Sunday, May 30, 2010

Steal This Ebook

Let's run an experiment and see if piracy is harmful to sales.

I'm currently selling my ebook JACK DANIELS STORIES for $2.99 on Kindle and Barnes and Noble. Here's the description:

JA Konrath, known for the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thrillers set in Chicago, offers this collection of short stories and novellas from the Jack Daniels universe.

Join Jack Daniels, her partner Herb Benedict, private eye Harry McGlade, and part-time criminal Phineas Troutt, in this omnibus of 15 stories.

On the Rocks - Suicide or murder? Lt. Jack Daniels solves a locked room mystery.

Whelp Wanted - P.I. Harry McGlade becomes a dognapper in order to stop a dognapper, or something like that.

Street Music - Phineas Troutt hunts a prostitute through the dangerous streets of Chicago. Are his intentions pure?

The One That Got Away - The Gingerbread Man (the villain from WHISKEY SOUR) hunts one final victim.

With a Twist - It looked like the man fell from a great height, but the body is in his living room. Jack Daniels solves another impossible crime.

Epitaph - Phin Troutt takes on a Chicago street gang with vengeance on his mind.

Taken to the Cleaners - Harry McGlade tries to solve a difficult mystery, but mostly just goofs off.

Body Shots - Jack Daniels faces her most challenging case yet; a school shooting. But does she know more about the perp than she realizes?

Suffer - Phineas Troutt has taken some questionable jobs, but will he murder a man's wife?

School Daze - P.I. Harry McGlade investigates a private school, but he's not entirely sure why.

Overproof - While shopping on the Gold Coast, Jack Daniels notices traffic has come to a stand-still. When she realizes what the problem is, she's confronted with her own mortality, and the possible deaths of hundreds.

Bereavement - How badly does Phineas Troutt need a fix? What is he willing to do?

Pot Shot - Detective Herb Benedict just wants a home cooked meal. But his plans get interrupted by a very determined sniper.

Last Request - Phineas Troutt picks up a hitchhiker, with deadly results.

The Necro File - Harry McGlade investigates some bizarre murders in this hilarious, gore-filled mini-epic. (Author's note: This is easily the funniest thing I've ever written, but it's also very offensive. Let the reader beware...)

That's about 65,000 words of Jack Daniels and friends. Some of these are laugh out loud funny. Some require you to solve the mystery. Some are thrilling. Some are scary. All of them have been previously published in various magazines and anthologies.


Currently, on May 30 at 7:00pm, this ebook is ranked at #2009 on Amazon. It sold about 315 copies in the month of May.

It is ranked at #44,480 on Barnes & Noble.

So let's try an experiment. Here are some ways for you to obtain a copy of this ebook.

Click HERE to download a free zip file of JACK DANIELS STORIES. It contains versions in html, pdf, doc, epub, and prc (for Kindle). So no matter what ereader or computer or smart phone you own, you should be able to read it or convert it. That's the tracker link. If it isn't working, here's the direct link:

Or, if you own a Kindle, you can click HERE to go to the Kindle store and buy it for $2.99.

Or, if you own a Nook, you can click HERE and go to Barnes and Noble and buy it for $2.99.

If you download the free version, and feel the overwhelming need to donate $1.99 (or any amount) to me, you can click HERE and go to Paypal to donate. Paypal is free to join, safe, and easy to use.

I'll keep track of my free downloads, Kindle numbers, Paypal donations, and my rankings on Amazon and B&N for the next 30 days, then post the results.

Also, I encourage pirates to post this everywhere. Go ahead and proliferate the internet with JACK DANIELS STORIES. You can explain that I'm encouraging it, or you can just take it and not say a word. I'd appreciate it if you post in the comments section where you're uploaded it, which you can do anonymously. Or you don't have to.

If anyone sees this ebook on file sharing sites, I also ask that you please post a link to it in the comments. The more places I can see this being shared, the better I can compare ebooks sold to ebooks shared.

Will giving the ebook away for free hurt sales? Will it help sales? Will I gain readers? Will people donate money? Will people who take the free ebook buy my other ebooks?

What do you think will happen?

Should be interesting. Now some Q & A.

Q: Why are you doing this?

A: I've said repeatedly that there is no proof piracy hurts sales. So I'm manning up and putting my money where my mouth is.

Q: How long will you run this experiment?

A: I'm going to keep track of it for a month. But the links will be live forever. I fully expect the ebook to appear on file sharing sites forever as well.

Q: Do you have any predictions?

A: I have no idea what will happen. It depends on how many people see this post and act on it. But I really don't expect my sales to drop off.

Q: If you're so pro-piracy, why don't you give away all of your ebooks?

A: My stance has always been that I don't believe piracy is harmful to the artist, and that it can't be stopped, so don't worry about it. Does that make me pro-piracy? Or does it make me realistic?

Q: You didn't answer the question.

A: The majority of my ebooks are currently free on my website, If you want them for free, there they are.

Q: Why did you use this particular ebook for your experiment?

A: I think it's a good cross-section of my work, and will appeal to the widest range of people. It also has modest sales, which should be easier to track.

Q: I clicked on the free download. Now what am I supposed to do with it?

A: Save it to your computer, then open it using Winzip. You can download Winzip HERE. It's free for the first 45 days.

Q: What if the ebook is downloaded for free 10,000 times and no one pays for it?

A: That would be awesome. I hope those people who download it take the time to read a few stories. As a wise man once said, writers should fear obscurity, not piracy.

Q: What if your sales drop off to nothing?

A: Want to bet they don't? :)

Q: Can I give away this ebook on my blog and website?

A: The goal here is to share it by any and all means possible. Link to it, copy it, upload it, make torrents, put it on Usenet, stick it in file lockers, etc. Whatever you'd like.

Q: You're encouraging people to steal, condoning piracy, and turning your back on your fellow authors. You're the devil.

A: I get that a lot. No one is forcing you to read my blog. If you don't like what I'm doing, change the channel.


Lots of disagreement in the comments. That's good. Disagreement is the pathway to discussion and understanding, as long as everyone keeps an open mind.

Some points I'm seeing repeated:

1. This experiment doesn't count. Because I'm giving permission, this isn't "stealing."

JA sez: For the nth time, I don't care what the legal or moral definition of file-sharing is. I want to see if free books, widely distributed, cannibalize book sales. That's the test.

2. The final stats will be inconclusive.

JA sez: I agree. The whole reason it is impossible to prove piracy is harmful is that there is no direct association or causality between people getting free books and books for sale. There are too many other factors at play. That said, if my sales don't drop off, that's a promising indicator that free books don't effect sales.

3. If a person takes the free ebook, you've lost a sale.

JA sez: Actually, the opposite is true. If a free option is available right next to a paid option, and people take the freebie, that PROVES they wouldn't have bought the one for sale because they took the freebie.

4. You pay a cover artist but don't expect to get paid yourself?

JA sez: I hope to get paid. I'm doing everything within my power to give readers good, inexpensive ebooks. But I also know that some people will get copies for free. I see no reason to fight this. It isn't going to stop, and I don't believe it hurts sales.

5. Why not just make everything free?

JA sez: There's a big difference between giving away everything for free and tolerating media file-sharing. If you don't see that difference, I doubt I'll be able to convince you.

6. What about the future where everything is free?

JA sez: Everything will be free in the future, eh? How about using that crystal ball to get the lottery numbers for next week.

7. You're getting publicity for this. That will fuel sales. Pirates may just buy your book just to prove that file-sharing doesn't hurt.

JA sez: So now I have to figure out who is buying my ebooks and what their intent is? Now I can't use publicity to fuel sales, as I've been doing in the past?

