I am in the middle of a HUGE reorganization of all my writing files, backups, folders, books, stories… and more. I’ve rediscovered things I’ve lost, found things I don’t even remember writing… and it’s set in motion a great fixing and cleansing of things… One thing I have found is that I have written a LOT of articles, reviews, blog posts, etc… and some of it bears revisiting. Some of the comments in this post are dated – because it’s 2016, and the article was written in 2004…
It defines a moment in my career, and those who know my work know how I feel about Defining Moments…
Without Further Ado:
Some time in 1988, I’m not sure what month; I was sitting around with my good buddy John B. Rosenman. He and I were in a writing frenzy that year, and in years to come. We submitted to any market that surfaced on the horizon, and, having been at it longer than I had been at the time, John was very successful at landing slots in them. I was telling him about a story I’d sold to After Hours Magazine, and he told me about the premiere issue of Cemetery Dance. He showed me the magazine; its cover was a sort of grotesque, striking black and white illustration. I knew a lot of the folks being published in that first issue – others I did not know. I didn’t know Rich Chizmar, for one, and made a mental note that I should do so.
What followed was a period in my career where two men saw (literally) hundreds of thousands of words of my earlier fiction and turned it all down. Between Stephen Mark Rainey at Deathrealm, and Rich Chizmar, I probably produced two novels worth of short stories that were not quite right for their publications. Still, I continued, because they were encouraging. Rich, in particular, was an inspiration to me. I was publishing a magazine called The Tome, and though I was having successes of my own, I watched Rich go quickly from a solid start to the successor to Dave Silva’s Horror Show in literally only a few issues. Everyone was talking about Cemetery Dance, and this spurred me on both to improve my own magazine, and to write something that would catch Rich’s attention.
Oddly, when I finally did so, it was a story he’d already passed on. Somehow my tale, “The Mole,” stuck with him, and one day I got a phone call. “Do you still have that tunnel rat story?” he asked. That moment changed my career forever – I believe that. It was a sale I had coveted since the late eighties, and when it finally happened (that was the Fall, 1990 issue) it felt like one of those career-changing epiphanies. When that same story was reprinted in “The Best of Cemetery Dance,” I was in heaven. That was another first that Rich gave me – my first appearance in a book signed by myself and by Stephen King (thankfully not my last). I went on to sell a number of stories to Rich over the years and a novella, and he has always been encouraging to me – very positive and upbeat despite the curve balls life has thrown us both.
I have to say that when I first sat and leafed through issue number one of Cemetery Dance, I should have been more perceptive. He hit the horror business like a comet and we never saw him coming. After fifteen years and more than fifty publications, (Remember, this was written back in 2004) and with a future as bright as he wants it to be, Rich is the guy we should all be looking to when we need inspiration – and has always been there for me when I needed his support. Congratulations on 15 years of amazing accomplishments Rich. We still need to get together for golf.
NOW THAT THE BIRD HAS YOUR ATTENTION… Listen up.
First off – I wish theoretically honest, up-front bloggers and journalists who don’t use Amazon as a publishing platform or – in most cases – even write books – would quit splashing alarmist headlines all over the net ‘explaining’ how Amazon is now going to give your work away for free and it’s the end of books. I’m going to use bullet points and make this as quick and clear as I can.
1) The new payment plan Amazon just unveiled does not affect your books that are available for “sale” on Amazon at all. It only affects books that have been published exclusively on Amazon as part of their Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited Plans, and of those books, only the Kindle Unlimited books. Any book that is just “bought” on Amazon is being paid exactly as it always was.
2) An upfront note. It is a bad idea for most books to publish them exclusively on Amazon, and the Kindle Select program is only a good idea if you have a title that has proven itself to sell very well on Amazon and not so well anywhere else. Out of the 1200 titles we currently have at Crossroad Press – we have maybe 8 in those programs. Even those that ARE part of the program still generate a lot of sales each month, and those sales are paid at the same royalty rate they have always been. Only when someone who has paid for a Kindle Unlimited Subscription “borrows” the book does the new plan come into affect.
