The "revolution is on, baby"

The "revolution is on, baby"

So quoth US crime writer Joe Konrath in a blog in response to a Publishers Weekly article that suggested the reason he had signed on for the AmazonEncore program was because he had run out of real publishing options.

In an entertaining blog entitled "Publishers Weekly Epic Fail" Konrath roared back: "That article certainly makes me seem like a loser, doesn't it?" He argued that the Encore deal was not a "last resort", and that his traditionally published books were profitable as were those that he has published direct to Amazon's Digital Text Platform.

Konrath doesn't divulge that many useful numbers amid the bluster, but does write: "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."

Fair play to Konrath. And of course PW does not help its case by mixing up its BookScan hardback and paperback numbers (I see that it has since amended the article to make it clearer). What SHOULD not get lost though is that the PW analysis was essentially correct—sales of Konrath's books have been on a downwards curve for some time. With pressure on midlist authors, it is hardly surprising that traditional publishing passed on his next book, and that the author looked for the next best alternative, then tried to make a big deal out of it.

For the pedantic, the decline goes like this (in order of publication): Whiskey Sour 43,577 (copies sold, all editions); Bloody Mary 30,770; Rusty Nail 26,572; Dirty Martini 23,672; Fuzzy Navel 10,883. Unlike PW I won't compare these numbers with his latest Cherry Bomb, which has yet to come out in paperback when we ran the stats, but the hardback sales of CB do not suggest a turnaround story, here. Hardback sales of CB are ahead only of one earlier title, Rusty Nail.

Of course this analysis will not please the digital enthusiasts who want to see the traditional gatekeepers overthrown, and who somehow believe that by publishing 'in a different way' a whole new audience will suddenly appear.

And Konrath does have a decent story to sell. He says he has sold 46,000 ebooks. But what this tells me is that he is more enthusiastic at marketing his books than his publisher ever was. Though he doesn't spend $35,784 on book trailers (as implied here earlier), you can see some of his marketing efforts on his blog.

As the agents told PW what the deal really points to is "a new middle ground opening up in the business—a midway point between corporate publishing and self-publishing that was never available under the old model". In short, authors no longer need publishers to reach a mass audience, but it remains very unlikely that they will become bestsellers without their help.

So a mini-revolution is happening. But as for the main event, baby, I'm postponing that. For now.