting, across the United States and Canada. It’s a number we’re really proud of, but we’re also well aware of the size of the problem, and that we’ve barely made a dent. There’s still a lot more work to be done.

Joe: Do you have any stories about giving books to children that particularly stand out?

FB: I think everyone involved with First Book, from staff to volunteers, has their own favorites, but what is most striking is that we hear a very similar story, over and over, from the teachers and program leaders who get the books, and the volunteers who help distribute them. The kids getting these books usually don’t have books of their own at home, and when they’re told that this book in their hands is THEIRS, to keep, they have trouble believing it at first. And, once they get it, you can literally see the excitement on their faces.

Joe: Where do you get the books you give away?

FB: We provide books in a variety of ways – some we give away, others we sell at steep discounts to eligible recipients – depending on the program in question and their resources. But all the books come from publishers. First Book would not exist without the generosity of the publishing industry and their commitment to helping us get books to these kids.

Joe: How can we help?

FB: Great question! We’re always in need of donations, of course - $20 will help us send 10 books to kids in need. And we love to see fundraising initiatives like the one you inspired.

Another way to make a difference is to help us get more programs registered. Any school or program that serves kids from low-income neighborhoods is eligible to receive books from First Book. But if they don’t know about us, we can’t help. So anything you can do to get the word out, from helping Title I schools and classrooms register to sharing the word about First Book through your blogs or social media networks. The more people know who we are, the more programs we can reach, and the more books we’ll be able to get out to kids that need them.

Joe: If people want to donate, is it tax-deductible?

FB: First Book is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations to First Book are tax-deductible.

Joe: As a writer, literacy is fostering a love of reading isn't just important to me, it's essential to my industry. Reading is one of the oldest, and most enjoyable, forms of recreation, and if we as writers want to continue to sell books, we need to make sure future generations appreciate them as much as we do.

Here's the book description for TRAPPED:


It was supposed to be a harmless camping trip. Six wayward teenagers who'd run into trouble with the law, and their court-appointed guardians, Sara and Martin Randhurst. Three nights on a small, deserted island off of Michigan's upper peninsula. A time to bond, to learn, to heal.

Then Martin told a campfire story about the island's history. Of the old civil war prison hidden in there, and the starving confederate soldiers who resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Everyone thought it was funny. They even laughed when Martin pretended to be dragged off into the woods.

But Martin didn't come back. And neither did Sara when she went in search of him.

Then the laughter stopped.


The group soon began to realize that this deserted island wasn't so deserted after all. And perhaps Martin's ridiculous story had more truth to it than anyone thought.

What's the most horrifying thing you can imagine?

This is a hundred times worse...

TRAPPED by Jack Kilborn
It starts where other horror ends

A Word of Warning:

This is the long-awaited follow-up to AFRAID, one of the most horrifying books ever written.

Originally scheduled to be released in paperback in 2010, the publisher read the first version of the manuscript and refused to release it. The author made extensive changes, rewriting much of the story. The publisher still refused.

This is a disturbing, terrifying book. You may think you're brave enough to handle it. But you're probably not...

Contains bonus excerpts from ENDURANCE by Jack Kilborn, and AFRAID by Jack Kilborn, as well as DESERT PLACES by Blake Crouch.

But that's not all...

Taking advantage of ebook format and technology, the author is also proud to offer as a bonus; the entire original first draft of TRAPPED.

This ebook package contains two versions of the same book, dramatically different in parts. See what was cut. See what was changed. Read new characters, new scenes, and a different ending. Decide for yourself which version you prefer.

This is the very first time an ebook has been made available in two different versions, for one low price.

This is specially formatted for Kindle, with an active table of contents. With both versions, this ebook is over 180,000 words.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Guest Post by Guido Henkel

In February, Guido Henkel did a guest post about his sales, which weren't up to his expectations.

I offered some advice, and so did many others in the comments section.

Guido followed this advice. Did it work?

Here he is again, to answer.

Guido: As you may all recall, a few weeks ago, Joe was kind enough to allow me to presented to you the scenario of my “Jason Dark” series of supernatural mystery dime novels and how sales have been very flat despite my best efforts to kickstart the series.

The comments this blog post generated were staggering — to my mind at least — and I read every single response to the discussion with interest and with an open mind. In fact, I immediately began bolstering my Twitter presence as a result of it. But once things had petered out a little I took the next step. I made a detailed list of things that had been brought up and weighed the comments as I felt some of them warranted more credit than others.

As a result a picture began to form in my mind about how I could actually reshape the series, starting with the very first book, “Demon’s Night,” based on many of these comments. For the past weeks I have done just that and finally, I am able to show you the result.

