Thursday, May 31, 2012

Promote Your Books In iBooks


I had read Bob Mayer's blog, Write It Forward, for a number of years before I took one of his workshops and I have to say, if you ever have the chance to see Bob speak in person, do it! You won't be sorry.

It's one thing to read posts about the publishing industry and quite another to have an animated author recount stories of his adventures in publishing, first as an author and then as a publisher. Although I loved his lecture what I found most helpful were his answers to questions posed by my peers.

Okay, back to business! Yesterday Jen Talty, co-creator of Cool Gus Publishing and frequent contributor to Write It Forward, posted about how to promote books in iBooks, a subject I knew nothing about. Rather than me natter on about what she said, I'm just going to let her tell you.
One of the questions I’m constantly asked when I present workshops on Indie Publishing is: How do we promote in iBooks? or How do we increase sales in iBooks? Its not an easy question to answer. One of the things I’m working on today for Cool Gus Publishing is to add links in our website to where our eBooks are available on other sites. We believe this is a good service for our customers and some people just want that easy “one-click” from Amazon or prefer to buy from Barnes and Noble, supporting the bookstore.

But working inside of iBooks is all together a different bird simply because its contained in iTunes.

Recently, Apple sent us a couple of PDF’s about how to promote and market using some of their tools. We got this email because we use iTunesConnect to load our books directly to the iBookstore. Here are a couple of things I think are useful and are not that difficult to use.

The Book Widget. You can actually do this for other products as well.

From Apple: “With Widget Builder, you can easily add interactive widgets to your website or blog. These widgets allow users to explore books and more from the iBookstore and iTunes.”

Go here to see builder.

Basically, you find the books you want, add them to your widget and then copy the code and put it where you want in your website.
For the rest of Jen's informative article, click here: Promoting your book in iBooks

Cheers.

Chuck Wendig And The Maggot-Chewed Bad-Apples


A few days ago Chuck Wendig over at Terribleminds published a blog post, Revisiting The Fevered Egos Of Self-Publishing, that received quite a bit of mention on the internet. Why? Well, probably because it contained passages like this:
What you will find in the self-publishing (or DIY or “indie pub”) community is a handful of maggot-chewed bad-apples bobbing noisily in the barrel. They’re loud. They’re entitled. They’re oddly defensive (methinks thou doth protest too much). They often have books that look and read like they were written by a fourth grader on a high-test ADHD drug cocktail.
I find Mr. Wendig's posts endlessly amusing; the man certainly knows how to turn a phrase. That said, I'm a self-publisher and most of my writer friends are self-publishers, so being compared to a maggot-chewed bad-apple--while enormously entertaining in a self-nihilistic way--kinda hurt.

Well, it seems Chuck Wendig has adopted a softer tone since publishing his Fevered Egos post. He writes:
I’ve read many excellent books that exist only because the authors went that direction. I think self-publishing is part of what makes this time the best time ever to be a writer and a storyteller. I am, in fact, a self-publisher myself (though I favor a diverse “hybrid” approach).
- Self-Publishing And The Burden Of Proof
That's quite the turn-around.

Or perhaps not. In the invective filled passage it seemed to me that self-publishers were the "handful of maggot-chewed bad-apples" and the pristine, desirable, apples were the traditionally published folk. Not so, Mr. Wendig says.
The first and most troubling response is one I’ll get out of the way now: some folks seemed to believe I was giving all self-publishers the middle finger. Unless you’re looking to cherry-pick a bouquet of out-of-context quotes, you won’t find much evidence in that post of me smearing self-publishers.
- Self-Publishing And The Burden Of Proof
 I hope I didn't cherry-pick the quotation I gave--here's a link to the original article, the quotation occurs in the fourth paragraph from the top. In any case, it's good to know that Mr. Wendig doesn't believe all self-publishers are maggot-chewed bad-apples. (Only most? 50-50? The minority? But let us move on.)

Mr. Wendig finishes his article with a call to action:
[D]on’t be that guy. Don’t be the crazy person. Write well. Be cool. Put yourself out there. Work for the good of indie authors and not against it. Lead by example! “Independent” authors and publishers may be separate from one another, but that doesn’t mean they don’t affect one another.

The more good apples we have, the harder it is to see the bad ones.
I agree with Mr. Wendig's call to action, we would all do well to take it to heart. Don't be that guy. The one who uses swear words in place of rational argument, the one who uses their words to bully and put other people, often other writers, down. The one who thinks that he or she knows-it-all and feels obligated to put others in their place, whether through cajoling them like wayward children or calling them out like a school-yard bully at recess. Yes, fellow writers, don't be that guy.

As always, Mr. Wendig has written something entertaining and enlightening. I think we can all agree that, whatever else we may think, he is an excellent wordsmith.

Cheers.

Photo credit: golfballs.com

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Short Story: A Night In The Country, Part 4


This post has been removed.

Mr. Monk's Final Case?


I love the Monk stories. I watched the TV series from the beginning to the tear-soaked end and read the books so, naturally, it was with sadness that I heard Lee Goldberg has penned his last Monk novel. He writes:
My seven year, three episode, fifteen book relationship with Adrian Monk has ended. I've just finished writing my last book in the series, Mr. Monk Gets Even, and I will be sending it to my editor next week after taking one last pass through it (don't despair -- the book series may continue with another writer).
- Mr. Monk and the Happy Ending
I know Lee Goldberg's retirement from the Monk series doesn't necessarily mean the end of the books, but no one will be able to write them like he did.

Fortunately, Mr. Goldberg has started another series, The Dead Man Series. I have these books on my to-read list, right after I finish his last Monk books.

Lee Goldberg's website: leegoldberg.com

No Ebook Version For Stephen King's Next Book


On Wednesday Titan books plans to announce that their Hard Case Crime imprint will publish Joyland by Stephen King in June of next year.

Stephan Lee writes:
Not only is King going retro with the content of his upcoming novel, he’s also sticking to a tried-and-true format. “I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts,” he said in the press release. “I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.”
- Stephen King novel 'Joyland' officially announced
Charles Ardai, editor of Hard Case Crime, said that fans can expect
a breathtaking, beautiful, heartbreaking book. ... It’s a whodunit, it’s a carny novel, it’s a story about growing up and growing old, and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time. Even the most hardboiled readers will find themselves moved. When I finished it, I sent a note saying, ‘Goddamn it, Steve, you made me cry.’
- Stephen King novel 'Joyland' officially announced
Sounds like another fantastic book by Stephen King. What I find most interesting, though, is King's refusal to release Joyland in ebook form. I'm guessing it has to do with nostalgia, and, possibly, that he has made the tactile part of reading an important part of the book. That's my guess.

We all know King was one of the earliest proponents of the electronic book. In 2000 he self-published the first installment of his serial novel The Plant as well as his novella Riding The Bullet.
[Riding The Bullet] marks King's debut on the Internet. Simon & Schuster, with technology by SoftLock, first published Riding the Bullet in 2000 as the world's first mass-market electronic book, available for download at $2.50
- Riding the Bullet, Wikipedia
I have the feeling some folks might think that King is anti-ebook, so that's why I'm bringing up his pioneering efforts in the medium. Still, the move surprises me. I know a lot of folks, myself included, have made the move to digital. My bookcase is in my iPad. Although Stephen King is one of my favorite authors I think I might wait until the ebook version is released before I indulge myself.

