Sunday, September 11, 2011

Over

So I just returned from my friend Raymond Benson's booklaunch party.

It made me feel a little nostalgic, a little sad, but mostly very relieved.

Raymond had a decent turn out, selling copies of his newest (The Black Stiletto). Everyone was upbeat and happy to be there, and it was nice to see many familiar faces. I had booklaunch parties for most of my paper books, and I still count many of those as fond memories.

But I don't see me making any new booklaunch memories. As I was there, I was struck by the likelihood that not only would I never have another launch party, but I may actually never attend another book signing, for me or for anyone else.

This is the end of an era.

The end has been on the horizon for a while. Years, even. I remember attending events like the Chicago Printer's Row Book Fair, and Book Expo America, and relishing the excitement of being a new author, the energy in the air, the burning need to get my name out there.

This summer, Printer's Row seemed to be about half the size it was back in 2007. The same thing for BEA.

One of my favorite bookstores, Waldenbooks in Peru, IL, just closed its doors a few days ago. The manager there, Greg Swanson, has handsold over 2000 of my books in that location.

Nope, that ain't a typo. Over 2000. It's probably more than that--I stopped asking a while ago.

Greg, and two other bookstore gurus named Paul Pessolano and Jim Munchel have handsold so many of my books that I named three characters after them in my novel Fuzzy Navel. That came out in summer, 2008.

Three years later, their bookstores have all closed.

It's not even the beginning of the end. We're firmly in the middle of the end.

I spent a lot of hours in bookstores, and at writing conferences. While I won't miss paper books, I will certainly miss the camaraderie of booksellers, and hanging out at events. But I don't see myself doing many more. In fact, I don't see there being many more.

This bitter pill is made much easier to swallow with the new publishing paradigm. A lot of my peers are doing well with ebooks--much better than they did in print. I saw an old friend, Al Ansorge, at Raymond's party.

"I sold 2000 ebooks on Kindle last month," he told me. "It's all your fault."

Greg took five years of fulltime 9-to-5 to sell 2000 of mine, and Al did it on his own in a month.

Rock on, Al. (And check out Al's book Crossing the Centerline, only 99 cents.)

Change hurts. But this is ultimately a change that's better for the authors. We no longer have to travel all over and handsell paper books. We no longer have to depend on booksellers to stock us. We can reach more readers and make more money and do it faster and easier than we ever could in the old system.

The party is over. We had a lot of fun, but all good things must come to an end. Kiss the hostess. Grab your coat. It's time to go.

89 comments:

Ruth Harris said...

"Over" and Out. You're right, you have been for a long time.

I want to add that the cocktail parties my publishers gave for me way-back-when were a complete waste & I knew it way-back-when. What? A mention in some gossip column? An interview here & there? Added up to nada. I knew it but there was nothing I could do about it.

The problem was that there was no alternative. There is now.

Sad that good & talented people are losing out but they will find their way/another way. The whole top heavy TradPub structure is sinking under its own weight.

Sean McCartney said...

That is quite depressing. I do hav great memories of my book signings. Mainly I got to see and meet so many kids looking for a new series and wanted to be part of mine. I am wondering, as I have said before, what will young people(ages 7-14) find their books? Libraries? I have always noticed grandparents were good for books but now, in the digital age, where will they find them?

I know the younger group all have cell phones and mp3's and all that but will they bother to read on those devices? I mean a majority on those devices. I would like to see more Kindles or any ereader in classrooms. In the school I teach in the first graders are going to be working with the Nook. I guess that's the start.

Paul Andrew Russell said...

I think this new system is wonderful. I recently published my first e-book. I did this one on Lulu just for the experience, and because of all the hoops you have to jump through on Amazon if you aren't from the USA.

It worked out fine, quite painless. My novel I will publish for the kindle and on Amazon. Maybe it will be a little easier then.

http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/a-flash-of-fiction/16588695

I really enjoy your posts, Joe. I've learned a lot coming here.

Paul

Jon Olson said...

You have played a major role in the demise of bookstores, Mr. K, but, yeah, it's sad to see so many close.

Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone
The Ride Home

Magaly Guerrero said...

It is sad, but what can you do? Publishing has to move with the times.

I stopped by Borders last day sale, the other day. The place looked like a freaking graveyard after a lazy book thieve decided he didn't give a damn about the leftover titles.

I wasn't even crazy about that particular location. Some of the sellers must be on the cover of Why People Think New Yorkers Are the Rudest Bastards in the Galaxy. It hurt to see it go because it was a good place to seat, and read my Kindle, when it was too hot outside.

Bad joke, I know. Not because I didn't seat at Borders to enjoy the AC and read my favorite ebooks, I did it often. I feel bad because so many people lost their jobs.

In the brilliant words of my former eight-year-old neighbor, "That sucks major butt Ms. Magaly."

efitzgeraldpublishingdotcom said...