About four weeks ago I relaunched a completely rebooted version of “Demon’s Night!” As you can see at a glimpse already, the book features a completely new cover artwork. Virtually nothing remains of the old look, I daresay. While the urge was strong to somehow reincorporate the original artwork, a few attempts quickly showed that they all, inevitably, turned out pulpy. Not what I wanted!

I wanted to refashion the book with a contemporary look, something that looks a lot more like what other quality Kindle releases look like these days, as opposed to the traditional look of old dime novels. It took a good amount of trying and tweaking, but I do like the new cover quite a bit, and through its design, it allows me to loosely suggest a series character by retaining certain elements when I go to work to rework the covers for the other nine books I have in the market.

But there are more changes. The title, for example. As you can see, the book is now simply called “Demon’s Night” without the limiting mention of the “Jason Dark” series as such. Instead, I provided a small byline saying “A Jason Dark Supernatural Mystery.” This way people can still identify books featuring Jason Dark as a main character without my creating the impression that this is a series of books that needs to be read in sequence. This, in particular, was important to me, as I realized just how strongly people believed they had to read these stories in sequential order, when in fact each one is a stand-alone book. With the new moniker, any reference to volume numbers is gone also, for the same reason.

Next is the reworked product description. Once again I have worked towards giving the book a description that makes it stand on its own instead of seeing it as tied into a series, so the boilerplate text that was part of each of the adventures is gone entirely. Instead I tried to fashion a description that has a hook and generates enough interest for readers to take a closer look. To complement the new description I have also changed my author biography on Amazon and placed the track record of my books in the text rather than my achievements in the computer games industry. With ten books now published, I guess I can safely use those titles as references to establish my credibility and will no longer require the mention of the games I did so many years ago. In addition the description now includes a word and page count to make sure potential buyers have better idea for “how much book” they get.

Let’s see, what else is there? Oh yes, the absolute hot-button issue — price. I have — once again — reduced the price of the book to 99 cents. Out of necessity. I still believe that this price point has become the bane of the book industry, but be that as it is, I have to bow to the market requirements just as much as anyone who wants to gain exposure. So I am deliberately forfeiting revenues for the sake of volume. Having nine other books in the catalog at a $2.99 price point will hopefully mean that I will generate much needed revenues though those titles in the tail.

In order to sell other titles, however, it is necessary for the loss-leader book to be as strong as possible, of course. Therefore I gave “Demon’s Night” a complete revision. Starting with the completely rewritten opening chapter, I went over the entire book with a fine-toothed comb to improve the style and writing. It was actually interesting to go back and see how much I have grown as a writer in the past two years, and to put some of the new things I’ve learned to work in that, my first, book. The result is, I hope, a much more riveting experience that will hopefully translate into readers picking up other Jason Dark adventures — or at least recommending “Demon’s Night” to their friends.

I made a series of other changes, including my author description, removing the message boards from the official website because they lay there barren, unused and intimidating and numerous other smaller things.

As I said, I relaunched the book about four weeks ago and was really curious to see what results these changes may yield. To prevent the tension from killing you, let me make this short and sweet for you. The result was zilch! It resulted in no measurable increase of sales — not for “Demon’s Night” or any of the other books.

By the time I launched the new version, “Demon’s Night” was hovering between #70,000 and #120,000 on Amazon, with an occasional break-out. I looked at that as my baseline. There has been some improvement in the ranking since the reboot, but the book is still hovering between #20,000 and #45,000 with occasional dips below the #60,000 mark. Since in that space selling even a single copy can make a huge difference, the sales numbers are really not nearly as dramatic as the rank improvement might suggest. The sales increase is not nearly doing enough to make up for the lost royalties resulting from the different price bracket. As such it is a complete loss.

My hope was, that sales increases in “Demon’s Night” would eventually lead to a sales increase in my other books — the upsell effect, but since there was virtually no sales boost… all of my other books are still hovering somewhere between the #100,000 and #200,000 marks, just as they did for the past months, each selling a single copy every 4 or 5 days.

During the past four weeks I also redesigned the cover for “Ghosts Templar” in a similar vein of the “Demons Night” rework to see how that will perform. I also changed the title to remove series references, I created a new product description and once again included a word and page count. I needn’t have bothered, really, as there is also no notable difference here either.

The only satisfying result that came out of this so far is that I can at least tell myself that I tried. I had an open mind and tried to incorporate feedback. I even agreed with a lot of the feedback and I felt good when I first relaunched the book, especially since so many people told me how great the reworked version looked and read.

