All Writers Were Not Created Equally

This post is part of the “Just Because He Did It, Doesn’t Mean You Can” files. JA Konrath signed with Amazon Encore to release his new book in the Kindle format first, then bring it out in book format a few months later – the exact opposite of what publishers are doing these days. I’m thrilled for him because he’s worked very hard – harder than most – to create a fan base. He’s not afraid to think outside the box in order to create demand for his books, another reason I admire what he’s doing.

However…and this is a big “however” – just because he did it doesn’t mean you can.

Now I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy, but every time I see something like this, it brings out the stars in authors’ eyes. “Oh heck yah,” sez the general collective, “screw getting an agent or worrying about querying editors…I’m gonna go the freebie Kindle route!”

I’m the last one to stand in anyone’s way or suggest they not do it. I am, however, a huge proponent of keeping one’s seat on the Reality Bus. And here’s what you’ll learn on the Reality Bus:

Name recognition

This is Numero Uno on the Reality Bus. Konrath already has a name for himself, and he’s worked tirelessly to achieve it.  He has six books with a mainstream publisher that allowed him to get his name out there because his books had wide distribution. Do you?

Know the business

Konrath didn’t wake up one day – a complete unknown – and decide to sign with Amazon. He’s been knocking around the industry for years. He’s used that time to learn the business and analyze how books are sold and what he can do to short circuit the process so that more of the $$ finds its way to his pocket. In short, Konrath is a businessman. A very good businessman. I can’t say that about many authors.

Have a Plan

Because Konrath is such a great businessman, he formulated a plan to test his theories – that he could make a livable wage with his Kindle books. If memory serves [and someone will correct me if I’m wrong], Konrath’s publishers had the e-rights to his first books. It was there that he noticed his Kindle sales were quite respectable. He tested the theory out by converting an unpublished book to see how sales went. It did very well.

Whether I have the genesis right or wrong, my point is that Konrath carefully analyzed the Kindle marketplace and weighed it against his platform – which is very respectable. I mean, really, is there anyone who doesn’t know his wonderful blog – A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing? He didn’t rush in where fools dare to tread.

Impatience Will Make Your Intestines Explode

Well, ok, maybe that’s not the exact wording you’ll find on the Reality Bus, but it’s close. Makes me think of my kids. Back when they were wee bairns and getting ready for Halloween, they’d get their costumes about 3 p.m…hours before it even thinks of getting dark. So of course, they were hounding me every five minutes; “Isittimeyet? Isittimeyet?” Gah. They’d dance around like they had a beehive in their Underoos, and I swore they’d either pass out from expending all that energy, or their intestines would explode. I think this is when I developed a fondness for tequila.

And this is what happens to new authors. Their impatience has them dancing around, and, for various reasons they’ve decided to short-circuit the process and either go vanity or self pub through Kindle. I have no problem with either one PROVIDED they understand the uphill battle.

Impatience can be the great equalizer in the end because at some point reality is going to slap the intestinal explody author upside the face. But in the meantime, Author Antsy Pants is justifying his logic:

“I’ve collected a bajillion rejections”: This is a two-fold problem because rejections happen for all kinds of reasons. Most happen because the author’s literary grapes are still too green [see my post about that]. Instead of considering that the work [or author] needs more time to develop his skills, he imbibes the lusty drink called Technology, where all kinds of drek can still be published.

Why do so many people fear rejection? Sure it sucks, but geez, our words don’t come directly from the hands of the Great Cosmic Muffin. Frankly, the ease in which writers can circumvent the need for improvement alarms me. Rather than take an introspective journey inward to consider whether the writing/story simply isn’t marketable, noob authors [noobs=people who don’t know what they don’t know…and don’t care] take the shortcut and go the vanity or Kindle route. Hello, Drek. And this is where the book will finally die an ignoble death.

