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Guest Post by Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson is launching his new thriller Liquid Fear today. He’s also giving away a $100 gift certificate on participating blogs if he hits the Top 100. Buy it at Amazon, BN.com, and Smashwords because it’s okay to forget your nightmares for a while or pop by Haunted Computer)


Good Cop, Bad Cop
by Scott Nicholson


I freely admit Joe has been an influence on my decision to enter the self-publishing world (or indie, or, hell, call it “vanity” if you want, I’m vain enough), and I’ve been a frequent visitor here, even though I disagree with Joe on some big points—particularly the rosy eternal-expansion model of six-figure incomes for indie writers.


I haven’t been around as much for the simple reason that Joe is mostly making the case why authors should do it themselves, and I was sold by last summer. Now, with Barry Eisler turning down half a million clams, I think we’re kind of past that debate. That’s about all the evidence most writers will need, because most writers will never reach that level. I mean, like 99.9999 percent of all writers.


Read their recent discussion if you haven’t yet (this interview needs a name, it’s like a bookmark of literary history—let’s call it The Summit), and Dean Wesley Smith makes a good counterpoint, though I am not fully sold on the positions of either. Dean, in particular, seems to think bookstores will remain valid for the next decade or two, whereas I foresee a collapse on the order of what happened to video and record stores.


In our little college town of 15,000 students and about 10,000 full-time residents, we had seven video stores and four record stores five years ago. Today, all we have is Blockbuster, which is a chain on the ropes, and one niche store that combines videos, books, albums, and CD’s, eclectic art for the discerning college hippie. Ironically, we have one other “record” store—and all it sells is classic vinyl albums, mostly on eBay. I think that’s the Bookstore Future—towns might have one weird shop that thrives on nostalgia and the personal touch. We do have a neat indie bookstore owned by former M*A*S*H writer Karen Hall, but it recently cleared away a section to put in a yarn store, not a good sign of the health of paper sales in spite of our recent Waldenbooks closing.


Since Joe, Barry, and Dean already made the point that the time to self-publish was yesterday, I’ll deal with some possible seismic shifts that would concern me if I was set on any specific outcome of the digital revolution. In fact, I was a lot more cynical about the future before I read The Summit, and if Barry has enough faith to walk away from enough money to keep a sensible family secure for life, there must be aspects I have been downplaying or over-inflating. My mantra in my wiser middle age is “Universal truth is nothing but a personal perspective inflated to a wish.”


I’m not sold on the “legacy” label Barry uses for traditional publishing, because my dictionary doesn’t have any definitions to justify it. But “traditional” doesn’t work, either. Which tradition are you talking about? Monks transcribing with quills? Hand-pressed books in the Gutenberg era? The 19th and early 20th Centuries when editors actually helped craft books and build careers? The 1950s through the 1980s, when run-of-the-mill paperbacks would sell 100,000 copies? Last year, when publishers made a number of major, major miscalculations (the Apple bet being the biggest blunder)?


I stick with the term “corporate publishing,” because every single decision will come down to the presumed well-being of shareholders and executives, not you, whether you are a reader or a writer.


We could do this all day, but I don’t want to write 13,000 words that I’m not selling. So I will play some Good Cop, Bad Cop of the Digital Future, and Joe will chime in with his 2 cents.


Good Cop: Joe foresees eternal expansion. He brings up Dark Side of the Moon, selling like crazy today after charting an incredible 736 weeks since its 1973 release, falling off, and then returning to the charts for another decade or so.


Bad Cop: The immortal Eric Weissberg topped the charts the week Dark Side launched. Trivia-question answers like Deodato, Dr. Hook, Anne Murray, Jermaine Jackson, and Edward Bear rounded out the Top 10.


Verdict: A few e-books will sell steadily for the life of copyright; almost all will not.


Joe sez: As I often say, forever is a long time to find an audience. There are few record stores left, and Best Buy probably doesn't sell Dr. Hook. But iTunes still does, and the good Doctor is still making royalties. What the hell was he a doctor of, anyway?


BTW, this from Barry, via Wikipedia:


"A legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program that continues to be used, typically because it still functions for the users' needs, even though newer technology or more efficient methods of performing a task are now available."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legacy_system


Good Cop: Low-priced e-books will mean more people hoarding and reading more authors and more genres than ever, especially at 99 cents.


Bad Cop: 99 cents is great if you are selling in the six figures on multiple books. Otherwise, you are likely to use up your audience and still be looking for a job.


Verdict: A mix of prices and a broad platform will enhance your survival, because there are multiple audiences, not one single audience. Some want 99 cents, some equate it with crap, some do nothing but cruise for free books, and others like that stamp of corporate approval and are willing to pay for it.


Joe sez: Your best bet is to keep writing good books, keep posting them, and don't be afraid to experiment with pricing. Remember, success always involves luck. But you can improve your odds by being talented, smart, and persistent.



Good Cop: Corporate pricing has opened an incredible window of opportunity for authors who can compete with lower prices and equal quality.


Bad Cop: Most books are not of equal quality, and New York hasn’t even begun to compete—when they do, they can trim their staffs and go to war with a monstrous catalog of hoarded, cheap, and possibly stolen backlist. See Brian Keene’s experiences with Leisure/Dorchester if you don’t believe me.