Bottom line: there are versions that are free, and versions that are for sale. Will the free versions slow down the sales trajectory I've been on with this ebook (selling about 10 copies per day)? To my knowledge, this ebook has not been pirated before, so I'm taking a book with proven sales and adding the free factor to it. Why don't we all take a deep breath and actually wait and see what happens?

I believe the majority of piracy exists because copyright holders are unable or unwilling to meet specific consumer demand, such as availability, price, and convenience.

To see the tracked free downloads so far, click HERE.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Platform, Shmatform

We all know the "assume = ass + u & me" definition.

It's very (very, very) easy to assume that I'm selling a crapload of ebooks because I'm a midlist author with some books in print and a fanbase.

It's easy to take that assumption further, and predict that an unknown wouldn't do as well.

Quite a few people are assuming this. They're claiming it as truth, repeating it, agreeing with it, and accepting it.

But it just ain't true.

The only ones who seem to disagree with this assumption are me, and the authors who know better.

These authors are selling just as well--or better--than I am, on kindle.

As far as I know, none of them have previous print deals, or name recognition. Yet they're kicking butt. Here are their current overall ranking out of 500,000+ ebooks available on Kindle:

Primal Wound by Ruth Francisco, ranked #688

Thin Blood by Vicki Tyley, ranked #14

Deed to Death by D.B. Henson, ranked #42

Toe Popper
by Jonny Tangerine, ranked #1464

Kill & Cure by Steven Davison, ranked #72

The Shot to Die For by M.H. Sargent, ranked #231

The Elect by James Gilbert, ranked #756

Punctured by Rex Kusler, ranked #988

Final Price by J. Gregory Smith, ranked #3083

A Dirty Business by Joe Humphry, ranked #433

Moon Dance by J.R. Rain, ranked #52

Around Every Corner by Casey Moreton, ranked #3663

Defending Evil
by Charles Shea, ranked #1469

The Bum Magnet
by K.L. Brady ranked #836

Getting Rich by Steve Bensinger, ranked #838

Declaring Spinsterhood by Jamie Lynn Braziel, ranked #1580

Faking It by Elisa Lorello, ranked #365

Easily Amused by Karen McQuestion, ranked #290

Waiting For Spring by R.J. Keller, ranked #788

Escaping Celia by T.C. Beacham, ranked #909

Okay, there's twenty. It took me about three minutes to find these folks, simply by surfing Amazon.

Guess what? There are HUNDREDS more. I'd wager that at least one out of every ten books in the Amazon Top 10,000 is a self-pubbed author. But I'm not going to spend my afternoon cutting and pasting links to prove to the world something I already know.

See for yourself. Click on one of the above books, then click on the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" and see how many new authors you find.

Lots, right?

So if these authors don't have platforms, how are they selling so well?

Good cover, good product description, low price.

It doesn't take a well-read blog, a print backlist, and an established fanbase to sell a lot of ebooks.

Please tweet this. Link to this. And in the comments section, add links to more new authors in the Kindle Top 10,000. If you're one of those authors doing well, please post your book here. If you know a Kindle author selling well, point them to this blog so they can chime in.

And if you're one of those types who loves to gather data, I've got an offer for you. Email me a list of forty new authors in the top 10,000 on Kindle, and I'll send you a free signed paperback of my horror novel Afraid.

That'll take about 20 minutes of work, cutting and pasting. Double-check to make sure these are new authors with no backlist or major print deals. Then send me the list (or post it in the comments) and I'll snail mail you a book. Author name, title, and ranking. HTML links would be great too, but if you don't know how to do that, it's okay.

Let's kill this assumption that I'm the only one who can make money on Kindle.


How many sales does it take per day to be in the top 10,000? My guess is around 10 per day.

"But that's not good!" you might be saying.

Really? Ten a day = 3650 per year. At Amazon's new royalty rate, that's $7300 per year on a single title. The average advance for a debut novelist in print is still $5000.

I'm selling 220 ebooks per day, and I'll make over $100,000 this year. But that's for 15 titles (soon to be 17).

Ten a day can add up rather dramatically...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

J.A. Konrath's Thriller Ebook "The List" sells 16,000 Copies on Kindle

I first self-published on Amazon Kindle's Digital Text Platform in April of 2009, as a favor to some fans.

Back in 2005, I put some free ebook downloads on my website, These were books that my agent tried to sell, but NY didn't want to buy.

I posted them on my site, for free, figuring they could be used as a gateway drug. Give readers a taste, and if they like it, maybe they'll go on to buy some of my print novels and I'll make a few bucks.

In 2009, several fans emailed me, saying they wanted to read my free ebooks on their new Kindles, but Kindle couldn't (yet) read pdf files. Was there any way I could make the ebook Kindle-friendly?

It turned out there was. Going to, writers could upload their ebooks to Kindle for free. So that's what I did.

For price, I set it under $2.00. I figured this was a loss lead, meant to steer people toward my print novels.

Since then, I've sold over 46,000 ebooks. About 16,000 of those have been The List.

What's The List about? Here's the Kindle description:

A billionaire Senator with money to burn...
A thirty year old science experiment, about to be revealed...
Seven people, marked for death, not for what they know, but for what they are...

THE LIST by JA Konrath
History is about to repeat itself

About the ebook:

THE LIST is a bit of a departure for Konrath. It's a technothriller about a group of ten people who each have tattoos of numbers on the bottoms their feet, and don't know why.

One of them, a Chicago Homicide cop named Tom Mankowski, has had one of these strange tattoos since birth. When he investigates a violent murder and discovers the victim also has a tattooed number, it sets the ball rolling for an adventure of historic proportions.

To say more would give away too much.

Like the Jack Daniels series, THE LIST combines laugh out loud humor with serious suspense and thrills.

You can order it HERE for $1.99.

To say I'm shocked by how many copies this has sold is putting it lightly. My other ebooks are doing well, but this one is clearly the runaway hit. It's had 62 customer reviews and counting, which is more than the majority of my print titles have gotten. It's been the #1 seller in the Amazon Kindle Store Police Procedural category for six months (I currently have 12 ebooks in the top 100 in that category.) And I get more fanmail about The List than I do about my Jack Daniels series.

What is it about this particular book? I wish I knew. Maybe it's the cover. Maybe it's the description. Maybe the sample excerpt, which can be downloaded for free, hooks people. Maybe it's word of mouth. Maybe it's the title.

Whatever it is, the sales are double any of my other ebooks. It's currently selling 80 copies a day, and shows no signs of closing down.

Here's what fascinates me: I would assume that 16,000 self-pubbed ebook sales are impressive. In fact, I would think they'd be impressive even by NY publishing standards. Compare that to the 2500 ebooks Whiskey Sour (my first novel) has sold, and it's taken six years to sell that many.

So why hasn't any major publisher looked at this ebook and made me an offer?

I assume some industry professionals read my blog. I've been making a lot of noise over the past year about ebooks, and most editors are tech savvy and pay attention to Twitter and Facebook and the blogosphere.

Yet no one has approached me with a deal, even though this ebook is outselling major bestsellers. After all, it is ranked on Amazon higher than Kellerman, Robb, Connelly, Crais, Patterson, and everyone else. Wouldn't it make sense to release a print version?

So that's what I'm doing. Next month, using Amazon's CreateSpace program, I'm self-publishing The List as a low-priced trade paperback.

I'm curious how it will do, and I'll let you know when it's available.

I'd also like to announce that next month I'm self-publishing two original horror novels on Kindle. And guess what? Both of these did have offers from large NY print publishers. But I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and release them on my own instead.

The future is now. Any questions?

Q: Is The List available on other platforms?

A: Yes. Through, they're available on Nook, Kobo, and iPad. You can get The List, and my other ebooks, on these. It is also coming soon to the Sony reader.

