Tag Archives: Self-Publishing

Author Joe Konrath on Writing and Publishing and his 10,000 Hours

Last year I interviewed Joe Konrath, but somehow that interview never got posted. Most of this is still very relevant, but keep in mind that a lot can change in a year. Still, there’s good stuff in here for all kinds of writers and I didn’t want that to go to waste:

Brian James Freeman: I’ve heard a lot of very large numbers thrown around over the years, but how many books/stories/words did you really write before you sold your first novel?

Joe Konrath: I wrote nine novels before selling Whiskey Sour in 2002, plus over a hundred shorts. I received more than 500 rejections. I’d easily crossed the million word mark before I made a cent.

To talk numbers, Whiskey Sour was a three book deal, $33k per book. I got a second three book deal for $41k per book, and right after I signed it my publisher dropped their mystery line, me included.

That said, my books are all still in print, in multiple printings, and they’ve earned out their advances. My last 6 month royalty check for these was $25k, and naturally the majority of sales were ebooks.

BJF: Many people would have given up, but what drove you to keep writing?

JK: I love writing. I always wanted to make a living doing something I love, and now I’m lucky enough to do so.

BJF: What has been the best part about working with a New York publisher?

JK: Signing a deal was always a reason to celebrate, and I’ve worked with some smart, talented folks.

BJF: The worst?

JK: Poor royalties, no say in title or cover, lots of self-promotion, small marketing budgets, long publication times, short shelf life, returns, coop, and we’re supposed to be grateful to be published. Last I checked, the writer was an essential component in book sales, but we were never paid like we were, or treated like we were.

BJF: Now that you’re one of the best known self-publishers, new authors are always asking you how you did it, and you always say it’s a combination of luck, luck, and more luck.  Seriously, how did you do it?

JK: I was in the right place at the right time. When Amazon created the Kindle, I had an extensive backlist that NY publishers rejected. I’d also spent seven years learning how to market and self-promote. Malcolm Gladwell calls it the Rule of 10,000. You have to spend 10,000 hours at something to become an expert at it. I had 10k hours in writing and 10k hours in makerting and publishing. I was also determined to succeed. Put all this together and I was in a good position for luck to strike.

BJF: Do you think the ease with which authors can self-publish will change anything about how New York publishers operate?

JK: No. I don’t think NY will adapt. They’re doing a very good job of making themselves irrelevant.

BJF: How much of a role do you think Amazon.com will play in publishing in the next ten years?

JK: They’re the new kid on the block, with new ideas and a smart way of doing business. Watch to see how many authors they sign in 2012.

BJF: Now that you can self-publish anything you want to write, has that affected what you choose to write?

JK: I did a choose-your-own-adventure type of ebook, and have been doing a lot of novellas and collaborations that would have been impossible to sell a few years ago. That said, I still write commercial fiction, because that’s what I enjoy. If I ever become so self-indulgent that I stop entertaining the readers, please kick me.

BJF: What has been your most successful marketing effort for your own work? Why?

JK: For paper books, I once went on a summer tour and signed at over 500 bookstores. I believe my early touring and internet efforts are a large part of the reason I’m still in print, which turned out to be a big mistake on my part. If I’d let those books die rather than pushed them so hard, I’d probably have the rights back, and would be making a lot more money on them.

As for ebooks, I don’t do much marketing. I try to write good stories, with good covers, good descriptions, and low prices. They seem to sell themselves.

BJF: Your least successful marketing effort?

JK: I once mailed out 7000 letters to libraries and bookstores. That was a lot of money, and a lot of work, and I don’t think it was worth it.  I believe ads are a mistake. So are postcards, give-aways, contests, and book trailers. Think about the last book you bought. Why did you buy it? What made you aware of it? Figure that out, and use that strategy.

BJF: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

JK: Doing what I’ve been doing the last twenty. Writing, writing, writing.

BJF: What advice do you have for writers who are just getting started?

JK: This is a business. Act businesslike.

BJF: Finally, if you had to point new readers to just one of your books to get them hooked, which one would you recommend?

JK: Endurance by my pen name Jack Kilborn. It’s scary. Real scary.

The Million Dollar Book (Don’t Buy That Big House Just Yet!)

A few years ago, I was talking to an author friend who wrote a novel in the 1990s that his agent — who was one of the biggest agents in the game — thought was a “million dollar book.”

dreamhouseShe was extremely excited and she took the book out to auction, convinced it was going to make her author rich and famous and push his career into the stratosphere.

(This would hardly be the first time she had done this for one of her clients. She really understood the market well.)

She picked the five biggest editors to start with — the type of editors who didn’t even have to get approval to buy a book because they had their own imprints and a lot of power — and she gave them each a few days to read and prepare their offers for the auction.

Six months later, every editor in New York had passed.

Here was a great author with an established career, and here was an agent who was one of the best in the business because she always found “big books,” and she couldn’t sell this truly terrific novel.

The moral of the story: whether you’re trying to sell your work to a traditional publisher or you’re going the self-publishing route, the odds of being the next “million dollar author” are extremely slim. That’s why you simply sit down and write the next book and keep plugging away.

Also, it’s why you don’t buy that McMansion until the check clears.

Christina Peaden Writes Book About The Carnival Triumph Hell Cruise… Can She Launch A Career?

I don’t know if Christina Peaden thought of herself as a “writer” one month ago, but she certainly took advantage of a huge opportunity to make a name for herself with her first published project: Triumph over Calamity.

triumph over calamityAccording to an article over at the Houston Chronicle website (Galveston woman already published book about Triumph), Christina Peaden kept a journal about her family’s recent vacation on the Carnival Triumph, which as you probably know ended in spectacular failure.

When Christina finally got home, she decided to self-publish her journal as an eBook on Amazon to give one person’s account of what happened. The Houston Chronicle claims “at least 850 people have already purchased it,” although they don’t state where that number comes from. I would assume from the author since Amazon.com doesn’t really release sales information.

So, assuming Christina picked the 70% royalty rate (and why wouldn’t she have?) and assuming those sales numbers are true, she’s made $1,768 in sales in the first seven days. Not bad for a 80 page journal she had been writing anyway.

I have no idea how well the book is written and edited. I’m also not sure why she used the clunky and hard-to-remember pen name C.A. Peaden. She’s giving her real name to the media and it’s a perfectly good name for an author. Maybe she feels her publishing name needs to be gender neutral, but that’s more of a “genre problem” so that doesn’t really explain it.

Christina’s marketing angle for her book is that faith in God will help you triumph over any circumstances. Whether or not you believe what she believes, I’m sure you can recognize there is a HUGE market for books promoting that view. There are also ample opportunities for speaking tours, etc. What I’m saying is, she has a chance here to launch a serious career if she makes the right moves.

I have no idea who Christina Peaden is. I don’t know if she’s charismatic or if she speaks well on camera, but I do know she saw she could be the “first to market” with a first-hand account of what happened during a major news event that recently consumed the American public’s attention. If she has the right internal make-up and she plays her cards right, she should be able to use this as the launch to something bigger.

By “internal make-up,” I mean, does she have a natural instinct for self-promotion and marketing and a natural drive to build on this opportunity, or did she essentially just get lucky by thinking, “Hey, I should publish my journal for other people to read!”

Author Joe Konrath, for example, has a natural drive to self-promote that courses through every decision he makes for his career. Most authors don’t know how to market their work the way Joe does on a very instinctual level. He’s always thinking of new ways to promote himself. Selling his work just comes naturally to him.

The difference between Christina Peaden being a one day story and Christina Peaden being a well-known inspirational writer for years to come might hinge on her ability to “make something” of this first publication while there’s still time. Strike while the iron is hot.

Ultimately, what Christina probably needs right now is a high level publicist who can prep her properly and make some media events happen fast while there’s still interest in this story. (And for all I know, maybe she already has a publicity team hard at work on her behalf.)

So what do you think? Will the publishing world be talking about Christina Peaden a year from now? Or will she fail to capitalize on this huge opportunity?

(P.S. If you have the time, go and read all of the customer reviews of her eBook on Amazon. It seems her view of the cruise isn’t universal and some of the other passengers are writing their own rebuttals via their reviews/comments, which are just as interesting to read in many cases.  For extra credit, check out how many of the reviews are written by people who have never reviewed anything else on Amazon. It’s almost as if there’s a PR battle being waged in the review section for this book.)