I used to dream of being on the Johnny Carson Show (dating myself here) because he used to host bestselling authors like Jacqueline Suzanne, and they were considered great guests. I was going to chat with him while he held up my novel for the camera, and then he'd mention, "I see here, Patrice, that in addition to having a bestselling book, you're also a lawyer! I did not know that." "Well, yes," I would say, shrugging modestly. "It's much more fun being a successful author than practicing law."

Well, I'm not going to be on with Johnny Carson -- that time has passed. But the rest of the dream is still in my future...

So I guess I'll have to live without the book release party and the book tour where you sit at a table hoping someone will stop by to buy one. I'll just stay at home in my nightie writing away on my laptop, producing the next potential bestseller.

Milton Bagby said...

My Borders officially closes tomorrow morning, Monday, 9-12-11.

Long before I started working there, I visited regularly, back when going to a bookstore was a treat. I could get a look at a new book before the library had it. I could chill, peruse authors I didn't know. I could count my pennies and make a well deliberated choice when it came time to take a book home to the shelf. The place had meaning.

When I went to work there three years ago, I felt like I was in service to all the authors I'd always admired.

When I published my book on Kindle and at CreateSpace this year, I felt a little twinge of guilt. I knew I was a tiny part of a sea change that was driving down bookstores. I knew that Borders would never carry my book, never have an author event for me. It was like I was in a different business.

Well, truth is, I am.

Tomorrow, we are boxing up the last of the stock and simultaneously having a potluck dinner. I'll see my mates for the last time, most of them, and visit with a few alums who plan to show up. There will be hugs and a few tears and promises to keep in touch. It is possible that a bottle might be passed around. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

But starting Tuesday, I am Amazon's man.

Kate Evangelista said...

You're right, it does sound so sad. I just attended a book launch myself. It's posts like these that make me think of my priorities and what I want to do next as opposed to what I have to do next. :-)

DVshooter said...

Heard my favorite borders back home in NJ is closed, very sad. Only have a B&N here in me new hometown, maybe they'll be the big story next year.

E-publishing is an exciting new world for aspring writers but share the bittersweetness as well. Will that magical "I've finally been published day" ever come or will there just be better sales months than the previous? We'll see.

Jude Hardin said...

Congrats to Raymond and to Oceanview. The Black Stiletto sounds like a cool book.

With the ebook priced at $9.99, though, it will probably (like my Pocket-47) never find nearly as many readers as it should.

While priced at $2.99 during Amazon's Sunshine Deals promo, Pocket-47 cracked the top 1000 in the Kindle Store. It stayed below 2000 during the entire sale period. I practically begged Oceanview to leave it at that price while it had the momentum going, not because I stood a chance of making any money from it but because I wanted to establish a larger fan base. Oceanview refused. Now it's back to selling a couple of copies a week at $9.99.

Nobody's making any money; nobody's gaining any fans.

Instead of making $40 or so a DAY with the book priced at $2.99, Oceanview is making $20 or so a WEEK with the higher price.

Can somebody, anybody, please tell me how that makes the least bit of sense?

Malia Mallory said...

As much as I love reading books on my iPod, I still enjoy of the experience of browsing through a bookstore. I used to attend author signings and often became a fan that way. Hopefully, this experience will still be away in some form.

Ty Johnston said...

I love my Kindle, but I also love paper books and bookstores. I already miss some of my favorites, ones near me that have closed or ones that are no more from my hometown.

The future is here, for better and worse.

wannabuy said...

@Ruth:"The whole top heavy TradPub structure is sinking under its own weight."

Judging by the advances they offer, they don't even realize their issues. Expenses need to provide something the customer cares about.

I charted the recently released book sales.

I'm sad at the loss of an industry dear to me. But as we discussed in the last thread, print is clutter.

@Jude:"Nobody's making any money; nobody's gaining any fans."

That is a sad story to read. It is almost as if the top heavy publishers don't get the synergistic profit potential of multiple books, loss leaders, and... well everything Joe says.

Neil

SBJones said...

Well, you don't need a publisher to land your book in a brick and mortar store. The Barnes and Noble in my town has copies of my book now on the shelf. What do the big 6 offer that I can't do myself?

Selena Kitt said...

Such a different perspective, looking at publishing with one foot in each world. In some ways, I'm glad I'll never have to deal with "legacy" publishing. It's a system that really needs to either change - or die. Perhaps to be reborn as something else. Perhaps not. But the end of an era is always something to mark and interesting to be a part of or at least a witness to. You have a unique perspective, Joe. Many of the writers who come along in the next few years may not even "get" your message about skipping legacy publishing. It may just already be the accepted way writers reach readers - through ebooks. And the message will have already been absorbed... Like, duh! Everyone knows that, don't they?

It makes my head spin, to think how fast it's changed in such a short time.

Ramon Terrell said...