3) The plan itself: If someone borrows your book, they have a particular amount of time to read it. Amazon will monitor whether they actually read all of it, or part of it, and pay you for the number of pages (determined by a pretty generous algorithm, I can add, because I know that a book we published that was 500 pages in print has figured to 815 pages in their formula) that are read. There is a pot of money – just like there has always been for Kindle Unlimited – but instead of paying you each time someone borrows your book, they are paying you for the number of pages read each time someone borrows your book.
4) The purpose is to stop scammers who have been gaming this system. Everyone is upset that they think their share will drop, but honestly, a huge number of the borrows up to now have been people cheating you out of your money. They upload a ten page pamphlet – or ten of them – and then have 100 friends borrow it – while they do the same for those 100 friends. Every time that ten page pamphlet is borrowed, it gets the same share as a 500 page book by a talented author. Also, there are tons of very short stories of questionable quality being uploaded just because numbers count in this game. If you – instead of an 80-100k word book – write ten 1500 word stories – you can get an equal share every time one of those stories is borrowed – or you could. Now, you can still write them, but your share will be proportionate to the words and effort invested.
5) Quality of the offerings being borrowed is going to improve. Good writers aren’t worried about people borrowing their books and quitting on page five. People paying a subscription price are going to READ the books they borrow to get their money’s worth. This system is better in every way than the previous system. It is not Amazon trying to cheat authors, it’s Amazon protecting authors from people trying to cheat the system. Don’t get me wrong, I think Amazon is out for Amazon, but they aren’t – in this case anyway – doing it at your expense.
6) Most important thing. The Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited programs are not right for most books. As I stated above, only about 8 of our 1200 titles are in these programs. They are there because they have consistently sold above average numbers on Amazon, whlie selling next to nothing anywhere else. MOST books do not benefit from losing Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google, Kobo and all the other possible outlets. IF YOUR BOOK IS NOT REGISTERED IN THE PROGRAMS THIS CHANGE MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO YOU. NOTHING. ZILCH. That is the most important thing. I’ve seen articles all over the net in theoretically trusted outlets and found that – without really checking their sources, they’ve cut a few lines from Amazons announcement and not applied them to the bigger picture – then splashed click-bait headlines all over about how Amazon is now only going to pay you a tiny amount per page – as if that was all of Amazon and not a single, exclusive program that you have to opt into to even be involved in.
I hope this helps clear some of the clouds from this issue… and I hope that – if you read this – you will think twice before sharing or retweeting one of the misleading and misinformed articles prophesizing the end of books because of this policy. No one has even been paid under the new policy and already everyone is depressed, giving up writing, etc… I suggest you spend less time on blogs and FB and more time writing – it’s easier on your heart and mind.
My novel Sins of the Flash is included in a very cool deal over at Storybundle.com starting today. I love these bundles…you pay what you want to pay and get six books, meet a bargain price for the lot and get five more. It’s also very cool to be included along with authors I love and respect, like Clive Barker – who’s novel Cabal is in the bundle, David Morrell, who is in with The Brotherhood of the Rose as well as friends and colleagues I’ve known and worked with most of the twenty-five plus years of my career, Ed Gorman, Tom Piccirilli, Bill Pronzini, Steven Savile (who is the curator and creator of this collection that he calls MEAN STREETS).
There are some authors in the bundle I’ll be checking out myself for the first time – Maynard Sims, Tony Black, Sean Black, and Stephen Gallagher. All of these books have a theme – something that ties them together. Dark Streets. Alienated characters – black-hearted villains and questionable heroes. This is a bundle of books where crime noir meets horror – where mystery meets deeper shadow.
The Titles included are: Serpents Kiss by Ed Gorman, Falling Apart at the Edges, by Maynard Sims, Carmody’s Run, by Bill Pronzini, Laughing Boy’s Shadow¸ by Steven Savile (one of my favorite novels ever), Truth Lies Bleeding, by Tony Black, Cabal, by Clive Barker, The Innocent, by Sean Black, Down River, by Stephen Gallagher, Nightjack, by Tom Piccirilli (complex and absolutely brilliant), and The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell.
