Less than two weeks until my co-authored novel with Clive Cussler, The Eye Of Heaven, goes live.
That should be exciting. Can’t wait to see how high on the lists it goes. Be nice to hit the NY Times first week, which seems like a lock.
I think Cussler readers will enjoy it.
Won’t be long now.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Amazon announced Kindle Unlimited last month with much fanfare, establishing a subscription model for its offerings – pay one low fee each month, read as many books as you like. You’re restricted to downloading ten at a time, though, and you have to delete one to make room for your eleventh, but hey, tomato, tomahto. The point is that you can now read whatever you like without having to pay more than $10 a month.
An awesome deal, right?
I signed up. Of course, I have no time, so it was all I could do to make it through Michael Lewis’ latest, Flash Boys, before my 30 day free trial was over (fascinating reading for anyone wondering why the markets are so broken, and who’s behind it).
For that reason, I canceled my subscription at the end of thirty days. I just don’t have the time. I have a backlog of a year’s worth of books. I’m not the target customer.
There was a SNAFU on Amazon’s side with respect to payment during that first month. Apparently the reporting dashboard was reporting all borrows, regardless of whether they were read at least 10% (the threshold for an author to be entitled to the borrow fee payment). To Amazon’s credit, instead of saying, hey, there was a glitch, you actually only are entitled to a quarter of what you thought (or whatever it is), they paid a reduced amount on all borrows, regardless of whether any of them were read or not. That was a classy move from the retailer, who could have just as easily not paid on the ones that weren’t at the 10% + read point, and been 100% in the right.
A couple of observations: Because the borrow fee looks to be somewhere in the $1.50-$2.25 range (the historical norm for Select borrows), it encourages only one sort of participation – very short works, which are hard to or impossible to sell for anywhere close to a price that will net you the amount paid for a borrow (I think of that as Amazon inefficiency arbitrage), and books that are priced in the $2.99 or under price range (for whatever reason – length, lack of popularity, whatever). Above that and you’re receiving less for a borrow than for a sale. Now, while you can argue that you are perhaps seeing borrows from folks who otherwise wouldn’t have tried your fine work, it’s impossible to know that, so I file it in the wishful thinking bin. What I do know is that there is an inverse relationship between borrows and sales. Borrows go up, sales adjust down by some amount. In my case, it’s often that the borrows cannibalized the sales at an almost 1:1 ratio. Others report different ratios, so I might just be weird, or it could be my genre, or whose shirts I wear, when I wear anything at all – and don’t judge, hatahs.
One thing I noticed as I was browsing the titles was that none of the books I have been holding off buying to read are in the program, so for me there was little value to it, even if it was only one or two books a month I could get to. Because if the ones I’m interested in aren’t in the program, then the program’s only offering me stuff I don’t much care about.
For instance, I really, really want to find the time to read I Am Pilgrim. I’ve been told by multiple people that it’s a marvelous spy thriller, right up my alley. I looked for it but it wasn’t in the program. Ditto for James Lee Burke’s latest, Wayfaring Stranger. Not in it.
These are trad pubbed titles, but my point is that I have limited time and when I get to read, I either do so for research or because it’s an author who really impresses me. A program that doesn’t give me what I’m looking for loses me.
Does that mean that the program itself is a loser? Not at all. I see the wisdom of it for voracious readers. But for authors, well, that depends. Take me as an example. The majority of my titles aren’t in the program, because to be in it requires the titles be exclusive to Amazon. Now don’t get me wrong. I have six or seven titles exclusive with them. I view that as diversification, just as I view having 23 or whatever on different platforms to be diversification as well. I want some in the program, some out, just in case the program is a windfall – I don’t want to miss out, but I don’t want to risk too much to find out, either.
To be exclusive on all my books? Makes no sense because my average novel is $5, and new releases are $6. Why would I want to accept $1.80 when a sale will pay me double to triple that, and forgo the 20% or so of my sales that are not on Amazon? See the problem? Because it requires exclusivity from me, it’s created a binary decision. Perhaps if it didn’t require exclusivity I’d be more tempted to toss a few more onto the pile, but as it is, it doesn’t make financial sense. Maybe I’m wrong – the test will be how my Amazon exclusive titles do over the next months. I’ll report back on that. So far it’s a wait and see.