Perhaps book events will survive. There is a new technology (can't remember the name but google it) that allows the author to digitally sign the actual ebook. While print sales may decline, perhaps bookstores will move to POD, and host book and ebook signings with this new technology, bringing people out again. Hopefully the bookstores will evolve somehow, as one of the great things about them was that people got out of their homes and circulated. I love this new publishing world as a writer, but I hope it doesn't add more to a lack of socializing in people.

Stella Baker said...

@Ramon,I Googled and found a Rolling Stone article. B&N Nook Color now supports writing with a stylus onto an ebook page, so the author could autograph the title page, cover, whatever. Very cool. Thanks for mentioning it.

The Tame Lion said...

Sad. Sigh....

Victoria said...

Freedom in publishing tastes good. The only thing that makes me sad in all of this are the closing of bookstores. Walden Books closed in my area years ago and I used to go there when I was a kid all of the time. Same with B.Dalton Booksellers. Then Borders.

But I can publish my work now and I relish that.

Karen Woodward said...

Not long ago I was speaking with a writing acquaintance I've known for years. I had her pegged as someone with a good sense of humor and, as my gran used to say, someone with 'horse sense'. I mentioned a well known author who blogs about the business of writing, whether traditional or indie (not Joe), and this incredibly sane woman transformed into a red-faced, rage ruled, irrational adversary. I was equal parts stunned and scared.

Just based on my discussions with a few writers I have been fortunate enough to make an acquaintance with, it seems to me that many writers have the attitude that they would rather never have their work published than self-publish. On top of this they are extremely sensitive to anyone pointing out that this decision, this puzzling inflexibility, is likely costing them money.

On the other hand, at least one of the big 6 publishers seems to have developed an intense dislike for Amazon. So much so that if they discover one of their authors has self-published they will try and punish the author (e.g., the sad tale of Kiana Davenport).

I'm not sure this comment has a point. Just thought I'd share. :)

Sarah Woodbury said...

I just uploaded my 6th book to Amazon.

I had a dream to have a book signing. A publishing contract. But honestly, this is better. This way, a publisher won't print too few of my books. They won't give me only 6 weeks to make a splash or my name is 'tarnished'. This way, my print copies won't vanish from bookstores (that are themselves vanishing) in 2 months. Amazon can ship them to your door in 24 hours or you can download the book in seconds if you can't wait that long. Maybe forever.

Honestly, I love this brave, new world.

Joe Konrath said...

this incredibly sane woman transformed into a red-faced, rage ruled, irrational adversary

Change is scary. Especially when the change goes against everything you know, how you've conducted business for years, and threatens your existence.

Shooting the messenger goes back thousands of years. It's human nature.

The current state of the industry isn't my fault. It isn't due to bloggers, or self-publishers, or even Amazon.

The Big 6 did this to themselves, by not keeping on top of technology. And when the tech arrived, they dropped the ball, repeatedly, for the last three years.

Borders was late coming to ebooks. B&N came in just under the wire, and it is saving their business. Maybe some bookstores will survive.

Me? I'll survive. And I'm taking as many writers with me as I can. But you can only lead the horses to water. You can't make them drink.

Your friend doesn't seem ready to drink. But she will be, when her publisher drops her.

Jamie Sedgwick said...

Wow, amazing times we are witnessing. Even though I never had a signing and probably never will, I can't help but feel a sense of nostalgia and loss. While many of these changes are actually good for authors, I'm also envisioning a generation of agoraphobic shut-ins typing their lives away. I guess it'll be good for productivity...

Heidi C. Vlach said...

@DVshooter: Will that magical "I've finally been published day" ever come or will there just be better sales months than the previous?

Personally, I was very excited about my novel's e-publishing day. It was just me clicking a few Submit buttons and I'm sure it seems unsatisfying to someone looking in from outside. But to me it was still a huge first step. It was still the day my writing efforts took on a form I could invite the whole world to come look at.

Alain Gomez said...

People are always looking for an excuse to party and drink. I'm sure writers/readers will think of a good substitute. Coupons for a free download perhaps?

Jude Hardin said...

Ali Soufan's The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda [Kindle Edition] was ranked in the 35,000s last night while 60 Minutes was running the story on him.

Right now it's #399.

Today is its launch day, and the ebook is priced at $14.77. I predict it will go to #1.

But I wonder how well it would have done at that price without the 60 Minutes story...

At any rate, I suspect there will always be blockbusters like Soufan's that will keep the Big 6 afloat. The midlist is dead, for sure, but there was never much money there anyway. Ebooks are going to save Big Publishing, not destroy it, so it might be wise for indie authors to dust off those query letters.

Margaret Yang said...

I saw a woman carry her kindle to a (paper) book signing at a local bookstore. She wanted meet the author, say hello and show the author that she'd bought the ebook, even without a paper book or a souvenir signature to carry home.

It was weird.

Christopher Wills said...

