October 21st, 2010
J.A. Konrath

I’ve saved Joe Konrath’s talk for last. For those of you who haven’t been following his journey into self-publishing, you can check out his blog HERE. Joe or J.A. Konrath as he’s known online gave his last (his words) in person presentation about self-publishing at the Novelist Inc. Conference in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida. He definitely has a lot of strong opinions about self-publishing vs. going the traditional route. A little background might help. According to Joe, he has 12 years of rejections under his belt for a grand total of over 500 rejections. He eventually got published and did pretty well for himself going the traditional route. When the line he was writing for dried up, he was mid-series. He couldn’t sell the books anywhere else, so he decided to go the Kindle route. He hasn’t looked back since.Β He believes you should make a website ‘sticky’ (ie NO ADS).Β He believes content comes in 2 forms: Information and Entertainment.Β He believes that for the last 200 years we’ve needed publishers for reaching readers. That’s not the case anymore.

He believes that the keys to success for self-publisher are as follows:

1. Write great books. Hook the reader immediately.

2. Write a good blurb.

3. Your work should be well formatted, edited, and error free.

4. Price should be kept low. (ie $2.99)

5. Experiment with price. (Some people drop the price to get on bestseller lists, then raise it to $2.99 once they’ve been ‘discovered’.)

He keeps PDF’s of free books on his site, while putting all the books up for sale online.

Joe gave an example using his book Whiskey Sour. In all formats, it has sold 60,000 copies and made $54,000. That is an average of 833 copies a month on average or $750 a month. Priced at $4.69, he only earns 80 cents.

Now compare that to The List, which came out April 2009. The book is priced at $2.99 and has sold 20,000 copies, averaging 1500 copies a month. I believe Joe makes $2.07 per copy on that title, which brings the amount to $41, 400.

Joe suggests that if you go the self-publishing route that you participate at Shelfari, Mobile Reads, and on the Kindle Boards. He also suggests checking out Red Adept. Joe said advertising on Kindle Nation>Newsletter>Steve Windwalker for $150.00 to get exposure. He said that the easiest thing to do is format your books on Smashwords, then opt out of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, since the royalty percentage is much higher if you go with them directly. He recommends contacting publishers to keep price in check for your N.Y. releases or price books higher on all other formats. Again, keep free books on your website of the books you have for sale. He thinks PDF is the best format to have them in. He said great covers can increase sales 30%. He suggests using Carl Grazer at CG22 (AT)sbcglobal (DOT) net for covers, but there are a lot of really good designers out there who’ll create killer covers. He also recommended Peter Glaze at Elementary Studio DOT com and 52 Novels (DOT) com for formatting. (52 Novels seems to be having a link problem at present, so I’m not linking to them.)

Impressions of Joe… He’s definitely an interesting character. Anyone who breaks out a bottle of Malibu Rum and Diet Coke in the middle of a panel session and starts mixing drinks is definitely a rock star–even if it is only in their mind. (He was in the audience, not speaking on the panel.) Personally, I liked him. You didn’t have to guess what he was thinking and he really couldn’t give two craps about what N.Y. publishing thinks of him (or anyone else for that matter). I like direct people. And Joe is nothing if not direct. He may rub some people the wrong way, but you can’t fault his passion for the subject or his enthusiasm to share. I really enjoyed his session. Wish it could’ve been longer. If you get good information from his site, then show your appreciation by going out and buying his new release Draculas.

17 comments to “J.A. Konrath”

  1. He’s an exception to the rule. The key is a writer has to hit at least one big seller for name recognition and fan base or be the best carnival barker alive to sell self-published books. That may change with all the ways available to get your work out there cheaply but I doubt it will change the marketing problems and name recognition. I like the way Konrath operates though. πŸ™‚

  2. Bernard, He’s definitely the most well known self-publisher, but he’s not exactly an exception. He mentioned a few authors who haven’t/hadn’t sold to N.Y. who were making a much better living than he is. One was writing YA and the others I believe were writing erotic romance. That was actually something I forgot from this blog post. He told the audience that if any of us had a knack for writing good erotic romance that we should be all over self-publishing because the people who are doing it now are out-selling him 2 to 1. He believes the many ways in which you can make the book available HAS changed the game.

    He says you do have the advantage if you have N.Y. sales under your belt (ie some name recognition) first, but it’s definitely not necessary. You just have to work a little harder in the beginning. He’s not anti-N.Y. publishing. He just thinks they need to radically change their game. He does realize it takes a while to turn the Queen Mary around when it’s been going in the same direction for so long.