Verdict: At some point, corporate publishers may organize enough to muscle in with economies of scale. “At some point” will likely be far too late for them and their poor authors who are locked into pitiful royalty rates virtually forever.


Joe sez: I don't believe that legacy publishers, as they now exist, can survive selling cheap ebooks as their main source of income. If they do downsize and start epubbing exclusively, they can expect a slew of lawsuits from writers who want their rights back after going out of print. Leisure is an important case study. Not to be mean, but they were always the low man on the publishing totem pole. When the bottom feeders can no longer make money, how can the bigger companies with much greater overhead?



Good Cop: E-book lending will help books reach potential new readers and expand the writer’s customer base.


Bad Cop: There are already sites illegally “selling” the “lending” rights, which means not only new readers, but new readers who don’t mind ripping you off.


Verdict: As with piracy, the main victims will be overpriced corporate books.


Joe sez: Agreed. Diffuse piracy by offering your ebooks at low prices, in a wide variety of formats. It's all about cost and convenience.



Good Cop: Agents are cruising the Kindle bestseller list and sharking the 99-cent writers, some of whom are thrilled to finally feel legitimate after years of trying to “break in,” so there’s new opportunity.


Bad Cop: I don’t see room for corporate publishers on 99-cent books or proof that those books will sell for significantly more, but I see easy paydays for lazy agents, bad return-on-investment for shareholders, and future lament for authors who make ego decisions instead of business decisions.


Verdict: Remember Boyd Morrison? He lost a ton of e-book audience but has expressed peace with his decision because he knew what he wanted—the hardcover deal. D.B. Henson went big because she wanted to pay off her house. Amanda Hocking plans to pursue both avenues. Some will win, some will lose, like always.


And this is all the proof you need that New York is not looking for quality. Nobody is sitting around reading slush in hopes of finding that great new literary talent (despite what agents say on Twitter when they are busy not reading your submissions.) Good books are largely interchangeable, and this is clearly explained in The Summit. Barry’s gone, but they probably already have a new Barry lined up. Not the same talent, of course, but there’s somebody out there whose agent saw the opening and made a convincing case for a good-looking, charming writer of intelligent, well-crafted thrillers.


No, get it out of your heads that quality is the defining attribute in corporate publishing. Only sales matter. Sales and numbers will always be the most important issue to shareholders. And, remember, it is shareholders who are the boss, not readers or writers or editors or distributors or bookstore owners or agents, despite how some of them act.


Joe sez: Education, research, and experimentation can help you make wise decisions. If an agent comes calling, know what questions to ask. If you don't know what those questions are, you aren't ready to enter the legacy world.



Good Cop: Amazon’s dominance of the e-book market is wonderful because they have been so considerate of writers.


Bad Cop: The royalty structure was designed to lure “real authors” away from publishers and make a joke of the agency model, not “lift up” the value of indie books to $2.99. And they could be working on a switch to a Netflix-type subscription model, as they did with their Prime accounts for movies. Or they could cut royalties to 20 percent after they bankrupt a bunch of publishers.


Verdict: This is about as incredible an opportunity as you could ask for, short of constantly selling content from your own site at full price, but given the complicated system required for that, Amazon is well worth the 30 percent and even the 65 percent. But Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo have been working hard to secure their foundations, which is a good buffer against draconian royalty cuts (remember shareholders?). Worry about the future when the future gets here, and do what’s best for you right now.


Joe sez: Agreed. But there's a long way to go before it gets as bad as the 17.5% currently offered by legacy publishers.



Good Cop: The 99-cent e-book sells well and stimulates algorithms that put your book in front of more potential readers.


Bad Cop: It can create a rush to the bottom, make it more difficult for higher-priced books to be seen, and build a sense of consumer entitlement in which the intrinsic value of literature is demeaned.


Verdict: Both will happen. Why should books be any different than what has happened with digital movies, music, and game apps? What’s so special about books, anyway? You can go to any thrift store in America and load up boxes of paper books at 10 cents each, and some they will pay you to haul away.


Joe sez: I'm still experimenting with pricing, but my experiments are getting me more money and more sales than if I stayed at $2.99. Like it or not, 99 cent ebooks are a powerful weapon in an author's arsenal. Just learn how to use them correctly.



Good Cop: There’s one sweet spot for pricing and every author should do the same thing.


Bad Cop: Joe’s sweet spot was $1.99, went to $2.99, flirted with 99 cents, and now seems to be $2.99 again. Guess what? Most of that was defined by Amazon, not Joe (except his influential original pricing). If there was a 90 percent royalty at $3.99, I’d bet that would be his new sweet spot.


Verdict: Don’t worry about what’s best for Joe or for John Locke or for Michael Sullivan or for me (although I have books from 99 cents to $9.99, because I believe there are multiple audiences I don’t want to miss). Try different mixes and see what works best. Your own data will always be the most reliable.


Joe sez: Amen to that.



Good Cop: Joe and Barry are established veterans well-versed in the industry, so their path is good enough for me. I’m convinced.


Bad Cop: Barry walked away from half a million dollars. Joe turned down multiple book offers of guaranteed money. Almost everyone (who wasn’t paying attention to the publishing industry) would call that “dumb.”


Verdict: They both made the right moves, for them, at the right times. But you’re not them. You probably don’t have a huge audience and a solid backlist. Find out what is the right move for you—I hear there are some slots opening in New York.


Joe sez: If you write and release a solid backlist, I like your chances at finding that huge audience. At the very least, you have a better chance on your own than you would going through a legacy publisher.


Consider that I've worked with major publishers and have been given major releases, and in eight years I've sold a few hundred thousand books.


Last month, I sold 60,000 books on my own. I don't know too many legacy authors selling that many.



Good Cop: With the mainstream and well-publicized success of Amanda Hocking and John Locke (and J.A. Konrath before the trade press blacklisted him), “indie publishing” is now legitimate.


Bad Cop: There’s more crap than ever. Last year, I could upload my book and be #3 in the Smashwords queue. I uploaded a book yesterday and it was #1,249 in the queue. Clearly, not all of that is corporate quality, or even legible quality, and it will be harder to separate the wheat from chaff.


Verdict: The best comparison I’ve heard is to the number of websites. Do all those other websites out there that don’t interest you even bother you? Do you even know they exist? Do you care about the NYT bestseller list or do you look at the Kindle Top 100, or just books in your favorite genre? Readers will find a way to find the books they want. And, clearly, readers are better at picking winners than New York is. That’s why New York is belatedly picking books already chosen by readers—another point that proves one book is as good as another for their purposes.


Joe sez: We're pretty good at searching for and finding what we want. Crap has always existed, and always will. But it is still easy to discover worthy media.



Good Cop: People trust a solid corporate brand like James Patterson and will stay loyal even after the tipping point.


Bad Cop: What the hell does that mean? What exactly is a “James Patterson book”? It has no defining element at all except the factory name on the cover. Put them in brown paper wrappers and Patterson would be ranked in the middle tiers of the Kindle list, especially at those outlandish prices. And I used to like Patterson, back when he was a writer.


Verdict: Some corporate authors will make the transition, some won’t. The number of writers making a living will be roughly the same, but half the names will be different. Would we have needed a Stephanie Meyer if Amanda Hocking had happened first?


Joe sez: My prediction is that the bestseller list will drastically change. It's currently fueled by print runs and widespread distribution. People buy bestselling books because they make up the majority of what is available to buy.


That will change when ebooks become dominant. Watch and see.



Good Cop: The future looks great. Expanding sales, better royalties, more markets, more diverse selection for readers, a Golden Age revival of literature, more money shifting to authors and away from corporations, a growth of new ancillary cottage industries for editing and book production, an egalitarian rise in creative entrepreneurship.


Bad Cop: The future sucks. Piracy, hack work, unedited copy., 99 cents rapidly plummeting to free, millions and millions of slush-pile e-books, hoarders discovering they already have more books than they’ll ever read, slower waves of new adopters who will read less and with more resentment because you “took away their paper books,” cut-throat corporate practices that will lead to the Wal-Martizing of literature, and few avenues for any writer to make a sustained living.


Verdict: The future is neither good nor bad. The future doesn’t care. And the future is always changing. Some of both might be true, or it all might be wrong.


Joe sez: I'm going to be very rich. And I won't be the only one.



Good Cop: Sounds good. I’m going to pull that mystery manuscript out of the trunk. Let’s go get a donut.


Bad Cop: Clichés and stereotypes are lame, buddy. But I understand, because you are “indie,” and that makes it okay, because you’re a rebel sticking it to the Man. Plus, you got rejected 700 times. Ha ha.


Good Cop: At least I can write.


Bad Cop: So can anybody with an Internet connection.


Good Cop: Must you always have the last word?


Bad Cop: I’m not bad. I’m just written that way.


Verdict: I had 700 rejections. I was accepted by a corporate publisher. At the time, it was a dream come true and the best move I could possible make. Now, it looks like the biggest mistake of my career. It could be the moves I make today will seem like mistakes in 10 years. Right now, they are working. All I ever wanted was to do this for a living, and I’m doing that, so it’s all gravy from here, even if it only lasts a year.


Joe likes numbers and data, but I am avoiding those kinds of comparisons. While useful on the business front, my spiritual path is about the destruction of ego, and clamoring about ranks and money and other comparative measures does nothing to further my journey. However, here’s a little story about a little novel.


My first book The Red Church did very well for a midlist paperback. The sell-though was an incredible 95 percent (compared to today’s standard of 50 percent or less). It was an alternate selection of the Mystery Guild Book Club, got good reviews, and managed a second printing, but then the corporate publisher was done. In their business model, it made sense to be done, because they had other books to shove in its place. In my business model, it was tragic to have the book dead for five years. I was lucky enough to get my rights back, so now I am grateful the publisher let it go out of print. In the last two months, I have earned more than the book’s original advance. And I have it for the rest of forever.


That, to me, is validation that I made the right decision. I knew it wasn’t dead. And I am so happy that it still feels fresh today and still finds a receptive audience. I hope Liquid Fear is as fortunate.


I am not wed to any specific outcome for the digital era. Worry about the future when the future gets here, and do what’s best for you right now. Indie, self, vanity, whatever—it’s best for me, because I love every single aspect of my cottage industry. I hope you do, too, because it’s much harder to be happy than to sell a million e-books. Good luck.


Joe sez: All I ever wanted to do was write for a living. That's the whole point of this blog; to help writers who also have that goal. I never wanted to be the King of Self Promotion, and never wanted to be the Poster Boy for Self Publishing. While I'm grateful for all of the attention I've gotten, and thrilled at the money I'm making, the thing that matters most to me is watching my wife laugh, cringe, cry, and smile while she's reading one of my stories.


Yes, I quote numbers and figures. But that's a means to an end.


I've already helped someone on their journey.


Me.


Every other person I help is just icing on the cake...

DIY Wall Decor

I made these stars a couple years ago. I had seen some in a local store but they were bright colors and way too expensive. Hubby had some extra wood laying around so he helped me make these.

What you will need....
5 different colors of paint.... I used rustic colors... red, blue, green, brown and black.
Pliable wire for decor
Accent Fabric with like colors

Tools you will need...
Table Saw or Hand Saw
Drill with Drill bit
Pliers and round rod for bending wire

First I cut all the pieces. Sorry I can't remember the exact sizes but I made each stars 5 pieces all the same size then when down 2-3 inches each for the smaller stars.

Next paint your sticks to the desired colors. (you can also do a star in all one color) Use your sand paper to sand them down to give them the rustic look.

No you want to drill a hole at both ends of each stick. This is so you can hold the finished stars together.

Form your star the way you like it and take a small piece of wire and put it through the ends of the star. Curl over the back side to hold in place, then using your pliers and round rod, roll the wire making a curly Q on the front. Do this for all 5 sides.

Lastly, knot a piece of fabric on each end and your done.
Make 3 different sizes or display one large star. Can be used indoor or out. Just remember to use the correct paint and sealant if you would like yours outside.

Hope you enjoy your day!

Origin 99¢ ebook Charity Experiment

ORIGIN, the technothriller novel I dropped the price on a weeks ago, is currently at #103 in the Kindle store.

Naturally, I'd like to crack the Top 100.

There's a charity called First Book, which buys books for children who don't have any.

If ORIGIN does indeed make it into the Top 100, I'll donate $500 to First Book.

So I'm asking you to help me out. Please spread the word, link to this blog post, buy ORIGIN, gift copies for friends, etc.

I'm curious if a concentrated push at this late stage in the game will work to get it on the list.

The novel is a cross between Jurassic Park and The Exorcist. Here's the pitch:

Thriller writer J.A. Konrath, author of the Lt. Jack Daniels series, digs into the vaults and unearths a technohorror tale from the depths of hell...

1906 - Something is discovered by workers digging the Panama Canal. Something dormant. Sinister. Very much alive.

2009 - Project Samhain. A secret underground government installation begun 103 years ago in New Mexico. The best minds in the world have been recruited to study the most amazing discovery in the history of mankind. But the century of peaceful research is about to end.

BECAUSE IT JUST WOKE UP.


Book Description:

When linguist Andrew Dennison is yanked from his bed by the Secret Service and taken to a top secret facility in the desert , he has no idea he's been brought there to translate the words of an ancient demon.

He joins pretty but cold veterinarian Sun Jones, eccentric molecular biologist Dr. Frank Belgium, and a hodge-podge of religious, military, and science personnel to try and figure out if the creature is, indeed, Satan.

But things quickly go bad, and very soon Andy isn't just fighting for his life, but the lives of everyone on earth...

ORIGIN by J.A. Konrath
All hell is about the break loose. For real.

So if you visit this blog and are helped by it, I ask you to spread the word.

Thanks.

REPOST : Σφίγξ




Creative Share | Features Too!

CreativeShareWednesdays
Don't forget to grab one of our {BUTTONS}

I always look forward to this day of the week. It's fun to go through all the fabulous link ups.

I decided to start featuring some of my favorite link ups again. There are just so many that inspire me and I wanted to help them get seen a bit more.

So if you see that you have been featured, go by and grab a "Featured Button"

{Here are a few of my favorites that linked up last week}
Click on Photos to view these great posts
    
    

Another Talk with Ann Voss Peterson

I've collaborated with many writers, including F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Strand, Henry Perez, Tom Schreck, and Blake Crouch.

I'm currently working on a spy novel with Ann Voss Peterson. We previously co-wrote the thriller short story WILD NIGHT IS CALLING, which has sold close to a thousand copies in the past month.

Recently, Ann and I met in Google docs and hammered out a novella, featuring characters from my Jack Daniels series.

The result, a Harry McGlade story called JAILBAIT, just went live on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Here's the description:

Private detective Harry McGlade is on the prowl, looking for a one-night stand. Or, in McGlade's case, a five-minute stand.

When he finds a sexy lady at his local bar, he thinks he has a chance with her.

But she wasn't alone. There was a guy with her. A guy with a gun whom she was desperately trying to get away from.

When the local mafia becomes involved with McGlade's tryst, things start going bad.

Then they go really bad, when a baby comes into the picture. And the only one McGlade can turn to for help is his old partner, Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels.

JAILBAIT is an 11,000 word novella (about 50 pages long), written by bestselling author J.A. Konrath, and romantic suspense author Ann Voss Peterson (who has over 3 million books in print.)

It's a hysterically funny, and sometimes poignant, look at sex, relationships, pregnancy, and fatherhood. It also has guns and violence and criminals and double-crosses and twists. Ann and J.A. are confident that it will appeal to fans of mysteries, thrillers, and even romance (as long as the reader keeps tongue firmly in cheek.)

J.A. blames Ann for any depth and emotion the story has, because he feels that such sensitivity has no place in a humorous mystery.

Ann blames J.A. for the non-stop barrage of tasteless jokes, because she has much classier standards than that.

This ebook also features a brand new excerpt from FLEE, a spy novel co-written by Konrath and Peterson, which will be available on April 26.

So, in celebration of this release, I invited Ann to a quick Q & A.

Joe: Congrats on the Rita Award nomination!

Ann: Thanks, Joe! It's pretty exciting. For anyone who doesn't know, the Rita Award is the biggest award for romance fiction, like the Edgar for mystery or the Hugo for science fiction. And this year, it's being held in New York City. I'm waiting for the clothing designers to start lining up to dress me for the Awards! Okay, that's just my imagination. Speaking of imagination, let's talk about this crazy Harry McGlade novella we just wrote.

Joe: So the idea behind this story was basically to show you how to use Google docs (which I've used with Blake Crouch for Killers and Barry Eisler for our dialog).

Ann: Now wait, Joe. The spark of the idea ignited before that. It came from your blog. Someone asked if you were going to write a romance. So I challenged you, and the idea took a few strange twists from there.

Joe: I was pretty convinced we weren't going to end up writing a romance. I was also convinced that whatever we came up with wasn't going to be publishable. I thought of it more like an experiment. But then it grew into a Harry McGlade short story, and eventually a Harry McGlade novella, and I'm really pleased with the result.

You've read my Jack Daniels books. What was it like writing in that universe?

Ann: At first, it was a bit like writing fan fic, which I've actually never done. But you did give me free rein to create a few characters of my own to make Harry's life hell. Gotta say, I really enjoyed that.

Joe: The funny thing is, the story doesn't seem like a collaborative effort. It reads pretty much like one of my solo works, even though you wrote half of it.

Ann: What was it like to have someone else messing in Harry McGlade's life?

Joe: Surprisingly seamless. Having someone write for Harry and Jack was fun, and I don't think there were any false notes. You had some really funny lines that readers will probably think I wrote, which proves how good you were at mimicking my style. What did you think of Google docs for collaboration?

Ann: When we started, I really thought I would hate it. It's so contrary to the way I work. My rough drafts are ROUGH, and I never let anyone see them. I rewrite a lot to hone my story. So I was really uneasy with the idea of writing the same document at the same time. But I have to say, it grew on me. It pushed me past my obnoxious inner critic and forced me to just put words down. And I could trust that if I turned the story in a way that didn't work, you would change it in front of my eyes. In summary, it made me stretch, which is always a good thing for writers.

Joe: I'm really stuck on Google docs lately, and how much fun it is. Sort of like hanging out with another musician and starting to jam.

Because it came so easily, we wrote this sucker pretty damn quickly, and it required minimal rewrites once we finished. Do you normally write this fast?

Ann: No. I rewrite 'til the cows come home. Wait, I need to delete that cliche and come up with something better--

Joe: The cliche works fine. Now just open the door and let the cows back in.

At the end of JAILBAIT, we included another excerpt from our upcoming spy thriller FLEE. It's a different excerpt than the one in WILD NIGHT IS CALLING. What do you think of FLEE so far?

Ann: I adore FLEE. It has been such a blast to write. I think Chandler (the lead character) is me, she just lives in another dimension. Well, there might be a few other differences, too.

Or are there?

Joe: When I first met you I had a hunch you were a superspy assassin. Now that you're getting a taste of ebook self-publishing, are you planning on doing anything solo?

Ann: I have a lot of ideas, the problem is choosing which to do first. No, the biggest problem is that I'm loving writing Chandler right now, and we're talking about some sequels, and my imagination is running wild!

Joe: Chandler is such a fun character. Driven, brave, complicated, and at times really vulnerable. We just wrote a pretty steamy sex scene. Well, you wrote the bulk of it. I just added more oral.

Was it odd writing a sex scene with a partner, especially a guy?

Ann: I've never written a sex scene with anyone else before, so I guess you're my first, Joe. It actually went pretty smoothly. I suspect it would have felt a little more odd if we'd written that scene together in Google docs.

Joe: I'm thinking the next two Chandler books will be called SPREE and THREE. It would be cool to write and release them by Xmas. I think ereader sales are going to go through the roof this year. I've made over $40k this month. I can imagine, next January, making $100k a month. Isn't that crazy?

Ann: Crazy? That's fabulous! Let's get these books written!

Joe: FLEE will be available on April 26. The preorder page is now live on Amazon. If you order today, it will automatically be delivered to your Kindle or reading device the exact moment it goes live. It will also be available on B&N, Smashwords, Sony, Kobo, iPad, and in print.

If you were part of the now-ended FREE FLEE promotion, I'll email you a copy several days before the official release.

Now I'll field some questions. If anyone has questions for Ann, please post them in the comments section.

Q: How did you get Amazon to create a preorder page for you?

A: I asked nicely. Don't expect them to create one for you, though, unless you have friends who work there, and 200,000 previous ebook sales.

Q: How much is JAILBAIT?

A: We released it at $2.99, which we feel is fair considering its length.

Q: Is JAILBAIT funny?

A: If you don't laugh out loud, you're either dead or dead inside. But be warned; it's not for the easily offended.

Q: You're doing a lot of collaborations lately. Why?

A: Simple math. I can write twice as many stories with a partner as I can on my own. That means I can extend my virtual shelf space quicker, and also reach new readers through my co-writers' fans.

Plus, it's fun. I really can't express what a joy it is to work with other writers. Everyone needs to try this.

Upcoming releases include BIRDS OF PREY with Blake Crouch (a sequel to SERIAL UNCUT and KILLERS), and BURNERS with Henry Perez (A Jack Daniels/Alex Chapa novella).

Henry and I are also working on a semi-sequel to DRACULAS called MUMMIES, for a Halloween release. Also signed on for that are F. Paul Wilson and Heather Graham.

Blake and I are doing STIRRED, the final Jack Daniels book and sequel to SHAKEN, which also marks the end of his Andrew Z. Thomas (DESERT PLACES, LOCKED DOORS, BREAK YOU) horror series.

I'm also planning on writing WEREWOLVES this year with Blake, and it looks like we'll quite possibly team up on that with two other known bestsellers in the ebook world.

Q: Aren't you doing anything on your own anymore?

A: TIMECASTER SUPERSYMMETRY, the second Joe Kimball sci-fi actionfest (and sequel to TIMECASTER), and CONSUMED, the new Jack Kilborn, are on deck for later this year.

Q: What about that super-secret project you talked about with the NYT bestseller?

A: It's still super-secret. Sorry.

Q: Can I collaborate with you?

A: If your name is Stephen King, James Patterson, or Dean Koontz, yes. If any of you guys are reading this, contact me. I'll help boost your ebook sales.

Q: You haven't posted your self-pub numbers in a while.

A: As of today, March 29 at 8:17am, I've sold 53771 self-published books this month. I'll probably break 60,000 sales for March.

Q: How much money is that?

A: A shitload. The IRS is going to eat me alive.

Shutter Love Tuesdays | Hands

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This weeks theme is | HANDS |

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Tara's | HANDS | Photo
I took this photo a while back when I was taking engagement photos for my cousin and his fiance. They were fun to work with and I love this shot!

Guest Post by Mark Coker, Creator of Smashwords

Are you an author? Have you self-pubbed on Smashwords.com yet?

If not, you're missing out on making money.

In the past year, I've earned over $15,000 on Smashwords. And my numbers are on the rise.

Though I've have many conversations with owner Mark Coker over the years, I never asked him how he got started, and what he hopes to accomplish.

Until now...

Joe: What made you decide to create Smashwords?

Mark: Smashwords is my answer to what’s broken in Big Publishing.

The path to here was unexpected.

My wife (a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly magazine) and I wrote a novel, Boob Tube, a roman à clef about the daytime television soap opera industry.

The book was repped by Dystel & Goderich, one of the top literary agencies in New York. Despite their great enthusiasm and effort, they were unable to sell the book after two years. Publishers questioned the commercial potential of a novel that targeted soap opera fans. Previous soap-related novels had performed poorly.

As you might imagine, after putting our lives on hold for four years to research, write, revise (and revise and revise and revise) and edit our book, we were disappointed to have publishers deny us a chance to reach readers.

The more I reflected on our predicament, the more I realized we were not alone. I imagined there were millions of other writers around the world much more talented than us who faced the same problem. I imagined the loss of thousands of literary masterpieces – cultural treasures that would never see the light of day. If you love and cherish books as I do, you can’t help but mourn the tragedy of this lost potential.

I decided Big Publishing was broken. Big Publishing is in the business of publishing what it thinks it can sell, not what is good. Big Publishers operate in the rear view mirror. They try to acquire books similar to what was selling yesterday, and then they release the book in 12-18 months.

“Commercial potential” is a myopic, misguided and ultimately destructive prism through which to measure a book’s value. Never mind that publishers, despite their best effort, can’t accurately predict which books will become hits. Readers decide that.

Big Publishing is unable to take a risk on every author, and as a result they say no to books readers would want to buy.

I decided the world needed a new approach to publishing, one that was faster, cheaper and more democratized. I realized there was an opportunity to solve this problem with technology.

My background here in Silicon Valley is in technology marketing. Over my last 20 years, I’ve come to appreciate what happens when technology collides with ossified industries and business models. Technology hits like a wind-driven fire through an overgrown forest. The impact is sudden and traumatic, but from the ashes sprouts healthier and more vibrant ecosystems.

My idea was simple. Wouldn’t it be cool, I imagined, if I could create an online publishing platform that would give any author, anywhere in the world, the freedom to publish what they want? I’d give readers the freedom to curate the books. And I’d turn the compensation model upside down so authors became the primary economic beneficiaries of their work.

This is what we created with Smashwords. We put the printing press online, and made it freely available to anyone as a self-serve tool. Smashwords allows me to take a risk on every author.

Joe: What drives you to stay on this path?

Mark: I’m on a mission to turn publishing upside down. Big Publishing was squandering the future of books. Their practices limited book availability, encouraged high prices to consumers, fostered lower quality celebrity books, reduced diversity, and failed to adequately compensate authors. Most importantly, readers were denied access to the diverse riches of authors’ minds.

I’m also an entrepreneur. I’ve always been drawn to startups that have the power to effect positive social change. With Smashwords, I see an opportunity to create a large, valuable business that generates significant social and economic value for our authors, publishers, readers, and retail partners.

Joe: Are ebooks going to become the dominant format for books? If so, how long will it take until it happens?

