Sunday, March 31, 2013

Konrath Flip-Flops

It finally happened. I've pulled all of my ebooks off of

I did this for several reasons.  I'll take them one at a time.

1. I was making $3000 a day. That involved a lot of accounting. Keeping track of money isn't one of my strong suits, and with so much money coming in, I was constantly confused and depressed. Plus, the taxes were significant.

It made sense that the only way to rid me of this burden of wealth was to get away from the cause of that

2. Running your own empire is hard. I got tired of sitting on my throne, lording over all I'd accomplished. A smarter idea would be to let someone else lord over it, and take 75% of my income for doing so.

3. I never had any validation self-publishing. Sure, I've sold over a million ebooks and gotten thousands of great reviews, but how could I know my books were really any good unless I had some sort of gatekeeper tell me they were?

4. Amazon just acquired Goodreads. Anyone with half a brain knows what this means. Just look at Amazon's track record.

  • Amazon constantly strives to improve the customer experience
  • Amazon treats authors with respect
  • Amazon pays authors well
  • Amazon encourages reading

It's obvious to me, and to everyone else who is whining about this, that Amazon WANTS TO CONQUER THE WORLD AND REPLACE EVERYONE WITH A ROBOT DUPLICATE.

Naturally, I can't stand by and let this happen. Even though my robot duplicate may be able to fly and have cool laser beam eyes, I'm not going to be replaced by some machine. That's where I draw the line with my business partners.

So I did a lot of soul searching, and realized the answer to my problems was the very thing I'd been rallying against for so long.

I needed to make a lot less money, wanted to have less control over my career, and desperately craved having professionals pat me on the head and tell me I was worthy, all while being able to justify my hysterical antipathy toward Amazon.

In other words, I needed a legacy publisher.

I have begun the process of writing query letters to the Big 6.

Hopefully, by this time next year, I'll have a four-figure print deal. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Obsolete Anonymous

Moderator: Welcome to Obsolete Anonymous! I've gathered you all here to welcome our latest member, the Print Industry.

Print Industry: Hello, everyone. But there's been a mistake. I don't belong here.

(chuckles all around)

Print Industry: I'm serious. I'm not obsolete. I'm relevant. Print books have been around for hundreds of years. They're never going to be replaced.

VHS Tapes: Yeah, we all thought like that once.

LP Records: It's called denial. It's tough to deal with at first.

VHS tapes: Easy for you to say, LP. You've still got a niche collector market. They can't even give me away on eBay.

Antique Stores: Can we please not mention eBay? I used to have stores all over. But more and more keep closing thanks to that good-for-nothing website.

CDs: At least you still have some stores left. The specialty stores that sell me are almost extinct. I'm down to a few narrow isles at Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

Print Industry: Look, everyone, I assume you all think that ebooks are going to put me out of business. But that won't happen.

Ma Bell: We all deny it at first. I remember when you couldn't walk twenty yards in a city without seeing a pay phone. Then those gosh darn cell phones came along. Do you know some people don't even have land lines anymore? Used to be a land line in every home...

(Ma Bell begins to cry. Print Phonebooks joins in. So does Dial Up Modems. Encyclopedia Britannica, wearing an I Hate Wikipedia T-Shirt, pops a few Prozac. A group hug ensues.)

Video Rental Store: What Ma Bell is trying to say is that when a technology comes along that's faster, easier, and cheaper, the old technology--and all the companies that supported it--tends to fade away.

Print Industry: Why are you here, Video Rental Store? There are still Blockbuster Videos everywhere.

CDs: There were record stores everywhere once.

Cassette Tapes: Hell yeah! They sold cassettes, too! Someone give me a high five!

(no one gives Cassette Tapes a high five)

Video Rental Store: Things looked good for a while. I had a decent, twenty-year run. Then I got hit by all sides. Netflix, shipping DVDs though the mail. On Demand. Tivo. YouTube. But the nail in the coffin came in the past two years. Hula. Roku--which allows Netflix subscribers to stream video instantly. iTunes and Amazon offering movie downloads. Red Box, which rents DVDs for 99 cents and takes up no more space than a Coke machine...

Print Industry: But ebooks are just a tiny percentage of the market. People have been reading print since Gutenberg. They won't adapt to change that easily.

Kodak: You're correct. It takes a few years for people to fully embrace new technology. Some never do. Polaroid never replaced me.

Polaroid: Shut up, Kodak. We both got our asses kicked by digital. When was the last time you sold any 110 film?

TV Antennas: I'm still big in some third world countries!

Typewriter: The bottom line is: when technology improves, it becomes widely adopted. Me and Carbon Paper used to have a groovy thing going. I'd make the words, he would make the copies. Then Xerox got into the act, but he's not doing well now either.

Xerox: F*cking computers.

Floppy Disc: You said it!

Dot Matrix: F*cking laser and inkjet. Doesn't anyone else miss tearing off the perforated hole punches on the side of paper? Don't they miss the feel and smell of that?

Fold-Out Paper Maps: I agree! Isn't it fun to open up a big map while you're driving, in hopes of figuring out where you are? Don't you miss the old days before cars came equipped with GPS and no one ever used that bastard, MapQuest?

CDs: F*cking internet. That's the problem. Instant access to information and entertainment for the whole world. You guys want to talk about pirating and illegal downloads?

(everyone shouts out a collective no!)

Moderator: We all read on JA Konrath's blog that the way to fight piracy is with cost and convenience. Print Industry, are you lowering your prices and making it easier for customers to download your books?

Print Industry: Actually, we just raised prices on our ebooks.

(collective sighs and head shaking)

Moderator: Well, far be it for you to learn from any of our mistakes. Are you making it easier at least?

Print Industry: Well, we've begun windowing titles, releasing them months after the hardcover comes out.

(collective head slapping)

Music Industry: Have you at least tried selling from your own site? I wish I'd done that. But that upstart Apple came along...

Print Industry: Uh... no. We haven't tried that. In fact, some ebooks--we'll use JA Konrath as an example since he was mentioned--aren't even available on all platforms and in all territories.

Moderator: What do you mean? Konrath's ebooks are available all over the place.

Print Industry: Those are the ones he uploads himself. The ones of his that we sell are missing from several key markets, and have been for years. But it's okay. We're paying him much smaller royalties and jacking the prices up high so we can still make a profit. Besides, ebooks are a niche market. Ereading devices are dedicated and expensive.

Arcades: I used to be a thriving industry. Kids spent billions of quarters in my thousands of locations. But then Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft made home arcade machines, and now people play their videogames on dedicated devices. It's a multi-billion dollar business now, and I can only compete if I sell shitty pizza and give out plastic trinkets to kids with the most foosball tickets. If people want the media, they buy the expensive device. Period.

Print Industry: None of you are listening to me. Print will always be around.

Newspaper Industry: Yeah! What he said!

Print Industry: Let's not compare ourselves, okay Newspaper Industry? No offense.

Newspaper Industry: None taken. Hey, maybe we can help each other. I'm selling advertising space for dirt cheap these days, and...

Print Industry: No thanks. No one reads you anymore. People get their news elsewhere.

Moderator: So why won't people get their novels elsewhere as well?

(Print Industry stands up, pointing a finger around the room.)

