If you aren't sure whether to self-publish, ask yourself what you want.

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efkelley

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Does anyone else feel like the Konrath comments here are a little on the rude side? Dude's a member here, and even if he wasn't he's a writer, and that first rule is about respect (or maybe it was You do not talk about AW...I always forget. ;))

Honestly, no, I don't find him rude. I find his posts as straightforward as anyone else who is passionate about what they believe. If he's expressing surprise regarding people's steadfast defense of traditional publishing, then I honestly think he's surprised.

Mind you, I do believe his experiences in the self-publishing field tend towards the unique, and I don't always agree with some of the things he's espousing. First-time novelists putting their books up, for instance. Ugh. I understand his logic, but I don't agree with it. Yet, I've always found his 'how-to' posts and blogs to be very informative and founded in experience.

Sheryl, I really doubt he's terribly worried about getting future contracts at this point. I would be. You would be. But, I don't think he is.
 
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kaitie

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Have you ever checked Konrath's famous Bedtime Story article against the Wikipedia article about him? I did, because so many of the details seemed unaccountably odd to me, and so few of them were checkable in their own right.

So: Konrath writes nine novels that don't sell, then sells the tenth for $33,000, which is pretty good for a first novel, and quite a breakthrough for him. In the bedtime story version, that's the only book he sells to his first publisher. He busts ass promoting it, and it sells okay, but it doesn't sell enough copies to make his publisher happy, so they dump him.

I have trouble bringing that picture into focus in my head.

A first novel means extra work for the publishing house. If you really believe in an author -- and $33,000 is a healthy amount of belief -- you want to continue publishing them, building audience and public awareness with each successive book. A first novel is unlikely to be terribly profitable all by itself. What you're aiming for is profitable sales levels on later books, and new readers going back to pick up that first novel they missed when it came out.

No, I don't think so. Those are weird numbers. That's a weird story.

First novels don't have to sell all that many copies to achieve satisfactory sales levels. Profitability on the first book is not what it's all about. If Konrath's sales figures were the reason his publisher dropped him, his book didn't "sell well." It sold abysmally, and there were probably other problems.

The part about all the touring in support of the book is equally weird. That was a lot of traveling. It was expensive and time-consuming. It was also remarkably unsuccessful, given that Konrath says he hit at least 1,400 - 1,500 venues, and he still didn't sell enough copies to roll up respectable sales numbers for a first novel. At that rate, he's spending more money traveling than his readers are paying at the register for his book.

This led me to wonder whether he should have been putting more of that time into writing the second novel. On the other hand:

Doesn't sound like it took long to sell it, and he got another nice advance for a first-time author, so the second book can't have been all that bad. The story's getting odder and odder.

This is the point at which I looked at his Wikipedia entry. Joe Konrath's first novel was published by Hyperion. So were his second, third, fourth, and fifth novels. They look like they were doing well.

(Here's a blue-sky guess: that $33,000 initial advance was actually one-third of a three-book contract. If you have thirty thousand dollars' worth of faith in a novel, you want more than one of them.)

I don't think that's his third published novel he's talking about. I think it's his fifth, Fuzzy Navel, which was the last one published by Hyperion. Konrath's novels always get dinged a little bit by reviewers for their cliches and implausibility. However, if you look at the one-star and two-star reviews on Amazon, what you see are readers who liked the earlier books just fine, but are complaining that this book is a complete dud: no plot, no characterization, no real ending; just the same damned things happening over and over again.

That makes sense to me. After four successful books, Konrath's editor wouldn't start demanding pointless and arbitrary changes. I can easily believe that Fuzzy Navel needed a major rewrite, because it still needs one today.

Why the sudden drop in quality? I don't know. I do have one theory: Konrath started putting a huge amount of effort into promoting his books. It has to have cut into his writing time. Here's Wikipedia's description of it:

Note, by the way, that Konrath's self-promotion jag started the year his third novel came out. The sales, marketing, and promotion that laid the foundation for his career was done by Hyperion.

Back to the bedtime story:

Even if I hadn't checked Wikipedia, at this point I'd have known the story wasn't accurate. If his first novel earned out its $33,000 advance, no way would his publisher have dropped him for having inadequate sales.

His advances weren't keeping up with his expectations. Dog bites man. Film at eleven. Et cetera.

Nice big advances. Attractive unified-format packaging on his series. Miscellaneous evidence I won't go into that to me says "well-published books, well-published author."

