Thursday, June 21, 2012


One of my fondest memories of my time in legacy publishing was visiting Brilliance Audio in Michigan and playing a character on my first audiobook, Whiskey Sour.

I love audiobooks. And I've always maintained the belief that their popularity was directly proportional to their price--it isn't unusual for audiobooks for be twice the hardcover price of a book. This high barrier to entry has meant a lot of folks who would enjoy audiobooks (while travelling, commuting, exercising, on vacation, etc.) haven't ever purchased one. For many, audiobooks are a library checkout (or a rental--there used to be audiobook rental stores). That's a shame, because, like paper and ebooks, I think audiobooks are worth owning.

When I began self-publishing, Brilliance bought 13 of my ebook titles--an unprecedented move and a strong show of faith in my brand. These titles have done well, but even though they were less expensive than my previous titles, I felt the prices were a bit prohibitive.

I recently released my second Timecaster novel, Timecaster Supersymmetry, with the help of my agent acting as an estributor (more on that in a future blog post, but in a nutshell they did everything I needed them to and I'm pleased.) One of the things I spoke with Brilliance about was releasing Supersymmetry as a download for under five bucks.

They went one step better.

Right now, on, every Joe Konrath Brilliance Audiobook title is $4.95.

Want to try an audiobook but thought they were too pricey? Now is the time to buy one.

I also encourage readers to buy the ebook version of Timecaster Supersymmetry for $3.99. This book was a true labor of love for me, written completely from the heart and without keeping anything reigned in. I had no legacy editor to tell me, "You can't do that." The result is a science-fiction thriller that I am 100% positive no publishing house would ever release in its current uncut form. Sex, violence, bad jokes, dinosaurs, talking fruit, the multiverse, robots, tons of inside jokes and parodies, insane plot twists, several major WTF moments, and a future Jack Daniels fighting zombies. It is seriously crazy, and was so much fun to write I had to see a surgeon to remove the smile on my face when I finished it.

Timecaster hasn't found its audience yet. Penguin gave it a crappy cover and priced the ebook too high ($7.99), among other mistakes. Supersymmetry is so unlike anything else anyone has ever written it is almost unclassifiable, which will no doubt limit early sales. But ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time to find an audience. Maybe it will take years, and that's okay. I have years. And hopefully I'll have the rights back to Timecaster by then (I have world rights and am releasing it soon on among other places) so I can price it to sell.

Please spread the word on the audiobooks, and on Supersymmetry. I'd love to see a future where all audiobook downloads are priced comparably to ebooks, and where authors are free to truly unleash their creativity on readers without having to kow-tow to the narrow-minded sales-driven biases of legacy publishers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Slippery Slope

If You Eat Hamburgers, You Will Kill Billions of People

1. Hamburgers are made of cow.

2. Cows produce methane.

3. Methane is a greenhouse gas, 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

4. Methane comprises 14% of the world's greenhouse gas. By 2030 that could increase by 60%.

5. Greenhouse gases lead to global warming.

6. Global warming will lead to the sea level rising.

7. The sea level rising will lead to the ecosystem collapsing.

8. The ecosystem collapsing will kill billions.

9. So stop eating burgers, or you will destroy mankind.

This is a slippery slope argument--a logical fallacy that makes sense taken in small steps, but when all the small steps are put together it leads to a silly, baseless conclusion.

But in the case of this particular slippery slope, there is some merit to it. The world's consumption of beef is leading to more cows, which is leading to more methane. While saying that eating a burger will kill billions is stretching the point to ridiculousness, at least each step taken individually seems plausible.


That hamburgers are made of cow and cows produce methane is irrefutable. So is the fact that methane is a greenhouse gas, and more potent than CO2. 

Then things get fuzzy. I pulled the 60% number of the net, and I'm sure there is some scientific justification behind it, but we truly won't know for sure until it happens.

We can guess. But we don't know. This isn't a scientific experiment with a control group. Saying the earth's methane output will rise 60% may look good on paper, it it isn't the same thing as saying 2 + 2 = 4, or mix oxygen and hydrogen and you'll get water.

Greenhouse gases do lead to global warming. Venus is a pretty decent example of this. But it can be argued that global warming is cyclical and has little to do with humans, or that it is manageable, or that a hundred other things might happen before sea levels start to rise.

The ecosystem collapsing is a pretty big leap. And if the ecosystem does collapse, how can we be sure billions will die?

That's the problem with guesses. They cause fear, but are unproven until they happen.

But you probably looked at the original statement, that eating burgers will kill billions, and realized it was bullshit from without me dissecting it. Other statements, however, aren't as obvious.

Let's look at another slippery slope argument:

The Agency Model Encourages Competition and Is Good

1. Amazon has the lion's share of the ebook market.

2. Amazon has sold ebooks for under the publisher's cover price, and below cost.

3. Other retailers can't sell this low, and will be driven out of business.

4. The only way to save retailers is if publishers set the retail price of books.

5. If Amazon becomes a monopoly, they will harm authors and readers.

6. Publishers had no choice but to stop Amazon from predatory pricing, to protect competition and for the good of everyone.

The first two points are true. Amazon does have the lion's share of the ebook market, and they have sold ebooks at below cost.

But we need a bit more information here. Amazon pretty much single-handedly created the current ebook market. Just like they created online bookselling. As Bob Mayer says, Amazon didn't exist except for in Jeff Bezos's mind back in 1994.

Amazon listened hard to what readers wanted, and it fulfilled those wants. They've kept prices low. I'd guess they do it to attract customers, because customers are drawn to low prices. But I truly don't know Amazon's motivation, other than the fact that they are a company in business to make money. Just like Big Publishing. Except Amazon seems to be doing it by giving people what they want, rather than forcing people to take what is offered.

Then we get to "retailers will be driven out of business."

That can cause an emotional, knee-jerk reaction when someone hears it. We don't want companies to go out of business. We all know companies that have. That leads to people losing their jobs, which is sad. It leads to places we once liked to go to no longer existing. That's sad. As human beings, we don't like to see unemployment, and we don't like to see bullies.

But this statement is no different than stating greenhouse gases lead to global warming. Certainly, they might. But we won't truly know until it happens. Until it does, it's fear mongering.

A lot of bookstores might blame Amazon for putting them out of business, or competing unfairly. Welcome to capitalism, kids. That's like saying, "My girlfriend left me for another guy who is more attractive and treats her better."

Don't blame the guy. Blame your girlfriend for preferring someone over you. And blame yourself for not stepping up your game to win her back.

Nobody owes anyone a living. Just because you did well in the past doesn't mean you deserve to do well in the future, especially in the face of competition. If you want to run your own business, you better pay attention to what the customers want. If you can't give them what they want, you shouldn't be in business.

Then we get to the next giant leap in logic; the only way to save retailers is to let publishers set retail price.

Huh? How can otherwise smart men and women seriously say and believe something so stupid?

If the price of a book is the same everywhere, that leads to less competition, not more competition. Customers are price conscious, and they will shop for the best deal. You can lure them to your store many different ways, but price is one of the biggies.

Taking away a store's ability to set a retail price is fixing the game.

The other side to that coin also needs to be addressed. Not only do stores get harmed by not being able to set prices, but there is nothing illegal, immoral, or unfair when companies do set prices.

Passive Guy says it very well:

In the United States, it is not against the law to sell at low prices. It is not against the law to sell products for less than they cost. It is not against the law for you to price your products so low that you put other retailers out of business. For all intents and purposes, it is virtually impossible to win an antitrust case based upon predatory pricing.

Show me a case where a retailer used predatory pricing to drive competitors out of business. And let's say you find a case or two, what's wrong with that? The customer benefits from lower prices.

But you can't say "Amazon is evil for keeping prices low" because people will think you're an idiot. Show me someone who doesn't want to pay less for something.

So instead, the pinheads use a slippery slope argument, and a damn poor one at that, to instill fear in those who aren't paying close attention.

I also have to ask, is the Agency Model really the only way to save bookstores and publishers? There really are no other ways?

You see how silly that is, right? Especially since I've shown, many times, how bad the Agency Model is for authors and customers.

Which brings us to Amazon's potential monopoly power, and how it will hurt everyone.


People love to bash Walmart. Walmart ruins communities. Walmart destroys American Main Streets. Walmart murders malls. Walmart forces poor mom and pop shops out of business.

And then, once Walmart takes over a town and enslaves the populace, it triples all of its prices, holding customers hostage.

Except that it doesn't. The great evil empire that is Walmart keeps its prices low, even after it has killed the competition.

Hmm. Kinda sounds like Amazon, which continues to keep prices low, no matter how many businesses it allegedly destroys.

So what are we afraid of exactly?

Oh, yeah. All the unemployment. All the jobs lost. Except for the 65,000 people Amazon employs. And the tens of thousands of authors who--many for the first time--are making money.

But once Amazon reaches a critical mass and eliminates everyone, certainly it will begin a reign of terror, even though that is the exact opposite of everything Amazon has done thusfar.

It could happen. Just like cows could cause the icecaps to melt. Just wait and see it to get proof.

Except I doubt we'll ever get that proof. Companies have always competed with Amazon, and I'm sure more will come along. Amazon hasn't put Smashwords, or Kobo, or B&N out of business. They didn't put Borders out of business (nor did the raise prices on books once Borders collapsed.) And the Agency Model isn't the reason these other companies have been able to compete. Innovation, location, and customer service are how they've stayed alive. They were around before the Agency Model. Some will be around after it ends. And new companies will enter the game.

That's capitalism for you.

Capitalism is not about allowing the publishing cartel to collude so they can continue screwing readers with high prices and authors with unconscionable contracts.

Capitalism is not about putting businesses on life support when they refuse to innovate or cater to their customers.

Capitalism is not about price-fixing.

And competition doesn't exist for its own sake. The point of business isn't to encourage competition. The point of business is to beat the competition by having more customers. The more businesses in a market, the more a customer will benefit, unless the businesses collude to fix prices.

I'll say it again: No one owes you a living. And I won't weep for any company that whines, lies, or makes bullshit arguments to stay afloat. You shouldn't either.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Guest Post by Jude Hardin

Pushing the Button by Jude Hardin

I’m sitting here with my finger on the button. I’ve been sitting here for a while.

I wrote the email days ago, saved it as a draft. I printed it out, and I’ve read it a hundred times. I’ve memorized it. I know it by heart. It speaks to me in my dreams.

My letter of resignation.

I’ve been with the same company for fifteen years. It’s a good company. They treat me well. I am comfortable there, and I earn a good living. New house, new car. I’m paying my bills on time every month, and I’m even managing to save some. I’m living the American dream, and I am very, very unhappy.

Because it isn’t what I want to do. It isn’t what I was put here to do.

I was put here to write fiction.

Really, Jude? What makes you so special? What makes you think you can actually make a living writing novels? Do you realize how many people have tried and failed? People way more talented than you? Are you delusional?

Maybe. But when you know, you know.

I know.

I’m sitting here with my finger on the mouse, just a click away from freedom.

But freedom comes with a price. Always.

I know I was put here to create stories. I know I have some game. I know I have a much better chance of making it if I can commit to writing full time.

Still, it’s a scary thing.

Not pushing the button means security. A steady paycheck, full benefits, paid vacations. How can I just quit a good job like that, with so many folks desperate for work these days?

I get up from my desk and walk away. No, I can’t do it. It’s too risky. I’ll just wait a while and see what happens, I tell myself.

And then I sit back down and put my finger on the button again.

Last year I signed a multi-book contract with Amazon’s Thomas and Mercer imprint for my Nicholas Colt thriller series. My wonderful agent Jane Dystel negotiated the deal, and I’m very happy with it. CROSSCUT goes on sale today. It’s my first book with Amazon, and the second in the series. I’m looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Thomas and Mercer.

But does a deal like that guarantee my success as an author?

Of course not. If my books don’t sell, I don’t make money. I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of my contract, but that’s basically what it boils down to. That’s basically what every book deal boils down to, unless there’s a life-changing advance involved.

Amazon’s terms are way better than any other publisher I know of, but you still have to move product to collect coin.

So how in the hell can I even think about pushing that button? Why not just wait and see how the books do?

That would be the safe thing to do. Some people might even say it would be the sane thing to do.

But is it the right thing for me to do? Today?

I’m sitting here thinking about it, and it’s absolutely gut-wrenching.

From a very young age, I knew that someday I would write a novel. I kept putting it off, and life happened, and then one day I was forty-something. I decided it was time. Three novels and multiple rejections later, I finally landed an agent for an early version of POCKET-47, the first Nicholas Colt book. I was on my way!

After the book was pitched around New York, after it was read and praised by—and ultimately rejected by—multiple heavyweight editors at multiple big houses, the agent and I parted ways and I sold the book myself to a small press.

It launched to some very nice reviews, most notably a starred review in PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY, and suddenly literary agents and film production companies were querying me.

Which was nice.

But I knew the agent I wanted, and Mr. Joe Konrath was kind enough to give me a referral, and one thing led to another, and the rest is history.

And here we are.

And here I am, with my finger on the button, knowing that if I push it my life will be, for better or for worse, irrevocably changed.

Just do it, I tell myself. What’s the worst that could happen?

Destitution comes to mind.

But to get anywhere in life, you have to believe in yourself. And once you believe in yourself, you have to be willing to take a risk. You have to dance like nobody’s watching. You have to be willing to bet the house on a roll of the dice.

Once you know who you are, and know your purpose, you have to invest heavily, against all odds, in the one thing you have some degree of control over.

And that one thing is you.

I’m sitting here with my finger on the button, tears rolling down my cheeks, every nerve ending in my body on fire, and a booming guttural primordial yawp erupts from somewhere deep in my chest, and I push that motherfucker, I push it and watch it fly.

And now it is done.

And I feel better about it than I’ve ever felt about anything.

Joe sez: No guts, no glory. We've all heard that expression. But few people get to actually test it. 

Are you ready to quit your job and write full time? I was lucky enough to have that happen ten years ago, with my first book deal. These days, writers have more opportunity for sales via self-publishing, but we don't have the big advance money upfront that could make the decision easier. 

Every writer needs to figure out what their goals are, and decide upon the best ways to reach those goals. Quitting your job to write full time is a big risk, with no guarantees. Remember that luck is extremely important. You can write a great book and it could take years to find an audience. It might not find an audience within your lifetime. Betting your entire future on luck may not be a wise way to approach life.

If you are thinking about writing full time, here are some questions you might ask yourself before telling your boss to go to hell.

Do I Write Quickly? The faster you can write, the better chance you have at making a living. I can comfortably write four novels a year, plus a handful of shorts.

What Is My Financial Situation? You need to understand how much money is required to stay afloat, and when you guess how much your book income will bring in, guess low. Ebooks aren't a steady paycheck. Sales fluctuate. 

Do I Have A Back-Up Plan? Do you have money put aside if things get rough? Would your job take you back six months from now? Do you have an alternate stream of income (spouse, investments)?

What About Insurance? I couldn't afford health insurance the first seven years I was writing full time. I got really lucky my family had no serious health issues. 

Can I Write? Every writer thinks they can write good books. But not every writer actually writes good books. Obviously, some people are deluding themselves. Are you one of them? How do you know for sure?

We all have different goals, and there are many ways to reach those goals. There are no right ways and wrong ways. The best plans can be derailed by bad luck. The worst plans sometimes succeed. But the more informed we are, the more we understand, the likelier we are to make smart choices.