Sunday, December 31, 2017

Konrath's New Year's Resolutions for Writers 2018

Every December I do a post about resolutions for writers, and every year I add more of them. 

You can read the compilation or original posts HERE.

This year, rather than repost them all, I'm going to reflect on all the resolutions I've written since 2006.

This blog began with suggestions of how writers could improve their commercial appeal, find an agent and a publisher, and self-promote.

This blog has prospered through the birth of social media and MySpace (remember MySpace?), the rise of Amazon and self-publishing, and chronicled my own personal journey of legacy deals, into KDP, and back to having print books on the shelf with my Kensington deal and upcoming release of THE LIST.

This blog has lasted so long that I no longer feel the need to blog. I've stated my case, done what I came her to do, and don't have to say much more.

I've taken a lot of my own advice. And disregarded much of it. Here's the breakdown of every New Year's Resoultion I've offered, with my modern take on the adivice:

I will start/finish the damn book

This is still essential. Without this, you aren't a writer.

I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth 

Self-publishing has made this irrelevant. If you're writing shorts, self-pub them one at a time, then compile them and self-publish the collection.

I will attend at least one writer's conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers 

I haven't gone to any conferences in years.

That said, I will be attending KILLER NASHVILLE at the end of August. If you ever wanted to meet me, that's your chance.

I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to

If you're still submitting to mags, subscribe.

I will join a critique group. If one doesn't exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library

Can't hurt. Feedback during the writing progress can be immeasurably helpful. I always discuss books-in-progress with family and friends to litmus test the direction I'm heading, or if I get stuck.

I will finish every story I start

If it gets hard, good. It makes you stronger.

I will listen to criticism

During the creation process, it's key. But reviews are not criticism. Don't read reviews.

I will create/update my website 

Still essential. I make a few hundred bucks a month on Amazon Associates, all from people who check out my website and click on an affiliate link.

I will master the query process and search for an agent

When you're big enough to need an agent, they'll find you. Or they'll take a phone call. Query letters are so 1995.

I'll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something

Hell yes. Google and Wikipedia and the Internet Wayback Machine are great for research, but they become black holes from which you cannot escape. You can't let the Internet suck you in when you need to put words on the page.

I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy

You will be discouraged, but the only surefire solution is to keep writing, or quit entirely. I spent ten years without making a dime. And now I'm close to selling my 3 millionth book.

I will keep my website updated

I hate going to a favorite author's website and seeing no new news for the last six months. Your fans hate that too.

I will keep up with my blog and social networks 

Absolutely. But I strongly recommend keeping your personal social media (family stuff, political views, liking Caturday) separate from your professional pages. Your friends and family can follow you because they care about who you voted for, and how much you like the Cubs. Fans probably only care about your new releases, and when your stuff is on sale. 

I also strongly recommend Freedom and Anti-Social to block your social media during writing time.

I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I'll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner

Sitting and waiting for life to happen isn't a recipe for success. If you're there to get known, make yourself known. If you're at an event and there is no line of fans waiting for a signature and selfie, then get up and mingle.

I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won't send out more than four a year

Six times a year at most. More than that, and you'll risk losing followers. YMMV.

I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how

It's a good skill to master, and one day you'll need it.

I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher's

I was wrong on this one. You should do whatever you can to help, but this is their part of the contract to fulfill. 

I will stay in touch with my fans

If someone reaches out, reach back. Keep it brief and impersonal and gracious.

I will contact local libraries, and tell them I'm available for speaking engagements

Libraries will always be relevant.

I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford

A few is fine, but they just aren't needed like they used to be needed. It's great to meet readers and author authors, but a BookBub ad, which will likely cost less, is a lot better for your sales.

I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion

I was wrong. Use your advance to live on while you write more.

I will help out other writers

To a point. I've become very protective of my time, and I've hit my lifetime quota of helping others. Be wary you don't spread yourself too thin.

I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy

Your race is with yourself, not with anyone else. 

I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic

Good advice for writing, and for life. 

I will do one thing every day to self-promote

You can tweet, blog, Facebook, answer email, update your site, put something on sale, make something free, book an ad... do something. 

Your backlist is like a garden. It needs to be tended, or it will die.

I will always remember where I came from

If you look forward without looking back, you're doomed to retrace your steps rather than get somewhere new.

Keep an Open Mind

It's easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no "next big thing" unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone.  

