Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shylock of Venice Now Available in Paperback.


It took a couple of CreateSpace proofs to get it done, but The Most Extreme Crueltie and Revenge of Shylock of Venice is now available in paperback for $9.95.

Right now it's only up at Amazon. Barnes and Noble and 3rd party booksellers should have it in a few more weeks, when the CreateSpace Expanded Distribution clicks in.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Most Extreme Crueltie and Revenge of Shylock of Venice



Stripped of his fortune, his daughter, his religion, and even his name, Shylock of Venice (now baptized “Christoforo”, under duress) broods over his injuries alone. A mysterious traveler, dressed in black, offers him the chance to avenge himself upon those who have wronged him, and to seize back all that they have taken. When Shylock agrees, they embark on a journey that takes them across Renaissance Italy and through the history of post-Humanist philosophy – and what they find is not what either of them expects.

As some of you may have seen by now, my latest release has gone live at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

It's ebook-only for the moment; the paperback should be available in a few days.

Warning: this is a play in five acts, written in early modern English. In other words, I totally committed to the conceit that I was creating a sequel to Shakespeare's play. If you hate EME or the play form, this might not be up your alley.

In a piece for the New York Times, Kevin Kelly of Wired fame wrote of the future of ebooks:

...In the universal library, no book will be an island. Turning inked letters into electronic dots that can be read on a screen is simply the first essential step in creating this new library. The real magic will come in the second act, as each word in each book is cross-linked, clustered, cited, extracted, indexed, analyzed, annotated, remixed, reassembled and woven deeper into the culture than ever before. In the new world of books, every bit informs another; every page reads all the other pages.

I was pretty heavily influenced by this somewhat heady vision. It reminded me a great deal of the fictional "glass bead game" in Hesse's Magister Ludi. It's also reflective of the way I think in general. Those of you who read De Bello Lemures can probably see how this vision would appeal to me.

Shylock of Venice was written with this concept of the future ebook in mind. I don't get there, by any stretch of the imagination, but I take a few baby steps. The text is largely composed of repurposed text from other sources [along with original text that is itself heavy with allusion], and the selection process is itself supposed to contain information that informs the primary story. If that sounds really annoying and pretentious, I apologize. I found it fun, and I hope readers will find it fun too.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is "Indie" Publishing Destructive to Literature in General?


Zoe Winters has a blog post up today about indie publishing where she writes:

Some readers see indie authors as immature writers who are going through a “rebellious phase”. Some have even called us “lazy narcissists.” If you can’t look at a book cover and a short sample of a work before judging it, perhaps it isn’t the indie author who is lazy.

I find this very interesting because it’s a problem inherent only in publishing. Entrepreneurs who start businesses in other industries, even other creative industries, are not thought of as acting out in rebellion. They are simply choosing to be captain of their own ship by starting a business.

Freedom is the one thing nearly every human being will seek in one way or another. Whether it’s freedom of religion, freedom from oppressive governments, or freedom from working as a wage slave in someone else’s cubicle. Why should writing be any different?

I’ve wondered about this same question. I’m going to put on my devil’s advocate hat and try, for a change, to put a good face on the anti-indie argument out there.

Most people are familiar with the concept of a "network effect" from the world of computers. There are many technology examples of products or services where a part of the value to the consumer is the fact that everyone else is using that product or service. The Windows operating system, for example, is valuable precisely because it is ubiquitous. When you buy Windows and learn how to use it, you gain access to all the products that work with that operating system. Facebook is another good example. Facebook is valuable because everyone is on it. If you were the only user of Facebook, it wouldn’t matter if it was the best product ever.

So one question we have to ask ourselves is: Are there "network effects" in literature?

Is a book a product where the only transaction is between the author and the reader? If so, then all that matters is if the individual reader enjoys the individual book that they buy. Or are there other transactions going on whenever a reader buys and reads a book?

It may be that part of the value in some literary works is the fact that everyone else has read them. There can never be another Shakespeare, for example, because even if someone came along with the same verbal and dramatic talent, Shakespeare’s works have a four hundred year head start on getting integrated into our cultural landscape. A "new Shakespeare" would not have all of his plots recycled in a million other stories and movies. He would not have the vast academic infrastructure devoted to the study of every layer of meaning in his works. You would not be able to go to his birthplace and take part in dozens of tourist attractions based on his name. Shakespeare is just more useful to us, because we’ve all read him, than he would be if he was a niche interest known only to a few specialists.

