Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Calling the Guinness Folks...

Advance Reading Copies of RUSTY NAIL will be coming out next month. Bound into the front of each book will be a letter from me:

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To my Friends in the bookselling biz—

Lt. Jack Daniels and I want to thank you for kicking so much butt selling WHISKEY SOUR and BLOODY MARY. Your enthusiasm has been the key to the series’ success.

For this book, Hyperion and I are doing something special—something never done before—to show our appreciation.

During the summer of 2006, I’ll be visiting 500 bookstores across the United States.
I’d love to stop by your store and say hello.

If you’re interested in having me drop in, please contact me through my website, JAKonrath.com.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you again, and to meeting many of you for the first time. Now I’ll open the floor to questions.

Q: Did you really say five-hundred bookstores?

Yes. I wish it could be more—there are so many great stores and great people in this business.

Q: How long will you be on the road?

All of July and August.

Q: Do we find out what happens to Jack’s mother in this book?

Yes. Many characters from WHISKEY SOUR also return, like Phin and the Feebies. Plus, it appears that the Gingerbread Man is back.

Q: But I thought…

Shhh. Don’t spoil it for new readers.

Q: So if I want you to drop by my store, I just have to email you?

I’ll try my best to honor all requests. I love booksellers. That’s why I thank so many of them in my acknowledgements. In fact, two of the main characters in RUSTY NAIL are named after booksellers.

Anyone who sells twenty or more copies of my novels gets mentioned in DIRTY MARTINI, the fourth Jack Daniels novel. The one who sells the most will get to be the villain in FUZZY NAVEL.

Q: What does “JA” stand for? Are you a woman or a man?

I’m sorry, no more questions. See you this summer!

All best,

JA Konrath

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Is 500 stores in 61 days really doable? That's only about 8 stores a day. In densely populated areas, I can hit 15 a day. In rural areas, I can visit at least 5. These are drop-ins, not full-fledged events. Half hour schmoozing, then on to the next.

I see three main problems ont he horizon.

1. Planning. Even wiyh my trusty GPS, I've got to have a route planned. That could take some time.

2. Travel. The US is big. Real big. And there are long unpopulated stretches that would interfere with my quota.

3. I may die of exhaustion.

In July, I visited 106 bookstores in 11 days. I could have done more, bcause 8 of those were events that lasted several hours. But I probably could not have been more tired.

So can I do it? Is it even possible? Will my family forgive me for being gone an entire summer? Will it generate some buzz and publicity? Will it sell books?

The future will reveal all.

27 comments:

April Ehardt said...

I think the family issue would be the biggie for me. I've done the road thing (as a musician) and I've seen a lot of heartache come from being separated for long stretches. I guess it depends on how much support you have from the homefront. From what I've read, it sounds like your wife is very supportive of your career. But you'll never get that summer back with your kids. Something to think about...

Karen Olson said...

Do you really think you'll sell that many more books to make this worthwhile?

Stacey Cochran said...

Joe,

You are inspiring.

Stacey

emeraldcite said...

Awesome.

Mark Terry said...

Actually, you're kind of exhausting. And for the rest of us mere mortals, when our publishers say, Why aren't you visiting 500 bookstores in 2 months like Joe Konrath did, we can blame you. Joe Konrath, torn apart by an angry mob of exhausted midlist and genre authors. Ah well. Hope you hit a bookstore nearby. I would think you could probably hit that many in 5 or 6 states or less, so maybe it own't be that bad. Planning routes sounds like the way to go.
Best,
Mark Terry

Jim Michael Hansen said...

Joe, I've got a place for you to crash when you're in Denver. Sounds like you're going to need it.

Anonymous said...
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troy cook said...

I have to admit it, I'm impressed. As such, I will take a page from the Konrath book and do a large tour myself when my first book comes out in July (although merely a hundred stores). But even that seems daunting. I have to admit that your volume sounds hard to accomplish without being committed to an institution at the end of the trip, but I hope you make it. Good luck and good mental health. Cheers.

Stacey Cochran said...

So, at the rate of nine stores per day, how many bookstores could you visit if you did this for twelve months? Hmmm....

Trusty Calculator Says: 3,285

I could do it.

But the real trick is to get the stadium-sized crowds that J.K. Rowling draws. That's my goal.

Stadium crowds! :)

April Ehardt said...

