Mark Terry

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Coming Soon To A Kindle Near You... again

June 9, 2009
I've been trying to get Blogger to post the cover art for Dancing In The Dark, a novel I'm publishing for the Kindle, but no go.

Anyway, after reading Joe Konrath and Lee Goldberg's comments about uploading (publishing) a digital book to the Amazon Kindle Bookstore, I pondered what manuscripts I had that I thought were good and which wouldn't screw up any future sales. I settled on Dancing In The Dark, a novel I wrote a year or so after The Devil's Pitchfork was published. My agent shopped it around and although everybody liked it, nobody was willing to publish it. (A trend I find with big publishers in my experience. None of the editors say I can't write, the book sucks, or they wish I would go away. They invariably say, Mark Terry's a very good writer and I found this book very engrossing (captivating, entertaining, etc), but it didn't capture my attention the way I wanted it to (or isn't quite strong enough to break out in the current marketplace)." That's the gist of it, anyway. The fact that their own rejection comments have internal inconsistencies just strikes me as being typical of the industry).

The novel is about Joanna Dancing and she is a high-level executive security expert, a bodyguard, if you will. When hired to keep an eye on a scientist, it's only a matter of days before a bunch of heavily-armed foreign nationals try to kidnap the scientist. Joanna steps in and rescues him, then the two of them find themselves on the run from more foreign nationals, various government agencies and a mercenary or two. Basically, if you like the Derek Stillwater thrillers, you'll like Dancing In The Dark.

Now, why?

Well, curiosity. Will this easy digital publishing via Kindle--and really, it is pretty easy--wipe out modern publishing as we know it?

Well, I was skeptical until I did it. It's not available yet, but it should be in a day or so. It doesn't cost anything, the royalty rate is 35%, and I hired a nice cover art for a minimal fee. The whole process sort of gave me pause, because when I look at that question, will this wipe out modern publishing as we know it, my first thought was: no. Now I have to wonder. It's easier than POD was via iUniverse (another experiment I did back in 2002 or so) and I can determine the prices. In this case, I'm selling Dancing In The Dark for $1.49. Yes, that's right. $1.49. Because I want Kindle users to download the damned thing. Then maybe some of them will go buy my other dead-tree-stuff books, including the one coming out next year.

And for the mathematically challenged, 35% of $1.49 is still 52 cents. If by some miracle I sell 1000 of these things, I'll walk away with $520. Keep in mind that my last book advance was $1,000 and you can see where my curiosity is coming from. And I guarantee you, you won't get any of my previous books or future books in trade paperback or hardcover for $1.49, even if they get remaindered.

Further, although iUniverse was an interesting experience (and Catfish Guru holds up, I believe), the books were overpriced and distribution was impossible. Bookstores just aren't interested in dealing with POD or self-published books. Kindle is not only the reader but the distribution model and in that respect it could be a game-changer. This could do the same thing for books that iTunes and digital downloads have and are doing to the music industry. That is, you move back to the old days of a concert performance being what the musician is all about and the sales of the CDs are supported by it, rather than the other way around.

Then again, we'll see.

Do I recommend it?

Well, I don't know. I have one or two other manuscripts I might consider putting up there, especially the follow-up I wrote to Dirty Deeds. I need to carefully read my contracts and talk to my agent before thinking about making The Devil's Pitchfork or The Serpent's Kiss available.

I also have a novel called Hot Money that I still have hopes for as the beginning of a series, either with the new publisher or someone else. I'm not going to screw that up by self-publishing it as a Kindle e-version.

On the other hand, in the case of Dancing In The Dark, I thought, Well, why not? I enjoyed writing it. I think it's a good book. It's not off the rails in terms of the "Mark Terry Brand," such as it is. And, unlike, say, Hot Money, I don't envision writing a follow-up to Dancing In The Dark (unless, of course, I sell thousands of copies, in which case, hmmmm....).

I'll keep you posted.

