Monday, June 28, 2010

Interview with Barry Eisler

For those who don't know, Barry Eisler is the second hardest working man in publishing; though his latest marketing effort for Inside Out is bigger than anything I've ever done before. I get exhausted just thinking about it.

Besides doing his usual 100+ bookstore tour (he has already signed at over 200 stores this year alone), Barry put together a thirty page marketing and publicity campaign that puts all but the most competent publicists to shame.

Inside Out, which goes on sale June 29, is ripped straight from today's headlines; CIA videotapes showing enhanced interrogation techniques get misplaced. Being former CIA himself, Eisler has an unique insight, and a solid opinion, on what our government has been doing post 9/11, and this book is an eye-opener.

But laid on top of the political subtext is a kick-ass thriller, filled with exotic locations, double-crosses, intense action, and over-the-top sex.

I was lucky enough to read Inside Out before it was published, and it’s a must-buy for anyone who likes mysteries. It's easily the best thriller of the year. It's also Barry's best book, which is saying something considering his oeuvre.

I caught up with Barry in NY at BEA, and hit him with a few questions.

Joe: I’ve noticed loyalty is a continuing theme for you, especially in a “sense of duty vs. desire for self-interest” way.

But rather than ask you about that, I was hoping you could post an excerpt from the big sex scene.

Barry: As long as people understand I’m only doing this under duress:

Somehow his hand had slipped under her robe. She pressed it tightly against her breasts. Her skin was warm and smooth. He could feel her heart pounding.

“You’re upset,” he said, his voice low, his throat thick. “I don’t know if… I don’t think we should…”

He stopped, not sure what he was saying, feeling like he was babbling. His hand moved. He felt a hard nipple against his palm. He wanted her so much it made him groan.

“No,” he said, panting. “No, no, this is a bad idea. A bad idea.” Somehow he pried his hands off her and sat up. “Paula, no.”

She sat up and turned to him. The robe had opened partly, and in his peripheral vision he could see the muscles of her neck, her breasts contoured in shadow, the skin smooth and dark against the white terry cloth. He was massively hard and knew he’d never done anything as difficult as not reaching out and tearing the robe off her and throwing her back on the bed and—

“Fuck you, then,” she said.

He shook his head, not comprehending. “What?”

She slapped him. Hard. His head rocked back and he saw a white flash behind his eyes. He was so stunned by it that she managed to slap him again before he could do anything to stop her, another powerful, stinging shot from the opposite side. A red haze misted his vision and he felt his scalp tighten with anger. She drew back her arm again, her hand balled into a fist this time, and as the punch came forward, he snaked an arm inside and deflected it. He pushed her onto her back and straddled her. She twisted an arm free and punched him in the mouth. She couldn’t get any leverage behind the blow but it smashed his lips into his teeth and hurt like hell.

“Bitch,” he said, turning his head and spitting blood. She tried to hit him again and he caught her wrists and pinned them to the bed next to her head…

And if you want to hear a bit more, here’s a video Random House Audio shot of me reading the scene while we recorded the audiobook in LA.

Joe: You aren’t allowed to talk about your time with the CIA, and I respect that. But I am curious if the Agency has to vet your manuscripts, and if so, have they ever made you cut anything?

Barry: When I was with the Agency, they taught me it’s better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission. I’ve tried to honor their teachings since I left.

Joe: I’m putting you in charge of the entire publishing industry. What will you do to improve it?

Barry: Dude… how much space do you have here for my answer?

Okay, in short, they need to do two things. First, they need to become competent at traditional aspects of the business, including: selecting the right title, based on automatic and acquired resonance; writing a good author bio; choosing an effective book cover; properly packaging the book. To do all this, publishers have to stop winging it and instead learn the principles behind branding, marketing, and selling. They also need to change their business culture into one where an understanding of these principles is passed on to the next generation of employees, who themselves need to be inculcated with the values of a business culture that rewards the dissemination of institutional learning.

Second, they need to understand the way digital is changing the business they’re in. Understanding piracy is not necessarily a zero-sum game, for example, as you’ve written about many times before. And understanding, again as you’ve repeatedly pointed out and demonstrated with actual data, that the way you fight piracy is through cost and convenience, not with lawsuits and DRM.

