Saturday, October 01, 2011

Exposed - A Thriller Novella (Chandler Series) by J.A. Konrath & Ann Voss Peterson

I get a lot of email, and a lot of comments in my blog posts, from people thanking me for helping them out on their self-pubbing journey. If you really want to thank me, there's an easy way: buy my books.

That said, here's my latest. And it's a lot of fun:

EXPOSED by J.A. Konrath & Ann Voss Peterson

She's an elite spy, working for an agency so secret only three people know it exists. Trained by the best of the best, she has honed her body, her instincts, and her intellect to become the perfect weapon.

CODENAME: CHANDLER

Before special operative Chandler was forced to FLEE, she executed the most difficult missions—and most dangerous people—for the government. So when she’s tasked with saving a VIP’s daughter from human traffickers, Chandler expects the operation to be by the numbers…until she uncovers a secret that will endanger the entire population of New York City, and possibly the world.

EXPOSED - Death is in her blood.

EXPOSED is a 35,000 word novella (roughly 150 pages) and is part of the Codename: Chandler series. It also contains an excerpt of SPREE, the next Chandler novel coming this winter.

Available for $2.99 on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

To talk a bit about Exposed, here's my collaborator, Ann Voss Peterson.

Joe: So three years ago, I had this cool idea about a female covert operative whose cover gets blown and she goes on the run. It was called FLEE. I wrote a quick outline and the first few chapters, and then shelved it because I had too many other projects going on and didn't have time to finish it.

When did I ask you to collaborate?

Ann: Right before Bouchercon in Indianapolis, 2009. You sent me some pages you'd written, and I thought it seemed like a lot of fun. Then we carpooled to Bouchercon and later Romantic Times together in my 1988 Chevy Nova and talked about it on the drive. Because both of us were busy with other books, we didn't do much more on the project until last winter when we brainstormed over burgers on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building.

Joe: Right. A key scene took place there, and we wanted to check it out.

I remember how shocked I was when I heard how low your advances were from Harlequin. You called it "the golden handcuffs", because they kept offering you contracts, and you kept taking them because you needed the money. I called it "working for the company store." They kept you so busy that you didn't have time to work on any of your own personal projects, which no doubt would have earned you more money. Your feelings about HQ?

Ann: To be honest, the "golden handcuffs" is stolen from a comment Morgan Freeman made about the years he was on the TV show "The Electric Company." He'd landed a steady acting job on a fun show, but that show prevented him from branching out and taking other roles would progress his career.

I've enjoyed writing for Harlequin. My 25th book for Harlequin's Intrigue line will be released in November. But although I made enough money on the books to quit my day job and write full time since 2000, I've never made enough to do anything more than live royalty check to royalty check.

In addition, I've always written on the plot-intensive side of romantic suspense, and on more than one occasion, my stories have stepped too far to the suspense side for some romance readers. Self-publishing has given me the opportunity to explore my more violent tendencies.

Joe: So now you're flying solo...

Ann: Not really. Now I'm writing with you. But I am working on some solo stuff as well.

Joe: We're working on SPREE, the next Chandler adventure, which begins right when FLEE ended. I'm hoping for a November release. What's up with that stand-alone you've been working on for the past 18 years?

Ann: While you're finishing the sequel to Timecaster, I'm trying to sort through what I have on this story. The downside of working on it so long is that it's changed so much, I'm no longer sure what I have.

That's nothing new. Unfortunately my creative process can be a bit messy at times.

But I haven't been working on it for 18 years, Joe. That's a gross exaggeration.

Joe: It's been longer than 18 years? Wow.

Ann: (shakes her head sadly)

Joe: We wrote FLEE pretty much based on my original outline, though you had a hand in crafting many of the scenes. We divvied up the actual writing about 50/50, using Dropbox and Google Docs. It went pretty quick once we committed to it, and it's one of my favorite books. I love the character of Chandler, and she's as much your creation as she is mine.

