Friday, March 25, 2011

Depression and Writers

I get a lot of email, and though I try to read it all, I can't reply to everyone.

Here's one I replied to, reprinted with the author's permission.

It think it's important for reasons I'll disclose afterward.

So here's Kiana Davenport...

"Dear Joe Konrath...this may never reach you. You must have millions of fans. Nonetheless, I need to write and express my gratitude to you.

My last three novels were pretty good sellers. Scribners, Ballantine, you know the drill. A few years ago, sales dropped drastically, no more royalties, the recession hit and I started living on my meager savings. Other than that all I own are 3 acres of land here, which in this market no one wants to buy. I don't even own a house.

I studied Creative Writing at university, but for years I was a fashion model in NYC, lived it up and never saved a dime. Then I went back to writing, prepared to scale down and live modestly. But as you know, things got even worse with the economy. It took me four years to write the most recent novel for which a NY publisher offered me less than HALF my previous advance. A depressing figure, to be paid out in fourths through 2013! By then I could be dead, and it won't even pay my bills. I was so desperate I accepted. Now I have to wait another year for the book to be published.

Agents and editors were admitting we're in a 'dying industry.' With dwindling publishers, rock-bottom advances, I didn't see any reason to write anymore, which is what I LIVE for.

Unemployment is staggering here, I couldn't find a job. I sold my good clothes and jewelry, made out a will leaving the land to my daughter. I felt I'd rather die than scrape and starve. (I'm a good swimmer, I'm half Hawaiian, I know how to swim to exhaustion, then unconsciousness.) If I couldn't make a living at what I love to do - publishers and bookstores folding left and right - I felt I'd rather pack it in. I was dead serious, I've never been afraid to die. Its a Hawaiian thing - we always have one foot in the other world.

At first friends thought I was kidding, but then they saw me making plans, they watched me begin to withdraw. Then one day a friend came to my house and said two words. "JOE KONRATH." That's what she said. "This man is going to save your life."

I had never heard of you. She forced me then and there to sit down and start reading your blogs.

I read for two days straight.

You were my epiphany. You were telling me there was life beyond print publishing. In fact a WHOLE NEW WORLD in digital. You led me to the revolution. I started reading your books. So far I have loved SHOT OF TEQUILA and TRUCK STOP. They're tough, fast-paced and humorous, and now and then poetic. I'm still reading.

Most importantly, within one month, following your example, I had uploaded onto Kindle my first indie ebook, HOUSE OF SKIN - PRIZE-WINNING STORIES by Kiana Davenport. All the stories I could never get published in NY as a collection. I kept my price low as you suggested, $1.99. Reader reviews have all been 5 stars.

Its selling well. I may never be a bestseller like you, but I am a HAPPY WRITER AGAIN. In fact, I'm ecstatic. My book is mine. My cover is mine. I can write what I feel, not what a publisher demands. I'm now working on my second collection of stories and a new novel. I am digital for life!

Joe, I hope you can go to Kindle and check out HOUSE OF SKIN...I owe it all to you. I kid you not, you saved my life. I am your fan, and have never said that to anyone, not even Norman Mailer. I read everything you write, I take your advice. I thought your recent interview with Barry Eisler was brilliant, shocking and prophetic as hell. I have recommended it to everyone, everywhere, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I'm just building a website and will highly recommend you there as well.

Again, I want to say a million Mahalos! Thanks! For giving me back my deep joy in writing, and my life. I so glad I didn't take that swim. With my alohas from Hawai'i..."

Joe sez: Well, first of all, I'm not deserving of her gratitude. I'm just a writer sharing what I've learned, which is something we all should be doing. I don't have millions of fans, and though she said kind things about my writing, having bought and read a few selections in HOUSE OF SKIN she's much better than I am.

And of course I didn't actually save her life. Kiana did that all by herself. It's a nice thing for her to say, but it was her own inner strength that kept her going, not the stuff I blog about.

As you might expect, I was humbled, touched, and ultimately concerned by this letter. Artists by nature are temperamental, and depression is common in this business.

When Hyperion dropped my Jack Daniels series, I was pretty much a mess. I'd worked like a dog to make sure those books sold. And they were selling. Still are. But I was counting on that next advance to feed my family, and when it didn't come I felt devastated. Worthless. Helpless. It made no sense (still doesn't) and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.

There are few worse feelings than trying your best and it not being enough.

I wound up getting another contract a few months later, for much less money. And I kept a brave face in public, downplaying how badly I felt.

I know for a fact I wasn't the only one who had to go through something like that.

Over the years, I've lost count of the conversations I've had with writers who had similar experiences to Kiana and me. Tales of rejection. Of bad luck and stupid publisher decisions. Of getting the shit end of the stick, over and over and over.

It got me thinking. For every writer popping open the champagne because they just got a new deal, there are dozens who have gotten screwed. And no doubt some of them thought about swimming out to sea. While my depression never got that severe, I certainly wouldn't want to relive those dark, depressing, frightening months without a publishing contract.

But I never have to feel that way again. None of us do. We don't have to rely on a gatekeeper's "yes" or "no" to dictate how we feel about ourselves. We don't have to put all of our eggs into the legacy publishing basket anymore. Hell, we don't have to put any eggs in there at all.

For the first time ever, writers have a choice.

Choices are empowering. Having the ability to control our futures, even with something as simple as self-publishing an ebook, means we aren't helpless anymore.

That's a very good thing.

Kiana's latest advance for her upcoming novel is a shame. And though she says her self-pubbed ebook collection is selling well, her current rank is so-so.

HOUSE OF SKIN is $1.99. I already bought a copy.

I'm asking you to buy a copy as well.

Let's see how low we can get her Amazon ranking. Right now it's #134,555.

I'd really like to see it crack the Top 1000.

Help me spread the word.

298 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 298 of 298
Anna Elliott said...

One more sold. Best of luck, Kiana! And thank you to Joe and everyone else who makes this blog so useful.

Don RN said...

# Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #189 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

* #2 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Erotica
* #28 in Books > Romance
* #90 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Genre Fiction

Amazing response!

Echoing others -- please put up on Nook!!
Don

ezbeanz said...

I predict the book will be in the top 100 sometime tomorrow. Amazing!

