Sunday, January 22, 2006

Be the Bra

I'm writing this as my Amazon Shorts download FOUR PACK OF JACK sits comfortably at the #10 spot in the Amazon ranking for shorts.

It had briefly made it up to #6, and considering I don't have a new book out, and I haven't spread the word through my newsletter yet, I'm pretty impressed by the number of people who bought it in the three days it has been live.

Thanks for your support!

Which brings up the topic of today's blog: Supporting your fellow authors.

Like most people in this business, money in my household is tight. Being paid in sporadic big chunks means our family has to carefully budget, and the amount of money I spend on self-promotion is staggering (you can read about it in the current issue of Forbes) and I usually go overboard.

But I have a cardinal rule that I always try to maintain. When possible, I buy the books of my peers.

I've never asked for a blurb without owning every book the author has written (or at least those still in print.)

I buy every book by Tess Gerritsen, Anne Fraiser, Alex Kava, Julia-Spencer Fleming, MJ Rose, David Morrell, Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, Ridley Pearson, Andrew Vachss, Michael Prescott, George Chesbro, Warren Murphy, David Wiltse, Robert Walker, Barry Eisler, David Ellis, PJ Parrish, William Kent Krueger, James Born, Barb D'Amato, Libby Fisher Hellmann, Steve Alten, James Rollins, Jay Bonansinga, Jack Kerley, Bill Fitzhugh, F. Paul Wilson, Rob Kantner, Steve Spruill, Rick Hautala, and Raymond Benson---not just because they are wonderful writers, but because they've blurbed me.

Buying them is the least I could do. They generously gave of their time, and according to the laws of karma I need to give back when I can. Not only to them, but to the world. Which is one of the reasons I blurbed over 30 books last year.

Very recently, space considerations forced me to get rid of some of my books (I have a library of over 5000.) But as I perused my shelves looking for what is donatable to the local thrift store, I made a shocking discovery.

I have over 450 signed books from authors I've met. A few of these were given to me, and some were traded for signed copies of my books, but 85% of them were bought, by me.

I don't remember buying most of these. I certainly haven't read most of these. Some aren't the type of genre I like, and some don't seem the least bit interesting to me. But I bought them anyway, to support my peers.

As Tom Waits said, we're chained to the world, and we all gotta pull.

Though I've blocked these many purchases from my mind as incidental, three events do stand out from the years I've been an author.

Once, at a library event, an eager POD author came up to my table and plunked down money for my book, and then showed me her book. It didn't look like anything I'd ever read, and didn't look appealing at all, even by POD standards. I congratulated her for writing a book, thanked her for buying mine, wished her much success, but didn't buy her book.

I've bought dozens of POD books from authors I've done events with, books that I never read. But for some reason I didn't buy hers, and it has stuck in my mind as a major regret years later.

Another mind-sticky event happened during my tour last year. I did a signing with a famous author (let's call him Jasper Fforde) who had a huge line of fans compared to my tiny line. I did my book-talk and managed to sell a few books to his sloppy seconds, but not nearly the large pile that he did. We spoke a little, between him signing copies, and he seemed a nice enough bloke.

I bought a copy of his hardcover because that's what I usually do when I'm at a signing with another author. (My other cardinal rule is: Whenever I do a signing at an independent bookstore, I buy a book to show my support for the store.)

Mr. Fforde did not buy a copy of mine. Not even a paperback.

Should that have bothered me? Perhaps not. But it does.

The last one that I'll always remember was at the Magna Cum Murder convention in Indiana. I was schmoozing the book table and who approached but none other then bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith, of The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency fame. He's sold more books than everyone else I know put together, and I know some famous people.

We got to talking, exchanged a few jokes and pleasantries, and he asked if I had any books for sale. I pointed out WHISKEY SOUR and pitched him the serial killer plot, ending my speil with, "It's exactly the polar opposite of the gentle, humorous stories that you write." That was my way of saying that I in no way expected him to buy a copy, because I knew he'd dislike it.

He bought a copy anyway. Thanks again, Mr. Smith.

Naturally, I already owned a copy of his book.

Which brings this full circle. Whenever I do a library panel, or a conference, or a multiple author signing, I try to buy the books of my fellow authors. Especially if they buy my book.