This pretty straightforward fact makes it at least possible that something will be lost if the mass-interest world of publishing is demolished and replaced with long-tail independent niche publishing. We might all still be able to find individual authors whose work we enjoy, but might not be able to participate in large-scale communities of shared literary experience, for the simple reason that those no longer exist.

Maybe the problem won’t be that indie publishers suck – but that they don’t. If indie work is all garbage, it will just be filtered out and people will still construct communities around Authors Who Matter. But if indie work is good, then the entire concept of a literary community will disintegrate, because there will be no quality mechanism by which to select Authors Who Matter. Maybe the artificial limits placed on the "supply of authors" by traditional publishing was actually beneficial, because that limit made it possible for Authors Who Matter to exist in the first place.

I’m not saying I believe this. I’m offering it, as I said, as the devil’s advocate in Zoe’s discussion. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d keep publishing even if I was, in fact, going to be responsible for the Death of Literature. But I’m interested in the discussion anyway.


Friday, September 10, 2010

On the Slush Pile Apocalypse and Other Myths of Self-Publishing - Part 2


Yesterday we talked about how the dire warnings of a tsunami of self-published slush washing over the product pages of the Amazon Kindle Store have not come to pass. How can we explain the eerie absence of the millions of slush manuscripts we were told to expect and to fear?

Has there been some sort of unpublished author Rapture? Doubtful.

So what’s up?

I think four things are possible.

1. Slush pile authors only want to be "published".

I will admit that just like every other observer, I assumed that when an easy path to free or nearly free self-publication with wide distribution became available, a significant percentage of slush pile authors would jump on it. Why wouldn’t they? Well, if you aren’t looking at writing as a business or your manuscripts as assets ["I have a product and I want to sell it to people"], but are instead looking at writing as a vehicle for achieving a dream or fantasy vision of yourself, then self-publication isn’t really a substitute for traditional publication.

Some people are writing for the moment when they can walk to their mailbox and open a letter telling them that They Are Somebody. Those people aren’t getting out of line no matter what royalty rate Amazon sets.

2. The slush pile was never really that big to begin with.

The slush pile is a legend of the literary world, and the thing about legends is that they grow in the telling.

Typewritten manuscripts take up a lot of space. Print out 500 novel-length manuscripts, put them in padded mailers, and put them in a pile. It will be a big pile.

But you can add 500 books to Amazon’s database and you won’t be able to tell the difference.

The slush pile will look larger to people who have to physically live with it than it will look to anyone else.

3. The slush pile was as big as everyone says, but it doesn’t represent as many authors as we thought.

"Oh no!" agents and publishers said as they read #2. "You’re completely wrong! The slush pile really is as big as we say! It’s not a perception issue. I get 500 emails a day!"

That may be true – but it’s always possible that this never represented that many authors. Although they’re not supposed to make multiple submissions, I’m sure that unpublished authors violate that rule more than they obey it. And each unpublished author may have multiple manuscripts. If a bunch of busy-beaver unpublished authors are out there sending out ten different manuscripts to every agent and publisher in the Writer’s Guide once a year or every time they tweak their query or opening chapter, that adds up to a lot of unread manuscripts. It can also create the impression that there are orders of magnitude more unpublished authors chomping at the bit than there actually are.

4. The slush apocalypse already came, and those authors slunk away to hide.

Everybody knows that the slush pile represents a certain amount of delusion. In #1 we talked about how some unpublished authors are motivated by a fantasy vision of themselves. I think there’s a second common unpublished author daydream out there – the fantasy of Unrecognized Genius and the related fantasy of Instant Success.

If you’re a slush pile author who subscribes to these two fantasies, you firmly believe that as soon as you get published the world will acknowledge your brilliance and you will sell a million copies and go on Oprah and hang out with Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham and Tom Clancy while the Smithsonian looks into acquiring your childhood photos and mementoes. If you’re that author, the entire time you’re formatting your first Kindle upload, you’re daydreaming about the 1000 sales you will have in the first 72 hours after your upload goes live. You’re daydreaming about how Stephen King will email you about how he bought your book and wishes he had written it. And then your book goes live, and these things don’t happen.