Q: How many copies have these other platforms sold?

A: I don't have the numbers yet. Amazon reports monthly. Smashwords reports quarterly.

Q: Who were the publishers who made offers on those two horror novels you're putting up next month?

A: I don't think it's nice to kiss and tell, especially since they are both publishers I like and respect. If you don't want to believe me, no one is forcing you to. But my close circle of friends know who they are. Maybe you can get one of them drunk and pry the info out of them.

Q: If The List is your bestseller, how are your other ebooks faring?

A: Origin comes in second, with almost 10,000 sold. It's currently ranked #241 overall in the Kindle Store. Then come my novels Disturb and Shot of Tequila, ranked #846 and #832. Which means I currently have four self-pubbed ebooks in the Kindle top #1000. Not bad, considering there are over 500,000 ebooks available on Amazon. My novellas and story collections are all ranked above 10,000, most of them above 3000.

Q: Are you going to do print editions of your other ebooks?

A: Absolutely. They should all be available by the end of the year, including the two new ones.

Q: So from now on are you only writing for Kindle?

A: Yes. After I've met my current contract obligations with print publishers, I will devote my full time to Kindle and other ebook platforms. I really doubt I'll ever accept a print deal again.

Q: Do you still need an agent?

A: Absolutely. She still does a lot for me. In the past few months, she's vetted several contracts (including the one for Shaken with AmazonEncore), done two movie deals for me, and is currently working on audio and foreign rights sales. She's essential.

Q: Do you recommend bypassing print publishing to new authors?

A: I recommend new authors learn their craft, write great books, set appropriate goals, and decide what works for them. The print industry has been incredibly good to me. I've worked with some fabulous people who have done wonderful things for my career. I feel like I stumbled upon this ebook thing, and it has snowballed into something pretty big. That doesn't mean it will snowball for everybody.

Q: I'm a reporter. Can I quote this piece and take excerpts?

A: Absolutely. Quote as much as you'd like. But please... get the facts right. :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Publishers Weekly Epic Fail

Publishers Weekly has done some terrific reviews of my books over the years. But they just did a relatively unflattering article about me that misses a few key points.

You can read it HERE.

Welcome back! That article certainly makes me seem like a loser, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, PW's version of the truth is lacking in many areas. Let's shed some light on those areas.

My six Jack Daniels books have earned US royalties in excess of $200,000. They are all still in print, some in multiple printings.

The first three have more than earned out their advance of $110,000. The second three should should earn out their advance of $125,000, but all the the books haven't been released yet. CHERRY BOMB, my last book in the contract, is not coming out in paperback until June.

The hardcover of Cherry Bomb did sell well enough to go into a second printing. The hardcover release was also mistakenly messed up--one of the major bookstore chains didn't get copies in their stores until more than two weeks after the publication date. There was a demand for Cherry Bomb that was unfortunately not met.

When my fourth Jack Daniels book was published, Hyperion chose to end their mystery line, which included me and other authors. They honored the two remaining books in the contract, but I was no longer toured, and my marketing budgets weren't nearly the same as what I received with the first three books.

After Hyperion dropped the series, my agent went to various publishers back in 2008 and pitched the next Jack Daniels. No one wanted to pick up a midlist series that had earned over $200k in print, plus has had decent foreign, audio, and ebook sales. Their loss.

As for the sales figures PW quotes from Bookscan, they certainly don't match my figures or my bank account, and it appears the 32,000 they quoted for my first book is for paperback sales, and the 4000 they quoted for Cherry Bomb is for the hardcover release, which was botched in one of the major chains, but still managed to somehow sell enough to have a second printing. Kind of a simple-yet-important thing to overlook, PW mixing up those paperback and hardcover sales, and it certainly does make it look like my overall sales dropped dramatically. In fact, reading the article, it seems they weren't even aware I was in hardcover, saying I was "published by Hyperion in paperback for years."

Of course, things like that are very difficult to verify, and would have required intense research along the lines of going to or visiting my website.

PW also wrote, "So Konrath essentially took a book no one wanted and instead of fully self-publishing it, signed with Amazon-Encore, which will bring the book out in paperback a year after the Kindle release this summer and at the very least e-mail all those who downloaded his last book."

Shaken will be released in the fall, not the summer, which is a small mistake, but could have been averted by reading the press release. I believe PW got a copy of that. The print version also comes out four months later, not a year later. That press release thing could have helped there as well.

It's also worth noting that Amazon is going to do a helluva lot more than simply emailing people who downloaded my last book, but my NDA won't allow me to discuss it. I can say it is more than ANY of my other publishers have done for any of my books, and I'm thrilled to be working with them.

I originally intended to self-pub Shaken--after all, I'm making a small fortune self-pubbing. But in the meantime, I signed three other print publishing deals, so I had to put Jack Daniels on hold.

Then, in January of 2010, AmazonEncore approached me about one of my other ebooks. I pitched them Shaken, they liked the idea, and it took a while to hammer out the contract.

I absolutely DID NOT sign with AmazonEncore as a last resort. If Encore had been an option back in 2008 when my agent shopped Shaken around, they would have been my first choice. But they didn't even exist yet.

I didn't self-publish Shaken, even though I endorse self-pubbing, because AmazonEncore will be able to reach a much wider audience than I can on my own. But that doesn't mean I would rather take any old print deal than self-publish. I am self-publishing two original novels on Amazon's Digital Text Platform next month, and both did have offers from major print publishers that I could have taken. I chose not to, and am going the self-pub route because I believe fully in ebooks and Kindle.

One would think PW would have checked with me to confirm some of this. In fact, I was contacted repeatedly by PW, but the only question they asked was about the royalty rate of the Amazon deal. I explained I signed a non disclosure agreement and couldn't reveal it. The reporter persisted, asking several times, and finally I said, "Would you like to get a quote from an anonymous source?"

When I received an affirmative response, I replied, "Next time an anonymous source confides in me, I'll send him your way."

I also did mention to the reporter that I have sold 46,000 ebooks on DTP, and was currently selling 220 per day. But perhaps these weren't important facts for an article about ebooks.

Elsewhere in the article, one agent insinuated my ebook efforts were "schemes." He's correct. They are schemes for me to get rich. And they appear to be working.

Bottom line: I'm profitable, Big NY Publishing took a pass on Shaken two years ago, AmazonEncore came along two years later and played it very smart, and the revolution is on, baby.

I don't happen to have a PW membership, so I can't reply in the thread to that article and correct what I perceive to be misrepresentations of the issue. If you're reading this, and can post on PW, please copy and paste this blog entry in PW's comments section. If several of you do this, I won't be adverse to it. Also, you're free to Twitter this, link to your blogs, Facebook, etc. The more, the merrier.

What do you think? Does PW owe me an apology? A retraction?

For the record, I'm not angry with PW. Any press is good press, especially when they give me a wonderful opportunity like this to set the record straight. And though their article really was an epic fail when it came to the truth, I wish them nothing but the best, and do truly hope PW is still around when digital ultimately replaces print.

DRM Free

I hate DRM.

For the uninitiated, Digital Rights Management is a catchall term for technology that restricts usage of something a customer buys.

For example, let's say a person buys an ebook and wants to make a copy of it, or change the format, or use it on more than one device. DRM prevents them from doing that.

This annoys customers, me included. If I legally purchase a print book, I can do what I want with it. But if I buy an ebook, I'm stuck with using it on one specific device forever. I can't lend it out. I can't make a back-up copy. I can't put it on a different ereading device.

Companies try to explain their limitations by stating that users don't actually own the ebook they bought. They simply own a license to use it it.