Print Industry: Look, this isn't about me. All of you guys have become irrelevant. Technology marched on, and you didn't march with it. But that WILL NOT happen to me. There will always be bookstores, and dead tree books. We'll continue to sell hardcovers at luxury prices, and pay artists 6% to 15% royalties on whatever list price WE deem appropriate. And the masses will buy our books BECAUSE WE SAID SO! WE SHALL NEVER BECOME OBSOLETE!!!

Buggy Whip Industry: Amen, brother! That's what I keep trying to tell these people!

CDs: (whispering to LPs) I give him six years, tops.


Joe sez: I wrote the above three years ago. So what has changed since then?

Every video rental store in my area has disappeared. Blockbuster Video filed for bankruptcy and now has 500 stores left in the US. They once had 9000.

Kodak filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. In 2010, you could still buy 35mm film everywhere. Now you can't.

One of the two major bookstore chains, Borders, has closed.

The last commercially produced typewriter was donated to a museum.

The US has almost entirely switched to digital TV.

Roku supported Netflix streaming video. Now Netflix comes preinstalled on new TVs, Blu Ray players, Wiis, Xboxs, Playstations, 3DS, Vistas, WD Live, and Apple TV. It can be installed on the iPad, Kindle Fire, and Nook. Amazon also streams video, free to Prime members.

Since getting my rights back, my income from those titles has gone up over 1000%.

The print industry still hasn't raised author royalties. They faced a DOJ lawsuit for price fixing, allegedly keeping ebook prices high, and have settled. Paper sales continue to decline, while ebook sales continue to rise.

The buggy whip industry still hasn't recovered.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Joe Answers Your Questions

I get a lot of email. So much that I really can't answer it all.

Well, I suppose technically I could answer it all, but it would cut into my writing and/or leisure time, and as much as I appreciate people writing me (and I do), I have to prioritize and email is at the bottom of my list.

So I'm going to answer emails in this blog post. Not specific ones, but amalgams of the kind of email I get on a regular basis. If you've emailed me before, and I haven't replied, here's the answer you were seeking...

Q: Thank you, Joe. You've inspired me to self-publish.

A: You are welcome, and thanks for telling me. Even though I might not reply, I do appreciate you reaching out. It makes me feel like I'm contributing to the world.

(Sidenote: The meaning of life is simple. Learn what you can. Pass along what you've learned. Have as much fun as possible. The goal is to leave the world a better place because you existed.)

It frankly boggles my mind how many people can trace their self-publishing journey to something I said or did. I look at the Kindle bestseller lists and smile because I see so many folks who have emailed me for advice (back when I used to answer email) and are now selling well.

If I have helped you, pay it forward. Pass along the info to someone who needs it, and share your numbers and knowledge with me and the rest of the world, so we can learn from you. As I've said, you should always have two hands outstretched. One, reaching for your next goal. The other, pulling up people behind you so they can get where you're at.

Q: Can you read my ebook and/or blurb me? I've attached a copy.

A: Thank you for the ebook. It's kind of you to send it. But my time is limited, and I'll never be able to read everything I'd like to read. I've promised people I'd blurb them, and never got around to it, so rather than keep disappointing people who are counting on me, I've stopped blurbing.

Q: Help! My book isn't selling! What should I do?

A: I'll be honest. I have no idea why some books sell, and others don't. If you've already done the Four Important Things (written a great book, gotten a great cover, have a great book description, and priced it reasonably) there's really not much else to do, other than wait for luck to strike.

You can try promoting in these ways, but I don't recommend them all:
  • and I do
  • Facebook and Google ads--which I've never tried 
  • Twitter and Facebook--which I use sparingly, but remember it is about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell
  • Blogging--which I don't believe sells books
  • Blog Touring--which I've had some success with
  • Cultivating fans--have a newsletter, get active on GoodReads, Shelfari, etc.
Also, don't forget to experiment. Change prices. Try giveaways. Change covers. Change the book description. 

The best advertisement for your writing is your writing. Write a book that people want to read. Then another. Then another. Keep at it until the world can't ignore you anymore.

Some writers hate the idea that luck plays a big part in success, but it does. But I've found that the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Q: I read your old blog posts, and you recommend things that you now advise against. What's with the hypocrisy?

A: As new data comes in, I change my mind. 

It is one of Joe's Axioms that people would rather defend their beliefs to the death instead of admitting they might be wrong. I try to admit when I'm wrong, and I adjust my beliefs accordingly. I think the ability to learn and adapt can only help while seeking success.

Q: Why are you so down on publishers, and those authors who choose the legacy route?

A: This blog has documented all the reasons I believe self-publishing is preferable to legacy publishing, ad nauseum. It used to bother me when I saw writers signing bad contracts (hint: they're all bad unless you are a huge bestseller) and I believe that writers make bad decisions because they aren't edumacated. So I try to edumacate them, and adopting a controversial tone helps get this blog more traffic, thus making people more aware of the topics I discuss.

But frankly, it is none of my business what other writers do. If you want to sign away your rights, forever, for 17.5% ebook royalties, forever, knock yourself out. I no longer have a horse in this race. I got all of my rights back, and my six week Kindle total is $116,000, which is more than the first three-book deal I signed. For those same books. 

Do whatever makes you happy, and follow whichever path you think is best. But do yourself a solid and research all of your options. Writers never had options before. Now we do. You owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can before deciding which route to take.

Q: What about diversification? Why not self-publish some books, and legacy-publish others? Isn't that the best of both worlds?

A: I do diversify, by publishing with Amazon. I can't disclose the royalties they give me, but it is much better than what any legacy publisher offers. 

But legacy publishing? If you can get a Hugh Howey deal and keep the ebook rights, go for it. Or get E.L. James comparable money. If not, going with a legacy publisher isn't diversification. It's simply a bad business decision. 

Q: OMG I love your books! What order should I read them in?

A: Thanks for the kind words. I write every book as a stand alone, so they can be read in any order, and still enjoyed.

But if you really need a chronology, here it is:

SERIAL KILLERS UNCUT by JA Konrath and Blake Crouch 
THE LIST by JA Konrath
RUSTY NAIL by JA Konrath
EXPOSED by JA Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson
HIT by JA Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson*
NAUGHTY by JA Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson*
PUSHED TOO FAR by Ann Voss Peterson
FLEE by JA Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson
SPREE by JA Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson
THREE by JA Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson*
FLOATERS by JA Konrath and Henry Perez
BURNERS by JA Konrath and Henry Perez
CHERRY BOMB by JA Konrath 
SHAKEN by JA Konrath
STIRRED by JA Konrath and Blake Crouch
LAST CALL by JA Konrath and Blake Crouch*

The Jack Daniels books also cross over with several books with my frequent collaborator Blake Crouch, and my pen name, Jack Kilborn. These include:

DESERT PLACES by Blake Crouch
LOCKED DOORS by Blake Crouch
BREAK YOU by Blake Crouch
AFRAID by Jack Kilborn
TRAPPED by Jack Kilborn
ENDURANCE by Jack Kilborn
*coming soon

Q: You keep bragging about all the money you're making. I think you're a liar.

A: I don't consider it bragging. I post my numbers to show what is possible.

Before I started blogging, writers were pretty much kept in the dark about money. No one knew what anyone else made. As such, there was a lot of suspicion, misinformation, envy, and floundering.

I was one of the first writers to openly talk about earnings. I felt this transparency was necessary in order to show my peers the difference between self-pub and legacy.

Now, lots of writers openly discuss money. I like to think I played a part in that. 

And while I'm not perfect, I don't lie. There's no reason to. If I wasn't making a lot of money, I'd be honest about it.