To each his (or her!) own.

Cheers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stephen King: 15 tips on how to become a better writer


Jon Morrow tells us that On Writing by Stephen King has become "the most popular book about writing ever written, pulling in over 1000 reviews on Amazon and selling God only knows how many copies".
Here’s why:

The book is… magic.

I’ve read On Writing from cover to cover at least five times, and each time, I saw a noticeable improvement in my prose. For one, it teaches the fundamentals of the craft, which is something no writer should ignore, but it also sort of rubs off on you.

You can’t read On Writing and not come away with a smile on your face. Where other writing books are focused on the mechanics of the written word, King shows you how to capture the joy of the craft. You’ll find yourself wanting to write, not because of fame or fortune, but because it’s fun, and there’s nothing else you would rather do.
- Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer

I agree with Jon, but feel the need to add that, for a week after reading On Writing, I had the most frightful case of writers block. I think it was because I kept second (third, fourth, fifth, ...) guessing every word I wrote. My fault, absolutely, but just sayin'. If you're anything like me, you might not want to read it before an important writing deadline.

Here is advice King gave to writers, I'm paraphrasing:

1. Write for the joy of writing.

2. Writing is about enriching the lives of those who read your work as well as enriching your own life.

3. Don't set your sights too high. Forget about pleasing all your readers all the time. Forget about pleasing some of your readers all of the time. Try to please some of your readers some of the time.

4. Don't come lightly to the blank page. Have something to say and say it.

5. If you're just starting out as a writer, get rid of your TV.

6. Here are the two most important things writers do: read a lot and write a lot.

7. Remember: Art is a support system for life, not the other way around.

8. Formatting matters.

For instance, if all your paragraphs are long, the eye tends to tire. Mix it up.

9. Writing is thinking, but more refined.

10. "Write with the door closed, and rewrite with the door open."

In other words, write the first draft for yourself, write the second draft for your readers.

11. Read the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. If you don't spot terrible writing in others' work you're less likely to spot it in your own.

12. Writing is work. It's a job. Writers write.

13. Be able to describe things, anything, "and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition."

14. Resist the status quo. Describe the world you see, write about it. If some folks hate this, you're on the right track.

15. If a piece of writing works, keep it, if it doesn't, throw it out. Doesn't matter "how boringly normal or outrageous it is".

This seems to go hand-in-hand with King's advice to kill your darlings. If a piece of writing, no matter how brilliant, doesn't move the story forward then get rid of it.


Well, that's it! I think we can all agree that if we did those 15 things we'd be better writers. I know I would be.

Cheers.

What To Do BEFORE You Give Up On Your Dreams


Gideon Stevens writes:
We’ve all been there, right? Nothing seems to be working, you’re not seeing any progress, and everyone, including you, has lost faith that you can do it. Maybe it’s time to give up.

Okay, maybe it is. Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Maybe you’re going in the wrong direction. Maybe your dream is not realistic. Maybe you’ve changed your mind, or you now see clearly how much effort is required, and you’re not willing to make a sacrifice that large. That’s okay. You gave it a shot, and you’ve learned from the experience. Maybe it’s time to move on. I’ll bet those grapes were sour anyway.

Or maybe – just maybe – you’re having a bad day. Maybe you still want it as much as you ever did, and you’re just feeling hopeless right now. So before you give up:

Ten Things To do Before You Give Up On Your Dreams

1. Put the gun down.

I’m being dramatic, but I’m serious too. If things have gotten that bad – if you’ve written the note, loaded the bullet, and are about to give up on everything – please stop. Put the gun down. Call 911 now. No problem is ever solved by ending your life. I read once about the small handful of people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. They all said pretty much the same thing:
“As I was falling, I realized that I did not have any problems that I could not solve, except for one – and that was that I had just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge!”
On a far less serious note, perhaps the “gun” in question is the “delete” key. You’ve been working on your blog forever, and so far the only readers you have are your mom and your cat, and your mom stopped reading two weeks ago. Your finger hovers over the delete key. The thoughts going through your head are all negative. “I’ll never get more readers. No one is going to buy my book. I’m not good enough, smart enough, cute enough,” and so on.

When you’re being overwhelmed by negative thoughts, it is not a good time to make a decision, especially one that is irrevocable. Put the gun down. Turn the computer off. Walk away.

2. Have lunch.

Remember HALT. That stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Ask yourself if you’re feeling one of those. Emotions are delicate things, and can be influenced by outside forces. Take a nap, and you may wake up with renewed determination.

3. Call someone.

Get on the phone with a friend. Tell them up front “I need your help. I’m feeling like this just isn’t ever going to work and I need you to be my cheerleader. Tell me I can do it. Tell me not to give up.” They will. You’ll feel better. They might even tell you something that will help.

4. Do something else for a while.

Look, you’re a smart person, and smart people crave novelty. You might just need a break. Don’t delete anything, just start something new. Work at that for a little while, then come back to your main project.

5. Reconsider the goal.

If you’re about to give up, maybe your goal is unrealistic. Shooting for the stars is wonderful, as long as you’re not overwhelmed. If you’re not seeing progress, try setting TINY goals. I want to sell ONE copy of my book. Reaching that goal, set the next goal: I want to sell another copy, this time to someone who is not a relative or friend. Setting a small goal can keep you going, and if you keep going long enough, one day you’ll look up and find that you’ve arrived.
To read the rest of Gideon's excellent article, click here: 10 Things To Do Before You Give Up On Your Dreams – Guest Post by Gideon Stevens

We've all been there, down in the dumps because nothing seems to be working. Sometimes it seems as though it's never going to ever get better even though we know, rationally, that one day it probably will.

Indie authors are lucky to be part of a large, supportive, growing community. Take advantage of this. Write about your experiences, write about how you're feeling. You might be surprised how many people feel just like you. Strangely, that sort of realization can be very comforting. :)

Here's hoping you had a good lunch. ;)

Cheers.

Thanks to @DarinCalhoun for the link.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Using A Book To Market Your Blog


Many people start blogs to market books, but lately I've been hearing about it the other way round, using a book to market a blog.

Derek Haines writes about this in his latest blog post, Why Is This Book So Popular?
I continue to be astonished when I look at my book sales each month. There is one book that stands out, and it sits at the very bottom of my KDP bookshelf. I compiled Vandalism of Words a long time ago as little promotional idea for my blog. At around 200 pages it is a decent length collection of bits and pieces that had appeared on my blog over a number of years. Originally released in paperback, I then published it in ebook on both Kindle and Smashwords.

I offered it for free on Smashwords and then Amazon picked up the free price and matched it. So for the last two years or more, it has been free on both sites. Now without fail, this book is downloaded at least 600 times each month, and surprisingly, even sells a few paperback copies.
If you'd like to download Derek's book, here's a link to the Kindle store: Vandalism Of Words.

Happy reading!

Joe Konrath's Letter To The Department Of Justice


Joe Writes:
Dear Mr. Read,

I’m writing to you as the author of forty-six books--eight legacy published, two Amazon published (with three more on the way), and thirty-six self-published, all of which inform the views I express in this letter.