Joe: You earned a black belt in judo at the Kodokan in Japan. Do you still practice?

Barry: Sadly, no. I got pretty into Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for a while, but after two knee surgeries, I decided someone was trying to tell me something. These days I practice this and that mostly on my own, and when I can, train with some amazing people: Massad Ayoob, Tony Blauer, Wim Demeere, Marc MacYoung, Peyton Quinn, to name a few.

(Joe's side note: I've visited Barry's house, and he has converted his garage into a dojo. After a few belts of scotch, he insisted on showing me how it was possible to knock someone out in five seconds. And true to his word, he can do it. I'm never drinking with Barry again.)

Joe: I’ve seen you do lectures on personal security. Give me five of your best self-defense tips.

Barry: 1. Think like the opposition—if you were trying to do whatever it is that concerns you (kidnapping, mugging, ATM robbery), how would you do it? Where? When? What kind of victim would you be looking for? Thinking like the opposition will help you spot problems before it’s too late.

2. Use good situational awareness. When you’re home and the doors are locked, you can afford not to pay attention. When you’re in a zone you’ve identified as dangerous because you’re thinking like the opposition, you need to be more alert.

3. Spend some time at No Nonsense Self Defense. Bring a cup of coffee—you’ll be there a while.

4. Boxers shadow box. Think about why, and start practicing mental shadow boxing, what cops call when/then scenarios. “When this happens, I’ll do this.” Make this kind of mental training part of your physical training. The closer your physical training is to the real event, the better you’ll perform when it counts. If your physical training doesn’t include adrenal stress scenarios, your skills are apt to be unavailable when you need them most.

5. Read Personal Safety Tips from Assassin John Rain, Practical Martial Arts Tips from Assassin John Rain, and Surveillance/Countersurveillance.

Joe: Unlike a lot of authors who blog about writing and publishing, The Heart of the Matter is about politics and language, two of your passions. Is America changing? For the better, or for the worse?

Barry: I think the country is changing for the worse, though I comfort myself in the knowledge that every generation, and indeed the founders themselves, have come to a similar conclusion. Still, the Obama administration has now embraced and thereby rendered bipartisan policies that were rightly recognized as lawless and radical when Bush was doing them: torture including human experimentation; warrantless surveillance; imprisonment forever without charge, trial, or conviction. Indeed, now that Obama has claimed the right to order American citizens killed extra-judicially, he’s even gone beyond Bush, as he has in a number of other areas.

I think traditional civic notions about what democracy means and requires in America have finally been ground down by the permanent state of emergency Garry Wills describes in his excellent book, Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State—what journalist Mark Danner calls the State of Exception. The Cheneys have been effective (and the Democrats typically feckless in response) in persuading a significant part of the country that Torture Has Kept Us Safe (the opposite is true) so when the next attack comes (and it will come, because our current policies create more terrorists than they eliminate), the political foundation for a tighter embrace of torture, war, and other lawlessness will already be in place.

Which is of course what Inside Out is all about—plus the sex, of course.

Joe: Thanks, Barry.

Barry will be stopping by this blog over the next few days, checking the comments and answering questions (though he's on a whirlwind tour right now so it might take him a bit of time to respond.)

I'll also be chatting with Barry about some of these topics, live, and everyone is welcome to join in. Once we pin down a date and time, I'll post it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Konrath Kindle Stats

My horror ebook Endurance, written under my pen name Jack Kilborn, launched on Kindle on June 19th.

Amazon is working the bugs out of their new software, so my sales numbers for the 19th aren't currently showing up. I only have sales numbers for the last 60 hours.

So how have these last 60 hours been?

In the last 60 hours, at the new 70% royalty rate, Endurance has earned $1346 on Kindle.

Trapped, another Kilborn novel, went live today, joining the 15 other self-published ebooks I have currently available on Amazon.

In less than three days, I've earned over $2300. This is net, not gross. Money in my pocket.

I certainly don't expect these numbers to stay this strong. Eventually the sales of my two new books will slow down.