Yeah, that explanation sounds fishy to me as well. Why should I have any restrictions at all on something I bought? Especially if the format changes?

I've bought the same movie as many as four times in different formats. VHS, laserdisk, DVD, and BluRay. I don't want to do the same with ebooks.

And I'm not the only one. A lot of customers fear--justifiably so--that if they buy the wrong ereader, the ebooks they buy for it will be worthless. HD DVD anyone?

So the thing for publishers to do, to encourage ebooks and ereaders and satisfy their customers, is to get rid of DRM.

I approached Amazon, the publisher for Shaken, about this issue. I really wanted this book to be released at a low price, and without DRM.

They listened to me about the low price. Shaken is coming out as an ebook for $2.99.

And they also listened about DRM.

I'm proud to say that Shaken will be DRM-free.

This is a very big deal. It's also the way of the future.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Piracy... Again

In the past 24 hours, four separate writers have emailed me to tell me my books are being stolen online.

Well... no duh.

The internet was created to share and distribute data. It's the whole reason the world wide web exists.

Of course some of that data is going to be copyright-protected work. If it can be digitized, it can, and will, be shared.

What continues to amaze me is how freaked-out authors are by this. The thought that someone is sharing their work--without paying for it--seems to evoke the same reaction as having someone hack your bank account and drain your life savings.

As you see by the recent picture, I'm being pirated. Google pointed to 8880 different sites where my work is being illegally shared. And these are just torrent sites. This doesn't count file lockers, which I believe account for many more downloads than torrents.

And yet, I'm not worried. I'm currently selling 220 ebooks per day, and that rate shows no signs of slowing down.

So everyone needs to take a big, collective breath, let it out slow, and stop worrying about illegal file sharing. Here are some reasons why.

1. Copyright is unenforceable in a digital world. Period. Exclamation point. At no time in history has any individual, company, or industry been able to stop file sharing. No country or law has been able to stop it. No technology has been able to stop it. Which brings us to...

2. People want to share files. There is this much file sharing going on for a reason. It's what people want. Fighting piracy is fighting human nature. This is a battle no one can win. Getting your undies in a bunch at the thought of someone copying your ebook is a waste of a good ulcer. Worry about some problem that eventually will be solved. Like world hunger. Or cancer. Or war. Those will be conquered before file sharing is.

3. There is ZERO reliable evidence that file-sharing hurts sales. A shared file does not equal a lost sale, any more than someone reading a library book is a lost sale.

My ebooks that I'm selling on Amazon and Smashwords are available for FREE on my website. As in "they cost zero dollars." And yet the ebooks keep selling. Clearly, being able to get something for free doesn't inhibit sales.

4. The more people who know who you are, the better. File sharing certainly helps spread brand awareness and name recognition, and it does so without any effort on your part.

Now we'll take some questions.

Q: But Joe, if everyone steals your ebooks, how will you make money?

A: Show me an artist bankrupted by piracy, and we'll revisit this question.

Q: No, seriously, in a future where everything is free, how will...

A: We're not in a future where everything is free. But I'll play the "let's pretend" game. Let's pretend that all ebooks are free. How will writers make money? The same way all media makes money. Advertising, merchandising, and licensing.

Q: But I don't want ads in ebooks.

A: I don't want ads in anything. But that's how capitalism works. Deal with it.

Q: Piracy is immoral, and illegal. We need to spread awareness, then people will stop doing it.

A: Sure... that's how religion was able to successfully put a halt to masturbation, pre-marital and extra-marital sex. And why the US successfully won the war on drugs.

Illegal doesn't matter. People do what they want to do. Immoral is subjective. And teaching people to behave in a way contrary to human nature DOES NOT WORK.

Q: If I create something, I should have the right to do what I want with it, and make money from it. Piracy takes that right away from me.

A: No it doesn't. The vast majority of piracy doesn't monetarily benefit the pirate. It's simply sharing, where no one makes a profit.

Q: That's not true. The sites that host piracy make a lot of money.

A: So does Google. So does any popular website. But those sites aren't making money off the illegal sales of your material. They simply facilitate sharing.

Q: Why doesn't anyone close those sites?

A: They try. Then new sites come up. It is unstoppable.

Q: But I don't want my writing to be shared.

A: Then don't write. Simple as that. JK Rowling has lost millions of dollars, because she refused to let Harry Potter come out in ebook form. Newsflash: you can get ebooks of all the Potter books from pirate sites. She didn't cater to her fans, so her fans catered to themselves. And if Rowling can't stop it, with her billions and armies of layers, you can't either.

Q: Piracy is theft, pure and simple.

A: That's not actually a question. And that's not actually true. First of all, the stealing of a physical object deprives the owner of that object, which is a monetary loss. Copying a file does not deprive the owner of that file--the owner still has it.

Q: It's the theft of intellectual property.

A: Okay, even though I think this point is pretty much useless, I'll play.

Have you ever read a library book? Recorded a song off the radio? Tivo'ed a show and zipped through the commercials? Lent a CD to a friend? Rented a movie or videogame? Bought a used book?

Guess what--you just experienced someone else's intellectual property without compensating the artist.

We could play "gray areas" and "where to draw the line" all day. It ultimately comes down to what constitutes ownership of intellectual property--actually owning a tangible object, or experiencing it sensually?

If the IP argument is that every time you sensually experience a work of art you should compensate the artist, then we're all thieves. But if stealing isn't about the experience, it's about the tangible object, then sharing intangible objects, such as data files, is not stealing.

Q: Look, it's stealing, no matter how you try to justify it. We need to create better technology to make sure that pirates can't steal.

A: There's a reason iTunes no longer uses DRM (digital rights management, the industry standard for copy protection.) Because PEOPLE DON'T WANT DRM.

Do you know who wants DRM? Artists and companies who don't know what the hell they're doing because they have knee jerk reactions to the word "piracy."

If you really fear piracy, educate yourself. Read about it. Learn how it's done. Hear both sides defend their positions.

If you have an ounce of brains in your head, you will quickly realize that piracy is always going to be here, that nothing can be done to stop it, that artists can still make money, and that you'd be much better off worrying about something you have control over, like writing more and better books.

And next time you see your ebook on a file sharing site, don't say, "Oh no! I'm being stolen!" Instead say, "Cool, I'm being read." That's what I do.


There are some dissenting opinions in the comments thread, so I just wanted to clarify and distill some of my thoughts. I'm not sure how I went from "don't worry about piracy" to being a full advocate for piracy, but I'd like to make it clear that I believe piracy is stealing. I simply do not equate it with stealing something tangible.

I'd also like to offer my final (for the moment) thoughts:

1. You CANNOT assume that a downloaded free book is a lost sale. It isn't 1 for 1.

In some cases, the pirate would have never bought the book in the first place.
In some cases, the pirate does buy the book, and other books by the author.
In some cases, the book languishes on a hard drive, never read at all.
In some cases, the pirate would have never even been aware of the book or the author without finding it on the file sharing site.

And so on.

2. It is impossible to prove the effect of file sharing on sales without actually interviewing every single pirate and having them answer truthfully about their sharing and buying habits.

3. Industries can lose money for many reasons. There is no study that clearly shows piracy is the only cause, or even proves it is part of the cause.

4. Piracy is big business for groups that make money studying and combating piracy. Fair, unbiased reports are hard to come by, especially when capitalism and politics are involved.

5. I have shown significant growth in the face of freebies and piracy. So have many others.
While it is impossible to prove a direct link between piracy and sales, showing rising sales in the face of piracy is a damn good indicator that piracy isn't harmful. Or if it is harmful, it isn't enough to impact growth.

This isn't opinion. It is fact. And it is repeatable.

You cannot prove piracy has harmed you. But I can prove it hasn't harmed me. Ergo, my argument is sound.