As you doubtless recognize from the mail you’re receiving, there is currently underway a letter-writing campaign coordinated by the Association of Authors’ Representatives, the Authors Guild, and other parts of the publishing establishment attempting to persuade you that the DOJ’s suit against five of the Big Six and Apple is without merit, and that the Agency model is, at best, good for everyone, at worst, harmless.

I’m writing to tell you that these organizations did not solicit the views of their members, that they in no way speak on behalf of all or even most of their members, and that (as I imagine is obvious) they are motivated not by what’s best for consumers, but by what they see as best for themselves.

I recognize that the heart of the DOJ’s suit is collusion, not high prices. But it’s clear that the legacy publishing industry’s strategy is to keep the prices of ebooks high so as not to cannibalize high-margin hardback sales. If the prices of legacy published books are kept artificially high it could be argued that my lower-priced self-published books are made more attractive by comparison, but I believe that a regime of higher-priced books is bad for the industry overall because it slows the growth of the global book market, which indeed hurts all sales. I also believe it’s obviously bad for consumers, especially lower-income consumers, who could buy more of the books they loved if those books weren’t priced so high.

When prices of media are high, they’re a barrier to entry. Many are avoiding buying an ereader because the ebooks they most want are $9.99 - $14.99. If prices came down, more Kindles (and Kobo readers and Nooks and Sony readers) would be sold. That widens the market, which leads to more ebook sales. This is good for authors, and for readers who can get more for their money.
Read the rest here: Joe's Letter to the DOJ

Go Joe!

I'd just woken up when I read Joe's post -- last night I stayed up late getting my short story A Night In The Country ready for publishing on Amazon -- but I hope I managed to write something marginally coherent in the comments.
Very well said Joe, but it was strange to see you write in a more subdued tone.

Anyway, I agree. One thing that has always irked me when folks complain about Walmart artificially lowering prices is that ... well, sometimes I think it's easy to lose sight of how cash poor some folks are, especially families. Getting something for 50 cents cheaper can make a difference.

Of course one doesn't need books in the same way one needs food, but -- and I hope this doesn't sound cliche -- books do feed the soul and, as I said, 50 cents (or less!) can make a dig difference.

Even though I think the Big-6 inflating the prices of books makes lower priced indie books more attractive, you're right. It hurts the book business and that hurts everyone. Writers, booksellers and especially readers.

In any case, wonderful letter Joe, thanks for sharing. :)
Of course now I'm looking at my comment about Walmart artificially lowering prices and thinking about all the mom and pop shops which went out of business because they couldn't compete against the big chain.

Is that what is happening with Amazon? Will the act of Amazon selling books for lower prices drive indie, or self-published, writers out of business?

No, I don't believe so. Amazon is the self-published writers' biggest business ally. That's true right now and I don't see why it would change in the foreseeable future. That said, Amazon isn't a friend to publishers who want to sell ebooks at inflated prices.

Some publishers complain that if they don't have the kind of monopoly control they need to do this, that they'll go out of business. Further, they say that if they go out of business that the world of publishing, the world of books, will be a poorer place and, ultimately, readers will suffer.

Personally, I don't buy it.

Yes, I do think that if publishers are prevented from fixing ebook prices artificially high, or if they are forced to give authors better ebook royalties (a topic for another post), that many of them will go out of business.

Let's say that's true. I believe that although some, perhaps many, publishers will fold that there will be many publishers who will survive and thrive. These publishers will be the new Big-X.

Publishing won't be dead, it'll just be different.

Further Reading:
17 More States Join The Class Action Suit Against Apple et al
The Fungibility of Books

"Joe Konrath's Letter To The Department Of Justice," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How To Find The Right Freelance Editor For You


India Drummond recently shared her experience selecting a freelance editor. Her methodology makes so much sense that after I read her suggestions I thought: Of course! Why didn't that occur to me? All the truly good ideas are like that, they seem self-evident after the fact but a complete mystery beforehand.

India Drummond's Suggestions On How To Select An Editor

1. Ask everyone you know this question: Do you have an editor you can recommend?
I thought this was a stroke of genius. Rather than asking for editors to recommend themselves, ask other writers to recommend editors whose work they liked.

2. Narrow this list down to 12 people.
How? Go and look at the website of each prospective editor. They don't have one? Cross them off the list. Their website looks unprofessional? Cross them off the list.

3. Write a letter to each prospective editor.
In your letter let them know that:

a. This is a professional relationship you would like to enjoy for years to come.

b. Ask your prospective editor whether they are familiar with your genre (if you write genre fiction), and its conventions. For instance, if you write romance novels you don't want your editor to complain that the happily-ever-after ending was predictable!

c. Make sure your prospective editor is available to edit your book. Sometimes editors have a full plate and can't fit in new work in a certain time period.

d. Ask for references from their clients.

e. Make sure your prospective editor is comfortable with your style of writing. For instance, if she is American would she be comfortable with you using British spelling and conventions?

f. Make sure your prospective editor understands what services you would like from them. What one person means by "copyediting" another means by "proofreading" and vice versa. Also, if you would like your editor to indicate when they found a paragraph wordy or confusing, you need to make that clear up front so she or he can give you an accurate representation of her fees.

g. Ask your prospective editor to recommend another editor if they feel your work wouldn't be right for them.

h. Ask your prospective editor what form(s) of payment he would accept.

4. Based on the replies your prospective editors send you, narrow the list down further.

For instance, India eliminated any editors whose grammar wasn't up to snuff, who did not wish to provide references, who simply pointed her to their website, etc. She also rejected any who wouldn't accept PayPal. I thought it was very smart of her to address this detail. How frustrating it would be to finish the arduous process of picking an editor, have them edit your manuscript and then find out she doesn't accept your preferred method of payment! I wouldn't have thought of this, so thanks India.

5. Check references.
Write to the authors your perspective editor gave you and ask them:
* What did you like most and least about working with her? (Gives them an opening to give something other than glowing praise)
* Does she communicate clearly about issues in your manuscript? (Very important!)
* How does she handle follow-up questions?
* Do you generally use all her recommendations, or do you take some and leave some?
* Would you say her main strength is flow, structure, pacing, grammar/technical, spotting errors…or something else? (This allowed me to find out if the type of editing I needed was the same type this person had received.)
* Is it easy to book a project with her, or do you find you’re having to be squeezed in around a busy schedule?
* What do you receive on a full-length manuscript? A report? A document with tracked changes, etc? If a report, how long/detailed is it?
* Do you recommend her and plan to use her again?
- Hiring a Freelance Editor
6. Ask your prospective editors for a sample of their skills
Each of India's three prospective editors agreed to edit the first chapter of her next book. She writes:
Honestly, I expected them all to come back with virtually the same results. After all, a mistake is a mistake, isn’t it?

Well, no, it isn’t. Editing is incredibly subjective.

I was truly surprised at the difference in the marked-up manuscripts I got back, but so glad I went to the trouble of doing this. As I said, all of the editors were qualified, but comparing these was very useful in making my final decision.
Wow! India went to a LOT of work, but I bet it paid off. After all, a writer's relationship with her editor is, arguably, her most important professional relationship.

By the way, Susan Helene Gottfried is India Drummond's new editor.

Thanks to The Book Designer for his May 2012 issue of The Carnival of the Indies for leading me to India's marvelous article. Cheers!

