Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Franzen and the Ebook Bubble

A lot (dozens) of people have emailed me or left comments about two semi-related articles.

One concerns author Jonathan Franzen, and his comments about ebooks.


The other is a UK article about the supposed ebook bubble.


Franzen's thoughts, and the whole "bubble" idea, amuse me. But let me assure ebook authors everywhere that there is nothing to be alarmed about.

One of Franzen's quotes is:

"Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do."

Good for him. But his opinion is hardly universal. Amazon supposedly sold 6 million Kindle Fires in the last three months.

The grand literati concept of "Story" with a capital S has nothing to do with the media that delivers it. The story doesn't exist on paper. Or as e-ink, or screen pixels, or even mp3 audio compression.

The Story exists in the reader's/listener's head.

I anticipated this reaction of Luddites and paper fetishists two years ago.


Franzen could have saved himself from looking silly by reading my blog. But the same can be said about scores of writers, agents, and publishers, and it is my flawed conceit that logic, common sense, and hard data can change people's minds.

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” - Jacob M. Braude

It is worth noting here that I was once, pre-Kindle, 100% against self-publishing. I changed my mind as new data came in.

But I digress.

As for the ebook bubble, I put this meme to bed and rocked it to everlasting sleep a year ago:


So what have we learned, other than the fact that I'm eerily prescient?

1. People fear change. When change happens, they dig in like ticks and try to defend their long-held and closely-cherished beliefs. (BTW, another term for long-held/closely cherished belief is prejudice. And prejudice ain't good.)

2. The same memes about ebooks keep getting circulated again and again and again because folks are too lazy to do any kind of simple research to inform their opinions.

3. Ebooks are going to follow the examples set by the music, movie, and TV industries. The future is digital, and anyone who disagrees with that is seriously out of touch with reality.

So all you ebook self-pubbers out there: ignore the alarmists. There are always doomsayers and Luddites and nostalgia whores who bitch and moan when new technologies take over. But they don't matter. Because new technologies don't care if some folks resist them--they take over anyway.

Now go get some writing done and self-publish the hell out of it. Trust me. I'm right a lot.*

*(Actually, you should trust no one, and figure this shit out for yourself with research and experimentation.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

At Home with the Sixes

Big Mama Six, Big Daddy Six, and their son, are standing in the living room, having a conversation.

Big Mama: We're so happy you're our son.

Big Daddy: So very, very happy.

Son: Thanks.

Big Mama: We recognize what a good job you're doing.

Big Daddy: Such a better job than your brothers and sisters. I know we're not supposed to play favorites, but son... you're our favorite.

Son: Thanks. Look, I really need to tell you something.

Big Mama: We're so proud of you. Do you remember when you were just a baby?

Big Daddy: Needed us to wipe your nose.

Big Mama: All the poopy diapers we changed.

Big Daddy: But look at you now. All grown up.

Big Mama: I must say, Big Daddy, we sure did a good job raising him.

Big Daddy: We sure did. And look at him now! Such a strapping young man.

Big Mama: We've done so much for you.

Big Daddy: And we'll keep doing it. Because we're your parents, and you need us.

Son: Guys...

Big Mama: The risks we took! The time investment!

Big Daddy: And the monetary investment! Buying you food all those years. Clothes. School supplies. You couldn't have gotten those straight A's if we didn't buy you pencils.

Son: (sighing) Yes. You bought me pencils. You're the best parents ever.

Big Mama: We've been talking, your father and I. And we have some news.

Big Daddy: It's true. We've discussed it, and we've decided we're going to raise your allowance by 2%.

Big Mama: Aren't we generous?

Big Daddy: You're now making $21.50 a week. How do you feel about that, young man?

Son: You both are making this awkward.

Big Mama: Now don't think that 2% raise doesn't come with added responsibilities, son. Besides doing the cooking, the cleaning, the yard work, and building that addition onto our house, you'll also now be required to service all four of ours cars, twice a month.

Big Daddy: We have a lot of bills to pay. Rent. Utilities. Food. And let's face it, you eat a lot. So we're going to have to charge you for the extra food you're consuming.

Big Mama: But it's okay. Our relationship isn't just about food, or money. We nurture. We protect. We guide.

Big Daddy: When you painted that beautiful watercolor, who sold it for you and gave you 17.5% of the money? We did.

Big Mama: That's what we do. Because we're a team.

Big Daddy: Risky business, raising children. But you've made us so proud.

Son: Enough! I wanted to tell you I'm leaving home.

Big Mama: What?

Big Daddy: Are you serious? You can't survive without us!

Big Mama: You need us!

Son: I'm going into business for myself.

Big Daddy: You'll never make it!

Big Mama: Without us to do all that we do for you, you'll never succeed!

Son: In the last three weeks I've earned over $100,000.

Big Daddy: Uh....

Son: That's more than you make annually, isn't it, Big Daddy?

Big Mama: But... but... we've done so much.

Son: These past few years you've done nothing but rip me off while boasting about how valuable you are. But you actually haven't given me any value whatsoever. You've worked me almost to death, taken heaps of money from me, and there isn't a single thing you can do for me that I can't do for myself.

Big Daddy: You ungrateful little jerk! We made you what you are today!

Son: Goodbye.

Big Mama begins to cry. Big Daddy puts his arm around her.

Big Daddy: It's okay, dear. We don't need him. We still have hundreds of other children.

Big Mama: But what if they all figure out they don't need us?

