Month:

June, 2012

The problem is the national debt. All the other arguments aside, the national debt is at least 50% larger than it was 4 years ago. And showing no signs of shrinking.

That means that the Fed cannot afford to raise interest rates. Pretty much forever. Why? Because the US wouldn’t be able to pay the interest on the debt at higher rates. Put simply, if the effective coupon on T-Bills went to 4% (historically still very low), the US would be Greece, because the interest on the debt would be so large a chunk of GDP it would have to either default, or print money like it was Zimbabwe (not that it already isn’t doing that) just to pay the interest, assuming that it wasn’t continuing to create more debt every second.

And that’s just the on-balance sheet debt. Forget all the off-balance sheet stuff, like unfunded liabilities (you know, like Social Security and Medicare and hosts of other stuff the government just likes to keep off the sheet, a la Enron, because otherwise it is obvious that it is already completely bankrupt). Those are orders of magnitude larger.

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NEWS: New interview on craft, writing, and why I wish I was a bear. Worth reading.

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One friend of mine said, “Yeah, but the US can grow its way out of that!” Really? That’s nice. Assuming for a moment that one bought the notion that a country that these days manufactures very little, and has 70% of its GDP as “consumer spending” (that’s people buying things, mostly on credit – see the above paragraph on accumulating unsustainable debt), and largely only creates reality TV shows, Rap music, financial instruments, and sells burgers to each other – can somehow literally go parabolic on its GDP (how? Maybe cheap energy – the media’s latest BS siren song), what is the first thing that happens when growth occurs?

Answer: interest rates go up. A higher rate is required to entice investors, because they can get better returns in other investments in booming growth times. So now we have all this hypothesized growth, but rates have to go up, at which point the US still can’t afford to service its debt at higher rates.

This is what happens when fiscal irresponsibility becomes institutionalized, and pecuniary interests are allowed to loot the economy, aided by the central bank and the Treasury. Plain and simple, all the money that is stolen has to come from somewhere – either current revenues, or future revenues. Obviously based on the ballooning debt, it’s largely future revenues that have been used (now that most of the value has been leached from the middle class). At a price. And when that price increases, either the Fed has to print massive amounts of money, a la Weimar Germany, and watch inflation shoot to the moon (which devalues the savings of the entire country – each dollar becomes worth less with more of them out there), so it can pay the higher rates with dollars worth less, or it has to hike taxes by massive (and I do mean massive) amounts, which would instantly chill any growth (in addition to reducing tax revenues a la the Laffer curve).

It’s an ugly, bad scenario. So the Fed has to keep interest rates at near zero. Forever. We are now Japan, where the banks have taken the country hostage and it is being operated for their benefit, as well as for a few pharma companies and military/industrial conglomerates.

Some argue that’s a pessimistic view. I call it reality. I see no way out of it for the U.S. We are watching the slow motion conversion of the U.S. into Britain as we speak – the former colonial ruler of the world, whose currency was the world’s reserve currency up until the dollar became the reserve currency in 1948.

Some might ask why 1948 is important. The answer is, that’s when the U.S. agreed to keep the dollar on the gold standard in exchange for becoming the world’s reserve currency. The U.S. agreed to do so because any reserve currency has to be a safe store of value, and for 2000 years gold has been money. It was in 1948 as well. In order for a reserve currency to be of value for trade, its value has to be stable, because otherwise it is useless – you can’t make contracts or agree to purchases if the currency’s value is changing every day. So a stable currency was required, and the dollar was it.

In 1971, Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, arguing that it wasn’t applicable anymore. The reason it wasn’t applicable was because the government wanted to spend recklessly and print money backed by nothing but its promise. The world bristled – as an example, OPEC was created by oil producers because they correctly argued that they had a commodity that was actually worth something, and they were now being asked to exchange it for pieces of paper backed by promises, rather than pieces of paper backed by gold – anyone who knows the history of every paper currency in history knows that they have all degraded and faded to obscurity, which is why gold has been treated as money for 2000 years. Gold is always gold. A Continental (the last US currency that got flushed before the dollar) is just a piece of paper.

