Mark Terry

Saturday, February 26, 2011


February 26, 2011
I am pleased and proud to announce the publication of the anthology DEADLY BY THE DOZEN, which I edited and contributed to.

Twelve Short Stories of Murder and Mayhem written by an eclectic group of writers. Ranging from tough and gritty to light and comic and every landscape in between, DEADLY BY THE DOZEN promises to entertain, chill, thrill and inspire. Edited by award-winning thriller author Mark Terry. The collection includes:

I DIED, I DID by Natasha Fondren
IDENTITY THEFT by Robert Weibezahl
INDIAN SUMMER by Lise McClendon
FLAT-FOOTED by Mark Terry
INTO STONE by Keith Snyder
MARIGOLD MOURNING by Merry Monteleone
LITTLE SIBERIA by Erica Orloff

It is currently available for the Kindle. It IS NOW available for the B&N Nook, and soon to be on Smashwords. A paper version will become available at a later date.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Maybe Joe Konrath Is Rrrrrr......

February 25, 2011
Before I start making fun of Joe Konrath, let me first say that Joe's a good guy, I've met him, I've talked to him, hell, I've even bought some of his books. Joe is, of course, one of the current loudest voices out there telling authors to abandon the traditional publishing route (which apparently Barry Eisler is calling "Legacy Publishing" a term I don't think will catch on) and start self-publishing e-books. Joe's making a lot of money doing it and so are a number of other authors who he regularly touts in support of his arguments.

I'm making some money from it, but it's not like I'm even paying many bills with the income. I am investing the income--I'm using it to put into my retirement fund and that's a worthwhile thing, trust me on this.

A couple things have made me wonder if Joe is right, at least for me.

I'm not going to break down all my financials for you--it's sort of none of your business, y'know? But with the way publishing is getting hammered by e-books and the overall economy, it's not clear to me if it's going to be possible for many midlist or lower or new authors to even break into traditional publishing. Hell, it's never been easy and publishing has always seemed to have an answer for why their industry is doing poorly (it's the economy, it's returns, it's the anthrax scare, it's e-books, it's video games, it's TV, it's...). But at least one number I read today suggested that book sales are down by 15%!!!

I will say that I recently spent a bunch of time and energy working on a proposal at my agent's suggestion only to have her tell me she didn't like it enough to try and sell it. (Lot of problems with this concept, actually, in terms of ... if the writer's job is to write and the agent's job is to sell and the agent won't bother trying to sell, then why does the writer keep her around?, among other things). Also, for reasons unknown and still not clarified, my publisher announced that my Kindle sales for THE FALLEN were slow... and with a little research I discovered that the probable cause of that was that THE FALLEN wasn't available on the Kindle in the US and didn't even show up in the database if you searched for it on a Kindle device and none of us knows how long this had been going on....!!!!! (And still isn't, I see, which does not make me happy).

Anyway, If a publisher is losing business by 15%, they're going to consolidate around their best sellers, kick out their slow sellers, and be awfully damned picky about what books they do decide to publish. That's not exactly new, but I think we're going to see even more of it over the next few years. An industry that doesn't like to take chances just get even more skittish.

Also, Borders is closing 200 stores and gone into Chapter 11, so basically they're not really going to pay their bills to publishers, and rumors seem to suggest that publishers just aren't going to play nice with Borders while Borders tries to solve its problems. (And not to be all doom & gloom about it, but I don't think the long-term future of Borders looks so hot. And you know, long-term means, like, a couple years. I hope I'm wrong). So ... more pressure on publishers.

Meanwhile, although I don't think there's a huge amount of discussion about it at the publisher level, an awful lot of midlist authors and self-pubbed authors and even some bestsellers, are embracing the e-book self-publishing market. What I haven't really heard discussed much, although I suppose Joe is talking about it somewhat peripherally, is how this is creating competition for publishers. Yeah. Publishers.

Let's say you're a reader. Let's say you're a big fan of say, JA Konrath or Lee Goldberg or Paul Levine or David Morrell or, even this guy almost no one's heard of, Mark Terry. Let's say you can read one book a week. Konrath, Goldberg, Levine, Morrell and Terry all have a book or two that just came out as an e-book. (As well as their backlist, some of those books you've missed out on). You say, "Yeah, cool, I've got the next five weeks or more of reading all lined up. And just by chance, all those books are selling for about $2.99 or $3.99."

Then we notice that there's a new author out that we've never heard of and the book sounds pretty good and it's getting reviews in a couple places and the reader says, "Hmmm, maybe I'll buy that book." And maybe they will. It's $26.95 in hardcover and although the nearest brick-and-mortar bookstore is 45 miles away and it's apparently not available at your local Wal-Mart, it is available as an e-book for $9.99. So you're about to buy it and you notice, hey, another of my favorite authors just published an e-book for $3.99 and I really like her books...

Will this drive publishers out of business? Don't know. Probably not. Does it create yet another reason for publishers to focus on their sure-thing books? You bet. So if Harlan Coben decides to write 2 books a year instead of one, and Stephen King wants to write 10 books a year and James Patterson wants to write 21 books a year and Janet Evanovich wants to write 3 or 4 and a comic book, and Robert Ludlum continues to publish well after his death, probably soon to be writing jointly with VC Andrews... well, sure, those people are reliable bestsellers for the publishing industry. After all, Snookie's book tanked and so did The Situation's book...

And for the midlist or newbie, discovering that there's an alternative to a battling the gatekeepers--agents that are finding it harder and harder to sell their client's projects, publisher's that are tightening their list and looking for sure-fire hits or chasing trends like a dog after a bacon-treat--can be a fairly liberating idea.