Ann: I love Chandler, too. She's kick-ass but she's also vulnerable, and that's what makes her so interesting.

It was a lot of fun working with you. Over the years I'd gotten used to always being the best plotter in the room. But I have to say, you're better. Which, of course, is one of the reasons I wanted to write with you in the first place.

Joe: Thanks. I wanted to write with you because you're good, and fast. One of the advantages of collaboration is: two people working on a story can get it done twice as fast, which means more work released, which means more virtual shelf space, which means more sales. In other words, you can actually make more money by co-writing. If I can put eight novels out a year with a collaborator, vs. four on my own, the eight will spread my brand and name recognition twice as far. At least, that's the theory.

With EXPOSED, you did the heavy lifting. The concept, and about 75% of the writing, was all you. So it's only fair you get 75% of the royalties.

That said, the story reads a lot like FLEE, with a consistent tone and voice. And like FLEE, I'd challenge anyone reading EXPOSED to figure out who wrote what part. It's pretty seamless.

Ann: Agreed. I got a kick out of peoples' guesses as to who wrote what in FLEE. No one was correct. But then, we tended to bounce off one another quite a bit as we wrote, so a lot of it is a true mix.

Another interesting thing to me was that I never felt like my vision for EXPOSED was realized until you added the Joe parts. It was as if Chandler didn't really feel alive to me until then, as if she was missing half of her personality...or at least 25%. ;D

Joe: I'm frankly shocked how much you can write like me. Or maybe it's how much I write like you. A mutual friend of ours just read EXPOSED, and he thought I wrote most of it. You even had a few jokes in there that he attributed to me.

EXPOSED began as a short story, then blew up to mini-novel length, about 35,000 words. We also managed to fit a sex scene in there. What's your feeling about all of those folks who get mad about sexual content in books?

Ann: Fiction is about the extraordinary moments of human life, the highs and lows, the events that exert the most pressure and force change. Sex is one of those moments. To refuse to use it in a story that calls for it is dishonest and cowardly.

Of course since sex can be so powerful, it carries a burden as well. Intimate scenes are the dramatization of a character's inner conflicts. Everything from the tone, to the dialog, to the actual sex acts involved are a window into a character's deepest fears and greatest hopes. That's why sex scenes are so difficult to write. Whether they are about love or not, they carry an emotional wallop.

But difficulty and personal discomfort are not bad things to face when you're a novelist. More often than not, they are signs that you're on the right track, that you're touching on real emotion. That can be disconcerting, but it's also the heart of what fiction is.

I fully expect some people to hate the sex scene in EXPOSED. It will likely make others feel uncomfortable. That's fine. The scene itself is neither comfortable nor safe. But anyone who says that scene doesn't change everything for the characters, that it isn't a glimpse into who they are,
that it isn't necessary to the character growth and plot is either clueless or fooling themselves.

Joe: I've heard that every scene in a story should do at least two things, or else it really isn't needed. Moving the plot forward and deepening character are the two obvious ones, but I also like to provoke base emotions as well. Laughter. Tears. Fear. And, in the case of sex, if it isn't turning the reader on at least a little bit, it isn't a well-done scene.

Ann: I absolutely agree. Readers read fiction for the vicarious emotional experience, especially popular fiction. That's the biggest part of our promise to the reader.

Joe: What is your view on legacy publishing? Would you take a Big 6 deal if offered? Or a Thomas & Mercer deal from Amazon?

Ann: If a legacy deal was good enough, I'd take it. But I'm not seeking one at this point.. I have to admit, I'm intrigued by Thomas & Mercer.

I became a novelist because I wanted to write fiction, not to become a publisher. I'm having a lot of fun doing the indie thing--the freedom, the control, the never going out of print again--so I would be hesitant to give that up, but the actual writing is what turns me on.