I think maybe we're missing the larger issue here. How has the artist somehow become compelled to become the publisher's bitch? Why are we, the writers, forced to take on the job of salespeople? We've already produced the goods. Why do we have to bust our asses more than anyone else to get a measly ten percent of the retail pie? If writers united, if we all decided to self-publish and bypass the greedy soultakers in the industry, we might be able to make a dent. Where would the big fat major publishers be without writers? Even the midlist ones? Nowhere. Bankrupt. I'd like to see some major writers go off on their own and lead the way. I think self-publishing is the way of the future, the way to allow the buying public to determine the greatest artists, as Mr. Konrath alluded to previously. Right now the major publishers are in control of everything, and I don't think some of the best work has much of a chance. The publishing industry plays on our egos, our chance at achieving the prophetic fifteen minutes of fame. But at what price? Should we sacrifice our families, our souls, the very creative beings that we are, to feed the machine? Since nobody else will speak up, I will. The publishing industry needs a reality check. Without writers, they would cease to exist. Why send a writer on a 500 venue tour? Simple. To satisfy the writer's ego and make the publisher potentially fat. Sure, the writer reaps rewards as well, but at what costs?

JA Konrath said...

April--

It has nothing to do who publishes a book. It has to do with who buys a book.

No one is forcing anyone to do any promotion.

If you want to stay in this business, you have to sell books.

The publisher does a lot. But the publisher can't make a customer buy the book, no matter how much publicity, marketing, advertising, promotion they do.

But an author can. An author can get into a bookstore and meet the booksellers and customers.

All art requires work on the part of the artist. Musicians toil for years in crappy clubs for no money. Actors do community theater, thousands of casting calls, and take parts they hate. Artists can paint dozens of pictures before they have a show, and once they do they have to be chatty and upbeat and meet the potential buyers.

It has nothing to do with being the publisher's bitch.

You want to roll the dice and hope you succeeed? Or do you want to do everything you can to make sure you succeed?

Mr. Breese said...

The problem is that you can be a GREAT writer but be a LOUSY marketer of your own work.

Take Anne Tyler for example. She's very shy and hardly does any interviews. But she's a marvelous writer. Luckily, she had a publisher who published maybe six or seven of her books before she hit it really big. That probably wouldn't happen these days. Publishers don't have the patience anymore.

These days, publishers only seem to REALLY promote a handful of books. The "Historian" was heavily promoted for example. In the case of that book, all the promotion paid off.

But there are a ton of books get little to no promotion. So the burden falls right on the author. Who may or may not have the personality for it. And many writers are introverts by nature.

It also costs money to promote a book. Who can take a few months off and travel the country to promote their book? Very few people I suspect. Laura Lippman worked full time when she wrote her first six books! My understanding is that she had to do this. She probably didn't have a lot of time for touring.

The publishing industry is kind of screwed up at the moment. And you have to ask how many good writers are falling through the cracks because of it.

April Ehardt said...

I know that's how the business works, it just seems sad to me that a writer has to play J.D. Salinger one minute and Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinatti the next. I think, ultimately, the quality of the work and word of mouth generate sales; but, if hawking a novel like Ronco's Pocket Fisherman (ONLY $19.95!) works to augment the buzz, I suppose it's worth it.
I'm just wondering if it's all leading to the best salespeople, who might or might not be the best writers, vying for shelf space at the stores. To me, in a perfect world, doing "everything you can to make sure you succeed" should involve Super Glueing your butt to a chair and honing your craft. Many writers are introverts by nature, which puts them at a distinct disadvantage on the modern publishing stage, even if they produce the next TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It doesn't seem quite fair to me, but maybe I need to revisit my copy of Darwin...

April Ehardt said...

Thank you Mr. Breese. Nice to have someone with thoughts similar to my own.

JA Konrath said...

How many wonderful writers are there that don't make it?

It's important to write a good book, but very often that's not enough.

You can lament it, or you can do something about it.

Success isn't about talent. It's about luck. Luck increases with persistence, not with hope.

Stacey Cochran said...

April,

You make some really good points, but the publishing business is exactly that, a business. It is a sales-driven industry, but just because it is, does not mean that an artist can't have genuine artistic integrity.

As a writer who has chosen an independent path, I constantly mine my subconscious for the truest scene I can write, the one that is truest to that internal voice that drives me to be who I am. I do it every day, every time I sit my butt down to write.

That doesn't mean that I can't get that same butt into bookstores to meet the people who sell my books. My attitude is that if you thumb your nose at the business and say "I wrote the novel; you people sell it," you're thumbing your nose at every bookstore employee, every librarian, every human being who makes his or her living in the book trade.