Look Inward

We tend to write for ourselves. But for some reason we don't market for ourselves. Figure out what sort of marketing works on you; that's the type of marketing you should be trying. You should always know why you're doing what you're doing, and what results are acceptable to you.  

Find Your Own Way

Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn't work, don't be afraid to ditch it.  

Set Attainable Goals

Saying you'll find an agent, or sell 30,000 books, isn't attainable, because it involves things out of your control. Saying you'll write 20,000 words next month, or update your website, is within your power and fully attainable.

Enjoy the Ride

John Lennon said that life is what happens while you're busy planning other things. Writing isn't about the destination; it's about the journey. If you aren't enjoying the process, why are you doing it? 

elp Each Other
But remember that there will always be people who need help, and you can't help them all. Give what you can, but don't expect anything in return.

I Will Use Anger As Fuel

Life is unfair. That won't change. If you want to succeed, don't dwell on that. Focus on improving your odds by working your ass off.

I Will Abandon My Comfort Zone

Great artists take chances. Successful businesspeople take chances.

This means doing things you're afraid of, and things you hate, and things you've never tried before.

I Will Feed My Addiction 

Life is busy. There are always things you can and should be doing, and your writing career often comes second. So make it come first.

Right now, you're reading A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Not A Newbie's Guide to Leading a Content and Balanced Life.

If you can't devote the time, energy, and money it takes to pursue this career, go do something else.

I Will Never Be Satisfied 

Happiness isn't productive. Mankind's greatest accomplishments are all tales of struggle, hardship, sacrifice, work, and effort. You won't do any of those things if you're satisfied with the status quo. 

Who do you want on your team? The kid who plays for fun? Or the kid who plays to win?

If you want this to be your year, you know which kid you have to be.

I Won't Blame Anyone For Anything

What's done is done, and being bitter isn't going to help your career. So try to learn from misfortune, forgive yourself and others, and focus on what you can learn from past failures.

I Will Be Wary

For a while, legacy publishers held all the cards. Now it looks like Amazon does, and will continue to do so for a while. But the moment you become complacent, you set yourself up for disaster. Ask the dinosaurs. Stay as agile and wary as possible, and be ready to diversify if the climate changes.

I Will Be A Pioneer

I continue to try new things (this year I pubbed some puzzle books and a children's picture book). If you aren't failing, you aren't trying hard enough.

I Will Read Books

Reading, and giving the gift of reading to others, is essential. Period.

I Will Stop Worrying 

Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It's also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn't the way to get ahead.

You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.

I Will Self-Publish

Welcome to 2018. 

I Won't Self-Publish Crap

Just because it's easier than ever before to reach an audience doesn't mean you should.

Luck still plays a part in success. But so does professionalism.

Self-pubbing is not the kiddie pool, where you learn how to swim. You need to be an excellent swimmer before you jump in.

I'll Pay Attention to the Market

If you want to make a living, you still have to understand your audience, and how to give them what they want.

Self-pubbing is not an excuse to be a self-indulgent egomaniac. On the contrary, it's a chance for you to learn what sells.

For the very first time, the writer can conduct their own real-world experiments. By trying different things, learning from mistakes, and constantly tweaking and improving, we have more power than ever before to find our readers.

That means being attuned, not passive.

I Will Control My Fear

There will always be doubt and uncertainty, because luck plays such a big role in success. I know there are writers who are doing everything right, who still haven't found readers.

But don't let fear own you.

It is easy to get frustrated.

It is easy to get envious of those doing better.

It is easy to dismiss the success or failures of others.

It is easy to worry about the future.

It is easy to ignore good advice. It's also easy to take bad advice.

It is easy to make snap judgments and quick dismissals.

It is easy to make predictions without evidence.

It is easy to give up.


What Goes Up Must Come Down

Sales fluctuate, and after being in this biz for almost two decades I still don't know why some things hit and some miss. It's frustrating, but expected.

Here's some things I've learned.

1. Ebooks are forever, and shelf space is infinite. Once you're published, you'll always be selling as long as you tend to your backlist.

2. Ebooks are not a trend. They are the new, preferred way to read, and mankind will always have the need and desire to read.

3. Ebooks are global. Doing poorly in the USA? That's okay. There are plenty of other countries where you can make money.

4. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You're a writer. You're in this until the day you die. As long as you write good books, you'll find readers. This may take time. And it may take some tweaking because the books you think are good need a rewrite, or that cover art you bought at a bargain price of $19 is scaring readers away because it sucks.

The universe doesn't owe you readers. You have to earn them.