6. Don't worry about what you can't control. You'll sleep better.

7. The only way to combat piracy is with cost and convenience, which I have blogged about before.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kindle Teaser Chapters for Shaken by JA Konrath

Amazon has released the first few chapters of the seventh Jack Daniels novel, Shaken, for free.

If you're interested, just click on the cover for the link. You can also click HERE.

Though it is clearly marked as a TEASER CHAPTER, I have no doubt that some folks will feel ripped off because it isn't the whole book, and leave negative reviews.

I encourage you, my loyal blog readers, to download the chapter, read it, and leave a review. I'd appreciate it kindly. If this blog has helped you in the past, inspired you, motivated you, entertained you, or taught you something, then this is a great way to return the gesture.

If you don't have a Kindle, that's okay. Amazon has free Kindle applications, allowing you to read Kindle books on your PC, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry, and iPad. Android app coming soon.

Here's the link for free Kindle apps.

I encourage you to try these apps, even though they take a few minutes to set up. I have a Kindle, but also have Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for PC and I use them all. They're intuitive, simple, elegant, and very convenient.

Also, if you haven't seen it yet, I'm causing trouble at the Huffington Post.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shaken by JA Konrath Press Release

AmazonEncore to Publish Bestselling Author J.A. Konrath’s Upcoming Book

Amazon’s publishing imprint to release the next book in J.A. Konrath’s Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series, “Shaken.”

SEATTLE—May 17, 2010—, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced that AmazonEncore, Amazon’s publishing imprint, will release the newest book in bestselling author J.A. Konrath’s Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series, “Shaken.” The AmazonEncore Kindle edition of “Shaken” will be available in the Kindle Store October, and the print version of the book will be available in February 2011. For more information on AmazonEncore and upcoming titles, visit

“J.A. Konrath’s Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Daniels series is one built on a memorable female lead who is always surrounded by a lively cast of characters and action,” said Jeff Belle, Vice President, Books. “Readers have come to expect Konrath to up the ante with each installment, and ‘Shaken’ delivers the thrills. It’s finely crafted, full of high spirits and accessible to new readers but rewarding for longtime fans.”

“Shaken” is the seventh book in the Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series. Chicago cop Jack Daniels has chased—and caught—dozens of dangerous criminals over the course of her career. But she’s about to meet her match. When Jack wakes up in a storage locker, bound and gagged, she knows with chilling certainty who her abductor is. He’s called “Mr. K,” and more than 200 homicides have been attributed to him. Jack has tangled with him twice in the past, and both times he managed to slip away. Now Jack will finally have the chance to confront the maniac she has been hunting for more than 25 years. Unfortunately, it won’t be on her terms. In less than two hours, Mr. K is going to do to Jack what he’s done to countless others, and Jack is going to learn that sometimes the good guys don’t win.

J.A. Konrath is the author of the Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series that includes “Whiskey Sour,” “Bloody Mary,” “Rusty Nail,” “Dirty Martini,” “Fuzzy Navel” and “Cherry Bomb.” All six titles are available to purchase in both print and Kindle format on Konrath has also written under the names Jack Kilborn and Joe Kimball. He has published over a dozen books using Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (DTP), and has been featured in numerous articles and blog posts as an author who is making a living off of Kindle.

“My Kindle readers have been incredibly faithful fans and I’m excited to be able to release the Kindle edition of ‘Shaken’ several months before the physical version is available to purchase,” said Konrath. “Since it’s easier, faster and cheaper to create an e-book than it is a physical book, Kindle owners will get to read the seventh Jack Daniels before everyone else. The ability for authors to reach fans—instantly and inexpensively with a simple press of a button—is the greatest thing to happen to the written word since Gutenberg.”

Announced in May 2009, AmazonEncore is a program which identifies exceptional books and emerging authors using information on, such as customer reviews and sales data. Amazon then works with the authors to introduce or re-introduce their books to readers through marketing and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store,, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers. AmazonEncore is a brand for titles published by Amazon Content Services LLC.

Konrath will also be speaking at the Advance Your Career with DIY Publishing” panel during the DIY Authors Conference and Marketplace at the BEA Conference, Monday, May 24, 2010.


Okay, that's the official press release. Now I'll take some questions.

Q: You signed a print deal? I thought you weren't signing any more print deals.

A: I signed a print deal with a company that can email every single person who has every bought one of my books through their website, plus millions of potential new customers. I've never had that kind of marketing power behind one of my novels. I'd be an idiot not to do this.

Q: Aren't you going to piss off traditional publishers?

A: Traditional publishers had a chance to buy Shaken last year. They passed on it. Their loss. Their big loss. Their big, huge, monumental, epic fail.

Q: Is Amazon going to sell the Kindle version for a lot of money?

A: Amazon is smart, savvy, and pays attention to my suggestions. The Kindle version of Shaken is going to be released for $2.99. Here's the link if you'd like to pre-order.

Q: The Kindle version is coming out four months before the paper version. Why?

A: It's easier to release an ebook than a print book. Print books require printing, shipping, warehousing, pre-orders from bookstores, etc.

Q: So Shaken will be available in bookstores?

A: If they order copies, yes. We'll see how the Amazon sales department does. I know for sure many of my bookseller friends will get copies into their stores. But I have no idea if the book will actually be stocked in any of the chains or indies. And, frankly, I'm not concerned. I believe this is going to sell well regardless.

Q: What is this going to do for your self-published Kindle ebooks?

A: I imagine it will give them a boost. A big boost. :)

Q: I thought AmazonEncore only published reprints of self-published books by new authors, not original titles from known authors.

A: As far as I know, I'm the first "name" author to have a new, original work published. Several other ebook writers who have self-pubbed on Kindle are going to be released through AmazonEncore over the next year, but I thought it would make a bigger splash to write a book specifically for Amazon. I like making splashes.

Q: What kind of money is Amazon paying you?

A: I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can't discuss contract terms. But I will say that my terrific agents have been involved from the very beginning of negotiations, and have been essential in getting me a very favorable contract. I couldn't be happier.

Q: Is this going to be the last Jack Daniels book?

A: Nope. And if anyone is interested in getting a sneak preview of Jack's new villain, Mr. K, he's in the first part of SERIAL UNCUT.

Q: This is potentially a game-changer for the publishing industry.

A: A game-changer? I think it is downright historic. And I couldn't be happier to play a role in the revolution sweeping the publishing world.

There will be a clear-cut winner in this revolution. The winner will be the group that deserves it the most: The Readers. Together, Amazon and I are giving readers what they want--inexpensive, professional ebooks.

I've been saying for over a year that readers don't want to pay a lot for ebooks, and I've been posting lots of data and numbers to back-up that statement. I now have a publisher who agrees with me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top Ebook Questions

I'm getting creamed with email lately, mostly from writers asking questions about ebooks. I wish I had time to individually answer all of them, but I'm on deadline and can't. So here are the most common questions I'm getting, and my responses.

Q: Should I publish on Kindle?

A: That depends on your goals. Kindle and ebooks are no more a guaranteed success than any other type of publishing. If you want to be widely read, and have the potential for earning a lot of money, find an agent. If your agent can't sell your book, or if you have out of print books, I highly recommend self-pubbing on Kindle and Smashwords.

Q: I've tried to get an agent. They keep rejecting me.

A: Perhaps your writing isn't strong enough yet. Are you sure you want to release a book that may not be ready?

Q: How do I format for Kindle?

A: Contact Rob Siders at He's fast, reasonable, and very good.

Q: Who does your covers?

A: My artist is a friend of mine named Carl Graves. He's at cgdouble2(at) Tell him I sent you. Expect to pay around $300 for a cover, though the price fluctuates depending on your needs.