Sometimes I use this blog in an attempt to instigate change, because there are certain things about this industry that should be changed. But I don't make shit up to prove my points. I draw conclusions after having experience, I don't fake experience to pimp an agenda.

Q: If I self-publish, how quickly will I make as much money as you do?

A: Believe it or not, I get asked this on a weekly basis.

Read my blog, going back to 2005. I worked for twelve years and wrote a million words before making a dime, and it took another ten years for me to be making this much money. I've got over fifty ebooks. And I'll cop to a bit of egotism and say I've never met anyone who ever worked harder in their career than I did.

So the snide answer would be: Bust your ass for twenty years, with very little reward.

But that answer is actually bullshit. Because every writer has a different path to follow. Maybe it'll take you sixty years. Maybe you'll get rich with your first book. I have no idea.

It comes down to luck. Keep at it until you get lucky. And if you can quit, then quit. If toiling in poverty and obscurity is making you pop Prozac like Pez, and this career makes you hate your life, do something else.

I write because I love it. I never did it for money or fame. The fact that I have money now is a wonderful windfall, and I'm grateful and happy to have gotten lucky. (BTW, some peers of mine think I'm perhaps the unluckiest writer in the world, considering how hard I worked for so long without getting a break).

Don't write hoping to quit your day job. Don't compare yourself to me, or anyone else. This is your journey, and it will be unique to you.

(Sidenote: Envy is poison. So are jealousy, guilt, worry, and regret. If you catch yourself doing any of these, try to stop.)

Q: I read something on the Internets where people were badmouthing you. Here's the link.

A: One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit. 

I don't Google myself, don't read reviews of my work, don't look for fights, and don't try to correct every pinhead who misquotes me, misrepresents my arguments, takes things out of context, or is just plain wrong.
(Unless they do it on my blog. Then I'm happy to go at it for a bit.)

The point is, I'm no longer in high school. I don't care what people think of me. This is not an easy attitude to develop, and sometimes I may fall a little short, but I'm proud of not caring, and I think the world would be a better place if more people adopted this stance.

Q: I found your ebooks on a pirate site.

A: Awesome. Then you can get them for free.

My views on piracy are well documented on this blog. I don't believe it hurts sales, and in fact it might actually help them. DRM is a blight on digital media, the anti-piracy groups are scaremongers who can't prove their points, and information (media included) wants to be free.

If you fear piracy, do more research. File sharing will always exist. The reason the Internet was invented was to share.

Q: But aren't you worried that piracy is costing you money?

A: So far it hasn't. Because the best, and only, way to compete with piracy is with cost and convenience. I make my work available cheaply and easily. Even though I am widely pirated, it hasn't hurt my sales.

Q: Aren't you devaluing your books by pricing them so low?

A: The value of a book isn't its cover price. It's how much money the book earns the author.

Some writers think if they spent a year writing something, it should be priced high.

You can price however you want to. If you want to charge $99.99 for an ebook, and you can get people to buy it, go for it.

I think I've found the current sweet spot between units sold and profit per unit, which is under five bucks per title. Your mileage may vary. But keep in mind that ebooks are forever. Very few other careers allow you to keep earning money on time you already spent. You put in 40 hours a week at your day job, get paid for that week, and then you need to work the next week to make more money. A writer can put in 40 hours, write a story, and it will someday be earning money for his grandchildren.

Q: My agent sold some foreign rights to my ebook. Should I take it, or keep the rights and self-pub?

A: If it's a buttload of money, take it and run. If it's not much money, negotiate to put an expiration date on how long they keep the rights, something under ten years. Then the rights will come back to you, and by then you'll hopefully have enough money to translate it and self-publish it.

That goes for US rights as well. Big bucks, take it. Small bucks, try to keep the e-rights, or try to limit the contract term.

For the first time ever, writers have the power to say no and walk away from bad deals. Use that power.

Q: You talk trash about legacy publishing, but they are the ones who gave you a career. That's why you're making so much money now.

A: This is a faulty assumption that I've debunked many times. In a nutshell, I'm selling well because my ebooks are visible (lots of titles on lots of bestseller lists). While I have fans (thanks!) the majority of my sales are from people who haven't heard of me.

So far this month I've sold over 10,000 copies of Whiskey Sour. That was legacy published in 2004. From then until I got my rights back, Whiskey Sour sold about 35,000 ebooks.

So in 24 days, on my own, I've sold about 1/3 of what my publisher took nine years to sell. And these sales are obviously new readers, because all of my fans have already bought Whiskey Sour.

Besides, if I had such a great legacy platform, wouldn't I have been a bestseller years ago?

Q: Can I interview you? Would you speak at my conference/book fair/convention?

A: I've pretty much stopped doing interviews, except when I'm feeling particularly generous (usually if I'm reading email while drinking.) I've found that publicity doesn't boost sales, and that I often get misquoted or have things taken out of context.

Plus, it is a time suck. Ditto travelling. While it is nice to be asked, and even nicer to be offered lots of money (I've turned down speaking gigs for $20k), I value my privacy and my time too much, so I no longer do public appearances.

Thanks for asking. And good luck with your article or conference.

Q: Can I do a guest blog for you?

A: I've promised many people I'd let them do a guest blog, and then I've let them down by not following through. While I don't mind being asked, and I may even respond and say yes, the chances of you doing a guest blog is low. I apologize if I said I'd do it, and I didn't. Usually there is a reason for it (I forgot, time got away from me, I read your blog post and didn't like it).

One of my flaws is a criminally short attention span for certain things, which means I often forget email promises.

If I did promise you a guest post (or anything else) then the best way to make sure I keep my promise is to keep emailing me until I either:
  1. Fulfill the promise
  2. Respond and tell you I can't fulfill the promise
  3. Put you in my spam folder and block your email addy
And once again, I'm sorry.

As a corollary, emailing me repeatedly because I didn't respond to you the first time is an easy way to join my spam folder.

Q: Can you help me with...

A: Here's the thing: no one ever helped me. I did it all by myself, figured it all out alone, and continue to do so.

And actually, doing it yourself is the best way to learn. While it may seem daunting, and even overwhelming, I'm sure you can manage. There's nothing magic about me, anyway. I'm just a guy who worked hard and got lucky. You can do the same. 

Q: Will you ever do a sequel to...

I have lots of sequels in the works.

THREE, HIT, and NAUGHTY are all Chandler ebooks coming this summer.

LAST CALL is a new Jack Daniels/Luther Kite novel, coming by summer. (I know I said STIRRED woud be the last one, but fans keep asked for more, and who am I to say no?)

HAUNTED HOUSE is a new Kilborn, featuring characters from AFRAID, TRAPPED, ENDURANCE, ORIGIN, and THE LIST, coming out next month.

ORIGIN and THE LIST will also have proper sequels, hopefully in 2014. 

TIMECASTER STEAMPUNK is scheduled for 2014.

My super-secret pen name will also have a sequel coming out this year. 

Q: I am the king of Nigeria. Can you assist me in depositing 25 million dollars into your US bank account?

A: I emailed you my bank info last week! Where's my millions?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Brett Battles Robert Gregory Browne

Joe sez: Here's a guest post from two writer friends of mine, Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne, about their new thriller POE, now available for $4.99 on Amazon. Buy it. I did. Also available on Kindle UK, and Nook. My comments to follow.