But my prediction from several months ago seems to be coming true. If I can sell 5000 ebooks a month (which I've already been doing without Trapped and Endurance) I'll make over $120,000 per year.

Now that I've learned that readers are interested in my new titles, I can continue to write ebooks for Kindle (and other ebook readers) as a full time job. But unlike the traditional print industry, which only wanted a book a year from me and then took 18 months to publish that book, I can now release several titles per year, as soon as they're ready to go.

Can every writer do the same thing I'm doing?

The Internet doesn't seem to think so. Everywhere I see people talking about this, they say I'm an exception, and no one else will have this same success.

As my friend Barry Eisler says, "The first-mover is, by definition, an exception." And there is a compelling school of thought about first-mover advantage.

But I'm not a company, and I'm not competing for dollars. I'm not cornering the Kindle market, or preventing others from succeeding. I'm not doing this in a supply-and-demand, limited resource business model.

In fact, I'm not the only self-pubbed writer in the Kindle Top 100. Others are doing the same things I am, and in some cases, doing better.

People believe I'm an exception because they don't know (or don't want to hear) about others doing the same thing. I'm the only one they've heard about, so I'm a fluke. I must be. I have to be. Otherwise, it doesn't fit their preconceptions.

Here's what I think is going to happen:

Those with closed minds are going to keep calling me an exception, because that will make them feel better.

Those with lofty dreams will try to do the same thing I'm doing, and the majority won't do nearly as well. Some may fail miserably.

But some won't fail. Some will follow my example, and do even better than I'm doing.

In the meantime, NY Publishing will continue to alienate both authors and customers with low royalties and high ebook prices and their dedication to print.

By the end of this year, we'll see $99 ereading devices. This technology is going to take over, just like mp3 players replaced the traditional stereo.

Some writers will understand this, take a shot, and make some money.

Some will wait around and see what happens.

Now, I certainly don't want to be responsible for a bunch of crummy writers flooding the Kindle market with crap. And I certainly don't want to take the blame if a writer voids his print contract in order to self-publish, and then sells poorly.

In fact, I don't want to tell any writer what they should or shouldn't do.

You need to set your own goals, learn as much as you can, and weigh the pros and cons. Don't blindly follow me, or blindly follow anyone. Don't think you can do as well as me, or as well as anyone else. You should never compare yourself to other writers.

There are no easy paths to success. It's always about hard work and getting lucky.

That said, I just rechecked my numbers. In the forty minutes it has taken me to write this blog post, I made $43 on Kindle.

It would take a great deal of money before I ever signed a print deal again. And that liberation is easily the most wonderful feeling I've ever had in my career.

Your mileage may vary.

JA Konrath Releases Two Original Kindle Thrillers

Time to put my money where my mouth is.

For twelve years I struggled to break into print, writing nine unsold novels, garnering over 500 rejections. When I finally landed a three book deal in 2002, it was enough money for me to write full time.

Since then, I've had six more publishing contracts. I'm incredibly fortunate, and the traditional publishing world has been good to me.

Then this Kindle thing came along. At the request of readers, I put some of my early, unpublished books on Amazon, as well as some of my previously published short stories.

And I began to make money. A decent amount of money.

Last month (May 2010) I made over $4800 on Kindle. If I sell the same amount of ebooks (6800) in July, when the Kindle royalty rate goes to 70%, I'll earn $13,872. In a single month.

That averages to over $160,000 a year, just on Kindle, just on my self-pubbed ebooks. It doesn't include the ebooks I've put on iTunes, or on, which uploads them to Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iPad.

And this number is based on ebooks being less than 8% of the entire book market. What will happen when ebooks become 10%? 20%? 50%?

Traditional publishing has been wonderful to me. I've worked with some terrific people, done a lot of interesting things, and sold a lot of books.

But the times are a'changin'. And my goal has always been to make a living as a writer. That means going where the money is.

So now, my alter ego Jack Kilborn is going to take the plunge into this brave new world.

