Month:

March, 2014

I hear ’em all the time in chat groups and forums, and they drive me nuts. Author myths. Beliefs that are just not true, and yet continue to circulate like literary fool’s gold, luring newbies and veterans alike into a kind of idiotic somnambulism.

I’m here to disabuse folks of a few in an ongoing series of blogs. Here, in no particular order, are several doozies that I believe are responsible for more author misery than VD, divorce lawyers, and taxes combined.

1) Books Sell Themselves. No, sweetie, they don’t, at all, and never did. That’s why trad pubs spend massively on promotions. Because they know that visibility sells books, not invisible cosmic forces or author brilliance. It’s a highly competitive market with millions of choices, and it’s a retail market, and in retail, visibility is key. Which means constant promotion. Which most authors hate. But it’s reality, so get used to the idea. A companion to this aphorism is the next one…

2) Just write the next one. Sure, if you want to have two undiscovered gems instead of one. Look, writing the next one’s important, but not if it’s used to justify not promoting the last one, which is often the case. You have to both market the last one AND write the next one. Sorry. You do.

3) It’s all about luck. Well, perhaps some of it is. Maybe even much of it is. But so’s everything. You drive to the market, and 30 seconds after you pass the intersection some dumbass crashes into the car behind you. Luck. A hundred people start restaurants in town and two do well while the rest fail. Luck. A mugger attacks you after a movie. Luck. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. The book biz is no more or less random and chaotic than life, and yet some folks seem to consistently do better than others. I believe you need to work very hard, prepare, and be persistent, thereby creating some of your own luck. As an example, it’s possible you always wear your seat belt and the other driver didn’t today. In that case, bad luck becomes disastrous due to a simple lack of preparation. Or in the case of the restaurants, perhaps the ones that prospered had owners that worked 18 hour days and were talented chefs, and further, were savvy and inventive about getting people to try their cuisine. Preparation, persistence, hard work combine in that case to drag Lady Luck in their direction. With the mugger, maybe you have pepper spray or spent years on martial arts or have a concealed carry. Your preparation is the mugger’s bad luck.

Luck may be a factor, but in my experience it’s only one factor, and that perspective of it all being all about luck breeds apathy.

4) Do everything right and you’ll make it. Huh. If that were so, every book put out by big pubs would do well. The vast majority don’t. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do everything right, unless you want to worsen your already slim odds rather than improving them.

5) The best you can do should suffice. Mmm, not so much. This is a popular refrain from those destined for obscurity. In a highly competitive business you need every possible edge. Which means, in this one, your cover, your blurb, your concept, your writing, your formatting, and your marketing need to be top shelf, not as good as you can manage given all your issues. Nobody cares about why you can’t produce a product that’s great. Your job is to produce it. Cheap out or try to do it yourself (unless you’re one in a million and not only a brilliant author but also a brilliant, experienced cover designer, editor, formatter, etc.)  and you just radically worsened your odds. Why would anyone buy something sub-par? Would you buy a sub-par car, or house, or phone, or anything, because the company producing it found it too hard or expensive or time-consuming to do it right? No. And neither will readers. At least not for long.

6) Do this and you’ll succeed. Whatever. No you won’t. Or rather, not necessarily. No more than practicing your basketball skills will get everyone into the NBA. Millions play every year, tens of thousands are good, many thousands are excellent, and yet only a handful make the cut. There’s no guaranteed formula, just ways to improve your odds. But fail to develop good work habits, don’t refine and improve your craft, don’t learn everything you can about the biz and put it to use, don’t turn out a polished product…well, your chances just got far worse.

7) The secret is X. Nope. There is no secret. The book business is, as are all businesses, a business of exceptions. Exceptions because most don’t succeed. So you need to figure out how to be one of the exceptions. That’s really tough. Almost impossible. It usually involves a ton of effort, sacrifice, and risk that’s commensurate with the reward. Beyond some general guidelines and common sense principles, nobody has the secret – and snake oil salesmen abound.

Nobody can tell you how to be an exception. You have to figure it out. Part of the job.

8) It’s all hopeless. Yes, it is. Or rather, it can seem that way. But every year some make it. Every week there are new names on the lists. It may seem hopeless at first blush, but the only truth is that every day someone beats the odds and has a win. That’s exciting as hell to me, just as it was when I first started at this 33 months ago. Put another way, it’s only hopeless when you give up hope.