Please know that I’m talking generalities here. I’ve known plenty authors whose books were fabulous and really deserved to be published, but for whatever reason, weren’t.

“I don’t want to query”: And I don’t want to pay my taxes, but I do want to avoid a court-ordered extended vacation at the taxpayer’s expense. Face it; no one wants to query. So what? Authors who tell me this are basically saying they fear rejection, or possibly know that their writing isn’t up to industry standards. Why this fear to avoid the uncomfortable? Are you serious about this writing gig or are you just playing author because your cooking sucks? Achievement comes from achingly hard work. And come on…don’t tell me it doesn’t feel darn sweet.

“I want to keep more money in my pocket”: Le sigh…don’t we all? JA Konrath can make that statement because he has the ability to do something about it. But do you? Wanting something and working like a dirty dog are two different things. Do you have the intestinal fortitude to work hard enough so that you can ensure you have more money in your pocket? In order to do that, you have to know the business or have a seriously viable platform that will drive readers to your Kindle file.

Intent

And really, you have to ask yourself, “What is the intent for my book? Am I more in love with the idea of calling myself a published author…or is it my intent to produce a great, marketable book?”

Believe me, thar be a huge difference.

Look Before You Leap

At the end of the day, it’s vital to understand that not all writers were created equally, so there is no one-size-fits-all when selling a book. What works very well for the Konraths of the world will invariably fall flat for the new writer. Creating demand without the support of an agent and publisher is achingly hard work – especially if you don’t have a physical product. Additionally, it’s exceedingly hard to create an online presence and, in general, takes years to establish any kind of impressive audience.

If you’re determined to go the Konrath route, consider your intent very carefully before you make any decisions. Think about the decisions that will best honor your hard work – whether it’s stuffing it under the bed, going the query route, or Kindle-izing.

18 Responses to All Writers Were Not Created Equally

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    If it’s not good enough or marketable enough to sell to a publisher, is it good enough to publish?

    In some cases, the answer might be yes…niche non-fiction, extremely experimental work…but in that case you aren’t likely to make a lot of money off of it anyway.

    In most cases, the answer is no.

  2. This post wasn’t so much about addressing the issues of quality or marketability, but rather educating new authors to look both ways before crossing the street. Only until an author knows what he’s doing can he make smart decisions that will best enhance his writing career.

  3. Irene says:

    Truer words were never spoken! Thanks for the ride on the Reality Bus 🙂

  4. *bows down and tugs forelock and blows kisses all at the same time* Well said, Lynn! “Only until an author knows what he’s doing can he make smart decisions that will best enhance his writing career.” Indeedy.

  5. KarenG says:

    Thank you, Lynn, for giving us all a splash of reality here about epublishing. I remember a few years ago it was POD that was hyped up as the next big thing, the best way ever for writers to bypass the system and get their books out there. Or for publishers with no cash for printing to open their doors and cash in. Tell me how many POD bestsellers you see??

    I believe there’s a place for POD publishing, like when a book is going to be sold largely from a website, and I believe there’s a place for ebooks for sure. But there are no easy ways to big bucks in the literary world. Period. Konrath paid his dues. Anyone who doesn’t see that is blinded by the flash of gold in their eyes.

  6. Oh, so true, so true!

    Ebooks have a role in special cases. I’ve started ebookifying (oh, okay, digitizing) my old books, that were published years ago by legitimate publishers. Those books will never see the light of day again, so maybe this way they can see a bit of the light of phosphors. I have no illusions about making more than a small amount from them, but that’s better than nothing.

    I think that could be a very useful role for ebooks — giving some form of continued life to old books. Not quite zombie life. They won’t eat your brains.

  7. CarolRose says:

    Wise words, as always. 🙂

  8. Geoff N says:

    Great points, Lynn.

    Joe is doing so well because Joe is working his butt off, and he enjoys it!

    This route will not work for everyone if they’re unwilling to put in half the effort that he does.