So, what does all of this tell us? To put it bluntly, it tells me that we are all pretty clueless. There is no secret formula — or at least we have not yet discovered it. The original concept, look and feel, and presentation for the series that I had for the series was every good — or bad — as anything the collective input was able to produce. For everything I created and tried, there were people who thought it was great and others who thought it was bad. It is the way of life, for sure, but it certainly teaches me one thing: to go with my own instincts because they are every bit as true than anyone else’s.

For me, that instinct tells me right now to let go of Jason Dark for the time being, as there is quite evidently very little interest in this sort of literature at this point in time. The latest issue of Fangoria just came out this part week, featuring the first installment of an exclusive Jason Dark serial. Fangoria, as you may know, is America’s leading print horror magazine and even the exposure on the pages of such a genre institution did not have an impact on my sales, so perhaps it is time to move on. “Curse of Kali”, the tenth Jason Dark adventure is just around the corner and it will represent a nice way to put the series on hiatus with a cool cliffhanger.

If I sound disappointed to you, it is probably because I am. I spent every waking hour of the last two-and-a-half years on creating these books. It was a full time job, creating, publishing, promoting and, of course, writing these ten books and I have spent many thousands of dollars of my own money to see it come to fruition. Over that time I have fallen in love with the characters, the world, the possibilities it offered, etc. To see that it was all in vain is disappointing — would be to anyone, I suppose, but with that in mind I have begun writing a modern day thriller, a book that has absolutely nothing to do with the horror genre. It will be a full-length novel and I’ll be curious to see how that pans out.

Altogether, this was an exciting experiment that yielded some interesting — yet unexpected — results. I wish to thank you all for your feedback and most importantly, my heartfelt thanks go out to Joe who has allowed me to not only present my initial concerns to you, but who has been even more gracious by giving me the opportunity to share these resulting changes with you just now. Joe, you are a class act in my book!

Now, where was that refresh button for the Amazon Author Central ranking page again???

Joe sez: Wow. I'm impressed with all the work Guido put into this reboot, and I think everything he's done is smart and should increase sales.

But it hasn't. So what's going on here?

There's no magic bullet in this business. No one can predict what will sell, or even adequately decipher why something does well while something else doesn't. As I've stated many times, luck plays a big role in determining success.

I've had novels on Kindle for two years, and watched my sales rank fluctuate on various titles. Two of my novels, ORIGIN and THE LIST, were the first two I released, and they're both currently in the Top #100 at $2.99 each. (That might change shortly--ORIGIN recently fell out of the TOP 100 and only crept back to #99 an hour ago.)

But those are two ebooks out of 25 that I have available. What aren't all 25 of mine in the Top 100?

I have no idea. I wish I did, but I can't read every customer's mind to learn why they did or didn't buy something.

I have noticed that successful ebooks have some common traits--good cover art, low prices, good writing, good product descriptions. But in my humble opinion, Guido has all of that.

So did Jon F. Merz. Yet he also struggled to find an audience. That is, until recently, when his sales have blown up. Like Guido, Jon tweaked his backlist according to some suggestions by me and people on my blog.

And, like Guido, those suggestions didn't help much. But then Merz released a new series, which caught on and is earning him $150 a day.

Let's assume Henkel, Merz, and I are all equally talented writers. Let's also assume our covers are all of professional quality, and we're all doing similar things to find an audience.

So why am I selling like crazy, why is Merz finding an audience, and why is Henkel still struggling?

I can't say. Luck swings both ways. Prior to the new Lawson Vampire series, Merz was experiencing some bad luck. Now his luck is turning around.

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows I wrote nine novels and got over 500 rejections before landing a book deal. Two of those rejected novels, ORIGIN and THE LIST, are currently in the Top 100. Why were they not good enough twelve years ago, but are now selling hundreds of copies a day?

Hell if I know. They books haven't changed. It just took 12 years to find an audience.

Now, no writer wants to hear that success could take 12 years. Or even 2 years (ORIGIN and THE LIST were uploaded to Kindle in April 2009.)

But sometimes, that's how long it takes to get lucky.

All we can do is keep writing. Keep experimenting. Keep trying.

Guido Henkel is going to succeed. I'd put money on it. He's doing everything right.

The world just hasn't discovered him yet. Sometimes it takes a while. I'm proof. And so is almost every other success story. Kindle lore is full of newbies who got rejections and then became bestsellers, and snubbed legacy authors who self-published out-of-print titles and made a killing. All of these stories have a common element: the writer kept at it until the world couldn't ignore them any more.

