Mark Terry

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Direct Marketing Thoughts & A Little Math

May 31, 2011
With a week left until the official launch of THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, I've been considering all the marketing I'm doing and that my publisher wants me to do.

Simultaneously, I'm running an ad in a major medical journal for my writing and editing services. Which makes me very conscious of how much money is spent, how many potential people it might reach, and then getting those people to do something about it, i.e., buy a copy of my book and/or hire me to do something.

I'm going to throw out that I'm not an MBA or even a business school graduate, but that I have written dozens of articles as well as a book about running a small business. I've read a lot about marketing.

So, just so you know, direct mail (i.e., junk mail) generally is considered to have a 1-2% response rate. Ad rates are a far quirkier figure related to the nature of the ad and the nature of the target audience and the degree that it's targeted, etc., but we'll go with those numbers here just for educational purposes.

The definition of "response rate" can be a bit vague (which is one of many reasons why marketing experts often get under my skin).

I thought I would share my math that I did in my head for the medical journal ad, though, which will possibly explain why the idea of doing marketing for novels can drive me up the wall.

The journal in question has 365,000 subscribers worldwide.

So, working with 1%, I figure that means that of those subscribers, only 3,650 will even notice the ad.

Out of those 3,650 people who noticed the ad, I suspect only another 1% will notice it enough to actually do something like contact me or visit the link to my website. That means 365 people.

Out of those, I figure I'll be in great shape if about 1% - and for ease of math, let's round up - or 4 people hire me to do some writing or editing.

A single client could more than pay for the price of that ad, given the nature of the work I do, what I charge, and the market and what I'm advertising for. One really, really good client could pay for the ad by a factor of 30 or 40, and if I got lucky and came up with 10 so-so clients, same thing. Well worth it. (And frankly, these may be best-case scenarios, but we'll see, or they could be totally unestimated. I think there's a very real possibility these hard numbers are under-estimates, in that I have a fairly good understanding of the market I'm advertising to and the type of work I'm advertising for). And if I do a good job, they're likely to be repeat customers.

Now, let's take us to a similar proposition for novel marketing.

One of the leading magazines for the mystery field, which I will not name, has about 23,000 subscribers. A half-page color ad inside costs about $750.

Let's break down some numbers again.

Only this time, because I'm willing to be generous and because we'll assume the readership of said magazine is "targeted" (as is the medical journal), I'll give 2% figures. Who knows? Maybe ad response could go as high as 5 or 10% in that circumstances (although I doubt 10% direct response).

Out of the 23,000 subscribers, 460 might notice your ad (2%).

Of those 460, another 2% might decide to act on it (I'm skipping a step here that I added in the medical journal ad). That means 9.2 people. Hell, I'll round up.

You just spent $750 to sell 10 copies of your book. Let's assume your publishing a hardcover for $25.95 and you have a somewhat typical 10% royalty. You just spent $750 to earn $25.95.

In fact, let's just figure out how many hardcovers you would have to sell to pay off that ad (and ad rates go twice as high depending on size and placement). Done your math yet?

289 copies.

To break even. (And I went with 2% and skipped a step).

Yeah, yeah, I've been told: the marketing you do for this book leads to more sales on the next book.

I've been told: it builds awareness and word of mouth, which you have to do.

I've been told:....

Who cares?

There's the math.

P.S. I went around the 'net a bit and found a lot of different figures, including one optimistic gent who thought a 5% response rate for direct mail was good and 10% typical for ad rates, although almost everyone agrees that there are too many variables to say for sure. A guy named Kevin Horne responded on one of these posts with:

The response rates quoted for direct mail are way too high for the US. They are around 2%, and can be much lower. The DMA tracks this annually. Since print is not a typical "direct" medium, you can expect response rates for it to be orders of magnitude less. The DMA data typically shows response rates on average of 0.15%, with a "best case" (print with a coupon/offer?) that can be as high as 0.5%. But you can see these are very low.

