Is Konrath’s SHAKEN Change You Can Believe In?

Shaken, by J.A. KonrathBy Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World

While Cory Doctorow’s publishing experiment has hit numerous snags along the way, ego and reality arguably being the two most significant, J. A. Konrath’s Kindle experiment has resulted in what he’s referring to as an “historic” deal with, who will release the next book in his Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series, SHAKEN, under their rapidly evolving publishing imprint, AmazonEncore., Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced that AmazonEncore, Amazon’s publishing imprint, will release the newest book in bestselling author J.A. Konrath’s Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series, “Shaken.” The AmazonEncore Kindle edition of “Shaken” will be available in the Kindle Store October, and the print version of the book will be available in February 2011.

J.A. Konrath is the author of the Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series that includes “Whiskey Sour,” “Bloody Mary,” “Rusty Nail,” “Dirty Martini,” “Fuzzy Navel” and “Cherry Bomb.” All six titles are available to purchase in both print and Kindle format on Konrath has also written under the names Jack Kilborn and Joe Kimball. He has published over a dozen books using Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (DTP), and has been featured in numerous articles and blog posts as an author who is making a living off of Kindle.

Last October, in a rare case of transparency, Konrath posted Kindle sales figures for both his traditionally published eBooks via Hyperion, and the eBooks he’d self-published via Amazon’s DTP, and while the comparison favored his self-published eBooks, he wasn’t ready to declare the revolution had begun.

Ebook rights began as gravy. I can picture a day when the print rights are the gravy, and authors make their living with ebooks.

Yes, it’s still far off. And yes, print publishing is in no danger of going away anytime soon.

Fast-forward a mere seven months, though, and Konrath has seemingly changed his mind.

“There will be a clear-cut winner in this revolution,” he declared. “The winner will be the group that deserves it the most: The Readers. Together, Amazon and I are giving readers what they want–inexpensive, professional ebooks. I’ve been saying for over a year that readers don’t want to pay a lot for ebooks, and I’ve been posting lots of data and numbers to back-up that statement. I now have a publisher who agrees with me.”

Konrath makes several interesting points in explaining his decision that every publisher should take note of:

1) “I signed a print deal with a company that can email every single person who has every bought one of my books through their website, plus millions of potential new customers.” Publishers with direct connections to their readers are better equipped to compete in a digital book world than those who only sell through intermediaries.

2) “Amazon is smart, savvy, and pays attention to my suggestions. The Kindle version of Shaken is going to be released for $2.99.” Not $9.99 or $14.99, but closer to the $1.99 he had so much success with on his own.

3) “It’s easier to release an ebook than a print book.” Amazon is releasing SHAKEN in eBook format four months before the print edition.

4) “I have no idea if the book will actually be stocked in any of the chains or indies. And, frankly, I’m not concerned.” The ability to market directly to millions of customers who have either purchased Konrath’s previous books or books similar to his is more appealing than traditional distribution.

5) “My terrific agents have been involved from the very beginning of negotiations, and have been essential in getting me a very favorable contract. I couldn’t be happier.” There’s still a place for agents in the digital book world.

6) “I thought it would make a bigger splash to write a book specifically for Amazon. I like making splashes.” Authors have egos; feed them well.

Will SHAKEN be remembered as the shot heard ’round the industry, or is it an exception to the rule, an isolated deal pulled off by an unusually savvy author?

What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Is Konrath’s SHAKEN Change You Can Believe In?

  1. chrisd

    This is the sign of things to come. To me, traditional publishers need to rethink how they do business now.

    He’s absolutely right, people do not want to pay a lot for a book. I don’t. I go to the library. I buy used books if I want one.

    There is something wonderful about physically holding and touching a book. But I’m not sure the generation after me feels that same sentimentality.

  2. Mark Long

    I’m not sure this deal is revolutionary–although I wish Konrath the best of luck–given that basically it’s a digital version of Sterling Publishing where, due to SP being owned by Barnes & Noble, their books can get prime placement throughout that retail chain. I think the key thing is that Konrath is a dogged mid-list writer whose hard work through traditional print publishers can now be better marketed through Amazon. (And there are probably loads of writers who fall into this category which is rapidly growing as major publishers are more concerned with the next “big” book as opposed to building their backlist for the long haul.) That is, Amazon isn’t bringing out a new, unknown writer–that would be a truly revolutionary way for them to use their platform–as opposed to finding folks falling through the cracks and exploiting that space in the current publishing market. And that’s where they’ll probably continue to find writers for their publishing program. Savvy? Yes. Revolutionary? Not so much.

  3. Scott Nicholson

    Mark, Amazon is also publishing little-known authors through the Encore program, drawing from those indies who had significant success in those early, heady days last year. It’s much harder right now, but I have no doubt Amazon can far more easily produce bestsellers than the major industry can. But bestseller is more about face time, exposure, and blitz marketing than quality. Amazon could choose any book at random, set up some algorithms to have it popping up all over its site, and boom, a bestseller is made.

    The key test here is that the whole $9.99 battle may become moot. Amazon is basically saying, “$2.99 is a fair price for both creator and consumer.” I actually agree with that. And Joe is going to be the first of a trickle, then a wave. Amazon is clearly digging for authors and seeking chances to pry name authors away from publishers. And why not? They can offer everything you need to sell books except cheap bookstore presence–and that is becoming less important by the day.

    Good luck, Joe.

    1. Mark Long


      As you say, “Amazon could choose any book at random, set up some algorithms to have it popping up all over its site, and boom, a bestseller is made.” And I think this is exactly what they will (and should) do with the authors they’re publishing. It would be bad business not too! After all, as Joe said, they’ll be able to email anyone who’s ever bought one of his books from them which is incredibly powerful.

      I think you are also right as I was missing that key point about ebook pricing in general . . . but I also think publishers will be more amenable to Kindle pricing if the agency model the Big 5 books publishers are getting extends to other publishers as well (and as I believe is the kind of revenue split Joe will be getting).

  4. Scott Nicholson

    You mean if the Big Six gets the 70 percent royalty Amazon is paying indie authors? (Don’t know what Joe is getting–I suspect Joe is getting the typical deal only with all the extra promotion, which of course means more money over the long run). The trouble with the current set-up, Mark, is that everyone wants to take a dip into the stream as it flows to the writer. The publishers want three-fourths of the proceeds but they are no longer, with e-books, doing three-fourths of the work. And then take the agent’s 15 percent off of that.

    Any writer not seriously looking at that 70 percent, no matter what level they are at, is probably living in a cave somewhere and “just wants to write.”


    1. Debra Scacciaferro

      Here’s a point that working writers are concerned about:

      Publishers pay an upfront advance — admittedly getting smaller, but it does allow someone to pay the bills while researching and writing — which can take anywhere from months to a year.

      Unless you have other income, you’re going to have major cash flow problems with Amazon. The $2.09 isn’t a bad split — you’d need to sell 10,000 downloads just to get $20,000 for writing a book.

      I know writers whose publishers made terrible e-book deals — a penny or a nickle on every download, for books that had been steady sellers on the backlist — for 35,000 downloads in a three month period, a writer makes $350, a pittance.

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