My own novel, one of my favorite, has several distinctions. It has one of my most amazing covers, courtesy of Mr. Harry O. Morris. It was scheduled for publication by no less than three companies, all of which imploded, or ended up not publishing it. Eventually, it found a home at my own Crossroad Press. Sins of the Flash is the first novel-length appearances of detective Tommy Doyle, who also appeared in the short story “Burning Bridges,” in the anthology All Hell Breaking Loose. Tommy comes from a family of police officers, most of whom either died badly, or spent their time chasing very strange crimes.
This novel features Christian Greve – a photographer who believes he has the talent to be world-famous, but who also believes his models have been sabotaging him by subtle shifts in their posture, or changes of expression. It drives him – slowly – crazy. Christian’s search for perfection leads him down some strange, dark streets, and it’s up to Tommy, and his partner “Big “Mac” Markum, to follow and stop him before the body count gets too high – and too personal.
This is a very dark novel. It was written out at sea, on board the USS Guadalcanal. Several of the characters are named for shipmates of mine – maybe they’ll see this deal and pick up a copy after all these years… This mystery is also set in my fictional town of San Valencez, Califonia, where so many of my novels have started, or ended… It’s one of my favorites, and I hope you’ll pick it up – along with all the others – and settle in to read. If you do – and you like what you read in my book or any of the others, please take the time to stop by Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads.com and leave a rating or a review. In this modern world of self-marketing and social media promotion – feedback from fans and readers is the only weapon an author possesses, unless he’s rich.
Along with all the wonderful books, these bundles support some very worthy charities. A percentage of all income goes to Mighty Writers, Girls Write Now and Special Effect – what these people do:
SpecialEffect are putting fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with disabilities by helping them to play video games. By using technology ranging from modified games controllers to eye-control, they’re finding a way for people to play to the very best of their abilities. But they’re not just doing it for fun. By levelling the playing field, they’re bringing families and friends together and having a profoundly positive impact on therapy, confidence and rehabilitation.
Girls Write Now helps mentor girls so they can develop writing skills, leading to a more successful future no matter what path they decide to choose.
Distinguished as one of the top 15 after-school arts and culture programs in the nation by The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Girls Write Now is New York’s first and only organization with a writing and mentoring model exclusively for girls. From young women exploring writing to seasoned professionals practicing their craft every day, GWN is a community of women writers dedicated to providing guidance, support, and opportunities for high school girls to develop their creative, independent voices and write their way to a better future.
Over the past 15 years, more than 4,500 underserved teen girls have benefitted from the GWN community and 100% of seniors in our flagship mentoring program go on to college—bringing with them portfolios, awards, scholarships, new skills, and a sense of confidence. Girls Write Now has built a record of achievement and innovation recognized twice by the White House, by The New York Times, and the MacArthur Foundation, and evidenced by the hundreds of Scholastic Art & Writing awards our girls have earned.
I’ve been watching something pretty closely, and I just wanted to clarify it here so people are aware. Amazon.com has their top 100 paid books list – their version of bestsellers – but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s any kind of a level playing field.
A while back, Amazon changed things so that free books no longer compete with paid books on the bestseller list. Two separate lists. This is why I tell people, making your book free probably won’t help it’s sales. First, it makes it no more likely to be noticed than it was before, and second, even if you become the #1 bestselling free book on Amazon, the minute you put a price on your book, that ranking disappears and you are starting over with paid sales.
Now there are new things. In the top ten of Amazon’s paid bestseller list you will find four titles currently filling slots that are #1 in multiple categories. These books are not even published yet, officially. However, there is the Kindle First Program, and there is Amazon Prime. Combining those two, you can buy these pre-release books for a price of… nothing … if you are a prime member. Free brand new books. All four titles are also published by Amazon imprints where (as we all know) they will be promoted in ways and to quantities of Kindle readers almost nothing else can match… In other words, your book is competing against brand new pre-release free books being published by the people compiling the list. You can see that this is a problem… four of the top ten slots are being gamed by the publisher and retailer, using free sales they semantically report as paid sales – and I’m not telling you this because we should rise up and stop them – it’s their store. I just want you to be aware. You are probably NOT going to make that top ten list. In the image above, two of the three top books today are Amazon books that are pre-orders and Kindle First.