Often, I'll trade copies, which is fine, but it isn't the same as plunking down the cash and supporting my peers with that miniscule royalty and tiny blip in their sales figures.

I've noticed that I've extended this show of support to many of the blogs I visit. If I find myself posting on someone's blog often, and I haven't checked out their books, I'll pick up one or two.

I'm also known to pop on over to Amazon and do reviews of many of my peers' books. Not because they ask me to. But because I want to show support.

Is this a subtle message to everyone who reads this blog to get your asses over to and buy FOUR PACK OF JACK?

Hell no. I don't think this message is subtle at all.


And not only me. Support each other. We're in this together, folks.

Also, if any of you are named "Joe" and would like to buy a personalized copy of "The Big Over Easy" by Jasper Fforde, I have one for sale. Cheap.


Mystery Dawg said...

I bought and read it. Great stuff, and CHEAP. Get on the train people. Here are 4 top notch stories for less than 50 cents.

AS to POD or self published books, I have aread a few that are very good. Jim Hansen's NIGHT LAWS is one.

Confessions of a Starving Mystery Writer said...

Congrats. I believe this is the future of publishing.

Writer empowerment. Gotta love it...

JA Konrath said...

I liked NIGHT LAWS enough to blurb it. Really creepy bad guy.

Not all POD is bad, and I don't mean to give that impression. But proportionally, I've encountered more bad POD books than those traditionally published.

HawkOwl said...

Once I tried to buy a book by an author whose blog I read. The bookstore being a twelve hour drive away, you can imagine I don't go often, and when I do I make a list and spend hundreds of dollars. Her books were at the top of my list. I went to the biggest bookstores in the city. They didn't have it. I didn't find it anywhere. Amazon has it, but I don't have a credit card. I haven't been to the city since. That's why I don't buy my acquaintances' books.

JA Konrath said...

"They didn't have it. I didn't find it anywhere."

Go to the author's website, email her, and ask if you can send her a check or money order for a signed copy.

Shell appreciate it more than you'll ever know.

Anonymous said...

Well said! Personally, I also think it's important to plunk down dough for books by first-time authors. I hope to be one someday, and take great pleasure in supporting others who've made that big leap into the publishing world.

Jude Hardin said...

"I hope to be one some day..."

Oh well. You tried, Joe.

Author-Gerald said...

I do worry about the perception of PoD. Yes, it is a useful outlet for a good writer whose output doesn't fit into mainstream publishers' current marketing strategy. But it is also a route by which a bad writer can 'be published.' I have read excepts from some PoD-published writers, and a lot of it is poor. There's little or no editing; simple typos and bad punctuation are allowed into the finished product; and sometimes the narrative is just dire.

FWIW, I think the way forward is for non-published writers to provide samples of their writing, with links to outlets where the complete work can be purchased. I have bought ebooks this way, and the writer's name sticks in my mind. If I see a printed book by that author, I will buy it.

Yep, writers need to embrace all forms of publishing - traditional printed book, ebook, and podcast. Surely, it's all about getting the maximum number of people to read (and buy) your writing?

JA Konrath said...

I cracked the #2 spot on Amazon Shorts.

I'm sure I'll drop down lower any minute, but I'm ridiculously happy at this moment.

Thanks again, everyone!

WannabeMe said...

Congrats on the #2 spot, Joe! Way to go!

Jude Hardin said...

Just ordered and received your short stories. Cool!

Hope you make it to #1 today.

Millenia Black said...

Woo-Hoo! Congratulations, Joe! Dymamite.

Stephen D. Rogers said...

I always buy the books of people I've signed with and am just bewildered by the ones who don't reciprocate.

Not only do they support a fellow writer, they support the bookstore that's supporting them!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

You're absolutely right. It's been a hard adjustment for me as I've been a big library devotee for years, but my collection of books is growing. The problem is my house is not!

Just bought your four pack!

Anonymous said...

Joe, great blog! By putting your money where your mouth is and supporting fellow authors by actually purchasing their books, you've shown to other writers and your fans that graciousness = class. I learn something new and worthwhile from you every day. Thanks.

Maia Sepp said...



Well, I'm Canadian, so it's like...75 cents :)

But I bought it anyway.

Brett Battles said...

Just both the shorts, and look forward to reading the. Coincidentally, I finished Bloody Mary over the weekend. You are one funny, sick man. Keep it up!