Q: What do I do to promote my Kindle ebooks?

A: I post at whenever I have a new release. That's pretty much all the promo I do. But I'm lucky to have a popular blog, and lots of folks who talk about me on the net. I also have a print backlist.

Q: Do you need to have a popular blog and a backlist to be successful on Kindle?

A: No. Many others have sold well without the platform I have. But you shouldn't ever compare yourself with other authors, or their sales. Your mileage will vary.

Q: What are the most important things to keep in mind when uploading a book to Kindle?

A: 1. A professional cover and professional formatting. 2. A good product description. 3. A price between 99 cents and $2.99. 4. A good book.

Q: Are ebooks going to take over traditional publishing?

A: Eventually. But print will be around for a while.

Q: I was offered a print deal. But you say I should keep my erights, but my publisher won't let me keep them. What should I do?

A: Right now, I'm selling about 230 ebooks a day. In July (when the royalty rate changes to 70%), I'll be making about $470 a day on Kindle. I won't give up my erights unless a publisher can pay me more than that. But these are my numbers. Your numbers may be different. So you have to set your own goals and follow your own path. But be very wary about signing away erights.

Q: What about iPad, Sony, Kobo, and Nook?

A: Use They'll upload to all of those, including Amazon, and take a small percentage. I have no idea how well I'm doing on these platforms yet, because Smashwords reports quarterly and I haven't gotten my numbers yet. I don't expect them to be anywhere near my Kindle numbers, but it's really early in the game. Who knows what the future holds?

Q: How did you get movie deals on your Kindle books?

A: The folks who bought the rights came to me. Then my agent made the deals. My agent is also currently working on selling foreign rights to my self-pubbed ebooks. Bottom line: get a good agent.

Q: Don't you think the ebook bubble is eventually going to burst?

A: If I maintain my current rate of sales, I'll earn $170,000 a year on ebook sales. That's just on the Kindle, and ebooks currently account for less than 6% of all book sales. What happens when ebooks account for 10%? Or 30%? What about platforms other than Kindle?

Eventually, there will be tens of millions of ereading devices out there, and I'm going to keep publishing new ebooks--many of them per year. I can envision a time in the future where I'm selling 500 or 1000 ebooks per day. If we predict that 40 million people will have ereaders in the year 2015, and I sold 1000 ebooks per day, it would take me over a hundred years to completely saturate that market. I'm not in any danger of maxing out my potential fanbase anytime soon.

Q: You seem to really be down on print publishers lately.

A: I love print publishers. But the traditional publishing industry is flawed, and I don't see any signs it will be fixed anytime soon. It used to be the only game in town. If you wanted to make a living as an author, you had to accept small royalties, no control, and a system dependent on others who may not have your best interests in mind. Not a healthy environment for an artist. While I've been extremely lucky in my career, I've also felt that I was at the mercy of a broken industry.

With ebooks, the majority of the money, and all the control, goes to the writer. That's incredibly liberating. I set my prices. I pick my titles. I choose the cover. I edit according to my taste. I'm not dependent on pre-sales or buy-ins. I'm not at the mercy of coop. I don't worry about returns. I don't have to tour, or advertise, or do all the crazy self-promotion I've done in the past. Distribution is no longer important. Going out of print is no longer a worry. I don't have to wait 12 to 18 months for the book I wrote to get into the hands of readers. I don't have to suffer because of someone else's mistakes. I don't have to try to fit a certain model. Past numbers don't matter. I'm not tied in to any contract. I get paid once a month, not twice a year. And I don't have to answer to anybody.

Ebooks truly are the greatest thing to happen to writers since Gutenberg.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Ark by Boyd Morrison

Here's a guest post from my friend, Boyd Morrison. Boyd's the one I approached when I first wanted to put my ebooks up on Kindle, and Boyd is the first to land a major print deal from his Kindle sales.


Many thanks to Joe for hosting me today. I wish I could kick things off by sharing with you the joke I told him the night we met at the very first Thrillerfest conference, but the story about Snowflake, Feather, and Piano just won’t work in the written form. You’ll have to get Joe to tell it to you the next time you see him in person.

This is a big day for me--the official release date for my first print novel, The Ark, a thriller in which former army combat engineer Tyler Locke has seven days to find Noah’s Ark to stop the end of the world. I qualify that milestone with the word “print” because The Ark was actually for sale last year for three months as an ebook on the Amazon Kindle store. And if I hadn’t self-published electronically, I wouldn’t be holding a print book of mine today.

Like Joe, I went through years of rejection before I got my first publishing deal. The Ark is the first of my books to be in print, but it’s the third thriller I wrote. The first was called The Adamas Blueprint, written during graduate school. I sent it to five agents, one of whom read it and gave me encouraging feedback. I was quite a novice in the publishing biz at the time, so I had no idea how good a one-out-of-five response rate was. I got discouraged and stopped sending The Adamas Blueprint to agents, much to my wife’s chagrin (she promised she’d see it published some day; I’ve since learned to listen to her).

But I still wanted to write thrillers, and at that time my wife was just applying for medical school. So we made our own deal. I would support her through nine years of pre-med, med school, and residency, and when she was a full-fledged doctor, I would get to quit my job and write full-time, with the goal of getting published in nine years.

Right on schedule in 2005 when my wife became an attending physician, I quit my job in the Microsoft X-Box group and started writing my second novel, The Palmyra Impact. When I finished the book, I sent it to agents, but I didn’t quit at five. I did stop counting the rejections at 50. At least five agents read the entire manuscript, but nobody wanted to represent it.

So I did what I would recommend to everyone who wants to make writing their job. I wrote another book. One huge mistake I’ve seen writers make is that they keep re-writing the same book over and over, year after year. My advice is let it go. Move on. You can always do something with it later, as Joe has found out by self-publishing all those books that no agent or publisher wanted.

In 2007, I completed my first draft of a thriller I called The Noah Covenant. That year, Thrillerfest inaugurated a new program called Agentfest, where agents looking for new thriller authors could listen to pitches from unpublished writers. This was before the speed-dating kind of sessions they have now, so I sat at a table with eight other authors and a well-known agent named Irene Goodman. She had primarily been representing romance and non-fiction and was looking to branch out into thrillers.

Irene went around the table and asked every person to pitch her their books. If you ever pitch your book at a conference, you need to have a pithy two-line hook that makes an agent want to know more. When Irene got to me, I was prepared with the following pitch:

A relic from Noah’s Ark gives a religious fanatic and his followers a weapon that will let them recreate the effects of the biblical flood, and former combat engineer Tyler Locke has seven days to find the Ark and the secret hidden inside before it’s used to wipe out civilization again.

As soon as I said “Noah’s Ark”, she wanted to read the first three chapters. I had completed my first draft, but it wasn’t polished yet, so I told her I’d send it to her as soon as I was finished buffing it up.

Two months went by, and she thought I’d forgotten about her. On the contrary, when the final draft was ready, she was among the first agents I sent it to. She received the chapters on a Monday and called me that afternoon because she was so excited about it. I was blown away. No agent had ever called me before. Irene asked if I could overnight the full manuscript to her. After I picked myself up off the floor, I casually said sure and then ran every red light to make sure I made it to the Fedex office in time.

Irene received the manuscript on a Tuesday. She offered representation on Thursday. I accepted on Friday. That was a good week.

We did some editing to flesh out the characters a bit more, and she made one major suggestion. She thought The Noah Covenant was too Ludlum-esque and suggested that we just call it The Ark. Short. Simple. I liked it, and we were ready to send it out to publishers in early 2008.

So now it was just a question of letting the offers roll in, right? Uh, no. No offers. Not one.