Really, really liberating.

Wait. I didn't make fun of Joe at all, did I?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Waz Up?

February 24, 2011
I'm busy. My brain is mush and my interest in writing fiction is probably at an all-time low. So what's going on?

1. Finishing up a big article this week.

2. Youngest son is home sick.

3. Kids had Monday off for holiday and Tuesday off for snow day.

4. In the middle of edits for the technical journal I edit and two of the articles have huge issues with references.

5. Working on my twice-a-week column.

6. Wrapping up edits on a memoir I was hired to edit/rewrite. Much bigger job than I expected it to be for a variety of reasons.

7. Routinely looking for more work.

8. Set up a talk with a potential client later this week.

9. Organizing tax information.

10. Getting things organized to publish anthology, DEADLY BY THE DOZEN.

11. Trying to figure out Smashwords formatting issues. I mean, really, if you can't use tab or the space bar to indent paragraphs, how are you supposed to do it?

12. Despite my aggravation with publishing, I'm still plunking away at the next Derek Stillwater novel.

13. Crashed through 100 pages of a tech thriller for my agent, only she doesn't like it. Haven't decided whether to trash it (unlikely), finish it and self-publish (likely) or throw a bomb through her office door (thinking about it).

14. Trying to complete nonfiction book to e-self-publish on freelance writing for a living.

15. Playing around with other fiction ideas, although I don't actually do much more than stare at the computer screen and say, "What's the point?"

16. Will probably start a ghostwriting gig next week, but it hasn't been nailed down yet.

17. Looking at the 19 things on my to-do list and wondering why I only get to a few of them each day.

18. Need to find another source or two for an article about healthcare reform.

19. Blogging is not on the to-do list.

How about you?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Coming Soon

February 24, 2011
Coming soon to an e-book near you! Featuring:


I DIED, I DID by Natasha Fondren

IDENTITY THEFT by Robert Weibezahl


INDIAN SUMMER by Lise McClendon

FLAT-FOOTED by Mark Terry

INTO STONE by Keith Snyder

MARIGOLD MOURNING by Merry Monteleone

LITTLE SIBERIA by Erica Orloff




Cover art by Matt Elliott
Layout by Natasha Fondren

I will make another announcement with appropriate links when it becomes available, but quite likely by March 1st, give or take a couple days!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fun And/Or Rewarding?

February 20, 2011
When should you throw in the towel? When should you say, "I've had enough beating my head at this door. I'm done."

I don't have an answer for you.

I do think there comes a point where you ask yourself, "Am I having fun?"
The answer does not always have to be yes. Writing, like almost any difficult activity, is not always going to be fun. Sometimes it's work.

Hopefully rewarding work.

Which brings up the question: What is "rewarding" for you?

Rewarding can mean emotionally satisfying.

Rewarding can mean financially satisfying.

Rewarding can mean creatively fulfilling, and if you can somehow parse the difference between "emotionally satisfying" go ahead and share it with me. I do, but it's too complicated for me today.

What happens when your answer is: It's not financially satisfying and recently it hasn't been emotionally OR creatively satisfying?

Maybe you should hang in there and something will turn around.

Maybe you should take a break.

Maybe you SHOULD throw in the towel and find something else to do with your time. After all, our time and energy is not infinite. You may come to a point in your life where you shrug and say, "It doesn't mean as much to me as it used to."

I think that's okay.

What do you think?

Friday, February 18, 2011

What I've Been Reading

February 18, 2011
First 10 of the Year!

1. Naked Heat by Richard Castle

I blogged about this already, but it's the media tie-in to the TV show "Castle," of which I am a fan. I liked it.

2. The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah

A nonfiction book about malaria and although it is (no pun intended, really) sort of bloodless, it was fascinating. I guess by "bloodless" I mean that for the most part the book is rather bereft of human beings.

3. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

The second in the fantasy series featuring Chicago wizard Harry Dresden. Ian and my brother Pete are huge fans and I have to say I think I enjoyed the second book even more than the first.

4. Medic! How I Fought World War II with Morphine, Sulfa, and Iodine Swabs by Robert “Doc Joe” Franklin

A short, brutally honest memoir of a medic's experience in the European theater during World War II. Short, insightful, sad, dramatic, everything.

5. Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva

Another book in the espionage series featuring Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon. Not my favorite of the series, but an interesting book.

6. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (

I listened to this on audio, having already read it. I still like it and I still recommend it.

7. The Sentry by Robert Crais

A Joe Pike novel instead of an Elvis Cole novel, although Elvis plays a major role in the story. It's good, although I really prefer the Elvis Cole novels.

8. Deep Storm by Lincoln Child

I re-read this tech thriller about a secret deep ocean research facility that may or may not have found the lost city of Atlantis. Holds up well, although I was more sensitive to a leap of logic or two than I was the first time around.

9. Stranglehold by Ed Gorman

II bought this book because it dealt with a political consultant who solves crime, which sounded an awful lot like my character Austin Davis in my e-book HOT MONEY. They're almost nothing like except that it revolves politics. I liked it fairly well though.

10. Zig Zephyr and the Forever Diamond by Jon VanZile

I will blog about this book more in-depth later and Jon will either guest blog or we'll do some sort of conversation/interview here, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed the hell out of this book and highly recommend it for anyone with kids who are middle graders, or, for that matter, anyone who knows how to read. That would be you, right? Go out and buy this book. A boy who has inherited a billion dollars discovers his grandfather's plans for a time machine and has it built by a crazy physicist.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

From An Expected Source

February 17, 2011
Huh. I never thought I'd get kicked out of a funk by Zoe Winters, but her post about not going all spazzo about e-publishing and the "get-rich quick" scheme mentality that's going around was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. So, Zoe ... thanks.

