Two authors’ stories illustrate why some journalists profit online, and others fail

By Robert Niles: An e-mail and a tweet last week pointed me to two blog posts that expressed completely different ways that two writers have addressed the challenge of a changing media marketplace. Their differing attitudes and approaches to publishing in the Internet era explain to me why one writer is enjoying unprecedented success, while the other writer laments a declining career.

Let’s start with this post from author Joe Konrath, about his experience transitioning from a traditional book-publishing contract to self-publishing e-books.

“With self-publishing, in a single month,” he wrote, “I was able to earn the same amount of money it took me four and a half years to earn through traditional publishing.”

He crunched the numbers:

So far this month, I’ve sold over 18,000 ebooks on Kindle.

When I include Smashwords, Createspace, and Barnes and Noble, my income for January will be about $42,000.

Last January, I made $2,295 on Kindle, and I was amazed I could actually pay my mortgage on books NY rejected.

“Amazed” is no longer strong enough a word.

In just 12 months, I’ve seen a 2000% increase in income. And ebooks are still only 11% of the book market.

What happens when they’re 15%? 30%? 75%?

And yet, I still see some writers clinging to the notion that getting a book contract with a Big 6 publisher is the way to go.

But money isn’t the only reason ebooks self-publishing is preferable.

Konrath goes on to detail the thousands of hours he spent driving to bookstores around the country, chatting up customers as he tried to convinced anyone to buy his books. His publisher didn’t want him to tour – since that would require paying bookstores – but without a tour, he couldn’t connect with consumers.

I’ve heard from friends in the book business that publishing deals are getting even worse for authors: less promotion, less support and small advances and payments.

Konrath chose not to accept the decline of his career. Instead, he chose to self-publish, using low-cost e-books instead of the expensive, but more traditional, print vanity press.


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