Thursday, May 31, 2012

JA Konrath vs. Stephen King

Mr. King has a new novel coming out from Hard Case Crime, an imprint I've always enjoyed.

This book, Joyland, will be released as a paperback in June, 2013.

It has no scheduled ebook date.

Quote Mr. King: "I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book."

I congratulate Steve on being one of the only bestselling authors to advocate and endorse ebook piracy. I am sure Joyland will race up the NYT List even as it becomes the most pirated ebook of all time, which will show once and for all that piracy doesn't hurt sales.

While Mr. King ignores the preferences of his fans and pretends the future of publishing isn't upon us, this is what I've been doing to embrace the future.

It's no secret that people judge books by their covers. The cover is the first thing a potential buyer sees, and if it is eye-catching, provocative, interesting, or compelling, it gets the reader to take a closer look.

These are examples. For the moment, the only place I'm going to use them is on my website. But it's my guess that online retailers will one day embrace animated ebook covers. There's a lot of potential here. Besides being attention-getting, short animations could be used to show something about the book--maybe a scene or a dramatic moment. They could announce a sale, with a big "99 CENTS" blinking on the cover. They expand opportunity for creativity, both by the cover artist and the author.

There's ZERO reason why animation can't be used. These are GIF files, which are about as universal as JPGs. All computers can read them. Most devices can read them.

Now let's take some questions.

Q: Joe, I HATE these covers! I believe book covers should be a single image, like they've always been! I'm a purist! I weep for the future of publishing!

A: Technology marches on, regardless of personal taste. Lots of people still resist ebooks (right, Mr. King?)

Q: I can imagine looking at a retailer website with a dozen animated ebook covers on it. It'll give me motion sickness. What a terrible idea.

A: The Internet moves. We're used to having things flash and wiggle and turn. But I can see retailers using these so they only move if you mouse over them, or click on them.

Q: Arghh! I already have to pay a lot for cover art. Now I've got to pay extra to have it animated?!?!

A: No one is forcing you to do anything.

Q: Who did these for you and how much was it?

A: My cover artist, Carl Graves, did them. He charged me $350 for the original cover, and $500 to make it move. I don't know what he'd charge you. Depends on what you need.

Currently, Carl is hanging out with me and a bunch of writers at BeerKon, and we'll both be away from our computers until the second week of June.

Q: Aren't these really large files which will cause delays in page loading times?

A: Carl and I are working on making them smaller. The List is the largest, and it's also the lowest resolution--he had to remove colors to get it under 2mb, which explains the pixelation. Too much motion, I guess. Flee is 700kb. Origin is only 75kb.

Q: And you really think this is the future?

A: Yes. But what do I know about predicting the future?

Q: So tell us how you really feel about Stephen King not releasing Joyride as an ebook?

A: I like Hard Case Crime. And I see why King is doing this--it's a nice way of thanking the publisher, and the booksellers. But it isn't nice to the millions of fans who support Mr. King in ebook format. I bet they believe ebooks are "actual books" and they'll be vocal in their disapproval.

Joyland will no doubt be pirated like crazy, and money will be left on the table by King and Hard Case. It's backwards thinking, and a mistake.

We'll see how much negative publicity he gets.

We'll also see if animated covers start catching on.