Get Over Yourself

Don't use Google Alerts, or read your reviews, or search for yourself on social media.

If you want to be loved, get a pet. The approval of strangers is one of the worst things you can pursue, and it will always leave you empty inside.

More writing, less concern about if the world approves. As long as you keep putting good work out there, you'll find an audience.

Get your real-life shit together

That means:

1. Incorporating and paying quarterly taxes.

2. Creating a will, including a living will.

3. Making sure the will includes provisions for your literary properties.

4. Keeping accurate track of business expenses.

5. Getting regular doctor check-ups so you don't die from something avoidable.

6. Remembering that future goals shouldn't come at the expense of enjoying every single day.

7. Appreciating the people you care about, and making sure they know it.

With luck, we'll all die very old and very rich.

But I've always said that luck favors those prepared. It's very east to get caught up in writing and promotion and ignore the stuff that only becomes obvious when you're in a life-or-death scenario.

Don't wait for the life-or-death scenario. Take care of it now. It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 108, death and taxes are unavoidable. The more you do now to prepare for them, the less painful they'll be.

If you die tonight, will it be with regrets? If so, sort that out immediately. Don't leave loose ends. Don't leave things unsaid. Don't leave a mess for others to clean up.


Write better. Write what you've proven works. Write new things that aren't proven. Write more.

This is the single most important thing you can do.

Joe sez: Those are twelve years of my past resolutions, and my recent feelings about them.

Here are two new bits of advice.

Don't Fear Piracy

There are writers that actually hire companies to send Cease And Desist letters to file-sharing sites.

This is a waste of money.

Pirates will always pirate. Don't sweat it. Your work being shared is not equal to losing sales, and there hasn't been a single reputable study to say otherwise. 

As an experiment, for the past three months, I've been torrent seeding one of my own new releases, to measure if it has any impact on sales. I've shared my own book over a thousand times on Demonid and Pirate Bay and a hundred other trackers, and have seen ZERO correlation between file sharing and sales going down. If anything, sales went up slightly when I began sharing.

While my study hasn't been scientific, it has been enough to confirm my belief that the only piracy worth worrying about is sites selling your work without permission, and only because that can get you unfairly booted out of Kindle Unlimited.

If someone is selling you illegally, do what you can to make them take you down.

But if someone is sharing your work, ignore it. You'll never prevent file-sharing, and there's no real need to. Your bad sales aren't because of pirates. You'll have to look at other factors.

Stop Worrying About Amazon Rank

We all obsess about sales. That's inevitable.

But what's with this recent trend obsessing about Amazon rank?

Rank is a number that Amazon controls, and they've changed the rules several times on how they calculate it.

As far as I know, no one has determined how many extra sales you get by appearing on a bestseller list, and I wouldn't be surprised if the number is minuscule. I just did a BookBub giveaway and hit #1 with 45,000 giveaways on that day.

BookBub works. The day after my BookBub, I did a $120 ad with Kindle Nation Daily, and managed to give away another 6000 copies as the book dropped to #7.

Now, I wasn't expecting KND to have anywhere near the impact that BookBub did. But on the second day after the BookBub, still free and still in the Top 10, I only gave away 2000 copies.

Let's think about that. At #1, I had the most downloads on The next day, supported by a pricey ad, I dropped to #7.

No add, and I dropped to #10, and eventually to #40 by the end of the day before the promo ended.

This is hardly scientific, but that's a pretty dramatic drop in giveaways. If being one of the Top 10 free books for that three day period really lead to a huge increase in visibility, and thus an increase in downloads, I would have expected more downloads, and more staying power on that list. But when the ads stopped, the sales plummeted fast.

In other words, being on the bestseller list didn't account for enough exposure to keep it on the bestseller list.

Which makes perfect logic sense. Unless a book has something behind it (ads, marketing, a promo push, a new release, extreme word of mouth buzz) it has a predictable bell curve. It rises, peaks, and drops.

With tens of thousands of other books also rising, peaking, and dropping, the whole ranking system is a hot mess, and I don't believe it helps sales very much. I've messed around with keywords and had books with similar genres and similar ranks have similar sales, even though one is on a Top 100 list (like Women Sleuths) and one isn't on any list even though it features the same female sleuth.

That extra exposure you get from being on a list probably doesn't amount to much.

Back when KDP was still DTP (look it up) there was a noticeable, measurable sales effect when you landed on a bestseller list. 