There are far more of these destructive myths, and I’ll do another eight when I can. I had a fender bender the other day and due to a freak accident, my hand’s now in a cast for seven weeks (apparently if you wear a big watch, like nearly 50mm, if your hand hits the steering wheel just right, even going slow, the watch can transform into a blade and snap your metacarpals near your wrist, which my TW Steel did in two places – just put your hand up like you’re signalling stop, and imagine a disk the size of a silver dollar strapped tight to your wrist, and you’ll quickly get the idea).

If anyone wants a deal on a big watch, you know how to reach me…

Oh, and in some super cool news, I’ll be featuring two remarkable talents this season on my Author Spotlights: Bella Andre and H.M. Ward. They don’t get much bigger than that, and it should be fascinating to get a glimpse into their processes. Stay tuned. If anyone has specific questions for either, email me through this site.

Now back to editing my WIP one-handed. The fun never ends.

 

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Yes, it’s time for another installment in the popular BLACK series. As of 1 a.m., March 24, BLACK to Reality, wherein our hangdog hero joins the cast of a reality TV show in order to stave off financial ruin (as well as to investigate dirty deeds, of course), goes live.

This is the fourth book in the series, and likely the last for a bit, as I have other fish to fry. I’m finishing up the polish on JET – Ops Files, which explores her past before becoming a member of the Mossad’s special team, taking her from the West Bank to Tel Aviv to Rome to Indonesia. It moves like a freight train, and was such fun to pen I’ll probably do one more covering her time from when she joined the team that awarded her the code name Jet. Maybe next year.

In other news, I see that the novel I co-authored with Clive Cussler, The Eye of Heaven, is now out in pre-order, with an official release date of Sept 2. That’s pretty cool, to see my name next to Clive’s. I mean, talk about a “Whoa” moment in your literary career. That’s it for me. I can die now. Hopefully it will sell a ton and we’ll do another one. You never know. The ranking for a novel six months out ain’t bad, so the future looks bright, in that he hasn’t blocked my number. Yet. Give it time.

Can’t really talk about it, but there are three or four interested parties sniffing around JET for the talkies. Not Ridley Scott, but pretty damned big nonetheless, as in you’d know their franchises with one or two words. Although Ridley. Call. I’m so over the stalking thing. Really.

Amazon featured BLACK as one of their Big Deal books all last week, for which I’m extremely grateful. Shifted a ton of copies. Hats off to the all-powerful Zon!

That’s it from my end. Oh, except that the photo sessions for the JET and Assassin series are done, and the preliminary shots are frigging awesome. Throw Jason Gurley into the mix, and what do you want to bet it’ll be a brave new world for the little books that could?

And finally, if you haven’t gotten tired of by BS yet, I did a podcast interview with Simon Whistler on RockingSelfPublishing.com that explains why I’m such a dick about separating business from pleasure/art. Although he edited out all the profanity. Party pooper. I’m surprised he was left with three coherent sentences. And not all that coherent at that.

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The bundle to end all bundles!!!

Well, okay, perhaps not, but it is a pretty amazing deal.

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NEWS: There’s a new podcast interview on my approach to the book business, with Simon Whistler, at RockingSelfPublishing.com. Worth a listen…

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The last bundle I organized, 9 Killer Thrillers, sold over 160,000 units since it went live. But was I satisfied? Did I rest on my fleshy, tequila soaked laurels? No. Perish the thought.

So what did I do? Create 9 More Killer Thrillers, another bundle with most of the same authors, including NY Times and USA Today bestsellers. The price? .99. That’s right, nine more full length novels for only .99.

And these aren’t barely coherent screeds by names you’ve never heard of. I mean, other than mine, of course. No, the authors are all top sellers, and the average ranking runs from 4.3 to 4.8 stars!

I know, you’re thinking, how is he going to pay for his tequila with a bundle priced like that? The answer, of course, is volume. Thanks for caring. Really. But I have to sell a boatload, and I mean a frigging ton of these, to buy anything decent, like a pony or a new liver, so step up and break out your buck.

The bundle goes on sale the morning of March 17, but it’s available for preorder on Amazon, iTunes, and B&N, for the impatient. It’s probably better to wait until Monday if you’re going to pick it up, so your purchase factors into the sales ranking, but either way, hey, it’s a hell of a deal, and an over $40 value if purchased separately. So it’s really like if you don’t buy it, you’re the guy who just stepped over two twenty dollar bills and didn’t pick them up. Don’t be an ass clown. Don’t be that guy.