This is not a race. The sky is not falling. Anyone who tells you they know the future is kidding themselves. No one knows the future. Will it be a super easy gold rush? Most likely no. Does that mean there will be NO opportunities after some nebulous point in time in the future? Of course not. Even after all the music industry has suffered, there are STILL new success stories. There will always be new success stories in every creative field. And there will always be the success stories that don’t make the news but are still just as impressive… the people quietly going about their business making a living doing what they love… for decades.

I want to be one of THOSE people.

Yeah, Zoe. F***in' A.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stop The Insanity?

E-Publishing and The Writer's Business Model

February 16, 2011
Yesterday I had the opportunity to interview bestselling author Harlan Coben about his upcoming novel, Live Wire. Harlan's a nice guy and I've met and interviewed him a couple times over the years. His last several books have debuted as #1 on the New York Times Bestseller Lists and he's an international bestseller. Anyway, part of our conversation touched on all the changes in the publishing industry and e-books and Harlan basically said he doesn't worry about it, he just concentrates on writing the best book he can. Although the overall philosophy makes sense to a writer, I think not engaging with e-publishing is a luxury that Harlan can afford, but not that many other writers can.

I was reminded again, of a series of highly recommended posts about the publishing industry and writers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I didn't track down the specific post, but somewhere among all the posts she comments on how Scott Turow, who is president of the Authors Guild, expresses a lot of concern about e-publishing and how it's detrimental to writers, etc. Rusch said something that I've thought about a lot, which is that for Turow, that's probably absolutely correct. It is detrimental to him. And that, as I think everyone reading this blog post knows, Joe Konrath is going full-blast into e-self-publishing to the extent that he's apparently even turning down traditional publishing contracts because he can make more money at self-publishing. And she notes that for Joe, that makes perfect sense.

Which begs the question, I think: does it make sense for you?

And as Rusch is pointing out, different writers at different points in their careers (or who have different types of careers), have different needs and business models. Turow, she notes, is a guaranteed bestseller who writes a novel about every four years or so, plus he's never had a book go out of print. Joe Konrath was a solid midlist novelist with a book or two a year and was making a living at it, but was spending huge amounts of time and energy on promotion and he now finds himself making more money writing e-books and self-publishing and doing very little promotion in the process.

And thinking about Harlan, he doesn't have a lot to gain--yet, anyway--by e-self-publishing. Here's an example, a little personal story. Yesterday I commented about how the playing field isn't level. Harlan's publicist emailed me last week asking if I wanted a copy of Live Wire. I said sure. THE SAME DAY I received a delivery of the book. The publicist and publisher felt it was worthwhile to spend the money to get me a copy of that book the same day I said yes. Harlan is treated by his publisher in a way that few writers are--even bestselling writers. His relationship with his publisher is different than that of most writers. He's in a very different space than Joe Konrath or me, for that matter (who is in a different space than Joe, but I'll get to that in a moment).

Some bestsellers are playing around with the e-book self-publishing phenomenon. David Morrell, for instance, released THE NAKED EDGE as an e-book, which I believe is a sequel to THE PROTECTOR (I bought it, but haven't read it yet). I don't know all the details about why he did that and most everything I said would be a guess, but David, who I believe is still a bestselling author, is not necessarily a name brand bestselling author, or what Rusch refers to as a "guaranteed bestselling author." I've also been surprised that some of David's books have gone out of print. It makes complete and total sense for ANY WRITER whose books go out of print and they have the rights to, to re-release them as e-books yourself. Two of my books, THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT'S KISS went out of print after only a couple years and I've released them as e-books. Out of the thousands of traditionally published authors out there in the world, I'm far more typical than Harlan Corben or David Morrell.

But how do I stack up against Joe Konrath? Why has Joe gone basically to being totally self-published while I still seek traditional publishing contracts as well as self-publish e-books?

I can't lay it all out, but two ideas strike me. First, Joe's e-books simply make more money than mine do. Joe routinely touts how successful his e-books are, and brings on many guest bloggers who are making tons of money with their e-books, and although mine sell and I manage to spend the money they make, if Joe's in the major leagues, I'm down in the minors--way down in A ball or college baseball or even some local softball league sponsored by the local auto supply parts shop.

To-date I make more money off my traditionally published books. Will I in the long run? Don't know. Secondly, for the most part, Joe was just about successful enough to get most of his books published traditionally. Not all of them, and he's been very honest about that. For me, the most successful books have been the Derek Stillwater thrillers, but other books just haven't gained traction with traditional publishers. So I decided to go ahead and publish some (not all) of them.

I also don't make a living as a novelist. I make my living as a freelance writer writing magazine articles, website content, corporate communications, market research reports, etc. I'm diversified in a way a full-time novelist isn't, and for me that's mostly a good thing. I would have to make quite a bit of money off novels to want to put all my eggs in a single basket. Your mileage may vary.

Which in many ways is where I'm at. I write it and if it doesn't get picked up by a traditional publisher, I self-publish it instead of doing nothing with it. I have two projects that will come out sometime this year as an e-book--a short story anthology titled DEADLY BY THE DOZEN and sometime when I finish it, a nonfiction e-book about FREELANCE WRITING FOR A LIVING. There may be a couple other projects, but I haven't decided yet. Because I've got two novels that I'm intending for a traditional publisher, including a Derek Stillwater, as well as a nonfiction book proposal that my agent is starting to market.