Being a salesperson doesn't mean you're evil or Herb Tarlek:)

But you're right, you do have to challenge yourself to be true to yourself. Make "selling it" its own artform, I say. You can still be spiritually whole and true to yourself.

My two cents worth. Nothing more.

Stacey
www.staceycochran.com

April Ehardt said...

Success isn't about talent. It's about luck. Luck increases with persistence, not with hope.

I agree that it takes a certain amount of luck to get your foot in the door, and that persistence is crucial. But, ultimately, success IS about talent. If you don't put out good product, you won't sell enough books to make a living, no matter how many drive-bys you do.
Something I'm genuinely curious about: Say a female writer uses a male pseudonym. How does she promote her work then? She can't do interviews or go on book tours. That would obviously blow her cover.
I know what you're all thinking: Oh my gosh! Thomas Harris is really a girl. THAT'S why we never see him...

April Ehardt said...

Stacey,

Well said. But I really didn't mean to thumb my nose at anybody. I love bookstore clerks, librarians, editors, agents, etc., because they love books. I especially love store clerks like the one who rang me up last week. She said, "I love Flannery O'Conner..." She had been discussing Tolstoy with the customer ahead of me. She's an aspiring writer, and I bet she's going to do well. Right now she's part of the publishing business team, and there's nothing wrong with that. For any business to thrive, a team effort is essential.
My point is: Are the good looking writers with a knack for PR, some of whom couldn't write their ways out of Hell, going to push the more talented wordsmiths off the shelves with sheer salesmanship?
I don't think salespeople are evil. I expect an agent to wheel and deal with the best. That's what they're cut out for. It's their contribution to the team. But should PR skills be a prerequisite for succeeding as an author? I think it might be coming to that, and I think it's a shame. I guess we better all sign up for that public speaking class we avoided in college...

JA Konrath said...

'But, ultimately, success IS about talent.'

So our greatest artists are the most successful ones? :)

Barbara W. Klaser said...

Oh my God! I'm sure you can do it. I'm not sure I could do it, but I'm sure you can do it. (It's always easier to say the other person can do it.) Take your vitamins.

April Ehardt said...

Ooooooooh! Dad bern you, you varmint!
You've been waiting for that one, haven't you?
Sly devil. :)
Are you sure you weren't a lawyer in a former life?
Touche, my friend. Got me on that one.
I guess the next questions are: Does popularity equal success? Do sales make the writer? Or, does the writer (his/her talent) make the sales? I would prefer to think the latter, but black and white tells me that Nora Roberts outsells Barbara Kingsolver every time. Nothing against Nora. She's great in her own way. But why does the superior artist sometimes take a back seat to the more popular one? Are we really going to leave it to the masses to judge what is best? Is art really a popularity contest? Maybe so. Maybe James Joyce, who was never popular among the masses and who never will be, should be eliminated from the archives to make room for William Shatner's ghostwritten Star Trek novels...

JA Konrath said...

Hold the phone!

Shatner didn't write those novels?

April Ehardt said...

I don't know for sure if Shatner wrote those novels or not. The drummer for Ten Hour Priapism told me he didn't. But, of course, who can trust drummers? Especially in THAT state of mind. You know, he never writes, never calls...

Jim Winter said...

Shatner openly admits he uses "collaborators" sort of on the Patterson system, though he remains very involved with the books as they're written.

Anonymous said...

"But should PR skills be a prerequisite for succeeding as an author? I think it might be coming to that, and I think it's a shame. I guess we better all sign up for that public speaking class we avoided in college..."

PR skills need not be a prerequisite for success as an author. I think many publishers will get behind what they believe to be a truly good book. They'll also get behind their marquee authors.

I'd like to think a good book will sell itself, but I know that's not true.

So, I'll add this: PR skills aren't necessary for success as a writer, but I absolutely guarantee that a writer with PR skills will sell more books than a similar author without PR skills.

Somebody like Joe, with BOTH talent AND that Barnum-esque showmanship otherwise known as "PR skills," will go a long, long, long way in this business. And yes, as we all know, it is a business.

Plus, Joe has clearly demonstrated to his publisher that he believes that this is a team effort, and that he's part of the team. That will get him even more support from his publisher, which means he'll sell more books. It's the happy opposite of a vicious cycle.

Adam

April Ehardt said...

I'm not sure if I would consider "Barnum-esque showmanship" a compliment, but I do admire J.A. Konrath's work ethic. If anybody deserves success in the publishing business, he does.

Meryl Neiman said...

Speaking of future books, Joe, did you ever get the comments I sent to you on your manuscript?