To read India Drummond's complete article (something I highly recommend!) go here: Hiring a Freelance Editor

How Many Books A Year Should I Write?


Author Elizabeth S. Craig talks about how many books a year she writes (3 or 4), why she writes at that pace, and what her schedule is like.
I just don’t think we can make a living off a book a year if we’re midlist authors. (Actually…I know we can’t. Unless your book deals are a whole lot better than mine are.)
Elizabeth's article is fascinating on its own, but especially when read in the light of what Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have been saying for years, that in order to make a living as a writer one needs to write more than one book a year, a lot more. But, practically, what's that like?
I wanted to let you know that writing several books a year doesn’t take that long. As I mentioned in this post, if you can write 3 1/2 pages a day, you can write three or four books a year. Even if it takes you a long time, thoughtfully considering each word and making each word resonate with meaning, you can probably manage a least two if you stay focused during your writing time.
Good to know!
So what’s it like to write that many books a year? I can let you know what it’s like for me. This is the first time I’ve really analyzed it, so it’s interesting to break it all down (for the record, since the start of 2012, I’ve written one full book and I’m now passing the halfway mark of the second. I do edit quickly and I do have either my publisher’s editors or freelance editors go over my work after I edit it.)
Elizabeth even gives us a list of pros and cons:
Good things
*You write every day and you don’t lose any story continuity.

*You don’t forget or stumble with your character’s individual voices.

*You think about your story more during the day. Plot ideas, small scenes, even just words occur to you during the day in reference to the story.

*You don’t ever get bored with what you’re writing.

*You just jump right into the story every single day. No wondering where you left off. No feeling like you’ve lost the story thread.

*Frequently you’ll get story ideas for the next book in the series while writing the book.

*Readers don’t have to wait very long between books.

*Obviously, your income is higher.
For her lists of not so good things and downright lousy things, read the rest of her article, here: What Happens After Writing 3 or 4 Books a Year

Related reading:
The Business Rusch: The “Brutal” 2000-Word Day

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ann Rice on Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series



Thanks to Passive Guy for posting about this.

Marigny: The Making Of My First Audiobook


Gerard de Marigny writes:
... I went to ACX and followed their simple directions. Within a few hours I had posted my first two novels to the exchange. Next, I had to be approved - probably just a authenticity check performed by the ACX team, but I was still excited to be accepted. I began receiving auditions from some wonderfully talented actors and production companies.

Yet, I had my heart set on one particular actor - Elijah Alexander. I contacted the production company that Elijah used for previous audiobooks he narrated, but they weren't interested in royalty-share deals. Then, in a MOST BLESSED act of kindness and support for a neo-pro writer like me - Amazon/ACX offered a stipend for the production of my audiobooks! What that means is - on top of my royalty-share deal with the narrator/production company of my choice, Amazon was willing to PAY a stipend to the narrator/producer as an incentive to get the audiobooks made! Amazon/ACX wrote to me that, because they felt my novels would be popular in audiobook form, they were willing to pay for their production.

That act may have only been a business decision on the part of Amazon but from my prospective, it was a great blessing! I'll tell you this - I have n-e-v-e-r seen or dealt with a better (super-mega-enormous-big-successful) company than Amazon, especially when it comes to partnering with small entities, like my little indie publishing house.

The stipend allowed me to contact Elijah and offer him a direct r-s deal. The stipend allowed him to record it outside of the big production house he normally utilized. The end result ... just over a month later, my first audiobook has been published! And the audiobook edition for the 2nd novel in the series (CRIS DE NIRO, Book 2 - SIGNS OF WAR) will be released in a few weeks.

So without further ado - the audiobook edition of (CRIS DE NIRO, Book 1) THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM is available at Amazon here. Narrated by the fantastic actor, Elijah Alexander - it's an awesome 9 hours of action thriller entertainment. Please check it out and spread the word about it.

... And hey, thank you all for being a part of the greatest community of talented artists in the world - the Indie Publishing community. Whether you create or support, I'm humbled to be part of the family.
Read the rest here: Journey to my 1st Audiobook, THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM!

Wow! I'm sure Amazon's act of kindness was motivated by business considerations but, still! Time and again Amazon has made decisions that have helped indies earn a living.

As readers of this blog know, I've flirted with the idea of creating an audiobook. I think it would be amazing to be able to listen to Until Death as a series of audio files but, for me, the hurdle to clear is to find a narrator with a voice that works for my protagonist, getting her to agree to undertake the project (always a plus!) and arranging appropriate payment. After reading what Neil Gaiman had to say about ACX I'm seriously considering going that route.

Neil Gaiman's words of advice to authors:
[I]f you are an author, Get Involved in Your Audiobooks Early. Get your agent involved and interested. Talk about them at contract stage. Find out if you're selling the rights, and if you are selling them then find out what control you have or whether you are going to be consulted or not about who the narrator is and how the audiobook is done.

Also, make sure that your publisher has worked out a way to give you free copies (obvious if it's out on CD, much less so if you're on download-only platform).

If you're an agent, notice that we are not living a decade ago, when audiobooks were expensive bells and whistles that meant very little, that normally wouldn't be done for anything outside of major bestsellers, when abridgments were often the order of the day: we're entering a golden age, in which there is no reason that any book shouldn't be available in professionally produced audio. Unless you know that the audio rights are going to be used and used well, keep them for your author. And if they are being sold with the book, then guard your author, and make sure that she or he gets rights of approval.

I love, am thrilled with, and am getting a huge kick out of the ACX way of doing it, where authors (or rightsholders), producers and voice talent sign up and get together and make audiobooks that Audible put up. It's there for you if you're an author, an agent, a publisher with lots of rights you don't know how to exploit, a director/producer/studio engineer, or an actor, and interested. (Right now, it's US only, but they are working on that.) (Find out more at http://www.acx.com/) (End of plug.)

But this isn't an ad for ACX, either. Honestly, you can do it on your own, if you want: Find a narrator or a studio; you can release it through the web; you can give it away as a promotional item, or because you can. Or you can make sure that if your publisher is putting out an audiobook that you have a say in it, and it's the book you want it to be.

Because otherwise it might be you writing to friends telling them not to listen to the audiobook of your book. And that would be a terrible thing indeed.
Read the rest here: Audiobooks: A Cautionary Tale

I won't quote from it, but here's a great article about Neil Gaiman over at Salon: Neil Gaiman’s audiobook record label.

I think sometimes the best advice is to stop thinking about doing something and just do it. Whatever you decide, best of luck!

Related reading:
How to record an audiobook at home
Milton Bagby talks about recording an audiobook
Auxiliary Rights: To Keep or Not To Keep?

"Marigny: The Making Of My First Audiobook," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A must read: 12 Most Quirky Commencement Quotes


In the middle of writing I decided to check my email -- never do that, by the way, it greatly reduces ones productivity -- and came across one of the funniest posts I've read in a long time: 12 Most Quirky Commencement Quotes.

Here's my favorite:
3. Stephen Colbert to his alma mater Northwestern University in June 2011

In 1986, our commencement speaker was “George Schultz,” secretary of state, fourth in line to the president. You get me — basic cable’s second most popular fake newsman. At this rate, the class of 2021 will be addressed by a zoo parrot in a mortar-board that has been trained to say “congratulations.”
Read the rest of the article here: 12 Most Quirky Commencement Quotes.