Mark: Indie authors are a leading indicator of where publishing is going. Ebooks already outsell print for most indie authors. Brick and mortar bookstores are in decline, and this is both a cause and a result of the move to online book buying, among other factors. When book shelves go virtual, the playing field between big publisher and indie author is leveled. Actually, I’d go one step further and say that the move to indie ebooks actually tilts the playing field to the author’s advantage. Big Publishing can’t compete against indie ebooks because their expenses are too high and production schedules too slow.

To appreciate the dramatic growth of ebooks, the numbers from the Association of American Publishers provide a useful point of reference. According to the AAP, ebooks as a percentage of overall trade book sales in the US reached about 8% in 2010, up from 3% in 2009, 1% in 2008, and ½ of 1% in 2007. Yet these numbers dramatically understate what’s really happening.

The AAP numbers reflect what the 12-14 large publishers who contribute to the data are doing with ebooks, but the data doesn’t capture small presses and indie authors. The numbers also don’t reflect unit volume. Since ebooks are priced less than print, the unit market share for ebooks is greater than the revenue numbers would indicate.

Large independent publishers like Sourcebooks that have embraced ebooks are already seeing 1/3 of their revenues coming from ebooks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sourcebooks begins deriving over 50% of their unit volume from ebooks with the next nine months.

Joe: Whenever I upload a new title to Smashwords, I'm put in a queue that is often several hundred titles long. How many ebooks does Smashwords now publish, and how many do you think it will have published five years from now based on current trends?

Mark: We reached a new milestone last week: We now publish over 40,000 books, and we released 5,300 of them in the last 30 days. In 2008, our first year in business, we published 140 books. By 2009, we reached 6,000. By the end of 2010, we were at 28,500. We’re on track to reach 75,000 books by the end of this year, which means we’ll almost double in nine months what took us three years. Within five years, who knows. 250,000? 500,000? I’m hesitant to guess. We’ve been doing this for three years now and I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of the possible.

Our Meatgrinder conversion engine burns red hot 24 hours a day. Not only are we converting these 5,000+ new titles a month into nine different ebook formats, we’re also converting a multiple of that for our 16,000+ authors who are constantly upgrading their existing Smashwords books with better formatting, better book cover images and other tweaks. A couple years ago, most Smashwords authors would get full multi-format conversions in 5-10 minutes from upload. Today, the queue is running 5-7 hours.

It’s ironic how author expectations have changed with the advent of ebooks. We’ve gone from a world where authors were previously content waiting years for their book to appear in print to today where a 5 hour wait is unacceptable. And I agree! We have a plan to scale our conversions systems so we can get back under 10 minutes.

Joe: Can the Big 6 save themselves?

Mark: The era of Big Publishing is over. I wrote the other week at the Smashwords blog about the imminent author uprising against Big Publishing. Some authors are beginning to realize that much of what they were taught about the path to authorship is a myth. The rules have changed.

Many writers today still cling to this old idea that they’re not a real author until they’ve been blessed by the Holy Father of Big Publishing. Screw that. Why should authors subject themselves to this false religion of Big Publishing? Big Publishing as we know it is dead.

Sure, some of the Big 6 will survive, but they’ll do it by getting smaller or consolidating. Their expense structures are unsustainably high. Manhattan sky rise rents add absolutely no value to a book, only expense.

Ebooks, led by indie authors and mainstream author defections to indie, will accelerate the demise of Big Publishing. Authors are already asking, “what can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself.” The next big questions is, “Will a big publisher limit my success as an author?” You’ve answered that question for months here on your blog. It’s a question Big Publishers don’t want their authors asking, because the answer reveals the mirage of Big Publishing.

Big Publishing was built on a model of scarcity. They controlled the printing press, they controlled access to distribution, and they limited supply. In the old print world, if a writer wanted to reach a lot of readers, they had to bow subservient upon the altar of Big Publishing.

What a difference a few years make. Thanks to the Internet, self-publishing and ebooks, the tools to publish and distribute have become fully democratized.

Authors can publish directly to their readers with self-published ebooks. Every major ebook retailer wants to carry self-published ebooks, and Smashwords is a primary enabler of this. The retailers are smart. They realize their customers don’t care what publisher name is in on the virtual spine. It’s all about the quality of the book.

The future of publishing belongs to authors, though I still see great opportunity for agents and publishers.

The opportunity for agents is to help the most commercially successful authors – traditional and indie– become even more successful. Agents will help the biggest authors navigate these dual worlds of traditional and indie – worlds that can coexist.

The opportunity for publishers is to more cost effectively do for authors what authors cannot or will not do for themselves. Just because an author has the power to be their own editor, book doctor, cover designer, production department, printer, distributor, sales force, marketer and accounting department, doesn’t mean they should assume all these roles. We’re already seeing the emergence of publishing service providers who specialize in these tasks above. Smashwords is obviously an example on the distribution side.

So in other words, the publishing professionals now working at the Big 6 still have a very bright future. There will be more authors and books published than ever before, and these authors will partner with professionals who can assist their success.

Joe: I talk numbers all the time. I regularly give complete strangers access to my personal finances. I never expect the same from anyone else, but I gotta ask: has Smashwords begun turning a profit for you?

Mark: Smashwords turned modestly profitable six months ago, and we’ve been running profitable ever since. This was a big milestone for us because it means we’ve created a sustainable company with lasting value.

