There are 3 things about JA Konrath that I like.
1. He lives far away from me.
2. He thankfully keeps his face covered with a pitchfork
3. He says stupid stuff on his blog I can ridicule
That Joe, he’s an endless source of amusement.
I managed to hijack his latest blog post, about how hard it is for publishers to make any money. How, you ask?
By posing a legitimate question about whether or not a publisher would see a higher return if they doubled the piddly amount they allot for promotion. Out of a $36,000 launch budget (not including publisher staff costs) a measly $1900 is allotted to ads and promotion, and $300 to galleys. $1900 is approximately 5% of the total initial investment.
The model goes on to show how the publisher doesn’t make money because not enough books are sold. Well, duh. Yeah, if you don’t sell books, you won’t make money. That’s a no-brainer.
But what I said I’d like to see is some cost comparisons for what the returns are if that promotion budget is doubled, for example.
And in typical stick a pitchfork up your butt and screw with you fashion Konrath has been mocking my points in his comments.
What I don’t get is, Joe has often said you should reinvest your advance, that authors should self-promote. Okay. But now he’s mocking me when I suggest publishers should assess how much their promotion budgets are if they want to see a return.
If there isn’t a return for investing extra energy and resources into promotion, why should authors shoulder that expense to earn nothing? They shouldn’t. I’m not saying publishers should throw caution to the wind. They should show discretion.
But a business is a business. I grew up in a home that served the dual purpose as headquarters for the family business. I was answering business calls when I was 8. If there was one thing we understood in our house, it was that you had to work to build a business.
And you had to advertise. Simply put, you needed to be seen. Need an electrician, don’t know one? Who do you call?
You check the yellow pages.
Which is why A.D.A.M. Electrical replaced the original name of Ruttan Contracting – using the initials for Arden Douglas and Annie May put them at the top of the yellow pages listings. Did it cost money to change the name? Yep. New stationary, business cards, signs, lettering on the business trucks. Plus the advertising costs.
Was it worth it? 25 years and still in operation, still turning a profit. You tell me?
Bottom line is, nobody will buy your book if they haven’t heard of it. We can debate all day what the best ways are to reach people.
Have I ever just picked up a book off the shelf, read the back and bought it? Yes. Ian Rankin, The Falls, for example.
Have I bought books off of author referral? Yes. Val McDermid, The Wire in the Blood. To name one Joe. Have I bought books I’ve heard about over the radio? Yes, I have. Advertisements? Not exclusively, no. Reviews, yeah, but not for ages.
Bottom line is, to hire a web designer, register a domain and secure half-decent web hosting costs on average $500 US. A really fancy site with lots of graphic design work costs even more. When my husband (a business analyst and software developer by day) designs them for businesses, the costs soar into the thousands.
That’s a quarter of that promotion budget, right there. Then you’re supposed to go out and meet booksellers, do signings, all of which cost gas money at least, sometimes hotel, sometimes plane costs. There are phone calls and business cards to consider.
We haven’t even touched the cost of going to conferences like BoucherCon.
In other words, that money is gone in the blink of an eye. Not to mention that it actually costs money for shipping to send out arc copies to get the Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus reviews, as well as others.
It’s true it’s very hard for publishers to make money. It’s hard for authors to make money too. In a perfect world, it would be easier. Good books – the really good books – would sell by the hundreds of thousands and bad books wouldn’t be made into movies.
It isn’t a perfect world.
We need to invest time, money and energy in promotion. We also need to look at the long haul. It can take 3,4,5 books to grow a series.
Just look at Ian Rankin. An “overnight success” on book 10 of the Rebus series. Years of thinking he’d be dropped by his publisher for failing to deliver more than tens of thousands of sales.
And now he sells millions worldwide.
If publishers and agents want to see more Rankin’s make it to that level, it takes faith and commitment.
And if writers want to get there, they have to work their ass off too.
We’re all in this together.
Big blogging news! Naked Authors have joined the blogsphere!
And Tarquini’s trying to re-write a quote from me, shamelessly! Lies! Slander! Perjury! Okay, maybe not perjury, but still. She should be handcuffed and spanked – where is Rickards when you need him? Deleting comments I made on his blog, apparently. It was there earlier. Didn’t want me showing him up over the horsefucking thing, no doubt.
And the real three things I like about Joe?*
1. He’s committed to giving advice to aspiring authors.
2. He works like hell to sell his books.
3. He may be wrong, but he’s never dull.
* There might be others, but I’m not publicly admitting to them.