As a newbie I'm not that fussed by the whole party packaging bit of trad publishing going. It is not a scene I was looking forward to being a part of, if I ever got trad published.

I am quite happy to sit in my dark room chained to my laptop and have raw meat thrown through a grill at me twice a day. I'm not sure I would have fared well at public gatherings...

Anonymous said...

Ramon-

Kindlegraph is the technology you are thinking of that allows authors to e-sign electronic books.

Technology giveth and it taketh away. Every new indie author who starts to make a living on ebooks costs dozens of others their jobs in brick and mortar stores.

Technology opens and closes windows of opportunity so quickly. I used to buy laptops at $2000ea and sell them for $3000ea to businesses worldwide in 1998 - but by 2008 I was buying them for $500 and selling them for $550 - I am now out of business.

The trad pub industry is full of old timers who have never lived through such a disruptive element - and they cannot adapt.

bettye griffin said...

I saw the writing on the wall and stopped doing signings in 2009, the same year I published my first eBook. When my final traditionally published novel appeared in 2010 I did no appearances. I don't miss it. Now when I see one of my mass market reprints for sale in a store I just smile. I no longer ask for permission to sign stock or anything...

Pat Mullan said...

Guess I'll have to go to Chicago and drop in to your local pub to see you in the future, Joe. Or I could pick you up at Shannon and take you up to Clifden - there are some great pubs here and the best beers too !

Slainte, Pat.

Michelle said...

As a new author (my digital book comes out in 2012), I'm a little disappointed that I'll never have a book signing. I'd love to be able to interact on a personal level with my readers.

But times are changing. Hey, Kindle even has a way for authors to "sign" book copies now.

Michelle
www.michelle-pickett.com

Darlene Underdahl said...

You know what, that sounds so "autumn."

But autumn is a beautiful season.

Just picked up Crossing the Stateline. I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

Gisele said...

@ Michelle

"As a new author (my digital book comes out in 2012), I'm a little disappointed that I'll never have a book signing. I'd love to be able to interact on a personal level with my readers."

Michelle, don't be disappointed in the least. I mean, have you been to a NEW author's book signing? Here's what you can expect:

The bookstore sets up a table for you right at the entrance of the store (sometimes even outside of the store)gives you a stack of books and wishes you a heartfelt good luck. You then become, for all intended purposes, the store greeter.

Whenever someone walks into the store, you have to pounce on them and try to get them interested in your book. But the thing is, none of those people know who you are and react to you the same way as they would a door-to-door salesman. It's actually a sad site to see.

S Alini said...

Joe,
What do you make of Amazon's plans to launch a digital library? The idea, if you've not heard, is that readers would pay an annual fee and have access to books. Not many details yet but I'm assuming each publisher(us) would have the option of participating or not. But it seems to me compensation for self publishers under such a system might be less.
Any thoughts?

The Strange Journal of the Boy Henry
alinibooks.blogspot.com

S Alini said...

The library idea was reported on CNBC.COM by the way.

Alan Tucker said...

I had my one (and probably only) book signing at our local Borders almost a year ago. I think I sold a half dozen copies over the couple of hours I was there, said, "Hi," to a few folks and handed out a lot of bookmarks promoting my next book.

It was a fun and interesting experience and I'm sad that the store is closing this week. I'm not an extroverted person, but signings are what you make of them. If you look at them as an opportunity to meet people and gather information, you'll have a great time. If you look at it as solely a place to sell books and make money, it will be drudgery. Guaranteed.

My thought for the future is AuthorCons. A day or weekend where fans can connect, ask questions, and have body parts signed (as opposed to books) by their favorite authors. We can be celebrities too, it's just that most of us shy away from it.

Ian Martin said...

It's starting to feel like it's over in South Africa too, and it fills me with a sense of malicious satisfaction, because I have a personal axe to grind. Some of the choice scenes in 'Pop-splat' are set in an Exclusive Books in Cape Town. The staff of this shop were unable to sell a single copy of my self-published book, even though the subject matter couldn't have been more relevant to their customers. And when I approached the management of an independent book shop in Kalk Bay they took a cursory look inside and handed the book back to me. Not the sort of thing they could put on their shelves for fear of upsetting customers who might be easily offended. The truth dawned: my brand of transgressive fiction has no place in a bookshop. Therefore I don't need bookshops. Whoopee! Now I can concentrate on reaching my niche audience in that great big book store up there in the sky - the digital one.

Nancy Beck said...

I stopped by Borders last day sale, the other day. The place looked like a freaking graveyard

This is why I didn't go to the closing near where I live. All those nice people helping me, going online to put in a request...

No, it would've been too depressing.

Changing Faces – new cover!

PJ Lincoln said...

Joe,

I am squarely on-board with the e-book revolution. One thing that does bother me, though, is the goldrush mentality that seems to be out there among some indie authors and even more so with the folks that pirate.