Read more:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing For A Living

May 27, 2011
John Gilstrap did a blog post today on The Kill Zone about how book advances that might be considered a living wage were one of the first casualties of the current book publishing revolution going on. And he wondered if there would be any full-time novelists except for a very select few. (John, by the way, apparently makes enough money from his novels that he COULD and DID write novels full time for a while, but ultimately decided he was too Type A to just do that, so he went back to his consulting business and continued to write. Go figure. I think I can understand that, sometimes, though. Really).

Anyway, here was my response.

Well, I am a full-time writer, but not a full-time novelist, which maybe is fine and the way I like it, at least when I'm in a sensible mood.

In terms of the whole "legacy" v. "self-publishing" battle, on June 7th my "legacy" published novel, The Valley of Shadows comes out.

Sometimes in July probably I'll e-self-publish a MG/YA novel, The Fortress of Diamonds.

Yesterday I sent off a fiction proposal to my agent.

Two days ago I sent off a nonfiction book proposal to my nonfiction agent.

And today: plan to finish two magazine articles, work on a two columns I regularly write, deal with some issues related to the technical journal I edit, deal with some website content I'm writing and editing for a client, look for some more work...

I sometimes think that except for a select few, it's very tough to make a living JUST writing a book a year or JUST fiction, but if you work hard and are willing to be flexible, you can make a living writing.

Kind of like the professional musicians I know. Most don't JUST make a living performing, but they also teach. One of my guitar teachers played in about 3 different bands while teaching almost full time.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Local Author - me!

May 26, 2011
The local newspaper did a piece on me. Here's the Internet version. Not a bad article, overall.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Dirty Dozen Questions

May 24, 2011
I'm guest blogging with A Dirty Dozen Questions at Michelle Hickman's blog today. (Maybe I should do one on a Dozen Dirty Questions!) Drop on by!

Or, perhaps more appropriately, same blog post on Michelle's other blog, The Surly Writer.

Monday, May 23, 2011


May 23, 2011
25 years or so ago I started writing my first novel, convinced I was going to sell it and get some $400,000 paperback deal like Stephen King did in 1972 for "Carrie." I mean, really, why not? It was 1985 or 1986 or so and everyone knew that authors made big bucks, and for God sakes, if King got that kind of money in 1972, then why wouldn't there be more money in the late 1980s? Besides, my first real job out of college paid a whopping $8.75 an hour as a research assistant working in pediatric infectious disease research, so how much money would it have required to change my life?

Reality eventually set in. No $400,000 paperback deal. In fact, to this day I'm fairly rueful that in 1971 or 1972 or so Stephen King got a hardcover advance for "Carrie" that was $2500, and 30+ years later my biggest advance has been $3000. My last one (for fiction) was $1000. I've done significantly better with nonfiction projects, but this is all fiction we're talking about today.

Well, you can say, you're no Stephen King.

Nope. That I'm not.

But I think I - and probably most writers except the most literary starving artist type - do their scribbling thinking they've got the winning Lotto ticket. If JK Rowling can do it, why not you?

I know I have had at least some of that attitude, at least until recently, where I've been taking a harder look at my track record and started discussing logic and rationality and the finite quality of my life with myself and wondering what the f**k am I doing with my time?

Anyway, my agent contacted me last week about some business-y things that more or less irritate the crap out of me (don't ask, you'd cry, you'd howl, you'd gnash your teeth), but did drop the bomb that three separate production companies are looking at various Derek Stillwater novels and my agent seems optimistic about this. Why she's optimistic about this I have no clue. I've given up on holding my breath about Hollywood movie deals, but she needed a one or two-page summary of The Devil's Pitchfork ASAP to give to them...

Well, I took care of that, but you know what, Hollywood ALWAYS wants whatever they want ASAP as if they're going to make the deal RIGHT THAT FREAKIN' MINUTE AND IF YOU DON'T DO IT NOW, NOW, NOW YOUR SHOT IS GONE, OVER, FINITO!