Eliza Gayle said...

A very moving post. I am grabbing my copy now.

ezbeanz said...

And it's erotica...even more amazing.

J.M.Cornwell said...

This is how communities are formed and how much power they have. It is good to know there are decent guys like Joe Konrath who aren't afraid of the competition and are more than willing to pull out all the stops and promote other writers. Thank you, Joe, for being such a mensch.

J M Cornwell
Among Women

Mark Asher said...

Kiana, I have a rather dumb question: You seem like literary fiction from the descriptions, but you're in the erotica category. Could you explain that?

(And yeah, I know, I could buy and figure it out for myself if I bought it, but I really can't right now for reasons I don't want to go into on a public forum. Joe turned off anon posting.)

Archangel said...

here you go, Kiana, at 2:36 am Mountain Time where I live: you are
#30 in Books > Romance
#2 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Erotica
#2 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Erotica

In't that amazing?! Also read your bio at Amazon. Gosh, you have really worked hard.

I'll just put a part of your bio here so others can see what an accomplished person you are: "A graduate of the University of Hawaii, she has been a Bunting Fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University, and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her short stories have won numerous O. Henry Awards, Pushcart Prizes, and the Best American Short Story Award, 2000. Her novels and short stories have been translated into twenty-one languages. She lives in New York City and Hawaii."

There must be a fascinating story to going from high fashion model in NY to Creative Writing program, then your teaching at Harward and a National Endowment for the Arts $ grant. Yes? Hope someday you write about that too.

p.s. I love your mother's name, so lyrical.

dr.cpe

Tara Maya said...

I've only read the first two stories, but I would not call either erotica. Literary, definitely.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (US)
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (UK)

Brett Battles said...

IMUA. I think that should be our rallying cry! Got my copy, and can't wait to read it, Kiana.

IMUA, everyone! IMUA.

asphodelia said...

Duly bought the book! I don't even have a Kindle yet but will read it on my iPod Touch :-)

billie said...

I bought my copy yesterday morning, followed the rankings off and on all day, and read the first story last night. Gorgeous!

And today what a lovely comment from you, Kiana. This is such an inspiration. Thanks to Joe AND to you, and of course to everyone who discovered a new (to some of us) and terrific writer today.

IMUA!

asphodelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lexy Harper said...

Joe, why don't you just run for the presidency? Your word is like Law!!!

I took a screen print of Kiana in Movers and Shakers, a sales increase of 71,328%: a move from position 129,999 to 182. I felt the need to document the moment.

This really is a beautiful story, and a scary and sad one too. Kiana is an obviously talented writer and to think that all her talent could have been gone in the blink of an eye is unthinkable!

My writing goals were tiny; I self-pubbed with BookSurge (now CreateSpace) Dec'05 and hoped to make my money back. I did that within about nine months and was quite pleased with myself. The money has trickled in over the years, enough for great holidays and special treats but not much else.

Then the whole Kindle thing happened and although I didn't publish until very late Aug'10 because I'm based in the UK, suddenly someone who thought she could never give up her day job is seriously contemplating doing just that! My books are not bestsellers, but I sell them at $2.99 and $0.99 based on what I’ve read mainly on your blog and they sell steadily.

I'm so glad I found you early in my Kindle writing career, Joe, my dear (forgive the familiarity - I follow you daily so I feel like I know you, ha-ha!). Please continue to be outspoken, to share advice freely and to inspire us all. I wish you and Kiana both all the very best for the future.

Lexy xxxx

S.J. Harris said...

What an amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing, Joe and Kiana.

I've bought the book and started reading it, and I can tell already that Ms. Davenport is quite the gifted writer.

Kiana, I'm currently booked through June 4 on Cover Art Review, but I had a cancellation which left a slot open for next Thursday, March 31. It's yours if you would like it. Let me know.

Michael Kingswood said...

Well looks like we can call this a success. I just bought it, and the rank is 226.

Not too shabby.

Rob Cornell said...

Kiana: I'm glad you didn't take that swim. Your story touches a nerve with me because something similar happened to me last year, only I actually made the attempt. Luckily, I survived. My issue wasn't all about my writing, but writing is a HUGE part of my life, and my struggles (and failure) to succeed as a novelist contributed a great deal.

Now I am self-publishing as well. The kinds of rejections I got from tradition routes were so often "I like this, but don't think I can sell it" I nearly tore my hair out. I even had an editor recently offer to take a second look at a novel of mine in a year if I didn't sell it elsewhere.

Sadly, the mid-list for print is dead.

E-publishing will bring it back alive.

Hopefully, for those of us who suffer from depression, it will help keep us alive, too.

I'm very tempted to sign this anonymously, but those fracking anonymous commenters always drive me crazy.

Rebecca Stroud said...

As a short-story writer - and one with literary leanings - I'm very happy Kiana is getting her day in the sun. And kudos to Joe for helping to bring her out of the darkness...IMUA to all of us.

Rebecca Stroud
A Three-Dog Night
Zellwood: A Dog Story
The Animal Advocate

rbt said...

Someone commented yesterday about Kiana's book having only six reviews. I see that a seventh was added yesterday and I just added my own for a total of eight, all five stars.

I don't know how important the number and average star-rating of reviews is to sales, but a whole bunch of five-star reviews certainly can't hurt.

I'd encourage anyone who's bought Kiana's book to go that one more step and go post a review on Amazon.com right now, while you're thinking about it.

--
Robert Bruce Thompson

pamcl said...

Just bought my copy. Amazing the power of this blog and good karma Joe puts out there.

It's funny, people sometimes question why Joe would do this, that it is helping the competition. I've never understood that way of thinking. Other writers are not the competition. Especially when it comes to ebooks, which are so reasonably priced. It's not a matter of either or, it's both. I'm buying more books than ever now, thanks to ebooks.

billie said...

Great point about leaving reviews - I will def. do so after I finish reading!

John said...

Joe - I cannot offer enough praise.

Kiana - downloaded. Keep your chin up and stay out of the water.

Cheers,

John West

wannabuy said...

Joe,

All class. Bought.