Do you think the tide or rate of new e-books will start to decline at some point?

Joe Konrath said...

Do you think the tide or rate of new e-books will start to decline at some point?

Here's the thing--for as many new works of art (I use that term loosely) that appear, new fans appear.

Ebooks evoked a publishing explosion. But readers seem to be embracing ereaders even faster, and when they do, they buy a lot of ebooks.

I'll have fans that won't be born for another twenty years. That's a long time to find readers.

JAMES BRUNO said...

I don't do book signings and presentations any more. I just self-published my latest thriller accompanied by no launch party or other extravaganza. A month after release, it's climbed onto the Kindle "Political Fiction" paid bestseller list. I now have three thrillers on Kindle paid bestseller lists. I've been featured on NBC's Today Show and a host of other media. I still have an agent; he represents Stieg Larsson as well.

Yet I received the following from Int'l Thriller Writers today:

"Unfortunately, the board has decided that you do not qualify for active membership at this time."

I could only laugh and think, "Another antediluvian gatekeeper residing in La-La Land. We don't need these pretentious gatekeepers any more. Let's all just laugh on our way to the bank as they collectively sink into their own delusions.

Joe Konrath said...

"Unfortunately, the board has decided that you do not qualify for active membership at this time."

ITW is a great organization run by great people who are headed for great trouble.

If they were smart, they'd immediately take on self-pubbed authors. The synergy of new blood and old blood helping each other would be invaluable.

If not... their loss.

Todd Trumpet said...

I had a similar experience at the L.A. TIMES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS this year. It's a great event, one of the largest in the country...

...but it seemed a little smaller this year.

Part of this is due to a change in venue, from UCLA to USC which (at least on the day I attended) seemed to attract fewer people.

But I think there are greater changes than just geography blowin' in the wind.

Or maybe geography IS the point. Like you so often mention, authors don't need to get in a car or plane to physically connect with readers anymore (or, heaven forbid, monopolistic distributors). There may be some nostalgic melancholy associated with this...

...but in the end, The Brave New Digital Pardigm is going to be better for writers, if for no other reason than the potential to connect with vastly greater numbers of readers.

And - oh yeah - greater profit.

Some people genuinely miss the the tangy smell of processing chemicals on handheld photos, or the THUNK of a soggy newspaper on their porch...

...but digital will win where digital is clearly better.

You can't make the world flat again.

Todd
"THE TELLING OF MY MARCHING BAND STORY"
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Norma Beishir said...

I've had parties. I've been to parties. I won't be sorry to see it all end. I never much cared for what I view (perhaps erroneously) as the superficial side of being a novelist.

I'm grateful for this new era in publishing.

JAMES BRUNO said...

"If they were smart, they'd immediately take on self-pubbed authors. The synergy of new blood and old blood helping each other would be invaluable.

If not... their loss."

ITW is no different from the Big 6. All of these legacy entities comport themselves like Old Boys country clubbers, sipping their mint julips, clad in their white bermudas, commenting on how best to navigate the ninth hole and btw how to keep out the hoi polloi while the world around them is accelerating at warp speed into a new era which will leave them in the dust. Denial always leads to catastrophe.

Karen Dionne said...

Joe Konrath said...
"Unfortunately, the board has decided that you do not qualify for active membership at this time."

ITW is a great organization run by great people who are headed for great trouble.

If they were smart, they'd immediately take on self-pubbed authors. The synergy of new blood and old blood helping each other would be invaluable.

If not... their loss.

------------
As a member of the board of directors of ITW, I'd like to say that the board is actively discussing how to incorporate successful self-published authors into the membership, and has been looking at this question seriously for some months. As the publishing industry changes, organizations such as ITW have to change, too.

We hope to have a formal announcement come out of our winter board meeting, where this is scheduled to be the main topic of discussion.

Keep talking - we're listening!

JAMES BRUNO said...

"We hope to have a formal announcement come out of our winter board meeting, where this is scheduled to be the main topic of discussion."

Karen,

Thanks for addressing this matter. Might I urge ITW to craft its announcement in as clear terms as possible? I applied at the urging of a fellow author, only to find that I wasted my time and was dealt with in a demeaning manner. Meantime, I have two thrillers that have been Kindle bestsellers steadily for nine months, and a new one that just became a Kindle genre bestseller. ITW needs to face new realities.

Gordon Burgett said...

Great blog, but sad too. I see the same thing in speaking, and newspaper and magazine article writers seems as outdated as my old Vega. Congratulations to your success, and thanks for the inspiration and guidance to others, Joe.

Walter Golden said...

I think with the death of the chain stores, the independent book store might come back. After a hard day’s work at home, I appreciated my old Borders. Some days you need to get out but you don’t feel like sitting through a move and you don’t want a beer. The book store is just the thing.
However there will have to be changes. Take the good stuff from the chain stores and let the bad stuff drop off. Identifying the good and the bad will determine a stores success.
Things change but they still have to meet our needs.