Big Daddy: They won't. We're authority figures. They need our approval. Plus, they're really naive.

Big Mama: How long will they stay naive? Without our kids to help pay our bills, we won't be able to keep the house.

Big Daddy: It'll all work out just fine.

Big Mama: Maybe I should go after him. Offer to triple his allowance.

Big Daddy: I don't think he'll be persuaded.

Big Mama: What if, next time we sell one of his paintings, we give him 20%?

Big Daddy: I've done some research. He can get 70% on his own.

Big Mama: That much?

Big Daddy: Yes.

Big Mama: Can we match that?

Big Daddy: No. We have too many bills to pay.

Big Mama: Do you think he resents us for using him for his talents all those years?

Big Daddy: Hush, dear. We didn't use him. We provided guidance and support. We nurtured him. We loaned him thousands of dollars.

Big Mama: He paid back those thousands of dollars, and then some.

Big Daddy: That isn't the point. The point is there will always be children who need the validation, coddling, and reprimanding that we have to offer. And they'll let us rob them blind in order to get it.

Big Mama: I hope so, Big Daddy.

Big Daddy: Trust me. Now run into the bedroom and fetch my Kindle. There's a new Konrath ebook on Amazon for $2.99. I love how he can offer such low prices.

Big Mama: Me too. I have no idea why some other ebooks are so expensive.

Big Daddy: It's simple, dear. Big corporations are wasteful and don't care about their customers. They charge a lot to pay for their overhead without providing value to either the authors they work with or the readers they sell to.

Big Mama: (shaking her head) I'm glad we're not self-delusional like that.

Big Daddy: Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Burners and Floaters

FLOATERS, starring Jack Daniels and Alex Chapa, is now free on Kindle for a limited time. BURNERS, the Daniels/Chapa follow-up, is now available for $2.99.

In 2009, KILLING RED by Henry Perez was published. It introduced Chicago reporter Alex Chapa, and was the best debut thriller I'd ever read. Henry followed it up with the equally-good Chapa novel MOURN THE LIVING, which reached the coveted #1 spot on the Kindle Top 100. In fact, Henry hit #1 before I did.

I love Chapa, so it was very cool when he teamed up with my hero, Jack Daniels, in our co-written story FLOATERS (currently free on Amazon.)

Now Chapa and Daniels have crossed paths again in the new short novel BURNERS. And as you can expect by the title, it's hot. Here's the premise:

Jury duty is not how newspaper reporter Alex Chapa (Killing Red, Mourn the Living) wants to spend his day. But when he learns Chicago Homicide cop Jacqueline Daniels (Whiskey Sour, Shaken) will play a key role in the trial, his curiosity gets the better of him—with potentially lethal results.

Part whodunnit mystery, part courtroom thriller, BURNERS is the second team-up between Chapa and Daniels (after FLOATERS). Loaded with suspense, humor, and twists, Burners is a perfect introduction to two #1 bestselling authors, while also a treat for longtime fans.

Burners clocks in at 30,000 words, about 150 pages. It was a lot of fun to write, and we believe that fun translates to the page. While it doesn't skimp on the thrills, this is a classic mystery. Can you figure out who the killer is before our heroes do? The clues are all there. 

To celebrate the release of BURNERS, we've decided to make the previous Chapa/Daniels team-up, FLOATERS, free for three days. (In the UK Kindle store, FLOATERS is free and BURNERS is £1.53.)

When the latest in a series of dead bodies turns up in the Chicago River, newspaper reporter Alex Chapa and Police Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels reluctantly join forces. But as the clues fall into place and the rivalry heats up, one of them winds up in way too deep...

Thriller writers J.A. Konrath (Whiskey Sour, Fuzzy Navel, Cherry Bomb) and Henry Perez (Killing Red) and their series characters have teamed up to create FLOATERS, a mystery tale that combines humor with thrills.

Included in this 30,000 word collection are J.A. Konrath's LAST REQUEST, a Phineas Trout story, and FAMILIAR PLACES, a story by Henry Perez about hit man who has seen better days. 

Both Floaters and Burners are good, old-fashioned mysteries. No serial killers or explicit violence. They have been released without DRM, so even if you don't own a Kindle, you can read them on any other ereader (instructions here.)

For those of you who don't own an ereader yet, the paper version of FLOATERS and BURNERS will be available in print very soon.

So snatch up these ebooks while they are cheap and free. While Alex Chapa will appear in an upcoming third novel, these may be the last appearances of Jack Daniels for quite some time...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Myth of the Bestseller

We all want to have a bestselling book.

The legacy publishing world often seems focused on bestsellers. How many copies a book sells gets it on bestseller lists, which get it even more attention. Publishers, and authors, crow about big hits, and huge numbers are repeated ad infinitum.

The self-pubbing world seems to be following a similar theme. I was one of the first people to post my self-pub numbers, and this trend has continued. I think this kind of transparency is good.

But the message is getting skewed. I've shared my numbers to show writers what is possible by pubbing on Kindle. 

I don't share my numbers to show how many more ebooks I'm selling than you are. And I've never stated that an ebook has to sell X number of copies before it is considered a success.

According to a recent article in Publisher's Lunch (no link because it's a pay site), 11 self-pubbed authors made the NYT List in 2011. I haven't read the article, so I don't know if it is slanted that 11 is an amazing number or a disappointing number. In reality, it is neither. Because that number is meaningless.

The self-publishing revolution isn't about how many bestsellers it produces. 