What do you think? What’s been your experience? Inquiring minds want to know.
I was reminded yesterday by a friend that my third year of self-publishing passed in June and I didn’t even blog about it.
That should tell you how busy I’ve been lately. Next year I swear on a stack of bibles I slow down. And I mean it this time. Really.
Belatedly, here’s my three year anniversary blog.
Three years ago, in June, 2011, I released Fatal Exchange upon the world. I followed it within six weeks with The Geronimo Breach, and six weeks after that with the Zero Sum trilogy. Then came How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) and An Angel With Fur, and then in an orgiastic flurry of writing, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, King of Swords, and Night of the Assassin. All released by December, 2011. That’s a lot of books. 12 if you count the trilogies as trilogies, 8 if you count them as single volumes as I now have them bundled (in omnibus editions).
Little did I know that pace would be the one I stuck to for 38 months and counting. In 2012, I released Return and Revenge of the Assassin, The Voynich Cypher, Silver Justice, and in another flurry of writing, the first four JET novels. In 2013 came JET 5 and 6, Blood of the Assassin, Upon A Pale Horse, and BLACK 1-3. Somewhere in there I also managed to co-author a novel.
2014 has seen JET 7, BLACK 4, JET – Ops Files, Requiem for the Assassin in Sept, three R.E. Blake tomes, another co-authored novel, and another JET at the end of the year. Oh, and one I’m shopping to trad pub that I haven’t published yet, that is the first of a new series.
Notice a trend? On average, 8-9 novels a year. Or one about every five weeks.
Anyway, here are my thoughts about this business, after 38 months at it: 1) Everything I know about how to operate a book selling business is contained in a few blogs at this site, most notably the “How To Sell Loads of Books” blog, and the “Three Ds” blog. 2) If writing is your recreation and fun, it doesn’t seem like work to write a million words a year. 3) Asking yourself questions like, “How do I make this next chapter/story/series the best I’ve ever written and have fun doing it?” gets you far different answers than negative ones, and virtually eradicates writers block. 4) If you believe you can do it, you’re right. 5) If you believe you can’t, you’re right. Motivation is your greatest asset, and motivation is fueled by enthusiasm over the long haul. Love what you do, and you’ll always have the necessary motivation to do it.
Sales have been stellar. I crossed the 750K units sold point, and will close on 850K by year end, if not more. I’ve branded my offerings as being in the $5-$6 range, and consumers seem comfortable with that value proposition. I don’t see any need to charge more, nor less. All’s well.
Since I started at this, I’ve been fortunate enough to co-author with the legendary Clive Cussler on his Fargo series, appeared above the fold on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, as well as in The Times and The Chicago Tribune (and Huffington, The Examiner, yadda yadda), my work has been translated into German (King of Swords by Amazon Crossing, JET by Lucifer Press) and Bulgarian (The Voynich Cypher). I’ve been a Kindle Daily Deal with King of Swords, and a Kindle weekly deal (or whatever they call that) with BLACK.
Amazon has treated me well, and despite my constant skepticism of all corporations, I have no complaints about them. I know they’ve taken some steps I didn’t like (lowering ACX royalties and doing away with the effectiveness of free Select promos being the biggies) but on the whole, I have a career because of them. Yes, I know the other platforms were also there for me, but let’s not kid ourselves – it’s the acceptance of the kindle by readers that fueled this opportunity, not of Nook or iPad. So to Amazon, I say, muchas gracias.
Readers seem eager for my next releases, and I’m living the writing dream from a beach in Mexico, where the weather’s warm, the beer’s cold, the sky and sea are blue, and the living’s easy.
Hard to whine about any of it.
And to think that three and a half years ago it would have never occurred to me to do any of this. I had zero interest in spending years submitting work to NY in the hopes someone would figure it out. Instead, I wrote for pleasure and busied myself with other endeavors (designing and building custom homes, making and importing wine in Argentina) during my purported retirement.
Here’s what I now know: Readers are the most important thing a writer has. Readers are the ones that consume an author’s work, and without them, we have nothing. If you concentrate on writing stories your readers want to read, you’ll probably have a far easier time of it than if you lose sight of them and write what some committee thinks will be the next big thing. They don’t have the faintest. Only the readers know what the readers want, and often they have no idea, either.