Marie Force said...

I had a big launch party for my first print book. Huge production. Second book, slightly smaller production but still a major pain. Third book, in store book signing, no production. Bottom line: I hated all three events. I hated inviting people to a party and then asking them to pay for my books and waiting in line for the "honor" of having me sign them. I was literally sweating all three times from the EXQUISITE discomfort of the whole thing. After the last one, I said I'd never do another one and I probably won't. The RWA group signing in New York was one of the hottest, loudest, most crowded events I've ever participated in and I couldn't wait for it to be over because I was claustrophobic the whole time. And all those people seemed far more interested meeting favorite authors than they were in actually buying books.

I love chatting with readers online, via social media and email. It's a win-win because everyone who is there wants to be there. Unlike book signings, which always felt like ego boosters more than anything, and my ego was very uncomfortable the entire time.

Karen Dionne said...

JAMES BRUNO said...
"We hope to have a formal announcement come out of our winter board meeting, where this is scheduled to be the main topic of discussion."

Karen,

Thanks for addressing this matter. Might I urge ITW to craft its announcement in as clear terms as possible? I applied at the urging of a fellow author, only to find that I wasted my time and was dealt with in a demeaning manner. Meantime, I have two thrillers that have been Kindle bestsellers steadily for nine months, and a new one that just became a Kindle genre bestseller. ITW needs to face new realities.

------------------

Definitely. One of the challenges of changing our membership policy (and the reason we haven't rushed this issue) is that we're looking for new membership criteria that will work for a long time. We can't be changing things every time the wind blows - that really would frustrate authors.

Meanwhile, I do want to apologize for your unhappy experience with ITW, and hope you check back with us again in a few months. You sound like just the sort of person we'd love to have as a member, and congrats on the success of your books!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Hey, I just met Raymond Benson this weekend! We both live in Palatine and our local library was hosting a local author event. He spoke (very entertaining!) and we each did our signings (to, well, a decent size crowd for a Saturday afternoon at the library). At the end, he graciously signed The Black Stiletto for me. It was great to meet him (as well as legendary Frederik Pohl, also there), but I fear you're right. These events are on the way out.

Anonymous said...

Ebooks are going to save Big Publishing, not destroy it, so it might be wise for indie authors to dust off those query letters.

Nobody's making any money; nobody's gaining any fans.

I have made over $13,000 on Kindle in the first 11 days of this month. I'm nobody, I just write books. I've had agents and a Big 6 contract and I was miserable. If you sign with a publisher now, you are dead. They will keep the erights forever and your print book will disappear in a matter of weeks or months and that modest advance will dry up. I fully understand the dream and the emotional need to hold onto it, but you are not doing yourself any favors. Like Joe, I've decided to go to Bcon to hang out at the bar. I simply enjoy being a writer among writers.

Lola Swain said...

I've been to more and more author events where it's just I and a few hard-core fans and I feel horrid. Worse when I see the fans and employees trying to reassure the author that it's just a "slow week." It's just cringe-worthy. And it's in no way a reflection of the author's talent, because they (save a few) are just as talented when they were reading for the packed room. Too many Spinal Tap playing the Stonehenge show moments.

Joe Konrath said...

The thing I didn't mention, but should have, is the persistent state of denial some people, including authors, are in.

It's a case of circling the wagons, then circle-jerking. If you don't want it to end, you can hook up with someone else who doesn't want it to end, and then reassure one another that it won't end while cursing those who predicted it.

Attention head-in-the-sand authors: once your publishers drop you (and they will) if you're looking to blame someone, look in the mirror. You should have seen it coming.

The same goes for those who work for publishing houses.

The same goes for agents who aren't preparing for the future.

This whole industry is turning inside out. Ignoring it won't change things. Bitching won't change things. Worry and hope won't change things.

You need to learn how to thrive. That's where your energy should be focused.

Kiana Davenport said...

On my first cross-country book-tour, most of the stores were full, great turnout, great sales. A few years later on my second tour, the stores were half-full. After my reading, most people came up and asked me to autograph paper napkins and cards, then whispered that they were going home to order my book on Amazon.

My third and last tour was a disaster, events coordinators arguing with and practically arm-wrestling customers who showed up... again, with paper napkins. One-quarter of the sales of the previous tour, but they all wanted autographs.

At Tattered Cover in Denver, the store with a huge reading room that probably seats 500, one person showed up for my reading. ONE. And she told me she was learning-disabled. (You're allowed to laugh.) I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Finally, I got up on the stage and read to her for an hour, because that's what an author does.

Afterwards she and the mortified events coordinator and I went out and got seriously drunk. While we were throwing them back, this lovely little learning-disabled woman said, "Don't be sad. They're all home ordering your book on Amazon."

Joe, as usual, your predictions are eerily prophetic!
alohas

Werner said...

