On May 17th JA Konrath announced on his blog that for the 7th in his Jack Daniels series (titled Shaken) he cut a deal with Amazon and is foregoing traditional publishing. The Kindle e-book will come out first, followed by a print version prepared by Amazon.
I met Joe soon after he made his first Jack Daniels sale. I remember him (we have a mutual acquaintance in Jack Kerley ); I’m sure he doesn’t remember me.
Back to the deal. The price? $2.99 a pop, of which Joe gets $2.04 (or maybe $2.10, depending on what source you believe.) From Konrath’s perspective, he’ll make more money with the deal than on a $9.99 e-book under the traditional agency agreement .(Based on Kristin Nelson’s blog, I understand authors often get 25% of net – which is equivalent to 17.5% or $1.75.)
It is also more than he would get for a trade paperback that sells for $15 or so.
Joe wins if he can sell the same number of copies as he would from trade paperbacks and “traditional” e-book sales.
If anyone was going to make this first move, Joe would be a good bet. He has taken charge of developing his marketing persona, spent considerable time and effort developing e-sales of back material. He gives away some older material for free. He blogs, Facebooks, Twitters and about anything else one can do (legally) on the internet. Through that hard work, Joe has developed a large online presence and has made a fair piece of change with electronic sales. Besides, the traditional publishers turned him down (at least on terms he was willing to accept.)
He’s also spent a ton of time at book stores signing his books and at conferences presenting his ideas and pressing the flesh (and signing more books.)
So what does Joe’s deal mean for those of us looking for our first deal? We should keep Joe’s advice in mind:
Right now, the best way to pursue a writing career is to find a good literary agent and sell the book to a well-respected print publisher. In other words: DON'T DO IT ON YOUR OWN.
Are there exceptions? Of course. Before you pursue a writing career, you need to clearly define your goals, and decide what you want in order to be happy. If you want your book in stores, you need to go the traditional route.
If you've already gone the traditional route, and gotten rejected, I think ebooks are something you can try ALONG WITH continuing your agent/publisher search, not instead of.
Agent Nathan Bransford thinks it is too early to know how publishing will shake out. I agree, particularly since with respect to e-book readers we are very early in the technology and user adoption process. Amazon built a huge lead, but Barnes & Noble has the equivalent of a Kodak moment facing it. (i.e. when photography started moving from film to digital.)
Joe Konrath notes in his blog that Amazon has at its disposal an incredible database of people who have bought his books from them in the past. From that he expects to develop a mass, but targeted and fairly inexpensive, sales campaign for Shaken. That doesn’t work for those of us without sales histories. The best we can get is the “If you liked XYZ, you’ll love….”
I’m excited for Joe – I always root for crazy people who can make a good living off their idiosyncrasies. (Tom Robbins is my favorite example.) Assuming he is successful, it will help put pressure on traditional publishers to cut better electronic deals for their authors. By the way, Joe used his agent to help negotiate the deal with Amazon.
Does it mean the death of traditional publishing? Nope. But if they are not careful, their current cold could turn into pneumonia.