Of the many ebooks I've self-published, only a few have been original content specifically created for the market. My early novels (The List, Origin, Disturb, Shot of Tequila) were written prior to me landing my first book deal, and I was never able to sell them. My collaborations and short story collections (Suckers, Planter's Punch, Floaters, Jack Daniels Stories, Horror Stories, Crime Stories) were all previously published in various limited editions, magazines, and anthologies.

The two things I've specifically written for Kindle: Truck Stop and SERIAL UNCUT have been performing pretty well. Better, in fact, than all of my collections and some of my novels.

So I've been wondering what would happen if I self-published an original Kindle novel.

Now I'm taking the plunge. In fact, I'm double-dipping. As far as I know, I'll be the first mid-list writer to self-publish ebooks on Kindle that I could otherwise sell to Big NY Publishing. Both of these novels had offered contracts by major publishers, which I passed on.

But first, some background.

In 2007, I wrote a horror novel called AFRAID under the name Jack Kilborn. I signed a two book deal with a major publisher.

The second book in that deal, TRAPPED, was excerpted in the back of paperback editions of AFRAID. But after reading the final manuscript, my publisher passed on TRAPPED. Even though I wrote two different versions to try to please them.

Setting both versions of TRAPPED aside, I wrote another Kilborn novel to fulfill the contract. This one was called ENDURANCE. My publisher liked it but wanted me to make some changes.

Having been down that road before, I refused.

A year ago, this would have devastated me. But now, I'm thrilled.

We parted amicably. I'm grateful for the opportunities they gave me, and hope they continue to earn a lot of money on AFRAID.

This leaves me with two complete, brand new horror novels, ready to be read by the fans who have been emailing me nonstop for over a year.

TRAPPED is the most intense thing I've ever written. ENDURANCE is the most frightening thing I've ever written. These books are going to scare the hell out of people, and I know I could find a good print home for them.

But that would be pretty hypocritical of me, wouldn't it? For the past year, I've been posting my Kindle numbers, stating how I can earn more money on my own than I could with a publisher.

So that's what I'm going to do.

TRAPPED and ENDURANCE are now available on Soon they'll be available on other ereaders, and this summer they'll also be available in print through Amazon's CreateSpace program.

After years of pleading with authors not to self-publish and use Print on Demand, I'm going to self-publish and use Print on Demand.

The publishing climate is vastly different than it was even a year ago. I believe the overwhelming majority of my sales will be ebooks, and I'm making print versions available for those still committed to dead trees. Once upon a time, the only way to make money as an author was if your books were on bookstore shelves. Now, print is the subsidiary right. Print is extra money, not the main money.

Naturally, I'll also be releasing my other ebooks as POD versions. There is simply no reason not to.

So here are the covers, links, and descriptions to my two new novels. If you liked AFRAID, or my Jack Daniels books, you'll enjoy these. My peers have read them, and think they're among my best books. And they're only $2.99 each.


It was supposed to be a harmless camping trip. Six wayward teenagers who'd run into trouble with the law, and their court-appointed guardians, Sara and Martin Randhurst. Three nights on a small deserted island off of Michigan's upper peninsula. A time to bond, to learn, to heal.

Then Martin told a campfire story about the island's history. Of the old civil war prison that was supposed to be there, and the starving confederate soldiers who resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Everyone thought it was silly. They even laughed when Martin pretended to be dragged off into the woods.

But Martin didn't come back. And neither did Sara when she went in search of him.

Then the laughter stopped.

The group quickly began to realize that this deserted island wasn't so deserted after all.

And perhaps Martin's silly story had more truth to it than anyone thought.

What's the most horrifying thing you can imagine?

This is a hundred times worse...

TRAPPED by Jack Kilborn
It starts where other horror ends


The bed and breakfast was hidden in the hills of West Virginia. Wary guests wondered how it could stay in business at such a creepy, remote location. Especially with its bizarre, presidential decor and eccentric proprietor.

When the event hotel for the national Iron Woman triathlon accidentally overbooked, competitor Maria was forced to stay at the Rushmore. But after checking into her room, Maria soon suspected she might not be alone. First her suitcase wasn't where she put it. Then her phone was moved. Then she heard an odd creaking under the bed. Confusion quickly turned to fear, and fear to hysteria when she discovered the front door was barred and the windows were bricked over. There was no way out.

