Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Have a Dirty Martini

Though the official release date for my new Jack Daniels novel, Dirty Martini, is July 3, you should be able to find it right now at bookstores everywhere.

Library Journal said: "Mix witty repartee with edge-of-your-seat suspense, over-the-top killing devices, and action that never takes a breather, and you have Konrath's latest white-knuckle thriller. Not to be missed."

Booklist said: "Like Jeffrey Deaver, Konrath ratchets up the suspense until readers don't dare stop flipping the pages. A solid success for those who like to mix comedy with grit."

Publishers Weekly said: "Dirty Martini is a particularly potent mix of equal parts mirth and mayhem with a dash of sex and a twist (or two) of plot. It should be taken straight, no chaser needed."

Kirkus said: "The prose ranges from careless to wretched, and the plot demands a breathalyzer."

Ah, Kirkus. If I hadn't burst out into laughter when I read that, I might have been irritated.

I sent out a MySpace bulletin a few days ago, and got over 200 positive responses, plus my Amazon numbers for each book in the series jumped in conjunction with the bulletin. For those authors interested in using MySpace as a promo tool (which should be all of you) here's my post:


Hello (your name here)!

I'm your close, personal MySpace Friend, thriller author JA Konrath.

I hope everything is going well where you live in the world. How about those local sports in your area? I never would have predicted that win or loss.

I check your MySpace page several times a day. I know you're busy with all of those cool things on your Profile, like that awesome music you listen to, the cool TV shows and movies you watch, and those wonderful hobbies you have. I love those pics you may have posted. You're a truly awesome man or woman!

If you have some free time this week or next, I have a tiny favor to ask. My new Lt. Jack Daniels mystery novel, DIRTY MARTINI, is now available in bookstores everywhere.

Please buy a copy. :)

It's a fast, fun, beach read kind of book, about a homicide cop hunting for a lunatic who is poisoning Chicago's food supply. There's a lot of humor (you'll laugh) and some scary parts. Plus, plenty of action, suspense, and a little bit of sex as well.

If you like books by James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, Tess Gerritsen, Christopher Moore, Patricia Cornwell, Dean Koontz, Dave Barry, Kay Hooper, Kathy Reichs, Sandra Brown, John Sandford, Carl Hiaasen, Ridley Pearson, Robert Crais, David Morrell, or Robert B. Parker, you'll really love this book.

If you like TV shows like CSI, Law and Order, The Closer, Bones, The Flintstones, Curb Your Enthusiasm, American Idol, Survivor, The Sopranos, Sex in the City, Deal or No Deal, or Oprah, you'll really love this book.

If you have a pulse and can read without moving your lips, you'll really love this book.

DIRTY MARTINI is a hardcover. For every book sold, I'll donate a portion of the funds to ending world hunger, by taking my family to a nice restaurant.

If you can't afford a hardcover, please pick up my new Jack Daniels paperback, RUSTY NAIL, available at bookstores everywhere. This one is even scarier that DIRTY MARTINI. If you liked Silence of the Lambs, or Blades of Glory, you'll love it.

Please buy a copy. :)

My books are also available on audio, so you can listen to them while travelling, or working out, or watching juggling videos on YouTube.

If you're so broke you can't even pay attention, you can get my books at the library. If your library doesn't carry them, demand that they do. Try yelling loudly and throwing things. That's how my son gets his way all the time. And he's 23.

Thanks so much for your time (Your Name Here)! I'm so happy we met on MySpace. You've enriched my life and made me a better person.

Please buy my books, or I'll start cutting myself.

Your Friend,



I'm off to Italy for a week. My Italian publisher, Alacran Edizioni, is flying me out to do some signings for Whiskey Sour. I'm excited, and encourage the many Italian readers of this blog to seek me out while I'm there.

When I get back, I'm going to release my next newsletter, which will have info on past and upcoming contests, along with a touring schedule for Dirty Martini. I'm looking to visit the West Coast this time.

Until then, check out the latest Jack Daniels novel, and let me know if the prose really does range from careless to wretched. Better buy several copies and get your friends' opinions too.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Negotiating Contracts

Let's talk about negotiating contracts.

As authors, we're so damn needy we usually accept whatever we're offered. We're afraid that if we don't take the offer, we won't get published.

Publishers know this. And they use this to their advantage. It is in their best interest to offer low advances and try to acquire as many sub rights as possible.

One one hand, if your book does well, the advance doesn't matter much---royalties will kick in, and you'll get quarterly checks.

On the other hand, a healthy advance lets you spend more time and money self-promoting, which can only help your sells. A healthy advance also shows that your publisher is confident in your books, and will spend a sizable amount on marketing them.

A wonderful book was recommended to me, called The Secrets of Power Negotiating by Roger Dawson. It demystifies a lot about negotiation, and tells you how to respond when your publisher lowballs you, pulls offers off the table, and basically tries to show you that they don't need you.

Truth told, your publisher doesn't need you. But you don't really need them either.

When you're negotiating a contract, your agent should be doing most of the work. But there are some things you should know before you enter negotiations.

1. How much you want per book.
2. What rights you're offering.
3. What your previous sales figures are.
4. What your sell-through is, and how many printings you've had.
5. What will make you walk away from the negotiating table.
6. How you will react to every point and counterpoint your publisher brings up.

