Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tequila for Sheila

I lost a loved one today.

People close to me know all about Sheila. My friends, family, and peers have met her on many occasions. Sheila gave me comfort and reassurance. She gave me peace of mind. But most of all, she gave me direction in life. We've had many good years together.

My wife killed her. It wasn't jealousy. It was negligence. She shoved Sheila into the glove compartment and cracked her touch screen.

Sheila was my GPS unit, a Garmin c330.

Way back in 2005, I was one of the first authors to use a GPS on a book tour. I preached incessantly about how every writer needed one, and many peers bought their own at my insistence.

But now, Sheila is cracked and useless. No more will I hear her tell me to turn left in 200 feet. No more will her sweet voice say she's lost satellite reception. No more, when I veer off course, will she replot my route while chiding me with her terse, "Recalculating."

Personally, with all the free publicity I've given Garmin, I think they should buy me a new one. But, alas, my calls have gone unanswered.

Which leads me to you, my fans and blog readers. I want you to help me get Sheila back.

While it would be cool if some uberfan just sent me a new GPS, I'm too jaded to believe that will happen. I could just spring for the $80 to get her fixed, but that would deny me the opportunity to try an experiment.

Readers of this blog know how I love experiments. The Internet is a fantastic source of information and entertainment, and it's also a way to make money. But few writers have been able to fuse the two.

So here's what I propose.

I've begun a Save Sheila fund. If you've ever benefited from my blog, or enjoyed my writing, I'm humbly asking you to donate 99 cents by clicking on the button below. It will lead you to my website, which will allow you to donate using PayPal.

PayPal is safe, free, and most people already have an account. If you don't, it's free to sign up for one at The direct link to the donation page is

Naturally, I don't expect anyone to give something without getting something in return. In fact, I don't expect anyone to give me anything no matter what they get in return. But this is an experiment, and I'm interested to see how it turns out, so I'm giving it a shot.

Everyone who donates 99 cents to the Save Sheila fund will get an ebook from me, emailed to them.

"But Joe," you're probably saying to yourself, "you've already got several free ebooks that can be downloaded on your website. Why should I give you a buck when I'm already getting the freebies?"

Because, dear reader, I'm offering to give you an ebook that isn't on my website.

I wrote nine unpublished novels before landing a book deal with my first Jack Daniels thriller, Whiskey Sour. Three of these novels are available for free on my website, Many times, readers have clamored for my other unpublished work, and I've always rebuffed them, claiming my early books aren't fit for human consumption.

Well, I've been lying. One of those earlier books is decent. And fans of my Jack Daniels novels might find it interesting, because it has Jack Daniels in it.

The book is called Shot of Tequila. I wrote it in 1997. It's a crime thriller. I actually had an agent who was interested in it, but he ultimately passed, saying it had too much action in it.

I know, I don't understand that comment either.

In 2008, I reread the book, and was surprised to find out it was pretty good. So I rewrote some scenes, polished it, and added Jack Daniels as a supporting character, just for fun.

If you donate 99 cents to the Save Sheila fund, I'll email you a .pdf copy of Shot of Tequila.

You may now commence with the obvious questions.

Q: Is Shot of Tequila a Jack Daniels novel?

A: No. The protagonist is a mob enforcer named Tequila. Jack Daniels is a supporting character. She appears in several scenes, as does her partner, Herb Benedict.

Q: Is it any good?

A: A few of my writing peers have read it and enjoyed it. The story takes place in 1993. It's sort of like Elmore Leonard on steroids. Readers will meet a younger, less experienced Jack Daniels. Consider it a prequel to her later adventures.

Q: Why are you doing this? Do you really need the $80 that badly?

A: The free ebooks on my website have been downloaded over 10,000 times. On the Shorts program, I have two short stories that have been downloaded thousands of times, and people paid 49 cents for those. I'm curious to see if anyone is willing to pay 99 cents for an original JA Konrath novel.

Q: Do you think people will?

A: No. I think digital media wants to be free. I've heard stories of authors who have made some money charging for downloads, but I don't believe those stories. That's why I'm trying it for myself.

Q: What if I donate 99 cents, then hate the book?

A: You can complain to my wife, the Sheila Killer.

Q: How long is Shot of Tequila?

A: It's 75,000 words. I've formatted it so it prints out at 171 pages, if you prefer printing it to reading it on your computer. You can also read it on your smartphone, Kindle, iPod, Nintendo DS, and pretty much anything else these days. If your dohickey doesn't read .pdf files, you can find a converter online.

Q: Will you post the results of this experiment?

A: Absolutely. I'll keep everyone updated on how many donations I've received. I'm sure there are many authors curious to see if this works.

Q: Can I link to this post and help spread the word?

A: I encourage you to.

Q: I love your blog. You're very generous with your writing advice, and you help keep me motivated. But I think your writing stinks. Can I donate to you without getting a copy of your lousy unpublished book?

A: No.

Q: How fast will I get the book after I donate?

A: There is no automatic download system in place. The ebooks are sent by me one at a time. I'll check my email a few times a day, and if I get any donations, I'll send an ebook to the email address that donated to me. If you've donated and haven't gotten a copy, you're welcome to email me and I'll make sure you get one.

Q: You're a popular author, with a few hundred thousand books in print, and your blog gets thousands of hits a week. Don't you think you'll make enough to save Sheila?

A: Realistically, no. But time will tell...