Monday, May 24, 2010

Publishers Weekly Epic Fail

Publishers Weekly has done some terrific reviews of my books over the years. But they just did a relatively unflattering article about me that misses a few key points.

You can read it HERE.

Welcome back! That article certainly makes me seem like a loser, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, PW's version of the truth is lacking in many areas. Let's shed some light on those areas.

My six Jack Daniels books have earned US royalties in excess of $200,000. They are all still in print, some in multiple printings.

The first three have more than earned out their advance of $110,000. The second three should should earn out their advance of $125,000, but all the the books haven't been released yet. CHERRY BOMB, my last book in the contract, is not coming out in paperback until June.

The hardcover of Cherry Bomb did sell well enough to go into a second printing. The hardcover release was also mistakenly messed up--one of the major bookstore chains didn't get copies in their stores until more than two weeks after the publication date. There was a demand for Cherry Bomb that was unfortunately not met.

When my fourth Jack Daniels book was published, Hyperion chose to end their mystery line, which included me and other authors. They honored the two remaining books in the contract, but I was no longer toured, and my marketing budgets weren't nearly the same as what I received with the first three books.

After Hyperion dropped the series, my agent went to various publishers back in 2008 and pitched the next Jack Daniels. No one wanted to pick up a midlist series that had earned over $200k in print, plus has had decent foreign, audio, and ebook sales. Their loss.

As for the sales figures PW quotes from Bookscan, they certainly don't match my figures or my bank account, and it appears the 32,000 they quoted for my first book is for paperback sales, and the 4000 they quoted for Cherry Bomb is for the hardcover release, which was botched in one of the major chains, but still managed to somehow sell enough to have a second printing. Kind of a simple-yet-important thing to overlook, PW mixing up those paperback and hardcover sales, and it certainly does make it look like my overall sales dropped dramatically. In fact, reading the article, it seems they weren't even aware I was in hardcover, saying I was "published by Hyperion in paperback for years."

Of course, things like that are very difficult to verify, and would have required intense research along the lines of going to Amazon.com or visiting my website.

PW also wrote, "So Konrath essentially took a book no one wanted and instead of fully self-publishing it, signed with Amazon-Encore, which will bring the book out in paperback a year after the Kindle release this summer and at the very least e-mail all those who downloaded his last book."

Shaken will be released in the fall, not the summer, which is a small mistake, but could have been averted by reading the press release. I believe PW got a copy of that. The print version also comes out four months later, not a year later. That press release thing could have helped there as well.

It's also worth noting that Amazon is going to do a helluva lot more than simply emailing people who downloaded my last book, but my NDA won't allow me to discuss it. I can say it is more than ANY of my other publishers have done for any of my books, and I'm thrilled to be working with them.

I originally intended to self-pub Shaken--after all, I'm making a small fortune self-pubbing. But in the meantime, I signed three other print publishing deals, so I had to put Jack Daniels on hold.

Then, in January of 2010, AmazonEncore approached me about one of my other ebooks. I pitched them Shaken, they liked the idea, and it took a while to hammer out the contract.

I absolutely DID NOT sign with AmazonEncore as a last resort. If Encore had been an option back in 2008 when my agent shopped Shaken around, they would have been my first choice. But they didn't even exist yet.

I didn't self-publish Shaken, even though I endorse self-pubbing, because AmazonEncore will be able to reach a much wider audience than I can on my own. But that doesn't mean I would rather take any old print deal than self-publish. I am self-publishing two original novels on Amazon's Digital Text Platform next month, and both did have offers from major print publishers that I could have taken. I chose not to, and am going the self-pub route because I believe fully in ebooks and Kindle.

One would think PW would have checked with me to confirm some of this. In fact, I was contacted repeatedly by PW, but the only question they asked was about the royalty rate of the Amazon deal. I explained I signed a non disclosure agreement and couldn't reveal it. The reporter persisted, asking several times, and finally I said, "Would you like to get a quote from an anonymous source?"

When I received an affirmative response, I replied, "Next time an anonymous source confides in me, I'll send him your way."

I also did mention to the reporter that I have sold 46,000 ebooks on DTP, and was currently selling 220 per day. But perhaps these weren't important facts for an article about ebooks.

Elsewhere in the article, one agent insinuated my ebook efforts were "schemes." He's correct. They are schemes for me to get rich. And they appear to be working.

Bottom line: I'm profitable, Big NY Publishing took a pass on Shaken two years ago, AmazonEncore came along two years later and played it very smart, and the revolution is on, baby.

I don't happen to have a PW membership, so I can't reply in the thread to that article and correct what I perceive to be misrepresentations of the issue. If you're reading this, and can post on PW, please copy and paste this blog entry in PW's comments section. If several of you do this, I won't be adverse to it. Also, you're free to Twitter this, link to your blogs, Facebook, etc. The more, the merrier.

What do you think? Does PW owe me an apology? A retraction?

For the record, I'm not angry with PW. Any press is good press, especially when they give me a wonderful opportunity like this to set the record straight. And though their article really was an epic fail when it came to the truth, I wish them nothing but the best, and do truly hope PW is still around when digital ultimately replaces print.

DRM Free

I hate DRM.

For the uninitiated, Digital Rights Management is a catchall term for technology that restricts usage of something a customer buys.

For example, let's say a person buys an ebook and wants to make a copy of it, or change the format, or use it on more than one device. DRM prevents them from doing that.

This annoys customers, me included. If I legally purchase a print book, I can do what I want with it. But if I buy an ebook, I'm stuck with using it on one specific device forever. I can't lend it out. I can't make a back-up copy. I can't put it on a different ereading device.

Companies try to explain their limitations by stating that users don't actually own the ebook they bought. They simply own a license to use it it.

Yeah, that explanation sounds fishy to me as well. Why should I have any restrictions at all on something I bought? Especially if the format changes?

I've bought the same movie as many as four times in different formats. VHS, laserdisk, DVD, and BluRay. I don't want to do the same with ebooks.

And I'm not the only one. A lot of customers fear--justifiably so--that if they buy the wrong ereader, the ebooks they buy for it will be worthless. HD DVD anyone?

So the thing for publishers to do, to encourage ebooks and ereaders and satisfy their customers, is to get rid of DRM.

I approached Amazon, the publisher for Shaken, about this issue. I really wanted this book to be released at a low price, and without DRM.

They listened to me about the low price. Shaken is coming out as an ebook for $2.99.

And they also listened about DRM.

I'm proud to say that Shaken will be DRM-free.

This is a very big deal. It's also the way of the future.