The self-publishing revolution is about authors--all authors--being able to make money on their work without having to jump through gatekeeping hoops.

You don't need to make the NYT list to be a success. You don't need to make $100,000 in three weeks to be a success. And the significance of this revolution isn't based on what the legacy publishing machine thinks is successful.

A writer doesn't have to sell 10,000 ebooks a day. They can sell 10,000 ebooks a year--only 27 a day--and because they keep a large chunk of the royalties, that can make a huge difference in the quality of their life. 

Even 5000 books a year, priced at 99 cents, is an extra $150 a month. Money used to pay bills. Buy groceries. Make things a little bit easier.

In the legacy world, if an author didn't make big money, they got dumped. But we writers don't have the overhead a NY publisher does. Smaller sales may not impress the legacy world, but who cares? They're bloated, unwieldy, antiquated, inefficient, and wasteful. 

Let NY try to support itself. We need much less to support ourselves. We don't need to hit a homerun like NY does. We can hit a bunch of singles and do just fine.

Bestsellers have always been an anomaly. The real story is about the midlist, and how many writers can get paid. And right now, more writers are getting paid for their writing than at any other point in history. That's freaking amazing. And it's a much more important story than one about 11 authors who made the NYT List.

Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled for those 11 authors who made the NYT list. 

I'm also thrilled for my own success.

But I'm especially thrilled for the thousands and thousands of authors who are making ends meet because they achieved their goals and self-pubbed their ebooks.

Any writer who puts food on the table with their writing is successful. It doesn't matter if it is a box of mac and cheese, or caviar and champagne. Taking your career into your own hands, giving it your best shot, striving to do better... that's the American Dream, baby.

Bestsellers? Fuck bestsellers.

Don't let me, the NYT Times, or the pinheads in legacy publishing make you feel inadequate because you aren't a millionaire yet.

You are part of a revolution that is going to change how the entire world reads. 

Your ebooks will continue to earn money, forever. 

Be proud. You are a success.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Value of Publicity

I'm J.A. Konrath.

People consider me to be one of the mouthpieces of the self-publishing movement. As such, I often get interviewed. I've been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, Newsweek, USA Today, etc.

You'd think all of this publicity has led to increased sales of my ebooks.

You'd think wrong.

I'm obsessive about numbers, as anyone who reads this blog can tell you. So when I appear in some major periodical, I watch my Kindle numbers, looking for the big spike.

I never see a big spike. In fact, I hardly ever see a small spike.

Huh? WTF? Does that make sense? We all know that publicity leads to sales, right?


I'm getting a name for myself in the self-publishing world. I get millions of hits a year on this blog. When people discuss self-pubbing, my name often comes up.

But the people who visit this blog, and discuss my self-publishing efforts, are writers.

Writers aren't buying my fiction. They aren't buying my non-fiction either--I have an ebook called "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing" and it is among my lowest-selling titles.

The people who buy me are readers, and the vast majority have never heard of me. Readers find me on Amazon, because Amazon has made it easy for my books to be discovered.

Don't believe me? Try to argue with these points.

1. I don't see any noticeable sales boosts when I'm mentioned in some major periodical. The best media attention I ever received didn't account for more than a few hundred extra sales. I've sold almost 700,000 ebooks. A few hundred doesn't mean diddly.

2. When my sales spike on Amazon, they don't spike on other platforms. If I were famous, I would be famous across the board, not to a specific format.

3. The List has been in the Kindle Top 100 four different times in three years. Each time was because of my personal efforts, usually playing with cost or doing some active promotion. Nothing has ever "taken off" simply because I'm famous.

4. When Amazon made Stirred a Kindle Daily Deal, it hit #1. They've done that with dozens of authors, many of them fresh-faced newbies. It was better than anything I've been able to do on my own, even though I have some name-recognition.

5. I get a lot of fanmail. Most is from people discovered who me on Kindle. Some is from authors asking my advice. But I almost never get email from an author asking my advice who says, "I bought all your ebooks." Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? If you want me to help you, the least you could do is buy some of my books.

6. Look at my Amazon reviews. I've got thousands. Count how few say, "I began reading Joe's books because of his outspoken views about self-publishing."

7. Dozens of other Kindle authors are having similar success to mine without any of the fame I have. There are also several other writers who prominently support self-publishing and are quoted a lot, but they don't have sales equal to mine. So I'm the one selling because of my name, but no one else is?

8. I have a good friend who is currently hosting a terrific TV show. He's also a terrific fiction writer. But despite being nationally syndicated, his book sales are modest. Fame in one area doesn't always translate to fame in another.

Here's the deal: Readers are my customers, not writers. Readers don't even know who the Big 6 are. They don't care.

I'm mentioned a lot in the publishing community, which is small, closed, and uninteresting to anyone who isn't in it. But because we're in it, and we care about it, we incorrectly assume that because writers know who I am, readers must as well.

The majority of my sales don't come from people hearing about my self-pub exploits. Nor do they come from my midlist legacy titles, which sold modestly.

In other words, my fame and my past have little to do with my current success.

The majority of my sales come from Amazon and my ability to use the tools they provide. So far I've played my cards right. I write fun books with good covers and sell them cheap, I have a lot of virtual shelf space, and readers like my writing.

Sure, I have longtime fans. And sure, some writers buy my ebooks to show support, or as a way to thank me for my advice.