Concurrent with this new wisdom in 1971, the government and Wall Street started advancing the ludicrous proposition that gold was essentially valueless – that it didn’t pay rent, it took up space, etc. This was the first time in 2000 years anyone had advanced the notion that it was better to own pieces of paper rather than an asset. Be that as it may, as Lenin knew, if you repeated a lie often enough, it became truth. Now the wisdom of even otherwise bright people is that gold has no integral value and is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it (as are all assets of every kind – duh!), thus is not a store for value. Even though only a cursory study of history would expose that as stupidity of the worst sort – for 2000 years gold was money, but now it isn’t…because we say so! Forgetting of course that the dollar was backed by gold as a condition of being the reserve currency precisely because gold is money, and paper is just paper.

Which brings us to where we are. There is no way to grow our way out of the debt problem without defaulting on our debt interest. No way to do it. If with posited growth, it would spike rates, which would cause a default. If with higher taxes, there would be less to tax because a disastrous recession would slip into depression (which is what I believe the next step is).

So the Fed must keep zero effective interest in place for as long as I can foresee. Which means the future will be dim indeed, because eventually the inflation that everyone sees every day, and the official statistics deliberately exclude from its calculations, will also cause rates to rise – so I suppose one could say that it’s hard to envision a future where the U.S. doesn’t default on its obligations.

The only savior so far has been China. Because of high real inflation in China (6-8%) and low savings interest available to Chinese citizens (and effectively no other way to save for them other than property ownership) of around 1.5%, you have a real world savings interest rate of the difference of the savings rate paid (1.5%) and real inflation (6-8%) – which is a long way of saying that the banks can invest in US paper at 2% real return, and pocket the 8.5% difference between the 1.5% in Yuan they pay, and the 2% + 8% – 1.5% paid to savers, as expressed in dollars. But as China’s growth slows (less people are buying crap in a recession) that inflation rate drops, and suddenly the kleptocracy that steals roughly 8.5% of the nation’s savings every year to support its lifestyle can only steal 4%, or 2%, at which point U.S. paper at 2% looks like a bad deal to them.

That’s what is happening.

I believe that the Fed is making trillions and trillions of loans to U.S. and foreign banks at 0% interest (fact, as shown by the limited Fed audit this year) in exchange for their pledge to invest those loans in U.S. paper at 2%, creating an apparent demand for it – outright theft from the taxpayer, as the banks are being given that 2% on tens of trillions of dollars as pure profit for them (and they are all for-profit banks), paid by the taxpayer – which is a looting mechanism that’s invisible but is wildly destructive, as seen by the recent data showing the middle class’ net worth has dropped to where it was in 1982. Which of course leaves out that it is being measured in dollars – $75K today being treated by the government statisticians as equivalent to $75K in 1982 dollars, when gold was $350 an ounce instead of $1600 an ounce, and a car cost $7K instead of $20K, and a house cost $60K instead of $150K, etc. etc. In real economic terms, the average middle class person has seen their net worth drop to effective buying levels of more like the 1960s. Another way of saying that is that three generations of accumulated wealth have been erased in the last four years.

Think about that.

All the wealth from the advent of things like the personal computer, and cell phones, and CDs, and moon flights – all of that is gone. Or rather, has been redistributed to the powerful financial interests that have done so well while the country is struggling.

The reason I’m writing this blog is because I had to learn a lot about all of this in the writing of my next novel, Silver Justice, which discusses the reasons for the 2008 financial crisis as a backdrop for a serial killer story. The more I learned, the more appalled I became. I’m sure these views will be unpopular with many who don’t want to acknowledge the hard facts – people who confuse stupidity with patriotism.

The wealth of a nation has been confiscated. If you are reading this, probably from you. And it is likely to continue being bad, or get worse, regardless of who gets elected, because the folks who stole three generations of wealth own both parties and all the systems. They should. They’re the only ones with the money.