Crossroad Press recently had a book sell over 3500 copies in a day and it made it to #12. That was with a price drop and a great third party promotion (that was not cheap). Consider that to GET that promotion, the book already had to have a great cover, good reviews, etc… and you can see another “gaming” piece fall into place. If you can sell thousands of free pre-orders and they count as paid sales…those buyers can also leave reviews. That means, those books will be eligible for bigger promotions from other sites right out of the gate, and not because they are better books, but because Amazon has promoted them through the roof.
So next time you wonder how in the heck some of those books got there and stay there, remember this article. Currently four books by authors I’ve never heard of are kicking butt on Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and James Patterson (who doesn’t actually write books, but has his name on a lot of best-selling ones) … and if those folks aren’t in the top ten, the rest of us can start figuring our odds using negative numbers.
Here’s the deal. Back in 2009 a very warped idea was conceived on the social media micro-blogging site, Twitter. It became my latest novel – KILLER GREEN. This project has done well so far depending on social media as it’s platform, so I’m reaching out again. The book needs readers and reviews. I will therefore gift 20 copies of this book to folks willing to review it on Amazon.com – and I’m making this call through the blog where the original screenplay that became this novel was written and shared – and through Twitter and Facebook, where it has continued to exist – largely due to the friends and online family that helped bring it to life. Below is the Author’s introduction to the book, which gives the whole sordid story of the screenplay and it’s journey to eBook – soon print and unabridged audio. To receive your copy either DM me on Twitter at @David_n_Wilson – send me a message on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DNiallWilson or send an e-mail to david AT macabreink DOT com. First 20 in get the books. Tell me your preferred eBook format in your note, and if you want the Kindle book, please supply the e-mail you use on Amazon so I can gift it to you.
Here is the Synopsis for those who have missed it: Quentin Tarantino meets Smokey & The Bandit in this noir, science-fiction thriller. Sometimes, people just need killing. When Sam West wanders into the Sunny-Side-Up Diner for the last time, hoping for a last slice of Mort’s world-class pie, and one last look at a waitress named Delilah, he has no idea he’s about to become the instrument of a great, karmic cleansing. The only thing crazier than the seemingly inevitable trail of bodies following Sam and Delilah south is the fact that – as State Police and local sheriffs begin to investigate – they find no evidence. Nothing. And the missing bodies are just the start, as an unlikely band of companions are drawn together in a scientific experiment more in line with the TV Series Fringe than anything in reality, with the threat of alien probes, local law enforcement, and rednecks around every corner.
I’m listening to the audiobook of J. K. Rowling’s pseudonymous mystery / thriller, The Cuckoo’s Calling – narrated by Robert Glenister and attributed to the fictional author Robert Galbraith. I will start by saying it’s a thoroughly enjoyable book, and that I’m very pleased to have been in on the secret prior to reading it, because there are hints of Hogwarts I might have missed otherwise, like the victim – Lula Landry – can’t help but remind one of Luna Lovegood, and the accented voice of Cormoran Strike, our erstwhile detective, when performed by Robert Glenister, resonates with hints of Hagrid. This is not a review of the book; I have other things on my mind, but I have to say, I am loving the characters, the story, and the narration, as I would expect to, the work having been created by a favorite author.
That brings me to the crux of the matter, though. I almost didn’t get the opportunity. The book, first released as a novel by Robert Galbraith, would likely have slipped past me unnoticed. It received what your average novel with a slight leg up might see – came out in hardcover and got a short bit of press, and then began to fade quietly into obscurity, despite solid, positive reviews. All of this changed, of course, when people learned that it was J. K. Rowling behind the pen, and that she’d managed to put one over on the literary world. There are now more reviews of the audiobook on Audible.com than I have sold of my last book…and considering the low percentage of listeners who take the time to rate, or review, the numbers become staggering pretty quickly.