But I didn't make $140k in the last 30 days because of thankful writers, old fans, or a mention in the Guardian. I made it because I positioned my titles properly. There were a whole bunch of new Kindles sold this holiday season, just as there were in 2010 and 2009. I was expecting this to happen, though admittedly not in such a big way.

What does this mean to you, the writer trying to succeed?

1. Don't sweat publicity. It can't hurt, but I don't think it will drive your sales unless the publicity is really huge. And even then, the publicity is only responsible for temporary sales, not long term sales.

2. Focus, as always, on writing good books and presenting them in a professional way. The more, the better.

3. Social media and word of mouth are helpful, but you have to reach a lot of people before these become a factor. Less tweeting, more writing.

4. Reviews don't have the gravitas they used to. Certain ebook review sites can help sales, but even better is giving away free books to fans in exchange for an honest review.

5. Study Amazon and how it sells ebooks. Experiment. Take chances. If one of Amazon's imprints offers to publish you, accept. Right now they are the only publisher who can increase your sales.

6. Avoid all legacy publishers. You can do everything they can, faster, and you don't have to give away the majority of your income.

Now I'm a genre writer. I don't have experience with YA, children's, non-fiction, poetry, or those long-winded books where plot is optional (literary fiction). But if ereaders are going to become the preferred way of reading (hint: they are) then eventually all books will make the transition to ebooks. I wish I could go back in time three years and erase all of those legacy publisher contracts I signed, so I'd have the rights now. You don't want to sign your rights away now, and in three years be kicking yourself like I am.

7. Don't give up. It can take years before you get to where you want to be. Luck plays a part. Stick with it until you get lucky.

And feel free to tweet this. It won't help me sell many ebooks, but it could help your peers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Self-Pubbed Author Beware

Right now I'm looking at the Top 10 Kindle bestsellers in occult fiction.

Every one of them is self-pubbed. In fact, there are only three legacy authors in the Top 30. I count only ten legacy pubbed in the Top 100, and most are brand names.

That's... staggering.

It also doesn't bode well for legacy publishers.

Long ago, I said ebooks aren't a competition. But that only applies when they are affordable. Once an ebook costs over five bucks, readers become choosy. The above list is proof. There are ten ebooks on that list priced more than $4.99.

Bet you can guess which ones. Hint: none of the self-pubbed.

At the moment, legacy publishers seem to be content with their ebook sales. They boast how ebooks are exploding, while print sales slip more and more.

And yet, they obviously aren't pricing ebooks competitively. I'm outselling King, Harris, and Preston & Child. That's odd, since they kill me in paper sales. But it doesn't matter, because bestselling authors sell at any price, which publishers are aware of.

Midlist authors do not. Midlist authors right now are getting screwed by their publishers, earning far less than they could. It's bad enough they're only getting 17.5% of the list price; when the list price is ten bucks it is leaving a lot of money on the table.

So why aren't legacy pubs pricing their midlists and backlists competitively? Are they still trying to preserve paper sales? Or have they crunched the numbers and figured out $7.99 to $14.99 is the sweet spot for profits?

Whatever the reason, it is misguided. Here's a look into the future:

1. Amazon is the #1 ebookseller in the world. Its bestseller lists are prime real estate, allowing browsers to peruse genres and discover new titles to buy.

2. Free and cheap greatly improve a title's chance of getting on a bestseller list, which leads to more awareness and more sales.

3. Publishers keeping ebooks at high prices hurts their authors, because they aren't getting this prime real estate. The days of browsing a bookstore for midlist titles are fading fast. A midlist book published now has very little chance of breaking out, because it isn't where people are browsing.

4. Midlist authors (the ones who make up the majority of a publisher's catalog) are going to figure out they're being screwed, and will stop taking contracts. Right now, publishers are doing fine because of quantity. They have a few bestselling names that sell at any price, and even if their midlist authors only sell a few copies each, there are so many authors that the publisher can make money on the long tail. (To wit: a publisher with 2500 titles at $9.99, each selling 5 copies a day, is earning $65,559 per day. But the author of one of those books is only making $8.75  a day.)

Publishers don't need to sell a lot of a particular title. But authors do. And authors will eventually wise up and self-publish.

5. When they start losing authors, publishers will have to find new ones. And where do you think they'll look?

Where they've already been looking. At Amazon Kindle authors who are doing well.

I'm writing this post to warn authors about this, because it is going to happen more and more. I've seen several authors who have done well self-pubbing, then taken a legacy deal. If you can get a big chunk of money upfront, go for it. But it has to be walking-away money (meaning never expect to ever get your rights back or earn another penny.)

I've been watching the self-pubbed authors who have signed legacy deals. Watching their Amazon rankings. Watching the bestseller lists. While I'm not privy to details of their contracts, I haven't seen any of these authors do better with a legacy publisher than they were doing on their own.

Keep that in mind when the Big 6 contact you, saying they discovered you on Kindle and are proud to offer you a contract. Other than a huge advance, I can't see any allure at all to a legacy deal.

Granted, I've had legacy deals, so I understand what they entail. A newbie author doesn't have the experience that I do. That means, if you're offered a deal, take time to think it over. You're allowed to be flattered. You're allowed to have book signing fantasies, and imagine the radio interviews and reviews in major periodicals. But once the excitement wears off, it's time to crunch numbers and make a business decision based on your goals. Money should play a major role in this decision.

As for the luster of legacy publishing, read my blog. Book signings are hell. Radio interviews are work. Most book critics for major periodicals are self-important pinheads. And the Big 6 are AWFUL at selling ebooks.