On a brighter note, I’ll return to happy blogs addressing lighter topics soon. But I had to get this out of my system. Call it a smudging or exorcism, if you like. If this resonates with you, please SumbleUpon and otherwise share it using the buttons below. Thanks.

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I was walking to my favorite restaurant, minding my own business, when suddenly I heard this ungodly squawking from the sidewalk at the base of the building across the street.

Sounded like someone was killing a little bird.

Turned out that was close to the truth – it was a baby ostrich that had somehow fallen from its nest and made its way along the sidewalk, shrieking out of fear.

I, being the sucker I am, cancelled my dinner plans (my friend thinks I’m nuts, BTW) and we rescued the little guy (or gal – I’m not so good with bird physiology – barely have the human kind nailed, truth be told), which began my stint as indentured servant to a two ounce dictator.

I had no idea that baby birds need to be fed every hour. Nor did I have any idea what they should be fed. It turns out that warm canned puppy food mixed with a little water and milk does the trick – my vet recommended that, assuming I wasn’t ready to regurgitate worms and bugs for it. Given that I try to avoid regurgitation in general, a few cans of Pedigree seem a small price to pay.

That was 8 days ago. I have since fed the little monster at least 80 times. I’m getting pretty good at it, actually. Too bad it pays about as well as writing. I have also been informed that contrary to my initial impression, it is neither an emu or an ostrich. Apparently it’s more exotic for these parts of Mexico. A sparrow.

Anyway, my hope is that the bird will be able to fly within another few days, and then it will be off into the wild blue yonder with it. Hopefully. I have no idea how to teach it to fly. I draw the line at dressing up in a bird suit and flapping my wings while shouting encouragement. I hardly ever even bother doing that for first dates. Unless there’s a lot of drinking involved. Or she’s hot. Or both.

Although I confess I’ll miss it. Or maybe I won’t. I spoke with the vet today again, and she said that most birds that are saved like that die once they’re released, because the owls and cats and whatnot get them before they can figure out what an owl or cat even is. That the ones that make it this far are the survivors that figured it out between being born and this point, so all I’m doing is postponing the inevitable.

Now, given that all I’m doing with my own mortality is postponing the inevitable, I have mixed feelings about sending the tyke out into the world to watch it get eaten by the feral felines in the neighborhood. And so, this morning I bought a cage. Not a forever cage – an “until I figure out what to do with the little rat” cage. I will say it’s endearing the way it hops onto my finger after it is done screeching as though I’m going to kill it. Seems to like going for little rides, like from the modified puppy crate I was using to its new, sumptuous digs.

Everyone knows I write action/adventure novels featuring unlikely protagonists battling impossible odds. I’m not really set up for bird daycare. It might cramp my otherwise lavish lifestyle of dream yachts, super models and globetrotting. Hard to do all that carrying the world’s ugliest budgie around in a cage.

I looked up life expectancy for sparrows, BTW, and the oldest living bird clocked in at 17 or 16 years, depending upon which website you believe (I use Wikipedia because everyone knows 100% of the info there is accurate). That’s good news and bad news – if it was an ostrich I’d be adding a bedroom to the house, whereas for a sparrow, not so much. Be that as it may, it would seem that when I scooped up the bird, I was signing up for a commitment that will last roughly the time it takes to raise a child. That wasn’t really my plan. I’m hoping I can teach it to sell Chiclets or something so it can augment the Blake family income. I already have the dogs pulling a modified sled 10 hours a day for tourist rides. That helps with the bottom line – they seem to love it until they drop from heat stroke. Lazy buggers.

So what have we learned? First, no good deed shall go unpunished. Second, small decisions can have life altering consequences. Third, birds don’t like tequila as much as some humans. And fourth, that I now have to keep breathing another 15 years at least, or my karma will suck a bag of d#cks. Hrrmph.

Here are some blurry shots of the little beast. Don’t know if you can see its bloody fangs – I think the razor sharp mandibles hide them in resting position. And yes, I know my photography skills are right up there with my editing talents. Don’t be such a hater. You’ll get brain ebola and die cold and alone in a drainage ditch mocked by your gleeful enemies.