A large number of those authors won’t upload another manuscript. They’re done. They’ll bail.

The funny thing about the traditional publishing slush pile is that anyone in it can still hold on to the dream, or the delusion. For as long as you’re still in the pile, you can still be an Unrecognized Genius. So in a real sense the existence of the pile is itself a factor in increasing the size of the pile – because for as long as it’s there, people aren’t clearing the decks of their dreams.

Consider a nonworking actor who also believes himself to be an Unrecognized Genius. He goes to auditions for years, convinced that he will succeed if someone will give him a chance. For as long as that’s the case, he’s increasing the size of the line at auditions.

And then one day someone gives him a chance. Opening night, the curtain goes up, and he steps out on stage – and the crowd boos. The show closes. The actor finally quits, and the line at auditions goes down by one person.

It’s at least possible that a large number of slush pile authors have experimented with the Kindle platform, and finally "gotten their chance" – and since they didn’t instantly succeed, they quit in disgust. It’s a maddening thing, checking the DTP report system waiting for sales to show up. If your expectations aren’t set properly, it would probably be an embittering thing.

By giving authors a chance to finally fail for real, instead of leaving them to bide their time in the slush pile line, the Kindle boom may finally be clearing the backlog in the slush pile line. It may be leading at least some people to quit who would otherwise have continued to toss manuscripts into the pile.

I don’t know if what’s going on is a function of just one of these possibilities, or if all five are in play. But it’s got to be something.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

On the Slush Pile Apocalypse and Other Myths of Self-Publishing – Part 1


A persistent meme about self-publishing is that the ability of writers to independently publish to the Kindle for free and to POD platforms like CreateSpace at minimal cost will inevitably lead to irresponsible and talentless hacks burying the reading public in a mountain of slush.

In a Salon article that attracted a lot of attention, Laura Miller wrote:

Will readers have to flounder in an ocean of slush before the new gatekeepers appear to rescue them? And if so, how long before they contract slush fatigue? A few days of reading bad manuscript after bad manuscript has a tendency to make you never want to pick up another manuscript again, but when finding new talent is your job and your vocation, you keep at it until you're successful enough to hire someone else to do it for you. If, on the other hand, you're a civilian, and reading is something you turn to, seeking fun or transcendence, during your precious hours of free time, how long will you persist when book after book has exactly the opposite effect, crushing your spirit instead of refreshing it? How long before you decide to just give up?

Currently there are a couple of threads over at Kindleboards lamenting this as well.

So the question, to me, becomes: Where is the mountain of slush we were promised, and told to fear? The Kindle has been out for three years. Shouldn’t we be drowning in the slush by now?

Bowker reports that in 2009 traditional publishing produced 288,355 new titles and new editions.

That was down slightly in a recession year, but not to a degree material to our concerns here. 2008 and 2007 showed similar numbers, and we can assume 2010 will as well.

By the time the Kindle’s 3rd anniversary runs around in November, there will probably be around 690,000 titles available in the Kindle Store. That means that Kindle Store title growth is averaging around 230,000 titles a year. In other words, the ebook platform that we’re told will be a fire hose spraying all readers everywhere with slush is currently adding fewer titles a year than the traditional publishing world is adding the old-fashioned way.

And it’s important to note that these years should be the Kindle Store’s peak title growth years, because there’s a huge backlog of existing print titles being formatted for Kindle and added to the store. Right now, right this very moment, should be the peak slush era also - all the unpublished authors between the ages of 20 and 70 should have a giant trunk full of titles available to add to the Kindle with minimal effort. So even with a huge backlog of "shovel ready" content available, and no barrier to entry, the Kindle Store can’t grow its title base as fast as traditional print publishing is growing its own – let alone increase it at the kind of exponential rate people seem to fear. The titles aren’t appearing the way they should be.

So where are they? They. Just. Aren’t. There.

Why aren’t they there? I have a couple of theories. I’ll talk about them in tomorrow’s blog post.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Win A Free Kindle


Scott Nicholson, noted indie horror author, is running a promotion this month where he is giving away free Kindles.

You can view the contest details here.