But it's all about potential, isn't it? The odds of making it rich by penning a bestseller or getting a hot movie deal are probably STILL better than buying the winning lottery ticket.


What do you think? Fame and fortune or whatever passes for it in modern society?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Literary Fossils

May 20, 2011
Michael Stackpole has another good post about e-books. He writes:

It doesn’t take a genius to know that writers’ careers have their ups and downs. Go to any used bookstore and browse through the stacks. It’s like looking at career fossils. You can find writers who were huge, once upon a time, and whose work has vanished from new bookstore shelves. There are tons of reasons why an author can vanish, not the least of which is that the overall downturn in sales means that an author becomes too expensive to publish. Through no fault of the author’s—aside from having had some success in building an audience, that is—the publisher drops her. *Splash*

This struck me partly because I've experienced this - just about every year for the last 10 years or so. My sister owns a lakefront condo in northern Michigan and we typically spend a week there every summer. The complex has a clubhouse with pool tables and ping-pong tables, handy for the inevitable rainy day in northern Michigan, and against one wall is a bookshelf filled with mostly mass market paperbacks that appear to be culled from the bestseller lists over the last 30 or 40 years. I've found it both fascinating and disconcerting to go over the books and say, "Oh, yeah, man, he was HUGE for a couple books in the '80s..."

Of course, publishers have decided that if the author is big enough, they never die, they just keep writing books forever, hence Robert Ludlum, VC Andrews, and now Robert B. Parker. I keep waiting for the readers to feel ripped off or disgusted, but it hasn't happened yet that I can see. And then there are the other "branded" authors like James Patterson, Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy whose names go on the books and may or may not have some actual involvement with their writing (like story ideas, outlines, editing), but who don't actually write the books.

But there are plenty of former bestselling authors who were hot for a few years then just disappeared, poof.

Ah well. Living fossils in their own way, I suppose.

What do you think?

Lawsuits & such

May 20, 2011
No, not scaring anybody, but I get the Freelance Success newsletter, and today they had a short piece by Christopher P. Beall, who is a partner with the law firm of Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, discussing things that might be relevant to people who publish online and on their blogs. Much of it caught my attention, but in particular:

Be careful when you talk about your business online. You probably learned in J-school Libel 101 that the First Amendment protects the right to publish — and say — almost anything. But recent court decisions have narrowed that right when it can be proven that the published piece — based on the speaker, the intended audience and the content of the message — is really commercial speech. For instance, Nike tried to defend itself against allegations that it was running sweat shops by publishing pieces on its website about the conditions in its factories. Kaske sued Nike for false advertising. Nike's defense was the First Amendment, but Nike lost Kaske vs. Nike. The court ruled that any time you're talking about what you do for a living, it is considered commercial speech, and that removes most protections.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mike Stackpole on E-Publishing - I'm laughing & crying at the same time

May 18, 2011
Yeah, I just read Michael Stackpole's post on e-publishing. Yeah, you need to read it. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll feel like somebody's jabbing red-hot knitting needles into your gonads. Read it anyway if this is a topic of interest to you.

The Valley of Shadows gets some love

May 18, 2011
THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS gets some love from Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

The author's fourth book in the Derek Stillwater Series is a thriller that will make the reader's heart race. A first rate novel, well written that does not let up until the last page; and then, only for a little while as we all wait for the fifth installment.
And I just got advanced word of an upcoming review of THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS in the summer issue of Mystery Scene Magazine by Betty Webb:

"There’s nothing more bracing than a fast-paced thriller, and Mark Terry has delivered a doozy in The Valley of Shadows." 

Rock What You've Got

May 18, 2011
I'm over visiting THE KILL ZONE today with a guest blog titled ROCK WHAT YOU'VE GOT. Check it out!