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I’m proud to have as my guest Melissa Foster, author of three popular novels and creator of the World Literary Cafe. I pestered her to do an author spotlight, and she graciously agreed against her better judgment, fearing justifiably that this would be a dark stain on her career. Be that as it may, below find her interview and thoughts on the craft.

RB: Tell me about your writing journey. How did you get started as an author, and what’s your history?

MF: I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I started an HR company at 20 years old and was earning six figures by the time I was 22. I also founded a nanny placement agency, and eventually took a Director of Human Resources and Administration position. My entire corporate career, although exciting, was a hold-over until I was able to dedicate my time to writing. In 1999 my husband and I changed our lives dramatically. I quit work to stay home with our kids and write, but with a gaggle of children running around, I found myself unable to concentrate (can you imagine?). Instead, I painted murals (kidsmuralsbymelissa.com) and donated several to a local hospital for children. I was biding my time. I’m not someone who can write in fits and spurts. I need hours to climb into my characters’ heads and find their voice. In September 2006, when our youngest son went to kindergarten, I found my keyboard, and I’ve never looked back.

 

RB: You’ve had a number of very successful novels. What do you think sets your work apart from others in your genre?

MF: Luck, mainly:-)

 

RB: Do you have a set schedule for writing? Or just fit it in whenever you can?

MF: I covet my writing time like it’s a newborn baby. This month I’m writing from 7:30am until about 2:00 pm. During the school year I write from 8:45am-2pm, and I don’t write during July or August. That’s my rejuvenation time with my family.

 

RB: Do you plot and outline your stories first? Or just fly by the seat of your pants?

MF: I am a proud pantzer. Every time I sit down to write a new book, I look at the blank page and think about outlining. After staring at it for about two hours, and the page remaining blank, I accept that I just can’t plot, and off I go.

 

RB: How many hours a day would you say you write? Do you have word goals?

MF: Right now I’m working on word goals rather than hours, and my goal is 5K words each day. But during the school year I work towards hours of writing rather than word count.

 

RB: Describe your process from start to finish. You get an idea. Now what?

MF: Okay, let’s see. I get an idea and look around for something to write it on–a napkin works great. Then I generally spend a few days sitting alone and pondering where the idea might go. Once I have the plot and characters floating around in my head, and I feel I’ve gotten to know them well enough, I sit down and write. I send my work to beta readers along the way–usually half way through and then again at the end, and through many revisions. After the first draft is complete, I do a complete read through (printed out) and make changes, then I send that revision to my editor. We generally go back and forth 2-3 times before it’s ready for my beta readers to give me an entire critique. After the critique and revisions, it goes back to the editor until we’re both satisfied. What happens next depends on how I will publish.

If I self publish, I then work with the cover artist, work on formatting, and put together a marketing plan. Right now, though, I’m working with my agent, and my manuscript is on submission to publishers. We’ll see where that goes…

 

RB: Rewrite and polish. How many drafts do you do, generally? Do you focus on different things on each draft?

MF: That process depends so much on what and how I had written the manuscript. I rewrote Chasing Amanda five times, and Megan’s Way was edited and polished probably 4 times. Come Back to Me was edited twice and polished, and then ready to go. I think we become stronger writers with each book. Traces of Kara, my newest manuscript was edited twice and then I made another pass at revisions for my agent.

 

RB: Editing. What’s your approach? How has it worked for you?

MF: I’m awful at editing my own work, so I don’t even try. I have a marvelous editor and I rely on her for developmental and structural advice. I use copy editors for grammar and punctuation. What works for me, is to let the experts do their thing. I write the story, they help me to refine it.

 

RB: Writer’s block. Ever get it, and if so, how do you move past it?

MF: You know, I used to think writer’s block was garbage. I had never experienced it until this year, and then, I believe the only reason I did experience it was that I was trying to write a book based on someone else’s expectations, and losing that creative control cost me, in many ways. I will never do that again. The way I moved past it was to push aside what was expected of me and write what I felt. It felt great! BAM! Writer’s block was gone.