I swore I’d never do another bundle after I did the first one, but as all my exes have learned, my word can’t be trusted, and with sales of the original one still huge, it seemed a shame for the party to end.

In other news, BLACK To Reality will release on March 24, and I’m just finishing up with the new JET prequel, titled JET – Ops Files, which will release April 22. I’m very excited about it, because not only does the book move like a freight train, but I’ve hired a model for the cover, who will be gracing all the JET covers in a makeover that will be revealed…whenever all the covers are done! And I hired Jason Gurley, who is sh#t hot, to do the new ones, about which I’m totally stoked.

Next weekend I start JET – Sanctuary, which picks up where JET VI left off, so look for that end of May, with an Assassin novel slated for September or earlier, and JET VIII around Xmas. And possibly a surprise new series in September as well coinciding with my co-authored novel with Clive Cussler, The Eye of Heaven, which releases then (and is already moving well as a preorder six months ahead of release), in addition to my new collaborative romance novels with Melissa Foster, which are also slotted for Fall.

So it looks to be a full year for me. Which should come as no surprise. But next year I swear I’m totally slowing down, and I mean it. I’ll have 30 books out by Xmas, with another three or four romance under the RE Blake moniker, so the problem won’t be too few Blake books to read.

In the meantime, scoop up the bundle. You’ll be glad you did. Can’t beat the price with a stick.

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Mark Coker of Smashwords wrote a provocative blog about the future of indie publishing, in which he predicts that indies will have 50% market share within six more years.

I disagree. I posted a long comment as to why I disagree on his blog, but I wanted to summarize my thoughts and explain them a bit more than I could in 4073 characters.

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NEWS: Wow! JET has been selected as one of the featured novels on Authoreads this month! Check it out.

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First of all, the folks who buy my books are a different market than the ebook segment the trad publishers market to. They focus on the guy who buys a book every month, at most, when he’s getting on a plane, going on vacation, or looking for something to read a few pages of every night. Why? Because that guy doesn’t have a lot of time, doesn’t really read a lot, and most importantly, isn’t price sensitive, so he’ll buy a book for $15 and not care too much. And he’ll likely buy a book by an author whose name he recognizes: a brand author, so to speak, like a Cussler or King or Grisham. They love that guy, because he’ll pay whatever it costs, and they’ll sell many millions of whatever that brand’s latest offering is. All good. Especially in airports, but once he gets a kindle for his birthday, he’ll go online and look for the same names. Big win for the publishers and the big names. Everyone makes bank.

The people who buy my books, and those of other indies, are largely big volume readers, meaning they burn through five to ten times more books than the trad publisher’s target market. Trad publishers don’t target that reader, except in romance and NA (hot genres), because their fixed costs and overhead make targeting what is a price-sensitive market a lousy return on investment.

They also don’t target him because they don’t want to become what they perceive as pulp mills, like the publishers of old, like Pocket Books, who did service that market, just as indies service it now: with product that’s economically priced. Rather, they want to continue selling $15 ebooks if at all possible. I don’t blame ’em.

Their model is one that looks for blockbusters and attempts to figure out what the next fad book will be – that book every year everybody has to read because everyone else is reading it. Which brings us to the other type of reader: the very occasional, who might read one book a year – that fad book. Trad pub loves that reader, too, because he also isn’t price sensitive. Everyone’s reading the book, so if it costs $15, whatever.

Back to Mark’s blog. Why do I think he’s wrong?

Because the occasional reader’s not likely to become a high volume one given his time constraints and habits, and the one-a-year guy isn’t either. Which means the overall market for indies has a natural ceiling, of sorts, unless the high volume readership grows significantly. I guess I just don’t see that happening. Where will all those readers come from? Non-readers? Mmm, no. Which leaves us with either the occasional guy, or the one-a-year, becoming a high volume reader – neither of which I see as likely.

There’s an exception here, which is romance – if I were a trad pub in the romance game, I’d be crapping my drawers, because that crowd’s a volume crowd, and it will naturally gravitate to lower priced offerings – why do you think so many of the huge sellers on the Top 100 are romances priced between .99 and $2.99? So we might see even more growth in the indie slice of the pie in that segment, but probably not in the others, beyond the next couple of years, when my gut says things will plateau.