Brett Battles: Last time we were here it was to talk about your dive into the ebook world, and my first full year as an independent author. Your first indie novel TRIAL JUNKIES had just been released. So let's start with a catch up. You go first.

Rob Gregory Browne: Well, you probably remember I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. I think the term I used was scared shitless. Turns out, I didn't really have anything to be nervous about. I did the KDP Select giveaway for three days, gave away 42,000 copies of the book, and the bounce was pretty incredible.

Brett: How many did you end up selling that first month?

Rob: I sold about 20,000 copies in the first two weeks after the giveaway. After that, I stopped counting. The book hit the Top 100 and became #1 in Legal Thrillers.

Brett: That's fantastic.

Rob: It was a very good year. But you had a pretty good year, too, didn't you?

Brett: 2012 turned out even better than I could have hoped. I put out four new titles, and sold just over 85,000 ebooks—that's 11 novels and 3 short stories. Even with experiments in price changes, sales/giveaway, and the fact that I (still) charge only .99 for shorts, I averaged over $2 a sale. Not only was it one of my most satisfying years writing, but it was also my most successful from a financial standpoint. Which was a nice change from 2011 when there was a month or two when I wasn't even sure if I was going to make my rent.

Rob: I remember. I had to talk you off the ledge a few times. But I know you don't regret the move anymore than I do.

Brett: Not at all. The key has been to not sit still…keep putting out new books, and try new things, such as the giveaways, playing with price, etc.

Rob: And, of course, for you and me to write a book together.

Brett:  That, too.

Rob: We’ve been talking about writing a series together for years, and it was nice not having to get permission from a publisher to do it. We just said, hey, let's do this, and our new thriller POE was born.

Brett: Exactly. Another great benefit of being independent.

Rob: But I have to admit I felt some trepidation. Although I was optimistic, I had no idea how well we'd work together. Turns out, my fears were once again baseless. I seem to do that a lot.

Brett: I never doubted it would turn out fine. I saw it both as an opportunity to do something fun and new, and for both of us to expand not only our virtual shelves but our fan bases.

Rob: My main stipulation, which I expressed to you from the very beginning, was that we both check our egos at the door. We had to be able to rewrite each other with impunity.

Brett: Right. That was key. That, and the fact that you had this great concept you’d been kicking around for years that we used and built on.

Rob: Thanks. And, of course, the next trick was figuring out the logistics of working together. Since we live ninety miles apart, sitting down next to each other was out of the question. So the question was how would we proceed?

Brett:  Especially since we both always have other projects going. Finding a coordinated hole in our schedules was becoming very difficult. I’m not quite sure how we came to this solution, but one of us floated the idea of alternating first drafts. Since we wanted this to be a series, we’d work together on the outlines to make sure we were both on the same page plot wise, then for the first book, I’d take a crack at a draft and you’d come in and do the rewrite.

Rob:  Right. And when it’s time to do POE #2, I do the first draft and you do the rewrite.

Brett: And, of course, we’d discuss any problems on the phone through every phase, something we did constantly throughout POE.

Rob: I think it worked out pretty well. I’m pretty happy with the result.

Brett: So am I. For those interested, here’s the cover blurb for the first book:

After losing her mother to a terrorist attack, Alexandra Poe was devastated when her father—disgraced and accused of treason—disappeared from the face of the earth. Now, ten years and a stint in Iraq later, Alex is approached by a man who has information about her father and wants to help her find him.

But there's a catch. The man works for Stonewell International, a security firm that specializes in fugitive acquisition. And in return for their help, Alex must agree to run point on an extremely dicey mission. One that will take her behind the walls of a brutal and dangerous women's prison near the coast of the Black Sea.

When Alex finally agrees, she has no idea what she's gotten herself into. She may find her father, but she could very well lose her life.

As I mentioned, one of our biggest hopes is that though we do share a partially common fan base, this would also give us an opportunity to expand our readership to those who are unique to each of us. And having fun while we were at it.

Rob: We’ve seen what Joe and Blake, and then Joe and Ann have done with their collaborations. These seemed to help them a lot.

Brett: Yeah. A no brainer. The only problem was finding the time. Took us over a year from when we first started talking about it to actually putting words on the screen.

Rob:  But we did.

Brett:  Yep. Like I said before, it’s all about experimentation, and, not only am I curious and excited to see how this goes, I’m just as excited to get started on the next Poe.

Rob:  As soon as we have time.

Brett:  Right. There is that.

Joe sez: I really enjoy collaborating, and have done it over a dozen times. Besides writing a story in half the time it would take to do it yourself, it also expands your virtual shelf space, potentially doubles your fanbase, and is a great opportunity to learn from a fellow author. Or, in my case, teach my fellow authors how to write  better. Which they'd never say about me. Because they don't have blogs. But I digress...

Two (or more) writers working on a single project is fun. I was interested in learning how Battles and Browne did it because my method is different. After brainstorming, my co-writer and I will divvy up scenes, and then put them in a shared DropBox. For scenes or outlines we write together, we do them at the same time using either Google Docs or

Each scene is numbered, and rewrites are saved under new numbers. For example: Chapter Seven 1.3 after the rewrite would be saved as Chapter Seven 1.4. That way, if one writer changes something the other needed (or liked) the previous draft still exists. It's also a signal to the co-writer that a new draft has been uploaded.

Google Docs has a chat box. I also use text chat in Skype if I need a quick answer to some story question from my co-author. The only thing better is actually being in the room with the collaborator, but that isn't always better, because there is usually beer around, and we usually drink it instead of write.

I get a lot of emails from people who ask how getting paid works with co-writing.

For the majority of my collaborative efforts, it's a 50/50 split. And, unfortunately, there is no easy way to do it. One person gets paid (I like direct deposit into my bank account) and then has to give the other person money (I like PayPal as a "Payment Owed" so there are no fees.)

This can quickly become a colossal pain in the ass, especially when the book is on multiple platforms. I'm in the process of having an assistant do this for me. She's the same one who put all of my spreadsheets into a single Excel database, which is how I know how many ebooks I've sold. Now that she's caught up, I'll just send her monthly spreadsheets, and she incorporates them and figures out who owes whom.

If you need help on this front, email me with the subject heading ASSISTANT and I'll put you in touch with her. She's a joy to work with, and her hourly rate is reasonable.

In some cases, I have a 75/25 royalty split. If two people create a character together, and one person wants to do a story with that character without the other, the other gets 25%. Part of that is simply a courtesy payment for using the IP. But it also includes a rewrite and polish, usually adding a few thousand words. So it breaks down to one person doing 75% of the work, one doing 25%.

Ann and I did this with the Chandler short novel EXPOSED (we brainstormed, she wrote the whole thing, I added and edited and polished), with her keeping 75%. She's also getting 75% for the Chandler short novel HIT (coming soon), and I'm getting 75% for the Chandler short novel NAUGHTY. For the Createspace paperback version, we're splitting costs and royalties 58% to 42% (do the math).

The savvy among you might notice I said "short novel" instead of "novella." Let me sidetrack for a moment.

In my experience, novels sell best. Short stories don't sell nearly as well. For whatever reason, people think a novella is a short story. Or maybe they don't know what it is. But when I put "short novel" in the description is sells better than "novella." Dunno why. But now I call anything over 15k words a short novel. I've also been known to simply call it a thriller, and then reveal the length in the description (both word count and approximate page count.)

Back on track, how do you find a co-writer?