 

RB: How about environment. When you write, do you listen to music? What’s your work area like? Can you describe it?

MF: I’m a music hound. I must have it on at all times. In fact, music plays 24/7 in my office and my kitchen. I gain inspiration from my environment. I cannot write without windows. I had my office cut in half (literally) and put windows on two sides and glass 9′ doors on the third–they look out into two window-lined rooms. My office is comfortable and creative–nothing matches, but everything feels right. It’s like walking into a very small Pier One Imports.

 

RB: Do you ever get the urge to go back after a book is released and rewrite parts of it? Or is it done once it’s done?

MF: I get the urge to rewrite, for quality of the writing, but I don’t think I’ll do it. I think both Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda could be written more succinctly, but I’m done with them, and as writers, the more we write, the more we know. When I write the follow-up book to Megan’s Way, then the writing will be stronger. I am not embarrassed to have grown as a writer, and I want to be able to look back at those books and recognize how far I’ve come.

 

RB: Whose work would you say influences yours the most, and why?

MF: I hate this question. I learn from every writer that I read–whether it’s learning about what I want to mimic or something that I need to steer clear of, it’s all valuable.

 

RB: Why did you become a writer? What made you passionate to do so?

MF: This is funny, but true. In about 1991, I put my son down for a nap and had an overwhelming urge to write–out of the blue. I grabbed my IBM Thinkpad and a yellow legal pad, sat in a chair beside a window that overlooked a lake, and began writing. I craved the writing process from that moment on, but it took 15 years before my children were all in school and I could begin writing.

 

RB: Is there one quintessential Melissa Foster book that best defines your work? Which would you recommend a reader get if they could only get one of your books, and why?

MF: I can’t answer that, lol. The most well written is probably Come Back to Me, but the one that means the most to me is Megan’s Way. That book reveals a lot about the things I believe in.

 

RB: You work with a lot of indie authors with your World Literary Cafe. Tell us a little about that – how did it start, why did it start, and how has it changed? What is the ultimate animal going to look like, and what’s its goal?

MF: I love the WLC. When I started writing, I had very little help. I reached out to authors and was told they were too busy to provide guidance. Jodi Picoult was kind enough to answer my emails (thank you, Queen Jodi!), but as far as marketing and navigating the world of publishing, I was on my own. I decided right then and there, that I would never be too busy to help others learn the ropes, and that I would do whatever I could to help authors find everything they needed all in one place.

WLC began as a way to help authors learn to cross promote and market their books. It quickly took over my life, and the lives of the WLC volunteers, who are the most helpful and supportive group of women you could ever meet. I am in awe of their selflessness, their wit, and their energy. We have recently redefined where WLC is heading. We’re stepping out of running every promotion as a monthly stint, and driving the site to more of a community, where readers and authors have more interaction, bloggers and reviewers can connect and choose books based on availability, and education spans every aspect of self-publishing, from harnessing the power of social media to creating strong websites and platforms, and effective book marketing. Our educational arm, Fostering Success, has been established because I was doing a tremendous number of one-on-one seminars each week, and I still could not help as many authors as were coming to me. This venue will allow for hundreds of authors to take part in an economical and valuable fashion.

Where is WLC headed? An all encompassing community where authors will be given the opportunity to shine, learn to market their books, and connect with readers. Readers can look forward to literary events, giveaways, and personal connections with authors.

 

RB: If you had one minute to impart all the wisdom you’ve learned to date to other authors, what advice would you share with them?

MF: Eat a lot of chocolate and do what makes you happy. Write more, stalk your sales number less.

 

 Award-winning, bestselling author Melissa Foster is a touchstone for the indie publishing community and a tireless advocate for women. She is the founder of the World Literary Café, Fostering Success, and The Women’s Nest. Melissa writes emotionally-driven contemporary fiction and suspense with passionate characters that remain with the reader long after they’ve read the last words. Melissa is a friend, mentor, brownie connoisseur, and book fiend.