The point of this is that for different writers, e-publishing means different things. Depending on where you are in your career, the type of books you write, and your creative and financial needs and goals, this may be the right business model for you. Or it might not.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

E-Book Publishing Blah, Blah

February 15, 2011
Wired has a piece on how screwed up Amazon's sorting of nonfiction books for kids is, also pointing out, perhaps that publishers seem somewhat unconvinced there's a big e-book marketk for children yet. Maybe. Or not. Hell, it's an op-ed, so who knows?

My problem is with kids’ non-fiction. First, some stats: There are something like 500,000 ebooks available on Amazon for the Kindle. Almost 400,000 are categorized as non-fiction. Children’s non-fiction comes in at about 3,500 titles which sounds pretty respectable until you start to mine the list for anything useful. There are, for example, a paltry 39 books on Computers and 21 on Politics and Government.

The first real problem is that “children” covers a huge range in the real world and the Amazon organizers treat them as one undifferentiated mass. Titles aimed at pre-schoolers are bundled in with those aimed at high school students. So Bubblebut the Sea Turtle rubs shoulders with The Origin of the Species. I’m not kidding: they’re filed together. That’s just lazy and makes finding useful texts a completely hit-or-miss effort.

Then there’s the simply poor categorization. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped is apparently a non-fiction work on Transport—well, I suppose ships feature heavily. The Botany category features Girlwood, a novel about a runaway girl and an herbalist. Ah, an herbalist—see how it got into the Botany category?

Borders might, maybe, is supposed to, who knows?, declaring bankruptcy this week. So brilliant journalists with the Wall Street Journal went and talked to Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, Inc., a major e-publishing company, for a totally biased take on what that means. Not surprisingly, Coker says Borders should turn to e-books. Laurence Kirshbaum, a literary agent, throws out some numbers that have the wonderful word "probably" in it, which might have been better replaced by "my wild-assed guess" and Seth Godin, who seems to be everywhere these days discussing e-books, makes this comment, which actually puzzles me a bit:

"Small publishers and self publishers have as many tools to reach readers as big publishers do," said Mr. Godin, whose next book, "Poke the Box," will be published March 1 via an alliance with Amazon.

And isn't that layout interesting. Anyway, my response to that actually is: Um, yeah, no. Sorry, small publishers and self-publishers do not, as a matter of fact, have the same tools to reach readers as big publishers do. THey don't have money. They can't get their books distributed to Kmart, Sam's Club, Walmart, Meijer and a few thousand other non-bookstore retail outlets. They can't place a TV ad like they do for James Patterson or Janet Evanovich. THey can't send an author to France and Germany or to 30 cities across the U.S. to promote their book, nor can they usually get them on Oprah, Good Morning America, the Today Show or Larry King.

But aside from that, yeah, totally same tool kit. They can upload them as e-books to Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Nobles.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Self-Published E-Books, $2.99

February 13, 2011
I, like many others, have published several books on Kindle, etc., as e-books and published them at $2.99. (I've also re-published out of print books as e-books and priced them at $2.99). Within the industry there's a fair amount of fighting over e-book pricing, with one business model hitting on $9.99.

Anyway, I was reading Rick Riordan's blog today and he made this comment:

I don’t talk about books that I didn’t like, but I must mention that I read a very hyped e-book on my Kindle – or tried to read it. About a hundred pages in, I started wondering why it seemed so poorly written. How did this get past an editor? Then I looked at the Kindle site and realized it was published straight to e-book. Ah, it didn’t get past an editor because apparently it never had one. I will be more careful in the future to check the provenance of e-books. Don’t get me wrong. While I still buy a huge quantity of physical books, I love my Kindle and my iPad, too. They are great for travel especially. But publishers and editors do serve a vital role in shaping manuscripts and making sure they are ready for prime time. It’s possible to circumvent this process with the advent of e-reading, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for readers. Caveat emptor.

Indeed. Which caused me to rant a bit to a writer friend of mine about how... Oh hell, I'll just cut & paste the relevant statement:

I read Rick Riordan's blog today and he commented about books he'd been reading, and he read a Kindle title that he'd been hearing great things about and about a third of the way through he thought, "The writing is really lousy on this book," and went back and noticed it was self-published for the Kindle. Granted, Rick's a writer, so he's fairly attuned to bad writing, but one of the things I think XXXXXX and some of the others aren't tuning into is the fact that, yes, there IS a huge amount of self-published dreck out there and the amount is increasing and how can you identify most of that self-published dreck?

I'll tell you how people might start identifying it: it has a $2.99 price tag on it. If readers start getting burned by self-published crap that's priced at $2.99, they're going to start associating the price with self-published dreck and this whole "the market will sort itself out" philosophy could burn people. Granted, that's a negative POV, but I can easily see how people like myself and others might view it.

Hmmm. Well, I was spending a lot of time today doing work that I had to do, but was annoying and mind-numbing, so maybe that explains the rant, but what do you guys think?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

EBook Royalties

February 12, 2011
Here's a link to an article about e-book royalties that everybody involved with writing and publishing should probably read. Ought to keep you busy this weekend.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Another E-Book Author Makes It Big and It's Not Me (and other news)!!!

February 11, 2011
So, Yahoo announced they will be launching a digital newsstand for tablet devices. It'll be called "Livestand" and it's yet another way to create a personalized news feed. What puzzles me is, uh, why? Can't we pretty much do this anyway via RSS feeds and surfing?

John Squires discusses the problem with print publishers--primarily magazines--trying to shift over to digital downloads and why he sees a lot of problems with it as a business model:

Without direct access to customers, publisher revenue will decline sharply and the publications that we depend on for in-depth reporting, news and entertainment will risk a final digital Armageddon.