Writer Beware: Undead Press & Editing Clauses


Imagine getting your work accepted for publication, waiting on pins and needles for your copy of the work to arrive, ripping open the package, and finding it had been substantially altered without your permission. Mandy DeGeit sent her short story to Undead Press, it was accepted, but on publication not only was her title misspelled but her story had been substantially altered. She writes:
Let’s see: They turned a non-gendered character into a boy, they named the best friend, they created a memory for the main character about animal abuse. They added a suggestion of rape at the end… I feel like they ruined the suspense in the story.
- When publishing goes wrong…Starring Undead Press
After bringing this to the publisher's attention (Anthony Giangregorio) this is what he had to say:
wow, i truly cant believe that e,mail. you go girl. this one one hell of a story about dealing with unstable writers
lets see.
on the contract, it clearly says publisher has the right to EDIT work. you signed it. are you saying you are a dishonest and immoral person and will now try to deny you signed the contract? well i have a copy right here and as for the story. the editor had a hard time with it, it was very rough and he did alot to make it readable. despite what you think, your writing has a long way to go before its worthy of being printed professionally. we did what we had to do to make the story printable. you should be thankful, not complaining. ah, the ungrateful writer, gotta love it the contract also says any disagreements you have about the contract must be filed legally in Massachusetts and when you lose, you must pay all court costs. so, we are done here. any more correspondences from you must be from your lawyer. i will then send any of those letters to my lawyer and they can hash it out as i dont waste my time arguing with writers over legalities. thats what lawyers are for. you are so funny. thanks for this email, it truly made my day.
- When publishing goes wrong…Starring Undead Press
I don't know where to begin, this reply lacks any sort of professionalism, any sort of respect for the writer. But that isn't the worst of it. This is from the folks over at Writer Beware:
Ms. DeGeit's bad experience with Mr. Giangregorio, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be an isolated incident. Similar complaints are appearing in her comments thread, and other writers have reported the same kinds of problems with Undead Press and other publishing ventures run by Giangregorio--who, among other exploits, has apparently published and sold several unauthorized sequels to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.
- Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts: How to Protect Yourself
PG, from The Passive Voice Blog, is a contract lawyer who specializes in contracts between writers and publishers. Here's what he has to say:
PG will add one more piece of general advice concerning all types of agreements: Don’t do deals with crooks or jerks.

Even with the best contract in the world, if the people on the other side of the agreement are crooks or jerks, you’re going to have a difficult time. On more than one occasion, PG has told a client something like, “With some work, I can probably get your contract whipped into shape, but this guy is still going to drive you crazy and figure out some way to steal from you.”

PG has read enough contracts so he sometimes picks up hints of jerkiness in the way the contracts are worded or assembled.

He can think of one contract from a romance publisher that included all sorts of short clauses about minor items he doesn’t usually see in publishing contracts. The net impression for PG was that the owner of the publisher was a control freak who was going to tell the author exactly how every little thing would be and expected no back talk. The answer to any question or objection by the author would be, “I’m the publisher and you’re not.”
- Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts
I think that Kris Rusch's advice about reading a contract line by line is terrific. Keeping in mind, of course, that taking someone to court can be an expensive and time consuming ordeal even if you know the other party clearly broke the contract and you're sure to win.


Further reading:
- Unconscionability


"Writer Beware: Undead Press & Editing Clauses," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Nathan Bransford On Self Publishing


Nathan Bransford writes:
There is no "us" vs. "them." Traditional vs. self-publishing is a false dichotomy. It's an illusion created by people who either have let their frustrations get the best of them or are trying to sell you something. We're all writers trying to figure out the best way to get our books to readers. We're all on the same team.

No, the traditional publishing industry is not a hive of retrograde monsters out to steal and eat your newborn children. No, self-publishing is not a gang of unwashed crap artists trying to poison the literary well forever.

Publishing is a spectrum of choice, from traditional publishers who pay you, will handle most things for you and assume all risk in exchange for certain rights to your book, to self-publishing where you handle everything yourself, pay your own way, and adopt your own risk. And there's a whole lot more choice in between those two poles.

What's the right way? There is no right way.
Read the rest of Mr. Bransford's post here: Traditional vs. Self-publishing is a False Dichotomy

I woke this morning, rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and trundled over to Dean Wesley Smith's blog where he raved about the fantastic post former agent Nathan Bransford wrote (Holy Smokes, Batman. I Agree With Nathan Bransford). And (as always!) he was right, it was a fantastic post.

In the past couple of months the flood gates have burst and record numbers of traditionally published writers have self-published their work. We're also seeing indie authors, even wildly successful indie authors, choosing NOT to go with one of the Big-6 publishers.

For instance, Hugh Howey, author of the runaway bestseller Wool, chose to continue to self-publish in the US and only sold Random House UK his overseas writes. Howey writes:
Now, this is still new enough to me to leave me in a daze simply from typing the words, but it gets even better: The same book--self-published, mind you--has been picked up by Random House in the UK for a major hardback release. And while domestic publishers have made offers that would have had me swooning mere months ago, I have chosen to remain independent here in the States.

I currently enjoy the best of both worlds: The ability to write what I want and enjoy the generous royalties inherent with self-publishing domestically, while also working with a major publisher overseas to hone my craft and produce the best physical books possible. Because of this avalanche of good news, I've been blessed by IndieReader to come here today and thank you all for turning what once was a fanciful dream into a mind-numbing reality. Yeah, I'm thanking you.
Hopefully Hugh Howey's success is only the tip of a very large iceberg.

Related articles:
- Hugh Howey Writes About The Phenomenal Success Of Wool


"Nathan Bransford On Self Publishing," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Difficult Directors

Werner Herzog; most difficult directiors of all time
Werner Herzog

I'm doing research for a short story. One of my characters is a persnickety director and since I know little to nothing about directors, persnickety or otherwise, I googled "difficult directors" and came across this article: Top 10 Craziest Directors. It's quite entertaining.

For instance, did you know that Akira Kurosawa, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century (Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Ikiru, The Hidden Fortress),
... was known as a stern taskmaster and a devoted perfectionist. His nickname was “Tenno,” which is Japanese for “Emperor,” reflecting his dictatorial control and command over his projects. There are many stories about the lengths that Kurosawa would go to in order to get the perfect shot. For a scene in Rashomon where there was a great rainstorm, he had water mixed with ink sprayed from fire trucks onto the set so that it would show up on the camera lenses. In Throne of Blood (1957), a Japanese retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Kurosawa didn’t use fake arrows when the main character is executed by a firing squad of archers. He literally had professional archers fire at the main character as he ran around trying to dodge them. At any moment he could have easily been killed [emphasis mine].
Really!!?? Firing real arrows at actors during a scene to increase authenticity. The insurance company must have had kittens, not to mention the actors.

Oh, and here's a tidbit about Orson Welles and Citizen Kane:
[H]e [William Randolph Hearst] almost succeeded in completely suppressing the film [Citizen Kane]. It is said that if it wasn’t for Hearst, Citizen Kane probably would have won all eight of its Academy Award nominations, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor. Instead, Hearst’s opposition was successful enough that it basically established Welles as an enfant terrible, making it almost impossible for him to get his films financed within the United States.
In any case, Top 10 Craziest Directors, is definitely educational and entertaining. 