I think Guido is smart to try something new. I've reinvented myself at least six times over the past 20 years. Mysteries, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, humorous thrillers, technothrillers, medical thrillers, etc. Until THE LIST and ORIGIN took off, my pen name Jack Kilborn was outselling J.A. Konrath by a wide margin. Why? Hell if I know.

But I do know that writers need to write. And if something isn't working, it can't hurt to try something new. If Guido keeps at it, he'll find those sales he's looking for. Ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time to find a fanbase. Ask Van Gogh, who only sold a single painting in his life.

So my advice to Guido is to keep at it, and write something new. I'd stop messing around with tweaking covers, but if I was in his shoes I'd drop all of my titles to 99 cents for a month, just to see what happens.

Jason Dark isn't a dead property. It just hasn't caught on yet. And it wouldn't surprise me if, in the future, there's a demand for more Jason Dark stories.

But for now, it's time to move on. Having been at that point many times in my career, I know how hard it is.

I also know that I'm going to have to write sequels to THE LIST and ORIGIN--novels that have been "dead" for over a decade. I never could have predicted that would happen.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Guest Post by Blake Crouch

Last month, I asked Blake to do a guest post about self-pubbing his latest novel.

Here's his follow-up...

Blake: 32 days ago, I posted on this blog about my new novel RUN and all the reasons why I had decided to release it myself and stop waiting for the Big Book Deal.

To be completely honest, I was nervous about this one. Joe had been yelling at me to put the book out, but what if I took his advice, and it didn’t sell?

I knew it had a great cover, a great pitch, and I thought the book itself delivered on all of that, but still, that nagging fear of a flop was hanging around.

So what happened?

RUN blew up.

In all the best ways, and in those I hadn’t even thought of.

The bloggers and fellow writers I contacted to help me get the word out came through in a big way, and I believe they laid the groundwork for the book to take off.

For the last few weeks, RUN has been consistently ranked between the 200s and 400s on Amazon at $2.99.

The real surprise, however, has been in the Nook store, where, as I write this, RUN is ranked #132 overall. For every copy of RUN I sell on Amazon, I’m selling 2.3 copies on Barnes and Noble.

Which means it’s selling about 400 copies/day right now, and is approaching 4000 sales since I released it a month ago.

I’ve had a bit of difficulty wrapping my head around this, and it’s got me thinking a lot lately about expectations.

When I first released the book, I thought, if I can sell as well as Konrath’s and my SERIAL UNCUT, which has been selling between 30-50 copies/day for many months, I’ll consider this a resounding success. I had a lot of books ranked between 1500 and 2000, but I’d never had anything in the triple digits, and I’d never had anything sell like this on Barnes & Noble.

But my main purpose behind writing this blog entry is to share a few valuable lessons learned (and mistakes made) as I watched RUN begin to take off.

1. Having a book integrate into Amazon’s system makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. For some reason, it took two weeks, but literally the day that RUN hit the “Customers Also Bought” system, it dipped under 1000 and never looked back. I truly believe that those connections Amazon builds between ebooks are the single most important component to a book’s success. Which means you have to have a concept of what books and authors are hot and selling that are like yours. Keywords and tags are crucial in achieving this.

This is what legacy publishers did for years (and still do). They try to position new books in the framework of known quantities and bestsellers to give readers and booksellers the confidence and perspective to buy and sell the book. This is also why my pitch (see below) begins with “For fans of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Thomas Harris...” These are big names, but my work truly does share a lot of common ground. I think readers like familiarity, and the comfort of being told, “This is kind of like that.”

2. The bestseller lists. So important. Once RUN started hitting the lists, my ranking became, for lack of a better word, “sticky.” There were no more drastic daily fluctuations between 1000 and 3000. If you can hit some lists, you have a better chance of maximizing any momentum that you build and holding onto it.

3. In that regard, choose your categories wisely. I made a major mistake when I uploaded RUN. I put it in the Thrillers and Suspense categories. When RUN’s rank began to fall, I noticed it wasn’t hitting any lists. Even when it got down into the 400s. Thrillers and Suspense are two of the most competitive lists on Amazon. I only squeaked onto the Thrillers list briefly at #99 when RUN fell to #280. This means you have to compete with all the heavy hitters to have a chance at making that list.

My mistake was, I hadn’t listed horror as one of RUN’s categories. If I had, when it fell below 500, it would have immediately hit the top 10 on the horror list. So I ran back into my DTP account, changed suspense to horror, and within 48 hours, RUN was highly ranked on the horror lists, which gave it yet another boost. I think of my books first and foremost as thrillers, but that doesn’t mean it’s smart to drop them into that category if my goal is to hit some Amazon bestseller lists and get a sticky ranking. Choose your categories not only wisely, but based upon bestseller lists that you believe you have a shot at hitting.