 If you don't want to take my word for it, ask any author who has had, or does have, a legacy deal.

We've all read stories about successful self-pubbed authors signing with the Big 6. Have we heard any stories about authors who once had a Big 6 deal, then went to self-pubbing and found success, and then WENT BACK to the Big 6?

I haven't heard any. And there's a good reason for it. Once bitten, twice shy.

If you're a newbie author, save yourself some grief and don't get bitten the first time.

And if you're a newbie author whose agent is currently submitting your book to major houses, I hope you realize you just missed the biggest 30 day sales period in the history of ebooks.

A bird in the hand is always worth two in the bush. Especially when your bird is healthy, and those two in the bush have avian flu.

As I've been saying for years, understand the difference between your dreams and your goals. Learn all you can. Make your decisions based on logic, not emotion. Understand why you want what you want.

And above all, beware. That longtime fantasy of having a major publisher call you up might be closer than you think...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Reality Check

My story about making $100,000 in three weeks on Kindle is getting widely passed around, and I've noticed that folks are reacting in a few specific ways.

1. Some are happy for me, and for the possibilities this opens up for them. They know the work and struggle that went into getting here. (Bert Carson has a very nice post about this.)

2. Some keep perpetuating that false meme that it was my legacy books responsible for my success. I'm tired of debunking that one. It is 100% false.

3. Some think I'm telling the whole world that becoming successful is easy and that anyone can get rich by self-pubbing ebooks.

4. Some keep insisting that I must be some sort of marketing genius and they want to know what I've done to get here.

Allow me to address all of these reactions.

I wrote 9 novels and collected over 500 rejections during a 10 year period before I made a dime in this business. I sold my tenth novel in a three book deal for $110,000 back in 2002.

My publisher refused to tour me for my first book. They also refused to let me do any official book signings because they would have had to pay coop. So I began doing bookstore drop-ins and handselling my books. I'd stay anywhere from four to eight hours in bookstores. Have you ever sold one hundred $25 hardcovers in one place? I have. It's hell.

For the next book, my publisher toured me. In between official signings, I dropped in another 100 bookstores.

The next year, I spent the summer on the road and signed at more than 500 bookstores. It almost broke me.

I also visited dozens and dozens conferences, book fairs, and libraries. I've been to 42 states, doing this promo thing.

I sent out 7000 letters to libraries and bookstores, each with a signed drink coaster in them, to promote my books.

I edited an anthology, and wrote dozens of short stories that sold (for pennies) to top markets.

My publisher dropped their mystery line, me included, and my second three books with them ($125,000 advance for the trio) were given very little attention. I didn't tour for these. Couldn't afford it.

Then I wrote a horror novel. Got a $20k advance, and a two book deal. The first book quickly earned out, but they didn't like the second one. I rewrote it and they still refused it. I wrote a third for them and they wanted changes. I said no. I'd had enough.

I was never a successful legacy author. I was midlist, eking out a living, struggling from check to check, never making more than $50k in a year and spending a lot of that on travel.

I kept at it. I got 10,000 people on my mailing list. I was one of the first to realize the importance of MySpace (remember MySpace?), Facebook, and Twitter. I did one of the first successful author blog tours, visiting 100 blogs in a month.

But I still wasn't successful.

Then Kindle came along. Those rejected novels were on my website as freebies. I got emails from fans who wanted to read them on their Kindles, but the Kindle 1 couldn't read pdf files. After some investigation, I learned Amazon had a program for self-publishers.

I listed some of my old books and short stories, for cheap. And I started making money. I started making more money than I ever had as a legacy author.

My legacy books didn't lead people to my self-pubbed novels. It's the opposite. My self-pubbed books continue to outsell my legacy books at up to 10 to 1. People aren't buying me because I visited 1200 bookstores in my career. They aren't buying me because I have a popular blog about publishing. They aren't buying me because they love my old books.

I made $100,000 in three weeks from people who have no idea who I am. If they knew who I was, they would have bought those titles years ago. Because they've been available for years.

Don't get me wrong. I know I have fans. I know I have some name recognition. But the sales they bring are paltry next to the marketing machine which is Amazon.

How do I know this for sure?

Because all of my other books were (until recently) on other platforms, where they did mediocre compared to bestselling authors.

James Patterson is selling well on Kindle, but he's also selling well on Sony and Kobo and Apple and B&N. On Kindle, I'm outselling many Patterson titles. That isn't the case anywhere else.

So it isn't my name or my past that is responsible for this success. Nor is it any marketing efforts I'm doing now, because I'm not doing any. I haven't visited my Facebook page in six months. I have a fan page but don't know how to use it. I've never bought an online ad. I've got Twitter followers, but they're writers, not fans.

Right now I'm making a lot of money because I'm paying close attention to what Amazon is doing, experimenting a lot, and getting lucky.

Yes, I've worked hard. I still do. But no one deserves success. I have NEVER said that everyone can get rich with ebooks.

But I have said, repeatedly, that there are things writers can do to improve their luck. And that the self-pubbed route is vastly superior to the legacy route I trudged through for years.

In the long run, except in the case of bestsellers and huge advances, a writer WILL make more money self-publishing.

If you really want to see how I became successful, go back to the beginning of my blog and start reading. Follow my journey, month by month, year by year, to get to this point.

Here's the thing, though. All of our journeys are unique. Some writers get luckier sooner. Some haven't gotten lucky yet.

