JA Konrath’s Deal with Amazon

An interesting development for JA Konrath which has implications for self-publishing and it also…doesn’t. Amazon Encore is going to release Konrath’s next novel digitally and in print. AmazonEncore is “a new program whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on Amazon.com to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate.”

Konrath doesn’t exactly fit that profile, as his novels are doing well, but this has the feel of the beginning of the future – once self-publishers are able to mimic what Konrath has done without a traditional publisher, the role of traditional publishing will really be diminished.

Konrath has been both an advocate of self-publishing and a detractor.  He’s an advocate in the sense that he sees the value in author’s taking matters into their own hands and self-releasing books.  But he also frequently argues that this is only the case if the author has a very good platform and track record – through traditional publishing.

He’s right on both counts – just putting up a novel on Kindle as an unknown isn’t necessarily going to bring in $100 a day.  Where Konrath sometimes goes wrong, and where I’ve argued with him, is that only by traditional publishing can a writer truly prove his mettle.  Until an editor has given the thumbs up can an author truly know if he or she has “made it” and is perhaps a good enough writer to self-publish.

A misguided article in the Huffington Post about this deal makes a similar argument: that writers will publish more and more before they’re ready.  Before they’ve paid their dues.  An old argument.  Given that publishing is being rewritten, perhaps “paying your dues” means putting out a book that no one buys. Back to the drawing board – you’ve been rejected, time to make it better.

The Huffington Post article seems fairly archaic:

Publishing is not a perfect industry. And the examples of books that were rejected numerous times or even self-published that went on to become great successes are many. Because book publishing is a wholly subjective business–the only books that are published are the ones that editors truly love (let’s ignore celebrity and cynical publishing). Many wonderful books are rejected because one or more editors simply didn’t ‘get’ it.

To say, let’s ignore “cynical publishing” is sort of like saying, let’s talk about politics, but don’t mention Republicans.  Once upon a time, this got under my skin, but the idea that the only reason that books are rejected is because an editor didn’t “get it” is long past.  Certainly that happens, but just as often an editor feels he or she can’t sell it.  That’s “cynical publishing” and can’t be left out of the discussion. So writers are now “paying their dues” through getting rejected for the wrong reasons, which says less about a writer’s skill than it does publishing’s business model.

Mike Cane has a nicely critical post about this process titled, The Suicidal Casino Mentality Of Print Publishing:

The (potentially!) big-selling crap, they say, subsidizes all the real writers whose books don’t make any money.

And yet here is one publisher dropping such a real writer.

And that writer is making them money.

Just not “enough” money.

So what the hell is really going on here?

None of these are beginner writers, either. They have each had more than five books published. All of which earned out and made profits.

So what the hell is really going on here?

I think I know.

Print publishing has given up.

It’s doing a silent surrender, sloughing off writers and books, while attempting to parasitically hold onto a writer’s property as a long-term bet. (None of the writers have been granted rights reversions.)

If that’s the scenario then Konrath’s contract is good news. Granted, Amazon is a huge corporate monolith, but it’s still not one of the big six publishers, so this is evidence of the success of non-traditional publishing and likely to be the first of many similar deals.

  • So many conflicted thoughts on this that I wouldn’t know where to begin and end. So I wont. Totally agree with the intro: “… which has implications for self-publishing and it also… doesn’t.” JA Konrath is an inspiration, but he still has a large set of books to support him. That is a “platform” – the total # of books, not whether they have been traditionally published or not. Any author with a large number of well-written books is probably going to be picked up by a publisher.

    The Amazon Encore is great for self-pubbers, normally. But JA Konrath is a celebrity among us now. I really, really applaud the guy, especially since his ebook is coming out before the print book – that’s a great move, for the consumers. But still, just the fact that he’s written several books already, this new publishing deal doesn’t really mean anything to us. If I was able to write 3 books a year, as I’m seeing a lot of really good authors do for their first few years, I think I’d see some profit too.

    It’s too early to tell. Oh, and I love Mike Cane’s thoughts. That’s spot on. Unfortunately, traditional publishers are just acting like every other capitalistic business. It’s a numbers game, and it always has been. Now that there are alternatives to their ridiculous ways, they are losing money. Go figure. Dying business models should die, and new, better ones need to take their place. Self-publishing getting easier is a step, but it still has a long ways to go. Amazon Encore is nice, but it’s mostly a gesture at the big 5, not the rest of us.

  • klcrumley

    Konrath is NOT in no way an advocate for Self-publishing; he’s a passive-aggressive elitist who looks down on the rest of us…and puts us down at EVERY OPPORTUNITY!
    He’s about as much of a role model for us as Atilla The Hun.

    Take it as you will…

    I’m not inspired by “haters” except that they make me work harder to make sure that my work is just as good–if not better–than theirs.

    Konrath might have gotten this new “deal” anyways because of who he is…

    If you want a REAL SP role model, follow the likes of people can and will do it entirely on their own in the first place Like Jeremy Robinson, Beatrix Potter, etc… and people like Zoe who do great on Kindle and prove you can do it w/o the need of any “golden ticket” from an editor.

    Not that this Amazon deal isn’t going to open up doors for some of us….I’m sure it will.

    But don’t be putting Konrath on some pedestal. He’d spit on you in a heartbeat.

  • Karen,

    I don’t see Joe that way at all. I think Joe is a really decent guy who has worked his ass off and deserves every bit of success he’s seeing. I just think he’s used to things being done a certain way. But even in just the last few weeks I’ve seen his stance with regards to self-pub mellow some.

    I’m not sure whether to class him as an inspiration for indies or not since he is sort of a hybrid indie/trad. BUT, he’s definitely inspired me. Shown me some of what’s possible.

    I think his concern is for writers and that they don’t take a road that seems “trendy” right now like self-pub if it isn’t right for them in the long run. And I agree with him on that point.

    Though obviously I have disagreed and disagreed with him vehemently over some things like how an author needs to be “vetted.” I could be wrong, but his view that a trad pub has to vet your worth, seems to be mellowing a bit.

    Anyway, thanks for naming my as an example of indie authors succeeding. I love that I’m just “Zoe” now, no last name. It’s like being Madonna. 😛

  • *naming ME not my. Gah, I swear. Editorial clean up on aisle 5.