Should we care? Why can’t the publishing industry just leave the world of messy ink and rural route delivery? Can’t it pivot to a less costly distribution model where customer ownership isn’t

as critical?

Well, I care, because a significant percentage of my income is tied up in this question.

And here, more news of some author other than me making big bucks from e-publishing, this time a German novelist, Oliver Potzsch. 100,000 copies, $2 bucks per copy... I myself am deeply jealous. C'mon people, start buying my e-books here. I've got a ways to go before I make $200,000 this year. And by the way, I have no clue why I can't get HOT MONEY to show up on that Amazon page. It's one of my favorites!

And finally, apparently some publishers are "bundling" e-books, a sort of BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE! kind of deal, which at least to me suggests that publishers are just realizing that marketing strategies used successfully by everyone else for the last century or so might just be used by booksellers and publishers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

E-Book, Publishing, Library and Bookselling News

February 14, 2011
So, will libraries survive the e-book shift? One wouldn't think so, but that may not be true. People might prefer to check out an e-book. Here's a story from the Argus Leader.

The growing numbers took officials at Siouxland Libraries by surprise. In November, people downloaded 460 electronic books from the library website.

In December, the number jumped to 915. When January's total was tallied: 1,687.

"That," said Siouxland Libraries official Jodi Fick, "is amazing."

Pretty much my reaction, too. Also, um, weird. I've often wondered what the appeal of an e-reader would be to the person--and you know, I probably know more people like this than I know voracious book-buyers--who only buy a couple books a year or say, "Why would I buy a book when I'm just going to read it once," or who say, God love them, "I'll just go to the library." So apparently what's going on here is people buy the device, then can download free books through their library. However, you apparently can't do this with the Amazon Kindle.

In an international story, a supermarket company in the UK has put forth a color ebook reader called View Quest that costs 52 pounds. As of today, that's about $84 US. It's a small device, about five inches, but man, that's cheap.

Interestingly, there appears to be a market for used devices. You can buy a refurbished Nook e-reader for $79.99. Which begs the question, are they being abandoned by owners, or are the owners upgrading or changing to a different e-reader. Inquiring minds want to know.

And in case you didn't hear about it, USA Today had an article in yesterday's paper about self-publishing e-books, citing Amanda Hocking in particular, for having sold 164,000 books in 2010. I actually found the story moderately interesting (there isn't really anything new to those of us who pay any attention to this sort of things because, you know, it AFFECTS us), although of particular interest was not the bit on Hocking, but the part on H.P. Mallory, who sold 70,000 copies of her e-books since July, and as a result was offered a three-book contract with Random House, which she took. I'm sure some people think she's crazy, but I wonder what she thinks she's getting from Random she wasn't getting on her own. Only time will tell, I suppose.

And finally, in today's USA Today, an article about how small independent bookstores appear to be bucking the trend by staying in business by, uh, selling books at full price and stocking fewer titles and, uh... I have no goddamned clue, but I suspect that in the long-run some indie bookstores will make it and some won't, but I would guess community involvement and catering to a demographic that thinks the e-book is the work of the devil might help. God knows I love a good indie bookstore, but the nearest one to me is... I have no clue. Off-hand, the nearest one to me I've been to is Aunt Agatha's, which is in Ann Arbor, about 80 to 100 miles away from me. There used to be one in nearby Lake Orion, but it went out of business a decade ago.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Traditional Book Publishing IS Dead

February 9, 2011
Actually, I have no arguments here. Okay, maybe I do. I spoke to one of my agents a couple weeks ago (yes, I have one for fiction and one for nonfiction, currently) and she noted that all of the publishers she's spoken to indicate that whatever they were giving for advances a year ago, they're doing at least half that now. She also dropped a line in the conversation that went something like, "At least publishers that have enough money to give advances at all."

So there's at least some anecdotal evidence that publishers are struggling. And if I were a publisher, small or large, I'd be very concerned with the rumors that Borders might declare bankruptcy, because, depending on how it's filed--restructuring versus liquidation--there's a very real possibility that if the Borders chain owes you money (which also means you owe the authors), you ain't getting that money. Which for publishers (small) that are operating on slim to none margins or (large) that have a lot of stock and credit offered to the bookstore chain, you're going to be hurting.

[For some interesting thoughts on the impact of a Borders bankruptcy, read this].

Which strikes me as being one of those Catch-22 situations: a publisher that doesn't publish books is... what, exactly? When companies get into financial problems and stop producing the product that is their reason for existence, sometimes they bounce back, sometimes they don't. But it does seem to me that readers will benefit simply because there are so many channels for their favorite authors to offer product--e-books and CreateSpace, et al.,--that doesn't require a publisher's involvement.

On a secondary note, although there are some persuasive arguments against this, if a publisher is offering both print books and e-books, and e-books, despite the lower price point, have lower overhead and production costs such as paper, ink, warehousing and shipping, and the publisher starts noticing that the print book sales figures are dropping (at a lower profit point anyway), they will respond by publishing fewer print books and/or raising the price point. So while e-books may remain consistent at $9.99 or lower (and trust me, most readers just aren't willing to cough up $25.95 for an e-book, although that's largely anecdotal), hardcovers and paperbacks might increase in price, which may have the effect of driving people to cheaper e-books. Which is fine ultimately for traditional publishers because they're making more money per unit off an e-book (once they cancel their contracts with warehouses, get out from under their UPS bills, and fire half their design and editorial staffs and hire more computer programmers).