Check it out!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Smashwords Listing and Sample Info for The Last Days of Jericho


The Last Days of Jericho is now also available at Smashwords.com. The multiformat listings at Smashwords mean that a version of the book should now exist for any ereader.

Smashwords also allows the author to set up a free sample of each title. The sample for this book has been set at 50% - so the first half of the book is now free!

View the Smashwords Listing.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Last Days of Jericho Now Available At Amazon


The Last Days of Jericho has gone live at Amazon!

The paperback version is $12.95. The Kindle version is $2.99.

I'd like to thank everyone for all the support I received while writing and publishing this book.

A monster is approaching the Bronze Age city of Yarich.

It cannot be stopped. It cannot be turned aside.

And the monster is…God Himself.

The Canaanite city of Yarich is home to a society that is literate, cosmopolitan – and doomed. Sakal, caravan-master to the Melek or king of the city-state, recounts the tale of the increasingly desperate battle for survival waged by an urban culture against fanatical outsiders – nomads from the desert wielding a terrible supernatural power. Half Deuteronomy, half Gojira, Brookside’s story examines the horror that arises from the knowledge of inexorable fate, and explores the moral ambiguity at the heart of the Old Testament tales that help make up the foundation of western civilization.


Friday, June 25, 2010

De Bello Lemures Reviewed at UNRV.com


De Bello Lemures received a very gracious review from the folks over at www.unrv.com today.

UNRV is an in-depth content site for anyone with an interest in Ancient Rome. I'm flattered that they even considered De Bello Lemures for a review, and very gratified by their positive take.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Free Preview of The Last Days of Jericho Now Available


A .PDF format preview of the first four chapters of The Last Days of Jericho is now available as a free download.

I will try to have .EPUB and .MOBI versions available later this week.

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

The full version will be released on July 1st!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Win a Copy of The Last Days of Jericho


To celebrate the upcoming release of The Last Days of Jericho, I'm going to give away two copies on July 1st.

The winners will have their choice of autographed copies of the paperback or the ebook version.

To enter, reply in the comments section of this post. You'll need to use an ID that gives me a way to contact you, whether at your own site or via email.

Since I intend to promote this to my Facebook friends, there are some rules and disclaimers I have to post:

1. No purchase necessary.
2. You must be 18 or over.
3. You cannot live in Belgium, Norway, Sweden, India, or any country embargoed by the United States.
4. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to the Annotated Horror Blog and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used to notify you if you win the contest.

You can view the book trailer here.

You can download a free preview of the first four chapters here.



Friday, May 21, 2010

The Last Days of Jericho Gets A Facebook Page


I've created a Facebook page for The Last Days of Jericho.

There's going to be a book giveaway contest in June, and I'll try to lure in some of my FB friends to participate in that over here.

So if you're a FB friend of mine, prepare to get lots of harassing requests to fan the page.

If you're not currently a FB friend of mine, friend me dammit! And fan the page.



Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Last Days of Jericho Arrives July 1st


A publication date has been set for The Last Days of Jericho. It will be available at Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle on July 1st.

De Bello Lemures is an Amazon-only publication right now, and due to the difficulty of publishing such a heavily footnoted work as an ebook in anything but Kindle format it will probably remain so in the immediate future. The Last Days of Jericho, however, will ultimately also be available for the iPad, the Nook, the Sony e-reader, and the Kobo. The vagaries of the Smashwords publication system mean that I can't give you a firm date for those formats right now, but I hope it won't be too long after July 1st.

I hope to have a preview version posted shortly.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interview at www.TheAuthorsSpeak.com


Eric Mays of TheAuthorsSpeak was gracious enough to include me in his author interview series.

It's a nice article. Check it out!

BTW, Eric is himself the author of the bizarro-Hamlet novel Naked Metamorphosis. I've read it, and it's great. Check that out too!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

De Bello Lemures Featured At TheIndieSpotlight.com


The gracious folks over at The Indie Spotlight were kind enough to feature De Bello Lemures today.

I'd like to thank Ed Patterson and the other folks in charge over there.

Their site is a great resource for keeping track of the Indie book scene, particularly on the Kindle. [The iPad may get there one day, but right now the Kindle is still pretty much "where it's at" in terms of having a vibrant Indie book community.]

Check it out!


Monday, April 19, 2010

They're Dead, Jim.