But if you keep writing good books with good covers and good descriptions and good formatting, and you keep experimenting and trying new things, it improves your odds.

Can you be a successful self-pubbed author?

It depends. How hard are you willing to work, and how long are you willing to wait, before success happens?

I got my first rejection letter in 1988. I've worked hard for 24 years, waiting for this kind of success.

If you've got that same ambition, I'm sure I'll see you on the bestseller lists someday.

Hopefully it won't take you that long.

Much success to everyone in 2012. There's more than enough to go around.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


One hundred grand. That's how much I've made on Amazon in the last three weeks.

This is just for my self-pubbed Kindle titles. It doesn't include Shaken and Stirred, which were published by Amazon's imprints. It doesn't include any of my legacy sales, print or ebook. It doesn't include audiobook sales. It doesn't include sales from other platforms.

This is from my self-pubbed books. The ones the Big 6 rejected.

Currently, my novel The List is #71 on the Top 100. It's been in the Top 100 for 66 days. It's the same one all those publishers rejected.

I am soooo glad I had so many books rejected.

Here's a screen shot of a portion of what I've sold since January 1.

This is missing 15 of my titles (some were cut off, some are on my co-writers' KDP accounts). It also doesn't show over 1500 sales I've had in Kindle foreign markets.

So far in January I'm averaging well over $3500 a day.

I'm having a very hard time wrapping my head around these numbers.

I'm also having a hard time trying to figure out what this means for the future. But I'll give it a shot.

In January of 2010 I made $2300 for the month on Kindle.

In January of 2011 I made $34,000.

Let's pretend that The List wasn't in the Top 100 right now and has only sold 1800 copies this month, comparable to Shot of Tequila. I'd still be selling 800 ebooks a day, making over $1600.

That means I'd make about $50,000 in January, just in US sales. Which means my income has increased by about 30% overall. I'm not sure this will last throughout the year, but it seems reasonable.

What intrigues me is the UK market. I may sell over 1000 copies of a single title in the UK this month. I price my novels at 1.49 pounds, which means I make $1.60 per sale. So I'm going to earn more in the UK this January than I earned in the US in 2010.

Remember back in April of 2009 when I first self-published on Kindle? I was giddy to have made $1450 in a month in the US on all of my ebooks combined. Now I can make $1600 in a month in the UK on a single title.

Amazon is continuing to introduce Kindles to more and more countries. The global market is happening. I can't see a limit. I can't see a ceiling.

This is no longer a question of choosing between accepting 17.5% royalties from a legacy publisher or doing it yourself. This has now become the best way in the history of mankind for a writer to earn money. It may be one of the greatest ways to ever make money, period.

We can directly and instantly reach hundreds of millions of consumers in a global marketplace. We can set the list price, and we get to keep the majority of that list price. Readers can buy our work instantly on devices that they love. They don't have to go to the store, the store is in their hands. Once a book is written and formatted it can sell unlimited copies, forever, without any costs to the writer other than the initial time investment and monetary investment (formatting, editing, cover.)

No other industry allows this. There are always continuing production costs and shipping costs. There are always middlemen who take cuts. There is always a limit to distribution. There are always times when something is sold out or unavailable.

Not anymore.

Imagine having instant access to every person's checking account in the world, and stealing one dollar.

Now imagine them willingly giving you that dollar.

We're not there yet. But I've been following the ebook revolution for three years, and I never could have predicted this would get so big so fast. I've consistently been surprised by numbers and sales, and have lost count of the times I've said, "This is unreal."

But it isn't unreal. It's very real. I know, because I just pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. For the fifth time today.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Interview with Editor Susan Tunis

I get a lot of email from writers asking me to recommend an editor. Here's one I do. Years back, Susan read through my unpubbed novel Origin and gave me some great tips. She's now taking on freelance editing work.

Joe: How did you get started editing?

Susan: Back in the mid-nineties, a publisher acquaintance of mine offered me a job editing his magazine.  It was a successful four-color glossy sold on newsstands around the world, and I had no relevant experience.  It also happened to be April 1st and I thought he was joking.  He wasn't.  On my first day he handed me a reference book on copyediting and I learned on the job.  I later asked him why he had hired me and he said, “I thought you had the right qualities to do the job.”  He had good instincts and it changed my life.

After leaving Discover Diving magazine, I spent a few years freelancing and working as a columnist for other dive, travel, and in-flight magazines.  Subsequently, I worked as an editor in the film and television industry and in higher education.  On the side, I began doing freelance work with novelists as fiction was always my first love.

I’m an avid reader; I read 148 books last year.  I’m a successful book reviewer, book blogger, and book group leader.  I eat, sleep, and breathe literature.  I have no interest in writing a novel of my own, but nothing gives me more satisfaction than helping an author strengthen and refine his or her work.  Sometimes a little distance is required, and I can provide that.  Over the years I’ve worked with writers you’ve never heard of, writers you haven’t heard of yet, and a few you’ve probably read yourself.  Among them are James Rollins, Christopher Moore, Elle Lothlorien, Matt Richtel, Boyd Morrison, Lissa Price, and a guy named J.A. Konrath.

Joe: What services do you offer?

Susan: I offer full editorial services from basic proofreading to project development and substantive editorial feedback.

Joe: What do you charge?

Susan: I charge between $25 and $40 an hour, depending on the work required for a job and, truthfully, the means of the client.  I’ll give you an estimate of how many hours I expect the work to take, and am perfectly willing to put a cap on fees.