Mark Terry

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Working Like A Dog

May 17, 2011
This is a crazy week, but I'll be guest blogging tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Mark Terry

Saturday, May 14, 2011


May 14, 2011
I'm guest blogging for Robin Agnew, owner of Aunt Agatha's, a mystery bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the Hey, There's A Dead Guy In The Living Room blog today. The topic: Is The Boogeyman Dead?

Check it out!

Mark Terry

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The E-Book Self-Publishing Market and Why I Worry

May 11, 2011
I, like a great many people, have self-published a number of books as e-books. I'm not new to self-publishing, my book CATFISH GURU was published by iUniverse (and for those of you too young or who have short-term memory loss, the type of hype we're seeing now about e-book self-publishing is almost identical to that seen when print-on-demand publishing took off, although the primary difference now is that people are actually buying the e-books).

For the traditionally published novelist with several out of print book titles, this is totally awesome. $500 or $1000 in sales might not be of interest to a publishing house, but they sure as hell are to most authors. (Although those days are coming to an end. Publishers aren't going to let e-book rights loose, which is why we're seeing some traditionally published novelists abandoning their publishers and self-publishing).

For traditionally published novelists with a good audience who want to try something a little different and their publisher isn't particularly interested, it's also terrific.

For some traditionally published novelists who have been dropped by their publishers, usually because of sluggish sales, this is fantastic. (And unfortunately, I know literally dozens of seemingly successful novelists who have been dropped by their publishers over the years and they're just a fraction of the ones who have been. In reality, flat sales, negative sales and slow sales growth these days tend to result in getting dropped; publishers are primarily only interested in spectacular sales).

For some people, like Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking or Scott Nicholson, they are making tons and tons of money via e-self-publishing. It's great for them.

There are a lot of, shall we say, "inexperienced" writers who now feel that e-self-publishing is the key to their writing future, they no longer have to listen to those "know-nothing arrogant gatekeepers" of traditional publishing, they can slam up whatever they've written and make a bundle of money. And tons and tons of writers are doing just that.

And most of them aren't making any sales, or are making very few.

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, recently commented that they have fewer than 50 writers making $50,000 or more a year from their e-books. Dudes - that's worse than in traditional publishing, and he's got a hell of a lot more authors throwing their shit against the wall hoping it'll stick. He describes it as a typical power curve, which is to say, very few at the top end with a long tail of everyone else at the bottom end.

And that makes me wonder whether or not some of these writers - including some of us traditionally published writers who are experimenting with it and not making tons of bread off it - might eventually say, "Y'know, maybe I should go back to focusing on traditional publishers that pay advances, have distribution and handle all the cover art, layout, pre-marketing stuff, etc."

A lot of people think they know where the e-book market is going, but I doubt it. They were almost all wrong a year or two ago. It may level out. It will almost assuredly level out.

And I'm unconvinced that just because people bought your $1.99 or $2.99 or $0.99 e-book that they'll continue to buy your books ... unless they liked them! Because if your book sucks, no matter the price, you're not going to get repeat buyers. My understanding of the typical e-book reader is that once they've got their Kindle or Nook or whatever in their hands, they need to buy content. But often they've just spent $200 bucks on the device, so they download a book or two of their favorite readers, then they go shopping and see a bunch of books for cheap and they buy a bunch, then they'll slowly start going back to their favorite authors, the book du jour, the New York Times bestsellers, etc.

So I'm having a hard time seeing how some of what's going on is going to be sustainable.

Of course, I could be wrong.

The market could continue to grow and people might continue to buy significantly more cheap books than they'll ever find time to read.

Or the market may become so saturated with $1.99 and $2.99 books that book buyers will start to think that number translates to: self-published, unreliable crap. And there will be so many of them anyway that it'll be damn near impossible to tell which are good and which are garbage.

Or they won't care and it'll continue.

Or they'll become so enamored with cheap books that the idea of paying anything more than $5 for a book - in any format! - will start to seem like highway robbery, that the publisher's are greedy and trying to rip them off, and it's just some rich author trying to get richer...