I’ve also learned that you can make serious money going direct to the consumer. Maybe not King or Grisham level loot, but more than enough to live your fantasies, presuming they don’t involved G-550 ownership or multiple wives.
To readers: Thank you for the opportunity. Mmmwah! To other authors: I’ve never had a breakout hit (yet), and my business model doesn’t require one. My point is that one can have a sustainable business that pays more than fairly, where one answers to nobody, and which is entirely your own, by self-publishing. Is it as good as getting deci-million dollar advances? Not a chance. Is it as good as getting million dollar advances? So far, I’d have to say yes. But as to the deci-million dollar advances, friends of mine like Holly Ward would probably say that as long as the cash hits the bank, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, and in a big way they’d be right. Maybe next year. Anything can happen. Anything.
I love what I’m doing for a living. I was doing it for free for my own pleasure, and I love it even more now that I’m doing it for readers. My final words of advice for budding authors is to always keep readers at the forefront of your thoughts, and to focus on improving your craft every day, like using a muscle. If you do that, you’ve got an advantage over most of your peers, who are in this for other reasons than to tell the best story they can as well as they can. Make that your priority and you can’t go wrong, whether or not you hit the sales lottery.
Again, thanks to all for the support. It’s been a hell of a three year run, and I actually can’t wait to see what the next three will be like. I’m sure there will be challenges and obstacles, but with all peaks will come valleys. Goes with the territory. If you can have higher highs and higher lows, that’s a good trend. So far so good.
A slew of posts have hit the blogsphere following more of the anti-Amazon campaign coming out of the NY traditional media (which reached orgiastic levels this weekend with a Patterson ad and a NYT hatchet job), and volleyed by Amazon calling on indie authors to email Hachette’s CEO in an emailed missive I first suspected might be a practical joke.
Passions are running high, and you can’t turn around without hearing one group or the other’s talking points being repeated, as though via repetition they will become more compelling.
Why, you ask, do I have such complete disinterest in all this?
Because I know what I don’t know.
And it seems as though I’m one of the very few who realizes I don’t know squat about what’s really going on. How could I? I’m not privy to the negotiations between the two behemoth corporations tussling in public like a pair of drunk crack whores outside a bar. Because I’m not in the room with them, I don’t really know what all the terms and conditions are that they’re wrangling over. I can speculate. I can guess. I can infer, divine, prognosticate, opine. But I can’t actually know. And frankly, if I don’t know something, I tend to try to realize I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about before I spout off.
That hasn’t stopped literary luminaries and self-pubbing icons from doing so, though. They proclaim with certitude that’s impossible to have unless they’re involved in every aspect of the negotiations that the dispute is about X or Y or Z. Amazon’s own communique says one thing, Hachette’s most recent says another.
Here’s what I know about big corporations: They don’t always tell complete truths. Shocking, I know. And on occasion, their selective veracity can approach good old fashioned lying. In the best tradition of good spin, they’ll omit inconvenient facts, distort those that might color them ugly, and pitch deceptive agendas.
So what do we have? Two Goliaths offering differing accounts, which may or may not be anywhere close to the whole truth.
I’ll leave the declarations of why Amazon or Hachette are wrong to those with better ESP than mine. Call me crazy, but a wise man tends to know what he doesn’t know, and it’s the rash and impulsive that think they know what they can’t possibly.
If Amazon’s telling the whole truth, I don’t see why they don’t just pull all Hachette’s books and tell them to pound sand. That if you want to play in our sandbox, you either conform to our rules or you don’t play. No shoes, no shirt, no service. No tickee, no laundry. And so on.
If Hachette’s telling the whole truth, I don’t see why they don’t figure out that no retailer HAS to carry their products, and if they don’t like the Ts and Cs, they should go elsewhere.
Methinks by the screeching stridency of the rhetoric that there’s more here than meets the eye, reinforcing my stance that I have no frigging idea what’s actually going on. As one of my hobbies, I’m used to analyzing data from financial markets and the Government, where every data point is likely to be at best an omission or distortion, and at worst a bald faced lie – and these corporations employ all the same lawyers as that lot, so I see no reason to believe either would offer up the whole truth, especially if it doesn’t suit their agenda.