Joe: Do you accept all clients?

Susan: I won’t take on a client if I don’t believe I can help them.  It’s not one size fits all, and not every editor is the right fit for every project.  Before starting, I’d like to see three chapters of your work in progress (or more if the chapters are very short) and a synopsis of the project.

Joe: What's your expected turnaround time for finishing an edit?

Susan: Turnaround time depends on the needs of the client and my current workload and commitments.  Generally, some time between two days and two weeks.  If I’m not able to turn you around within two weeks, I’ll let you know before accepting your project.

Joe: What is your editing process?

Susan: If you have a completed MS, I’ll do an initial read taking notes on things like structure, plot, prose, and character.  Additionally, I’ll clean up the MS with regard to grammar, typos, and consistency as needed.  Once done, I’ll send you a marked hard copy along with detailed written notes.  In addition, I’ll want to discuss the notes in greater detail on the phone or face-to-face.  Once that initial feedback is offered, I’ll generally stay involved as changes are explored.

When an author has a work in progress, the collaboration tends to be more interactive and improvisational.  Basically, it depends on the writer and the project how we work together.

Joe: How can writers get in touch with you?

Susan: I may be reached at stuniseditorial(at)gmail(dot)com.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Interview with Jeff Strand

I've worked with Jeff Strand on the novella SUCKERS, as well as the full length horror epic DRACULAS. But apparently that hasn't hurt his career, because he's still churning out books. When I heard he just released a new one, I knew I had to interview him, because it was doubtful anyone else would.

Joe: So why have you written another Andrew Mayhem thrillomedy after a thirty year hiatus? Have you run out of ideas for stand-alones so you had to slum with the old series?

Jeff: I didn’t even WANT to do another Andrew Mayhem book. My fans FORCED me to write it. Everywhere I turned there was another Annie Wilkes, waving a sledgehammer (or an axe if they prefer the book to the movie) screaming “Mayhem IV! Mayhem IV!”

But, seriously, after promising readers a new Mayhem novel for seven years, I thought it was probably time to actually deliver on that promise. On my website, I swore that LOST HOMICIDAL MANIAC (ANSWERS TO “SHIRLEY”) would be published before the end of 2011, and I got it out a couple of days before that. I’m not planning to wait another seven years to write Book #5, unless sales of Book #4 are total crap, in which case I’ll wait even longer than seven years.

Joe: I hate that term "thrillomedy". It's really stupid. Why do you keep calling your books thrillodemies?

Jeff: I have never in my life called any of my books thrillomedies. You’re thinking of the movie ARACHNOPHOBIA. I remember my enthusiasm for ARACHNOPHOBIA fading a bit when I saw the commercial promoting it as a thrillomedy. If I ever feel the need to make up a word to create my own genre, you have my permission to stab me. Not hard, but enough to break the skin.

Joe: Maybe you could call them comillers, but that sounds kind of like a reptile. "The wily comiller lives in the desert climate of New Mexico, where it eats small children and spends lazy summer nights watching Fox News, searching in vain for liberal coverage."

Heh. That's kind of funny. You should make that the topic of your next thrillomedy.

Hey, did you know I've hung out with Harley Jane Kozak, who was in ARACHNOPHOBIA? She writes a fun mystery series about a greeting card designer named Woollie Shelley, and we were both nominated with the Anthony and the Barry award for best first novel. She beat me both times.

Thanks for picking the scab off of that old wound, Mr. Considerate. Don't you have better things to do than hurt me? Like kill innocent people in your thrillomedy books?

Jeff: How come when I kill off little kids in my books I always get e-mails from you sternly reprimanding me, but you can throw out jokes about small children getting eaten by reptiles during interviews? Do you think it’s FUNNY when small children get eaten by reptiles? What if you’d been eaten by a reptile as a small child? Would you have thought it was funny? Your son sure wouldn’t be laughing about it today.

Joe: I think it's funny when small children get eaten by anything. But I'm a hypocritical dick.

So I hear one of my characters has an extended cameo in SHIRLEY. Did you enjoy writing for Harry McGlade? And have you gotten the lawsuit papers yet?

Jeff: Writing Harry McGlade’s top-secret cameo scene that readers aren’t supposed to know about in advance was a lot of fun, until the SUCKERS flashbacks began, and I sat at my desk twitching and weeping. I was going to put Jack Daniels in there and kill her off, just to see if you would go “Well, phooey, there’s nothing I can do; it’s been officially established in the canon now.” I’m honestly not sure why the cameo went to Harry McGlade instead of somebody awesome like Repairman Jack.

Joe: Repairman Jack has made over ten cameos in my books.

Jeff: Really?

Joe: He's in my unpublished fan fic. I have this great scene where he's having sex with Uhura from Star Trek, in the back seat of the Delorean from Back to the Future. Then Boba Fett and Sam Beckett (Quantum Leap) kill Harry Potter with Gollum's ring. Then, more sex, this time on a trapeze.

Now I'm thinking of a color. Can you guess it?

Jeff: No. Everybody who reads your blog knows that you only think in black and white.

Joe: That's not true. But good on you for self-pubbing SHIRLEY, because anyone who goes the legacy route is no doubt a certified galloping dunderhead, and self-pub is clearly the only smart route to take.

BTW, I really liked SHIRLEY, and for less than three bucks it's a steal. I think everyone should buy it right now. Do you agree?