Mark Terry


Blogger Adam Coronado said...

I'm particularly interested in how this plays out because I've never met anyone that owned a Kindle. While it's a wonderful idea, even the $359 model seems like highway robbery to me.

I say this as the guy who had the first mp3 player on his block. It was way back in 2000, $249 for 64 mb of space. I understand that the thing can catch on (and will require the early adopters to move the stone), but, hell, 360 bones to be able to secretly read bodice rippers on the subway? I don't know...

Good luck, I'd like to see how it plays out, especially because you've got an audience and notoriety under your belt. In the video game industry, something similar is happening, where these really small developers are releasing some daring IP through a low-cost (like $10-20) download-only model. In the last year, most of my favorite games have been purchased this way.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Adam Coronado said...

You know, if they add an all-purpose Word Processor (that saves in all major formats) I might be game. I'd love to be able to write and read, and the 3g wireless should allow me to get online and publish blogs from anywhere.

But then I'm talking about a laptop, I guess.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

There have been rumors--apparently not this year, though--that Apple was going to come out with a larger-sized iPhone that would be an e-reader, only it would have the same functionality as, say, an iPod Touch, which is to say, you could access the net, e-mail, YouTube, download games and apps, etc.

I don't own a Kindle, though I'm intrigued. (I've never seen one "in the wild" either, for that matter). What's really keeping me from buying it is partly the cost, but mostly that I want it to have color, so if I download magazines and even higher-level newsletters that I regularly read that have a lot of charts and graphs, I'll be able to see the graphics in color. I'm betting that'll be Kindle 3.0, but we'll see.

10:38 AM  
Blogger LurkerMonkey said...

Interesting ... definitely keep us posted on the progress of this. I'm still deeply ambivalent about this sort of distribution. I love the idea of being able to directly reach readers like that, but then of course, the issue is the same as ever: distribution. From my vantage point as an editor for iUniverse, I've seen dozens and dozens and dozens of books get swallowed by that beast.

You're right, though, that the Kindle might be a game-changer in the sense that it makes distribution somewhat easier (although you can buy iUniverse titles on Amazon, too). So I guess then the question becomes exposure. And I always end up back at the same place I was before: if you can get massive exposure to sell a gazillion books, then a mainstream publisher would probably be interested.

I dunno. Good luck. If I owned a Kindle (which I don't), I'd be the first to give Dancer a whirl.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Keeping in mind that I gave a fair amount of thought to what I was willing to publish this way. In other words, nothing I thought I might be able to sell under a traditional outlet, even some things that aren't currently being marketed. For instance, I have at least two MG fantasy novels that I could put on Kindle, but I don't see Kindle buyers going for them, and two, they're both quite good (especially the Peter Namaka book, which was a nearly-published manuscript) and I haven't given up on the possibility of marketing them again under different market conditions or giving them yet another rewrite.

Dancing, though I think it's good, was just sitting there gathering dust.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Lee Goldberg said...

I wouldn't get your hopes up, Mark. I've had THE WALK (an out-of-print, 2004 novel) and a collection of short stories up on Amazon for ten days now. So far, I have sold 65 copies combined and earned a royalty of $35. Not exactly big money. (And, through my publishers, I also have a lot of stuff available for the Kindle that should, theoretically, lead to more sales that I would get if I was a complete unknown).

If you have stuff gathering dust on your shelf, that's one thing. It's better to earn something than nothing off the stuff, even if it is only a few bucks. But I don't see any financial incentive yet for writing original material for the Kindle.


10:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Trust me, Lee, my expectations are almost nil. It's strictly an experiment with a piece of writing that was gathering dust.

10:05 AM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

I'd recommend putting up more books, if only because the more you have uon Kindle, the easier you are to find. It's the equivalent of having five books on the shelf in a bookstore vs. one--you have a much better chance of finding readers.

Also, announce your book on Kindle forums and newsletters.

Keep us posted. I'm on track to make $3000 this month.

8:33 PM  

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