I don't actually know. It feels like a bubble to me rather than a long-term trend. I may be wrong. Probably I'm wrong. But you've heard the old expression about "if it sounds too good to be true..."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Booklist Gives THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS Some Love

May 10, 2011
I haven't seen the entire review of THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS yet, but here's the highlight of what Booklist had to say:

“Another intense and fast-paced thrill ride…Terry’s ability to amp up the suspense shows that he’s at the top of his game here. Readers of Vince Flynn and Broad Thor will devour this one.”

Monday, May 09, 2011

What I've Been Reading

May 9, 2011
I've read an interesting batch of books this time. Here they are:

Hostage Zero by John Gilstrap
The second in his new series featuring Jonathan "Digger" Grave, an expert on hostage rescue and retrieval. John Gilstrap and I have almost exactly the same storytelling sensibilities, so if you like my Derek Stillwater books, I'm sure you'll like his Jonathan Grave books. (And since his readership is approximately ten thousand times larger than mine, at least, vice versa, folks).

Fighting For Life: American Military Medicine in World War II by Albert E. Cowdrey
A nonfiction book about, shocking I know, medicine in World War II. Fascinating, if you're into this kind of stuff.

Night Vision by Randy Wayne White
A Doc Ford novel. I think Randy's a terrific writer, but sometimes his novels are uneven (in my opinion). For instance, I absolutely loved his last novel, Deep Shadow. Night Vision, unfortunately, I didn't care for much, although it has some wonderful action set pieces. My problem with this novel was it could have been written without Doc Ford being in it, and practically is, focusing almost all his narrative on a Guatemalan girl. Strange book, but as usual, White has something to say and says it well.

Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
A new series character by Preston and Child, and although I found the narrative structure of the book more than a little odd - it's basically two stories in one, which makes it seem a bit episodic - it was a real page-turner and I found the main character to be quite engaging. So I'm looking forward to whatever adventures they might have him involved with in the next book.

The Messenger by Daniel Silva
Another espionage novel featuring Israeli spy/assassin, Gabriel Allon. I would describe it as typical, which is to say, although his pace is generally very slow, the book is nicely layered and complicated.

Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman
Another outing with Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis and I liked this one quite a bit.

Freelancer's Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Highly recommended for anyone who's self-employed, whether as a writer or anything else. Lots of useful and thought-provoking stuff here.

Goodbye Byline: Hello Big Bucks by Kelly James-Enger
This is a book about ghostwriting. It's interesting, although anyone who's done any ghostwriting at all - I have - this probably isn't as useful as you'll hope it will be. It's a good book, though, for anyone who's interested in the basics of ghostwriting.

Once A Spy by Keith Thomsen
I was wandering through the Meijer's book section (that's a Michigan chain store, like Kmart) and saw the title and picked it up and was intrigued. Basically a guy finds out that his boring old father who's getting Alzheimer's isn't the appliance salesman he always thought he was, but a top op for the CIA and some people are trying to kill him. Great concept, but instead of buying it in paper I bought it for my Kindle and read it. The execution isn't quite as great as I hoped it would be, but the idea is great and the writing is good and the characters are terrific. I imagine I'll eventually read the second book, Twice A Spy. This book is almost a satire - or perhaps it IS a satire - so there's a weird tone to it, but it's a very enjoyable read.

The Midnight House by Alex Berenson
Ah. Well. Nothing like reading a masterpiece of espionage. That might be overstating this book, but it made me feel totally inadequate as a writer. I've enjoyed Berenson's espionage novels in the past, but they've always been a bit grim and introspective. Well, this one is grim and introspective, but Berenson seems to also have developed a sense of humor which makes the book manageable, given its topic. And the topic is: Someone is murdering all the members of an interrogation/rendition team that was operating out of a military base in Poland. CIA op John Wells and his boss Shafer, are tweaked into investigating it, although it's clear they're being used as some sort of pawns by the DCI in a battle between the CIA and the Office of the National Intelligence Director. So the story involves a murder mystery, espionage, torture, rendition, Al-Qaeda, the US Intelligence community, politics... and it's all very, very realistic and grapples with some very, very unpleasant realities of the morality of interrogations, renditions, torture, espionage... pretty astonishing, serious read, that also has some seriously great action sequences.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

E-Book Reality Check

May 8, 2011
For all interested in e-book self-publishing, a little bit of a reality check. I also suggest you read Joe Konrath's recent blog post on the subject as well. I'm still working my way through the original Washington Post article - it's long - but here are the links.