These days, I remain unconvinced that rank helps to increase sales. Until I'm shown otherwise, it makes no sense for me to worry about rank. 

Now, you SHOULD be worried about sales. That means figuring out how to maximize the impact your book has by paying attention to the cover art, description, BISEC categories, keywords, price, promotions, and advertising. You want to maximize your reach, and find that sweet spot between making as much money as possible and getting as many eyes on you as possible.

But I strongly suggest you stop worrying about maximizing your rank. Find some other way to gauge your success. I gauge my personal success by how much I'm writing and publishing, and my business success by how much I'm earning. That means I'm always tweaking things, especially price, Countdown Deals, and freebies, adding to my Amazon bibliography and product description, and tailoring ads to link with other similar products (Amazon ads don't help much, but as long as you're in the black on them it's a no-brainer). It also means I may be personally successful in any given month, but not really business successful, and vice-versa.

It also means going all in with Kindle Unlimited and going for KENP. Like it or not, KENP remains a key component in author revenue.

At the same time, don't worry about other authors stealing your KENP cash. It isn't a zero sum amount, and one author having a higher rank than you doesn't mean you'll make less money.

It's out of your control, anyway. Don't worry about things you can't control.

Focus on the things you can control.

That's all I got. I'm out of advice. I hope it helps.

If you appreciated this blog post, check out my latest newsletter. Lots of free ebooks and deals for the New Year.

And after picking up all my bargains, go write something. Make 2018 your best year ever, both personally, and for your writing business.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Interactive Ebooks? Almost...

So, I was thinking about enhanced ebooks, and decided to try something that, AFAIK, hasn't ever been done before.

I recently got hooked on playing Escape the Room games. Not just cell phone apps, where you solve point-and-click puzzles to advance the story, but board games that challenge you to follow the clues and get away before the time is up, real-life games where you go into a room with a group of people and a guide and actually tried to escape by following a carefully constructed scenario, and mail-order subscription games where every month you are snail-mailed a mysterious package that you have to figure out.

And I thought: Could something like this be adapted to ebooks?

I came up with a concept. A serial killer is emailing me, author J.A. Konrath, and taunting me to prevent his next crime.

My first, grandiose way of doing this was to have the killer leave clues about the murder in his emails to me. Then readers could solve the mystery like the sleuth in a mystery novel.

But that already exists. It’s called “a mystery novel.” There’s no user interaction. There’s no “solve a puzzle to advance” dynamic that I enjoy in other media. And mystery novels are vicarious, not hands-on and personal.

I rejigged my concept, and decided to have the killer send me cryptic puzzles, which linked to his website, If I could solve the puzzles and type in the correct answers, it would bring me closer to stopping him.

If I failed, someone would die.

Since I don't want anyone to die, I decided to enlist my readers to help me.

STOP A MURDER was born, combining aspects of both thriller fiction and interactive games.

Here's how I pitch it:

This is unlike any mystery or thriller book you’ve ever read before. You play the sleuth, and as the story unfolds you will be tasked with solving puzzles to prevent a murder from happening.

In this five-book series, you’ll uncover the mind and motivations of a nefarious killer who is plotting to commit an unspeakable crime.

Each book contains an epistolary collection of emails, texts, and letters, delivered to thriller author J.A. Konrath, by a serial killer. This psychopath is sending detailed, cryptic puzzles and brain teasers that lead to clues about who will be murdered, why, when, where, and how.

Some of the puzzles are easy to figure out. Others are much more devious.

Do you like solving mysteries? Do you enjoy brain teasers or escape-the-room games? Are you good at spotting clues?

Only you can stop a murder. 

Are you smart enough?

Are you brave enough?
Let the games begin…

#1 STOP A MURDER – HOW: Puzzles 1 - 12

#2 STOP A MURDER – WHERE: Puzzles 13 - 24
#3 STOP A MURDER – WHY: Puzzles 25 - 36
#4 STOP A MURDER – WHO: Puzzles 37 - 48
#5 STOP A MURDER – WHEN: Puzzles 49 - 60

This series works best with an internet connection, using a color e-reader or app to enter answers on the killer's website. A black and white e-ink device will work, but the interface will be smoother if used in conjunction with a computer or smart phone. 

While each book in this series can be read and enjoyed on its own, the experience will be richer if read in order, and if the internet is used.

Over the five book series, you'll need to answer more than seventy puzzles. When you answer correctly, you are rewarded with more clues that can stop a murder and reveal the killer's identity.