I'm doing my best to wedge the story told in The Last Days of Jericho into both the available archaeological evidence and into the Biblical account.

This required me to be something of a schizophrenic, because I don't accept the accuracy of the Biblical account, and I think that Kenyon makes a compelling case that Jericho wasn't even occupied any more during the late Bronze Age - but I wanted to tell a story that required me to pretend that I didn't believe this. I had to pretend to accept Wood's dates, which are probably wrong, and the account in Judges and Joshua, which are almost certainly wrong. I ended up forging a messy compromise where I said, "OK, let's say that there was an independent city-state at Jericho, and there was an invasion as described in the Old Testament - but let's do the best we can to place those events in the context of as accurate a depiction of Late Bronze Age Canaan as the available research permits."

On the bright side, taking the real history of the Late Bronze Age seriously allowed me to enhance the Biblical account in ways that were, well, a whole lot of fun. For example, I am indebted to Richard Gabriel's excellent The Military History of Ancient Israel for his account of the chariot tactics employed by the Canaanites. Gabriel persuasively argues that a Canaanite force equipped with chariots, facing an enemy with no chariots on open and flat ground, would have almost certainly attempted to employ a mobile defense based on hit and run tactics; they would only have relied on siege defenses as a last resort. This means that the Biblical account, which leaps directly from Joshua's use of spies against Jericho to an account of the seven-day siege and its associated miracle, cannot be complete. In such circumstances, the Canaanites would have at least attempted to contest the Hebrews' crossing of the Jordan, and would have similarly attempted to engage them on the plain.

Including an engagement between the Jordan and Jericho was a great self-indulgence on my part - since I got to put on my SM Stirling costume - but I think most readers will get a big kick out of this "Military Horror" section. And as fans of Steven Spielberg will know in advance, a military situation where two armies meet and one of them is carrying the Ark of the Covenant can mean only one thing: face-melting. Win!


Friday, April 9, 2010

Writing About Ancient Urban Environments


One interesting thing about writing historical fiction is the challenges you face in describing urban areas.

In the course of working on The Last Days of Jericho, I have discovered that those challenges are magnified when trying to describe an urban area with a pre-monetary economic system.

When writing a scene set in, say, Rome during the Republican era, you can entertain the reader by focusing on the things about Republican Rome that are familiar. You can stress the similarity to modern experience. John Maddox Roberts has a neat little trick he employs a couple of times in his SPQR series: the narrator will walk down the street and stop at a sidewalk vendor to buy a sausage on a roll. The reader reads this and thinks, "A hot dog cart! He just stopped at a hot dog cart!" It's a neat little point of reference that stresses the ways in which some prosaic activities in that urban environment are very similar to the reader's own experience.

The problem I encountered while working on The Last Days of Jericho is that the economy of Bronze Age Canaan was pre-monetary. Money had not yet been invented as a medium of exchange. How do you describe an urban area where no one is using money? When your narrator walks through it, what does he see? It doesn't sound that tough until you sit down and actually try to do it.

The preliminary research I did revealed that the scholarly consensus is that the Canaanite cities had what are known as Redistributive Economies on a model similar to that of Ancient Egypt. All products effectively belonged to the king or the city and would be collected and stored centrally, and then distributed by the primitive state apparatus to the population. Readers familiar with the Old Testament story of Joseph and his sojourn in Egypt can see traces of this economic system in the tale of Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams. Joseph sees the years of famine coming, and the Pharaoh increases the amount held back in storage as a result; he is then able to distribute the stored-up produce when the famine arrives.

In terms of coming up with a way to work this economic system into a novel, the first obvious modern equivalent would be the Soviet system. The obvious imagery would be to depict the Canaanites as the Bronze Age equivalent of Russian shoppers standing in long queues to receive their ration of borscht. But the problem is that Canaanite society was class-based - their Redistributive Economy was not a communist economy, despite its centralization. There was a professional warrior class, a merchant class, a class of craftsmen, etc. - all of whom appear from the archaeological and limited literary evidence to have been on different economic levels. So I needed a way to combine the diversity of Canaanite society with its economic centralization. I think I found a good way to do that - and I hope that readers will like my solution.

