Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Ebook World of Joe Konrath

This article is not about Joe Konrath the writer, Joe Konrath the promoter, or even Joe Konrath the person. It is about Joe Konrath the proselytizer of ebooks.

For those aspiring authors who never heard of him, Joe Konrath writes novels - specifically detective thrillers, science fiction, and other genres. He also does a  lot of nonfiction blogging on the virtues of ebook  publishing that sometimes seem like fiction.

From what I've heard or may have read, Joe Konrath was, maybe still is, a teacher of English or creative writing at some community college in the Chicago area. For years, according to Konrath himself, he tirelessly tried to get his books accepted in the regular publishing world. As I recall, it was either 12 or 20 years. Finally he succeeded, and for a few years was having a series about a woman police detective being sold by a legitimate publisher. Then, for some reason, that firm decided to no longer print Mr. K's books.

Since then, JK has insisted that ebook publishing is the only way for writers to make money and be successful.

Unfortunately, for people trying to break into or get back into the writing business, he's probably correct.

I say unfortunately, because to be successful in ebooks, you have to virtually become a publisher.

Writing the book is the easy part. After that you must have an excellent book cover design, be good at writing your own advertising copy, and, most important of all, have a plan to market / sell your book.

In Mr. K's case, and some other colleagues / collaborators that have blogged with him, they had already had books sold by legitimate publishers, or as Konrath likes to call them, "legacy" publishers. This means they already had a fan base, however small it was or is, from which to build up ebook sales.

Without that initial fan base, in my opinion, they would be floundering like many self published authors who were never fortunate enough to break into the book business.

There are several reasons it's hard to make ebook sales. At most, right now, ebook sales are about 25% of the total book market. Of  this 25%, many of these sales are books successfully and  previously published in paper by large firms. That really doesn't leave much of the market for unknown writers, particularly unknown fiction writers, no matter how good they might be. Keep in mind also, that like the rest of the book market, over half of ebook sales are probably nonfiction.

Last year, I had pointed this out in a comment on Konrath's blog. As I recall, it had to do with someone who had just put up his novel for a sale as an ebook. From my understanding, the guy never had any correspondence with a publishing editor or agent. To me a lot of his assertions seemed fatuous. The silliest one was that if he sold one book a day, he could make the $5000 advance, that publishers  "normally" pay, in 10 years. Yes, he might be able to do that. But if he, or Konrath, or any of the blogs regular fans had any mathematical sense, they'd realize that $5000 received  in this way, with today's inflation, would  have a present value of maybe $50.

But I didn't bother pointing that fact out. Nor on the same blog did I bother telling someone named Ann, who used to write for Harlequin, that it wasn't important she "only" made  ~$20000 on the sale of a book. The important point was how long it took her to write the book, and how many of these she could do in a year. After glancing at one of her novels, I'd say if it took her over two months to write, maybe she should get into something else other than writing. If it did take her two or less months, and she can turn out 4 or  5 of these a year, I'd say she's making a comfortable income. Not rich, but comfortable nevertheless.

Like everything in the entertainment business, writers are full of dreams. It's good for everybody to have dreams. To have hope. Because without it, most of us would go nuts.

Just remember though, it's only dreams. And  most dreams never come true.

Joseph Day

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