As I mentioned, there are persuasive arguments against this, primarily that the profit on a hardcover is considerable (although publishers have a tendency to accept a 60-70% sell-through as a good/reasonable thing, which means their waste is 30-40%, which most businesses would, at the least, raise an eyebrow at) and the largest publishers, with their deep pockets, corporate backers and extensive distribution networks, can churn products better than indie authors and e-books can.

[And if you have a lot of time on your hands, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has about a million-part blog on the publishing industry and its changes and how it will affect writers that is excellent and highly recommended]

What say you?

And p.s. From the perspective of an author with a book coming out in June 2011, I'm a little concerned about the Borders bankruptcy and store closings, simply because last year's tour involved about 90% Borders stores, one or two Barnes & Noble stores, and a couple indies. It's not clear to me where I stand today what Borders stores will even be in existence in four months.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Traditional Book Publishing Is NOT Dead

February 8, 2011
And from what I can see, it's not even feeling sick. (That does not, however, apply to Borders, which may very well have a terminal disease).

From an article in The AtlanticWire.

Book Sales Near All-Time Highs: "According to Nielsen's BookScan—a sales-monitoring service widely regarded as representing 70 to 75 percent of trade sales—Americans bought 751,729,000 books in 2010. Excepting 2008 and 2009,"--read worldwide recession--"when sales reaches 757 million and 777 million, respectively, that's many millions more books sold than in any other year BookScan has recorded. (Five years earlier, in 2005, the total was just 650 million.)"

And from an article in McSweeney's, which apparently is at least a partial source for the Atlantic story:

"The good news is that there isn't as much bad news as popularly assumed. In fact, almost all of the news is good, and most of it is very good. Book sales are up, way up, from twenty years ago. Young adult readership is far wider and deeper than ever before. Library membership and circulation is at all-time high. The good news goes on and on.

But still, perceptions persist that in a few years there will be no books printed on paper. That e-readers will take over the industry, and perhaps soon after, some other trend will kill books dead.

Sales of e-books still represent a small percentage of the overall book market. Depending on who's counting, the portion of the market is between 8% and 10%. When Amazon reports that their e-book sales are now larger than their paperback sales, it's easy to extrapolate this to encompass overall reading trends. But that would be a mistake. Amazon is an internet company, and it follows that their sales would favor electronic delivery of text. They are but one of many ways people get books, and the ratio of printed books to e-books changes drastically with each venue."

And for those of you in need of snide and sarcastic in your daily reading, may I link you to Paperback Writer, who rather humorously responds to a SPAM trying to help her self-publish:

I have worked with traditional publishing houses, and I have self-published. Quite frankly, I have found that self-publishing is more fun, more satisfying, and more lucrative!

Really? Because we're both published authors, that means I, too, could have more fun, more satisfaction and make more money self-publishing. Wow. I should call New York right now and tell them to tear up my latest contract. Tell you what, you hold your breath while I do that.

And far be it from me to ignore Joe Konrath, who, naturally, will probably disagree with these articles in time, but presents his POV here:

"Kindle readers are still buying overpriced bestsellers because that's how they're used to shopping. However, the many of the ereader owners I've spoken with are changing their buying habits."

Which makes me say, "Wow! You mean I bought a $9.99 e-book by John Gilstrap or Lincoln Child and Doug Preston or any number of other writers simply because that's what I'm used to, not because I think they're f***ing great writers and wanted to read their books on my Kindle? By all means, let's just give up all our reading habits and favorite authors and buy books by unknowns simply because their books are cheap!"

Honestly, I'm not against self-publishing on the Kindle--obviously, I've done it and expect I'll continue to do so. I also hope to continue publishing books in paper and through traditional publishers, big and small. There are good reasons for both, I think, but maybe we could keep all the hysterical smugness to a minimum while we do it (ha, like that's going to happen).

Well, I don't have all the answers and today my publishing crystal ball is cloudy and my Ouija Board keeps saying, "Sorry, this number is disconnected."

Anybody out there have all the answers? Please, share them with me.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Contract With The Reader

January 7, 2011
What do you owe readers? Anything?

The late Ed McBain on his website had a little essay that I won't put here fully, but he called NATURE OF THE BEAST and I pretty much agree with all of it.

I like to believe I've made a contract with the reader.

The contract is a simple one.

I know all the rules of mystery writing, and I promise
that I will observe them so long as they provide a novel
that will keep you fascinated, intrigued, and entertained.
If they get in the way of that basic need, I'll either bend
the rules or break them, but I will never cheat the
reader. Never.

He goes on and I hope you read it. There are many things in it that I agree with. Almost nothing I disagree with. Some that don't necessarily apply to me, at least not always.

Ed (Evan) also gave a nod to the fact that other writers and other readers may be looking for a different experience: "These are realistic novels, so if you are looking for Agatha Christie, you're not only in the wrong pew, you're in the wrong church."

I do feel that when I'm asking readers to cough up their hard-earned cash for one of my books--and perhaps as importantly, their finite time--that they deserve to get what they're looking for. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to kowtow to every whim. I hope it means that if they pay $25.95 for a book (or even $2.99) that they come away satisfied that they got their money's worth. That is, perhaps, a different kind of contract, but one I take seriously.

A couple years ago SF/F writer Justine Larbalestier wrote a bog post about this question and says, "No writers owes their readership anything. NOT A SINGLE THING. They have to write the book they have to write."

Well, yes, I suppose, although they need to accept then that readers may think it's a piece of shit and say so publicly and with their credit cards. Larbalestier goes on to then point out several TV creators who screwed up their shows, so she notes that she may feel differently as a reader than she does as a writer. (And Larbalestier's whole post seems to have to do with fan disappointment with Stephenie Meyer's BREAKING DAWN, a series I have not read).

There are some wonderful and thought-provoking comments in Larbalestier's blog post, but I'll note a couple here that jumped out at me:

#15. Beth: "The writer doesn't 'owe' the reader anything, but good writing will know the balance between fulfilling the reader's wishes and maintaining a good story. I think it was Kurt Vonnegut who said 'Give them what they want' and gave the example of how you know a romance will end up with boy getting the girl and how you shouldn't fail the reader..."

Well, I agree 100% with that. I think if you're going to ignore the desires and needs of the reader, what exactly is the point of publishing your work? If it's all about you, why bother with readers at all? Write the damn thing, leave it on your computer and be happy with the story you wrote.

#3. Laura Goodin: "My husband, a composer, and I, a writer, often debate this. He leans toward “the composer/writer must produce the work that they want to produce, and the listener’s/reader’s expectations do not enter into it.” I lean toward “The reader and I collaborate to make this work meaningful. If I jerk the reader around, that’s just power-tripping.”"

The composer in this instance seems completely uninterested in the market, the genre, etc. I think sometimes we get people that plow new ground and create their own market, but it's rare. I believe it was Hemingway that suggested there were two routes to success, to break out of the mold or to beat a dead man at his game, which I suppose means write a book similar to previous books only better.

I wasn't able to find this, but a few years ago I read an interview with Ken Follett. He was discussing how the critics are sort of hard on him, even though he's quite successful. He apparently is good friends with a literary writer who commented to him that he wrote for the critics and Follett wrote for the readers. To which Follett replied, "That's why I have so many of them."

Thoughts? Who do you write for?

Friday, February 04, 2011

First Book Friday

February 4, 2011
I'm a guest blogger on Jim Hines' blog, on First Book Friday, in which I tell the tale of my first book's publication history. Check it out.

Taking Risks

February 4, 2011
As I may have mentioned a while back, I was working on a nonfiction book proposal. Then I started querying agents about it, because the agent that handles my fiction doesn't handle nonfiction. One of the agents I queried I've had discussions with about other things and I suppose you could say we had a potential business relationship (versus an actual business relationship). She liked it, felt it needed a slight tweak, then we discussed expectations for money, which knocked me on my ass a bit. I told her I was going to think about it.

Then I got hit by a blizzard and a broken tooth, plus I was busy with some projects, so I put off making a decision. I also had a brief discussion with another agent about the project, in which the reaction was, "Great idea, but I'm working on a project with a client that's similar." Which convinced me, actually, that I should stop screwing around. (And for the record, I say, patting myself on the back, the agent that's going to take me on was only the second I queried).

So I went back to the agent and told her that if she was still interested, I was all in. And she was and we are.

Much of this came down to my willingness to take a risk. First, I spent time researching and writing the proposal in the first place. I could have been concentrating on magazine queries or other job postings (which I did, but not as intensely as I would have) or contacting other clients about work. But I have an idea of where I want my writing career to go and I'm working on moving it in that direction.

Second, I have to overcome the here's-the-reality-of-the-book-market talk that my agent was giving me. She's managed to sell four nonfiction book proposals in January alone, a couple of them for big bucks, some for not as much. So there's still a market, but--it's unpredictable. I'm taking a risk, although a fairly small one, in going ahead with this. What happens if I'm offered a contract that only pays a couple thousand upfront? Can I afford to do this? We'll see.

Some of you probably think I'm crazy or whining, but in that I'm a full-time writer, these are the sorts of calculations you have to make in order to make a living doing this. What you're selling is your skill/writing, but also your time, and if you're giving away your time, you get in trouble.

But the whole thing made me think about risk-taking. Leaving my decent-paying job with benefits and paid time off to be a full-time writer was a risk. It was a calculated risk, to be sure. I'd made decent money freelancing on the side and broken into some good-paying markets. I was able to go part-time on the job for a few months to see how it went. My wife has a good job with excellent benefits, so it wasn't like we wouldn't be able to eat or make the house payments. Also, I was working in a field, clinical cytogenetics, where if it didn't work out I had a high likelihood of picking up a job fast, or at the very least, picking up contingent work at one of the labs in the area.

If my father had been alive I think he would have had a stroke. Had my mother not been fairly deep into Alzheimer's at the time, I think she would have had one, too.

My parents were not risk takers. My father started out after World War II as a freelance photographer, had problems with it, quit and took a job at Fisher Body in Flint, then went to Citizens Bank where he retired some 35 or 40 years later. He still did the photography on the side, but not, as far as I can tell, with the intention of doing more than supplementing his income and fulfilling a need for creative activity. Steady pay, benefits, and stability were the priority.

That's okay, you know. Although freelancing full-time has worked well for me, I don't think it's for everyone. And I don't really think I'm much of a risk taker. And most freelancers, having taken a risk, tend to then create some sort of form of financial security around themselves with regular clients or regular gigs.

But sometimes you need to be a risk taker. Sometimes you need to say, "What's the worst that will happen?", realize not that much, and take a risk. That doesn't mean I'm in the least ways suggesting you quit your job with the intention of becoming a full-time novelist. But it is saying, "Maybe you should think about what risk you might be taking by trying something different."

Write something different. Approach it differently. Take a risk by marketing it differently. Birds don't fly by staying in the nest, babies don't walk and run by staying in the crib... blah, blah, blah.

Like I said, I don't think I'm much of a risk taker, but I'm all too aware that as a writer, I seem to have had the most success by taking some level of risks. Not all of them have worked out, of course, but enough have that I think a certain level of calculated risk is a really good idea.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

See What I Mean?

February 3, 2011
You know how I was bitching about low-paying gigs the other day? Here's a perfect--PERFECT!--example. Because I gotta tell you folks, medical writing is a specialty among writers, right up there with technical writers in computers and engineering, and this ad and price range on almost every level is a joke. Just sayin'.

Writers with Medical Background Wanted
Location:Remote - Any Location
Job Code:506
# of openings:1


Internet Brands, Inc. is seeking writers with a medical background to contribute well-written, informative articles to our portfolio of medical websites specializing in wound care. These articles will include a fair amount of medical terminology and must provide accurate information on procedures and treatments. Topic areas include conditions such as diabetic foot ulcers, bedsores, varicose veins, burns, bites, radiation injuries, and wound infections, as well as treatments like dressings, skin grafts, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, negative pressure therapy, and surgical intervention. Familiarity with these subjects, and the ability to do detailed research is a must.

This is a 100% freelance, telecommuting position. Write what you want, when you want. Assignments, writing, editing, and submissions are all handled through our online system. All you need is a computer, internet access, and the ability to deliver clean, concise copy on a variety of wound care based subjects, like "What Are the Phases of Wound Healing?", "What Are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins?", and "Benefits of Vacuum Assisted Closure in Plastic Surgery."

Requirements include:

  • Ability to write in a professional, authoritative tone.
  • Experience with medical procedures and terminology. (Nurses, medical assistants, med students, etc.)
  • Strong research and fact checking skills.
  • Attention to detail and the desire to help provide accurate medical information to the online audience.

To apply, simply click the following link: (Make sure to submit to the Medical vertical.)

Rates will vary and average $10 per article. If you have any other questions, feel free to send an e-mail to

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Brain Barf

February 2, 2011
Yeah, I was going to call it Random Thoughts, but hey, why not use something colorful to describe a post with no theme made up of random thoughts?

--Happy Groundhog's Day! Because most of this midwest and east coast and damn near everywhere else in North America is covered in snow and blown by 40 mph winds, I would guess the groundhog didn't bother coming out of his burrow, and if he did, he saw no shadow because the sun was hidden, hence, no shadows. What does that mean? It means that winter will end eventually. We hope.

--On that same trail, yes, we got the biggest snowstorm we've had in a while in Michigan. Leanne made it to work, although she was the first one out of the sub. I could barely see the tracks in the driveway where she left, when I was trying to shovel. Top priority actually was clearing part of the deck so Frodo could make it out to the backyard instead of standing just inside the open door whining because there was a couple-foot snowdrift blocking his way.

--Sean had the stomach flu yesterday. The friend he stayed with this weekend had it Friday. So when he threw up at 2:00 or so Tuesday morning, both Leanne and I started counting on our fingers--Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday... to figure out when we would get it. And in fact, both of us have been feeling queasy for a couple days. Maybe it's psychosomatic.

--the tooth that had been bothering me for a month or so decided to break in half yesterday, so I made it to the dentist who sprayed some crap on it to protect the root and scheduled me for a crown on Thursday. Of course, the protective coating fell out in my mouth during karate last night. No ice cream for me today, or hot soup, either.

So, how're you?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

In The Future People Will Run For Fun...

February 1, 2011
So says a very funny line by Doc in the first BACK TO THE FUTURE movie. As some of you may have noticed, publishing is a-changin'. For the better, for the worse, I dunno, but it clearly is. I'm not in the Joe Konrath Camp that says big publishing's toast. I still think there will be enough writers out there who benefit from what they have to offer, particularly in terms of marketing clout (when they're inclined to) and editorial services (when they're inclined to) that for a certain type of writer they'll still be the way to go.

That said, I'm fairly sure they won't be as large as they are now. The industry's contracting and the big companies, in particular, are getting hammered over the head by their overhead (like that?). Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a whole series on the midlist writer and changes in publishing on her blog and although I don't necessarily agree 100% with everything she says (that would be very unlike me), I think she lays out her arguments at least as persuasively as Joe Konrath does.

I honestly don't think anyone knows exactly what's going to happen in the next 5 to 10 years. I'm fairly certain you can kiss Borders goodbye (and that's a real bummer), and I have some doubts about the long-term future of any chain bookstore (and no, I don't like that at all; I love big bookstores and it's not like there are any indies nearby where I live). I suspect the prices of paper books are going to climb as more and more e-books get adopted by readers. That said, I prefer paper books for the most part, both for the reading experience and for the feel and as objects that I put on shelves in my house. I can glance over at my shelves and be reminded of hundreds of lives and people and experiences, something I don't really get flipping through the Home page of my Kindle.

I hope indie publishers continue to grow and publish writers. I hope people continue to read--I'm pretty sure they will.

On the upside, I think the e-book self-publishing trend is a good thing for writers from an artistic point of view and for many writers it's a positive thing from an economic point of view. I know that I can feel some real relief in working on a novel project these days knowing that if my agent can't place it somewhere I can then turn around and e-publish it myself. I no longer feel as if it's a gamble of my time. I'm not at the point yet like Joe Konrath and Lee Goldberg and Robert W. Walker where I'm considering just skipping the traditional route and going for the e-book route--I haven't made that kind of money yet, but if I do, I'm not sure I'd have a problem with it. I might really embrace that. Certainly I have at least two e-publishing projects planned for 2011 and possibly three. And by the way, I'm TOTALLY willing to have that happen, so why don't you run out and buy my e-books ASAP, 'kay?

So what do you guys think? What's the future of book publishing and writing for you?