I've released all five books, and the answer book, on all platforms. They're currently live on Amazon, and they will soon be on Kobo, Nook, Apple, and Google Play. There will also be a paper version, with all 70 puzzles, plus answers.

Check out my website for more info.

I did a beta test for this a few months ago, via Facebook (I've killed the old posts to prevent spoilers, but the site is still there for readers to exchange hints and tips.) The overwhelming majority (96%) of readers liked it. Since then, I've radically changed the story, and improved the interface. It's bigger, better, scarier, more fun, and easier to use.

I hope everyone reading this blog gives it a chance. If you do, please leave a review.

Now I'll take some questions.

Q: Joe, does this mean you're blogging again?

Joe sez: I dunno. I haven't really had much to say lately. This project is something completely new, so I thought it was worth blogging about. But in the last six months or so, there hasn't been anything happening in the publishing world that I felt a need to comment on.

Q: Why are you releasing this on all platforms? Are you done with Kindle Unlimited?

Joe sez: Like many self-pub writers, I've made less money since KU was introduced. That said, I believe Amazon is still the biggest game in town. But for this project, the books are only about 7500 words each, even though they take several hours to complete. It doesn't make fiscal sense to put them into KU, because I'd be getting paid pennies even though readers are getting many hours of entertainment. Also, as you'll see when you begin to read this series, I spent a great deal of time and money on these STOP A MURDER books. I'll never recoup my investment in KU.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about KU scammers. What are your thoughts?

Joe sez: There will always be scammers. It's unknown if scammers are hurting the KU payout, since payouts are decided after a pay period ends. It isn't a zero sum game when the pot is created after the month is over. And the pot keeps climbing higher. I've heard the All Star Bonuses have been affected, which ain't good.

Q: How about visibility?

Joe sez: Scammers are certainly taking up bestseller spots. I'm sure that hurts. How much? I dunno. I've never seen any studies about how many ebooks are sold based on bestseller list presence. Having increased visibility is no doubt helpful. And my own buying habits on Amazon have me occasionally scanning the bestseller lists to see if there is anything that piques my interest. But I'd need to see data that differentiates sales between books on and off the bestseller lists to fully understand how much of a boost those books get. Data Guy, you got any ideas? Does being #100 on a list really boost sales as opposed to being #101 and off the list?

Q: Didn't you promise the next Jack Daniels book would be out, like, ten months ago?

Joe sez: I did. And I'm a jerk. But it will be out soon. So will the next two Phineas Troutt books. All three books are basically finished. I just need to do rewrites.

Q: I noticed that all of your Jack Kilborn titles are now JA Konrath titles. What happened to Kilborn?

Joe sez: Konrath is the bigger brand, so now all Kilborn books are Konrath books. But I am still going to continue that horror line, and have several horror books coming out next year. They'll just be published under the Konrath name.

Q: What happened to your bad movie blog?

Joe sez: My son, Talon, and I are still watching bad movies. He's in college, and I'm just waiting for him to put our notes online. We'll get back on it. And eventually compile the reviews into a book.

Q: You've got the STOP A MURDER series, and three more novels out by the end of the year. What's next?

Joe sez: I'm putting the finishing touches on a children's rhyming picture book, and I still need to finish the TIMECASTER trilogy, do sequels to THE LIST and ORIGIN, and finish the horror novels I've already potted out (THE GREYS, CLOSE YOUR EYES).

Q: Will there be more Jack Daniels?

Joe sez: Yes. Jack will be back in the upcoming novels OLD FASHIONED and SHOTS. Not sure which will come out first. I hope to get everything I've mentioned above done by the end of 2018... unless STOP A MURDER does well. Then I'm dropping everything and doing a sequel. I already have something in mind.

Q: And what about this blog?

Joe sez: If writers have a topic they'd like my opinion on, ask me in the comments.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Ebooks Sales Slowing? Yes and No

Joe sez: This blog originally appeared in 2010. It's extremely prescient about the future of ebooks, but that isn't the reason I'm reposting it.

I'm reposting because I got my very first DMCA Takedown notice.

Blogger has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that certain content in your blog is alleged to infringe upon the copyrights of others. As a result, we have reset the post(s) to "draft" status. (If we did not do so, we would be subject to a claim of copyright infringement, regardless of its merits. The URL(s) of the allegedly infringing post(s) may be found at the end of this message.) This means your post - and any images, links or other content - is not gone. You may edit the post to remove the offending content and republish, at which point the post in question will be visible to your readers again.