I only write with my friends. That makes things easier, more fun, and helps limit the head-butting. We have the "no egos" rule that Rob and Brett have. We also allow each other carte blanche on edits and rewrites. I trust my co-writers to make my prose better, and they trust me the same way.

As for proofing, I hate it and suck at it, so somehow my collaborator usually gets stuck with that. In return, I do the promo, arrange for cover art and formatting, and do the jacket copy.

There is no quick and easy formula for successful collaboration, but one way to signal success is the seamlessness of the story. If the reader can't tell who wrote what, you've done a great job melding your styles.

A good example of this is DRACULAS, which I wrote with Blake, F. Paul Wilson, and Jeff somebody. At the end of it, we have an extra 80,000 words describing everything we did to write the book. If you're keen to know how collaboration works, that's a peek behind the curtain.

That's all I've got, unless any of my co-writers want to chime in...

Addendum: In the comments, several people wanted to know how this works on your taxes.

Blake formed an LLC, and he 1099s me every year. Blake is also a lot more responsible and efficient than I am. I deduct payments to others on my taxes, list them as independent contractors, and include their social security number when I file. My accountant is trying to make me to the 1099 thing, which I suppose I will.  

Monday, March 18, 2013


A few weeks ago I went all-in with Amazon KDP Select, the program that allows you to make your ebook free for a period of five days, and pays you for lends to Prime members.

I didn't make this decision lightly, because I don't like the exclusivity aspect of it. I believe competition is important in the marketplace, and I want to make my ebooks available in as many outlets as possible. In choosing KDP Select I'm missing out on money from other platforms, and I'm limiting my potential fanbase.

In the past, I've played with KDP Select with a few titles, but opted out again after the three month enrollment period. And I've always tried to have the majority of my titles available on other platforms.

I did very well on Kobo in December, making $4k. I like what Mark Coker is doing with Smashwords, but I really think he needs to find an anchor beyond ebook distribution (advertising in free ebooks?) B&N has been disappointing, but I made $14k on Nook last year, which isn't chump change. I've been putting off uploading my ebooks to iTunes because I had to get a Mac (you can't upload on a PC).

I believe I understand why exclusivity is important to Amazon. If authors enroll in KDP Select, and Kindle is the only place these authors' ebooks are available, then fans of these authors need to buy them from Amazon.

This also is the reason for proprietary formats. Buy the Kindle, and the only place to easily get ebooks is the Kindle Store. You can't shop with your Kindle.

While this undeniably drives consumers to Amazon, I also think there are some other things to consider.

Amazon has the best online shopping experience. If they allowed Nook and Kobo owners to shop on, they'd make more money than they would catering to a proprietary format. Open source always wins. The more people you allow to join, the better you do. I think Amazon should sell ebooks in epub format. If they want to try it out, they could experiment with my ebooks. Then I wouldn't feel like I'm letting down fans who have a different ereader, and both Amazon and I would sell more copies.

Some authors refuse to go into KDP Select because it is exclusive. This means Amazon customers don't have as much selection or choice as they could have.

Amazon spends a lot of energy (which I assume means man hours and money) making sure the KDP Select ebooks are exclusive and aren't available elsewhere. If they weren't exclusive, this energy could be conserved, or used elsewhere.

Amazon is dominating this market, but if they destroy all competition they'll have to deal with government intervention and outcries of monopoly. Plus, on a capitalistic evolutionary level, competition is good. It makes everyone improve their game.

And yet, in spite of my reservations, I went all-in. Every one of my ebooks is now in KDP Select, and has been for all of March.

So was it a good move?

I just checked my 6 week KDP total, which updated yesterday, and I've made over $100,000.

More than ten grand of that is from Prime borrows (assuming $2 a borrow for March). That more than makes up for my loss of sales on other platforms.

But while the borrows are nice, it's my free ebooks that are helping me sell my backlist. My first Jack Daniels novel, Whiskey Sour, has been free for the last four days, and I've given away over 100,000 copies.

That's the most I've ever given away during a free promotion, and I'm really curious to see how high I bounce back onto the paid bestseller lists tonight. The second in the series, Bloody Mary, has earned me over $8k this month, many of those sales in the last four days because of Whiskey Sour being free.

So I gotta say I've been extremely happy about going all-in with KDPS, even though I did it with some reservations.

Now I'll take questions.

Q: Haven't you publicly ranted against the exclusivity of KDP Select? Doesn't going all-in make you a hypocrite?

A: As new data comes in, I adjust my opinions. I'm currently making $2400 a day on Amazon. About 10% of that money is coming from borrows. I have years of data from the other platforms, but I've never earned $240 a day from them, even on all of them combined.

Right now, KDP Select is giving me the opportunity to make more money, and I'm taking that opportunity.

Q: What about your fans who have Nooks or Kobos?

A: My ebooks are DRM free. They can be purchased on Amazon and converted to epub format using Calibre.

Also, Kindles are just $69, less than the cost of three hardcover books. If a reader is willing to wait long enough, they can get all of my ebooks for free because eventually I'll make each title free. So a reader can buy a Kindle, then get my entire oeuvre for nothing.

Q: Aren't you concerned you are helping Amazon become a monopoly?

A: Lots of writers seem to fear Amazon's power. But I haven't seen Amazon abuse its power, and have no reason to believe they ever will. On the contrary, I've seen them treat authors very well. They've made some mistakes (what company hasn't?) but overall they've been a writer's best friend since introducing the KDP program.

That said, Amazon isn't a monopoly. But they are setting the bar high for competition.

If other platforms want to lure me back, they can. They'll just need to do more for me than Amazon is doing. If they don't want to woo me and other authors over to them, or feel they shouldn't have to, then they aren't taking into account the importance of writers--something publishers are also famous for.

How is this any different than having competing job offers? If more than one company wants to hire you, they need to make you a better offer than their competition.

Q: Are you going to stay in KDP Select for another three months?

A: Yes.

Q: But if every writer went all-in like you did, the competition wouldn't survive.

A: It isn't my job to help other platforms succeed. It is their job to lure me to their platform.

Q: Did you hear that Apple and Amazon have patents on selling used ebooks?

A: I've been following that with interest, and I'm not going to get all worked up about something that might happen. I'll wait until there is an official announcement from Amazon or Apple, with specific money details.

But I will say this: watching my peers overreact to this news has been highly amusing. Sometimes I think writers act a lot like gazelle getting spooked at the watering hole.

Q: But what if Amazon becomes a monopoly and reduces author royalty rates to 3% and then sells used ebooks for a penny and then takes over the government and launches a nuclear strike on Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north?

A: That would be tragic. I like Canada. But I'm not going to worry about this just yet.

Q: I don't believe you made $100,000 in six weeks.

A: I don't believe it either. But I did. :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Harlequin Survey

Harlequin just sent out a survey to its authors, seemingly asking for sincere feedback.

Maybe it has to do with their current lawsuit. Maybe it has to do with their recent financial woes.

Or maybe, just maybe, they really want to try and improve their relationships with the one group of people who are essential to their survival.

On the surface, this is smart. I don't know if the survey is truly anonymous or not, only that it is hidden from the public and each author can only complete the survey once because the survey is electronically linked to that particular author. This is done with tracking software, and those trackers could conceivably reveal who said what, even though the HQ email stated it is anonymous and confidential. My guess is the survey might intimidate some authors, preventing them from speaking the truth. Bashing the hand that feeds flies in the face of common sense, even if that hand is asking for honest answers.

