on 11 August 2012
This is a must - a very cheap must, at under £1 - for anyone interested in self-publishing. Self-publishing has been transformed from the last resort of the desperate to a viable business model by the advent of e-publishing and high royalties (up to 70%) going directly to the author from distributors such as Amazon (through Kindle Direct Publishing). Many midlist authors are now prospering in a way that they couldn't with traditional publishing, Konrath being one of them (he's now a bestseller); and bestseller Eisler walked away from a $500,000 publishing deal to self-publish having seen trailblazer Konrath's data.
Joe Konrath has a fascinating blog - the Newbie's Guide to Publishing - in which he's often rather aggressive in tone and it's refreshing to read him in conversation with a friend he clearly likes and respects, making for a more responsive and considered dialogue.
Changes in the publishing industry are fast-moving now as the ebook/self-publishing revolution gathers pace. I hope Konrath and Eisler will continue to discuss the issues and publish more conversations if they do.
The publishing world is going through, to use an overused cliché, a tectonic change. The advent of online and electronic publishing are changing the way that we consume and promote published words in the greatest such shift since Gutenberg.
"Be the Monkey" is a book-length conversation (or in fact a series of conversations) between the best-selling authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath on several topics relating to the current state of the publishing industry, and all the advantages of publishing your own works without the mediation of the large publishing houses. Konrath in particular has been writing and blogging on this topic for years, and Eisler has been "walking the walk" of self-publishing for quite some time as well. In fact, Eisler's own testimony might be the most persuasive argument in favor of doing self-publishing: he has turned down a half a million dollar book deal from one of the six major publishing houses. He has figured out, and correctly it seems, that being hamstrung with a contract did not make much sense for him any longer, either financially, or in any other respect. The freedom to choose your own book cover, distribution channels, marketing initiatives, and the price of your own books are too powerful of considerations to be left to third parties. Eisler's one big point, to which he returns repeatedly, is that historically the single biggest service that the publishing houses provided was the distribution networks for the physical books. With the demise of traditional bookstores, scaling back of libraries, the advent of Amazon, digital publishing, and printing-on-demand services this one big advantage for publishing houses is all but nonexistent. The publishing houses are still trying to leverage their historically dominant positions, but this is increasingly becoming a fragile and tenuous place to be.
Aside from being very informative and insightful, this was a very fun book to read. This is in large part due to its format - both Eisler and Konrath clearly enjoy this topic and bouncing ideas off of each other. If you've ever heard either of them speak live (as I have with Esiler) then their voice will clearly come through while reading this book. They also seem to share a very irreverent and edgy sense of humor, which was the source of the title of this book among other things. (Sorry, I won't reveal it here - you'll have to read the book to find out about it.)
This was definitely a fun and engaging read, and if you have any interest in the current state of books and publishing, then you will certainly find a lot of useful and intriguing information here.
on 23 February 2014
This is not exactly a book, but rather a transcript of several online conversation between the two authors on the merits of self publishing. It doesn't contain much advice on how to do so, but rather focuses more on why you should.
The authors' arguments are quite persuasive and I found myself agreeing with a lot of what they said, however, their whole argument seems to be based on the idea that writing is purely about making money. Now of course it's nice to make money and once you are a professional author, I'd imagine most people would like to maximise their income, but nowhere (in these conversations at least) did I get the impression that these guys view writing as any sort of craft or skill or that they are at all interested in seeing interesting, but perhaps not immediately popular works see the light of day.
The authors talk a lot about upping word counts and seem to treat writing much like tending to a machine, which I feel is reflected in their output. I've read works by both these authors and while Barry Eisler's work was solid if unspectacular, Joe Konrath's (while pretty entertaining) really stank of just quickly churned out rubbish for the mass market. There is, of course, nothing wrong with writing entertaining but uninspired fiction - we all like to zone out with a trashy novel now and then - but you would hope that most writers would aspire to something more than just making as much money per word as they can.
By the time I was finished I was left with rather an unpleasant feeling that, while I hope that self publishing will allow many more great writers a wider audience, the majority of successful ones may be more in the vein of these two.