The List is classic Konrath, a breakneck techno-thriller about ten strangers who each have an unexplained tattoo. None of them knows how it got there, but it means they are marked for death. One of them, homicide cop Tom Mankowski, is bent on solving the mystery of the tattoos and changing his fate. The book, which has sold 200,000 copies since its release in 2009 as a self-published e-book, has everything Konrath's legions of fans have come to love about his writing: suspense, conspiracy, and a bit of humor.
The mass market publication of The List in May marks the start of a remarkable partnership. Konrath, who is arguably the biggest success story in self-publishing, has sold more than two million copies of his books throughout the world. But The List has never been available in bricks-and-mortar bookstores. That's about to change. And its release will be followed by two more of Konrath's Horror Collective books, with Origin coming in December 2018 and Endurance in May 2019. Kensington and Konrath see a wider audience for these books, and together, they're going to find it.
Given that Konrath has mastered the world of e-book self-publishing, some of his fans may be surprised by the move to partner with a traditional publisher, especially since over the past decade Konrath has been an outspoken crusader for self-publishing and an advocate for authors' rights. The partnership with Kensington has its roots in an online exchange between Konrath and Steven Zacharius, Kensington's straight-talking CEO, who spoke up to defend traditional publishers against the accusation that they were no longer necessary. "Steve was the only major player who made a serious effort to understand the effect that self-publishing was having in the author community," Konrath says. "And when this opportunity presented itself, my involvement was a no-brainer."
Partnering gives Konrath access to a new audience that only Kensington can offer. "Kensington has tremendous reach in the paper book market," says Konrath. "To have my work available in bookstores, big-box stores, airports, drugstores, supermarkets, and the many other places books are sold is a wonderful opportunity."
Konrath has published books traditionally before, but those experiences, he says, "ended up being frustrating—those publishers failed when it came to the e-book versions of my books." So he went the self-publishing route, and "my e-book sales and subsequent income went up by a factor of 10." Clearly, Konrath figured something out that traditional publishers didn't understand. But, he says, "there have always been plusses and minuses working with traditional publishers. On the plus side: distribution, marketing and advertising muscle, and a team of intelligent, dedicated, motivated people who are all working to reach readers. On the minus side: lower royalties, relinquishing control, and signing away rights, possibly for decades."
But that's not the deal with Kensington—Konrath gets all the plusses and none of the minuses. Kensington gets an author with a huge fan base and road-tested books that are perfect for the readers they're trying to reach, especially 24-to-35-year-olds who make their media-consumption choices based on personalized recommendations and enjoy online gaming and movie streaming but who prefer print books. They're looking to entice fans of writers such as Blake Crouch, John Scalzi, Jeff VanderMeer, and Andy Weir.
"These are great stories," Zacharius says, "and they never had the exposure to the vast number of readers that still prefer to hold and read a physical book. They didn't have the visibility in bookstores or mass merchandisers, and a whole segment of the market has yet to read them." That means a lot of readers are about to have a new favorite author. Those new fans can find Konrath, who no longer tours, at this year's Killer Nashville International Writers' Conference (Aug. 23–26), where he will be the guest of honor.