We got what I call “rave rejections.” Editors loved the premise, plot, and characters, but they just couldn’t see how it would fit into a crowded thriller market. We went to every major imprint that published thrillers, and all 25 publishers turned The Ark down. Any publishing hopes for it were effectively gone.

In early 2009, I was just completing my web site (, and I decided, why not try to build up a readership by giving my books away? I mean, they weren’t doing any good just sitting on my hard drive. At about that time, the Kindle 2 was about to come out, and Amazon was starting to let unpublished authors put their manuscripts up for sale on the Kindle store.

The Kindle store was really an afterthought on my part. I thought, why would readers buy my books on Kindle when they could download them for free from my website? Still, I decided to put all three books on the Kindle store just to see what happened. Irene was fully supportive of the plan. I had nothing to lose.

What I didn’t do was self-publish in print because I would have something to lose. From the beginning, my goal was to get a traditional publishing deal (remember this was in early 2009, which seems not so long ago, but the ebook market was still in its infancy, and making a living from self-published ebooks seemed like a pipe dream). If I had published print books, not only would it be a hassle I didn’t want to deal with, but it would also mean my novels would need ISBNs.

ISBNs are international standard book numbers that can be tracked by publishers. If my sales were low, publishers would be able to see that and might not even want to look at my next book. But with ebooks on the Kindle, you don’t need an ISBN. If my sales were bad, no one would ever have to know. And if they were good, I could use that data as evidence that readers were interested in my books.

I figured if people could find my books for free on my web site, I had to set a low price on Amazon. I priced my first book, The Adamas Blueprint, at the lowest price Amazon allows, $0.99, as an introductory offer, and my other two books at $1.99, marked down to $1.59 by Amazon. My only expense was the small fee I paid to a graphic designer to create professional-looking covers for my books.

I was armed with glowing blurbs from generous authors like James Rollins, Douglas Preston, Jon Land, and Chris Kuzneski, all of whom I had gotten to know through Thrillerfest. Amazon let me choose up to five categories under which I could list my books, so I maxed those out (technothriller, suspense, men’s adventure, action & adventure, and thriller).

In the second week of March 2009, I put my books on the Kindle store and on my web site. I had no plans for marketing or advertising. My plan was just to see what happened.

Within several days, readers on web discussion forums noticed the low price on my books (there were very few self-published authors on the Kindle at the time). Through the magic of Google, I was notified about these posts, and I went ahead and introduced myself to members of,, and the Amazon discussion boards.

Because the books were priced so low, those readers made an impulse decision to take a chance on an unknown author like me. Within a week, I started hitting a few of the genre top 100 bestseller lists.

As I wrote this blog post, I went back and looked at my email archives because I remembered that around this time, Joe got interested in what I was doing on the Kindle. It was early April, about a month after my books had gone on sale, and I had already sold 826 copies. Not bad for a newbie author after four weeks.

Joe emailed me to ask how I had gotten my books onto the Kindle because he had some unpublished books for download on his web site and wanted to see what would happen if he put them on the Kindle store (we were so green back then). I told him to go for it. If I could get those kinds of sales as an unknown, I thought he could move some serious numbers as a published author. Pretty soon, he had loaded all his unpublished books onto the Kindle store, and the rest is well-documented history.

I radically underestimated the power of the Amazon bestseller lists and word of mouth. My sales didn’t plateau as I thought they might. They kept going up. I reached the lower rungs of the technothriller bestseller lists through word of mouth and great reviews, but the rankings for my books just kept rising. My theory is this: Kindle device sales were exploding, and the first thing any new Kindle owner would want to do is download some books. So what did they do? They looked at the bestseller lists, saw my cheap books and good reviews, and downloaded them, in many cases all three at once. Because of these sales, the rankings increased, which kept them on the bestseller lists, and so on, creating a virtuous cycle.

In three months, I sold 7,500 copies of all three books together. The Ark was the number 1 technothriller for over a month, outselling books by Tom Clancy and Brad Thor, and sometimes my books occupied the top three slots in multiple genre lists. The Ark was even ranked in the top 25 thrillers overall. By June, my books were selling at the rate of 4,000 copies per month.

Because of the velocity of my sales, Irene was immediately able to take that data to publishers. She couldn’t go back to publishers who’d already rejected it (you don’t resubmit a manuscript unless they have specifically requested it), but Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, was just making a transition into the thriller market. They saw the reception for my books and offered me a deal. That phone call from Irene will always be one of the most amazing moments of my life.

As far as we can tell, I was the first author to get a Big Six publishing contract for a self-published Kindle book. Touchstone acquired The Ark and its sequel in a two-book deal. On the strength of that deal, my foreign rights agent, Danny Baror, was able to secure deals in fifteen foreign markets covering over 100 countries and territories (for those confused by that scenario, the UK is considered one market, but they publish the book in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and 75 other countries in English; same for Spanish worldwide rights—one market, many countries).

Since then, Pocket Books acquired the rights for The Adamas Blueprint and The Palmyra Impact, so essentially I have a four-book deal with Simon and Schuster. The Palmyra Impact will be released as a mass market paperback and ebook under the title Rogue Wave in December 2010, and The Adamas Blueprint will be released under a new title in December 2011.

So why did people buy the Kindle versions of my books instead of downloading them for free from my web site? First, readers may have only seen my books in the Kindle store and not even known they were on my web site. Second, at less than five dollars for all three books, it might not have been worth the hassle to download the books and then figure out how to get them on their Kindle in the right format. And third, some people just wanted to show their appreciation to me by buying them.

Would I recommend self-publishing ebooks? It depends what your goals are. If you want to see your book in print, as I did, I wouldn’t choose that path as your first option. I was in a unique limbo because I had an agent and blurbs from bestselling authors, but I couldn’t get a publisher. Once my sales jumped, my agent was able to act on it immediately. If I had to start the agent search from scratch at that point, it would have been much more difficult.

I don’t want to seem discouraging. Obviously, I did it, so it can be done, and it has been done by John Rector, among others. Some people may even forgo publishing print books altogether and make a living solely on ebooks, as Joe has proven possible. And if you are confident that your work is the best you can make it, electronic self-publishing might be the way to go, especially if your genre is a niche market.

Some might ask, if I was doing so well selling ebooks on my own, why did I give S&S those rights? Well, I wanted a print deal. And no publisher would sign a new author for print rights without getting the electronic rights as well. Stephen King might be able to swing it, but I couldn’t. So the choice for me was either to sign over electronic rights, or no publishing deal. It was an easy decision.

My goal was always to be traditionally published. I wanted to get my books in front of as many readers as possible, and while ebooks are the fastest growing part of the market, they still represent only 3-5% of all books sold. If I wanted to reach a broad market, I’d have to be in print, and the only way to get into most bookstores is through a traditional publisher. Plus, foreign rights, which represent a surprisingly large segment of the market, would have been virtually impossible to sell without a deal with a traditional publisher. And as much as I love ebooks, there’s still no substitute for holding a print book in your hands to make you feel like a real author.

Today, I’m lucky enough—and persistent enough—to hold a book in my hands and call myself an author.


Joe sez: I love Boyd's story. It's encouraging, uplifting, and has a great ending. But allow me to anticipate the question many of you are asking: Did Boyd really make the correct deal? Chances are, if he'd kept his books on Kindle, he'd be making several thousand dollars a month, and over $10k a month once the royalty rate changes in July.

That didn't seem possible back when Boyd signed with a publisher. Like all smart writers, he was looking to find the widest audience and make the most money, and that's what he did. Boyd was absolutely right when he signed those print contracts. I would have done the same.