What did I do? You'll have to read the book when it comes out to see the answer to that question.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cover Concepts for The Last Days of Jericho


Just playing around with cover concepts right now. The writing is a little ahead of schedule, so I'm thinking about promotion today.

Let me know which one you prefer!

Between the two, I think that I personally like the second one better. But the first one's basic image is available on a Creative Commons basis, and the second one's basic image would have to be licensed. So I'm going back and forth.


Friday, March 19, 2010

De Bello Lemures Reaches 500 Sales


I had a funny feeling while I was checking out my Kindle sales total for March - I think my subconscious was doing some math on its own again.

So I decided to calculate the sales total across both the Kindle and paperback versions since De Bello Lemures was released on 10/24/2009.

I was pleased to see that as of this afternoon, we have reached the 500 total sales mark.

I'll need to pick that pace up a little to meet my first-year goal of 1500 copies for this title. Sales growth has been fairly steady, though, so I still think it's eminently doable.

Thank you to everyone who purchased a copy, either in paperback or for the Kindle. And thank you to everyone who has written an Amazon review, or been kind enough to mention it or me on their blog.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Last Days of Jericho Back Cover Text


I've been making decent progress on The Last Days of Jericho recently. I've managed to get into a routine where 1000 words a day is pretty much the norm.

To reward myself, I took a few minutes and indulged in a little "back cover blurb" writing. I hate writing loglines, but I love playing with back cover text. Here's the general concept so far:

"A monster is approaching the city of Yarich.

"It cannot be stopped. It cannot be turned aside.

"It's getting closer every day.

"And the monster is...God Himself."

I need more explanatory text below this, so that it won't appear to be a Left Behind book. But this is what I'm looking at right now.



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yes, You SHOULD Self-Publish - Follow-Up

Shockingly, yesterday's blog post actually generated both readers and responses.

I'd like to address some of those responses here.

Kirstin Morrell was angered by the fact that I quoted her and did not alert her.

I carefully qualified my argument with the phrases "To me" and "That's success as I would define it." Then you decided to throw a little party with my name without even having the courtesy to invite me.

So the question is, then, would you like to have a discussion of this topic, or was this a private party I interrupted, only to find a straw man dressed up to look like me?

First, let me say that since this is a blog no one reads, it would no more occur to me to email Ms. Morrell to let her know that I quoted her than it would occur to me to, say, email Sarah Palin if I blogged about Sarah Palin. I'll try to figure out how to alert her to this post, since it's not my intention to personally offend her.

I'd be happy to talk about the issue of self-publishing with Ms. Morrell or with anyone else, but I'd like to point out that I didn't set up a straw man of her argument for the simple reason that I was not arguing with her. I was disputing a point made by Mr. Sawyer. Ms. Morrell's definition was only tangentially involved. She may have quite a different opinion of self-publishing overall than he does. My post only says, "Mr. Sawyer should not employ this particular definition of 'success' for a self-publishing venture, and here's why." It does not say, "Kirstin Morrell's opinion of self-publishing is wrong."

There were also some Anonymous responses that I would like to address. Two posters referred back to an earlier post I made about lowering the price of the paperback edition of my book to try to increase sales, to try to show that I was, in fact, a failure. And the numbers just don't bare that out, boys, sorry. You're quite right - I am currently only selling about 20 copies a month of the paperback edition of this book. But if you'll check the sales rank of the Kindle edition, you'll see that it's performing much better. I am selling from 100-150 copies of the Kindle edition a month. This means that, between the two editions, I can reasonably expect to sell at least 1500 copies this year.

Anyone who tells you that a first-time novel selling 1500 copies in its first year is a failure does not know what they're talking about. It's that simple. Many, many traditionally-published first novels fail to sell 1500 copies. So if you want me to feel like a failure for selling that many copies, I'm just not going to do so. I can browse the genre lists at Amazon and see where my sales rank stands compared to people published by small presses in my genre - or by not-so-small presses in my genre - and I know who's outselling me and whom I'm outselling. So tell me, if I sell 1500 copies of my book this year using Amazon's tools, and would have sold 0 copies by pursuing traditional publishing, by what crack-brained ratiocination can the decision to self-publish possibly have been the wrong one?

If the Nook or the Sony Reader supported footnotes, I'd probably do even better. But they don't, so I can't sell at B&N or in the other ebook stores, or for the upcoming iBooks store; Amazon is it for me right now. But that won't happen to my next book, so I hope to do even better next time.