As for his editor asking for rewrites, assuming that's what really happened? That's not mistreatment. The easiest thing to do with a bad book delivered under contract is to throw it into production and forget about it. It'll be bad, the readers will be unhappy, and the author's reputation will take a permanent hit, but it'll be the least amount of trouble for the in-house staff. Actually editing the book is a lot more work and bother.

False, misleading, and disingenuous. When Konrath started self-publishing, he already had a readership and a reputation because his publisher had put a lot of work into building them. If he'd started from scratch, he wouldn't have more than a fraction of whatever readership he enjoys today. He might still have mailed out 7,000 letters to libraries and bookstores -- self-published authors do that sort of thing all the time -- but few of them would have been interested, because he wouldn't have had Hyperion to give him credibility.

I will now skip over a bunch of Konrath's alleged sales figures.

I take this to mean he's skipping all that unnecessary stuff publishers do for the book while it's going through the pipeline.

Hoo boy.

You know -- all those things that really do help sell books.

The "sending him on tour" part is especially interesting. Is he saying that all that promotional touring was the publisher's idea, not his, and that the publisher paid for it? That's not how he preaches self-promotion to the newbies.

Hogwash. He's still competing with bestselling authors. He's just in a worse position to do it.

I suspect that the real point is that he's one of those writers who, deep down, believes that all their publisher's attention should be lavished on them and their books. It's a known syndrome.

Joe Konrath has far less control over his career now than he had when he was being published by Hyperion. A good publisher is an ally, not the enemy.

I'm really not sure I believe that.

Yeah. In the past, the publicity was all about his books. Now it's all about him -- and, as he's going to find out, he's a finite subject.

See me laughing my head off. Have you seen his post-Hyperion covers?

So much for self-promotion.

I'd still like to know whose idea the tour was.

That's one of the most concise and perfect examples of Author Mind I've ever seen. Author Mind is a weird little flowchart that only has a few endstates. The single most important endstate goes something like "And then everyone will read and love *M*Y* *B*O*O*K*S*!!!" Other things you can find in that end-box include "I'll be rich beyond the dreams of avarice," "I'll never ever ever get rejected again," and "I want to be exactly who I am, do exactly what I want, and have it work." I thus regard this paragraph of his as an inset fantasia, not a description of real-world events.

Some writers can function without an agent. Other writers seriously need one to act as a buffer between them and their publishers. Unfortunately, not all of the latter sort realize it.

Tentative translation: "I've made a hash of my career, and I think you should do the same."

One more thing, because I wouldn't want you to get the wrong impression: Joe Konrath is far from being the most unreliable "authority on self-publishing" out there.

I just wanted to say you're brilliant. :D I went looking for info on his cancelled contracts and stuff and couldn't find hardly anything other than...well, interviews with Konrath or articles that weren't always consistent. This is exactly the kind of thing I was wondering.
 

kaitie

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Honestly, no, I don't find him rude. I find his posts as straightforward as anyone else who is passionate about what they believe. If he's expressing surprise regarding people's steadfast defense of traditional publishing, then I honestly think he's surprised.

Mind you, I do believe his experiences in the self-publishing field tend towards the unique, and I don't always agree with some of the things he's espousing. First-time novelists putting their books up, for instance. Ugh. I understand his logic, but I don't agree with it. Yet, I've always found his 'how-to' posts and blogs to be very informative and founded in experience.

Sheryl, I really doubt he's terribly worried about getting future contracts at this point. I would be. You would be. But, I don't think he is.

I was actually referring to the kind of derogatory comments being made here about how he'd never be published again and what not. Though I do find some of his comments to be equally rude. In fact, I've had to stop reading his blog, but that could just be me. Did my post really read that wrong lol? I can fix that if I was unclear (or out of line for that matter).
 

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Let's not be silly. If anyone came up with a brilliant book that looked like it would sell a whole bunch of copies, that person would be published, regardless of what he or she had done or said in the past.
 

efkelley

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I was actually referring to the kind of derogatory comments being made here about how he'd never be published again and what not. Though I do find some of his comments to be equally rude. In fact, I've had to stop reading his blog, but that could just be me. Did my post really read that wrong lol? I can fix that if I was unclear (or out of line for that matter).

Oh my goodness. My bad entirely. When I read:

Does anyone else feel like the Konrath comments here are a little on the rude side? Dude's a member here, and even if he wasn't he's a writer, and that first rule is about respect (or maybe it was You do not talk about AW...I always forget.)