And congrats on the Forbes article. Very interesting. And yet another way to get a total different segment of the population aware of you.

If anyone ever asks "Take me to your leader," I'll point them in your direction.

Unknown said...

Lord knows when I'll have time to read your Four Pack... I hardly have enough time for anything these days. But you KNOW i bought it the second you mentioned it.

And I'm sure it rawks.


Anonymous said...

To Jude Hardin:

Sorry, but I didn't understand your comment.

Jude Hardin said...

It was just a joke. Read Joe's post from a couple of days ago, "Hope Is A Four Letter Word."

Anonymous said...

You're number 1 at this time.

I've always made a point to buy books of authors I know - especially those from writing chapters I belong(ed) to. Some of the books aren't my cup of tea and yet I can't, for the life of me, get rid of them. Either they're dedicated to me or else I feel immense guilt at the thought of getting rid of the book. I still find myself tossing their books into my basket. One friend even says "Don't buy my stuff! I know you don't read this stuff." I calmly say "But it's you!" Then we have a tug of war over her book. Now when she sees me coming she yanks her books under the table, signs a postcard. It's a damn battle! I buy her books ahead of time (ha-ha!) and I've enjoyed each and every one even though she doesn't believe me.

With friends I won't even enter contests to win their book when I know I'll go out and buy them. They worked hard for that story to be pub'd so the least I can do is spend my hard earned cash on them.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I go to a signing, I always buy a book. I get 'em free from the publishers already, but I figure that's just part of how you show your support for the authors whose work you love.

Anonymous said...

To Jude:

Oops. Wrong word choice. I'm really not sitting around, "hoping" my way into publication. ; )

I want to add that the Amazon shorts is an awesome idea. I love short stories and look forward to reading yours, Joe.

James Goodman said...

Done deal, I just downloaded it. Can't wait to read it. (Which I will actually do, unlike the last two books I bought by authors I know).

Anonymous said...

Just downloaded it. They really should charge more. I mean, people are downloading songs for a buck aren't they? Speaking of which. Amazon really needs downloadable audio shorts. Just a thought.

James Goodman said...

You don't milk a casual acquaintance.

Do you mind if I try to find a way to work that into my staff meeting tomorrow?


Buffy said...

I'm new to blogging. Just got into it seriously in November as a way to warm up for the book I'm trying to spit out (remember the days...). Love this site. Its everything Ive been looking for in a 'writers blog'.


Buffy said...


How cool are you....! Forbes and all that.

Anonymous said...


Love your blog, but would love it a lot more if you made your font just a bit bigger. It's so small that it's really hard to read. (And no, I'm not old.).


JA Konrath said...

Thanks everyone for the support!

Re: font size. On every computer I've viewed my blog on, the font size is normal or larger than normal.

Perhaps your computer is set for a smaller font?

In the upper menu bar, click VIEW, then scroll down to TEXT SIZE to see what size font your monitor views at. You can also make this font larger or smaller.

Hope that helps!

Unknown said...

I thought we were living in a global village. I tried to buy them, Joe, I really did! And AMAZON has the audacity to tell me:

*** We're sorry. We're unable to sell e-books from to customers in the European Union.

So - I went to and, believe me, they never heard of your ebook over there!

Anyway, for what it's worth: I'm finishing a review of BLOODY MARY and I'll post it on Amazon - even though they refuse to serve me!

Jim said...

Joe: I've only bought about 20 books in the last year, but they we all the works of authors who blurbed me. 2 were yours and I'm looking forward to buying Rusty Nail in hc as soon as it comes out. When I start book signings in Borders and B&N this March I'll no doubt buy a book at every store to show support. Once again, I'll be buying the authors who extended me a courtesy before. They deserve it and much more. PS Thanks to Aldo and you for the shout out on Night Laws.

Anonymous said...


Thank you! This is a new computer and I had no idea that the font was set on 'smaller'. Took care of that...thanks so much for cluing me in, I really appreciate it.


Anonymous said...

Not a writer yet. But I can help you with the font size issue though: most browsers nowadays accept font resizing by pressing CTRL and adjusting the mousewheel; for Macbooks, there is that cool stretching movement with two fingers.
So now, every time you see a page too small or too big for your liking you can adjust it.
I hope that helps!