It's not a lot of money. It just pays my cable and internet bill. But the advance a first-time novelist would receive wouldn't do much more. It might even do less.

I'd also like to respond to one last comment of Ms. Morrell's. She was obviously a little annoyed when she wrote her post, and decided to get a little snide. I'm not taking it personally, though, because it gives me the opportunity to make another point that I think is important:

And of course your mother will buy your book. That doesn't make success.

No, my mother won't buy my book. Thomas Brookside is a pseudonym. My family has no idea that the book even exists. I realize that the stereotype about self-published authors is that all their sales come from their mom, but that's just not true in my case.

So I'd like to amend my earlier advice telling everyone to self-publish:

My full advice is to self-publish, using only CreateSpace and free ebook tools, and do so under a pen name. The contempt that the traditional publishing world has for independent authors flows from two sources: the notion that you're going to print a lot of books using PublishAmerica or some scam outfit and then nag your family members to buy them, and the notion that the reason you're publishing is so you can show up at cocktail parties and crow, "I'm Joe Blow, published writer." You can take the satisfaction of that contempt away by publishing under a pseudonym, and then leaving your family alone and never, ever, ever being that guy at a party.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yes, You SHOULD Self-Publish

In a recent blog post, author Robert Sawyer advises everyone not to self-publish, because he says it's impossible to be successful at it.

He then cross-posts Kirstin Morrell's definition of success:

Now, let's define success. To me, it would be someone who makes a full-time living from writing SF novels, novellas, and/or short stories, without living below the poverty line. That's success as I would define it. And I don't know one SF author who self-publishes who would meet my criteria for success.

I really don't see how this can possibly be an appropriate definition, for two reasons.

First, according to this definition every author everywhere who has a day job is a failure. Poof! There went basically the entire literary fiction genre. Every last one of those people has a day job. Failures all?

Second, the standard of comparison being employed is absurd. To judge whether or not a self-publishing venture is a success, all you have to do is compare your outcome to your likely outcome if you had continued to pursue traditional publishing. Since the overwhelming majority - maybe 99.99% - of people who pursue traditional publishing will never get an agent, never get published, and never sell a single book, any of those people who pursue self-publishing and sell even one copy or net even one dollar made the right decision.

When someone asks, "Should I self-publish?" it's really silly to answer them, "No, because if you self-publish, you won't be as successful as Dean Koontz." The only method of analysis that makes any sense whatsoever is to say, "Ask yourself if you will sell more books, get more readers, and make more money by self-publishing or by traditional publishing."

I would tell everyone considering writing to self-publish. If you don't buy scratch tickets, self-publish. If you don't expect to win the Lotto, self-publish. If you pursue traditional publishing, the odds are overwhelming that you will never sell one single book. If you self-publish using CreateSpace and the Amazon Kindle Store, you at least have a chance to make some sales and get some readers. For every 1000 of you out there who decide you want to write query letters and keep your fingers crossed for a traditional publisher instead, 999 of you will utterly fail and never sell a single book to anyone.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Paperback price lowered to $9.95


De Bello Lemures has experienced a fairly extreme discrepancy between its Kindle sales performance and its paperback sales performance.

On the Kindle side, it has consistently ranged in the top 1500-9000 or so best sellers in the Amazon Kindle store. It has also been able to hang around in the top 25 or 50 of many of its Kindle store genre categories, with some forays into the top 10. On the paperback side, however, sales have generally been just a trickle, and it has not been uncommon for it to go two or three days between sales. This means its sales rank can never go higher than 100,000 or so, and right now it's floundering in the 700,000 range.

A lot of the difference in sales performance between the two media has to be attributable to price. The Kindle title has been at 99 cents for a while now [and will remain there for the rest of January, at least], while the paperback has been listed at $14.95. There are, not surprisingly, a lot of people who will take a chance on an author they have not read before if it only costs them 99 cents, and fewer people who will do so if it costs them $14.95.

I've decided to lower the price of the paperback to $9.95. I can't really lower it much further than that because of the CreateSpace printing charges. Getting it under $10 will [I hope] be enough of a change to shrink the gap between the two versions a bit. We'll see, I guess.