Thursday, April 25, 2013

James Patterson, The New York Times, J.A. Konrath, E.L. James, and you and me. Oh, and ebooks.

One of the few blogs I read regularly is the Newbie's Guide to Publishing, wholly owned and operated by indie publishing wunderkind Joe Konrath, aka J.A. Konrath.

Joe is one of the hardest-working writers I know of. He's been traditionally published, traditionally screwed by the publishing industry, and now is a 100%-independent self-published (and sometimes controversial) writer. He pumps out new books regularly. He also earns upwards of six figures a month. $120 an hour, 24 hours a day, according to his figures. He's been busting his ass at this for 20 years. He's earned it.

Joe recently blogged about an ad James Patterson posted in the New York Times, decrying the ongoing downfall of book stores et al:

James is basically suggesting the goverment (ie the taxpayers: US!) bail out the bookstores, libraries, and publishers who are losing money because they are too stuck in the proverbial mud to adapt to the evolving business model that is indie publishing and the ebook phenomenon.


Why don't we simply cut to the chase: the government not only publishes the books, it publishes ONLY the books it deems appropriate, thereby dictating to us, the American Public, which books we can and cannot read. Possession of non-sanctioned books is illegal. Reminds me of any number of dystopian novels decrying just such a possibility. 

Do you really want state-controlled media? Do you really? Are you sure? Because in some parts of the world, that's already how it is.

Anyway, Konrath's point is that the publishing industry is archaic and committed to the status quo because the status quo is their bread and butter. Supporting writers is not. Supporting the readers who support the writers also is not. (This is not to say that there aren't scores of hard-working, book-loving folk working their tails off in the publishing industry!!!)

Furthermore, as Joe points out, James Patterson earns $94 million dollars per year. Fine. Great. I don't begrudge James his success one bit. It's important not to spend one's time mired in envy and pissing and moaning about how lucky the other guy or gal is while we simply aren't. Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. In other words, EARN IT.

Point being that Jimmy Patterson has a vested interest in the welfare of the publishing industry because it is the business model that has supported him and helped him create his empire. James is not a bad guy, from what I hear. He runs charities and helps get books into the hands of children. As Joe himself sez:

Patterson is doing a great deal of good for the world, with, with his scholarships, with all of the books he gives away.

Fostering a love of books is paramount. My mom and dad did it for my siblings and me. If they hadn't, who knows what I'd be doing today. Waiting tables maybe. Who knows.

And don't get me wrong, I LOVE book stores. Libraries, too. When the Borders Books right by our house closed, it was horrible. I was genuinely sad. I used to go there ALL the time. Almost daily. I took my laptop and wrote there. I wrote much of The Go-Kids series there. I drank a lot of coffee, bought a lot of food, bought a lot of books, and read a lot of books. And the coup de grace, I met my amazing and lovely wife Taliya there at that Borders!

So yeah, when we drive by or have dinner at the nearby Macaroni Grill where we had our first date, and we see the empty building, it sucks.

I often racked my brain trying to figure out how I could own my own book store that would be profitable enough for it to keep its doors open without being in a net loss each month.

Still trying to crack that nut.

Writer David Biddle has penned an interesting article at about the relationship between book stores and independent writers. He mentions Konrath as well. It's worth a read.

But I digress.

The problem is not books; it's business.

Imagine it's 100 years from now. 2113. A man is riding the monorail to work. He is reading a book. Some trashy horror thriller he found online.

A man standing beside him suddenly seizes the book, rips it from his fingers and darts out the door of the train just before the doors close.

A plainclothes cop witnesses the crime, draws his weapon, fires, and kills the man. The cop then returns the book to its rightful owner. Because the book is an antique worth several hundred (thousand?) dollars. It's an actual book. And only rich people can afford actual printed paper books.

This is the future as I see it (as described in my SciFi novel A Shadow Passed Over the Son, which is currently #60 in Amazon Free SciFi; hooray!). Maybe not the getting shot on sight part, but the rarity of printed books. It's coming. If we extrapolate even a tiny bit, we can compare books to records or 8-tracks or cassettes or CDs. They're not the medium by which people consume their entertainment. (As Joe has illustrated many times.)

Little kids in school are already being given iPads instead of textbooks.

Patterson is a wealthy writer. So is E.L. James (author of the 50 Shades series).

Prepare yourself to see a lot more E.L. James's, and a lot fewer James Patterson's.

Just keep writing.

Just keep reading.

You can't stop progress, right?

The ebook revolution and its technology is connecting writers with new readers and readers with new writers. The gatekeeping middlemen who had heretofore held the reins and essentially extorted the source of their fortune (writers, musicians, artists...) are now being relegated more and more to the sidelines. Maybe they'll find a way to wrestle back some of the control they have historically had.

Maybe not.

Either way, the march toward a digital future is inevitable. 

Ebooks are only going to become more popular.

It's not a great and evil conspiracy. It's simply common sense: a more convenient, less expensive, fun way for readers to buy and read books.

How many people do you know who have an iPad/tablet? A smart phone? An e-reader such as a Kindle, a Kindle Fire/HD, a Nook, a Kobo, a Sony, etc, etc?

How many people do you know who still have a telephone land-line in their house?


  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful book! I finished it a few days ago and cannot get it out of my head. It is pure magic. It was everything I hoped it would be and much more. Thank you so much. You are a great writer...
    EL James

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Rosalie. I'm pleased that you so enjoyed the book. There's plenty more to follow!