You correctly predicted so much of how book publishing would change and now those predictions are coming back to roost. With this new paradigm, writing has become an even more isolated profession as a result. However, in time, I think new con’s will arise and the socializing (and drinking) will continue.

Lola Swain said...

"It's a case of circling the wagons, then circle-jerking. If you don't want it to end, you can hook up with someone else who doesn't want it to end, and then reassure one another that it won't end while cursing those who predicted it."

Well put. And then the bitterness over being left with the soggy cookie will follow.

Kiana Davenport said...

P.S. Re Joe's mention below of those in denial, publishers, agents, etc. If you have an agent, MAKE SURE he/she is sympathetic to, and has full under-standing of where this ebook revolution is headed.

Have a discussion with your agent. Find out where they stand. A lot of them still have first allegiance to print publishers. If you find out this is the case, if they do not fully aid, abet and support you vis a vis self- pubbing ebooks.... CHANGE AGENTS. THEY ARE A HINDRANCE.

Mark Edward Hall said...

Let us not forget that for us, the writers, the important thing (other than to write good books) is to reach as wide an audience as possible. I too am saddened by the demise of the big bookstores but in place of them smaller meaner and leaner bookstores are opening up. There's one in my town and I've been invited to do a signing. The days of mass-market may well be over, but in its place comes a revolution. I love my kindle and I love the fact that I'm reaching readers I never would have dreamed of reaching without e-books. We are witnessing a paradigm shift as important as the invention of the printing press. Let's go with it.

Jude Hardin said...

If you sign with a publisher now, you are dead.

Tell that to Amanda Hocking. John Locke. Mark Edwards and Louise Voss. Barry Eisler. Joe Konrath...

Eisler and Konrath signed with Amazon's Thomas and Mercer, which I think was a very smart move. Like Joe predicts, Amazon is probably going to be the biggest publisher in the world, and they have the marketing muscle that can make a real difference in an author's career. Their terms are author-friendly, and I think the other big (and small) publishers will eventually have to follow suit in order to compete. And they will. They'll have to.

Joe Konrath said...

And then the bitterness over being left with the soggy cookie will follow.

Bitterness? I always heard it was salty...

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm afraid you're right. I love reading books on my eReader but I loved booksignings too.

Sam said...

CNBC has an article this morning about Amazon setting up a library system, where customers would pay a monthly fee to read the books, ala Netflix...

It also sounds like Spotify, where you can listen to just about any album for $5 a month. I'm on the verge of signing up and never buying another iTunes album again.

I read artists get about $0.001 for each play of their song on Spotify. Wonder what authors will get from Amazon's library?

Sam
The Dirty Parts of the Bible
Mr. Awkward

anthonynewman said...

Great post Joe, True. Borders by my house has two guys wearing billboards standing on the service road of a major highway with "going out of business..90% off sale". The digital age killed music stores (selling cd's)like tower records and others and is now doing the same to book stores. I think change is good and we have to embrace it. These ebooks afre forever like you say and for the environmentalists, it saves some trees.

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Anonymous said...

Tell that to Amanda Hocking. John Locke. Mark Edwards and Louise Voss. Barry Eisler. Joe Konrath...

Is that really your argument for signing with a publisher?

As for Hocking and Locke, let's just wait and see how those print books are doing in a few years. My bet is that in 24 months only the ebook versions will be selling. But Eisler and Konrath signed with Amazon, that's a whole different animal and they know it.

Anonymous said...

Their terms are author-friendly, and I think the other big (and small) publishers will eventually have to follow suit in order to compete.

Nope. Bookstores are going bye-bye, night-night. So who will publishers ship books to? And if publishers sell only ebooks, well...wait for it...I don't need them.

Jude Hardin said...

Is that really your argument for signing with a publisher?

I'm just saying different things are going to work for different people. Publishing is not one size fits all, so it's silly to say, "If you sign with a publisher now, you are dead."

I should also note that Oceanview did a terrific job for my debut novel. We just disagree about the price point for ebooks.

Patrice said...

I know it won't be exactly the same, but those who e-publish can still party when times are good. They (we) can even decide what the party looks like. Even that will be in our control. What an exciting time to be a writer!

Jude Hardin said...

And if publishers sell only ebooks, well...wait for it...I don't need them.

Maybe, but it's very difficult now and it's going to get harder and harder for self-published writers to get noticed. If Amazon (or another big publisher) can give you a million times more visibility that you can get on your own, then it's probably worth it to split the royalties with them.

Anonymous said...

Jude, I wish you the best of luck.

Jude Hardin said...

You too!

Joe Konrath said...

but those who e-publish can still party when times are good

That is truer than you know.

tess gerritsen said...

I've never had a publication party. Ever. Makes me wonder what I've been missing.

But you know, it does make me sad that there will be fewer opportunities for writers just getting together, sipping wine and sharing war stories. The digital age is making us more and more isolated from each other.