... I thought you were talking about Konrath's comments and how he should pay more attention to the rule. Now that I look at it again, I see my error.

Apologies, Katie. Big time. And I even thought 'that seems somewhat out-of-character for Katie'.

Mea culpa. :(
 

kaitie

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No worries. No need for a sad smiley. :) I went back and looked at it again and realized the way you'd read it, so it wasn't a big deal. I worded it kind of funny, so I'm just as much at fault.
 

HapiSofi

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Thank you, Kaitie. I could be wrong. There's a lot of guesswork in places. But if I am, I'm honestly wrong.

The three great truths of publishing are that we all love books, we are the slaves of the readers, and believe it or not, there's generally a reason (or five) why we do things the way we do.

Let's not be silly. If anyone came up with a brilliant book that looked like it would sell a whole bunch of copies, that person would be published, regardless of what he or she had done or said in the past.
When someone is that obviously difficult to work with, it had better be pretty damn brilliant.

The reluctance isn't punitive. It grows out of the recognition that this author is going to eat up a whole lot of your time that could otherwise be spent on other projects. Given a choice, I'd rather spend it on an author whose difficulty (for instance, speaking theoretically) consists of realizing, very late in the game, that an entire action scene needs to be re-thought, rewritten, and sneaked past Production.
 
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kaitie

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My goal in life is to be an easy writer to work with. Seriously, if I ever start spouting off things that make me sound like the kind of writer y'all would deem difficult, feel free to smack me around until I come to my senses.

I think it's probably easy for writers, particularly those who have been published multiple times, to believe that they always know best. I've seen a lot of writers who have written numerous books then put something out that I read and think, "If you had given this to your editor as a first novel, he'd have turned you back in a heartbeat." I don't know if those are always or even usually cases of authors telling editors no, but I can think of several books I've read and known the author can do a better job.

I guess that's partly why I cringe anytime I see people talking about not being burdened by having an editor mess with their artistic vision, or when I hear about authors who just STET everything and send it back and notoriously refuse to be edited. Then again, right now it's easy for me to say that I'd rather suck it up and realize that maybe my book has issues than have someone publish something I'd done that then disappoints readers. I'm sure it's more difficult when faced with the situation.

Anyway I'm just rambling kind of off topic now. One of those nights lol.
 

OneWriter

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Well, we all want to be easy to work with, don't we? I don't suppose that anybody being difficult does that because their goal in life is being difficult. Meaning: in the mind of the difficult person, it's the rest of the world that's being unreasonable. I see that a lot at work.

Not taking anybody's part here, just reflecting upon difficulties in life. ;)
 
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kaitie

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I dunno...I did known someone once who was something of a narcissist and everything she wrote was the best thing eevaaaaar! But said person didn't really try to be difficult. It was more a natural state of being. ;)
 

Terie

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I dunno...I did known someone once who was something of a narcissist and everything she wrote was the best thing eevaaaaar! But said person didn't really try to be difficult. It was more a natural state of being. ;)

Oh! You know my former stepmonster stepmother, too? :D (/offtopic)
 

MacAllister

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There's a damn big gap for most of us between when we start writing and we're pretty convinced we're awfully good at it...and then the point where we're actually, finally, producing serviceable, readable prose that doesn't screw up the flow of the story.
 
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ChaosTitan

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My goal in life is to be an easy writer to work with. Seriously, if I ever start spouting off things that make me sound like the kind of writer y'all would deem difficult, feel free to smack me around until I come to my senses.

I can tell you from personal experience that being an easy writer to work with is a check in the plus column. Agents and editors don't want to work with divas, and I thank God I was born without that gene.

And despite what some people seem to think, being open to suggestion and criticism does NOT equal being a doormat, or allowing the publisher to walk all over you.

There's a damn big gap for most of us between when we start writing and we're pretty convinced we're awfully good at it...and then point where we're actually, finally, producing serviceable, readable prose that doesn't screw up the flow of the story.

So. True. :D
 

kaitie

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I found this one particularly pertinent. This is starting to read more like a fish tale the more I see. A story that evolves to suit the teller's needs.

And Mac's definitely right. Most beginners just don't have enough knowledge to know that their stuff isn't very good. It's ironic because once you are good enough, you can find fault in anything you do. ;)
 

efkelley

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It's ironic because once you are good enough, you can find fault in anything you do. ;)

Totally. It's one of the vital skills for professional writing. Of course, the pendulum can swing too far, leading to the writer insanity of: Nothing I do is ever good enough. Recognizing the difference between legitimate self-criticism and neurosis is vital as well.
 