    Still love your blog by the way even though I rarely comment. I’ll change that!

  9. Aw, thanks, Geoff, and thanks for posting. Don’t be a stranger.

  10. Mark Souza says:

    I beleive the story with Joe Konrath is he had six books rejected before he found an agent for his seventh, and the seventh was his first published. After his early books went out of print, the publisher retained e-publishing rights, but the books floundered in the electronic marketplace because of price. The major houses charge the same for e-books as they do hard copies despite having almost no expenses to justify, and his royalty percentage is the same.

    Since he had six unpublished books and an established brand, his experiment was to self-publish them as e-books. Since there is no paper cost, printing cost, distribution cost, or warehousing cost, he set the price point low, $1.99 to $2.99. By self-publishing, his royalty percentage was more than double what it was with a major publishing house. Because of the recognized brand which served as an assurance of quality, an attractive price point, and the increased royalty percentage, Joe is paying his mortgage with the monthly royalties from those previously unpublished books.

    His main points are:

    High e-book prices are unjustified and hurting sales.

    Author should be getting a higher royalty from the major houses on e-books since there is so little expense in creating them.

    And if the major houses don’t wise up, what’s to stop authors from going out on their own (especially those with an established name).

    Great blog Lynn.

  11. Thanks for filling us in on the particulars, Mark. How marvelous that he’s making use of his unpublished books. Most authors let them rot under the bed. He’s in a most unique position.

  12. Harry Markov says:

    He makes it sound so good and easy, but the truth is that Joe has invested his sweat and tears in his work and platform. Also it’s a given that he knows what he’s doing and honestly how many writers can say that they have a business sense or an intuition about how technology can influence the business. He rode the wave at the beginning and what he has achieved can come even harder for some, because now tha Kindle is popular the novelty of it has worn out for people to experiment with new names and wanna-bes. Of course I may be wrong about that.

    BUT I felt like flying up on a bubble, which I had to burst, because of what you said [though for the record I was thinking it, while clicking on your blog to browse the posts I missed reading]. Great minds, eh?

  13. Yes, Harry, you’re right – Joe does make it sound easy, and this is the problem that I see. Tons of new authors get the idea they can do it as well – which was the foundation for my post. It’s achingly hard work and isn’t for the uninitiated or weak of heart.

    I somewhat agree with your assessment that Kindle [and its other little e-cousins] have lost their novelty. Instead, they’ve proven that they are a viable, desirable reading format whose sales are increasing.

    However, do I think for one minute that a debut author with zero platform can stand out with just a Kindle book? Nope. Not in a million years.

  14. Harry Markov says:

    What I meant with Kindle is that the number of new customers increases with a steady, but smaller rate, then in the beginning, when everybody surged to get a Kindle and be willing to experiment. Joe caught the wave at the beginning and along with his hard work, his success is staggering.

    Now, to try to break into this market, where new names pop every so often and users are not so keen on impulse purchases as much as before, it’s HARD.

  15. Harry, are you talking new customers who are buying Kindles, or authors who are Kindle-izing their books? Or do I simply need more coffee?

  16. Harry Markov says:

    Both.

    1) The New Kindle customers are fewer compared to the massive numbers, while the product was still being introduced to the market. This means fewer people will be willing to experiment with new names, because the majority of Kindle users, who caught the train first, are now past the exzploration stage.

    2) Authors: Second, the number of authors is also on the rise, which makes competition larger and selling books harder.

    Joe was lucky to get on Kindle, while the majority of users were in the mood to explore and experiment and when the competition between authors was weaker.

    And yes, coffee never hurts.

  17. Ah, ok. In that case, I agree with you. I talk to many authors who ask about the idea of putting their unpublished books on Kindle now that Amazon is so user friendly in file uploads. I always ask them how they think they’re going to become a voice heard given that a bajillion of their compatriots are doing the same thing.

    Joe was lucky, timely, and achingly smart.

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