So what does that leave us with, as indies? A great business. An interstitial opportunity to be the equivalent of Pocket Books to our volume audience. That audience will reward quality at an economical price, which is where we can shine.

If you notice, my business model is one featuring a large number of titles, all high quality, none of which sell huge. Last year JET was my big mover, this year, who knows? My hunch is that it will continue to be a big seller (as I release three more JET tomes this year – I’m working on the prequel, JET – Ops Files, as we speak, for release in April), but BLACK is also turning respectable numbers, and with BLACK 4, it could be a surprise for the season. I’m planning to put the series into KDP Select in a week or two to see whether that kicks it in the pants. Because you always have to keep mixing it up and experimenting. Other surprises for Q1 are Fatal Exchange and Upon A Pale Horse, both of which are selling nicely now that they’ve gotten new covers.

But back to my point. What’s exciting to me is that, whoever’s right, the opportunity for indies is huge, and growing. We may quibble over how large it will get, but to me that’s immaterial. It’s big enough.

There will be a lot more competition in that volume market moving forward, but hey, no market stays static, and you have to roll with the punches.

I disagree with blogs predicting the death of the trad pubs. I don’t think they’re going anywhere. I think they’ll continue to do fine, because the occasional reader isn’t going anywhere, so their bread and butter isn’t, either. I also believe they’ll scout the promising indies who are selling tonnage, and scoop those they can up, as they look for the next generation of names they can build into tomorrow’s big brands. Whether that works is questionable, because most of the big money’s being made in the one market that’s the most price sensitive: romance, and its cousin, NA. And romance authors tend to be a savvy bunch, so few that are making real money are likely to want to trade their million dollar a year income for a $500K advance, spread out over three years, with 15% going to their agent. Not even a million dollar advance would do it – that’s what they’re already making, per year. So that’s a tough sell for the publishers, who traditionally rely on non-economic arguments (prestige, etc.), to entice talent. Most romance authors are pragmatic, and so use their calculator, not their ego, when evaluating a deal.

But that’s neither here nor there. The opportunity is in understanding what we are, and who we service, and what motivates their buying decision. For our segment, it’s price/quality that creates the value, whereas for the trad pub ideal customer, it’s brand/quality, with little emphasis on price. Two. Different. Markets.

To me, this is exciting stuff, because it spells opportunity. Nimbler competitors can create nice cottage industries in the gaps the big boys miss. Sure, occasionally a Hugh will break out, but he, much as I love him, is a singularity. An exception in an industry of exceptions, a big winner. Most of us won’t be Hugh. We can’t be. It’s nice to dream, but reality suggests it ain’t going to happen. But what we can be is an emerging middle class that his numbers hint at. A middle class that makes a nice living servicing a market that’s been left behind.

My prediction of the future looks different than Mark’s, but it’s not a glum one. It’s one where smart, hard-working indies make comfortable livings selling their books to the volume readers, and enjoy the process. Sure, there’s always the chance one of us breaks big, but the point is that we don’t have to in order to have nice, satisfied, creatively-fulfilled lives doing what we love. Trust me, I’ve made good money doing things I didn’t love, and this is way better.

That should excite everyone, because, while we’d all like to be among the elite, being part of a prosperous middle class is a hell of an alternative to sitting in a slush pile for eons while working at Starbucks, which was the alternative until just a few short years ago.

I’ll take it as a win.

Now back to writing the JET prequel. Be nice to each other, and feel free to chime in about any or all of this stuff.

 

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3 Mar 2014, by

Helping Hands

A friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer last week. He’s 40 years old, and an author, and went full time about six months ago.

His blog on his diagnosis can be read here. It’s not what you think – it’s irreverent, heartwarming, and poignant.

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NEWS: 9 More Killer Thrillers bundle is available for preorder now! Woohoo! 9 full length novels from 9 bestselling authors for .99 – WTF!!!

MORE NEWS: BLACK To Reality, the fourth installment in my BLACK noir detective series, is now available for preorder!

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His name is Brandon Hale and he writes the popular Day Soldiers series, which feature a world where the undead walk the earth, battled by a group of young men and women with extraordinary stamina and courage.

Two things Brandon is going to need throughout the coming ordeal.