A couple of things occur. I am betting that Rowling’s agent and publisher were never as enthusiastic about this as she was. I am guessing they tried to tell her how hard such a transition to another genre was going to be. I am also guessing it was their idea for the book to come out under a pseudonym. I’m of two minds on this.
For one thing, I am fairly certain that it is doing as well as it is partially BECAUSE of the revealed secret. The sad fact is that the subject of my post here (which I promise to get to eventually) is as evident in readers as it is in publishers and editors. If this book had come out as a mystery novel by J. K. Rowling, it would have done well, but it probably would not have been the phenomenon that it is. Many people would have nodded and smiled, but waited in hopes she’d come back with more Potter. It’s happened to others – John Grisham, and “The Painted House” which is one of his best books, and also slowest performing. The truth is; the “branding” everyone is so hot to create for authors is a two-edged sword, because, by definition – you are branded.
I have mentioned this before, but never attacked it head on. Limiting an author to what an editor, an agent, or even the public expects and wants to hear from them is a horrible, soul-sucking thing. Only at the very top end of publishing, the Kings and Koontz’s of the world, can the bonds be broken, and in most cases it’s because the author’s name has grown so powerful it’s a genre unto itself. Anyone mid-list and below with even moderate success who comes to their agent or editor with something completely different is probably going to be ignored, harangued, or at the very best, forced into a pseudonym – where the book will be treated like any first book and forgotten, and the editor / agent will say SEE? Of all the evils and horrors of the world of publishing as it has grown over the years, bloating, shifting control to agents (who are supposed to work FOR writers) giving marketing control over content, when marketing as often as not wouldn’t know a book if it slapped them in the face but DOES know the lowest-common-sales denominator, and, of course that’s more important than quality, the forcing of authors into “molds” is the most insidious and has probably cost us the most in terms of wonderful, forgotten books.
Writers are artists. They perform at their optimum capability when creating what they need to create, not what someone wants to sell. The farther you stray from this truth, the more generic and cookie-cutter the work becomes. I have not been categorized – not really – because I’ve yet to have one of my books take off. I am certain that if one of them does, that is what I’ll be known for, and judged against, and shelved by… and I will have to fight against that because I simply enjoy writing what excites me too much to go back to writing what someone else thinks I ought to.
J. K. Rowling is my hero because she did what she wanted to do, and then, she made it powerful. She put herself and her name behind it and said “This is what I wanted to write,” and it is GOOD – and I love her for that. I only wish she had not needed to prove the worth of the book by hiding it under another name, and that publishing, the reading public, and life were not so caught up in the notion that you have to buy the known quantity. The movie with the top actor. The book with the biggest name-brand and associated with the history of that brand. The car some idiot drove too fast in a movie that is (in fact) nothing like the one you can buy…
You should all go and read The Cuckoo’s Calling because it’s a wonderful book, and because a talented author wrote it. You should not read it because she wrote Harry Potter… but because you recognize and appreciate her talent. You should not have to make that choice, but the world has put it in front of you… How many people read 50 shades of crap, just because there was a big hoopla over it, and in SPITE of the almost absolute agreement among critics, authors, and readers that the writing wasn’t good? How many people – also despite all of that – will go and buy the book on writing written by this person who by all accounts writes poorly – because it has her name on it? How many of you – honestly – who read or are reading The Cuckoos Calling would have done so if J. K. Rowling had been on the cover originally, and there had never been a secret, or a big deal made of the revealing of that secret?
The question is, of course – can writers make their way writing what they want to write, and can readers learn to pick books – not because of advertising hype, or “branding” – but because of quality? Or will publishing, despite it’s changing face, always make buying books as much like buying cereal as it is like art?
I hope it’s not getting monotonous, my posting the entire tour links every day. I am hoping that people who have missed the earlier posts will still find them interesting. Some of them, like today’s post, are unique. When I was given the schedule for this blog tour, I was also given an “assignment” for each blog. Some wanted interviews. Some wanted a guest post for their blog. Still others wanted me to interview a character.