Hopefully, some gutsy authors answered honestly. I know one author was gutsy enough to send me screen shots of the survey.

Are you there, Harlequin? It's me, Konrath. And I'll answer your questions honestly.

If you really want to know what your authors think of you, I'm friends with dozens of them, and have been going to writing conventions for over a decade. I've spoken to hundreds of HQ authors at RT. I've listened to so many tales of woe and hardship and mistreatment that the Big 6 look like angels compared to you.

Can you handle the truth? Because here it is. Do yourself a favor and really heed my responses.

Here are screenshots of the survey, followed by my answers.

I have been a published author for 11 years. I have not been published with Harlequin, though my agent has submitted some of my work to your mystery imprint, MIRA. MIRA rejected those titles, which have gone on to earn me in excess of a million dollars via self-publishing.
I have three series, and many single titles, in both print and digital. I used to be with legacy publishers, but now have my rights back and am self-publishing those titles exclusively.

Just self-publishing. That's how I made the million. Though I do have several books with Amazon Publishing imprints, because their contracts are so much better than anyone else in the industry.

  • Cover art is very important to me, as both an author and an avid reader. 
  • Marketing support is no longer needed in a digital world, except for prime placement on and free ebook announcement websites. Those are the only two marketing efforts I've seen that directly translate into sales.
  • I don't find publicity important at all. I've found no correlation between press and sales.
  • I find editors very important, but don't need regular communication.
  • Proofing and copyediting is very important.
  • Author control is very important.
  • Editorial guidance is not very important to me, but I've written 28 novels and don't need much help anymore. But I still need editors to vet.
  • Publisher knowledge can be very important, if they use that knowledge to make me money.
  • I don't believe most readers can name who publishes their favorite authors. HQ is unique in that it is bought as a brand. But usually the author is the brand. I put that in bold because it is such an important point.
  • I never cared about who published whom. Most publishers are interchangeable.
  • Transparency is essential.
  • Books should be available in all formats.
  • Books should be distributed as widely as possible.
  • Fair monetary compensation is essential to keep me happy. In fact, I think it may be the number one concern of the vast majority of authors.
  • I didn't become a writer because I felt a need to belong.
  • A strong brand is very important. But visibility and competitive pricing are more important.
  • Editorial expertise is very important.

  • I've seen some very good HQ cover art. And some not so good.
  • I've talked to many, many HQ authors who never got any marketing support whatsoever, except for the ones who became giant bestsellers. And then HQ capitalized upon that celebrity by re-releasing their backlist books with new titles to trick fans into thinking it was the their latest thriller. Tsk tsk tsk.
  • Publicity support? Seriously, out of all the authors you publish, how many have you gotten any publicity whatsoever? Reviews in RT don't count.
  • I've heard many HQ authors love their editors. I've heard a few have had problems, but that seems to be the case with any publisher.
  • I've heard authors have very little control, because many series and imprints have restrictions and rules. While I understand different guidelines for different imprints, I've heard of editors rejecting stories or insisting on rewrites in ways that cause the authors a lot of stress and unhappiness.
  • HQ has knowledge of selling trends? If they did, they'd be making a fortune with ebooks like I am.
  • HQ has a very loyal readership base in print. Where's that loyalty in digital?
  • HQ has the worst reputation among writers out of every publisher I know, with the exception of the recently departed Dorchester. But now that they're gone, you're Number 1!
  • Transparency? How about allegedly licensing rights to yourself in order to avoid paying authors full royalties? Was that transparent?
  • I know a few dozen HQ authors who don't have audiobooks, and none who do.
  • HQ has incredible distribution.
  • HQ has the worst royalty rate, and some of the lowest advances, in all of publishing.
  • HQ throws great parties, and treats authors very well at conferences and conventions.
  • HQ has a terrific print brand, directly linked to its distribution network and loyal fans.
  • HQ has knowledgeable, professional editors. But knowledgeable, professional editors can be hired for a set fee.
It is 2013. The benefits that publishers have traditionally supplied, including editing, cover art, jacket copy, formatting, can proofing, can all be hired out for fixed costs. There is no need for any author to sign to HQ for ebook publishing. I can reach just as many, if not more, ebook readers on my own than Harlequin can.

With print, HQ still has its large distribution network, which has value. But that value is fading as more bookstores close and more readers embrace ebooks. And that distribution network doesn't benefit authors much when they are making literally pennies per copy sold.

Other publishers have 8% paperback royalties and 25% ebook royalties. HQ is far below industry standards. As a self-published author, I make 70% ebook royalties.

Think about this long and hard: Writers no longer need HQ to reach readers. They can do it themselves, via, and make a lot more than HQ pays them.

Why should any author stay with HQ? Because you throw great parties? Because they have a desire to see their book in Walmart (for as long as Walmart still sells books)? Because they want to (ack) experience a sense of belonging?

HQ was once the only game in town when it came to serial romance. But you are becoming obsolete. And the one group that could save you--your authors--has been paid so poorly for so many years that they are eager to pursue other avenues.

I'm very unhappy with HQ, and I don't even work for you. I'm unhappy with your royalty rates and low advances. I'm unhappy with the sneaky, underhanded way you allegedly licensed rights to yourself. I'm unhappy with how you've strung authors along for years, contract to contract, with barely a cost of living increase. I'm unhappy how you keep their rights forever because you claim you sold one ebook in Bulgaria, even though there have been no other sales in years.

I think you prey on the naive and needy, treat your authors poorly, and the best thing for the world would be HQ gone.

But I do like your parties.

I've heard so many authors complain about HQ that I've lost count. Those who defend HQ do so like apologists, crediting their success with the meager support HQ gave them.

 Here are the benefits HQ should provide:
  • Rights returned upon request for titles older than 18 months, or which haven't sold over 3000 copies in a six month period. Seriously, that's not a lot of copies. My book Whiskey Sour has sold 4000 copies this month, and it's only the 12th. 
  • Paperback royalties at 8% of list. Like the rest of the industry.
  • Ebook royalties at 35% of list. Like the rest of the industry should.
  • Minimum $20k advance per book. 
  • Transparent, monthly royalty statements, like I get self-pubbing. And like Amazon Publishing does.
  • Monthly royalty checks, like I get self-publishing.
  • Author input over title and cover art. An author should be allowed to say, "That stinks, try again."
Now all of that might seem ridiculous to you. But it is what authors can get without HQ. If you want to keep authors, you'd better offer them something better than they can get on their own.

Fellow authors are my key source of information.

Good on HQ for sending out this survey, but I'm pretty sure agents and authors have been complaining about these things for decades. And nothing has been done, because authors didn't have a choice. They either accepted your unconscionable terms, or didn't get published.

That is no longer the case.

Let me put it this way: Harlequin sells eggs, and all of their chickens are unhappy and leaving. You won't be in the egg-selling biz much longer unless you give them a reason to stick around.

HQ doesn't have brand power anymore, because you don't have a lock on digital distribution like you had one on print distribution. So you'd better start understanding that authors aren't interchangeable cogs who can be easily replaced.

A romance reader walking into a brick and mortar store went to the romance section and saw a limited number of series titles, most or all of them Harlequins.

A romance reader looking for series romance on Amazon has a much wider choice available, and HQ no longer dominates. In fact, you get lost in the mix, especially with a lot of savvy authors running their own promotions.

HQ needs savvy authors, because authors are now the brand. And the only was to get them is to treat them very, very well.