One year later, four more female athletes have become guests of the Inn. Will they escape the horrors within its walls? Or will they join the many others who have died there, in ways too terrible to imagine?

ENDURANCE by Jack Kilborn
Are you brave enough to finish?


So there you have it. Mid-list author who gained notoriety through self-publishing completely forsakes traditional print.

Except, I haven't actually forsaken print.

I've recently signed two deals.

One is with a major publisher for a major amount of money. Details soon.

The other is with AmazonEncore, who is publishing my new Jack Daniels novel, SHAKEN.

It's going to be one heck of a year...

Now I'll take some questions.

Q: Which version of TRAPPED is on Kindle? The uncut first draft, or the different rewrite?

A: Both of them. Though I prefer the rewrite, the original had many things I liked but was forced to cut. So, taking advantage of ebook technology, I released a "Special Edition" and include both versions for the same $2.99. That way, people can decide for themselves which one they prefer.

So there are several different characters, different scenes, and different endings. If you've ever wanted to see an author's first draft, here's your chance.

Q: So you're saying you chose to make these ebooks? It sounds like your publisher rejected them both.

A: I had offers for both of these books. I passed. I’m self-pubbing because I’ll make more money without a publisher, not because I couldn't get a publisher.

AFRAID sold 50,000 copies, and has earned around $30k. I can make that selling 15,000 copies of a Kindle title I uploaded myself.

Currently, I have two self pubbed novels, The List and Origin, that have averaged 17k sold in a little over a year.

TRAPPED, which is coming out this week, had a print offer from another major publisher after the first one rejected it. I turned it down.

ENDURANCE was under contract. I could have made some editorial changes and had it traditionally published. I’ve made editorial changes on ALL of my traditionally published books. That’s how the biz works. The editor asks for changes. The writer makes them. That's why there are two versions of TRAPPED.

But this time, the writer said “no”. And after I pulled it, I didn’t have my agent shop it around. I went straight to Kindle.

That’s two bona fide print deals, me saying “no” to both.

Q: ENDURANCE is currently the #44 bestseller on Kindle. Why did you release TRAPPED a few days later?

A: I tried to release them both at once, but TRAPPED (ironically) got trapped in Amazon DTP, and took several extra days to publish. It will be interesting to see how TRAPPED does, because it doesn't have any of the hoopla that ENDURANCE has gotten.

Q: Why are you still taking print deals if you believe ebooks are the future?

A: I'd be a fool not to take the AmazonEncore deal. They're giving me a bigger promotional push than I'd ever gotten for a novel before. Plus, it will be nice to see another Jack Daniels novel in print, so fans can get a dead tree version if they prefer.

As for the other, secret deal, you'll understand when I release the details. Again, I would have been foolish to turn it down.

That said, I'm currently working on a new novel exclusively for Kindle, and also have several other Kindle projects in the works.

Q: A lot of people are talking about you and everything you're doing with ebooks. How does that make you feel?

A: It's better to be talked about than not talked about, but for me, it's always been about the writing. Ebooks are a wonderful opportunity for writers to reach readers, and I think it's cool that writers are figuring out there are alternatives to NY Publishing, which is flawed and not the easiest industry to break into.

I never wanted to be the poster boy for ebooks. I'm just trying to make a living. And if other people follow my example and make a few bucks, I'm happy for them.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Brave New World

For all of my adult life, I wanted to be a writer. That meant finding a publisher.

So I wrote ten novels--over a million words--and those novels garnered more than 500 rejections from top editors in NY. Eventually, after twelve years of struggle, I landed my first publishing contract.

Since that point, I've been determined to succeed, and have worked pretty hard to sell my books.

Then, last year, some fans asked me to put my early, rejected books on Kindle so they could read them on their cool new device. I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

Fourteen months later, I've sold over 52,000 ebooks, and will earn over $100,000 this year on Kindle sales alone. On books that NY Publishing rejected.

So now I've taken the next, logical step. ENDURANCE (now available on Kindle for $2.99) is being released exclusively as a self-published ebook.

I've gone from desperately wanting to be accepted by NY Publishing, to completely ignoring NY Publishing.

In 2007 I wrote a horror novel called AFRAID under the pen name Jack Kilborn, and that landed me a two-book deal. My publishers wanted a book similar in tone to AFRAID, so I pitched them the idea for a book called TRAPPED and wrote the first few thousand words. They placed an excerpt for TRAPPED in the back of copies of AFRAID, hoping to release the book in the winter of 2009.

Unfortunately (for me), my editors hated TRAPPED when they read the whole thing.

Personally, I liked it. The novel was more intense than AFRAID, and probably a little meaner and gorier (maybe more than just a little), but I believed it kept to the same theme and tone of the first Kilborn book. Namely, regular people in a dark, confined setting, confronted with an overpowering, horrible threat.

Since I wanted to get paid, I rewrote TRAPPED according to the editorial notes I’d been given. I don’t believe it made the book better, but it did make it different. I toned down a bit of violence and sex, added a bit more violence in other areas, changed a few characters, cut a sub plot, and wrote a new ending.

My editors hated the new version as well. So I put TRAPPED away, figuring it would sell eventually, and instead wrote ENDURANCE, the third Jack Kilborn book in my two-book contract.

My editors liked ENDURANCE, but wanted me to make some significant cuts. Having been down that road before, I told them no, and I pulled ENDURANCE from publication.

So now I had two intense horror novels, ready to publish. All I had to figure out is what to do with them.

During the 18 months I’d been working on TRAPPED and ENDURANCE, I’d turned some of my older books (written under my real name, J.A. Konrath) into ebooks. To my surprise, they sold like crazy. Rather than pursue traditional print publication, I decided to do it alone and release TRAPPED and ENDURANCE myself. (TRAPPED actually did have an offer from a major publisher, which I turned down. It will be available on Kindle this week.)

I like ENDURANCE. So much, that I didn’t want to see it diminished by what I felt were unnecessary edits. Though it isn’t as horrific as TRAPPED (I don’t know if I’ll ever write anything as horrific as TRAPPED ever again) there were certain creepy elements to this book that weirded me out. In fact, the whole reason I wrote this book was because of an idea I had while on vacation.

We were renting a cabin in the woods in northern Wisconsin, and I was sitting on the bed when a disturbing thought hit me. What if the cabin’s owners were watching us, right now?

In fact, if you were a psychotic voyeur, it would be pretty easy to rig your house with hidden passages and peep holes, and then rent it out to unsuspecting guests.

I immediately became paranoid, and looked at the closet, the bathroom, the stairs, wondering if I was being spied on.

Then I heard something creak under the bed.

Could someone actually be under there?

No one actually was. But I kept thinking about awful it would be to stay in someone else’s house and suddenly realize someone was under your bed.

Of course, what could be even worse than that?

Someone under your bed, and you don’t have legs so you can’t run away...

I have a feeling NY Publishing will be watching this to see how the ebook does. While huge sales would be nice, I'm not really concerned. I sold over 50,000 copies of AFRAID, and earned around $30,000. I can earn the same amount on ENDURANCE selling only 15,000 copies. It may take a year or two, but I'm pretty sure I'll hit that goal. In fact, over the course of a decade, I'm pretty sure I'll sell a lot more than that.

And the coolest part it, I've done it on my own.

I've spent eight years working with publishers to make my books profitable. I've signed at over 1200 bookstores. I've sent out over 100,000 newsletters. I've mailed 7000 letters to libraries. I've toured 39 states. I've been to over a hundred conferences, conventions, and book fairs. I've blogged and MySpaced and Twittered and Facebooked before anyone in NY Publishing even knew what those things were.

As a result, I've sold a fair amount of books, made a fair amount of money, but never got that big push that would have helped me reach a wider audience. Without coop placement, and discounting, and wide distribution, my books have sold as well as they could have.

But the paradigm is changing. Now writers don't need coop and discounting and distribution. Now I don't need to tour for 68 days straight, or spend all of my free time friending people on social networks. Now I don't have to worry about what the sales reps or big box buyers think. Or advertising, or returns, or bi-annual royalties.