We did this without taking outside investment and without charging upfront fees for services. We’re reinvesting the profits back into the business by adding staff and scaling our technical infrastructure so we can better serve our authors, publishers and retailer partners. For 2011, we’ll run it at just above break-even. I don’t earn a salary yet. Maybe next year.

Joe: You have competitors. Scribd. Overdrive. Google Books. Nook and Kindle take a portion of your potential sales. What are you doing to make Smashwords a Brand, rather than a Distributor? And what do you think of your competition?

Mark: Smashwords is an ebook distributor, so I want Smashwords to become the largest, best and most trusted brand in ebook distribution. I recognize there’s a knee-jerk inclination among some authors who are inclined to disintermediate the distributor. I believe in distribution.

I wake up every morning asking myself how I’d compete against Smashwords, and then I go to work to turn Smashwords into that business. There’s no room for complacency. I’m seeing more and more competitors coming on the scene. Like a poorly plotted book, most will fade away before you ever hear about them because they fail to appreciate the expense, technical complexity, and secret sauce that goes into creating what we’ve created. It’s not easy to make money in this business. The margins are slim.

Our most formidable competitors are the direct publishing platforms operated by the retailers such as Amazon’s KDP, B&N’s Pubit and Apple’s iTunes Connect.

Our opportunity, and our challenge, boils down to a simple question: Are we adding value by serving the interests of authors, publishers, readers and retailers?

For readers, our opportunity is to make books they want to read available and discoverable.

For authors and publishers, our opportunity is to help them maximize their distribution reach while minimizing the time, effort and expense of achieving that distribution. At Smashwords, you format a file once, upload it, then we distribute it the major retailers. We offer centralized control over metadata and pricing, and we aggregate sales reporting and payments from one centralized console. For this distribution service, our commission is only 10% of the retail sales price. I think over the long term, more self-published authors and publishers will realize it’s smarter to outsource distribution than build and manage their own distribution infrastructure.

For retailers, our opportunity is make Smashwords-sourced ebooks higher quality, better-vetted and more profitable for them than ebooks sourced from their own publishing platforms. Take Apple for example. Apple earns a 30% commission on every sale, whether that book comes from their own platform or from one of their authorized aggregators like Smashwords. Although Apple operates their own platform, they actively encourage authors and publishers to work with aggregators because we add value for both the author/publisher and Apple. Same thing with our retail partners Sony and Diesel (where we help power their publishing platforms) and Kobo. A Smashwords book is more profitable to a retailer than one sourced from their own platform.

If we can make ebooks more profitable for authors and retailers, we have a place in the future ebook ecosystem.

I don’t view Scribd as a competitor. I view them as a great potential partner for us. They’ve created a very cool social reading platform, and someday you might see us distributing our books to them.

Overdrive is not yet a big player in our niche of serving indie authors and small presses. They might become more of a competitor in the future. I’ll do my best to make this an unprofitable niche for them or any other potential competitor. Have I mentioned I’m competitive?

Google: I’m perplexed by them. I’d love to support them and distribute to them, but to date they’ve refused to treat indie authors with the same respect as does Apple, B&N, Sony and Kobo. Unlike their competitors, Google is reluctant to give Smashwords authors and publishers agency or agency-like terms. That’s a deal-breaker for us. We’ve got over 30,000 books ready to ship to Google the moment they give us a green light. Same thing with Amazon.

Joe: I think you’re one of the coolest, most dynamic personalities in the current publishing climate, and I’m regularly impressed with all you continue to accomplish. What continues to motivate you?

Mark: Wow, Joe, I think the same of you. The revolution motivates me. 16,000 authors and publishers have entrusted their precious babies to Smashwords, so I don’t want to let them down. I’m committed to accomplishing good things for our authors, publishers, readers and retail partners.

The Smashwords people see today is the not the Smashwords they’ll see next month or next year. We’re constantly evolving. We have a very aggressive roadmap. Our mission will remain the same, but our ability to accomplish the mission and serve our authors, publishers and partners will only increase.

Joe: You (tragically) die tomorrow, and are tasked with writing your own epitaph. What do you say?

Mark: Thank you for that “(tragically)” part. Leave it to the mind of a horror writer. Next thing I know, you’ll start imagining my mangled body pulled from the gears of a Big 6 printing press. In a true soap opera twist, however, at the end of the story the mangled meat is revealed to be that of someone (or something?) else.

How about, “Dang it, I wasn’t done yet! To Lesleyann, my wife, I love you more than I’ve ever loved another person. To my family and many friends, thank you for believing in me. Your love, trust and confidence helped me achieve my wildest dreams. I hope I helped you realize some of your dreams as well. Sorry about my tragic unexpected departure. It was not part of my plan. Dream on.”

Shutter Love Winners | Hearts

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On to the Shutter Love Photo Winners | HEARTS | - I love hearts! This theme was so fun. There were a lot unique entries. Not all what you would think, so I really enjoyed looking at them all. Thank you to all who entered a photo this week.

Our Top 10 Photo Winners

#1 goes to | Love Change?
#2 | Paper Hearts
#3 | Ashley Sisk
#4 | Patched
#5 | Inspire Me

#6 | Heart of Wood
#7 | Erika B
#8 | Live Every Moment
#9 | Stoneyville
#10 | A Lifetime In My Heart
Viewers Favorite | Nature Made Hearts
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