If you believe you know what’s actually going on, and have a COMPLETE understanding of all the elements that are being discussed, great, super duper. Explain how you know, not guess, but know what it is you claim to know. Because the only way you could is to be part of the negotiations. Which you aren’t. So you’re just buying one party’s spin over the other’s, and assuming (which is like guessing, only more gullible) they’re telling the whole truth.
See where I’m going with this?
I’ll be sitting this one out, concentrating on writing, and enjoying margaritas on the beach. I’ll leave the negotiating over centi-million dollar markets to those with more experience at it than I. So sweeties, kindly leave me the frak out of it, and stop bitch slapping each other around in public like reality show trailer trash. It’s unseemly and is getting old fast.
Clive and I are working furiously on the next Fargo novel, the as yet untitled tome that is the continuation of the series I co-authored the last installment of, which releases Sept. 2, titled The Eye Of Heaven.
So if you haven’t seen much of me, that’s why.
Either that, or I’ve been incarcerated by the Mexican authorities again for deviant behavior. Kidding. Here, I think they throw you a parade and make you mayor, they don’t jail you.
Which brings up an interesting point that was raised the other day by a buddy who was bemoaning how hard it is to use cash in the U.S. any more.
I’m not surprised. Even though I’ve been living abroad for over a decade, I saw it coming way before 9-11. Back then, of course, it wasn’t a war on terror that was the reasoning for criminalizing the use of cash, it was the war on drugs. But even if the playbook has changed, the net result has remained the same: the government wants to be able to track every dime you spend, and it can’t do that with cash, only electronic purchases. It also can’t control you as easily if you can put your net worth into a briefcase and walk across a border, but it’s got all the options if it only needs to shut off your access to bank accounts with the flick of a switch.
I’m reminded of that movie, Enemy of the State. George Orwell saw this developing many years ago. Now, if you read 1984, it reads like a sober description of the current state of affairs in the U.S. and many first world countries in Europe, whose privately-owned central banks are dictating terms to those governments. The message is simple: You must be able to control your population with the implicit threat of imprisonment for any and all reasons, including de facto imprisonment within your borders via currency controls and locking up your citizenry’s assets.
I write conspiracy theory-based novels. But what makes them provocative, at least for me, is how closely they track reality.
Most don’t know that the IRS was created in the same bill that created the Federal Reserve (you know, the privately owned central bank that had to be called something that sounded governmental so the average Joe would think it was part of the government), back in 1913. The reasoning was simple. The banks intended to siphon off most of the nation’s net worth over generations by printing money and taking a cut, but there was a problem – they needed a mechanism to pull all that money back out of circulation so they didn’t create runaway inflation, merely controllable inflation, which is another way of saying debasing the value of the currency (its buying power) at a controlled rate every year, the loss effectively being their profit via their banking Ponzi scheme.
So suddenly a tax on personal income was introduced, and bam, there was the mechanism to suck the money that had been created back. It had zero to do with paying one’s fair share, and everything to do with a rinse and repeat mechanism. Most also don’t know that 100% of the government’s obligations were met each year from corporate and import/export tax, so there was no requirement for a new tax base. It was purely to create that print money, suck it out cycle, which is why the same bill, written by a relative of one of the bankers behind the bill and passed in a special session of Congress over the Christmas break when only his cronies would be in town to vote on it, created the IRS. You learn something new every day. Go read about it. Check out The Creature From Jekyll Island – a non-fiction tome that details the entire nefarious scheme (and which was denied for generations by the Fed and the government – until the internet made it impossible to hide the ownership anymore).
The problem becomes that all systems that abuse their populations encourage the smarter ones to bail out of it at some point. To take their marbles and go elsewhere. That has to be stopped, especially as the state requires the productive to support the unproductive at an ever increasing level.
This is all about control. About a federal apparatus that doesn’t work for you, but rather for the enrichment of its backers and the power of its politicians, who require ever increasing say over every aspect of your life. If it can track every purchase you make, if the implicit threat of being able to cut you off at the knees and seize everything is always waiting in the wings, then it owns your ass, and it can do whatever it wants in spite of your feeble protests.
Bluntly, when your government becomes a master to be feared rather than a servant to be distrusted, you’ve lost.