Melissa’s site links:

Website: http://www.MelissaFoster.com
Facebook:
Twitter: @Melissa_Foster
My World
Fostering Success: http://www.fostering-success.com
Facebook Melissa Foster: http://www.facebook.com/MelissaFosterAuthor (Fanpage)
Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3023973.Melissa_Foster
Find Melissa’s Books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
MEGAN’S WAY
http://www.amazon.com/Megans-Festival-Generation-Finalist-ebook/dp/B002LISR7C/
ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1317083196&sr=1-1

CHASING AMANDA
http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Amanda-ebook/dp/B004WF5202/ref=pd_sim_kinc1?
ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

COME BACK TO ME:
http://www.amazon.com/Come-Back-To-Me-ebook/dp/B005V2MWM6/
ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324353899&sr=1-1

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For Father’s Day, I decided to participate in a different kind of promotion than what I’ve been doing lately.

As we’ve covered in so much detail over the last few blog posts, free is winding down, so other than my last few promos that were already scheduled for my older titles (yes, some of those are ancient, and came out as long as ten months ago!) I haven’t got much going on into the summer other than writing and editing – a seemingly endless task.

So when my fellow author and pal Andy Holloman suggested a novel sort of promo, I though, hey, as my blood results and the slew of tattoos and scars attests to, I like to drink and try new things. Why not this?

And so it was that I woke up this morning to find myself participating in the FreeBooks4Dad promo. The idea is that this enables you to do something better than getting pops the usual crap pattern polyester tie or bucket of price-slashed spicy chicken wings at Hooters.

The way it works is this: You purchase one of the eligible books (obviously, I’d hope you would buy mine, but that’s just the greedy parasite in me talking) listed at the site and you get the other five free!!! Wow, you say, how does he do that? The answer, is of course, volume.

Actually, a group of like-minded authors grouped together to add a title to this promo in the hopes of creating something different that could work to everyone’s benefit – sort of like inventing game theory, without the maudlin Ron Howard script treatment and outdated meds (sorry, Russell, tough love).

It will be interesting to me to see if this does anything, as it seems like a viable strategy for promotions. As opposed to just giving away twenty thousand free books over a few days and hoping that the inevitably ensuing one star reviews will at least turn on spellchecker.

This promo will be live through Sunday, so if you’ve ever wanted to accumulate a sh#tload of quality books at a nominal price, perhaps this is up your alley. As with voting in Chicago, vote early and often, with your wallet. And remember that if you buy my book, I’ll be able to have that lifesaving operation I’ve been on the fence about. Not to pressure you or anything.

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9 Jun 2012, by

I Care

I care a lot.

I really do. About many things. Mostly, about how much abuse one’s liver can take, and whether it’s possible to collect the social security payments of one’s deceased neighbors in a foreign country. But other things, too.

One of the things I’ve found myself caring about lately is the wisdom of making my work free periodically. I speak to many authors, and most are concerned about the creation of a culture that doesn’t value our work. I’ve had people tell me, “Oh, I can’t wait for that to go free so I can read it” after hearing that one of my books has been rated well. Often, that sort of a statement comes from another author.

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NEW! Three Questions – a hyper-short interview with Van Heerling. Worth a moment of your time.

WOW! 5 star rave from The Kindle Book Review for The Geronimo Breach is truly worth reading

BOX BOX BABY: What’s that,  you ask? Why don’t I have any box sets? I do now! Three of my enduring faves at a 20% discount!

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Which raises the question of whether we have created an environment where the very thing we do, which is write, is considered near, or completely, without worth. My hunch is that there is a decent audience out there that hasn’t bought a book in months. Why would you, if every day thousands go free? Doesn’t really make much sense to, does it?

I’m not sure what to do about it, as there is still merit to putting one’s work free via KDP Select, albeit at a 10% effectiveness rate of what it was 2 months ago. But you see 20K downloads, and then a net increase in sales of 200 books, does the incremental financial gain justify the damage that is done by creating an ocean of free content? Specifically, are we causing our own demise chasing nominal sales bumps?