Joe: Same here. Now that the money is coming in, my goals have changed. I'm trying to limit the non-writing aspects of this business so I can write more. I don't want to run a company. So if I can afford to hire out and let others run the company, that means I can devote more time to my love, writing.

EXPOSED was a lot of fun to write. Crazy action, some laugh out loud humor, car chases, hot sex, insane violence, a big twist. It's like a female James Bond on amphetamines. It isn't necessary to read FLEE first, because this comes before FLEE.

And for those who don't have an ereader yet, I heard the Kindle is now just $79...

42 comments:

E.C. Belikov said...

Congrats on the release, and the conversation between you two is a great way to get people interested, I'll be checking it out.

I co-wrote a Steampunk novella and couldn't help but see some similarities in the thought process Elias Anderson and I had talking it over afterward, and some of the things mentioned here.

Was the bit about a Timecaster sequel a joke/jibe, or is that something we can expect in the foreseeable future? That was probably my favorite book I've read of yours Joe, I'd love to read some more Sci-Fi like that from you.

Suz Korb said...

You're right. The best way for writers to support each other is to buy their books. We wouldn't expect that from readers, but we all gotta help each other out, amirite?

I'll buy all your books on my Kindle now. Might not get time to read them for months though, I'm busy writing.

Todd Trumpet said...

The Big Takeaway in this post for me is that you two actually carpooled to Bouchercon in a "1988 Chevy Nova".

I used to own a 1987 Chevy Nova.

I feel I'm on the right path.

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

Milton Bagby said...

Sounds like a great book, you guys. I read FLEE and loved it--nonstop kickass stuff.

Don't forget that this story can be an audiobook. 35,000 words ought to wind up running just under four hours and cost you $500 or less for a turnkey production.

Why don't you see if your friends at Xuni have a way to store and download audiobooks? You could cut out the middle men. You could set your own price the same way you do now on Kindle.

And (the best part) you keep a much bigger chunk of the revenue.

And if you do a non-exclusive deal, you can still have the book up at Audible, Amazon's erstwhile 800 pound gorilla.

Audio biz is changing. Keep your options open.

As for me, I can't wait to tear into EXPOSED first chance I get.

Sean McCartney said...

Joe,

I really liked Flee and will buy Exposed when I finish this post. I really like the collaboration idea that you have been doing. It's like singers who team up. Do you find some writers would be reluctant to enter into a partnership because they feel they can't work with someone else? I think you are right that you can get twice as much material out there.

Sean

Ruth Harris said...

Joe & Amy, sounds delish! Am running off to buy a copy of EXPOSED. Meanwhile...

Amy, I completely understand your seguĂ© from romance to thrillers. I’m known for my NYT bestselling women’s fiction—distinct from romance in that I write about women but hold the sugar. My DH, Michael, is known for his non-fiction (U.S. military H-bomb testing, a clusterfuck with radiation, & show biz, the Beatles, the Stones etc). So, of course, we decided to do the next logical thing and write a thriller—a form both of us love whether in book or movie form.

The prospect of creating larger-than-life characters had irresistible appeal for both of us and the need to offer the reader a satisfying quantity of sex and violence added to the appeal.

We’ve always worked closely together, whether on my books or Michael’s, so the actual process was smooth. Michael has special strengths in organizing and outlining and he knows when to add a bit more explanation when I skim over an important point too quickly. I shine when it comes to manuscript editing, revising and rewriting and I’m good at coming up with the holy shit! plot twists.

The result is HOOKED, an international geopolitical-medical thriller about a brilliant and charismatic celebrity doctor whose miracle treatments make every fantasy come true—at a price.

Sexy, exciting, diabolical—that’s what we were aiming for.

HOOKED: http://amzn.to/q45VZW

Peter Andrew Leonard said...

Hot dog!

Jude Hardin said...

Bought it.

Awesome cover and description. Congrats!

P.S. Doesn't Jack Daniels drive a 1988 Chevy Nova?