No other options.
Battered Person Syndrome, preventing them from leaving.

Really. HQ is that bad.
Besides the above, settle the ongoing lawsuit fairly and retroactively compensate your authors for past royalties using current industry standards.

There is no HQ without authors.

I want to know how many HQ authors make a living wage, and what that average wage is.
I want to know how many HQ authors write two or more books a year and still have to keep their day job.
I want to know how HQ can justify its treatment of authors.
I want to know how HQ expects to last the decade.
I want to know why HQ can't find the same success with ebooks that it did with print.
I want to know what will happen to all the book rights HQ has if it declares bankruptcy.
I want to know what you've done with the many millions of dollars you've made exploiting authors.
Most of all, I want to know how you folks sleep at night. Because I wouldn't be able to.

Don't pretend you've been in the dark all this time. You've known all this all along.

But now, finally, authors don't need you anymore. They have a choice. A choice that will allow them--in many cases for the very first time--to be adequately compensated for their work.

Respond on my blog, in the comments section.

As harsh as this blog post has been, I wrote it to help your authors, and help you. If you don't listen, you won't be around much longer. Because you won't have any authors left.

Kudos for sending out this survey, HQ. But read between the lines. Separate the placation and fear from the honest, reasonable complaints. Listen closely to those who are giving you advice, even if it is unflattering.

I debated whether or not to play the gender card, and ultimately decided I should. So here it goes:

The only reason you've been able to exploit writers for this long is because the overwhelming majority of your writers are women.

Not because women are weak. But because women are strong. And you preyed upon women's greatest strengths.

You preyed upon their unwavering loyalty.

You preyed upon their need to support their families.

You preyed upon their power--as the stronger sex--to grin and bear it even when being treated unfairly.

You preyed upon their amazing ability to nurture, their indomitable spirit that helps them persevere during tough times, and their awe-inspiring capacity to forgive.

Shame on you, Harlequin. Now make things right.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Backlist Then and Now

So the six week KDP total updated last night and I made a bit over the $90,000 mark, assuming borrows are $2 each.

These past two years have been interesting, because I really haven't had a new IP of my own.

Of the last six novels I've written, five have been collaborations, and one was sci-fi under a pen name. No new stand-alones, either under JA Konrath or Jack Kilborn, and no new solo novels in my series.

And yet I'm making $15k a week.

I attribute most of this to getting my rights returned. Being able to properly exploit my backlist with free promotions and paid advertising has really helped their ranks, their positions on the bestseller lists, and their sales.

But these books are old. So why are they still selling well?

Let's look at the old, analogue way of bookselling.

Years ago, getting published was extremely difficult. So difficult it took me ten years to sell a book, during a decade where I wrote ten novels. Those novels garnered over 500 rejections.

When I finally signed my first book deal, it was 2002. My book Whiskey Sour came out in 2004, more than 16 months later.

When it did, stores ordered a few hardcover copies. These were kept in the Mystery section, spine-out, at full price ($23.95). They went to the chain bookstores, and some indie stores, but not to any big boxes like Walmart.

Without front table space, and without multiple copies in the bookstores, customers who might have liked these books didn't find them easily. They had to search for them. And if they did find them, there was no discounting, and twenty-four bucks plus tax was a hefty price to pay to try someone out.

I had a few good reviews in the industry rags (PW, Kirkus, LJ), but none in the big places--EW, NYT, People, Time. My publisher refused to let me tour, limiting my exposure to booksellers and potential fans.

So I did drop-in signings, handsold a lot of hardcovers, and spent a good part of my $33k advance going to writing conferences and bookfairs around the US.

All that self-promotion was hard work, expensive, lonely, and took away from my writing time.

In 2005, my second novel, Bloody Mary came out, in conjunction with the Whiskey Sour paperback. The prevailing idea at the time was that publishers grew and nurtured authors, giving them years to find that core readership who would sustain sales, eventually reaching a critical mass and propelling them to the bestseller lists where it became self-fulfilling.

Self-fulfilling = book available everywhere, so book sells everywhere. A classic Catch-22. I couldn't sell a lot of books, because I wasn't in a lot of retailers, and I wasn't discounted. But those retailers, and my publisher, wouldn't give me that needed marketing push to become a bestseller unless I hit some sort of arbitrary, mythical sales number.

So 2006 rolls around, I visit 500 bookstores in 29 states on tour, and I'm still trying to show my publisher that I deserve the four star, first-class treatment, with a huge marketing and ad campaign that will sell enough copies to get me on the USA Today and NYT lists.

I never get that push. I never get discounted. Nn 2007, when my fourth novel comes out, my publisher chooses not to renew their mystery line, or my contract. Which is a devastating blow to me, because I have three books left with them. Books that will get no support from my publisher.

But I soldier on. I had developed a fanbase, and a good relationship with bookstores, who reorder and handsell my series. My books go into multiple printings, despite lack of publisher support.

However, my numbers aren't strong enough (even though I earned out a $225,000 advance in 8 years) for another publisher to pick up my series. And for those who think $225k is great, that breaks down to $22,500 per year, and I spent $20k of that promoting myself.

So I change my name to Jack Kilborn and start writing horror. I sell Afraid for $20k and worry my writing career is about to end because I'm going to have to find a different job to supplement it, and once I do that I won't be able to devote my time to promotion.

Then this Kindle thing comes along.

Those rejected novels? They weren't rejected because they sucked. They were rejected because the publishing industry was, and still is, archaic, short-sighted, self-serving, broken, and often either stupid or evil, depending on which pro writer you talk to.

These rejected novels got something that my published books never got; a chance to succeed.

I no longer needed publisher coop to discount my titles and make them more attractive to readers--something I never had. Instead I could do that myself.

I no longer needed more shelf space in stores, or more retailers to carry me. I had just as much shelf space as any NYT bestseller.

I no longer was at the mercy of publishers for bad editing decisions, cover art, and title changes. I was in control.

That control meant I could publish a book two weeks after it was complete, not 16 months.

It meant I could change prices, covers, and even edit instantly by uploading a new version.

It meant I had an equal chance of being discovered, because the playing field was now even. I wasn't fighting for customer eyeballs against Patterson or King, who had dozens of books in the front of the store, and were available everywhere books were sold. King has one Amazon page per book, just like me. But I could best him on price.

The old days, where a book had a six month shelf life, then was returned if it didn't sell--or just as bad, sold and then wasn't restocked--were gone. Ebooks are forever. Shelf life, and space, is infinite, no restocking needed.

A combination of good covers, low prices, good descriptions, and good books put me on Amazon's bestseller lists, which then got me the eyeballs I never had before.

In the past, many bookstores didn't stock my backlist titles. They had to be special ordered by a customer who knew about them.

In a digital world, my backlist is instantly available to anyone. And it isn't a backlist.

To many readers, my old books are frontlist titles.

The readers who never discovered my Jack Daniels and Jack Kilborn books in print can now do so easily. If they see Whiskey Sour for the first time, it's a new book to them. And now that my publisher isn't controlling the price, I can make that book more affordable and more tempting. I can even make it free.

It's always been about exposure and cost. Cheap books, available everywhere, is why bestsellers are bestsellers. That was true in print, and it is true in ebooks.

But print was dominated by new releases. New books got the attention.

In a digital world, your backlist is new... to someone who hasn't seen it before. And that means millions of people. It is just as viable as your latest release. In fact, it may be even more viable, because it has had time to accrue a lot of positive reviews and ratings, which help inform potential readers and get them to buy it.