Trade Paperback of The Painted Darkness Shipping Now!

The trade paperback of The Painted Darkness, which has a retail price of only $9.99, is shipping now.

Cemetery Dance Publications still has some copies that are signed by Brian Keene, who wrote the introduction, and myself that you can order right now.

You can also order from Amazon.com or BN.com if you’d like to use a Gift Card you might have sitting around or take advantage of your existing account on those sites.

So again, your ordering options are:

CemeteryDance.com
Amazon.com
BarnesAndNoble.com

Thanks, as always, for your continuing support!

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Signed Trade Paperback of The Painted Darkness for Just $9.99

I’ve had a lot of readers asking about a paperback edition of The Painted Darkness because they missed out on the hardcover or they’re not eBook readers, so I’m pleased to report that a trade paperback is on the way — and the retail price will only be $9.99! In addition, if you like your books signed, please note that all of the preorders that Cemetery Dance sells for the next 10 days will be SIGNED by Brian Keene and myself — plus the book qualifies for FREE US SHIPPING for a very limited time only. Considering how fast the signed Limited Edition and Lettered Edition sold out, I really think this is a terrific deal. If you’ve been on the fence, this would be a great time to order a copy.

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The Painted Darkness
by Brian James Freeman

Featuring an exclusive introduction by Brian Keene

About the Book:
When Henry was a child, something terrible happened in the woods behind his home, something so shocking he could only express his terror by drawing pictures of what he had witnessed. Eventually, Henry’s mind blocked out the bad memories, but he continued to draw, often at night by the light of the moon.

Twenty years later, Henry makes his living by painting his disturbing works of art. He loves his wife and his son, and life couldn’t be better… except there’s something not quite right about the old stone farmhouse his family now calls home. There’s something strange living in the cramped cellar, in the maze of pipes that feed the ancient steam boiler.

A winter storm is brewing, and soon Henry will learn the true nature of the monster waiting for him down in the darkness. He will battle this demon and, in the process, he may discover what really happened when he was a child — and why, in times of trouble, he thinks: I paint against the darkness.

But will Henry learn the truth in time to avoid the terrible fate awaiting him… or will the thing in the cellar get him and his family first?

Written as both a meditation on the art of creation and as an examination of the secret fears we all share, The Painted Darkness is a terrifying look at the true cost we pay when we run from our grief — and what happens when we’re finally forced to confront the monsters we know all too well.

Reviews and Praise:
“The tone and building dread reminds me of classic Stephen King. Great velocity and impact, and super creepy. Don’t go in the basement!”
— Stewart O’Nan, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Country and A Prayer for the Dying

“Brian James Freeman’s evocative tale about the dark corners of an artist’s imagination is elegant and haunting.  This beautifully designed book with splendid illustrations by Jill Bauman is a pleasure to read and a joy to hold.”
— David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Shimmer

“Spooky stuff!”
—  Richard Matheson,
New York Times bestselling author of What Dreams May Come and I Am Legend

The Painted Darkness is a dark, terrifying, and deeply moving gem of a novella.  Brian James Freeman managed to both scare me and move me to tears.”
— Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Keepsake and Harvest

“Wonderfully reminiscent of the quiet horror of Charles L. Grant, The Painted Darkness takes readers on a gently chilly walk through the forest of fears both conscious and subconscious. With Straubian lyricism, Brian James Freeman evokes not only the irrational terrors of childhood, but addresses the roots of creativity and the vital importance of art. A very impressive achievement.”
— Bentley Little, author of The House and His Father’s Son

The Painted Darkness delves into territory that fascinates so many of us — the fine lines between beauty and horror, faith and fear, art and the unconscious. Both a wonderful allegory and a gripping read, Brian James Freeman has written a taut, memorable tale.”
— Michael Koryta, award-winning author of So Cold the River and The Cypress House

“Fast-paced, satisfying horror… a compelling read thanks to skillfully composed prose that builds tension and evokes emotional response. The paper edition includes several eerie full-page b&w illustrations by Jill Bauman.”
Publishers Weekly

Read more or place your order at CemeteryDance.com while the signed promotion lasts!

Thanks, as always, for your continuing support!