Blake Crouch said...

I loved this novella...you guys crushed it!

Chip Anderson said...

I enjoyed Flee.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"P.S. Doesn't Jack Daniels drive a 1988 Chevy Nova?"

Yes. Although in some books it's a 1986.

The only reason Joe became my friend was to get a chance to drive my Nova. I accept this.

"I used to own a 1987 Chevy Nova.

I feel I'm on the right path."

Yes. Yes, you are. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

um, if it's a novella, shouldn't the price be 99 cents?

Don said...

On one of last year's posts, How to make more money on ebooks, you said:

2. Price it right. I believe an ebook should be priced at $2.99, because the Kindle royalty rate is 70% for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Above or below that, it's 35%.

Three bucks is a more than fair price for a full length digital book. (Full length is over 50,000 words.)

If it's under 50k words, go ahead and price it for less. Or put a few short pieces together to make a long piece

Your new novella Exposed is 35,000 words and yet it is priced at $2.99. Shouldn't it be $0.99?

Joe Konrath said...

35,000 words takes about four hours to read. I'm fine with charging $2.99, and I don't believe anyone will be disappointed.

Joe Konrath said...

Since we're discussing price, I've seen and heard from several successful authors who are raising their ebook prices to $3.99 - $5.99 and seeing sales gains. I don't understand why, so I'm going to try this myself as an experiment. There ay be a group of buyers who disregard low priced ebooks as inferior, so they avoid them. This is echoed in retail for many other products, this equating good quality with a higher price. I'll keep everyone posted.

Don said...

That's actually good news, knowing that self-published authors are seeing sales gains from pricing their ebooks at $3.99-$5.99. Certainly beats paying $14.99 for a published one.

Joe Konrath said...

That's actually good news, knowing that self-published authors are seeing sales gains from pricing their ebooks at $3.99-$5.99.

I changed the price of TRAPPED to $3.99 for October, to see what happens.

Price isn't static, people. We all need to keep experimenting and sharing data, so we can figure out what readers are comfortable paying.

There have been many cases of products not selling until prices were raised. Maybe this is happening with ebooks.

I'll play the guinea pig with one of my titles and report back.

billie said...

Just read the excerpt of Flee and couldn't stop reading. It's on my Kindle now, waiting for me to get back to it!

-billie

November Hill Press:
claire-obscure
The Meaning of Isolated Objects
Signs That Might Be Omens
Jane's Transformation (The Magical Pony School series)

wannabuy said...

Joe,

I'll be interested to know how raising the price works. I hope it does work.

I'm only a reader, but I'm certainly willing to pay $2 or $3 more per book from a known author. Say for the 'signature series.'

I do find, for myself, 'buying resistance' above $7.99. Then again, indie authors do not have the option to go above $9.99 nor 'window' their ebook post hardcover. That annoys the reader (at best). Why do authors sign with publishers who do that to their customers?

Note: I wrote authors as they chose the publisher. They chose to go the customer unfriendly route.

Neil

wannabuy said...

Joe,

Perhaps, if Trapped sells well, you can create a 'sense of urgency' by letting customers know certain ebooks will be priced higher after a certain date.

Neil

Karen Woodward said...

Bought it! Joe, thanks for helping me out on my self-publishing journey. :) Anyway, I loved Flee so I know I'll love Exposed. Thanks!

Craig said...

$2.99/$3.34/£2.25 is too much for a 150 page novella IMO when compared to longer books at the same price point.

John Barlow said...

Re. pricing and length of a work, today on Amazon.co.uk the following were prices for kindle editions:

Infinite Jest (575,000 words) £6.99
On Chesil Beach (30,000 words) £4.94

Size hardly matters.

Ruth Harris said...

"Size hardly matters."

That's what lots of women say. But do they *really* mean it? ;-)

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Jude Hardin said...

$2.99/$3.34/£2.25 is too much for a 150 page novella IMO when compared to longer books at the same price point.

