Joe Konrath Needs To Shut The Fuck Up

For two days now, Joe Konrath has run his mouth and I can’t stand to be silent any longer.

A Bedtime Story
You Should Self-Publish

This is a guy who shit all over self-publishers. This is not slander. This is his record. Ask Henry Baum. He’ll testify to it too.

Rather than go through all of Konrath’s miserable posts that basically tout himself, I’ll focus just on one to cut to the chase. Surprisingly, it has eerie similarities to one I did nearly a year earlier. The difference being, I was cautioning people. Konrath was shitting on them.

Quoting Konrath:

Confident writers know they’ll be published, if they keep at it.
Delusion[al] writers think they’ll be rich and famous.

Wait. Let me stop right there.

Confident writers know they’ll be published, if they keep at it.

Yet, in A Bedtime Story, Konrath whines:

When Joe got out of college, he wrote his first novel. The Gatekeeper rejected it. So Joe wrote another one, and the Gatekeeper rejected that one too. Then Joe wrote a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh, an eighth, and a ninth, but the Gatekeeper didn’t like any of them.

Finally, after trying for over 12 years, and getting more than 500 rejections, the Gatekeeper bought Joe’s tenth novel for $33,000.

Could it be that novels 1-9 were just shit? Yes, they probably were. Would Konrath ever cop to that? Does it sound like he does up there? No, he makes it sound like something is wrong with the Gatekeeper. His brilliance was just unrecognized by the Philistines. Puhleeze. There isn’t a single real writer out there who doesn’t cringe over their first traditionally-published novel. The one that was approved by the Gatekeeper as being:

1) Actual writing
2) Marketable in some way

If Konrath doesn’t cringe over his first unpublished (unpublishable!) novel, well, that has to say more about him than any judgment passed by the Gatekeeper.


Confident writers expect to be periodically rejected.
Delusional writers are shocked every time someone fails to recognize their brilliance.

Well, it seems Konrath is still smarting over novels 1-9 and is still shocked they weren’t good enough.


Confident writers know luck plays a big part.
Delusional writers think there’s a conspiracy against them.

And I repeat Konrath:

When Joe got out of college, he wrote his first novel. The Gatekeeper rejected it. So Joe wrote another one, and the Gatekeeper rejected that one too. Then Joe wrote a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh, an eighth, and a ninth, but the Gatekeeper didn’t like any of them.

It still sounds like a Conspiracy of the Gatekeepers to me.

And lookee here:

Confident writers work within the system, even though the system is flawed.
Delusional writers work outside of the system, even though they long to work within the system.

Um, so what the hell is with this New Religion Konrath is founding in that second post, You Should Self-Publish? Konrath and a brother-in-arms whose “talent” I think even less of and so will not disease this blog by naming, would use that line or a variation thereof on every self-publisher who dared to stand up to them. It was a never-ending shit shit shit on the self-publishers.

But now that Konrath has done it, now that Konrath has succeeded at it, now that K*O*N*R*A*T*H has earned “royalties” from his “publisher” Amazon (and I put quotes there because both words are no such thing in any sane universe inhabited by people who understand business), well, shit, just forget that past record of condescension of his. No, not just forget it, rally around The Great Wizard Of Self-Publishing, J.A. Konrath! He is the new Moses, taking the oppressed Jews out of the Gatekeeper Egypt!

Life doesn’t work that way. Despite things getting buried on the Internet, those of us who read it sometimes have active memories and do not forget.

Like I do not forget this:

Have you been published by an impartial third party?

Confident writers eventually get traditionally published. Period.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me. Because I am mean.

So is You Should Self-Publish a repudiation of that or what?

Frankly, I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, when Konrath is mentioned by me, it’s always with an emphasis on the bit pronounced con.

Because what his bright shiny latter post (and several earlier ones spread across the Net like dung in places like HuffPo) sweeps under the rug:

1) He has had books in print
2) He was not a total unknown
3) He busted his ass on the Net for years to get better known

But many, many people are out there doing number 3 and getting nowhere.