Okay, enough procrastinating, back to it. #amwriting

Cheers.

Photo credit: Top 10 Craziest Directors

Hugh Howey Writes About The Phenomenal Success Of Wool


Everywhere I turn I read about the phenomenal success of Wool, an indie published series which has garnered unprecedented sales in the very short time since its release. Wool has been picked up by Random House in the UK and Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) will be directing an upcoming blockbuster movie made by 20th Century Fox.

I don't know about you, but even when I'm daydreaming about hitting it big, I don't dream about hitting it this big. In a recent article for PW, Hugh Howey writes about his amazing success.
[A]n actual deal seemed a long way off, a fanciful dream. Who was I? A few months ago, I worked part time in the university bookstore, dusting the shelves and tackling shoplifters to pay the bills. How could someone like that, who spent his mornings and lunch breaks pecking away at his keyboard ever get mentioned in a press release along the likes of Scott and Zaillian?

Word of mouth, is how. Which is also the reason I've been able to quit that day job and write full-time. And it's why the film rights for that little story I wrote now lie in the hands of Hollywood giants.

Now, this is still new enough to me to leave me in a daze simply from typing the words, but it gets even better: The same book--self-published, mind you--has been picked up by Random House in the UK for a major hardback release. And while domestic publishers have made offers that would have had me swooning mere months ago, I have chosen to remain independent here in the States.

. . . .

My inbox lately has become sprinkled with missives from other independent writers asking me for any advice I might have. So I tell them what you have taught me: Please the reader. Write your best works for them; make those works affordable; interact with your fans; and take their feedback to heart. Without a single dime spent in advertising, a short story I wrote and didn't even work to promote climbed to the top of the Amazon charts. It drew the attention of Hollywood. It landed me an agent and half a dozen foreign book deals. All because of word of mouth. Because I happened to please you, and you told someone else, and they spread the word further.

The first WOOL story came out in July of last year. At just over 12,000 words, it qualified as a novelette, and not much more. I forgot about the story until it began garnering a slew of positive reviews that could muster only a single complaint among them: Where was the rest? They wanted more.

So I began writing more. I released the rest of the story in installments, something I'd always wanted to try, and I enjoyed the quick turnaround and the immediate feedback from readers. The entries grew as the series went along, until the fifth and final WOOL story was the length of a short novel. Once the tale was complete, I collected the five books into an Omnibus, which was when it began to really take off.
Read more here: How My Self-Published Book 'Wool' Became A Hot Movie Property

Further Reading:
- Wool: Indie bestseller to be made into blockbuster movie
- Ridley Scott’s Next Project Is Wool
- 20th Century Fox Takes Wool

Books:
- Wool

"Hugh Howey Writes About The Phenomenal Success Of Wool," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Auxiliary Rights: To Keep or Not To Keep?


In her Thursday blog post Kris Rusch talks about when to be DIY and when not to be. If I've retained the audio writes to my book, I could record an audio version of it myself or I could hire someone to do it for me, perhaps through a place like audible.com (I would either pay the voice artist a flat fee or a percentage of whatever royalties I make on the audiobook).

Here is the checklist Kris Rusch uses to decide whether to seek help with an auxiliary rights project or whether to go it alone:
A. What are the contract terms?

B. When does the license expire?

C. When will I realistically get to this project?

D. Can this company do things that I cannot do?

E. Is this company asking too much in rights, limitations of my ability to write, or in lost revenue to negate the benefits of doing business with this company?

F. Is there a way out of the deal if the company does not keep up its side of the bargain? (So many publishing contracts are one-sided and only favor the publisher.)

G. Will I regret this decision in the morning? (In other words, don’t get pressured into accepting; any time anyone pressures you, you should walk away.)

H. Who does this deal benefit the most? Me? My agent? The publisher? If the answer is the agent or the publisher, then run. If the answer is two-fold—it benefits me and the publisher equally—then the deal is fine. (Not three-fold; remember, agents work for you, and should get paid from your end of the deal. They should never make more money on a deal than you do—although that often happens in both foreign rights deals and in Hollywood deals.)

If you like the offer and it benefits you for where you are right now, then take the deal. If you feel any qualms, do not, and wait for the time when you can do whatever it is yourself—or wait until you get a better offer.
The Business Rusch: Time and the Writer
Making an audio book is something I've been interested in for a while; it would be great to attend Kris and Dean's Audio Workshop in November. Kris used to train radio announcers how to read and speak and they'll also cover the technical aspects of recording. For more information, click here: Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, Workshops. You'll have to scroll down the page a bit.

Related Reading:
- Milton Bagby talks about recording an audiobook

Photo credit: AVS Audio Editor

"Auxiliary Rights: To Keep or Not To Keep?" copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Short Story: A Night In The Country, Part 3


This post has been removed.

Michael J. Sullivan On The Dark Art Of Naming


For myself, there is nothing quite so agonizing as trying to name my characters. I think this is partly due to my conviction that I must give each of them a name which will illuminate some particular aspect of their personality. Whenever I re-read the Harry Potter books, I'm struck by how good Rowling was at this.

I love reading about how other writers do things, especially things I find difficult. This morning I came across a post in which Michael J. Sullivan shares how he creates name.
I collect names.

Much like a butterfly hunter, or perhaps more accurately, a bird watcher—whenever I spot a name I like, I pin it into a list I keep. Street signs are a great source of fun names. There are three streets near me called, Niblick, Mashie, and Follin. I just couldn’t resist thinking how these just sound like goblin names. Turns out they are golf terms—old names for clubs, I believe.

I also own a very old encyclopedia of proper names, which long ago I went through A-Z looking for any names I didn’t recognize that I thought were cool. This is how I came across Dahlgren, and Persepolis, which I changed to Percepliquis, because I thought it sounded better. I did this decades ago and forgot about it. Now when I see a name of something from my series in the real world I think—wow, someone named a city after my novels! At this point I’ve lost track what words I made up, which I modified and which I stole, but I keep a list—three lists actually, and they are: Male Names, Female Names, Names of Places and Things. This is where I dump all my gathered words. Then as I am writing and a character is spontaneously made, as sometimes happens, I just run down the list until I find a name that suits the character.

How do I do that?

Ah, now this is a trickier question ...
Read the rest of Michael Sullivan's enlightening post here: Names


"Michael J. Sullivan On The Dark Art Of Naming," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Elizabeth S. Craig's Tips For Developing A Story Idea


Ask yourself ...
What works best for your genra?
First of all, we have to know our genre. We should be a fan of our genre and read a lot of it. What story elements satisfy us most when we read our favorite genre? Do we like more action, more humor, really strong characters, flawed main characters, lots of internal conflict?

What do our readers like? 
This is where I read over my Word file where I’ve compiled both complaints and compliments for my past books. I provide more of what was successful (particular characters, particular situations, etc.) and less of what readers disliked or complained about in reviews.

Is this a big enough idea that you can develop it for at least 75,000 words? 
Can this idea carry a full-length plot?

Is the plot too derivative? 
If it’s too much like a hundred other books in your genre, what fresh take can you give it? Can you provide your character with a unique voice? Think of some fresh spin on the old plot? 

