Sun 23 May 2010
Joe Konrath, author of the Jack Daniels thriller series and of the new resource for indie writers – The Newbies Guide to Publishing – has inked a deal that sieges the Publishing Royals’ Castle. It also charts the course, showing the Royals, authors and agents where the future lies. The deal itself and the fact that it is with the biggest, baddest ebookseller AND bookseller on the planet has traditional publishing Royals hunkering down in the castle in the futile hope that they can survive the coming indie siege.
Konrath signed a publishing deal with AmazonEncore for the newest JD thriller, Shaken. Under the deal, Shaken will be available in the Kindle store this October and will then be available in print about four months later, in February 2011. The deal turns the traditional arrangements around 180 degrees and has the Kindle version released first with the print book following several months later. Some of the Royals have been trying to kill the upstart ebook industry by releasing their “big” books only in paper form for several months. That would force loyal fans to buy the paper version and discourage the fans from investing in the future. Or so the Royals thought and the Royals are used to deciding what we will read, when we will read it and how we will read it.
The Castle Dwelling Royals, their Acceptable Authors, and many of the Chosen Intermediary literary agents have been particularly disgruntled by this deal. Why? Well, first of all, the deal was done with Konrath and his literary agent. No doubt, the Royals were convinced that the agent should have known better. See, Konrath had marketed the book to the Royals. Between his efforts and those of his agent, even if the Royals were too good to bother to Google it for themselves, the Royals were surely advised of Konrath’s killer numbers on Kindle for sales of all of his ebooks. But, as usual, the Royals knew more about what America wanted to read than Americans did, so they rejected the book. Why would they encourage one of those people anyway?
But Amazon is not fettered by the Royal Superiority Complex. The rebel company offers a platform for all authors to put their work out there and let readers decide for themselves whether or not to hit the buy button. The Royals (and a few jealous indie competitors) might believe Konrath was inflating his numbers, but Amazon knew better. And Amazon knows that the digital future is better served by getting it out there electronically first. So, Konrath and his agent refused to take the Royal NO for an answer and signed on with a company sailing for the future, rather than with one mired in the past.
Konrath’s agent deserves some big kudos for having the courage of his or her convictions. It may have cost the agent a prime parking spot at the Castle, but it very likely will make that agent one of the few that future indie authors want to work with. It shows that agents who are willing to buck the system will still have a career in a digital future.
The whole deal has caused an uproar. Rival thriller author Jason Pinter writes for The Huffington Post and he wrote a piece for them on the deal. Read the piece. Pour yourself a big glass of your favorite beverage (Jack Daniels would work fine) and then sit down and read the piece. The writer telegraphs his position in the first paragraph when he tries to denigrate Konrath based on (his version) of a Twitter exchange. Then he basically says, how dare Konrath claim to be a great thriller writer when he’s never been published by a TRADITIONAL publisher.
Pinter’s whole trajectory in the piece is that the Konrath deal is dangerous because it encourages indie authors and indie publishing. Pinter thinks Konrath should have known that if the Royals decreed his work wasn’t good enough, that meant he should’ve thrown it in the garbage and written something else. Pinter clearly drank the Royal’s Kool-Aid and now believes that if the Royals say you’re not good enough then you’re not good enough. The opinions of all those people around the globe who’ve hit the buy button to purchase one of Konrath’s works on Kindle? Meaningless. They’re only the intended audience, after all, and the Royals have never catered to such rabble.
Konrath did a blistering and hilarious rebuttal to the Pinter piece which also ran on HuffPo. Konrath doesn’t descend to the gutter level of Pinter. Instead of addressing the personalities, he addresses the subject. As Konrath points out – PRINT IS DEAD. Or if not already dead, then it is certainly suffering from a terminal illness. And the industry can’t recover until it restructures in a way that recognizes that it has nothing to do with whether a book is good or bad. Print can’t survive until The Royals return the Castle to its rightful owners – the buying public.
I’ve not had the success on Amazon or elsewhere that Joe Konrath has, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll stop trying. Joe is the embodiment of the American Dream which will never come true for anyone unless the dreamer has American Guts. He or I or any of the scores of indie writers could’ve crawled in a hole with our rejection letters in our quivering hands and nursed our wounds until we felt strong enough to try again. He or I or any indie author could do as Pinter advocates and keep writing until we produce Pablum acceptable enough to the Royals. In the past, that hole was a writer’s only option.
Today, thanks to the valiant efforts of amazing authors like Konrath and of the astonishing and farsighted efforts of the good folks at Amazon (and Smashwords and others) the Royals don’t get the final word. The buyers get the ultimate veto.
Konrath’s siege of the Castle has the Royal minions throwing the only weapons they have left – muck and mud, condescension and innuendo. But besieging forces captained by indie champions like Konrath have the Castle surrounded. The Royals are demoralized and hungry and even when they manage to sneak out a communication like Pinter’s – it gains them no support.
To Pinter, I’d say - I’m an indie author and I don’t need permission or approval (or anything else) from the Royals.
To Konrath, I’d say - Congratulations. I hope you and your agent and Amazon sell millions of copies and put the final nail in the Royals’ coffin.
I only have one other thing I’d say to Joe Konrath – THANK YOU VERY MUCH.