What else can you get for $2.99? A Big Mac? A cup of coffee? A gallon of gasoline? Please. $2.99 is a bargain for a quality novella.

$.99 is a good price for a short story, $2.99 for a novella, $3.99-$5.99 for a novel. Compared to other entertainment media, ebooks are a steal at those price points.

Todd Trumpet said...

Jude Hardin said: "$.99 is a good price for a short story, $2.99 for a novella, $3.99-$5.99 for a novel. Compared to other entertainment media, ebooks are a steal at those price points."

Dean Wesley Smith wrote a post recently where he arrived at the exact same pricing structure.

As an author, it makes a lot of (common) sense to me.

As a reader, it seems fair.

Two thumbs up!

Todd

Joe Konrath said...

$2.99/$3.34/£2.25 is too much for a 150 page novella IMO when compared to longer books at the same price point.

I'm sure others will agree with you.

But some won't. And I only need one person to buy it at $2.99 vs. six that would buy it a 99 cents to make the same amount of money.

And if $3.99 sells as well as $2.99, I'll price all my novels at $3.99.

The goal is to find the sweet spot between sales and profit. I thought that sweet spot was $2.99 for novels, 99 cents for anything shorter. But I'm seeing evidence that money is being left on the table. So I'm going to experiment a bit. If $2.99 is too much for a novella, the market will tell me.

wannabuy said...

@Jude: Compared to other entertainment media, ebooks are a steal at those price points.

I couldn't agree more. When combined with sub-$100 ereaders... that means great market growth. :)

As Joe notes: "If $2.99 is too much for a novella, the market will tell me."
And, as noted, the market has to speak pretty darn load to cover that 6X gap.

I hope Joes makes more at $3.99. (I'm sick of the 'race to $Zero posts by various anonymous.)

Neil

Robin Perini said...

This book looks great! Ann...this is such an exciting journey. I really liked your comments about internal conflict. I believe that plot choices should also exploit those major character flaws...and if the villain can take advantage of those flaws...more the better!!! That makes for a tight book. I can't wait to read Exposed! Off to purchase...!

Since my first book is an Amazon Montlake, and my second is a Harlequin Intrigue, I have a unique opportunity to have one foot in each world to start out. It'll be interesting, i think, to see what happens. Joe, thanks so much for this blog...I'm learning oodles of info...what a whole new world were in!

Robin Perini (www.robinperini.com)
In Her Sights, Amazon Montlake, Nov. 29, 2011
Finding Her Son, Harlequin Intrigue, March 2012 9:51 AM

Sandy said...

Congrats on the release. I'll be buying Exposed, not just because I owe it to Joe, but because it sounds great.

Always interesting to hear how other writing teams work together. My best friend and I have published nine books traditionally. The 10th will be e-pubbed, hopefully this week.

I can't even tell you how excited we are. A nice change from bitter, cynical and burned out.

Thanks so much, Joe!

H C Pucket said...

Looking forward to reading Exposed. To those suggesting that the price "should be $0.99"... Methinks the market decides. If it's too high at $2.99 the market will step back. If it's an appropriate price the market will buy it. Free enterprise. Freedom. You price your product/service at any level you wish. This should be the case whether you have a lemonade stand or a book or a bank. Lets all be free.

Lady at the Club

Katherine Sears said...

Joe and Ann,

Sounds like an awesome novella, and I am truly fascinated to see what your pricing experiment brings. Your insight into industry changes are literally shaping my business!

One of our authors, Heather Huffman is very devoted to issues and charities around human trafficking, and I notice that is a component in the story. We would love to have you guest post on her blog about the issue, what brought it to your attention, how it came to be included in your plot, etc. I know you probably get a lot of similar requests, but it never hurts to ask! If you are interested, you can see her site at www.heatherhuffman.net. Also, her book THROWAWAY is currently free on Kindle (and has been downloaded more than 111,000 times now) and features the topic. She has one other book out, with 3 more pending by year end. Heather was originally an indie author who decided to sign with us after we approached her with our unique publishing model :)

Keep up the fantastic work!