The other thing he’s going to need is money. He has a young wife who has her own challenges, and God knows being an author doesn’t pay particularly well. And there’s no health plan. No retirement plan. He’s a young man in the prime of life who just began pursuing his dream, fighting tooth and nail to make it in a very, very tough business. And he did it. He isn’t getting rich, but he was able to quit his crappy job and write for a living – something we all aspire to. Hat’s off to him for making that leap. And now he’s got another tough challenge ahead of him. One that I’m asking you to read about, and if so inclined, to help support.

To find out more about Brandon’s situation, here are two blogs that best summarize it: One on what getting this sort of devastating diagnosis has taught him, and the other on gratitude, and what will be required moving forward.

If you want to support his cause, as I and quite a few of my author friends have, click here.

You never know what life’s going to throw at you. Sometimes it’s all curve balls and sliders, and the only thing you can do is stand your ground and wait for something worth swinging at. What I have learned, though, is that we are at our best as humans when we’re giving, not taking. A lesson too few seem to understand these days.

My mom used to be fond of an expression that comes to mind: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Exactly. We are all cast from the same clay, and it could just as easily be any one of us. So act as you’d want to be treated if I was writing about you.

If you’re so inclined, please share this blog and encourage folks to help out. I’ve never written a blog like this before, nor shall I again. This will be the only one, and I hope that impresses upon my readership how important I feel this is.

Thanks for taking the time to read it.

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Anyone that knows me knows I’m not a bleeding heart. I’m not a tree hugger. I’m certainly no vegetarian.

I do love animals. Guilty as charged. They’re often better than many humans I’ve had the misfortune of running across.

I can’t tell you how upset I am after watching the following video and reading the expose. I have to warn you it’s shocking, sickening, and shows the most disturbing acts of torture I’ve ever witnessed.

I try not to use my blog as a platform to advance agendas. That’s not why people come here.

But I feel like if I keep my mouth shut on this, I’m part of the problem. And I refuse to be part of this particular problem, even though I don’t live in the U.S.

People, read this report and watch the video. It broke my heart. Hours after viewing it I still feel like some essential part of my soul was violated. I’ve also sworn off eating pork anymore. I can’t do it. What kind of human being would I be, what sort of hypocrite, if I could? I’m not saying you should take the same action. I don’t try to dictate what people should or shouldn’t do. I’m simply telling everyone the steps I’m taking.

The events in this video are heartbreaking because this is happening in a nation that prides itself on being better. On being more advanced than the savage places it routinely vilifies. We’re somehow superior, because we have a moral barometer, a conscience.

No, what we have are special interests that keep their dirty laundry hidden, and politicians that accept blood money to enable them to hide from the average person the atrocities that are perpetrated every day.

I write conspiracy thrillers. Oftentimes they feature schemes where corporate interests work with governments to abuse and hurt. I wish I could say they were based in fiction. Truth is that I don’t need to invent – I just need to tame down reality so people will believe, because often, they don’t want to understand the world they live in. I try not to preach, but rather to inform. Unfortunately, most don’t want to know the horrors that take place. Because it’s uncomfortable for them. It might require that they do something, or inconvenience themselves, and that requires effort.

Note that I don’t have a solution other than to lock people like these up, or better yet, treat them in exactly the same manner that they treat animals. I could go to my grave with a clear conscience signing off on that. Wouldn’t lose a minute of sleep. These are sociopaths, and the world would be better without them. Plain and simple. More disturbing is that these are sociopaths who live in a corporate culture of torture and violence being not only acceptable, but mandatory.

You may not believe in concepts like good and evil, right and wrong. It’s hip to be apathetic and lacking of a moral barometer. But I can say absolutely that if these peoples’ acts aren’t evil, then I don’t know what is.

Why am I writing this blog? Because I want you to watch the video, read the short commentary, and sign the petition. I’ll let your conscience be your guide on what other steps to take. I know I won’t ever be able to eat pork again, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing, on balance.

And I want you to share it. I want you to tweet and Facebook it so the villains in this drama don’t get to hide. It needs to go viral. It’s clear that companies like Walmart will continue to support groups like this until the public outcry and bad press is such that they’re forced to stop. I believe there’s few nobler callings than getting them to stop.

I’m sorry if anyone gets disturbed by this. My intention isn’t to give you nightmares. It’s to encourage you to make a difference, even if it’s a simple act of signing something or saying no in your shopping habits. My next act will be to go see how I can donate to the organization that brought this to light. If anybody’s deserving of some of my cash, they are.

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