Kiana,
I have a few recommendations:
1. This collection should be $0.99. Its tough to sell short stores.
2. You need a selection of $2.99 full length novels on Amazon to build up your reader base.
3. Please read the other posters who have requested you make you stories available on more formats.

Impressive collection of published ebooks on the Kindle. Now please augment with titles priced to expand your audience. ;)

Neil

David said...

I don't understand these pricing recommendations. A novel should never be more than $2.99, one short story should 99 cents, and a whole collection of short stories should also be 99 cents? Should novellas also be priced at 99 cents? With this pricing structure, short story writers will never make any money, and "literary" short story writers will have the hardest time of all.

I think people should be pricing their works at the level *their* audience is most willing to pay. That should help offset the smaller sales volume of genres that don't move as well. 99 cents is a good price in general for a short story, but too low for a collection. $2.99 is fair.

kathie said...

Bought it! Can't wAit to read! Thanks for the heads up.

JA Marlow said...

@wannabuy

I disagree. A lot of short story writers are releasing short stories in this manner:

Release the short stories individually for $.99.

Release an anthology of 5 or 10 short stories from prices ranging from $2.99 and $4.99 (depending on the number of stories and the total number of words).

It's been working well for a lot of writers. Kiana is selling herself short by selling for $1.99. A collection of this quality should be $2.99.

J.A. Marlow
Into the Forest Shadows: A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother's House...

Christy Pinheiro said...

Other writers are not the competition.

I agree. Other writers are not the competition. They never have been. Customers don't buy just one author. They buy a lot of books from authors that they like.

Our competition is the legacy publishers. We sell on Amazon, and so do they. We can choose to wholesale (sell our manuscripts to them), or we can choose to sell direct to the customer (by using POD and digital delivery).

If we sell direct, it takes a little more work at the beginning, but our rewards (and rights) are greater. Simple economics.

David said...

I don't think it's true that the rewards are "greater" in self-publishing. For some, yes. But there's also going to be a ceiling for the foreseeable future, and those who choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route might be losing out on a lot of money and readers.

Roberto said...

Bought it. It's the right thing to do.

Christy Pinheiro said...

I don't think it's true that the rewards are "greater" in self-publishing.

I'm talking about money. I should have said the MONEY is greater, but I didn't want to sound crass. Having complete control is nice,too, especially for someone who's a control freak like me.

And yes, I do make good money at this.

Not as much as Joe Konrath, mind you. More like KONRATH-LITE.

Julie Musil said...

Kiana, I'm rooting for you!

Joe, you are an inspiration. Thank you.

Tim Myers said...

Great story, both on the blog and on the page! I bought my copy!

Tim Myers

Tim Myers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KevinMc said...

Bought mine. =) Joe, this is a phenomenal thing you've done here.

I wish Kiana the absolute best, and hope to see her writing many new things in the future!

Gabriella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gabriella said...

I told 6 friends at work about Kianas story. They all bought a copy! I didn't even know that 4 of them had Kindles.
And Joe..I also told them about Donaldson and Brett. They laughed at my nightmare but they bought copies of some of your books too.
I love this blog and your community! This is all new to me and I can't seem to stop talking about *the blog* as it is now known among my friends and family. Everyone I talk to says it's really nice to see me light up again.
I don't think you realize how much of an impact you really have on people.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

$1.99 is nothing to help someone out and it sounds like I'll have a good read for my money. It's not my genre, so I'll expand my viewpoint a little. What a deal!

As of this post, the book is at #250.

Best of luck Kiana!

David said...

"I'm talking about money. I should have said the MONEY is greater, but I didn't want to sound crass. Having complete control is nice,too, especially for someone who's a control freak like me.

And yes, I do make good money at this.

Not as much as Joe Konrath, mind you. More like KONRATH-LITE."

Random book: The Lovely Bones. 2002. It sold 10 million copies worldwide. If it came out today as a self-published e-book, how well would it do? How well could it do? It would have to sell at least 2500 books every day for more than ten years to equal the performance of its traditional run. Then of course there are movie rights.

How would a book like The Kite Runner do? Right now, as far as I can tell, the books that are doing the best are thrillers (supernatural and otherwise) and romance, with a sprinkling of sci-fi care of B.V. Larson. Cheaply priced genre stuff.

Robert Bidinotto said...

The problem, David, is that the odds of getting traditionally published in the first place are vanishingly small. And getting the kind of attention that would propel a book into the stratosphere, such as the examples you cite, is vanishingly smaller.

Tom Clancy. Oops, the Legacy Press missed him when he first started out. He had to settle with the Naval Academy Press. John Grisham. Oops, the Legacy Press missed HIM, too. He had to self-pub and distribute out of the back of a car until he was noticed.

And J.K. Rowling went with Scholastic Press. I guess Random House and Simon & Schuster somehow didn't get the memo on her.

Oh well, anybody can make mistakes, right? Well, then there's Vince Flynn. His first novel, now a huge bestseller, was rejected over sixty times. That guy virtually invented the modern political thriller. But somehow, all the big boys in NYC missed him. Or maybe they just didn't like his politics. Now, he, like the others, is a sure-fire #1 NYT bestseller. But he first had to self-publish Term Limits, promote it himself out of pocket, and make it a bestseller in Minneapolis, before Pocket Books finally decided, "You know, maybe this guy has something!"

These people are household names -- now, and no thanks to the Big 6. Financially, they have carried entire publishing houses. And yet they were overlooked, rejected, even shown the door. In short, they succeeded despite the Big 6, not because of them.

How many others are out there like them? We don't know. But self-publishing ebooks is at last giving them a fighting chance. It's what gave Amanda Hocking her fighting chance for big bucks as an indie, and now even more big bucks with a Legacy deal.

Oh yeah -- they missed her, too. They rejected her over and over and over, until she did it on her own.

So, I'm not sure I get your point. If it's that Legacy offers huge bucks and exposure -- why sure: It can. If they let you in the door, after years of trials. And if you can then afford to wait years for a payday. And if they get behind your book enough to make it sell well. And if you are willing to trade away virtually all your residual rights for a one-time paycheck of, maybe, $5,000.

So what is the point of defending them? For every author they have propelled to success, they have probably crushed the careers of a hundred others of merit.

The Adventures of Razor and Edge said...