Some argue that it’s all good, and that we shouldn’t fret all the free content. That the majority of readers still will pay for content they find worthwhile. Perhaps, but my sneaking suspicion is that a fair percentage of the small minority that were willing to take a chance on an indie name have converted to those who will do so, but won’t pay. I’m not sure what percentage of that group is no longer buying books, but my hunch is that it’s substantial. I know this because I haven’t bought a book in about four months, and most of my friends who read haven’t either. And we used to – before December, when the free thing hit. But now, I’ve got so much content waiting to be read, I haven’t bought anything for a while.

Now, some might say that makes me a bad man. Others claim I’m bad for a lot of other reasons, but that’s not my point. Whatever I am, I’m probably typical of a fair number of folks out there. I mean, I want to and understand why it’s important to support other authors by buying their books. And yet I haven’t. Actually, I take that back – I bought three this year so far. But last year I probably bought thirty.

Maybe I’m alone in this. Maybe everyone else is buying like crazy. But I suspect not – unless you’re a romance author, in which case you’re occupying most of the top 40 indie slots and your books are selling like coke at Studio 54 (how’s that for a dated reference?). Most of my author acquaintances aren’t selling very well over the last 45 days. Most are complaining that their sales are off by 50% or more over the last 2 or 3 months – and I’m talking around a hundred authors. Now, nothing scientific here, but if only a few out of a hundred are doing anywhere near what they were in April, then that’s not seasonality, or genre, or fickle markets. That’s a trend.

For that reason, I cancelled my plans to put my new release, Return of the Assassin, free when I launched it at the end of May. And my newest WIP, tentatively titled Silver Justice and targeted for a July 4 release, probably won’t ever go free. Neither will the next WIP, Jet. Because in the end, the hoped-for sales bump that was the lure for doing the free thing isn’t nearly as meaningful as it was, and I now see no evidence that giving away 150K free books (that’s about how many I’ve given away this year) is worth the potential damage it causes to my brand. When giving away 20K books translated into an extra 2K in sales at $5, that made sense. For an extra 200, not so much. And it fosters an environment that is counter-productive long term.

My goal in writing is to write the best work I can. My goal in running a self-publishing business is to sell enough books to make it worth doing. My business goal is to have a dozen or more paid  thriller titles available by year’s end (not counting deliberately free books like Night of the Assassin or the first book in Delphi). My thinking is that if I can sell a reasonable number of each title at a reasonable profit, that’s a decent business. It’s not a get rich quick business, and it’s not an easy business, but it’s one that could be sustainable and might build over time – one would expect sales dollars with twenty competent thrillers out to exceed what one would see from ten, and so on.

Free is antipodal to my long term goal.

My long term goal is to continue writing and make a decent return for my efforts. I can’t see how free will do anything but perpetuate a negative from here on out. I have a few free promos for the month, but I think that’s it for me. The extra few hundred books I might sell isn’t worth the long term damage I believe free is causing to the perceived value of books. That’s an emotional response, but I think it’s a legitimate one. And I don’t think I’m alone in that observation. We all delighted in the sales spike free brought before the algorithm change over a month ago. I know I did. Those were heady times. But they’re over. And now, like most drunk jags, we have to deal with the hangover. And this will be quite a hangover, I think. I believe we’re already seeing it in indie sales. Take a look at the Amazon Top 100 today. What percentage are trad pub or magazines? A quick glance says a much larger chunk that two months ago. I count 24 indie titles in the top 100, of which 80-90% or so are romance novels. The rest are trad pub. That is about 75% trad pub. I don’t think it was nearly that high a few months ago. Am I wrong?

So where does that leave me as an indie author? I’m still writing. I will still be putting out another five novels this year. Already know which ones I intend to write – Silver Justice, Jet, Fatal Deception, a Delphi sequel and an Assassin sequel. Already finished SJ, and will be editing for the next few weeks before launching into Jet. Next year, more like three novels. Maybe four. More of a sane pace. If you call that pace sane.

That’s where my thinking is today. I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow. But I probably won’t. Unless I do.

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