Saturday, April 30

eBooks promote reading

Carolyn Kellogg, writing for the Los Angeles Times, notes that:
... getting an ereader can lead to more reading. Thirty-four percent of Californians surveyed said that with an ereader, they read more books than they did before.

That's good news for authors. :)

On a completely unrelated note, when I read this next article I had to read the first paragraph twice, it seemed incredible. Here it is:

Wildlife is thriving in lakes contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster, with both overall numbers and species diversity holding up well. Any harmful effects from the radiation appear to be dwarfed by the benefits of having no humans in the area.

As Michael Marshall, writing for New Scientist, explains,

The area around Chernobyl was evacuated after the disaster ... this has been a boon to the local wildlife. Endangered European bison and Przewalski's horses have been introduced successfully.

Here is a link to the article.

Friday, April 29

Flee, by Joe Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson

Flee is a fast paced, well-written thrill ride. Easy to read and impossible to put down it takes the reader into a world of spies and espionage. This book kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. If you like reading thrillers or detective fiction, this book is for you.

If you like Flee, or books like Flee, you might also like Joe Konrath's Jack Daniels stories. Jack is a woman -- I hadn't known that! -- and a very cool character; she reminded me of Sam Spade. I'm looking forward to reading these.

Tuesday, April 26

Book Country by Penguin Group

Update (August 16, 2016): It looks as though Book Country no longer exists.

Penguin Group's latest venture is Book Country, a website for writers of genre fiction. According to a New York Times article by Julie Bosman, Penguin says that the site is intended to help build a community of writers by, among other things, giving them the ability to comment on and critique the manuscripts of other writers.

In addition to forming a community of writers and telling them a about how the traditional publishing industry works; agents, agents and publishers can swing by and look for new talent, giving writers who use Book Country a way to get in contact with industry professionals that they wouldn't otherwise have.

One thing I was curious about. Penguin said that in a few months time they will attempt to generate revenue from the site by giving members of Book Country a way to self-publish their books for a fee by ordering printed copies. I'm not sure what that means. However, given the recent success of ebooks as a publishing format I wonder why Putnam is putting emphasis on printed copies which are far more expensive to produce and store than electronic copies.

It will be interesting to watch and see what happens.

Sunday, April 24

How to write a query letter: the paint-by-number approach

How to write a query letter: the paint-by-number approach

Writing a query letter is hard work—nearly as hard as writing the book! That was my experience at least. Nathan Bransford's blog got me through it and helped me produce a query letter I was happy with. I highly recommend this post to anyone writing a query letter: Query Letter Mad Lib.

Skeleton Query

Dear [Agent name],

I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

[title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author's credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
[your name]

Nathan Bransford's Post About Writing Query Letters

Nathan Bransford has several other terrific posts about writing a query letter:

Happy querying!

Other articles you might like:

- Query Letters: How To Write Them And Who To Send Them To
- Query Tracker: Keep Track Of Your Stories
- How To Structure Your Story

Photo credit: "Student and Teacher" by Wonderlane under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, April 22

Are Big Six Publishers Stealing Royalties?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch says the answer may be yes, if her royalty statements are anything to judge by. She writes:

I had looked at my royalty statements from a Big Six publisher, and could not believe the e-book number. It wasn’t in the realm of reality, particularly given the sales of novellas in the same series that I had put up on Kindle myself. According to all the information I had access to, the novellas sold fewer copies than the traditionally published e-book. The royalty statement, however, indicated that my indie e-books had outsold the traditionally published one ten times over.
I knew that wasn’t possible, and started researching the numbers behind the scenes with lawyers, accountants, agents, writers, and other friends inside the publishing industry. I learned that I wasn’t seeing something unique to me: I was seeing an industry-wide problem that no one was talking about.

That is what Kristine Rusch shared in her April 13th blog post. In her April 20th post Kristine Rusch announced that other traditionally published writers had read her blog, checked their own numbers, and told her that they had found the same thing. Kristine Rusch concluded that,

Apparently, some of the Big Six publishers are significantly underreporting the actual number of e-books sold on writers’ royalty statements.

Wow! But that's not all.

I heard from dozens upon dozens of traditionally published writers last week, and to a person without exception, they had all looked at their royalty statements and found discrepancies like the ones I found. …
Because of my blog post, at least a dozen writers sat down with numbers and calculators in hand. These writers compared the sales of their self-published e-book titles to the sales of their traditionally published e-book titles, and found startling discrepancies. Even adjusting for price differences (Big Six e-books were priced higher than the self-published books), these writers discovered that their Big Six publishers reported e-book sales of one-tenth to one-one-hundredth of their indie-published titles.
Some of these writers are bestsellers. Their bestselling frontlist novels (released in the past year)—with full advertising and company wide support—sold significantly fewer copies than their self-published e-books, books that had been out for years, books that had no promotion at all.

I say again: Wow! I am not a traditionally published author, but, if I was, I would be concerned. It is mind-boggling that some writers discovered that their Big Six publishers reported e-book sales of one-one-hundredth of their indie-published titles. One-one-hundredth!

If the royalty statements Kristine Rusch mentions are incorrect and publishers are withholding significant amounts of royalties from authors, then authors have been cheated out of a lot of money, especially if this has been going on for some time.

Let me play devils advocate for a moment. What if the royalty statements are correct? Independently published titles generally sell for much less than those published by the Big Six. Generally an ebook published by one of the Big Six is priced around $10 while a title from an independent author usually sells for under $5, usually well under $5. Speaking for myself, most of the ebooks I have bought have been under $3. That means that I can afford to buy about three times as many independently published ebooks as those that have been traditionally published.