Great story, Joe. For the first time in history writers are in control of what they publish. Thanks for sharing this one.

David said...

I believe J.K. was already published by Bloomsbury in the U.K. first. As for the other examples, I don't know the specifics. Some people aren't ready to publish when they first start out. Sometimes a first novel just sucks. In fact, usually a first novel sucks. I'm not saying the old system is great, or even good, but to make a blanket statement that the rewards are "greater" in self-publishing is just not accurate. Not everyone gets a $5,000 advance, and the vast majority of people who publish direct to kindle probably may not make back the money they spent on that awesome cover. I just don't think it's been proven that success is more of a sure thing by self-publishing that it is in legacy publishing.

Yes, traditional publishers make you jump through many more hoops, but lets not forget that most of the books you've read have benefited from that. Some will do better self-publishing, and others will do better going the traditional route.

As it stands now, those who do the best on the traditional side will do much better than those who do the best at self-publishing (moneywise). But that may change in the future. No one knows.

Tara Maya said...

Not as much as Joe Konrath, mind you. More like KONRATH-LITE.

Had a nice giggle at this description.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Moses Siregar III said...

If she is going to go to 99 cents for a while, she should probably do it soon while she has a good ranking. Her ranking is slipping a bit, which is normal after a big surge.

She could do 99 cents for a while to keep expanding her readership and then go up to $2.99 later.

Lee Rogers said...

** By the way... for all of you who are waiting until you have a Kindle... You can get a PC version of the Kindle free from Amazon.**

I have a Kindle reader for PC, iPhone and, naturally, Kindle. And you can read the same Amazon ebook on each and every one of them. And iPad and Android of course. This is a very powerful environment.

Nice story, tastefully told by Joe. Don't tell me the guy is a snag as well . . .

steph.s said...

I just bought your book, can't wait to read it.

Mo said...

Even though it's not my usual reading fare, I bought the book to help out a fellow writer who needs a hand. The book is now sitting on my Kindle.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Kiana: I am truly moved by your writing. I’ve traveled to Hawaii several times, and feel like it’s an old friend, even as a haole myself; the enchanted isles always win over those who set foot on the lava sand. It’s magical to those looking in: a place of dense greenery and mystery, a place of traditional, a place of peace. The foundation of the Hawaiian isles is the culture of the native people, and meeting them can be elusive to the camera-laden, jet lagged tourist. The best secrets of the native people get short shrift from hungry tourists bee-lining for the luau buffet.

I am a reader and budding writer of literary fiction. For me, plot takes a back seat to character—give me rich, deep-as-mahogany character over plot any day. The plot will wind its way back to the character, it always does. I’m paraphrasing Eudora Welty there—a strong proponent of character.

I sampled House Of Skin on Kindle this morning and am truly—no, utterly—impressed. The title story is as flavorful as a cup of Kona coffee. Perfect descriptions of the family balanced with just the right tweaks and pivots in action to make it enjoyable on all levels. You, Kiana, can write. Period.

Your literary fiction (think Toni Morrison or Joyce Carol Oates) is refreshing in the e-book world. I see electronic self-publishing, on the whole, to be plot-driven genre fiction—with a major helping of young adult and paranormal—and it leaves me, frankly, hungry at the end of the $2.99 buffet. Starving, to be honest.

Your writing is different. It’s pure, unadulterated wordplay from a talented writer -- it makes for powerful reading. Your prose is memorable and quotable, with just the right turn-of-a-phrase at precisely the right moment. I will buy your book now, and am already looking forward to savoring the rich character and stories of the Pacific Islanders over the week ahead.

For me, meeting you through your writing is my single best “score” from Joe’s blog to date. Thanks, Joe. Thanks Kiana.

Michael said...

Kiana,

Thank you for weighing in. Never forget, you are deserving of 90% of the credit for this success story, with just a nudge from your friends and fans. If you hadn't worked so hard to create such beautiful stories, this success would never have been possible.

As for the support of the competition, I never think of it that way. The more good stories are written, the more people will choose reading over other activities. One writer's success has no power to harm my own writing, and when I read wonderful prose such as yours (I've only read the first story so far, but it was great), it can only help me become a better writer.

Best wishes, and please keep sharing your gift with the world.

kathie said...

I echo the sentiments here--the notion that self-publishing has allowed writers (me included) to find their passion again. For me, choosing to get out of line on the "Pick Me" path, has filled me with confidence again. In choosing to get out of line and take control of my career, to let the readers decide about my writing, feels like it should, great. I realize I may not conjure up masses of readers like other indie writers, but the point is, I might. I think I actually will. But what matters, really is that there's a way to take control. Thanks Joe and others, here.
The Last Letter May 1, 2011
http://kshoop.com

Moses Siregar III said...

And in related news, a B&N executive predicts ebooks will become the dominant book medium in two years.

Kiana Davenport said...

Hi guys...I'm Kiana Davenport back to thank you again for all your INCREDIBLE support for which I'm still in shock, and because I want to address some of the questions you left here on Joe's blog. And maybe I can answer some of your questions and help you a bit.

I'm having trouble figuring out how to answer you individually. If I fail, or don't answer you adequately, please go to my Amazon Kiana Davenport Author's Page where I have started a blog about all this, and which some of you have found.

I have to say what shocked me as much as the sky-rocketing in sales of HOUSE OF SKIN was the rallying around of the indie community. I did not know such a thing was possible. It was an amazing lesson in 'paying it forward' and I have Joe Konrath to thank for that.

The best way to thank him is to encourage other writers, step up to the plate when they need support and try to answer some of your questions.

I guess I'll start with the earliest queries first, which came in on Friday...and work my way down. Its Sunday morning in Hawaii this may take all day and night but I aim to do it! Here goes....

tina said...

Dear Kiana,

I bought your book and I don't usually buy books for the Kindle (I have an iPad and I prefer iBooks -- please consider also putting your newest book in the iBooks and the B&N Nook stores!)

My family has history in Hawaii and Fiji and I'm looking forward to reading your stories. Your story has been an inspiration to me personally. Stay strong!

Tom Dulaney said...

What a slow read the book is....a slow, wonderful delight of a read. Who wants to rush out of this beautiful prose and these compelling stories.

I hope Kiana is able to unleash herself from publishers who may be holding her down, self-publish and -- one hopes -- find a large enough audience who appreciate extraordinary writing to help pay the bills.

Kiana Davenport said...

Hi, its Kiana Davenport again. Can anyone help me? I'm trying to respond individually to some of your queries but I'm doing something wrong.

Joe had instructed me to "Respond directly to a comment by writing @John or @ Selena" so you know I'm talking to you. Where do I write @ John or @ Selena? In the comment box? Or next to your name?

I really don't want to bother Joe again after all he's done. Thank you to anyone who can help! Tell then, I'm stuck! Kiana

Moses Siregar III said...

Kiana, you just type it all into the comment box. Like this:

@Kiana: See what I mean? Nothing special.

Kiana Davenport said...

@moses siregar III... Dear Moses, thankx a mill!

I've been doing it all wrong! A lot of your comments stood out throughout Friday and Saturday and I wanted to address them.

First, I've got to go back and start at the beginning, because I owe a ton of people thanks. Including you.

Please bear with me. PS I saw your latest post about B&N predicting ebooks will prevail in two years. It is already happening in ALL fronts.

I don't consider myself 'literary,' but real HEAVYWEIGHT literary writers, like John Edgar Wideman (he's won every major writing award including the MacArthur Genius Award of $500,000) are starting to come onboard. He recently uploaded his first indie ebook, a collection of stories.

(He's not doing it to get rich, he gives a lot of his money away.)

Its the future and there's room enough for all genres. And, apparently, the future is here. I will come back to you ASAP...and thanks again!!! Kiana

Archangel said...

@ Kiana
You can put more than one message to others in your comment, if you like. Just put the 'at' sign [@] in front of each. Because you are answering many souls, SAVE your replies in MS Word or similar FIRST before you paste them here, so if google/blogger acts up, you do not lose your words to the duendes.

Viz:
@ Moses

@ Elliott

@ Selena

@Tara

et al.

We are on Latino time here often, which means, relationship matters more than promptness. Be at ease. All is well.

dr.cpe

Kiana Davenport said...

@ Jack...Dear Jack, on Friday 3/25 you asked if you could post this blog on your blog. If Joe says OK, its a go. I'm definitely game. If it helps other writers, of course.

I have to say 'depression' was something new to me. It was engendered by the economic recession and the searing fact that NY publishing was/is faltering. And there was no other way to make a living. As I said unemployment here in Hawaii is staggering. I had no other meansof income. Everything I had ever lived for and worked for seemed suddenly taken from me.

But I am aware that there are people, not just artists, in all walks of life, who suffer from debilitating depression. It is the deepest form of hopelessnes. And I acknowledge that some depressions can only be alleviated by supervised medication. But we are discussing writers.

What Joe Konrath offered me was hope. If my letter and his blog gives others in our business hope, then yes, please post it. Good luck! God bless! Kiana Davenport

Nicole MacDonald said...

I'm always up for supporting a fellow Indie author!
The Arrival, Book 1 of the BirthRight trilogy available now

James DeFeo said...

Thanks for this, Joe. I just purchased my copy of House of Skin. Looking forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing.

Kiana Davenport said...

@ archangell...on 3/25 you posted a blog about me being able to 'write the paint off a board.' Never heard that expression before. Its great.

More importantly you talked about the cover of my book HOUSE OF SKIN. (Tribal with love handles!) I agree! Its a great cover, The best of all my books. And I want to tell everyone who designed the cover, and what I learned.

First off, online books are small, not a book you hold in your hand. They NEED TO STAND OUT. Either the color or the font must be BOLD. AND not too crowded. I wanted the cover to reflect the first story in my collection about a full-bodied tattooed man.

I found an amazing design couple in Hawaii
relocated from Seattle. Hard-core techies. Wendy and Clark Kucera. Their firm is KUCERA DESIGN AND PRODUCTION. They are online. And they rock. They're virtual, they design for you no matter where in the world you are.

They charged about $300 but they had the cover ready in about 2-3 days! Located online photos of tattooed bodies, help me choose the color yellow and the perfect fonts. And the cover was done.

A lot of us can't afford to pay for covers. If your
talented, you can design them yourselves. And I have seen some great ones. I could not. I was too terrified. So a friend loaned me the money.

It was one of the thrills of my life to design my own cover, what I envisioned my book to be, and not have to arm-wrestle a print publisher to the mat, or fight with a marketing team.

I did it the expensive way with professionals becoz I have learned that next to your writing, THE COVER is the most important thing about your book. (THEN OF COURSE COMES THE MARKETING) The cover is what grabs readers when they're browsing on line. And it should intrigue buyers so they want to know more about the book, the story inside.

I now have readers asking me to publish HOUSE OF SKIN in paperback because they love the cover. I'm not there yet, I'm still a neophyte.

As Joe has said elsewhere in his blogs, there are thousands of good designers, if you can afford one, shop around. His designer firm is excellent. Well, that's what I learned about book covers. Hope it helps you and other writers reading this.

And yes, Archangel...Hawaiians (though I am only half) do the same dances as Latinos: Pasa doble with Lady Vita, Tango with Lady Muerte. And thanks! for the encouragement...that I...that none of us... is lucha...alone... in this amazing indie community!

For now sending alohas...muchas gracias... Hasta Leugo! Kiana Davenport

Kiana Davenport said...

@Antares...

@RBT... yes, guys, please feel free to repost Joe's blog with my letter as long as he agrees. Anything to help other writers and give them encouragement.

A thousand mahalos! Thanks! Kiana Davenport

Kiana Davenport said...

@Karen McQuestion....Dear Karen, thanks so much for your support and for buying a copy ofHOUSE OF SKIN.

WHILE I was learning from Joe's Website how to indie publish, I started following you, too. I was so intrigued that you had designed your first covers! Powerful!

I bought two of your books, and loved them! I wish you continuing success. You're an inspiration to the indie community. With my thanks again and my alohas...Kiana Davenport

Kiana Davenport said...

@JD Rhoades....Hello. I'm glad you didn't take that walk into the channel. When I read about your family getting the insurance money, I cried. Pretty similar to me leaving my land to my daughter.

Get your backlist and new work uploaded as soon as you feel the writing is as POLISHED as possible. Then follow Joe's advice and promote your work to exhaustion. There's a reason we were pulled back from the pit. I believe mine was to continue writing. And so, perhaps, was yours.

I wish you joy in your writing and your family, and I wish you great success. KIANA DAVENPORT

Kiana Davenport said...

@CANDACE DAVIS....dear Candace thanks for your support and encouragement. I AM in process of building a website but its expensive. Someone else on this blog said some are doing it themselves. That sounds daunting! Will alert you when its up! Thanks again....Kiana Davenport

@Algot Runeman... Yes, I agree. My book WAS formatted for iBookstore, Nook, etc. (ePub format). I wanted to go with Smashwords, but my formatters (RealityInfo.com)said they charge $100 for an ISBN. So we went to Lulu.com which was free.

I'm urgently warning everyone TO AVOID LULU.COM
Maybe some of you have been burned by them as well. First they sent a letter of congratulations saying my book HOUSE OF SKIN was ready to be launched into iBookstore, Iphone, iPad, that it would take 2-5 days. The next email said 2 weeks. A third email said becoz of high volume it would take 30 days.

Meanwhile they were hustling me to buy ads which I could not afford. Finally, an email said they were unable to upload HOUSE OF SKIN into iBookstore. They gave no reason. (Altho its for sale on Lulu's store.)

I was so bewildered and exhausted I gave up. Has anyone else had this problem with Lulu.com I am assuming I now have to pay another formatter to get me into Smashwords so I can be uploaded into iBookstore, Nook, etc.

I hear Lulu is being sued by a gazillion writers.
Please chime in anyone if you have info. Thanks again for your support. Kiana Davenport

Kiana Davenport said...

@Jude Hardin...and...

@Maureen O'Danu...Thank you and everyone else for suggesting I raise the price of HOUSE OF SKIN to $2.99 to reap the 70% royalty. With this first ebook I thought a lot about the price. .99 seemed too low, I work very very hard on my stories. But more than $1.99 seemed too high becuz...

1) For me this is a short book, less than 130 pages. 2) We're in a recession, who has extra money?
3) I do need to make a living, but I also want as many readers as possible to buy my book and learn about the part of the world I live in, the fabulous cultures of the Pacific, from New Zealand to Tahiti to Easter Island (all in my next collection). The lower the price, hopefully the more customers.
4) For HOUSE OF SKIN, my first ebook, $1.99 seemed just right. But I thank you all for your generous suggestions. Since the next collection is longer, maybe I will charge a little more.
Mahalo! Thank you from my heart. Kiana

Kiana Davenport said...

@Moses Siregar III

@Jason

@Andy...and others who posted...

First off, I have never considered myself a 'literary' writer. To me those are heavy hitters like Philip Roth and Cynthia Ozick, brilliant wordsmiths who DWELL on the meaning of writing, existence, and man's inhumanity to man.

I'm just a writer trying to tell good stories that make people laugh and cry and look at life a different way.
I think "literary' or 'commercial' is a label that print publishers pin on their authors when they're trying to market them. Also...

Several of you asked why I call some of my stories in HOUSE OF SKIN 'erotica.' That is not my tag, I think that came from reader reviews. PS - the definition of 'erotica' is ' literature intended to arouse sexual desires.'

So I could say that a lot of you write 'erotica.' Including Joe. And since there is sex in my stories, well, I guess it is erotica. But not the dominant theme. I think , again, we get into trouble with labels beoz it always ends up with semantics...a personal thing.

Back to Moses, Jason, and Andy... who posted concerns about the LACK of quality in most indie ebooks. I have read excellent indie ebooks, and some not so good, not well written. Some of us are new at this, we're in a rush, we need money. We don't take the time to REWRITE and rewrite, which is what good writing is all about.

In his excellent interview with me, David Wisehart asked what was my best advice to writers. My response was what Joe Konrath has been saying all along. SLOW...DOWN... don't be in such a rush to get the book uploaded. REWRITE AND REWRITE until you want to vomit....step away from the book for a few days...then go back and REWRITE SOME MORE.

Let someone you respect and trust read the work.
Take advice. Don't just throw the book out there.
Readers are intelligent, maybe more intelligent than we are, do not insult them with bad writing. They won't buy your next book.

Again, referring to Moses and Jason's and Andy's blogs concerned with the dearth of quality writing. Remember, until recently indie ebook publishing was like the settling of the Wild West. A new frontier. No rules, and every man (woman) for himself. Maybe selling was more important than the writing.

The dust is settling, its no longer just one genre predominating. Thrillers, or sci-fi, or romance. I believe that as ebooks become the norm in our society, as more and more discerning readers buy apps, there will be a leveling of the playing field. By that I mean there will be room for ALL genres, even, if you will, 'literary' books. And all that readers will ask is what they have always asked, that books be well-written.

Literary heavy-hitters like John Edgar Wideman are now joining the indies. This is healthy, its contagious. Because when we read good writing, we want OUR WRITING to be better. So I don't think Moses and Jason and Andy and others of you have to worry. As more readers turn to ebooks, they will demand that each of us, in whatever genre, write at the top of our form. Quality writing in all genres will prevail.

Lastly, I'm not promoting the invasion of 'literature'
into indie ebooks. Genre books will always always have a special place with readers, that's why they're bestsellers. I have loved WAR AND PEACE and MOBY DICK...but I also stlll love Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and younger writers of that ilk. King and Bradbury were and will always be pure genius.

This was a long one. I hope I addressed your concern. Thank you for your patience.
Kiana Davenport

Veronica said...

Hi Kiana,
I have enjoying following your story as it unfolds here!

In a recent comment you spoke about the challenges of loading your books to different sites. I am sure that you will have many responses about this from the folks who do this for a living, but I wanted to just say IT IS CONFUSING sometimes it is SUPER CONFUSING so you are not alone in that.

I was reduced to tears on a number of occasions! What was said the other day: When you try your best and it still isn't good enough....something like that? Yep, I know how that feels.

But, I also know how it feels to hold MY paperback in my hands. Damn, that feels good. That brings tears to my eyes as well!

I wrote up a summary of my journey so far including some tricky bits I sorted out on my own when I couldn't find the answer anywhere else. I posted it here.


I also wanted to leave you with a recommendation. I found a wonderful webmaster who can put together a Wordpress based website quickly and at a VERY low cost. I don't know what his current rates are, but at one time he was advertising a site for less than $50.

He is amazing!

His name is Robert Payne. His email is rpayne@robert-d-payne.com. I recommend him 100%. He saved me when my old site stopped functioning. There's nothing nicer than to email off a question to your webmaster before you go to bed and wake up to it being fixed!

The great thing about a Wordpress based site is that it is super easy to update on your own and very flexible.

Many blessings on your amazing journey!
Veronica

The Choice for Consciousness, Vol. 1

Anonymous said...

I will go and get the book. I'm feeling pretty lost myself. The letter moved me at a gut level. I wrote a tribute to Dame Elizabeth Taylor AND the writers who gave her the dialogue and characters to bring to life. It is the writers who tell the stories, in lyrics, in code (for games) and screenplays and scripts. Everyone knows who directed and produced a movie I wish we could find out with just as much fan fare who wrote it! *grin* I know, just dreaming. Top 1000? Yes, let's make it happen! http://gwenhankins.blogspot.com

Rai Aren said...

Hi Kiana & Joe,

What a moving and inspiring story. I am so happy to see that you found your way back to the light, Kiana. I can relate to how hard the journey can be, the despair, the dark days, the sadness and frustration. The online communities I'm a part of have been incredible sources of support. It's wonderful that you found the message you needed to hear, when you needed it. It was meant to be.

I bought a copy of your book, too. It's awesome to see it how well it's doing! I hope your success continues & continues... I tweeted about it and shared a link to it on the March 2011 Bargain Books thread on Kindleboards:

Kindleboards

I hope it helps :)

Thank-you for sharing your story with us. You are in turn helping others with your honesty. I wish you well always...

Rai Aren, co-author Secret of the Sands
Twitter: @raiaren

P.S. Joe - thank-you for everything you do!

Dr Vesuvius said...

Kiana
Thank-you for sharing your beautiful story with us. It's a much needed reminder that no matter how dark things may seem, there's always hope.
Joe's right in what he says. This is your success, not his. He might have pointed you in the right direction, but you're the one who turned things around and swam for the shore. Now enjoy it, you deserve it.

(But even so Joe, you are being too modest. That torch you're bearing? I suspect it's going to be the light at the end of the tunnel for more than a few people out there, as we've already seen in other comments. I know it's been a revelation to me.)

nwrann said...

@Kiana,

Wanna help us figure out how Amazon's ranking system works? How many copies did you sell on Amazon on Friday to move it from 134,555 to 182?

Andy said...

Hi Kiana

Great to hear your responses. I'd just like to clarify that, though I was interested in seeing how your book sells because it's literary fiction as opposed to genre, I don't really attach any value judgement to that.

I have total admiration and respect for genre writers (especially on the rare occasions when I try it out myself!) but on the whole I guess I fall into the literary fiction camp - probably because I don't really have the discipline that genre writers have. I absolutely view this as something I lack and don't regard genre fiction as having less quality than lit fic at all.

But if most of what I write is going to be outside of most recognisable genres, then I'm really interested to see how well a collection of 'literary' short stories can do on Kindle.

I've started reading yours, by the way, and I can only add my praise to everyone else's. Really strong writing that resonates. So glad you decided to stick around and share your stories with us.

Andy Conway
The Girl with the Bomb Inside (A Novelette) on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Pat Mullan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat Mullan said...

Hi Joe,

Just bought it - getting super reviews on Amazon. I'm looking forward to the read.

As I've said before: you need to rename this blog. You are no longer a 'newbie. You are an 'eminence grise'.

I'm sending you a virtual case of beer from Connemara - it'll have to suffice till we meet again.

Slan go foill,
Pat.

Coolkayaker1 said...

@ Kiana: "I have read excellent indie ebooks, and some not so good, not well written. Some of us are new at this, we're in a rush, we need money. We don't take the time to REWRITE and rewrite, which is what good writing is all about."

I agree, from what I have read and sampled. Most of the rapidly uploaded fiction e-published recently from new authors with fancy bookcovers and a brand spankin' new website is unedited rubbish.

Yours is different. Thankfully.

Werner said...

Heck yeah Kiana! Love your story. You're kicking butt and I'm happy for you.

Joe you rock!

L. David Hesler said...

This article came along at just the right time, Joe.

Your blog, your wealth of knowledge, and your story in general is an inspiration to so many people.

I'm off to buy her book right now.

Michele C said...

Great story. Thank you, Joe!!! Elaine and I often find inspiration in your blog. Our general thoughts tend to be to smile, break out a glass of wine, and watch the fireworks as the Big 6 scramble to compete.

Love the post. Good luck Kiana! Hugs to you. I bought my copy. If I love it, I'll be looking for the next title. Better get busy so you can ride the wave. I am the ultimate impulse buyer with my Kindle. LOL.

Michele
www.RomCon2011.com

Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelley said...

Bought it.

Like Kiana I just wanted to write and be read. I'd also hoped to raise some money I could donate to a charity that's trying to help others w my son's neuro disorder.

Two agents and two yrs later I had two dead books to show for it. That's about all I had, though.

So I went indie. I just sent Angioma Alliance another royalty check. It feels awesome. Props to Kiana and every other author who kept going.

Joe, I hope you keep referring such deserving authors and books like this. Thank you!

Jesse said...

Wow. And I thought it was just me going for the hyperbole. You both made me feel not so alone in this journey. Okay, no doing evil to myself, for starters. And no giving up. I can persevere. I can do this. I will do this.

labyris said...

Dear Kiana,

I just ordered your book and I am so glad that a friend pointed you in the right direction and that Joe shared your story. I hope that if you are ever in that dark place again you will tell someone or call a hotline. In that state of mind (and I've been there) our thinking is distorted in such a way that we can't see another way out of our pain.

I used to work on a suicide crisis line as a volunteer and know that there are many good people who sincerely want to help.

Awhile back I participated in a conversation between writers about depression and writing and since others have mentioned depression here I want to add the link: http://maantren.blogspot.com/2009/03/writing-and-depression-kiwiburger.html

There was a follow-up to that initial post which is linked at the top. It was quite interesting and informative.

I will post a link to this post from my own blog and I look forward to reading your book.

IMUA! :)

--Tapati

Kiana Davenport said...

@ARCHANGEL...about my few awards you mentioned, maybe I'm a cautionary tale: that even 'recognized' authors in the print world can hit the skids, become near-indigent and desperate. Until ebooks. Thanks!

@SJ Harris...thanks so much for the offer for Cover Art Review. I'm not familiar. Am trying to look it up.
Thank you again!

@nw rann. I'm sorry I don't know what the Friday figures ment in sales for HOUSE OF SKIN. I am still trying to compute it. If anyone knows, please chime in. KIana

Kiana Davenport said...

@Candace Davis...I'm happy to help with info on format, design, etc. I don't want to keep taking up space here with my replies. Please go to my blog on Amazon's Kiana Davenport Author Page. Your questions are answered there! Imua! Kiana

Kiana Davenport said...

@ Veronica...thank you! Will check out Robert Payne for Website. KUCERA DESIGNS did my cover, they also do websites, but definitely pricer.

TK Kenyon said...

Joe and Kiana,

I've been in much the same boat. My first 2 novels were published by a small, boutique, lit publisher that went out of biz in the Great Recession, and my books went out of print, and I was suddenly an ex-author.

3 years of depression (and being kept busy by some very pressing family matters,) I discovered Joe's blog, and I'm seriously thinking about releasing my books as indies.

(Right now, I'm giving them a good, hard edit. I have improved as a writer in the last 3 years, and I can see some mistakes that I'd like to correct before they go out in the world again.)

Anyway, thanks Joe. You've been a lifeline for authors like Kiana and myself. You may be doing this good deed for your own reasons, but it's still a good deed. A lot of us out there need your Good News that you're shouting from the rooftops.

"There is life after legacy publishing."

Thanks Joe, and mahalo Kiana.

TK Kenyon

Cheryl Tardif said...

Though I haven't hit a major depression with my novels, I do find it very frustrating when my sales stall. I don't think there isn't anything I haven't done to market my books/ebooks, other than streak through the arena while the Oilers are playing, while handing out discount coupons. (And I'm just not there...yet.)

Currently my new release CHILDREN OF THE FOG is standing at an Amazon rank of 639. I just can't seem to get it into that top 100...or even 300. That's my goal--to break 300 for the first time in 7 books.

Right now CHILDREN OF THE FOG is on sale for $1.99, marked down from $3.99.

I've tried $0.99 sales with other titles and the only time I saw decent success is when I had a $0.99 sale on with all my titles at the same time.

Joe, do you have any words of advice to help me reach my goal of under 300 Amazon page rank?

I'm a shameless marketer; I don't think there's anything you've mentioned that I haven't done and I've been doing it since 2003. I have all my books professionally edited. I have great reviews. I have fabulous covers designed by a professional.

What am I missing?

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
not depressed...yet...hehe

Rebecca Knight said...

I'm very, very late to the party, but thank you to both Kiana and Joe for this :).

I bought Kiana's book right away, read the first story before reading the comments for this post, and was chilled and entranced by the beauty of her writing.

I absolutely can't wait to read the rest, and will definitely be recommending this on my blog tonight.

Bless you, Kiana, and best of luck :). You are a stunning writer.

Christina Garner said...

Being a writer and having suffered from depression myself, I relate so much to this story. One thing I can appreciate about my struggles is that it has made me a better, more authentic writer.

Thanks for sharing and paying it forward.

Meghan Ward said...

Extremely touching post. I bought a copy - the collection looks amazing. I can't wait to read it.

Lynne Almeida said...

Dear Kiana, I'm the owner of an independent bookstore (and fan of your work for years!) & wanted to say I'm sorry to hear of all you've gone through over the last few years, but glad you are back to writing. I completely understand your frustration with the world of 'standard' publishing - we feel it on this end too!

When publishing electronically, please consider google ebooks as a platform too - that way, independent bookstores (I know many have gone out of business, but there are still lots of us out there!) like us can continue to support your work.

Mahalo & all the best,
Lynne Almeida

Kiana Davenport said...

@Rebecca Knight...now and then I check back to this blog and just found your 'late to the party' post. Thank you! Mahalo for buying my book HOUSE OF SKIN. I'm just finishing the next collection and trying to read a lot of other eauthors and write Amazon reviews for them. That's my way of paying it forward the way Joe does for so many writers.
Where is your work, will I find it on Kindle? I'll look.
Wishing you joy and success in your work and your life
...With alohas from Hawaii...Kiana

Rebecca Knight said...

Kiana,

You're so very welcome, and thank you for asking about me as well :). I'm just starting out and have a couple of short stories up on Amazon. Here is a link to my page: http://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-Knight/e/B004XK8NNE

I wish you nothing but the best with your new collection! HOUSE OF SKIN was beautifully written, and I can't wait for more from you :).

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read the book! :)

M.P. McDonald said...

I know this is an older post, but it really touched me. I feel very fortunate that I have good day job in a profession where I can pretty much find another job if I had to. (maybe not great hours and I'd have to move, but it's healtchare, and hospitals are everywhere.) Even though I haven't been dependent on my book sales to pay the bills because of my job, things were very tight because my hubby has had only sporadic work in the last three years. He was very depressed about not working. He's experienced another layoff recently, but with my books doing well, we are both much more secure and we don't have the stress we did a few years ago. In fact, we've decided that he may not go back to work because my life is much easier when he's running the household.

So, having said that, I just one clicked Kiana's book. I wish her the very best and hope her sales take off.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I've only just come across this blog -- but based on this post alone, I love it! I think it's great that you're opening people's eyes to digital.

Everyone is clinging on to the old paradigm; of print, cd's, dvd's. That's gone now. We don't need to physically own anything anymore! The sooner the artists get to grips with this and delve into modern technology, the more they will prosper! Great work!

andrew grim said...

You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart.This is truly a great blog thanks for sharing.COMBATING DEPRESSION

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