The announcement comes from Publisher's Marketplace and contains the following interview comments:

 

Q: You signed a print deal? I thought you weren't signing any more print deals.
A: I signed a print deal with a company that can email every single person who has every bought one of my books through their website, plus millions of potential new customers. I've never had that kind of marketing power behind one of my novels. I'd be an idiot not to do this.

Q: Aren't you going to piss off traditional publishers?
A: Traditional publishers had a chance to buy Shaken last year. They passed on it. Their loss. Their big loss. Their big, huge, monumental, epic fail.
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My feeling:  This ought to be very, very interesting.  The new title in his series goes for 2.99.  And as someone who lost a couple of publishers:  I hope he's right.

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Very very interesting may be an understatement. The business model for publishing has become inherently unstable. while it may be ugly for a while if it falls apart, it's hard to imagine whatever emerges in its place will be any less favorable for writers.
Yes, indeed. There are many of us who've had similar experiences to Konrath's. We're all angry.
It's interesting, for sure. We'll see how things change now. The Kindle, Smashwords, all this e-book technology has opened up things quite a bit. It looks like for some writers there will be enough people willing to buy their books as e-books to make writing them worthwhile.

When I proposed the Writers Co-op Publisher I saw it as something that would help books get publicity - reviews an dthat sort of thing, but it was really onli viable if the books were published first as e-books. From the discussion I really got the feeling that almost all the writers wanted a traditional author-publisher relationship (author writes the book, publisher designs the cover, does the promo, sends out arcs, etc.,) and a paper book.

And that's probably still the right place for authors to start, but it no longer needs to be where they stop.

But I'm surprised more publishers haven't looked at e-books as a place to start. What Amazon is doing with this book - releasing it as en e-book first and selling the paper book by order only (I don't know if bookstores will be able to order a bunch of copies and returned the unsold ones or not).

It seems like readers are ready for this change but publishers and writers aren't.
I think that's a couple of great points. Authors may need to start with traditional publishing, but don't have to stop there.

But publishers really SHOULD be starting with ebooks. Or at least using them to build anticipation one way or other. Look at how Baen leveraged their webscriptions even before ebooks were popular.
Konrath has been grooming himself for this for years now. It's not even a case of right place, right time. Best of luck to him, it sounds like something of a marker point for the shift to digital.
The influential Mike Shatzkin has already reported on this: http://www.idealog.com/blog/

A couple key quotes:

"Signing up new books for what publishers would consider reasonable advances just got harder. So did maintaining a 25% royalty rate for ebooks."

"His days of relative obscurity are over; Konrath has carved out a permanent place for himself in the annals of publishing history with this move."

Joe and I are doing some cross promotion on the Amazon site with our titles. Here's hoping that maxim is correct, that "a rising tide does lift all boats."
Now some agents are discussing the deal:

http://www.mediabistro.com/ebooknewser/amazon/literary_agents_debat...

Not saying anything too surprising: "Certain authors will feel they're doing well in schemes like this. They flip off the publishers who rejected them, claim new technology will support their career, and they get attention they never had before. Let's see if we remember who those authors are in a few years."

I wonder how man writers are remembered a few years after they publish? One out of a hundred? Out of a thousand?

In the meantme, it looks like Joe is making a living. More power to him.
Keep in mind that agents depend on publishers as much as authors do, perhaps moreso. Their view is quite often that authors who don't make big bucks are a drag on the agency, while bestselling authors are highly desirable. A perfectly understandable reaction.

Therefore, if they have authors bucking the system, they won't be enthusiastic about supporting them. Neither will they come out in support of anything that gives publishers a black eye.

The answer to the quote above is that neither agency nor publisher did anything to promote Konrath or the majority of published authors. Their fate was pretty much sealed in terms of bestsellerdom. Therefore I'll join you in saying "More power to him." What we need is someone who can shake up the old guard into rethinking the business.
FYI, Konrath says the article is strewn with misleading info and blogs about it today.
Thanks, some interesting clarifications.

Maybe most importantly, PW said the print book would follow the e-book a year later instead of a few months later. I've been trying to get my publisher to release every version of the book at the same time. This idea ofhaving a year in between hardcover and paperback and e-book just seems far too outdated to me. I had a book com eout onhardover in February and it's disappeared. I think if it had been available as a paperback at th time the reviewswere coming out, some more people may have picked it up.

I think Joe is really onto something with the cheaper e-books coming out first and the print book coming out soon after.
What I like best about Konrath's deal is the marketing potential. Midlist writers too often get the same kind of marketing support as did Moses: put the book in a basket, send it down the river and hope someone finds it. Amazon (and any other online e-book retailer) is set up to automatically contact anyone who ordered a previous book, and allowing them to make an impulse purchase with a couple of mouse clicks. At the price point they have chosen, this alone will lead to quite a few sales as people develop favorites who aren't best sellers. I know I often read a book I like from a new writer, and he kind of drops off my radar by the time his next book comes out. This kind of follow-up can't help but be a good thing.
Yes, the marketing is going to be very important. Amazon certainly have a good idea how effective their, "If you like this, you might like this," and "other people who bought this also bought this," buttons are.

It's the same thing with Netflix, they have to find ways to organize the content themselves and they're getting very good at it.

Another thng about this deal that I think is very interesting is that it's, "midlist." It isn't an unpublished author or a big name like Stephen King writing directly for the Kindle. So, the amount of sales needed for it to be a "success" are more... realistic?

If a deal like this allows a lot more 'midlist' authors to make a decent living, that would be fantastic. The book businss has fallen into the same trap the movies have of always looking for the huge blockbuster. Books may be more like cable TV looking for the small, steady earner.

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