But the last few months have seen some major changes in the publishing landscape. As someone said, "The happy ending to self-publishing success is landing a big print deal." That was true, earlier this year. But I'm not sure it's true anymore. I'm now thinking the happy ending to self-publishing success is getting filthy rich with zero stress. If you look through five years of this blog, you'll see the stress I went through in order to succeed, and that was tied directly with print.

To live the life of a writer, without the stress of self-promotion, worrying about numbers, or bending over backwards to please my publisher--that's worth a lot to me. It's liberating in ways I never dreamed of.

Ultimately, it comes down to goals. If you want the widest readership possible, you should sign with a print publisher. Print is still the dominant form of book media. You'll learn a great deal by working with agents, editors, publicists, and booksellers. And you can make a lot of money, and reach far more people than you could on your own.

But there are downsides. Lack of control, small royalties, and having your rights tied up for years when the ebook market is booming---these are all considerations to take into account.

I still believe the most important thing is the book, and that too many newbies try to publish before they're ready. Traditional publishing is still a good way to test if your book is good enough for prime time. It's impossible to judge that on your own.

However, unless the deal is significant, or has tangible benefits that I can't achieve on my own, I can't see ever signing with a print publisher again.

As a writer, you need to make a list of your priorities, and set your goals accordingly.

Also, as a reader of this blog, you need to buy a copy of The Ark. Boyd is an inspiration to all of us, and we should show him our support. Plus, it's a damn good read.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Flash Mobbing with Scott Nicholson

This is a guest post from my friend, thriller author Scott Nicholson, who is proposing an interesting experiment. Let's see if it works...


Can an indie author game the Amazon rankings with a flash mob?

In the old days, your paperback came out and you worked yourself into a froth, knowing you had 30 days to move the product off the store shelves before the next tidal wave of similarly disposable books rolled out. Your fever was fueled by the promise that your publisher would drop you if the next guy had better sales than you. Now all that has changed. With e-books, your window is as wide as you want and the bookstore is open 24 hours around the world and doesn't have the front entrance blocked by stacks of the same dozen bestsellers.

In my new novel DRUMMER BOY, a misfit kid is all that stands between an Appalachian mountain town and a ghostly Civil War troop, and he must choose between a world that doesn't want him and a world that wants him forever.

I'm thinking if I can get 15 or 20 sales in a single hour for DRUMMER BOY, it will crack the Top 100. So I picked Tuesday, May 11 at 3 p.m. EST as my flash mob hour, based on the phenomenon of a bunch of strangers pre-arranging to randomly meet at a given time and place. While flash mobs generally target physically locations, there's no reason for people to leave their computers for a digital flash.

Even if you don't buy the book, just logging into your Amazon account and clicking on the DRUMMER BOY page should cause some interesting effects on its "Recommendations" appearances. Since you're reading this on Joe's blog, you know he's been forward-thinking on ways to expand an e-book audience and outflank traditional publishers. I'll be happy to report back on the results of the experiment, including real numbers and rankings, which may help you decide to try a flash mob yourself.

Through some informal collective efforts, I've seen rankings go up for one-day blitzes, and if those sales could have been focused into a narrower time window, the results might have been been even more dramatic. Nothing sells books like being a bestseller.

Right now, the fun is in the experiment, but I am giving away the bonus zombie story "Dead Ink" or the autobiographical "Dead Cats and Rain" to people who buy the kindle ebook during that hour. I'll also be live-blogging it at, which mirrors on my Author Central page at Amazon.

If inspired, please blog, Tweet, and Facebook it. The book link is You can get a "Beat it at Three" banner by emailing hauntedcomputer AT

It's crazy, it's mod, and it's a free experiment in mass social-media psychology and book-pimping. And, if it's any enticement, it feels a little subversive.

Joe sez: For $1.99, buy the book. Let's see what this can do. Also, click on the "Tags Customers Associate With The Product" under the book description on the Amazon page. I've very curious how important tags are in a book's ranking.

If you miss the 3pm mob time, you can still buy the book afterward and keep the momentum going. This is a smart idea, and if only a dozen books sold in an hour is enough to crack the top #100, watch me steal this idea for my next two releases.

What are my next two releases, you ask?

They're two brand new, full length Jack Kilborn horror novels, coming to Kindle this month, and to print later this summer:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Is Print Almost Dead?

I was just contacted by a writer I met at a convention, who asked me for a quote. She's doing a blog about the ensuing death of the six major publishers. Here was my response:

Publishing has been wonderful to me. I've met many terrific, smart, generous people, and if the Big 6 are indeed going to go under, I will mourn their loss.

Also, when the multitude of editors who worked for those publishers are sadly let go--including the many who have rejected my work over the last twenty years--I want them to know that I'm making a freakin' fortune self-publishing ebooks they passed on, and am in need of a good freelance editor.

They can send their query letters to me c/o my website. I advise them to keep the letter to less than a page, and to include a SASE for my reply. If they don't hear an answer after six months, it's a good sign I'm not interested, so no need to follow up with an email or phone call.

Monday, May 03, 2010

And They Say That A Hero Will Save Us

Just got back from six days in Ohio, at the Romantic Times Convention.

As usual, I drank too much, said many inappropriate things, annoyed a bunch of people, and had a great time.

The conference was very similar to the dozens of others I've attended. Fans and writers interacted. The panels were pretty much same old same old. It was comforting, and familiar.

And yet, if you looked a bit closer, you noticed there was change coming.

I saw over a dozen Kindles. Two Nooks, two Sony Readers, a Kobo, and three iPads, all in the hands of readers anxious to evangelize them.

I heard, from a prominent industry professional, that mass market returns among the top publishers were at almost 80%.

The line for the ebook seminar was about a hundred yards long.

I heard from a librarian that their Overdrive program (lending ebooks) now accounted for 34% of their loans.

F. Paul Wilson is making just as much money on self-pubbed ebook sales as I am.

And four separate people came up to me and called me a hero.

The "hero" thing took me off guard. The first time it happened, I smiled politely and brushed it off, as I do all compliments.

By the fourth time, I began to realize how much this industry was really changing.

When I was a newbie, I was mystified by the publishing industry. I believed getting published meant being invited into some exclusive club. One with gatekeepers who had strange demands, and where control was out of a writer's hands.

But that dynamic is changing. In a big way.

With the Internet, writers are savvier than ever. They aren't nearly as naive as I was when I got started. They go to conventions, and read blogs, and talk to each other. Agents have blogs of their own, and they explain how this business works, and are happy to answer questions.

In other words, today's newbie is much more informed than newbies from even three years ago.

This makes me wonder.

At RT I talked to several name authors. People who sold more than I do. People who are now very anxious to get their backlists up on Kindle so they can start making money.

But I also talked to a lot of newbies. And these folks are gung-ho about completely forsaking traditional print publishing all together.

I'd always assumed that print publishers would begin to lose market dominance once ebooks took off in a big way, and they'd have to either restructure or die.

But now I'm predicting another death for them.

What is going to happen when authors stop sending their books to publishers?

If I know I can make $100,000 on a self-published ebook in five years of sales, and I have the numbers to back up this claim, why would any informed writer--either pro or newbie--ever settle for less?

The dominance of ebooks is coming. I have no doubt. But I always thought it was the readers who would lead the charge, based on cost and convenience.

Now I'm starting to believe that the ones with the real power are the ones who should have had the power since the beginning of publishing. The ones who create the content in the first place.

The authors.

It's a wonderful, dynamic, empowering time to be an author. For the first time, we can command our own ships.

We're the ones who write the books. We can reach readers without any gatekeepers at all. And we can make money doing it.

The print publishing industry's biggest fear shouldn't be the eventual dominance of ebooks over print.

Their biggest fear should be not having any books to publish in any format, because the authors all wised up.