How much trouble/tension/conflict can your story engender? 
Can you think of ways to add more? Will there be enough natural conflict to keep a fast pace?
Specific to mysteries:
For me it all starts with the victim—they’re the catalyst for everything. Why would someone want to kill this person?

Why would my sleuth (I’ve got an amateur, so this is an important question for me that wouldn’t be if you’re writing a police procedural or private eye story) get involved in this murder?

Who are the suspects? 
This question ties in very closely to the victim question since these are the characters who wanted to kill the victim. But this is where I decide if they’re male or female and how they all knew the victim.

What do these people have to hide? 
What are they trying to cover up?

What different kinds of motives could these suspects have? Again, this one ties into the victim question, but I actually list the motives out. My editors aren’t real crazy about having three different people who all wanted to seek revenge on the victim, for instance. Better to have a variety of motives: personal gain, jealousy, ambition, revenge, rage, etc. 

How is the victim going to die? 
Who discovers the body? Who seems to have an alibi? Motive/means/opportunity.

Who is my second victim? 
How does this change the investigation?

Who did it? 
(And I do change this a lot. But for the purpose of handing in a proposal, I name a killer in the outline. Sometimes I’m asked to change the murderer…I changed it by editor request for the book I just finished May 1.)

And really, that’s all I need to know for this proposal/outline. And it’s all I need to know to write the book.
I always like getting writing tips from my favorite authors. Read her entire article here: Developing a Story Idea

More on Amazon Select: Is exclusivity worth it?


I know I've written quite a bit about Amazon Select recently, but I've been looking for good information on it for some time, information from other indie authors, and it seems to be coming in a flood.

Today Joe Konrath had this to say about Amazon Select:
I've lost some of my faith in the Kindle Select program since it originated, and as a result I've opted my titles out. Select requires exclusivity, and I found I was making more money via Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, Overdrive, Sony, and Apple than I was through Select lends.

The other advantage of Select--being able to make your ebook free--used to result in a nice bounce from the free list to the paid list. Lately, the bounce isn't nearly as dramatic.

Two weeks ago Ann Voss Peterson made her thriller ebook Pushed Too Far free for a week. She gave away 70,000 copies--which is impressive, even beating many of the giveaways Blake Crouch and I had done (giveaways that got us in the Top 100 paid list and made us lots of money.)

Ann never hit the Top 100 paid. She's currently at #158. This is great, and she's thrilled, but she's only allowed to do this once every 90 days, and I don't believe the benefit corresponds to the loss of income from the other retailers.

If you do decide to make your ebook free, go all in. Use the 5 full days allotted, contact as many websites as you can find who announce freebies, and enlist everyone you know to help you spread the word.
Read the rest of Joe's comments here: Guest Post by Robert Gregory Browne, in the "Joe sez" section. He follows these remarks with fabulous advice for indie authors.

I'm paraphrasing.

- Get as many books as you can up for sale as quickly as you can. Your writing is the best advertising you could have.

- Don't be afraid to experiment. Experiment with pricing, covers, promotions, and share your knowledge with your peers.

- Bundle. For example, sell your short stories as stand-alones, then group them into an anthology and sell that. Do the same with your books, especially books in a series. "This increases shelf space without writing more."

- Forget about advertizing and marketing. It's not worth it.

- Keep your fingers on the pulse of the industry. Joe recommends subscribing to:

Publishers Lunch
PW Daily
Passive Guy
Kris Rusch
Dean Wesley Smith
David Gaughran
Bob Mayer
Mike Stackpole
Mike Shatzkin

- As Neil Gaiman recently said, "Walk toward your mountain." In other words, figure out what you want to do and do it. Of every decision ask yourself: does this take me closer to, or father away from, what I want to do. Then, and this is the tough part, believe in yourself and ignore those who ridicule you.

- As Joe put it, "The world needs heroes. Be one." Pass along what you've learnt and encourage others the way you would have liked to have been encouraged when you were where they are.

That's it! Reading the list over, it seems like I could title it, "Joe's Commandments for the indie writer".

Before I end this article, I want to give you a link to an article on KDP Select by the above mentioned David Gaughran. It explains, among other things, the nuts and bolts of KDP select and why Amazon's bestseller lists are so important to indie authors. Read it here: Amazon & The Importance of Popularity

Related Articles:
Changes in Amazon's Algorithm: An Update
Amazon's Ranking Algorithm Has Changed: what this means for indie authors
Self Publishing on Amazon: Kindle Direct Publishing


"More on Amazon Select: Is exclusivity worth it?," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Changes in Amazon's Algorithm: An Update


For a while I've been wondering if Amazon Select is worth enrolling ones books in considering the exclusivity clause. Recently the matter became even more complicated by Amazon changing their ranking algorithm, a change that directly and, in many cases drastically, affected book sales.

Before Amazon changed their algorithm a free download counted the same as a paid download in terms of the effect it had on how ones book was ranked. After the change, it looked as though a free download counted for a fraction of what a paid download did.

Since many indie authors rely on periodic giveaways to boost their book's rank, and therefore hopefully keep the book toward the top of Amazon's bestseller lists, this was a big deal. Edward Robertson has posted an invaluable series of articles on the changes Amazon has made to their algorithm and in my earlier article I promised to keep readers up to date. Well, here's the latest.

Robertson, in an attempt to figure out the full impact of the changes to Amazon's ranking algorithm, made his book, Breakers, free for a few days and his results were startling. Over the period of a few days nearly 26,000 copies of his book were downloaded, 173 were sold and 93 copies were borrowed. Here's the big news, though. At the end of that period his books ranking had dramatically increased. (See Robertson's post -- How Much Juice Is Left In Select? -- for full details.)


He writes:
[W]hat does this mean long-term? I don't know. I'm trying not to know just yet, because I don't want to get my hopes up. But prior to this free run, Breakers was #121 on the Technothrillers popularity list and worse than #500 on Science Fiction > Adventure. On day three of its run, it improved to #10 Technothriller and #27 Sci-Fi > Adventure. Right now, it's #8 and #24. I'm guessing sales will slow down after an initial rush, but hold, driven by the pop lists, at a decent clip, for an unknown length of time. If that happens, I will be a very happy Ed.
I can imagine, I would be ecstatic! If Robertson's experience with Breakers is any indication the news for indie writers isn't bleak, it's quite the opposite. As Robertson writes, though, it's too early to draw sweeping conclusions.

Stay tuned!

Related Articles:
Amazon's Ranking Algorithm Has Changed: what this means for indie authors
An Indie Writer Shares His Experience With KDP Select
Self Publishing on Amazon: Kindle Direct Publishing


"Changes in Amazon's Algorithm: An Update," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!


I'm not quite finished the Fifty Shades series by author E.L. James but I've read enough to be surprised by the fuss over the trilogy, especially the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey. Which isn't to say I don't think they're wonderful books.

