A conversation between Peg Brantley and L.J. Sellers
More important, I went to Amazon to check out the short story and discovered that it has almost all one-star reviews. I was stunned! I read several, and they all have the same complaints: The story doesn’t have a real conclusion, and the ebook serves mostly as a promotion for Connelly’s next book, The Gods of Guilt. Both the short story and the novel are selling well, so was it effective? And even so, was it worth alienating some readers?
Peg: My guess would be no, soooo not worth it. I have become a huge fan of Michael Connelly and have to wonder what his publisher was thinking. By the way, while I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on sites like DorothyL and For Mystery Addicts about The Gods of Guilt, but I enjoyed it.
But Connelly isn’t the only author who might be suffering repercussions from this new marketing tactic. I recently downloaded what I thought was a short story by Dean Koontz, another of my favorites. I was completely turned off when at some point (it was moving rather slowly for a short story) I figured out it was simply a marketing promotion for his next book. I never finished it. And it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
L.J.: Readers hate that! Which makes me wonder whether the author knew what his publisher planned and if he had any say in the matter. I like to think that he didn’t and that he’s not happy about the situation. I know that publishers sometimes encourage (pressure?) authors to write short stories as between-book promos. And sometimes they want their authors to participate in new programs and formats.
Thomas & Mercer asked me to publish my last Jackson story as a serial because they were launching the new program and needed material for it. But it was my choice and I said no, that I would rather wait for a traditional release because that's what my readers expected and I didn't want to alienate even a few. Other publishers don’t give their authors as much control, which is why I would never sign with anyone but Amazon.
Peg: As you know I’m self-published and love the control it gives me. I establish content and cover and price and marketing. It isn’t always easy, but I don’t ever have to risk a publisher who is so focused on the bottom line they forget the reader. The future. The next book. If I have a win, it’s all mine, but so are my losses. I’ve watched you and others with Amazon and know they’d be my first choice as a publisher if I ever wanted to have a foot in both camps. I can’t see Amazon ever doing something that would be such a career game-changer without the full support of an author. Kudos to both them and you regarding the serial program.
L.J.: After I saw the one-star reviews with comments that said they would never buy another Connelly book, I thought, He should leave his publisher and go indie. Connelley has so many readers and so much clout that he could sign a deal with Ingram to get his self-pubbed print books into stores and make more money both in print and digital. If he had only his own profit to worry about—and not be concerned about Hatchette’s bottom line—he could be very successful as an indie and never have to participate in gimmicky promotions that piss off readers.
Peg: I totally agree! But I’m betting he has another consideration: What about his agent? Those bonds get sticky. I know they do. Maybe that’s another discussion?
L.J.: Lots of indie and hybrid authors have agents, who often secure foreign rights or negotiate contracts with new-age publishers and distributors. But with Connelly's Harry Bosch series finally debuting on Amazon Prime, maybe the author will feel empowered to make a break from his legacy publisher (Hachette). Maybe Amazon Publishing will be able to lure him away.
Readers: What do you think about these promotions? Has it made you drop an author?
Writers: How do you make short stories work as a promotion for your other books?