    I like the way he operates, too. His information has helped me tremendously.

  3. Sure he’s an exception. But a few indie authors are doing well without much previous platform. New ones I’ve seen crack the top fifty on Amazon (which translates to a lot of copies sold) are Vicki Tyley (Thin Blood) and recently, Christopher Smith (Fifth Avenue, currently at #11). The erotica author he refers to is Selena Kitt, who has a lot of books available, and the YA author is Amanda Hocking.

    This clearly does not mean anyone can toss any piece of junk up on Amazon and make beaucoup dollars, however. Just as he says, it takes a good product… and doubtless some good luck. But some people are doing quite well at it.

  4. Ellen,

    I’m not sure he’s the exception so much as the first to truly figure out how to work this ‘new’ way of doing things. Has he had wonderful success? Absolutely! Have other people been successful? Yep! And I think we’ll see even more in the future.

    I think Joe is making really good money. I’d be thrilled to make half as much. And I think that’s a very achievable goal. It just might take me a couple of years. πŸ™‚

    You’re correct about the product quality. Joe drove home the point repeatedly. If you aren’t going to write good books, then don’t bother.

  5. Well, IMHO, anyone making a living at writing is an exception:-). But there are definitely others out there making money off indie publishing, and I agree, there will be more.

  6. Ellen,

    I think a lot of my thoughts/opinions come from writing for EC. I’ve known writers who were making a REALLY good living for years. Heck, Lora Leigh hit over 100K at EC over five years ago. There were a ton of writers making a living there before they jumped to N.Y., so I know it can be done especially now that the distribution problem has been more or less solved.

  7. Ellen,

    Meant to add that I agree about the making a living part. πŸ™‚

  8. It’s exciting times for me. I had thought the erotic romance market was dead, and really it isn’t, it’s just shifted.

  9. Charli,

    I think ER has moved back to the ebook market, which makes sense especially with cheaper prices, anonymity, and convenience.

  10. I agree about the erotic market moving back to eBooks. I picked up some ‘erotic’ books the other day at the books store, and was very disappointed in them. Not because they weren’t good, they were. they had great story, good writing, and were well done. What they lacked was the EROTIC part.

    And I don’t mean the number of love scenes. I’m a firm believer that it isn;t the number of sex scenes, or how kinky the sex is that makes a story erotic. However, I do believe for a story to truly be erotic the sexual/erotic aspic of the story has to be integral to it-and for those two books it wasn’t. If the sex scene were taken out, the stories would’ve been just as good.

    I was quite surprised, and disappointed. Then I immediately went online and purchased an erotic eBook, and thoroughly enjoyed it. LOL

  11. Sasha,

    As someone who writes true erotica well, I’m sure you were disappointed. I think the problem came when N.Y. publishers started demanding more ‘sex’ in the books because they equated that with being ‘erotic’. A lot of authors were shoved out of their comfort zones and didn’t know what to do other than write more love scenes.

  12. Thanks Jordan. Hands down, your blog’s one of the best around.

  13. I like him as well J. He is very direct and I like that.

    Yeah, erotic always sells better in ebook. I know Delilah Devlin had the number one erotica book for awhile, and she whispered to me what her numbers were…wowsa, is all I can say. But she also has a huge following.

    I agree other authors with no platform will be able to make good money from kindle it will just take a year or more to do so, it won’t be an overnight sensation. But then again, Joe wasn’t an overnight sensation either.

    Great post Jordan!!

  14. Thank you, Ursula. That’s very kind of you to say. πŸ™‚

  15. Vivi,


    I agree. I always thought it was a mistake to take erotic romance and erotica into paperback, especially from the e-publishers. I thought the e-pubs had a great thing going with the ebooks without messing up their finances with paperbacks. Some unfortunately learned the hard way. As for Delilah’s numbers, I’m not surprised. She has a wonderful following. πŸ™‚

    Exactly!!! That’s what people have to remember. Good point!


  16. Thank You , Jordan, for the compliment. And I agree, it wasn’t so much the authors, because I’ve read both of these ladies works before, and found them enjoyable and erotic. I do think it might come from the editing end of things.

    And ditto on Delilah. She’ll do fabulous if she keep sup with her self-pubbing. SHe’s got a following, and talent. *grin*

  17. Sasha,

    You’re welcome. It’s well deserved. I know a lot of people were shoved into a box when they started selling to N.Y.

    Delilah is great. πŸ™‚