4. Pricing...this is my biggest question of the moment. I’ve railed before about $.99 and how I believe it’s not a good price for writers. But there is no denying the power of dropping a book to $.99 to make a run at the top 100. What Joe has done with THE LIST and ORIGIN has been very impressive. But when a book’s successful, and you don’t have as many novel-length titles to play around with, dropping that price out of the 70% royalty bracket is a scary proposition. So I’m still very much on the fence, but am at least considering dropping RUN to $.99 when it begins to slip in rankings.

I’m sure Joe will chime in here shortly and tell me how much money I lost not listening to him and releasing this back in October, (Joe sez: Over $25,000) but in the meantime, thanks to everyone who has bought RUN and said nice things about it.

And if you’re sitting on a novel, waiting for The Big Book Deal for your life to begin, please consider my experience here.

If you’ve benefited from any of my posts on Joe’s blog,please check out RUN, available for $2.99 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and as an old-school dead-tree relic on Createspace.
Here’s the pitch:

For fans of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Thomas Harris...

Picture this: A landscape of American genocide...

5 d a y s a g o

A rash of bizarre murders swept the country…

Senseless. Brutal. Seemingly unconnected.

A cop walked into a nursing home and unloaded his weapons on elderly and staff alike.

A mass of school shootings.

Prison riots of unprecedented brutality.

Mind-boggling acts of violence in every state.

4 d a y s a g o

The murders increased ten-fold…

3 d a y s a g o

The President addressed the nation and begged for calm and peace…

2 d a y s a g o

The killers began to mobilize…

Y e s t e r d a y

All the power went out…

T o n i g h t

They’re reading the names of those to be killed on the Emergency Broadcast System. You are listening over the battery-powered radio on your kitchen table, and they’ve just read yours.

Your name is Jack Colclough. You have a wife, a daughter, and a young son. You live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. People are coming to your house to kill you and your family. You don’t know why, but you don’t have time to think about that any more.

You only have time to….


Joe sez: I'm thrilled this terrific book is finding an audience, and I'm also wondering what the hell I'm doing wrong on since a lot of authors seem to be smoking my sales and I'm only doing $3k a month there.

I suppose I have to remind myself how much luck is a factor.

Blake mentioned my experiments with THE LIST and ORIGIN and I think that's worth commenting on. They're both currently ranked around #70, and I just raised the price on ORIGIN back to $2.99, which should kick in soon.

While THE LIST has made me a lot of money (over $20k in the time it has been in the Top 100), ORIGIN took its time to get up there, and seemed to peak and drop pretty fast. I'm raising the price now, while it's still in the Top 100, to try and chase the money I lost while it was 99 cents.

My guess is I'll come out ahead on ORIGIN (i.e. earn more through this experiment than if I'd just left it alone at $2.99) but it's still too soon to tell. With the rate they're both dropping, I don't expect either to be in the Top 100 for much longer.

I really can't draw any conclusions from my experiment. It worked well with THE LIST. It didn't work at all with SHOT OF TEQUILA. It partially worked with DISTURB, which never cracked the Top 100, but is holding a much higher rank than it had prior to the price drop.

If I had to advise Blake on what to do with RUN, I'd say drop it to 99 cents on Amazon and give it two weeks. He's got a cushion with his BN sales, so it might be worth the risk to try it. At the very least, he'll lose a few bucks but climb in rank, and then when we goes back to $2.99 he'll be making more money for a while.

As self-published authors, we need to experiment more. Too many writers are afraid of changing prices. The fear of losing money, or rank, or sales, shouldn't keep us from trying different things. Remember that ebooks are forever. Sales will fluctuate over time, no doubt. But there's no set business model yet in place for ebooks. I just cracked the Top 100 with two novels that have been on Kindle for two years. I think that shows the longevity of this medium.

We can afford to take risks, because unlike the print world which has set prices and a limited shelf life, our ebooks will still be for sale five, ten, twenty years from now.

But there's also a reverse aspect to this. If your sales are faltering, maybe you don't need to experiment with new prices or different covers. Maybe instead you should be concentrating on writing more. It's tempting to micromanage backlist titles, trying to improve sales. However, one guaranteed way to raise backlist sales is to self-pub new work.

Ultimately, you should do both: tending the backlist while expanding the frontlist. Blake was selling modestly with his previous titles. He was thrilled to make $6k in January.

In March, he made $24k, largely due to the sales of RUN, which is not only selling well but is helping his backlist sell well.

If that doesn't make you want to get writing, I don't know what will.