My previous publishers priced my ebooks too high. Now that I have the rights, I've made them more affordable.

As a result, I'm netting $2100 a day. Actually more than that, but I'm going by my six week report, and that first week was slower because I didn't have my backlist live and integrated into Amazon's system yet.

I'm not the only one doing this. Look at the bestseller lists. Lots of older titles on them. Many of them self-pubbed.

Backlist and frontlist are now meaningless. Legacy pub and self-pub are meaningless. It's all about availability and discoverablilty. And your odds at finding eyeballs improves with the more IPs you have.

What else helps you find eyeballs? Targeted advertising.

There are many websites dedicated to promoting free and discounted ebooks. Some are free to submit to. Some cost money. I've been using and to help lead people to my free titles. They are the first kind of advertising I've encountered where I can see specific, quantifiable results. YMMV, so experiment.

I've stopped trying to convince authors that signing with a legacy publisher is a bad idea. The axe I used to grind became unnecessary once my rights reverted. But my journey is both a cautionary and a redemption tale.

In the ten years I was legacy published, I made about $450k. In the four years I've self-published, I've made over 1.1 million dollars.

The higher royalty rate, the control I have, and the very little self-promo I've had to do while self-publishing means I've never been happier as an author.

I'm very lucky. I get to write for a living. And I get to do it on my terms.

As nice as the money is, the peace of mind is even better.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


It's 10am, Central time, on March 5th.

I've sold over 6000 ebooks, and had over 1300 borrows, on Kindle this month.

Considering the month has only encompassed four days and ten hours, I'm pretty blown away by these numbers. I'm making about $120 an hour, 24 hours a day, on ebooks I wrote years ago.

Someone call Ponzi and tell him there's a better system.

I've currently gone all in with KDP Select for the next three months, to see if I can't boost these sales up even more. With free giveaways, borrows, and judicious use of and, I'll always have at least three ebooks on the freebie list.

I now have more than 50 ebook titles to play with, plus four with Amazon Publishing, plus two available for pre-order.

Speaking of, I get a lot of email from folks wondering when the next Jack Kilborn is coming out. It will be available April 22, and Amazon was gracious enough to try an experiment with me and create a pre-order page.
HAUNTED HOUSE by Jack Kilborn
Available on April 22
$3.99 on Amazon Kindle
Amazon has been terrific to work with. Currently, my two Chandler ebooks, FLEE and SPREE, are on sale for just $1.99 and $2.99, and they are two of the most action-packed books ever written. By anyone. If you aren't out of breath reading those books, you don't have a pulse.

FLEE by JA Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson
$1.99 on Amazon Kindle
SPREE by JA Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson
$2.99 on Amazon Kindle
Chandler was an idea I had years ago. I wanted to do an American, female James Bond, and I wanted her to be the best assassin in the world. Then I wanted to see how much she could take before she broke, so my collaborator Ann Voss Peterson and I threw everything at her. The books literally never let up. Action, violence, sex, humor, super villains, plots to destroy the world, Presidential assassinations, gadgets, exotic locations, and more action. There have never been books like these before.

Free for the next few days on Amazon is BIRDS OF PREY, which I wrote with another collaborator, Blake Crouch.
BIRDS OF PREY by Blake Crouch and Jack Kilborn
Free on Amazon Kindle
"But Joe, what does any of this have to do with tie-ins?" some of you might be saying, considering that is the title of this blog entry. "All you seem to be doing is pimping your titles."

How astute of you. Allow me to elucidate.

HAUNTED HOUSE is a sequel to my novels AFRAID, TRAPPED, and ENDURANCE. I took the survivors from those thrillers, brought them all together, and put them through a new kind of hell. I also included Dr. Frank Belgium, from ORIGIN.

All characters have back stories. In the case of HAUNTED HOUSE, these back stories exist in other books.

While HAUNTED HOUSE can be read as a stand alone, and may be the first Kilborn book read by a lot of people, if a reader enjoys it, she can read more about these characters in different novels. And fans of these other novels will enjoy seeing familiar characters show up again in a new novel.

In FLEE, Chandler needs some help during some key moments in the story. That help is given by my characters Jack Daniels and Harry McGlade, from my Jack Daniels series.

In SPREE, Chandler falls for David Lund, who was male lead in Ann's terrific thriller PUSHED TOO FAR. Val Ryker from that book also makes an appearance. BTW, Jack Daniels also makes an appearance in PUSHED TOO FAR.

SPREE also features my character Tequila from SHOT OF TEQUILA, more Jack and Harry, and two villains, Javier and Isaiah, from Blake Crouch's novels SNOWBOUND and ABANDON.

BIRDS OF PREY features so many characters from my and Blake's past work it is a who's who of villainy. Bad guys from every one of our books appear and interact with each other. Want to see how the Gingerbread Man from WHISKEY SOUR holds his own against Luther Kite from LOCKED DOORS? Want to see Donaldson from SERIAL run into Orson Thomas from DESERT PLACES? There's that and more.

If a reader is new to our work, this introduces them to characters that appear elsewhere. Which, hopefully, they will seek out. If they are already fans, this is a fun reunion/mash-up.

Superhero comics have been doing this for decades. So why not do it with books? Not only with your own characters, but with your peers' characters as well?

TIMECASTER features Jack Daniels's grandson as the hero, and she also makes an appearance, along with the ubiquitous Harry McGlade. Blake and I are working on another Jack Daniels/Luther Kite thriller, LAST CALL, and we bring in Letty Dobesh from GRAB and PAIN OF OTHERS, along with many familiar faces from SERIAL KILLERS UNCUT, plus Chandler and Tequila.

Blake and I call this the Crouch/Konrath Expanded Universe. It's over 2 million words of interconnected stories and characters.

Right now, on KDP Select, I'm looking for readers like that. I'm also working with Amazon Publishing to lower prices on backlist titles. Like STIRRED, which is now $1.99.

STIRRED by Blake Crouch and JA Konrath
$1.99 on Amazon Kindle
With low prices and freebies on over fifty ebooks, I'm hoping to find some casual readers. But I'm also hoping to find new fans who then want to read everything. I'm happy to give them ten ebooks for free if they go on to buy the other forty. Hell, I'm happy to give them all fifty free, because people who like the books may talk about them.

"But Joe," you might be thinking, "with everything low priced or free, won't readers start expecting that? How will writers make a living if readers want cheap and free?"

The worry shouldn't be cheap and free ebooks. The worry should be not getting read.

Show me a famous artist who doesn't make money (and exclude all the famous artist who are getting screwed because of bad deals they've signed). If you get enough fans, and you control your IPs, the money will come. That's just how it works.

"But Joe," you might insist in a grating way, "with so much out there that's free and cheap, won't all books get lost in a tsunami of crap?"

I've already debunked the tsunami of crap argument. Bottom line: if you are writing lots and lots of good books, and making them cheap or free, people will eventually find you, and that will eventually translate into money.

Interconnecting your backlist and frontlist titles and having your characters appear in multiple works is one more thing you can be doing to interest readers and reward fans. It's one more arrow in your quiver, to go along with writing great books, having great covers, using great descriptions, experimenting with price and freebies, and careful use of advertising.

Yep, I've changed my mind on my long-held "never advertise" philosophy. If used correctly, free ebook websites can drive sales. But that's a blog for another day...