OneWriter

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I dunno...I did known someone once who was something of a narcissist and everything she wrote was the best thing eevaaaaar! But said person didn't really try to be difficult. It was more a natural state of being. ;)

My point was that this is a typical example where you "show, don't tell." Divas don't think of themselves as divas, so it's pretty obvious that nobody will ever admit to being one. To some extent, we all have a certain degree of diva-ness in ourselves (yes, some more than others!) and the first step, IMO, is to be considerate and respectful of one another. Peace is a state of mind.

That said, I do know you're wonderful to work with, sweetie. :)
I was just trying to put things in perspective.
 
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kaitie

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No, I think you're completely right. I just think that I've also seen writers who seemed so nice and down to earth after a few books become...well, uncaring of what anyone else thinks, readers included. I don't want to name names because of the whole respect your fellow writer thing, but I can think of one fairly recent case that's been particularly frustrating.

I don't know how common that is, and chances are it's based on insecurity. You're uncertain of your work and your success and you feel the only way to convince yourself that you're great is to ignore all criticism and place the blame everywhere else. Not saying that's always the case, but that's my unofficial psychology nerd opinion of things lol. ;)

But yeah, point is divas are divas and probably have no idea.
 

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No, I think you're completely right. I just think that I've also seen writers who seemed so nice and down to earth after a few books become...well, uncaring of what anyone else thinks, readers included. I don't want to name names because of the whole respect your fellow writer thing, but I can think of one fairly recent case that's been particularly frustrating.

There's a phenomena where a neo-pro, an author fairly new to commercial publishing becomes obnoxious for a while--a few months, to a year, but they generally recover.
 

Splendad

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Let's not be silly. If anyone came up with a brilliant book that looked like it would sell a whole bunch of copies, that person would be published, regardless of what he or she had done or said in the past.

And that's really the core of my entire approach on this issue (and others are moving, imo, toward that belief as indicated by posts like the link to the blog entry in my previous post about the growing acceptability of self-publishing when/if one then decides to take a traditional route).
 

Salt

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I would love for my book to be self published only for two reasons, Control and Royalties.
I do have a target audience but I would love for my books to get the same publicity as one published with traditional publishers. Well, I guess you can't have everything.
 

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. . . I would love for my books to get the same publicity as one published with traditional publishers.. . . .
Commercial/trade publishers give few books any publicity, or at least succeed in getting none for the vast majority, even if they do send out ARCs for some and include all in catalogs. But they are vastly better at getting them on bookstore shelves (although those are vanishing even as we speak) than all but the most accomplished self-publishers.

Pick a few random books from bookstore shelves (not the bestsellers or featured titles -- the ones in back) and see how much "publicity" you can find for them.

My views, FWIW.

--Ken
 

ios

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Let's say you're standing in an airport bookstore, picking out a book for a six-hour flight. Do you pick the new Stieg Larsen or George R. R. Martin or Simon Schama, or do you go with a less inspiring-looking book by someone you've never heard of because it's five dollars cheaper?

When I am looking for new stories, no matter the author, I don't buy a less inspiring book, period; I don't care if that less-inspiring book is authored by Stephen King or someone brand new.

So, I think a fair comparison is this: If you are looking for a new story instead of a new story by a familiar author and you have the choice between four equally compelling sounding stories, would you pick the more expensive one or one that is a little cheaper? By equally compelling meaning, you'd pick any of the four because you like all four of the potentials equally on merit of story.

Jodi
 

scope

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So, I think a fair comparison is this: If you are looking for a new story instead of a new story by a familiar author and you have the choice between four equally compelling sounding stories, would you pick the more expensive one or one that is a little cheaper? By equally compelling meaning, you'd pick any of the four because you like all four of the potentials equally on merit of story.

Jodi

Jodi,

Yes, I think this is the fair comprison to make.

If one book was written by an author I like, that's the one I would buy, regardless of price. I'd be going on a flight for 6 hours and I'd want to be as sure as I could that I had something to read that I'd be likely to enjoy. If I never heard of any of the four authors, but if one of the books had been recommended to me, that's the one I'd go with. If none of the above criteria applied, I'd go with the story I found the most intriguing, based on blurb and cover copy -- but before doing so I'd do something I've not often done before. Knowing as we all do about the horrors of most S'ed books, I'd actually look to see who published the book!
 
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