Here's what I'm talking about. I found this paragraph in the Wikipedia entry for Fifty Shades of Grey:
By the release of the final volume in January 2012, news networks in the United States had begun to report on the Fifty Shades trilogy as an example of viral marketing and of the rise in popularity of female erotica, attributing its success to the discreet nature of e-reading devices.
I feel I must have been living under a rock for the past few months, but the first I heard of Fifty Shades was when I did by blog post for the indie bestseller Wool and that book was compared to Fifty Shades of Grey in its sudden and astonishing popularity. Since nothing else was said about Fifty Shades the description aroused my curiosity. When I walked into Chapters the next day I had forgotten all about the book, but when I saw it perched at the top of the bestsellers bookshelf, I picked it up and began reading.

And I read, and read, and read. By the time my friend came back from his clothes shopping I was 20 pages in and thoroughly hooked. What attracted me wasn't salacious curiosity about the hinted at peek into the world of DBSM, it was good writing and the promise of a sweet love story.

At the moment I'm a third of the way through James' last book, Fifty Shades Freed, and would describe the series as being more about the redemptive power of love than anything else.

In a sense, Fifty Shades is an urban fairy tale.

Being of a certain age I have come to the opinion that people do not change drastically. Someone with issues on the scale of Christian Grey is not likely to transform themselves because of the power of love. (And, yes, I do glare and youngsters and sporadically growl "Humbug!" during Xmas.) But it's a nice thought.

I gather that James' prose has been criticized, but I wonder what they are comparing it to. Margaret Atwood? Neil Gaiman? Stephen King? Not many writers could stand up to that sort of scrutiny. Personally I thought she did fine, but I'm comparing her with writers like Charlaine Harris (The Southern Vampire Series, True Blood), Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake Series) and even Kim Harrison (The Hollows Series).

 Please let me be clear, I love Charlaine Harris's and Kim Harrison's books, and I adored the first four or so books in Laurrell Hamilton's Anita Blake series. (As an aside I'd like to mention that each of these authors have written steamy sex scenes but I saw no criticisms similar to those leveled at James. But then, to be fair, the scenes to which I refer didn't involve BDSM, just vampires -- I write that tongue in cheek).

Here are excerpts of the non-steamy variety from all four authors, see what you think:

First excerpt:
I'd been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar.
Ever since vampires came out of the coffin (as they laughingly put it) two years ago, I'd hoped one would come to Bon Temps. We had all the other minorities in our little town--why not the newest, the legally recognized undead? But rural northern Louisiana wasn't too tempting to vampires, apparently; on the other hand, New Orleans was a real center for them--the whole Anne Rice thing, right?

Second Excerpt:
I stood in the shadows of a deserted shop front across from The Blood and Brew Pub, trying not to be obvious as I tugged my black leather pants back up where they belonged. This is pathetic, I thought, eyeing the rain-emptied street. I was way too good for this.

Apprehending unlicensed and black-art witches was my usual line of work, as it takes a witch to catch a witch. But the streets were quieter than usual this week. Everyone who could make it was at the West Coast for our yearly convention, leaving me with this gem of a run. A simple snag and drag. It was just the luck of the Turn that had put me here in the dark and rain.

Third Excerpt:
Willie McCoy had been a jerk before he died. His being dead didn’t change that. He sat across from me, wearing a loud plaid sport jacket. The polyester pants were primary Crayola green. His short, black hair was slicked back from a thin, triangular face. He had always reminded me of a bit player in a gangster movie. The kind that sells information, runs errands, and is expendable.

Of course now that Willie was a vampire, the expendable part didn’t count anymore. But he was still selling information and running errands. No, death hadn’t changed him much. But just in case, I avoided looking directly into his eyes. It was standard policy for dealing with vampires. He was a slime bucket, but now he was an undead slime bucket. It was a new category for me.

Fourth Excerpt:
I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair--it just won't behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I just not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable.


Excerpt One: "Dead Until Dark," by Charlaine Harris
Excerpt Two: "Dead Witch Walking," by Kim Harrison
Excerpt Three: "Guilty Pleasures," by Laurell K. Hamilton
Excerpt Four: "Fifty Shades of Grey," by E.L. James

Yes, all right, James' excerpt -- and, by the way, these were all the first paragraphs of the first book in their respective series -- was about boys and girls living in this world, a world not populated by dark, brooding, sexy and forbidden supernatural creatures, but since her book did start off as fan fiction for the Twilight Series I thought it was appropriate. In any case, I don't read many romance books, so I used what I had in my bookshelf.

If you haven't read Fifty Shades of Grey I'd recommend giving the first few pages a try.

Whatever is currently on your nightstand, happy reading!

You might also be interested in:
- 19 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Following.
- How To Sell 100 Books Per Day: 6 Things You Need To Do
- Writers: In Order To Win We Must Embrace Failure

"Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!" copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award, Part Two


Having to choose 15 blogs I've recently discovered or follow regularly is difficult because there are so many! I've decided not to list big blogs like Joe Konrath's (A Newbie's Guide To Publishing), Dean Wesley Smith, Kris Rusch or The Passive Voice Blog because I've talked about them and posted links to their blogs elsewhere.

Here is the rest of my list:

- The Creative Penn
I am an author, blogger, speaker and business consultant based in London, England although I have lived in Australia and New Zealand for the last 11 years. I always dreamed of writing my own books, and spent many years thinking about it before I actually took the plunge.

- Adventures in ePublishing
I am a part-time YA and scifi writer. I self-publish my own novels for e-readers such as Kindle and Nook. derek@derekjcanyon.com

- Jim C. Hines
My name's Jim, and I write books. And also short stories. Plus a fairly regular blog. Not to mention the occasional nonfiction article. And once I wrote and sold a small bumper sticker. But these days, it's mostly books.

- John Green: New York Times Bestselling Author
In 2007, Green and his brother Hank ceased textual communication and began to talk primarily through videoblogs posted to youtube. The videos spawned a community of people called nerdfighters who fight for intellectualism and to decrease the overall worldwide level of suck. (Decreasing suck takes many forms: Nerdfighters have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight poverty in the developing world; they also planted thousands of trees around the world in May of 2010 to celebrate Hank’s 30th birthday.) Although they have long since resumed textual communication, John and Hank continue to upload three videos a week to their youtube channel, vlogbrothers. Their videos have been viewed more than 75 million times, and their channel is one of the most popular in the history of online video. He is also an active (if reluctant) Twitter user with more than 1.1 million followers.

- Nathan Bransford
"Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (Dial, May 2011), Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe (Dial, April 2012) and Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp (Dial, March 2013). He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. and is now the social media manager at CNET. He lives in San Francisco." 
I began following Nathan's Bransford's blog when he was an agent, and fortunately he's left all those old posts up. Knowledgeable about the publishing industry from both sides of the fence, charming and articulate, this is one of the first blogs I subscribed to. Well worth the read.

- The Book Deal: An Inside View of Publishing The Book Deal is a blog for writers and book people, with a veteran editor's insider take on the strange and inscrutable way books are published and the big changes going on in the business today.

- Utterances of an Overcrowded Mind
...Sometimes there's stuff that needs to come out. I can't say whether it's relevant or not; it just wants to be said. These things are the 'utterances of an overcrowded mind.'

- Charlie's Diary
Being the blog of Charles Stross, author, and occasional guests ...
Witty and always interesting.

There are SO many more blogs I would have liked to post. I'm truly sorry I couldn't list more! In case anyone is interested, italics indicates the text is a quotation. Regular unquoted text represents my own comments.

Thanks for reading and thanks again to Melanie for the award!