Apparently my infringement, according to the website Lumen, was including an Amazon link to author Lexi Revellian.

Lexi was originally mentioned as one of the laundry list of authors below. I've since removed her name and Amazon link from this post, but this has brought up some interesting points.

1. Linking to an Amazon page is in no way a copyright infringement.

2. I'm pretty sure all authors want as many websites as possible to link to their books.

3. I don't think I know who Lexi is, but this was seven years ago and I may have forgotten. I have no idea why, seven years after the fact, she or someone working on her behalf, would complain to Blogger about a very old fair use post of mine that was supportive of her work.

I know that some authors hire companies to scour the Internet for examples of piracy. These companies dish out DMCA notices like drunks throw out beads at Mardi Gras.

As mentioned by Blogger in the email above, they remove posts regardless of merit. Which means anyone can accuse anyone of copyright infringement, and Blogger (along with many other Internet companies) err to the side of the accuser.

Certainly everyone can see what a bad thing this is. Guilty until proven innocent didn't work for the court system, and it shouldn't work for the Internet.

4. I have no idea if Lexi is using any services to protect her copyrights, because I have no idea why I got this notice. But I will offer some blanket advice to all authors who think about using one of these services:

Piracy doesn't harm authors. I have written ample posts about this topic.

Hiring companies to police the Internet, looking for evidence of copyright infringement and sending out DCMA notices, does hurt authors. Lexi had an Amazon link to her website, that even seven years later still gets traffic. Now her link is gone. That can't be helpful for an author. And I can guess I'm not the only blogger who is getting notices like this. How many writers, thinking they're combating piracy, are actually limiting their own reach?

Probably a lot. So I'll say it again:

It's a waste of time, and money, and also potentially career-damaging, to fight piracy. I say this as someone who has been pirated a lot for over a decade. People pirate me. And I don't care. And there is absolutely no verifiable evidence that ebook piracy harms authors.

If you're concerned about piracy, make sure your ebooks and audio are easily available and affordable.

But, as I said, you shouldn't be concerned. People are going to share files. It's part of the human condition. Anti-piracy laws are about as successful as anti-drug laws.

The enemy is obscurity, not people reading your work for free.

Now here's the original December 2010 blog post:

Am I the only one who noticed this from Publishers Weekly?

"Facing some harder comparisons, e-book sales posted their slowest growth rates in 2010 in October. Still, sales jumped 112.4%, to $40.7 million, from the 14 publishers who reported results to the AAP’s monthly sales program."

The article is HERE.

Now, a few things struck me when I read this.

First, probably because I'm a writer and have an overactive imagination, I pictured editors in NY clinking champagne glasses with the toast, "The ebook bubble is bursting, thank Gutenberg, and soon we'll be able to get back to what we do best; selling paper."

I realize that reporters and writers of the news have to attribute meaning to numbers, and that hooks and spin are necessary to make facts interesting. But the way PW prefaced these numbers, and called the article "E-Book Growth Slows" gives me a pretty good idea what their focus is. PW serves the publishing industry. The publishing industry is very uncomfortable about ebooks. Here's a nice fact to ease the publishing industry's collective mind.

Except it's a myopic, self-absorbed, and flat-out misleading fact.

This shows that ebook growth has slowed for 14 REPORTING PUBLISHERS.

That doesn't mean ebook growth is slowing for Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, or the tens of thousands of indie authors self-publishing.

My numbers have been steadily climbing for 21 months, and in the last six weeks I made $26,000.

Yesterday, I mentioned Amanda Hocking, who is selling 1200 ebooks a day.

In the past, this blog has mentioned Zoe Winters, Karen McQuestion, and Selena Kitt. Selena Kitt made $120,000 this year on her Kindle ebooks.

But these are all outliers, right?

No, they're not.

Mark Coker, who runs Smashwords, recently interviewed his star author Brian Pratt on HuffPo. Brian has earned $25,000 in three months.

If you check over on Kindleboards, Michael Sullivan sold 7500 ebooks in November. The thread also lists 14 other authors who sold more than 1000 ebooks last month.

Here are the names of these authors. Keep an eye on them. I only expect their sales to go up.

David McAfee
Nathan Lowell
Ellen Fisher
Valmore Daniels
David Dalglish
Terri Reid
Victorine Lieske
Richard Jackson
Karen Cantwell
Margaret Lake
HP Mallory
KA Thompson
Beth Orsoff
Tina Folsom
Bella Andre
Ty Johnson
Vicki Tyley
Marilyn Lee
Felicity Heaton
LJ Sellers
Jeremy Bishop

PW or AAP didn't poll any of these writers and ask if their growth was slowing down. They certainly didn't ask me.