Best,
Katherine Sears
www.booktropepublishing.com

Anonymous said...

I price my books at $4.95 to $9.95 and my feeling is that if people don't want to pay that much, they they don't get the book. Pure and simple. At that rate, I'm selling approximately 3500 - 4000 / month.

Ironically, I recently took my bestselling book from $4.95 down to $0.99. Sales picked up slightly, but not much, not even double. So I put it back at $4.95 and it's selling well there.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"I believe that plot choices should also exploit those major character flaws...and if the villain can take advantage of those flaws...more the better!!! "

I absolutely agree, Robin. The plot is the pressure cooker that forces the character to face his/her own deepest fear and change as a result. Each scene should work toward that, no matter what the business of the scene might be. But my point was that sex scenes and love scenes (not the same thing) provide a unique, more intimate way of showing character and exerting pressure on that character.

Of course, in the romance world we take that for granted, because a romance always contains that intimate element. But straight thriller plots are often more outside the character, so it can be very effective to use sex as a way to dramatize the inner conflict.

And congratulations on your sales to Amazon Montlake and Harlequin Intrigue! I am very much looking forward to your debut in November.

Jon Olson said...

Joe and Ann, I admire your ease in working with others -- I have trouble just getting along with myself! I think having a co-writer would drive me nuts.

jon o.
The Petoskey Stone
The Ride Home

TK Kenyon said...

Looks good! I'll check it out!

I love that shorter fiction (<80Kw) has such a prominent place in efiction.

TK Kenyon
TK Kenyon's Fiction Blog

Andrew Van Wey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Van Wey said...

I think $2.99-3.99 is more than a fair price. 99 cents makes me think of The Oatmeal, or less kind things I blogged about.

The whole race to the bottom screams of desperation to me but maybe there's some logic in it when you're selling 1,000,000 copies. Please post more about your pricing experiment. I'm considering raising mine to $4.99 based on the suggestions of an app developer friend who did the same and saw a lot of success. Apples or orangoutangs, I know. But still.

I really enjoyed the interview. You two seem to have a great back and forth. I liked the bit about each scene needing two things to move it forward. And who gets weirded out by sex scenes these days? Christ, HBO has gay kings getting shaved and blown and politicians are tweeting dickpics. I feel like I have to read early B.E.Ellis just to get innocent again.

Craig said...

To clarify. When I was referring to price points I meant other books from Joe, not Amazon as a whole. When you compare 1.99 for Stirred (full length novel) against 2.25 for Evade (150 pages) it doesn't stack up.

Maybe 3.99 for a novel and 1.99 for a novella is the way to go. Who knows? No-one yet.

Mark Edward Hall said...

My publisher put a $9.95 kindle price tag on my novel, The Lost Village. I was so pissed off. I told them they were killing the chances of that book reaching a wider audience for five years. They said tough. But I was right. It sells about twenty copies a month. They're idiots. I have two novellas with them as well and they priced these at $4.50 each. One is selling okay, the other, not so okay. I can't help but think if the prices were reasonable they'd all be selling well. Luckily I have new independent stuff coming. I will never sign with a publisher again.

Sam said...

It's interesting that different prices work for different books. As for me, I've settled on 99 cents as the best price after seeing a slow but steady decline for months at 2.99.

Even supposed marketing genius Seth Godin hasn't figured out the pricing sweet spot...

I just noticed the book End Malaria by Godin's Domino Project. It's priced at $20, with the concept being that 100% of each purchase sends a mosquito net to Africa to save a child's life. A great idea and cause, but sadly I think many more mosquito nets would be shipping if they'd priced it at 2 bucks or less.

Vicky Sadhu said...

nice conversation! great one!
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