Joe Konrath said...

it does make me sad that there will be fewer opportunities for writers just getting together, sipping wine and sharing war stories.

The good news is there won't be anymore war stories. :)

As for sipping wine, writers are a smart bunch. I'm sure opportunities will arise for get-togethers. But there won't be any of the stress of having to perform, or signings where you get asked where the washroom is. It's all uphill. :)

Suz Korb said...

Maybe other kinds of parties will spring up from the new ePublishing world.

Joe Konrath said...

Maybe other kinds of parties will spring up from the new ePublishing world.

I'm all for parties, and I hope that indeed is the case.

Jude Hardin said...

Party at Joe's house!

We can look forward to Southern Tier Pumking, Mocha, and Creme Brulee, Sonoran 200, Sam Adams '05 Utopias, Founders KBS, Bell's Hopslam, Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin, New Holland Dragon's Milk, Widmer Brothers Reserve Barrel Aged Bourbon, Dogfishhead 120 IPA, Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf, and some Sam Adams/Dogfish Head Savor, a dram of 1984 Yamakazi single malt, and some La Clandestine Absinthe.

Kiana Davenport said...

I just learned that you can conference call on Skype. Joe, is this true? So 12 ebook authors get together and each get a little square of the screen. You could party and smoke and joke and not bother having to dress up. Or dress at all.

Is this really possible, or just a wish thing? Joe? Anyone?

MJRose said...

The delivery system is changing but I don't think that readers are going to stop wanting to meet their favorite authors. Readers are more active than ever and they love their favorite authors. This is all about creative solutions not a dry arid desert.

Lia said...

I don't think that book-related conventions and gatherings will come to an end. People have a need to assemble with their own kind. The e-reading revolution will change the nature of those gatherings, but won't eliminate them altogether. Writers, readers, fans and the like will continue to assemble in the name of camaraderie and the exchange of ideas and between like minds. Don't put the fairy wings away just yet, Joe. :)

Douglas Dorow said...

The digital age is making us more and more isolated from each other.

It's just different. With the digital age I've met writers, bloggers and readers I would've never met otherwise. I've made friendships interacting digitally with people on Twitter, Blogs and Facebook.

It's just a different way to interact and the reach is broader.

DVshooter said...

If legacy pulishers find the means and money to sign big deals I guess people can still have launch parties but I get Joe's point, end of an era, not the same anymore.

Silly to think that book parties, clubs and conferences will go away entirely. Classic car groups, civil war re-enactors, sleeping outside and cooking with fire...all outdated, obselete and still loved.

Love to see a book party with Joe though..curious to see how high his JD tolerance is after all these years of traveling and partying.

PJ Parrish said...

Hi Joe and friends,
I haven't posted here in a long time but then I've been in the foxhole for the past year just trying to avoid sniper fire. But I have to agree wholeheartedly with Joe on the signing thing. (And for the record to the poster here who said Joe was one of the reasons for the decline in bookstores: You lack the perspective of his history supporting booksellers) Anywho, I've been traditionally published for 12 years now by one of the Big 6 and I, like most authors, have worked like a barnyard dog to promote my books by myself, including funding my own tours. I was always buoyed by the fans who turned out and the hard work of the bookstore folks. But for the most part, touring and signing is a draining and dispiriting experience that takes valuable time away from writing. I will mourn the loss of contact with my readers, but I can't justify the time and energy to conform to what is an increasingly dead paradigm. But I will be at Boucheron this week because I need that jolt of energy and hope my fellow writers always give me. If you see me there, say hey. I'll even blow my latest royalty check and buy you a drink -- but only one.

Joe Konrath said...

Saw this on Twitter: eBooks won't eliminate gatherings of booklovers.

I shake my head and sigh everytime someone misrepresents what I say, which means I shake my head and sigh a lot.

I never said booklovers won't gather again. I said the venues where they currently gather are dying out, and likely won't be around in the future. Perhaps some will change and begin to incorporate ebooks. Perhaps others will pop up. But I don't believe the gatherings of the past--which centered around paper--won't last.

Many events are sponsored by paper publishers. Many involve the sale or paper books. Many involve authors signing paper.

All of these things are on their way out.

Could I be wrong? Sure.

But I haven't been wrong about much.

James Fryar said...

This both excites and terrifies me. I wrote a little blog about this feeling:
http://jamesfryar.blogspot.com/2011/09/thankful-for-writing-or-nostalgia-for.html

Thanks for the great posts Mr. Konrath!

Steven M Moore said...

Hi Joe,
The party started winding down with digital POD...eBooks will surely end it. I'm going completely eBook. I'm excited about this new publishing freedom although wary about how it will all shake out. Right now, it seems like the real estate market: more advantageous for the buyer (reader) than for the seller (writer), but at least writers have a chance now.
All the best,
Steve