And these authors I listed aren't the only ones with growing sales--I'm just too lazy to gather more info. If you're an indie author who sold more than 1000 ebooks in November, post in the comments section and I'll add you to the list.

But then, indie sales don't amount to much, right? After all, 1000 ebooks a month isn't a lot. Not compared to what Big NY Publishing does.


Whiskey Sour, by all counts my highest selling and most successful books, has sold 60,000 copies since 2004. That means it has averaged 770 copies a month since its debut.

1000 copies a month seems pretty damn good to me.

But then, these are indie authors. It's not like there are any professional authors jumping on this Kindle bandwagon. Except for maybe:

Robert W. Walker
David Morrell
Raymond Benson
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Blake Crouch
F. Paul Wilson
Marcus Sakey
James Swain
Paul Levine
William Meikle
Scott Nicholson
Simon Wood
Parnell Hall
Joseph Nassise
Tom Schreck
Henry Perez
Jeff Strand
Lee Goldberg
Mark Terry
Harry Shannon
Richard S. Wheeler
Ruth Harris
Don Pendleton
Jeremy Robinson

There are many more, but I'm tired off adding all the links.

However, I do want to post this final one, because I think it's pretty damn cool.

This is the latest book by bestselling author LA Banks.

I met Leslie at a writing convention in New Orleans, and we traded stories about how we'd gotten screwed in our careers, which lead to me talking about ebooks.

If you look at the cover (designed by my cover artist, Carl Graves at Extended Imagery), you'd think this is her newest Big NY Print Release.

Nope. Ms. Banks is self-pubbing this one, just in time for Xmas, for $3.99. You can buy it on Kindle HERE.

So... perhaps there is a reason ebook sales are slowing for those 14 publishers mentioned in PW.

Perhaps sales are slowing because more readers are buying indie books. Or because more professional writers are going indie. Or because publishers are too self-absorbed to notice anything happening outside of the insular world they've built for themselves.

But what do I know? I'm an outlier.

Here's a fun game, though. You know the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon meme? We can also play the Six Degrees of JA Konrath with self-pubbed Kindle authors.

Of the names I listed in the blog, I'm one degree of separation from at least 80% of them. The rest, I'm probably second degree.

You hear that, NY Publishing? You truly want to slow the growth of ebooks?

Shut me up.

I'm willing to be bought off. Pass around a collection envelope, like you do for employee birthdays. For a million bucks, I promise I'll never blog about ebooks, or help another writer, ever again.

Here's my Paypal button. Maybe we can do business.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Good is Good Enough?

Bear with me while I work out some doubts.

Last month I published GRANDMA?, a YA comedy horror novel I wrote with my nineteen year old son, Talon.

A lot of the writing was rewriting his prose. He's young, he's still learning, and his stuff wasn't up to the standards I've had since I was first published in 2003.

As I was rewriting his scenes, I got to thinking. I wrote bunch of novels before WHISKEY SOUR was published. I self-pubbed most of those early books in 2009, with zero changes, because they were good enough for prime time. I knew they were good enough, because my agent represented them.

A few of them, three in particular, I'd never deemed good enough. So they've been sitting in my attic in a plastic bin, having been written before I owned a computer.

While cleaning out the attic, I took a look and decided these three were, in fact, pretty good. Not great, but I'd grade them each a solid B.

They all feature the character of Phineas Troutt, who is the current husband of Jack Daniels, and has appeared in eight JD novels, a handful of short stories, and my TIMECASTER series. Phin was the protag of my very first novel, DEAD ON MY FEET, written when I was 23 years old. Literally half my life ago, as I'll turn 47 next month.

I reread it, and decided I could do a quick polish and self-pub it and its two sequels without spending a lot of time and energy on them.

But, as I'm polishing, I find I'm doing a lot of rewriting.

Which brings us to the title of this blog post: How Good is Good Enough?

DEAD ON MY FEET is going to sell a certain number to my diehard fans, who buy everything I put out.

It will also sell a number of copies to my casual fans, who buy some of my stuff (for example the thrillers, but not the horror, or the erotica, but not the sci fi).

It will also sell a number of copies to those who have never heard of me, and it will serve as an introduction to my work. Some of those readers may become fans, and some of those fans may become diehards who read/buy everything.