In today’s post, I have the very odd, and distinct opportunity to interview one Edgar Allan Poe – not just the historic Poe, but the Poe of my novel. To do so, I traveled with another character, Donovan DeChance, to what I can only describe as another dimension – to an office / library that Poe discovers during the novel. Tricky, but fun.
I did a lot of research on Poe prior to the writing of the novel, and have continued it ever since, because I find him fascinating. I have very, very old editions of his works. I have one of the magazines he first appeared in…I don’t have a raven, yet, but I’m working on that… I hope you enjoy the interview, and that it makes you curious enough to buy the book. Nevermore is only $2.99 for the length of this tour – but the tour ends on September 2nd, where I have my last two blog stops on two separate blogs simultaneously.
Here is a snippet from my interview with Edgar:
“DNW: Today I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing one of America’s most distinguished poets and authors. I have to thank my friend and fellow dreamer, Donovan DeChance, for the introduction, and the remarkable circumstances that have brought me to a very singular room – not quite in, or out, of my own world and time – and into the presence of a personal idol. My guest (or rather I am his) is none other than Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar, you have no idea what an honor this is…
<a href=”http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/2013/08/nevermore-novel-of-love-loss-edgar.html#sthash.HkvJ6j97.dpuf”>Read the entire Interview at the blog of Deal Sharing Aunt</a>
THE TOUR SO FAR:
Read about Genres & Why I hate them : ==> AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE
I suppose I’ll get back to more normal posting soon. I have only a few more stops on the blog tour. I’ve been steadily working on typing in the lost Cletus J. Diggs novel from my hand-written scribbles, so progress is being made. I’m also enjoying a stint of actual editing on an original novel that Crossroad Press will be publishing… Always working on something. Soon I’ll share the pretty cool trailer that narrator Tom Pile made for my novel KILLER GREEN – which is due out in unabridged audio soon.
Today’s post on this never-ending gobstopper of a book tour is about influences. I have my own views on what influences writing, and creativity – as I do on most things. I tried to unscramble those views and compress then into a single post. Here’s a short snippet:
“Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are very simple answers to the most common questions asked of writers. One is, of course, where do you get your ideas. The simple answer for that is from your influences, and from your mind. It’s collaboration between your creativity and the world that makes stories possible and the stronger the connection – the more it means to you – the more powerful those stories will be. Everything influences your work. Everything.
THE TOUR SO FAR:
Read about Genres & Why I hate them : ==> AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE
We are at a convention in Pensacola, trying to sell books and hunt ghosts…so today I’ll just post about the great review I got over at “Brook Blogs” and to tell you about my guest post there about Cletus J. Diggs, and about memorable characters that aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill heroes…Read the guest post and the review here. She liked it!
THE TOUR SO FAR:
Read about Genres & Why I hate them : ==> AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE
I have a recurring theme in posts on my blog, that of history – whether an accurate version ever existed – how to mine it for fiction, how to research it – how to preserve it. Today’s post on the Nevermore blog tour is over at Christine’s Words- where I wrote about history, in general, how it led to the creation of this particular novel – interesting stuff, to me, anyway. I hope you will pop on over there and check it out. While you’re there, you could comment, you know? You could also sign up for the gift card and free book giveaway… Here’s an excerpt from the post, and a link to the whole shebang:
“When you set out to write a story or a book that is set in the past, you have your work cut out for you. On the one hand, you need to do your research. How much research is enough varies wildly, dependent on the setting, and how the events and time period play into the story. I generally do far more research than is necessary, immersing myself in the characters, or the events of the time period, and then use what I’ve learned sparingly to keep things authentic. It’s as important not to bore your readers with details as it is not to lose them by using some event, or technology inappropriate to your setting.
But that’s the easy part. You can find a thousand articles on how to write historical fiction. There are wonderful blogs and tutorials on research, organizing your background material. I could write about those things, but I’d only be adding to a wealth of good information that’s already out there…” =>Read the Entire Post at Christine’s Words!
THE TOUR SO FAR:
Read about Genres & Why I hate them : ==> AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE