Apr 032014
 
Jordan Dane
@JordanDane
 




Paraphrasing the question submitted to TKZ anonymously: What do you think of “online bullies” who post mean-spirited book reviews to discredit the author when they don’t even read the novel.
 
If someone has clearly not read a novel yet writes a review, why should I pay attention to that at all? (I’ve spent too much time already talking about this, so I will move on to my thoughts on reviews, in general.)
 
Recently I heard an actor talk about paying attention to reviews and how it could affect his performance—whether the reviews were good or bad. I find words of wisdom and encouragement in the creative arts--like filmmakers, actors, musicians—because they know what it takes to create something from nothing with passion. So when I heard this actor speak, I could relate his words to my own thoughts. He believed reviews, whether good or bad, detracted from the work in the moment or for the next performance. If a reviewer believed the actor’s performance was emotional and touching in a particular scene, those words would stay in the actor’s head the next time he did his job, when maybe the scene (on page) didn’t call for the same emotion. Negative reviews can act in the same way and cultivate self-doubt (which none of us need).
 
In applying what he said to writing, a good review can sway an author to manipulate the writing to “fit” what the reviewer wrote about the work. It could affect every book in the future in the same manner. Bad reviews can make an author overly sensitive to whatever harsh criticism was written, whether deserved or not. The author could overcompensate and alter their growth. Chasing after reviews, whether good or bad, can detract from a writer's instincts on storytelling. They can make an author doubt the story telling talent that got them published in the first place.
 
I also heard it said, long ago in my energy industry career, that if you don’t value (or know anything about) the credibility of the person giving their opinion of your work, why should you care what they think or say? Easier said than done for some, but I've embraced this sentiment.


As an author, I tend to value Publishers Weekly to give me a sense of a book, but it doesn’t stop me from buying it if the book gets a marginal PW review. If the story interests me, I make my own decision. Any reading experience is subjective for everyone. Because I understand how difficult it is to tell a story on page, I am much more appreciative of an author’s style or voice or plot structure. I love reading many types of books and I try to find “gem takeaways” in an author’s writing, rather than me bristling for the opportunity to reject their work and show how brilliant I can be at “snark.”
 
As a new author, I paid attention to reviews. I don’t anymore and haven’t for a long time. It’s my choice and it’s freed my time so I can spend more hours on writing and honing my craft.  Like the actor I mentioned, I don’t want to be swayed by opinions whether the reviews are good or bad. It’s human nature to sift through many good reviews, but become totally obsessed over a negative one. Snarky reviewers are the worst. They tend to “believe their own hype” and love having the reputation for overly harsh reviews they think are clever. Their reviews tend not to be about recommending good books or encouraging literacy, they become about how unkind the review can be in degrading the work. Fortunately not all reviewers are like this. Most are not.
 
If someone wants to be critical of a writer’s work, I issue a challenge. Write your own book. Cut open a vein and bleed on the page with an honest story and deal with the critics (or note) afterwards. Authors must be willing to tell their stories, without fear. There will always be negative opinions, but my focus has been on my own growth and striving to tell my stories, my way. I want to be the best Jordan Dane I can be and I keep writing.
 
As for sites where readers congregate (like Goodreads, Fresh Fiction, Just Romantic Suspense, Amazon, B&N, and many other review sites), I appreciate their value for readers to talk about books. That’s great. Goodreads, Fresh Fiction, and Just Romantic Suspense in particular are reader communities that promote literacy and they encourage reading (in general) by giving followers a place to focus their interest in books. A lovely thing.
 
I have a profile presence on some of these sites. I RSS feed my blog posts to my author profile, respond to comments, and do giveaways to raise awareness of my projects. Other than that, I don’t sift through reviews, whether they are good or bad. It’s a detractor of time I could spend writing. There will always be one-star reviews, even on noteworthy critically acclaimed books.
 
For discussion:
Readers: How much attention do you pay toward reviews? Do reviews sway you to buy or avoid a novel? Have you ever read really bad reviews on a book you liked? If so, did it change how you look at reviews?
 
Writers: How do you deal with reviews (good or bad) on your work?
Dec 212013
 
I am sorry to see 2013 end. It wasn’t a wonderful year from beginning to end --- what year is? --- but the good things that happened outweighed the bad. The reason I’m sorry to see it go, however, is that like all of the other ones we’ve lived through we’ll never get it back, never have the opportunity to take a mulligan on it. Once that sand drops through the hourglass, you don’t get it back. We just keep moving through these years until they run out.

My age and station is such that I will not stress myself about things I cannot control. So far, I think that I have the holiday stress thing resolved. I am not always a fan of Jeff Bezos, but this year I bought every single Christmas present that I am giving anyone on Amazon. I didn’t stand in one line, not even to buy the fixings for Christmas dinner that I will be preparing for my ungrateful and unappreciative family (I did go to the store for that, but when I rolled my cart up to the registers, a new register lane opened and I was beckoned through like a contemporary Moses crossing the Red Sea).

I have been using the time I would have spent sitting in traffic (and needing a restroom. Soon.) or standing in line perusing the year-end Best Of lists. I love those lists. I always find at least a few books or CDs or what not that totally blew past me during the year. That for me is a Christmas present, the one I really want. And in a rare exhibition of chutzpah, it’s the present I am asking for from you! Please!

Actually, all I am asking for is your favorite novel, short story, and CD that was published or released in 2013. If you want to tell us why, please do, but don’t feel obligated. Of course, I’ll share:

Favorite novel--- I had many that came close but when the dust settled and the smoke cleared it was NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT by Derek Miller. It involves Sheldon Horowitz, an elderly Jew in the throes of early stage dementia, who is transported from his comfortable New York environs to the alien frigidness of Norway by his well-meaning but somewhat clueless granddaughter and her affable husband. Things take off in a big way when Horowitz rescues a young boy from a murderous war criminal and takes off, with a number of disparate parties in hot pursuit. Funny in spots, tragic in others (and terrifying, if you are over sixty and suspect that your gene pool has Alzheimer swimming in it), this is the book that stayed with me all year.

Favorite short story--- I didn’t read many short stories this year but of the ones I did --- several of which were very good --- I loved “Swingers Anonymous” by Jonathan Woods from the DALLAS NOIR collection edited by David Hale Smith. The premise is terrific: within minutes after a regularly scheduled swingers’ party ends, two people are dead and a third has a sudden and unexpected financial windfall. Top that. The story is so good, by the way, that I subsequently acquired and read Woods’ novel A DEATH IN MEXICO and his short story collection, BAD JUJU. Good juju, indeed.

Favorite CD --- It was October before I heard a new music project that I could listen to all the way through. TALLY ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU BROKE by Parquet Courts is technically an EP --- there are only five songs on it --- but each and every one will make you fall in love with punk music all over again, even if you were never charmed with it to start. I listen to music for hours every day but I still hear all seven minutes of “He’s Seeing Paths” --- an ode to bike messengers and running from the cops, among other things --- playing in the background.

It’s your turn. Thank you in advance. And Merry Christmas!

Nov 302013
 

We interrupt the normal posts here to remind you that this blog and this blogger are Amazon Associates. So if you are planning to buy anything online through Amazon.com - whether on Cyber Monday or for any other time - I would greatly appreciate it if you would please use this link to reach Amazon.com, or, if you prefer, use the Amazon search box on the right side of your screen. Doing so will not cost you anything, but I will receive (from Amazon) a very small percentage of your purchase.

A word about books and booksellers: if you have a local independent bookseller - especially one who specializes in mysteries - or if you regularly deal with one by mail order, please continue to do so. I support my own local booksellers and want to keep them in business. If they cannot help you, then by all means try Amazon through one of my links.

Amazon, of course, also sells the Kindle (and if you don't have one, perhaps this would be a good time to discover the pleasures of e-books) and all kinds of non-book merchandise, including music, games, electronic gear, computers, even clothing. By all means, please use this link to explore the possibilities.

Thanks for your consideration. Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, and best wishes for whatever you may celebrate in this holiday season. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog posts.

Aug 222012
 

A friend of mine sent me this screen shot of an email he got today from Amazon recommending FORT WORTH NIGHTS and TEXAS WIND to him. It's always nice to see Amazon publicizing the books. Such things are more important than ever these days. When I review a book here I always try to post the review on Amazon as well and "Like" the page. If I review something of yours and fail to post it on Amazon, too, don't hesitate to drop me an e-mail and remind me, because that's always my intention. The little things really add up in this business.

I also find it funny when I get a recommendation e-mail from Amazon and one or more of the books they're recommending to me are ones that I've written under other names. That happens more often than you might think.
Jul 192012
 

By PD Martin

We’ve had a few blogs recently on ebooks, including discussions in the Comments on sales figures, Amazon’s Lending Library and Kindle Select. I’m hoping there are others out there who felt their appetite was whetted rather than sated and that perhaps a full blog JUST on those two aspects would be interesting. I’m not saying I have the answers (in fact, I have a few questions!), but I wanted to open the discussions up and share my experiences. And I've got an important question for readers, too :)

For those of you who aren’t aware, Amazon’s Kindle Select means the author must offer their book exclusively via Amazon, and in return that book can be borrowed (and you get $ for each borrow) and you can use five free promo days a month. The free promo days mean you offer your book for free and it heads up the charts. Hopefully!

So, a recap on the more recent ebook posts here at Murderati:

Former Murderati Brett Battles blogged on his secrets to success 
I blogged on the sweet spot for ebook pricing 

Alex blogged on her epublishing decision 

Zoe blogged on modern manners and social media 

Now you’re all caught up. 

So, Kindle Select. I did my first Kindle Select campaign with Coming Home back in May. I set it to run for 48 hours but after less than 24 hours, over 5,500 copies had been downloaded. I was excited and alarmed. Do I really want THAT many people to get my work for free? I foolishly stopped the campaign. I was in the top 40 of Kindle and #6 for Suspense (or was it mystery & thriller). Of course, later I realised the error of my ways, especially when Brett talked about 30-40K of downloads over three days.  

However, back in May I was excited by my first, tentative step into the Select program. You see, I saw a sales spike when I took Coming Home off the free promotion. In the following 48 hours I sold roughly four months’ worth of sales and I thought: “This is it. I just put one of my books up for free every couple of weeks and I can boost my ebook income.” I should also note, I didn’t do ANY promotion. Not even on Facebook or Twitter (I didn’t want to tell my readers and fans that they’d bought the book for $2.99, but others could get it free).

Anyway, a few weeks later I decided it was time to spike my sales again. So I put Coming Home up for a two-day free stint. Again, no advertising or promotion of the freebie. This result was COMPLETELY different. WTF? I got like maybe 300 free downloads. WTF? 

David DeLee mentioned in his comment on Alex’s blog that his more recent results with his free days haven’t been as good as in the past, and I’m wondering if maybe the first time you put it up for free Amazon ‘realises’ and advertises it some way? And Brett’s post mentioned that results haven’t been as earth-shattering recently either. So what gives?

It seems now we need to advertise and promote our freebies. Perhaps through social media (but we don’t want to turn people off – think back to Zoe’s blog last week) and maybe through blogs (Alex’s post on Tuesday is relevant to this one). 

Or is something else changing? Simply more players in the market, more authors going in for the free promos? Or maybe it’s something more complex. On Tuesday, Alex talked about the Amazon algorithm. Anyone out there give me more info on this? I’m not sure if this is to do with the ‘We recommend’ emails Amazon sends out or the free promo stuff. 

And finally, Amazon’s Prime Library. Again on Alex’s epublishing post, Robert Gregory Browne talked about some pretty high numbers in the lending department. But I’m literally getting lends in the double digits per month. So how do we promote our books in the Lending Library to get a share of that $600,000/month?

I do also have an important question for readers out there …would you be disappointed or annoyed in any way if you’d paid for an author’s work and discovered it was free a few days (or weeks) later? 

See…told you I had questions! 

Jul 062012
 

by Alexandra Sokoloff

Sometimes synchronicity just hits us here at Murderati - I'm so glad for P.D.'s post yesterday because I'm able to provide the flip side view today! Almost as if we planned it...

I'm sure everyone here at Murderati has noticed more and more e book posts creeping in alongside the craft ones.  Personally I'm thrilled to see it; I'm always very much about being practical about craft. I think writing is a marvelous hobby, everyone can benefit from doing it, and I strongly believe just writing is just fine. But if you are going to go through the agony of writing an entire book, a real, finished book, don't you want at least the possibility of getting it out there in the market, for others to read and experience and for you to make money for your labor?

I myself plan to get much more hardcore about about publishing and e book issues.  Partly because it's astonishing to me how many writers and aspiring writers still have so many misconceptions about e publishing - and there is a LOT of misinformation out there. (As my last workshop class knows,  I was outraged enough about this to teach an impromptu e publishing seminar in the middle of our writing intensive last week!)

The fact is, a very large number of the authors I know who started out in publishing at about the same time I did (2007) have made the leap and are now e publishing directly - either exclusively so or in conjuction with traditional publishing contracts.  My friends and wonderful authors Blake Crouch, Ann Voss Peterson, CJ Lyons, Elle Lothlorien, not to mention present and former 'Rati  Zoe Sharp, Brett Battles, Rob Gregory Browne, and JD Rhoades are just a few who are doing VERY well with e publishing. Friends who started even earlier are doing even better (Scott Nicholson, Diane Chamberlain, Sarah Shaber and of course Joe Konrath, whose Newbie's Guide to Publishing is a must-read.). In a few short years, e publishing has filled retirement funds for older writers and elevated midlist authors to bestselling - or rock star! - status.

And now that I have several of my traditionally published backlist titles up as e books and the sales numbers are coming in, it's clear to me that at least THIS YEAR, e publishing is the right choice for me.

How do I know this?  Well, one of the amazing things about e publishing, for those of us who are used to the cryptic and essentially useless sales reports that we get quarterly - maybe - from our traditional publishers - is that now we can see exactly how many copies of each book we're selling and exactly how much money we're making per month.  This is a VASTLY easier way to ensure that you're making a real living, and it takes huge amounts of anxiety out of the process.  Plus you get paid every month, instead of when your publisher gets around to it, which is a vastly easier way to keep up with the bills, if you see what I'm saying.

E publishing has made making a practical living a much more realistic proposition for authors who are not (yet) bestsellers in traditional publishing. I don't know how long that will realistically last, whether it will get better or worse, but by now, for now, it's unignorable.

So this month I will publish my new thriller, HUNTRESS MOON, directly as an e book.

 

(This great cover is by our own megatalented Rob Gregory Browne!)

Lots of thought and agonizing went into this decision.

First, I know that some people who have not yet succumbed to the rapture of e readers still want to hold and touch and smell their print books and get peanut butter on them and all that. I feel you.  I have a real pang about this as well.  But it's not a very realistic pang.

The book is the book, whether there's a paper cover on it or not.  And I can publish it this month and get it into the hands of thirty thousand readers in a week (Based on my numbers for Book of Shadows, The Harrowing, and The Price.)  Even if I never sold ONE book after that, that exposure alone would be worth it. Because exposure sells my other books.

But based on the numbers I've compiled with my other books,  I will sell thousands, and very quickly.

If I went through traditional channels, the book wouldn't even hit the shelves until a year and a half from now.  How can I possibly think of giving up the tens of thousands of readers I will be able to reach with this book starting NOW?

Plus, I'm already almost halfway through my first draft of the sequel to HUNTRESS MOON (this is a series, my first-ever!).  I'll be able to publish that one in the fall. No longer do authors have to hold to the glacial timetables of their publishers, or worry about the possibility of the publisher deciding not to publish at all (which has happened to several of my friends, recently).

I can have two books out this year, with a guaranteed income.  What that income will ultimately be, well, I don't know, but traditional advances are way down and, much worse than that, most publishers are demanding e rights in perpetuity in traditional contracts, which seems to me an insane thing for authors to give up in the current climate. That alone pushed me in the e publishing direction.

Please hear me. I am NOT saying this is the way to go for a never-been-published author. Be warned: it is not the Gold Rush that it was back in, oh, January - there's a lot of competition out there.  I - and the other authors I listed above - know the benefits and drawbacks of traditional publishing because we've lived it; there's no Holy Grail mystique about it. To me the choice between the (waning) prestige of having a print book in stores and having an army of dedicated readers is a no-brainer.  Someone who doesn't have several years of actual sales numbers to compare and crunch is not going to be able to make the same kind of decision that I am doing, it would be much more of a leap of faith.  That doesn't mean don't do it, it just means it's riskier.

Also, going through the gauntlet of traditional publishing prepares an author to e publish like bootcamp prepares a soldier for war.  I KNOW how much editing it takes to come up with a clean and readable book.  I KNOW how much time I'll be spending marketing, and I have some idea of how and where to do that.

But even if you haven't had the benefit of that kind of trial by fire, you do need to know that there is an opportunity here that was never available to an author before, and that - is nothing but good news.

Now is the time. Things may change within months.  But I'm not excessively worried about the current system collapsing, because no matter what happens out there,  I can still write books.  Or scripts. I've always figured out how to make a living with writing. And I've been doing the figuring once again, and  this is how I can do it right, right now.

So first, I want to hear e publishing stories, and of course questions.  Are you doing it? Thinking about it?  If you're not, what's holding you back?

And second - I'm giving away 50 copies of HUNTRESS MOON for potential reviews (Amazon reviews are what I need the most, but am glad for any, anywhere!).  You DO NOT have to review the book - I just ask that you be open to posting a short review if you are inspired to do so.

e mail me at  alex AT alexandrasokoloff  DOT com for a copy in whatever format.

Here's the story!

HUNTRESS MOON

 FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman he glimpsed on the sidewalk behind his agent, who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers:  a female serial.

Roarke’s hunt for her takes him across three states... while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I am not launching the book officially until July 11, but it's up in online stores starting today so that I can collect some reviews. 

E mail me at  alex AT alexandrasokoloff  DOT com for a copy in whatever format.

But if you just feel like reading, or want to support me and this site, of course you can buy a copy! $3.99 on Amazon, $2.99 on Nook

Amazon

Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

Amazon FR

Amazon ES

Amazon IT

A note to Nook readers - Huntress Moon will only be available for Nook for the next two weeks, after which it will be exclusive on Amazon for the next three months at least. I'm truly sorry to have to do it that way, but it's unavoidable (read more on that here.)   Also, if you've been waiting to grab The Harrowing, The Unseen, or The Space Between for Nook, they are up now for $2.99, again, only for a few weeks.

Thanks for reading!

- Alex

Jun 102012
 

By: Joelle Charbonneau

This week I attended my very first BEA.  For those who aren’t familiar with the acronym, BEA stands for BookExpo America.  The expo is held at the Javits Center in New York City (a place all New Yorkers seem to have a love/hate relationship with) and is packed with over 20,000 publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians, authors and readers.  I thought I had mentally prepared myself for how huge the event was going to be.  I was wrong!  The event is massive.  So many people handing out ARCs, running to meetings or events and talking about their love of books. 

Love of books is the theme of BookExpo America.  So, if you love books and you can swing going to BEA, I totally recommend it.  Not because it will land you and agent or an editor.  It won’t.  Editors and agents don’t have time to talk about as yet unsigned projects.  They are too busy talking about their upcoming lists or pitching books to film people and foreign rights agents.  In fact, attending BEA will not make you “the author” feel important at all.  Because this isn’t a conference about writers and authors.  This is an expo about books.  If you are looking to stand out in the crowd, you probably need to wear stilts and even then you might not get noticed.  (Trust me.  The ten foot inflatable Captain Underpants doll barely got a second glance.)  But while you won’t stand out in the crowd, you will feel a sense of unity with everyone around you because everyone in attendance LOVES books.  They want to find better ways to connect readers with books and to keep the industry alive and thriving. 

BEA for me was fun and intimidating.  I got to sign copies of SKATING AROUND THE LAW, SKATING OVER THE LINE and early copies of MURDER FOR CHOIR.  Seeing MURDER FOR CHOIR for the first time was pretty awesome.  I also had meetings with my three editors and talked to my Houghton Mifflin Harcourt team for the first time.  Oh – and I got to see a bound copy of THE TESTING.  Not an ARC – since we are a few weeks/months away from that yet, but it was still exciting to see it getting so close.  I didn’t do much of the party scene, although I understand there were lots and lots of them.  There was a fun YA bash that I crashed with the fabulous DMLA agent, Amy Boggs, which was held at the top of a building near the Hudson River.  The view of the city was pretty amazing!  The bloggers who threw the party knew what they were doing when they picked the location. 

The one thing that I thought I was going to hear more buzz about during my BEA experience was the Amazon buyout of Avalon.  I mean, Amazon timed the announcement to coincide with BEA.  They wanted the acquisition to garner attention.  Only….it really didn’t.  I mean, people noticed the announcement.  It was kind of hard to miss.  But instead of talking about the move as proof that Amazon was doing good things or that they were evil and trying to take over the world, everyone just kind of shrugged.  I’m not sure what that means, but no one was surprised or compelled to talk about that particular announcement.  Maybe it was because it made sense that Amazon would buy genre books that had never been brought to the digital market.  While there are lots of things I don’t understand about the Amazon business model, I do understand that they understand e-books.  So, I guess I’m one of the masses on this and shrugging at the big announcement because this buyout totally makes sense.   

How about you?  Did you hear about the announcement and shrug?  Did you cheer when you heard the news or did the news not make it onto your radar?
Apr 272012
 

by Alexandra Sokoloff

Last week there was some publishing news so big that I've been wondering ever since why we haven't been talking about it here.  But it's like that classic left-wing admonition:  "I looked around me at what was happening and wondered why somebody wasn't DOING anything about it... and then I realized I WAS somebody."

Oh, that's right.

So, unqualified as I am to write this post, today I'm posting about it.  I'm going to keep it short and mostly link to more qualified sources so that you all can use your Murderati time today to catch up, if you haven't been following along.  The news, of course, is that the Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five of the Big Six publishers, alleging collusion in e-book prices and sales models.

If you haven't read about it, do that first, here.

So what does this mean for us as authors, exactly?

I have no idea. 

I can't imagine it's going to be good for advances for traditional book contracts, which have been dropping steadily over the last few years even before this.  Damages are being claimed for consumers of e books and not for the authors who have suffered from publishers fixing prices far too high for e books, so there's no restitution coming there.

What I do know is that it's going to mean SOMETHING.

Joe Konrath tends to be right about these kinds of things, so I'd highly recommend reading this blog of his and subsequent ones as this case progresses.  And April Hamilton has summed up quite a few of the arguments going on in the publishing world over all this.

What I DON'T recommend is ignoring it as if it's some esoteric business thing that has nothing to do with you.

Writing a book is so hard all on its own that it's very distracting and anxiety-provoking to have to speculate on how something like this lawsuit may affect your own ability to make a living.  I know.

When I was a screenwriter, the life was so 24/7 crazy that I adopted the head-in-the-sand attitude of most screenwriters:  "Oh, I don't have time to keep up with union issues, I am Too Busy with Very Important Writing."

That is, until an assault by some highly-paid screenwriters on the WGA credits rules so floored and angered me that I got politically involved, so involved that I ended up running for and winning a seat on the WGA Board of Directors.

Now, that wasn't the brightest career move I could have made, because in truth NO ONE has the time to write and serve on a union Board of Directors at the same time.  But being on the board did put the reality of the business changes that were going on in the film industry right in my face.  Unignorable. 

And what I realized was - I've got to get out of this.  It's not sustainable.  If the film business model is going to keep changing in this direction, I personally won't be able to make a living as a screenwriter in five or six years. Which were remarkably coherent thoughts for such a right-brained person as I am, actually. Absolutely not anything I wanted to think about, much less have to act on, but I knew I couldn't not act.

And I started putting my eggs in other baskets and writing novels while I watched things steadily get worse for screenwriters.

Now I'm making a comfortable living as an author, while a lot of my screenwriter friends have lost their houses and/or haven't had a film job in years.

I'm not trying to sound dire, especially when I'm being so vague about what all this will mean for us. And of course the news that the publishing industry is undergoing a massive sea change is no news at all for anyone who's been paying any attention over the last few years.  But I do find some authors' reactions to all of this perplexing, and the idea of silence on the issue alarming. I may not be an expert, but I know this is not a good time to stick my head in the sand.

So I urge you to click through some links, do your own Googling, and be informed. It IS our business.

- Alex

Mar 172012
 

I recently received a box in the mail. It was from a life-long friend, a gent named Bill Plant who is responsible (or maybe irresponsible) for shaping much of my taste in literature. While Bill and I remain close friends, we aren’t in the habit of sending each other gifts on the spur of the moment, so I had no idea what was in the box. It could have been anything from a head to…well, anything. After making sure that it wasn’t ticking, crying, or leaking, I commenced to open it, a formidable task since Bill apparently used three rolls of scotch tape to seal it. After some effort, I folded the flaps back, pulled out some newspaper packing, and…well, I’ll confess, The Kid got just a little misty-eyed.

The box was full of books. Paperback books. From the 1950s. They were marked up and in one case a little chewed up and some of them had the binding falling loose and they all had that sweet scent of slow but inevitable decomposition. In other words, every one was a little treasure. These were USED, used books. Bill deals in antiques, and will buy items such as books in inexpensive lots in the hope of finding an acorn or two among the Buena Sierra. Collectors, alas, aren’t much interested in paperbacks that are dog-eared, or have had a crayon taken to them, or that have been labeled, using an indelible marker, with a five cent price tag.  took a bunch of such and sent them to me. I don’t think I’ve had a better present in quite a while. It reminded me of one Christmas, some fifty years ago, when my mother ordered a bunch of science fiction paperbacks for me from the gone but not forgotten S & SF Bookstore in New York. It was a laborious procedure back then --- check books off an order list, write a check, send the whole kit and  caboodle off in the mail and wait six weeks for delivery --- since the only “Amazon” most folks knew then was either 1) a river in South America or 2) Irish McCalla. But when that box arrived, it was special. And so was this one.

So what would I possibly want with such a litter of mutts? The idea of it, pure and simple. These were books that had been read and re-read before being consigned to a cellar or an attic or the back shelves of a used bookstore.  Most of it was science fiction. There were Ace Doubles in that box. Ace doubles. These consisted of two covers and two novels bound into one; read one, flip it over, and there was another novel waiting for you.  Hard Case Crime is going to publish two Lawrence Block novels in the doubles format in May 2012, and I can’t wait. But these were the original thing. A few short story collections were in that box, and included forgotten stories by famous authors (“Death of the Senator,” by Arthur C. Clarke, for one). There were a couple of early and forgotten novels by authors who have gone onto better things (Robert Silverberg’s THE PLANET KILLERS); and some soft core science fiction porn (are porn paperbacks even published anymore?). Then there was a copy of GALACTIC DERELICT by Andre Norton, one of the first science fiction books I ever read.

Yes, there were a couple of mysteries and thrillers as well. I was six years old when Marjorie Carlton wrote ONE NIGHT OF TERROR. It got past me the first time but I’m going to read it this year. And there were a couple of Carter Brown novels in that box.  Most of the ladies who contribute to The Kill Zone are probably too young to remember Carter Brown. but gentlemen, certainly most of you do.  “Carter Brown” was the pseudonym for Alan Geoffrey Yates, and there was a time when he ruled the revolving wire paperback racks. Who could forget those Signet covers? I fogged up my eyeglasses in many a drugstore perusing the wares of those gaudy damsels while pretending to look for Mad Magazine paperback collections. I have discovered, belatedly, that the stories aren’t bad either.  It occurred to me a couple of nights ago, while reading   NO BLONDE IS AN ISLAND, that I had never actually read a Carter Brown book until now. I had committed many a cover to memory, however.

Some of the older paperbacks are now appearing in e-book format.  I discovered recently that all of those Edgar Rice Burroughs' books which I purchased with my allowance a half-century ago are available in Kindle format, and for free; and there are even three Carter Brown books up for sale. It just isn’t the same, however. The smell and the small, non-adjustable print and the feel of paper and ink aren’t there. It’s like having a rabbit and a hat that sit next to each other without any involvement or relationship: there’s no magic. That may sound strange --- if pressing a couple of buttons and having an entire book appear in a wafer thin tool that you can slip in a coat pocket isn’t magic, then what is? --- but it’s true. We get something, true, but also we give something up.

So. If you had a friend as good as mine (and Bill, I know you read these posts, and you remain the best), and that friend sent you a box such as I received, what books would you want to find in it? What would bring a smile to your face, and a tear (or five) to your eye?

Mar 162012
 

Today I'm thrilled to host Scott Nicholson here at Murderati.  Scott is a friend and one of my favorite supernatural thriller writers (some people say horror; I think what Scott delivers masterfully is spooky thrills, the best kind!) 

If you haven't read Scott, I highly recommend you give him a try. Here's his Amazon page to browse, I guarantee there's something for everyone, and the price is right! 

Just added:  Scott will be giving four books away (free for Kindle) this weeked (March 17-18) at http://www.ebookswag.com , so it's the perfect time to load up!

And those of you who know anything at all about e publishing know that Scott has been at the vanguard of the e publishing revolution - I've been wanting to get him here for ages to talk about what he sees as the future. So for your enjoyment and hopefully enlightenment - here's Scott!

Subsidizing the Freebie

By Scott Nicholson

I’ve gotten out of the “writer babble” business for two reasons: (1) I don’t know as much as I thought I did, and (2) it’s all changing so fast that even the boldest predictions of digital evolution quickly become laughable.

I don’t even use traditional publishing as a reference point anymore, because that is so far removed from most writers’ realities that it may as well be Shangri-la or Hollywood. The indie vs. trad debate is now only meaningful for a small group of people, and they are all making way more money than you or me.

So you are in it, and if you are lucky, you made a nice little nest egg back when everyone was standing on the sidelines deciding whether indie was the way to go. Hopefully, you shook off the intellectual shackles that chained us to the agent speed-dating sessions at writing conferences and were hammered and locked into place by “publishing experts” with 20-year writing careers in the old system. You know the mantras: “Get an agent,” “Only hacks self-publish,” and “You can’t produce and distribute a book without the advice of publishing experts.” Basically, ego affirmation. Of course the experts didn’t want to lose their position of authority (and in the agents’ case, the intermediary status of being the first in line to get checks.)

But the gate was left open and the horses all got out of the barn, or something like that (come up with your own gatekeeper metaphor; I am writing this for free!) So now we have a market where the 99-cent ebook had a year’s run, and the pool was finally beginning to find stratification (crappy books sinking, good books nailing stable plateaus) when Amazon unleashed the latest version of indie roulette—the free ebook.

I'm on record as predicting the flat-text e-book era has an outside range of five years, at least for fiction—specialized non-fiction and manuals will continue to be valuable for their content alone. I believe e-book sales will continue, but certainly not with expanding profits for all involved. Now that there are thousands of free Kindle books available every single day, how long before readers come to expect and even demand free books exclusively?

Freebie roulette. Great for readers. Good for Amazon (maybe in the short term, but it is hard to figure the long term). Terrible for authors.

The market is diverse enough to support many different price tiers, but writers who want to survive in 2015 will need to make money off of free books, or they will soon quit writing.

I only see one outcome: ad-supported or sponsored books. At first blush, you'd think N.Y. has an advantage, since Madison Avenue is right there. But can corporations, with their large structures, be able to compete when indie or smaller entities can react more quickly to present conditions instead of protecting some imagined status quo?

J.K. Rowling can inspire a Pottermore built around her brand, and James Patterson, Tom Clancy, and Clive Cussler have already built factories around their names (and, yes, V.C. Andrews, you can roll over in your grave two or three more times for all I care, because this is all your fault). But most of us are not factories or we wouldn’t have to indie publish.

This points out the new era of the branded writer. And not just "writer," but "content creator" and even mere "idea marketer." A personality is more suited to building brand identification and audience than a publisher is. I say "James Patterson" and you get an image. I say "Random House" and what do you get? Randomness. We've seen it here locally: "Ray's Weather" is where you check the weather and "Todd's Calendar" is where you click to find what's happening in the region—and both are ad supported. You can get the free content elsewhere but you don't get the human personality attached.

I'm already experimenting with the ad model because I believe it is viable. I am counting on Idea Marketing being one of my foundational pillars. I am not quite sure what it all looks like right now, but I look at it this way—you don't need NY in order to give away tons of free e-books or to spread an idea or to build a social platform. You are the idea you want to spread.

Other authors will say “I’ll never sell out.” (Ironically, those are usually the authors who have given most of their incomes to agents and publishers…) I don't blame people for sticking with what worked in the past. It all goes to how invested you are in a certain system and how the alternative looks, and, of course, the turf where you’ve staked out your ego. Publishing-industry talk on e-books uses phrases like "managing risk" and "cautious adaptation." That is why those of us in the trenches knew Barnes & Noble was in serious trouble when most in the “publishing industry” only realized it recently when BN’s horrifyingly bad third-quarter reports came in. They are working off of old data while I work off the data I got an hour ago.

And my data says this may be the very peak of the Golden Age of digital publishing. The $9.99 novel may be dead this year, since three-quarters of the current bestsellers are low-priced indie books. As fast as major publishers yank their name-brand authors out of digital libraries, 10 new indies cram into that virtual shelf space. Maybe forever. James Patterson’s factory can’t run on $2.99 ebooks, but mine can.

But what happens when the $2.99 and 99 cents drop to permanently free? Where’s your sponsor? Are you willing to go there? It's not going to be as clumsy as an image of a refreshing Bud Lite popping up when the main character enters a bar (though it's not unthinkable at some point.) Can you see Jack Reacher with a favorite brand of soft drink, or Bella Swan wearing only Calvin Klein? At what point is your willing suspension of disbelief shattered? At what point do you realize the ad is the only reason the book can exist at all?

My informal polling on ad-supported ebooks yields statements like: "I'll quit reading before I put up with that." I also remember saying I'd never carry a cell phone, or be on Facebook, or give up my vinyl albums, or start thinking that maybe nuclear energy is the best short-range answer to our energy addiction. Or that I’d ever read an entire book on a screen.

I don’t know the answer, but I am deeply invested in the question. So, ads in ebooks. As readers and writers, what is your opinion?

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Scott Nicholson is the bestselling author of a bunch of books and also released The Indie Journey: Secrets to Writing Success, because some people still think you can buy the secret instead of be the secret. Follow him on Facebook, blog, Twitter, website, or newsletter.

 

 

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