That’s the sad state of affairs. And no, this isn’t anti-American. The same situation is in place in the Euro zone for the exact same reasons. It’s the same banks, after all. Bank of England’s been privately owned for centuries – back in the 1800′s, it essentially seized all the government’s assets when the UK government couldn’t pay its debts to the privately owned bank, and has been using it as its bitch ever since. Ditto for every other European economy – even the central bank of the central banks, The Bank For International Settlement, is privately owned.
The classic generational land grab by the banks is usually war. They finance both sides, reap the profits as countries are destroyed, and repeat again after everything’s rebuilt using money borrowed from them. Nowadays, though, except for limited wars without end like Afghanistan, that’s not feasible, so the new technique is to encourage reckless spending by government using debt, and then grabbing all their assets when they need yet more money – it’s what they’ve been doing to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and so on. Works every time. Before, they had to get them to go to war. Now, just hand them a credit card for a few years. Same net effect.
The antidote to free exchange of information is to scare the crap out of the citizenry so it doesn’t dare protest, and flinches like a whipped pup whenever it’s threatened.
Welcome to the 21st century.
The German edition of JET was nominated for an award in the Beauty And The Book contest. I’m particularly happy about this as that’s my favorite cover to date.
But there’s a problem. It needs votes. Your vote.
Could you please go to the website, click EN in the upper right corner to choose English, and then scroll about halfway down the page to the JET cover, and vote for it by clicking the little butterfly? I’d owe you one. And you know how prompt I am about paying.
I’m starting on another one with Clive now, and it’s a humdinger of a plot. Can’t tell you how happy I am with it. Here’s to hoping the first one with him, releasing in September, does well. I’m enjoying inhabiting that Fargo world. Fingers are crossed!
Thanks for voting on the cover. You rock.
My new pseudonym, R.E. Blake, is now live, in preparation for the first in a string of NA/YA and CR novels. You can view RE’s new blog here, or check out and like the Facebook page, which I would appreciate. Friend it, too, while you’re at it.
I’ve been too busy to do Twitter, but that too shall come.
The first R.E. Blake novels will release in October, and are more in the tradition of Twilight and The Fault In Our Stars than my usual fare, hence my creation of a new brand. I don’t want Russell Blake readers to inadvertently pick up an R.E. Blake novel expecting car chases and gunfights, just as I don’t want R.E. Blake readers to pick up JET or BLACK expecting a poignant NA romance.
This is an example of me walking my talk. I’ve long maintained that the author name is a brand, and that you want to make it painfully easy for readers to understand what they’re getting when they see your brand.
Russell Blake novels are breakneck-paced adrenaline rushes in the action/thriller genre, R.E. Blake…aren’t.
Which isn’t to say that some Russell Blake readers won’t be interested in R.E. Blake’s work. Early beta readers have said that the first R.E. Blake novel, Less Than Nothing, is a blockbuster YA/NA novel that manages to combine the romantic coming-of-age saga of two teen runaways with a classic road novel like Huckleberry Finn, which makes for a unique mashup that’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. I probably should have thrown in a fight for survival in a dystopian future, but hey, hindsight…
But many won’t be interested in that new and completely different genre. Which is as it should be. This way they won’t inadvertently pick up the wrong author’s work and be disappointed.
In other news, I’m delighted to announce that I’m hard at work on a second Fargo novel with Clive Cussler, and this one, like my first co-authored novel with the “Grand Master of Adventure,” is going to be a hell of a yarn. That debut effort, The Eye Of Heaven, releases Sept. 2, so we don’t have much longer to go before we see how his fans like our new offering.
That’s all I have for now. Hope you’re enjoying your summer. I know I am.
I’m always in favor of a new excuse to have a cocktail. So why not a new global holiday? We can make it on July 4th, so at least in the States you’ll benefit from free fireworks and a day off work.
I hereby propose the holiday of Independent’s Day – a celebration honoring those who are indie. Film makers, musicians, small businesses, and…authors who self-publish.
All of these groups have one thing in common: they’re self-sufficient, requiring nothing from any established industry player for their existence, and are essentially entrepreneurial endeavors. They’re the mavericks going it alone, who, in the best hunter/gatherer tradition, eat what they kill. In some cases, they’re revolutionizing whole industries. More power to em, I say. Innovation rarely comes from established behemoths.
