Tuesday, May 18, 2010

J.A. Konrath and new era of publishing

Since the big publishing news is J.A. Konrath's deal with Amazon to pick up the seventh book in the Jack Daniels series, it's a good chance to reflect on what it means. (By that, I mean what it means to most authors and what it means to me and what it means to readers). I won't go into details since it's clearly outlined at J.A.'s Newbie's Guide blog.

Joe repeatedly warns that writers shouldn't compare themselves to other writers, or expect the same results, yet he's also launched a tidal wave of authors onto the Kindle--me included. True, I do feel the best Kindle mob rushes happened last year when there were few titles and lots of eager early adopters of the Kindle, so I've set out for a long-term foundation. But several key questions of the Konrath/Amazon partnership remain--though I don't see this situation as the ultimate test of Publisher Fail, because it's already guaranteed to be financially successfully simply because of the publicity.

To me, the most significant point is that Amazon basically agreed with Joe that $2.99 is the standard price for a new e-book release, no matter whether it's before, simultaneous to, or after the paper release. This skips the entire $9.99 debate, the price that was "too low" for NY publishing. So Amazon has set a baseline for the expected price of a new ebook. But that means that indie authors (and Joe himself) utilized a competitive pricing advantage to gain market, but that advantage has now shrunk dramatically. If Joe was once considered a lesser-known author (hard to believe, but in the hardcover pantheon, he's probably on Level Two), what about all the writers at Level Three or on no level at all? Then they are at $1.99 or 99 cents. And likely, in five to 10 years, free.

Compared to other types of digital content, $15 is absurb for a new ebook. That's nearly two months of Netflix and unlimited movie viewing. Maybe even $2.99 is too high, though it sounds like a real bargain right now. But at 1,000 sales a day and a dollar a sale, I'd guess that's acceptable to Joe!

Interesting contrast is Dean Wesley Smith's "Killing the Sacred Cows" blog, in which he talks about all the different ways writers can make money, and how many of them are doing very well in traditional publishing. So clearly both paths are viable, and I still plan to pursue both. I got a rejection from a publisher today that basically reminded me that I still have plenty of room for improvement, no matter which way i want to sell books, and the commitment to craft is where the real journey lies.

(Oh, yeah, if you want to get Konrath's first comics story, it's available in digital download for 99 cents at Haunted Computer.)


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