So for him to tout his New Religion while ignoring 1 and 2 is like those experiments Cory Doctorow periodically engages in, where he wants people to forget who he is, as if he’s starting from scratch, but while still using his well-known Cory Doctorow name.

And that’s why I will always say Konrath’s name with an emphasis on con.

Because unless you out there have numbers 1 and 2 and also 3 going for you, there is no damn way in hell you are going to even come close to the alleged number of sales Konrath brags about (over and over and over again…).

I’m not even going to detail all the things he leaves out, the very basic A-B-Cs of things.

I’m sure, however, at some point, when his sales begin to slip, or outright crash, we will see the ascension of J.A. Konrath, Publishing Consultant. This will be where you must forget that he was once a writer. He has transcended that filthy manual labor and is now on the next level: You can rent his brain to help you, puny mortal. He will then tell you the A-B-Cs that he has left out. You can buy The Sekrit!

If you can’t see that day coming, don’t sneeze, because your head is so far up your ass you’ll blow out your appendix.

Finally, let me quote him one more time:

Delusion[al] writers think they’ll be rich and famous.

Well, isn’t that basically nearly the entire point of his second post, You Should Self-Publish? “Look at the moneeeeey I’ve made!”

Let me quote a far better writer than Konrath will ever be:

Among illiterates money is regarded as the measuring rod for all things: for friendship, goodness, education, power, love.

Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti


Should I Self-Publish? A Motherfucking Checklist
Response to bestselling author J.A. Konrath’s foggy portrait of the “confident” writer
Everything is still biased against the lone artist
There is no such thing as royalties

Previously at The eBook Test:

How Much Can You Take?

Previously here:

What Does It Take? What Do You Have?


Filed under eBooks: General, Writer, Writing

58 responses to “Joe Konrath Needs To Shut The Fuck Up

  1. Don Linn

    You’re right, Mike, and (as has been the case in traditional publishing) not everyone will hit the lottery in self-publishing. But Mr. Konrath’s continual bloviating and self-promotion is tiresome and, I’m afraid, seriously misleading to aspiring writers. As you point out (and he, Godin, Doctorow and others conveniently forget), their original Big Six deals (along with their sweat equity in personal brand-building) has had at least as much to do with whatever success they enjoy as self-publishers as the self-publishing model has. And don’t get me started on his numbers…they don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    In the end, I distrust absolutists of any stripe, and particularly those who change stripes when it’s expedient to do so. Both models can succeed or fail at a commercial level. And God knows, even setting the quality of the writing aside, there’s a huge element of luck and fortune in any author’s career.

    • Daryl Sedore

      Retire already Donn. You’re done, used up. Move on and take your riches to some South American country where they’ll last longer.

      Seriously, your comment is biased and you’re afraid for the future of traditional publishing.

      I understand that and sympathize…so move on.

      • mikecane

        Are you kidding? Don Linn was all set to launch Quartet Press as an eBook venture until the numbers wouldn’t work out. He’s hardly a dinosaur!

      • Don Linn

        Appreciate the comment, Daryl, but while you weren’t looking I’ve helped launch three new publishing businesses (Quartet Press, iambikaudio, and ORBooks), two of which are off to promising starts and one of which we pulled the plug on when the numbers didn’t work. My only problem is the commute from South America is a bitch. Good luck with your efforts, though.

      • Colleen Lindsay

        Don & Mike: don’t feed the trolls. =)



      • mikecane

        That troll won’t be coming back here for a meal.

  2. Tell it like it is girl. Well put and to the point.

  3. I remember days of yore when manly men did manly things with other men in a manly way and the sheep ran scared. When doing a booksigning at a conference meant something, not when a #1 NY Times Bestselling author is seated at a table next to a nice old lady with her book about her cat.
    The reality is 99.5%, if not higher, of self-published fiction is going to fail.
    I see so many ‘gurus’ of publishing touting their services, but when you check their bio there is nothing there regarding experience in publishing, writing, editing, any of it.
    What’s funny is the only people really blogging about self-publishing are the handful who’ve successfully done it. Where are the blogs from the tens of thousands who failed?
    Writing a good book is damn hard work. And it gets more difficult the more you learn about writing.
    Rather than spend their time self-publishing and trying to promote, most writers would be better off learning the craft and mastering it.

  4. Stevie

    There are two things which are really interesting about Konrath.

    The first is that his most recent novel was rejected by his New York publishers so he had no option but to self publish it if he wanted it to get out there.

    The second is that when I did a little bit of math on his reported sales figures, royalties and sales rankings the numbers I reached didn’t equal the numbers he gives on his blog.

    You might want to look into that. And if you find the same things that I found, you could always tell other people about it. Just saying.

    • The first is that his most recent novel was rejected by his New York publishers so he had no option but to self publish it if he wanted it to get out there.

      I think it was because he shat in his nest, but the result remains the same.

      The second is that when I did a little bit of math on his reported sales figures, royalties and sales rankings the numbers I reached didn’t equal the numbers he gives on his blog.

      I didn’t run the math. It just smelled bad from the outset.

  5. I figure Konrath’s next move will be to announce he is starting an “indie self publishing house” where, for a very reasonable amount of money up front and a profit sharing arrangement with good old Joe, you too can be self-published and successful as the Joe Halo propels your book up the JK Best Seller list (Joe of course expects his list will replace those of PW, NYT, and other hostages of the Big Six). For a small extra fee, Joe will even blog positive rungs about your book!

  6. Robin

    Reading this makes me wonder if some of these trad pubbed authors now self-pubbing aren’t ultimately going to set themselves up as the self-appointed gatekeepers of self-publishing. Which IMO would defeat the whole purpose of self-publishing’s democratic underpinnings (although corporate interest in self-pub might already be undermining self-publishing as a truly un-policed environment). Democracy, after all, is messy and produces a lot of crapola.

    If the current climate is one in which trad pubbed authors have a huge advantage going into self-pub, and so they’re now touting self-pub for their own purposes, will it still be as attractive if and when more fully self-pubbed authors start climbing the sales ranks? Or will some of the recent converts and profiteers always prefer to see themselves as distinguished from the self-pubbed pack, further grounding the perception that certain publishing venues are intrinsically more or less morally/aesthetically superior.

  7. atwulf

    Well said. Konrath, I think, forgets that we aren’t all established writers and that many of us don’t have a brand built up with a large audience. (Also read: Congratulations, you can sell a book to people who already read your stuff.)

  8. Faye

    I find the comment stream on the link above to the article “Response to bestselling author…” very telling about Mr. Konrath. He is NOT a visionary. Just last year he was arguing against the true visionaries, those who saw self publishing as an alternate means of publishing books that did not fit the Big 6 model, those who recognized potential in ebooks without having to sell thousands of dollars of products first. His comments were insulting and degrading to self-published authors.

    Now he is suddenly the poster boy for self publishing? Not for those of us who have any kind of memory (or the ability to use Google).

  9. i think i threw up in my mouth a little.

  10. Konrath also leaves out that he puts out a lot of work with other authors in anthologies or co-writing with them, going for quantity over quality.

    If you have 20+ books out there you don’t need to sell many to maintain a high level of sales. A few sales a day look good stretched over time.

    And Konrath keeps extrapolating like there’s no tomorrow – when anyone with a grey cell left upstairs can tell you that in publishing there’s never a sure thing. Sales this month could suck for your book, next month be in the rafters because someone wrote a review, told someone famous about your book, something that random.

    Again, great post!

  11. My personal favorite among Mr. Konrath’s disquisitions was his telling aspiring authors that they should be sure to have their work properly edited before self-publishing it. He, he went on to say, being an experienced and multi-published author, didn’t require editing because he was perfectly capable of handling it himself.

    I read one of his self-published, previously unpublished books. Trust me–everybody needs an editor, and I suspect the experienced, multi-published authors who trust me to assist them with their work would agree.

    In the last few months, I’ve had two authors, both elderly, both in need of money, request their contracts not be renewed. They intend to self-publish on Kindle, being convinced they’ll make more money that way. These are people who have no idea how to market online, or offline, for that matter. They’re clutching a belief the Kindle fairy will magically leave big checks under their pillows.

    And then there are the authors who, having bought the “get rich with ebooks” evangelism, come to me six or nine months later asking if I’d please consider publishing that same book because (are you ready?) it’s not selling nearly as well as they thought it would, and they think being with an established publisher might fix that.

    Gee, ya think? Except why would I want to spend time and money publishing a book that has likely sold as many copies as it’s going to?

    If He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is who I think it is, one of my authors once sent copies of his books to the man in an attempt to shut him up about how Zumaya was no better than PublishAmerica or one of the subsidy presses. HWSHBN told him he was too good a writer to waste his time with a sham company like ours, and he should pull the books and start pitching them to New York.

    You can imagine how very amusing I find the current about-face.

  12. Erin Kissane

    I do love the scent of freshly roasted nonsense. I don’t know him, but based on the posts I’ve read, Konrath seems to be stuck in that narcissistic worked-for-me! loop that plagues semi-successful people who lack the ability to think clearly. Sadly, his advice will probably do real harm.

    In any case, well done, you.

  13. Daryl Sedore

    I won’t defend Konrath. He doesn’t need that. He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself.

    I wrote a book called Publishing Exposed. The research I did for this book revealed a heavy current of discontent in the traditionally published world as people realized that the paradigm shift might not keep them their jobs.

    Bitterness, anger and vileness has become the norm.

    There is no doubt Konrath is making money. Who knows exactly how much? Who cares?

    All I see here is jealousy.

    So, good luck to you all and I hope you learn from this when entering another field of work.

  14. I’d thought Konrath’s break down of business and sales were cogent.

    I hadn’t seen the post you referenced. I don’t generally read much of his stuff, blog or otherwise.


    Fact is, publishing, whether one goes on one’s own or manages to attract the attention of magpie corporations so easily distracted by the gleaming suntan oil on a Seaside Guido’s abs, is hard work. One shouldn’t go into either situation without knowing what one is doing.

    I wonder if Konrath will say anything about this. I can’t believe he wouldn’t notice it.

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  16. Marcus

    Here’s the thing: why should he shut up? Seriously, if people listen to the horseshit that he spouts and hang on his every word then they deserve whatever comes their way (I predict abject failure). It’s kind of like the schmucks who get in bed with shyster agents charging reading fees or the really evil vanity presses. If you’re too stupid to do the research (there are PLENTY of great websites with great information on publishing) then I don’t feel an iota of pity for anyone who gloms on to what Konrath says. Natural selection, I say. Let Konrath puff up his chest for his disciples and let them prostrate themselves. The people who will succeed are the ones who draw from an intelligent cross section of information, not just St. Joe’s latest diatribe. (Oh, and they’ll have written something people want to read too.)

    • mikecane

      Well, yes, all that is true. The post title came out of my anger and I actually put that title up for a vote on Twitter before doing the post itself. No one voted No to the post title.

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  18. I don’t see jealousy. I see the same frustration I haven’t publicly expressed about what looks like a healthy bit of hypocrisy. Konrath discussed his thoughts on self-publishing in a post I wrote at Backword Book, and much of what he says is in direct opposition to what he’s doing now. Take a look.

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  22. Oh! I did miss it. Sorry about that.

  23. jeff vandermeer

    What Don said about leverage, etc, is absolutely true, and Konrath has been annoying the heck out of me lo these last several months.

    I prosper personally through diversification of projects–projects I get to do because I built an identity and reputation working in the trenches. If I were starting out today, I would not expect to immediately strike it rich on the e-book frontier because you do have to put in the time and effort same as always.

    I’ve cautioned against self-publishing in the past because overhead was so high, few modes of distribution existed, etc. That’s changed, obviously. It’s still good to go to trad publishers but some strange and hard-to-catagorize stuff needs self-publishing options and in general anyway there’s less risk if you fail with something self-published.

    Me, I plan to use every publishing model out there–whatever suits the project.


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  25. If you guys hate Konrath so much, stop visiting his blog. I’d be more impressed by your indifference. But the ‘methinks that doth protest too much’ smacks of envy, bad manners and a tremendous lack of humility. How ’bout you just go write your own books…?

    • mikecane

      Visit his blog? WTF makes you think I’ve done that since? Sometimes he’s inescapable, like male cat spray. And just as malodorous.

    • Mister Snitch

      “If you guys hate Konrath so much, stop visiting his blog. I’d be more impressed by your indifference.”

      1) I don’t visit his blog.
      2) I could not care less if you’re impressed.

      “But the ‘methinks that doth protest too much’ smacks of envy, bad manners and a tremendous lack of humility.”

      And I know a simpering sycophant (look it up) when I hear one.

  26. Jeff Faria

    I knew all I’d have to do is Google “Joe Konrath asshole” to dig up the truth. And the takedown of Daryl Sedore (who is pretty much a Konrath sycophant, if you check Konrath’s blog) was absolutely priceless. But I do give props to Sedore for honestly acknowledging that Cane had him dead to rights. That’s more than the deeply insecure Konrath will ever manage to do.

    Konrath is a fulsome blowhard, but I disagree with Mr. Cane in this regard: He should NOT shut the fuck up. Instead, he should continue to confirm to all the world that, yes indeed, he IS a fulsome blowhard.

    • mikecane

      I have no idea who Sedore is nor am I intrigued enough to Google. So if you want to provide a link, do so.

      • Jeff Faria

        Er… I don’t think you need a link. Just scroll up. You referred to him as a ‘troll’ in the first comment thread, then quite rightly ripped him a new one in the unlucky (for Sedore) 13th thread.

        Aside from that, I don’t know who he is either.

      • mikecane

        God, that post was ages ago. I’m shocked to see it has over 40 Comments too.

        EDIT: As you can probably surmise, on my side of the screen, I don’t see Comment threads, just discrete incoming Comments. Hence, my not knowing Sedore was even here.

  27. I’m with you on this – Origin was good, though

  28. Katmarie

    Wow, so Konrath isn’t allowed to change his mind in face of an extremely rapidly changing industry? He flat out admits that given the many developments in self-publishing in the past couple of years, he has a totally different outlook now.

    I think it is impressive of him to acknowledge this, and to continue to encourage other writers to take a chance outside the major publishers. And if you bothered to read his blog, you’d see the comment sections contain many testimonials from writers who are very pleased with the results they have gotten by taking his advice. Writers who did not have his traditional publishing roots yet are still making money and achieving their goals. While you are stuck holding a grudge against one man, other people are moving forward – listening to that man and finding personal success through their own initiative. I think every dollar that each of them – including Konrath – earns is a terrific thing.

  29. Megan

    While I appreciate almost all of your points, I feel I should point out that he has an extremely good reason for feeling that those rejections probably weren’t a valid indicator of the quality of his first nine books. He self-published them, and they sell better than his traditionally published books by FAR.

  30. JN

    I read a NY Times article recently that profiled James Patterson and how his formula works and it reminded me of Konrath, with churning out a bunch of thrillers with co-authors. He’s not exactly reinventing the wheel here. And Konrath thinks he is slick in a recent blog post by saying being the “face of self-publishing” has not led to more book sales. Um, yes it has. He stood out from the rest of the authors by trolling publishing and using his previous publishing background as proof that he got screwed, making him seem legit. This in turn led to Amazon picking him up as an author, and Amazon promotes him.

    I feel bad for these authors who are trying to follow his formula for success, because they are getting the wrong idea. The “Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” isn’t really a newbie’s guide, it is “Hey I struggled for 10+ years and saw an opportunity and took it.” No “newbie” can copy this, nor should they want to. It’s all bullshit to get people to visit his blog.

  31. C

    Re: “bullshit to get people to visit his blog”.
    He admits that his blog doesn’t generate book sales – it’s people who want to follow his lead as indie successes, not fans of his crime novels who generate traffic for him.

    Re: Konrath leveraging his supposed name – I’d never heard of him until he went indie….he got a nice deal first, then went downhill as his books started becoming less and less successful. Unless he’s lying, the advance for his last two books was something less than impressive (I think $20,000). A twenty grand two-book deal does not make somebody a superstar. Speaking from experience, it’s bottom feeder stuff.

    With fortunes fading, he made the savvy move to unload all the books he figured couldn’t be sold to traditional imprints because his name no longer carried any weight. He sold them off on the cheap.

    The vast majority of people (Konrath included), would’ve belittled indie publishing back when we were all indebted to the traditional model. Now, with Amanda Hocking blazing a trail…people’s opinions have changed.

    Konrath never said you’ll be successful guaranteed – it’s a crap-shoot. However, if you have web savvy, you can generate traffic to your site and sell books and cut out the middle man.

    You’re tilting at windmills here.

  32. I read Joe’s novel ORIGIN when he put it up as a PDF on his website. This was years before Amazon’s KDP platform, and back when I was buying Joe’s books at the book store.

    It’s a really good speculative novel, and one of his early works that you summarily dismiss early on in your post. His writing is strong, at least in my opinion, and I appreciate his transparency in discussing his career. You might not like his writing, but publishers did and so do tens of thousands of readers.

  33. “Could it be that novels 1-9 were just shit? Yes, they probably were.”

    Seems like that book is lumped into that group. Joe had a hard time selling that novel for a lot of years (I recall reading a post on it quite some time ago), but it was a pretty good story.

    I comment here only to say that there are some admirers of Joe’s writing that have been fans since long before he made a penny through KDP.

    I tend to agree with JeffV in terms of the general debate on contemporary publishing. I also see your point on folks managing their expectations as they consider self publishing, but I think Konrath has been (overall) a positive contributor to the discussion. He’s taken both paths and, whether folks like his work or not, it’s pretty hard not to admire how hard he’s worked through the years.

    • mikecane

      OK, I see now. I did a Find in the post for the title, so that’s why I didn’t think I mentioned it. If you like his work, that’s fine. There’s room for everyone, I say. Even if he as a person is not someone I agree with.

    • Gibson

      I got the sense Konrath was exaggerating his sales. Whats shameful is that if he is making so much dough, why doesn’t he invest in better covers. His current ones look incredibly amateurish. And its not even that i hate the look (ive never bought one pf his books), but as a writer you should b proud of what u create. What does that say if someone uses such shitty covers to represent their stories-he must not think much of his work. Meanwhile look at how hugh howey takes pride in his book covers-he respects the workmanship.

      -Amazon self-publishing 4 life!

  34. I’ve read part of one of Joe’s books and found it hard to read. I don’t claim to be a “what’s good” expert but I am an expert at what I like and I didn’t like his stuff (skimmed some others that I’d bought to see what the fuss was about). I say that because I, too, am getting tired of his blather. I read his blog initially because he seemed to have a handle on the backend of self-pubbing and I was trying to learn.

    However, I just unsubscribed from his blog for one reason – his perverse, degrading and disgusting retort to a reader who dared to disagree with him. Fine, Joe, if you don’t like what someone said. Delete it. But to make that kind (which I won’t repeat) kind of sick, sexual innuendo just because someone has a different opinion is unprofessional and childish.

    I make these comments here rather than on his blog because I don’t want my inbox filled with hate mail from his disciples. And because I agree, mostly, with what was said here.

    And, IMHO, folks like Joe will die off as better writers come along and self-pub. In the end, the good will rise while the crap will fall. And, also my OPINION, his stuff is crap. And yes…I like to think my stuff is great. It must be…my mother told me it was. :)

  35. I know this is late, but I agree with what you said. Self-publishing cannot be that pink. I have seen books and series posted on Amazon since 2009 and to this day (2016) still have no review which means very little sale.

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