Jeff: A brand new novel for $2.99? There could be no better deal, except maybe $0.99, but everybody knows that 99-cent novels are self-published garbage.

(It should go without saying this late in the interview, but that was a joke.)

Joe: Now I'm thinking of another color. I'll give you a hint. It's bluish.

Jeff: Is it a turnip?

Joe: Yes.

As the undisputed king of the thrillomedy comiller genre, do you ever see yourself branching out and doing other, better things? Like sci-mance (science fiction and romance)? Or urbtate (urban fantasy merged with books about the prostate)?

Jeff: Though I call myself a “horror/comedy author,” my books have always slid around on the humor scale, from the totally over-the-top goofball tone of BENJAMIN’S PARASITE to something dark and serious like PRESSURE. My 2011 novel FANGBOY was a fairy tale, WOLF HUNT was as much of a crime/action novel as a horror/comedy, and KUTTER was a conscious attempt to tell a story that should have been a ridiculous comedy (a serial killer adopts a Boston Terrier and becomes a better person) and play it totally straight. I’m working on a bunch of different projects, some of which are departures and some of which are exactly what you’d expect.

Joe: SHIRLEY is both funny and flat-out disturbing in parts. There was one point where I actually put my Kindle down because it was getting so intense. So did you watch the Iowa caucus?

Jeff: No, like most citizens, I get all of my political information from amusing politically themed tweets. I don’t follow anybody who does amusing politically themed tweets, but the people I follow retweet them a lot. Thanks. Glad you liked the book.

Joe: I like pork. Do you like pork?

Jeff: Pork’s okay. It’s no beef. And it’s not as good as chicken in Buffalo wing form.

Joe: Have you done anything else noteworthy lately?

Jeff: Nah. I meant to, but then I got distracted. But your readers who have no interest in LOST HOMICIDAL MANIAC (ANSWERS TO “SHIRLEY”) may be equally uninterested in FAINT OF HEART, a novella of suspense, and A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO, a splattery Young Adult comedy, both of which will be out in 2012. Along with some other stuff.

Thank you for allowing me to pollute your blog again, Mr. Konrath/Kilborn/Kimball. TIMECASTER was awesome.

Joe: Yes it was.

Thank you, Mr. Strand. Everyone reading this blog needs to go out and buy Jeff's books, or I'll stop posting my self-pub numbers. Also, I will use my powers of alchemy (taught to me by Repairman Jack) to send the world into a new ice age, one that will will have no Ray Romano in it and will be very cold and unpleasant.

Don't make me do it. For Ray's sake.

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Blog and Updates

I'm going to be super busy this month on a personal project, along with finishing up the next Timecaster book.

I've created a blog for my project here:


As you can see by the URL, I'm going on a diet. A very special diet where I won't eat any food for 30 days.

Instead, I'll subsist on beer.

Yes, I'm serious. One unintended side-effect of the ebook revolution is that I spend 17 hours a day in front of my computer, and the only real exercise I get is sex, which amounts to about three minutes a week.

As a result, I've become a real fat ass. But there's no way I'd ever give up beer, which I love. So instead I'm going to stop eating.

I started today.

I think this is a really good idea, but that may be because I've been drinking all day on an empty stomach.

The Newbie's Guide will continue, mostly via guest posts. If you've sent me a a guest post, keep an eye out because I may post it without any warning.

I've gotten a lot of email about the KDP Select Program from writers asking if I endorse it or not. Though December ended, we won't find out how much each pro rata borrow share (of a $500,000 pot) is worth until later this month, so I can't comment on that. But those of you who were paying attention noticed I released most of my ebooks for free during the last week of December.

The ability to make your ebook free to all Amazon customers (not just Prime members) for a period of five days is a perk of the KDP Select Program. And quite a perk it is. Making my books free helped get them onto the free bestseller lists, and when the free period ended many of them got onto the paid bestseller lists.

But you want numbers, right?

I won't have the exact figures until I get my December totals from Amazon, but I'm pleased to say that from Dec 25 - Dec 31 I made more than $50,000.

It has slowed down a little since then. Yesterday I made about $5500, and today I'm currently (6pm) at $4000.

I'm curious to see what Amazon will give authors per Prime download, because I've had a few thousand of those.

I've seen a lot of grumbling over the fact that inclusion in the KDP Select Program means making the title exclusive to Kindle. Obviously, I don't see a problem with that. Besides, it is only for three months.

Ebooks are forever, remember?

I still can't give the program my full endorsement until more data comes in, but so far I'm thrilled with it. I also have to admit that even though I scored big with two titles, The List and Trapped, my many other titles aren't doing nearly as well. The List, which is still in the Top 100, has sold 2832 copies this year, with 1153 borrows.  Shot of Tequila is at 547 sales, and 167 borrows. Origin is 458 sales and 245 borrows. Trapped is 319 sales and 192 borrows, and Endurance is 207 sales and 154 borrows. So even if we take The List out of the equation, my other top-selling titles are earning me about $800 a day, or $300k a year, which ain't chump change.

How long will this last? I dunno. Perhaps I just caught the perfect wave, and this will be impossible to replicate.

But remember my New Year's Resolutions list, when I talked about doing experiments and taking chances?

I took a big chance, making my ebook free during the Christmas holiday week. I could have lost a bundle. Instead, I was lucky it paid off. No guts, not glory.

That said, in 2011 the months of January - April were very good months. I don't see why they won't be good this year as well.

Happy new year, everyone! I gotta go crack another beer.