Of course, that still wouldn't account for those cases where where the reported sales of traditional ebooks was one-one-hundredth of the independently published ones.

I'm looking forward to Kristine Rusch's next blog post about this. Stay tuned.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch's April 13th post
Kristine Kathryn Rusch's April 20th post

Thursday, April 21

John Locke: The power of 99 cents

I didn't know who John Locke was—the author, not the 17th century philosopher—until I read Joe's March 8th blog. Still, I didn't grasp the significance of Locke's success until, this morning, I read Jeffrey Trachtenberg's article, Cheapest Ebooks Upend the Charts.

Trachtenberg writes that successful independent authors, many of whom price their books below $5, are drawing readers away from brand name authors.

A case in point is writer John Locke. Mr. Locke, an independent author who primarily writes thrillers, published his first 99 cent paperback two years ago at age 58. In March of this year, Mr. Locke earned $126,000 dollars from his books.

Mr. Locke says:

When I saw that highly successful authors were charging $9.99 for an e-book, I thought that if I can make a profit at 99 cents, I no longer have to prove I'm as good as them. Rather, they have to prove they are ten times better than me.

I had thought of entitling this blog: John Locke and the rebirth of pulp fiction.

Tuesday, April 19

Does Book Piracy Affect Sales?

According to Neil Gaiman the answer is a resounding "No!"

I was going to post this link a while ago and then reconsidered because I know that many published authors, some of whom I know personally, are deeply offended by the piracy of their work. I can understand this and feel for them but I think the point that Neil Gaiman is addressing isn't about the ethics of piracy as much as it is about the impact of piracy on an author's book sales.

I decided to publish this link after reading a blog by Timo Boezeman entitled, Fighting Piracy is the dumbest thing you can do. He made what I thought were interesting points about the financial impact of piracy.

Monday, April 18


Today, on the way to work, I saw someone wearing a billowing black cloak. Yes, I was walking through downtown, but it's not Halloween so the attire was out of place. Who wears black cloaks as street wear? I was giving the strange figure a furtive look when he turned to face me: it was the killer from the Scream movies! My heart stopped for a second or two.

Roger Ebert's review of Scre4m is here.

Friday, April 15

US ebook sales outsell all other formats

According to data released yesterday, in the US ebooks outsold all other book formats for the first time. Ebook sales have grown over 200% from what they were just one year ago.

For more reading:

Thursday, April 14

What Makes Good Writing Good?

I usually ask myself this as I gaze irresolutely at a blank screen and beg the muse to take pity on me.

But not today. Today, I read Roger Ebert's 2002 review of the 1974 movie, Don't Look Now. If the movie is half as good—no, an eighth as good—as the review, I must see it. I don't mean that Ebert gave the movie a good review, which he did, I mean that, as is so often the case, Ebert's own writing woke me up and showed me what writing can be, what it can do.

I believe that when writing is good it has something in common with poetry. Let me give you an example from Ebert's review:

The movie takes place entirely in late autumn when everything is grey and damp and on the edge of frost.

I can see it. I can feel it. I feel sure I have been to this place before. This not only is a wonderful description but it also has a cadence, a sense of meter; it has a heartbeat.

Another example:

This sequence not only establishes the loss that devastates the Baxters, but sets the visual themes of the movie. There will be shots that occur out of time, as characters anticipate future events, or impose past events on the present. There will be sharp intakes of psychic foresight. Christine's death by water will lead in an obscure way to Venice, where John Baxter is restoring an old church, where a killer is loose, where the police pull a body from a canal, where a child's doll lies drowned at the water's edge.

Specifically the sentence, "There will be sharp intakes of psychic foresight." The sentence itself is like the gasp it brings to mind.

Now that is good writing.

I subscribed to Roger Ebert's twitter feed a few days ago and am enjoying his tweets and the links he gives. If anyone would like to see for themselves, here is a link to it. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3

Has dystopian fiction taken over from paranormal romance?

Benedicte Page at The says that it has. She writes:

Dystopian fiction has taken over from paranormal romance as the genre du jour for the young adult (YA) market, following the success of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Game. Simon & Schuster paid six-figures for a YA dystopian trilogy by Andy Fukuda, with Venetia Gosling buying UK and Commonwealth rights, and the first book, The Hunt, due in spring 2012.
She also mentions that time travel stories could be the latest trend. I thought it was an interesting article.

This is a picture of English Bay, I was standing where Denman meets Beach Ave. Not the best picture, it didn't capture the cozy feeling of darkness that sometimes descends on the city around twilight.

Friday, April 1

How a writer can make money

It's a good title, but I can't take credit for it. Nathan Bransford, ex-agent and author, launched a week-long series asking: How will authors of the future make money? It's well worth the read.

I had never heard of Kickstarter before. Mur's story about how to use the site to raise money was interesting.

For those of you who don't know what Kickstarter is, this is from their site:

Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every month, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.

A new form of commerce and patronage. This is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work. Instead, they offer products and experiences that are unique to each project.

All or nothing funding. On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.

Each and every project is the independent creation of someone like you. Projects are big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and experimental. They’re inspiring, entertaining and unbelievably diverse. We hope you agree... Welcome to Kickstarter!
FYI, Nathan Bransford discusses more ways, many more ways, of making money than just Kickstarter. Here's the link.