The last one is especially important. You should always have an answer for anything your publisher throws at you. This means brainstorming, practicing, and role-playing.

By role-playing, I mean talking out things with a trusted friend playing the part of your publisher, so you're prepared if these things come up in negotiations.

What are you going to say when your publisher tells you:

"Your first book(s) didn't do as well as expected."

"That's as high as we can go."

"If you don't accept now we're pulling this offer from the table."

"The market for your genre is collapsing."

"We're the best publisher for your book, and we love you here."

"We can't offer more money in the advance, but we can offer X in bonuses for copies shipped, hitting the NYT list, copies sold, etc."

Be prepared to counter these statements using a combination of facts and logic. Passion is fine when negotiating. Anger is not.

If you want to be in a position of power while negotiating, you need to:

1. Be in control of your emotions.
2. Be knowledgeable about your numbers.
3. Be confident, but not cocky.
4. Be polite, but firm.
5. Be prepared for every possible thing that may come up.
6. Be willing to walk away.

Your agent should already know all of this. But you should discuss this with her anyway.

It may seem obvious, but it's easier to sell a finished book than a proposal. Just because your contract is finished doesn't mean you need another one immediately. It is almost always better for you to finish your next book and shop it around rather than accept your current publisher's low offer on a proposal.

Negotiation is a dance. Try to lead, rather than follow. And if you don't like your dance partner, find another one.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I was reorganizing my library (late Spring cleaning) and a few hours into it I was hit by a terrifying revelation.

I have about 5000 books, paperback and hardcover. More than 4500 of these books are no longer in print.

These books are dead. Completely dead. And some of them are damn good reads.

If that wasn't scary enough, a lot of my favorite authors from years past are no longer being published.

Maybe some of them have passed on. But I suspect that there's also another, more sinister reason:

They simply can't sell their latest book.

When a book is published, the writer and the publisher have big hopes for it. They want it to sell well. They want it to make money. And they probably want it to keep making money for a long time.

But the majority of books published don't get a second printing. Like comets, they have their moment, then burn out.

This is bad for the writer for several reasons. First, because an out of print book isn't likely to see print again, which means no royalties. And second, because an out of print book often indicates a lack of sales, and these numbers are tracked by publishers who won't want to buy new books from this author. It's a downward spiral.

Having your backlist in print is hugely important. Not only do your sales accrue, but so does your fan base. The longer you're on the bookshelf, the likelier you are to be discovered, and the more books you'll sell in the future.

I've heard that publishers make most of their money on backlist titles. The huge bestsellers usually cost them huge advances, and those books can take years to earn out. But a steady backlist title can be a money machine, bringing in dollars year after year without any advances paid or marketing/advertising funds required.

So why isn't more attention paid to selling the backlist?

A few bestselling authors get dump boxes or cameos or endcap shelf space, dedicated to their backlist titles. In my opinion, this is the very best use of coop dollars. Even better than being on the New Release tables and towers. This does more than push the backlist and keep it in print. This is a message to potential readers which subconsciously says "This author is obviously worth reading because he has a big expensive display, and if I like him I'll be able to read more of his books because they're all right here."

If you're a series author, keeping the first few titles in print is critical. People want to start at the beginning.

But, unfortunately, it's unlikely your publisher will push your backlist titles. Those cardboard displays are expensive to produce, and bookstore real estate doesn't come cheap either. The irony is that the writers who get these displays are probably the ones who really don't need them, because they're already selling gazillions of copies.

Of course, it's not entirely your publisher's fault. Demand drives supply. If your books aren't selling, the bookstores won't order any more. Then they go out of print, and barring a miracle they'll stay out of print forever. Thus begins the downward spiral.

So what can you, the author, do to ensure your books stay in print?

More than you think.

Meeting Booksellers. A bookseller who likes you won't listen when the home office tells them to return a book. Instead, they'll handsell you. Last year, I met more than 1700 booksellers. I thank most of them by name in the acknowledgements of DIRTY MARTINI, coming out July 3. My new book also has back jacket blurbs by booksellers rather than the usual authors and reviewers.

Signing Books. It's a myth that signed books can't be returned. They get returned all the time. But they're less likely to get returned, and they're more likely to sell. Plus, a signed book often gets prime bookstore real estate without costing coop dollars.

Speaking in Public. Every chance you have to pimp your books should be taken. The more you stay in the public eye, the more books you'll sell. Speak at all of the libraries, conferences, conventions, and book festivals you can.

The Media. I'm not a fan of advertising. But getting a review, or doing an interview (for zines, newspapers, websites, blogs, radio, etc) is a free and easy way to get your name out there.

Writing. The very best way to stay in the writing spotlight is to keep writing. A book a year is essential. Two books a year is better. And don't forget short stories and articles--these not only pay you, but give you a much wider exposure than your books alone.

The Internet. Be active on your website, blog, MySpace, newsletter, newsgroups, message boards, listservs, and email correspondence. The more people you can reach, the better off you are.

Will this guarantee you never go out of print? No. There are no guarantees. But the fact remains: the more you do, the more books you'll sell.