Every book is a billboard for your entire backlist. If that book is enjoyed, it will lead a certain number of readers to your other books.

Does everyone see where I'm going with this?

DEAD ON MY FEET will sell to diehards, and some casual fans, and some new readers. It's good enough that the diehards won't be disappointed. Maybe some of the casual fans will, since it isn't quite up to par with my latest JD novels, and maybe they won't read the sequels. And it might not quite be good enough to prompt new readers to read more of my backlist, but there are books of mine that I consider grade A that also don't prompt new readers to read more of my backlist.

Finding readers is a crapshoot. Keeping readers is a crapshoot.

When I look at my wife's reading habits, I'm even more perplexed. My wife reads 3 to 5 novels a week. When she finds a new author, she'll read every book by that author.

Even the disappointing books.

In fact, Maria will stick with an author for three mediocre novels before she finally gives up on them.

Talk about rewarding mediocrity. But she isn't the only one who does this. There is a lot of stuff that I find so-so that is insanely popular.

I like to consider my novels above average (I'm sure all writers feel the same about their work, so there is a disconnect somewhere). But let's say my books are, indeed, average.

Why should I try to do better?

If a Grade B book will only result in slightly fewer readers over the next ten years, why should I put in weeks and weeks of effort to make it a Grade A book? Why not just put it out there, and spend those weeks writing a new book that I'm sure will please more people?

I consider DISTURB to be my weakest novel. Not only is it short, but it lacks the humor found in my other books. It's a straight medical thriller, and I wrote it by numbers rather than put my personality into it. But it still sells reasonably well, and has an Amazon average rating of four stars.

Many times, in the past, I've thought about doing a rewrite of DISTURB to beef it up, make it better. But why should I? Would it sell enough extra copies to be worth the effort?

I've been planning on spending the rest of the month to whip DEAD ON MY FEET in Grade A shape. But I could release it tomorrow as a Grade B novel, not lose very many readers in the long run, and use those two weeks to work on my next Grade A novel.

On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. Release those three old books with minimal work, and use that time I've saved to write new stuff. I'll make more money in the long run, and the only downside is that some readers won't be as pumped about the Phin books as my other books. I'll do okay with DEAD ON MY FEET, but fans are waiting for the next Jack Daniels book, and getting that out two or three weeks earlier would mean two or three weeks of quicker income.

Ebooks will theoretically earn money forever. But I won't live forever. I have an expiration date. Why not get paid a few weeks sooner, as well as save three weeks of work (and by extension, three weeks of my life.)

And yet, I just can't do it.

I suppose the same reason that got me into writing--the desire to tell a fun story--prevents me from releasing a book that isn't as good as it could be.

On the other hand, my favorite books of mine are the TIMECASTER series. I love writing those. But they're the weakest sellers in my backlist, so the long-awaited third book in that trilogy keeps getting pushed back. If I was writing mainly to please myself, shouldn't I be working on that now?

So what's the answer? Please readers? Please myself? Please the tax man?

Hemingway said that stories are never finished, they're simply due. But somewhere between endless rewriting and going live there is a sweet spot where the story is good enough to go out into the world and stand on its own.

I don't want to release something I don't think is ready. I feel I have one chance to hook readers, so I should show them my best.

But, at the same time, I'm probably wrong about that. My success is based on luck. Not on how good I think my own books are.

There is so much mediocrity in the world, and mediocre things can, and are, popular. Why try harder?

Every author secretly thinks their books are uniquely special, but the vast majority of books don't sell. I haven't been blogging regularly for eight months, and I still get urgent emails from authors, wondering why their sales are slumping. They ask if it's their covers, or if the market is crashing, or if they aren't doing the right kind of marketing.

But none of them ever ask if they self-pubbed too soon, before the book was Grade A. Writers are a pretty insecure bunch, but I've never met one who blames their sales on their bad writing.

I gotta say, it's seductive to think I could self-pub these three books instantly, make some money, not worry about the anticipated three star average (I encourage writers to not look at their reviews, and I usually don't), and immediately move on to something I know will sell better.

But I won't do that. I'll put in the time and make these books better. Money is nice. Having more time is nice. However, the nicest thing of all is having pride in my work.

I'm pretty sure I'm just as deluded as everyone is. I don't deserve to sell as well as I do. So I've decided to always give it my best shot, because if my sales ever slow I don't want mediocrity to be a possible culprit.

However, I'm willing to admit that might be a stupid attitude, for many reasons.

What do you think?