I can reach readers directly. No more gatekeepers. No more middlemen. No more decision by committee. No more people telling me what I can and can't do. No more boundaries. No more restrictions.

For writers, this is liberation. We can make more money selling far fewer books. And we don't have anyone holding us back.

This is good, and I'm going to be interested in seeing how many other authors do the same thing I'm doing.

My guess? Within the next few years: almost all of them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Time Is Now

I'm releasing two original novels on Kindle next week.

I was thinking about the perfect time to release these novels. After all, print novels have release dates. Shouldn't ebooks?

During my reverie, I realized something pretty important: The term "release date" is now archaic and no longer applies.

Print books traditionally have a coop period--which is a length of time the publisher pays the bookstores to keep them on the shelves. Then, once the period ends, most or all of the unsold books get returned.

If you're lucky and have sold enough copies, or your publisher made a deal with the bookstore, a few books will stay on the shelf for a while. But most of the time, they won't.

This meant release dates were important. Both competition, and timing, played a role in when a book came out. So did pre-publication buzz. Galley copies needed to be sent to blurbers and reviewers. There needed to be a press release, and perhaps a laydown date for the book launch.

But with ebooks, none of this matters.

As I mentioned, I'm releasing two original novels on Kindle next week. They're Jack Kilborn horror books, called TRAPPED and ENDURANCE.

This is a big deal for me, because both of these books had traditional print offers. The big boys in NY offered me $$$ to publish these. But I turned them down, and I believe I'm the very first author to do that and self-publish as ebooks instead.

I was considering waiting until the 70% royalty rate comes into play before releasing these books. Amazon is switching from 35% to 70% on July 1. On the surface it makes sense: wait until I can get more money per copy.

But beneath the surface, it makes no sense at all to wait.

I've really struggled with wrapping my head around this concept, so let me try to explain.

My ebooks have been steadily selling more copies each month, since April 2009. This is not how it works in print publishing. In print, you sell a lot the first two months, then sales drop off. In a print model, it would make sense to wait, because I'd make more money if I waited until the royalty rate got better in July.

But in the case of ebooks, if I can count on each month outperforming the previous month, then the longer I wait, the more money I lose.

This is no longer a case of only X number of books being sold. Ebooks don't go out of print. They can technically keep selling forever.

The sooner "forever" begins, the more money the author can earn.

Get it?

If I wait until next month to publish these, I'll miss two full weeks of sales. Money that could be in my pocket.

Why would I defer that until later?

Yeah, I'm still struggling with the logic here myself. My head is so stuck in the old ways, that these new ways still don't make much sense.

Except that they do make sense.

Here's an analogy, to help better explain it.

Let's say you want to get some free electricity, so you build a windmill. Next month is when the high wind season begins, and once that happens, you'll be getting twice as much electricity as you would if you built it now.

Does that mean you should wait a month to build the windmill? No, because you're missing out on all the wind--and electricity--that you could be getting right away.

In this scenario, strange as it seems, waiting is a loss.

So when should you list your book?

A soon as it's perfect and ready. Waiting for a future date means losing sales.

As the walrus said, the time has come. Each day you wait, is a day you could have made some money.

So what exactly are you waiting for?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Writer's Serenity Prayer

The harder I try, the more I do.

I can't help everyone, and I have to realize that it isn't my job to. People looking for easy answers aren't ever going to get what they desire.

No one is entitled to anything. There's work, and luck, but deserve is a dangerous, unhealthy word.

I should never compare myself to others. It's better to compare what I did today with what I did yesterday. Then I can plan for tomorrow accordingly.

If I'm not making mistakes, it means I'm not taking chances.

The only aspect of my career that I have complete control over is my writing. If I don't love that, I should do something else with my time.

Everyone has an opinion. All opinions are valid. But that does not mean all opinions have to matter to me.

I can take time off and the world won't stop spinning.

The worst day spent writing is better than the best day doing anything else. Writers write. Drama queens complain.

I know that I probably won't change your mind. But that isn't my goal. My goal is to learn enough, try enough, and experience enough, so I can change my mind and be able to defend that change.

If I can live my dream and make a buck doing so, I have no right to be anything other than happy.