It’s fitting that this would fall on July 4. If any segment represents the quintessential American spirit of rebellion and independence, it’s self-published authors.
Forbes has a remarkable piece on this phenomenon, and I recommend everyone read it. Not only because I feature prominently in it, although that’s a pretty good reason.
So, in order to set a good example, I’m headed to the beach for margaritas. Indie margaritas, of course.
You would be well served to do the same.
Finally, the seventh installment in the JET saga is live. JET – Sanctuary has launched into the world, for better or for worse.
NEWS: Forbes mentioned me as an example of indies changing the playing field. Great article!
MORE NEWS: A wonderful article on why everyone must read JET now, dammit.
I’m really pleased with both JET VI and VII. I wanted to pick up the story right where we left off in JET VI, with the entire book taking place over a span of hours. The compressed timeline really forced me to move it along, and there was no fat on the bone by the time I was done.
The next JET will probably hit around November or December, so until then, enjoy this one. It’s a fun read, with villainous bad guys, conflicted allies, and more action than you can shake a stick at.
That’s all I have. I’m writing away, as always (maybe next year is the one I slow down…), and hope to have some exciting news soon. Until then, enjoy your summer and don’t do anything I wouldn’t…
I’ve been working on a NA romantic adventure, and writing it first person, present tense. And I’ve got to say, wow, what a difference in writing speed. I’m typically a turtle, managing 600-700 words per hour. On this? More like 1500.
I have no idea why that is. Could be because with NA I don’t have to spend nearly as much time considering word choice, trying to find the perfect fit to achieve the cadence I’m after. NA is simpler in terms of sentence structure and vocabulary, so a lot of the heavy lifting doesn’t have to take place – in fact, from what I can gather, you’d be writing over your audience’s head after a certain point, so it defeats the purpose. There are exceptions, like John Green’s latest, but that’s a notable exception, and I have a feeling if I went down that road I’d sell two copies. At least that’s what my research and beta readers have indicated.
Normally, when I write, I write prose, where I’m unconsciously trying to get a certain lyricism and musicality to the words. Whether I achieve that is besides the point, but that’s the goal.
Which is kind of silly, I suppose, given that I write action thrillers. I mean, how lyrical does a car chase have to be, right? Turns out, pretty lyrical. At least in my books.
Some readers hate that. Mainly other authors, who come from a school that was wildly popular in the U.S., where Hemingway’s lean, sparse prose was considered the ideal, and anything more than the absolute bare minimum was branded purple or flowery.
I have no problem with that school, and understand it well. But it’s just a preference, not a set of rules carved in stone. Unfortunately, as with Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, a whole group of silly preferences masquerading as rules (many contradictory, if you’ve read EOS recently) were taught in a dogmatic fashion, where that was the only way you could write “well,” and there are plenty of adherents. They, by and large, know what “good” writing is, and anything outside of the narrow parameters they learned is to be eschewed.
Those readers are almost always authors, because everyone but an author pretty much forgets most of that crap by the time the third beer’s poured on graduation day and they move on to shit that matters, like making a living or finding someone to cohabitate with or getting that damned car to start.
But back to first person, present tense. My customary approach is third person, past tense. It’s just how I naturally write, no doubt a function of the thousands of books I’ve read, almost all of which were written that way. But it does demand more thought, at least from me.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying I’m kind of digging the breezy quality of first person, present.
Of course, writing as a teenage girl is a little daunting, but that’s a whole nother story. Guess we’ll soon know whether that was a bad idea. OMG, LOL.
In other news, JET – Sanctuary has a gazillion sales on preorder, so June will be berry berry good to me. Oh, and Requiem for the Assassin just went on preorder, too, for a Sept release – which will also be when my co-authored tome with Clive Cussler, The Eye of Heaven, will go live. Other than that, the weather’s dependably in the low 90′s every day, the water’s warm and the beer’s cold, so I’m spending less time at the keyboard for a few weeks and more courting wildfire melanoma and cirrhosis. Which is as it should be. Live to work or work to live, right? Got to have a little fun every now and then…
Hope your summer’s kicking off nicely. Mine sure is.