Here's a quote from Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords:

The overwhelming number of self-publishing e-authors are consigned to the same fate as their print counterparts: oblivion.
“We have less than 50 people who are making more than $50,000 per year. We have a lot who don’t sell a single book,” says Mark Coker, founder of, a Web site that helped launch indie publishing.
“When I load all our numbers on a spreadsheet, it’s the typical power curve,” he says. “On the left, there’s a skinny area of the chart where people are knocking it out of the park. And then we have a very, very long tail off to the right, where some titles sell very few at all.”

Friday, May 06, 2011

Harry Potter Moments

May 6, 2011
In 8th grade my Social Studies teacher, Mr. McKenzie (the crusty old fart, who was weird by most standards, but an excellent teacher anyway) had a lengthy spiel about the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, claiming that anyone who could read it, especially the scene where the main character escapes over the frozen river, without a lump in their throat or a tear in their eye must be the most cold-hearted person on the planet.

Taking that as a challenge, I read the damned book, which may have been his intention. Nope. Not a tear nor lump in my throat.

I'm not often moved that way by books, but in the interest of picking books and movies that most people have read or seen, I decided to offer my favorite emotional/hard-hitting scenes or moments in the Harry Potter novels and movies (versus funny, which is a post for another day). And you can weigh in as well. (And I will note that I'm probably like many people in that the movies and the books have tended to blend together a bit in my mind).

Book: I've often been moved by Harry before The Mirror of Erised, seeing his dead parents. From an adult perspective, though, when Harry asks Professor Dumbledore what he sees in the mirror and Dumbledore says, "A new pair of socks" strikes me as being one of the most interesting things in the entire book. After all, who of us shares our deepest desires with anyone? Who even knows what they are?

Movie: The chess game when Ron sacrifices himself.

Book: Probably when Hermione is petrified. This is my least favorite novel and least favorite of the movies for many reasons, but in the book this was heartbreaking. In the movie, less so.

Movie: Maybe seeing Ginny Weasley's limp body in the chamber.

Book: Wow, so many. Probably when Harry finally learns the truth about Sirius Black in the shrieking shack. Not quite as powerful in the movie because I'd already read the book so I knew what was going on. Also, when we as the readers, perhaps more than Harry, realizes that his patronus is identical to his father's and takes on the same shape as his father when he becomes an animal. This is potent symbolism.

Movie: It's a toss-up. When Harry realizes he can save himself using his patronus or when Professor Lupin talks to him on the bridge about his mother. There are many others, of course. Gary Oldman's portrayal of Sirius Black is so rich and textured and the emotion and anger and desperation and despair in his voice when he wants to kill Peter Pettigrew in the shrieking shack tends to stay in my mind.

Book: I think the spats between Harry and Ron work better in the book, for the most part, really understanding all of Ron's jealousies coming to the forefront. I think my favorite, though, is probably when Harry confronts Voldemort in the graveyard and the ghosts of his parents appear.

Movie: Ah, an easy one. The sound of Cedric Diggory's father's voice when he realizes his son his dead and he starts shouting, "My boy! That's my boy!"

Book: The death of Sirius Black and Harry's reaction, his anger and disbelief. Anyone who has lost someone can understand that disbelief.

Movie: I thought in some ways that the entire sequence in the Ministry of Magic was shortchanged, in particular I would have liked to have seen the battle between the Death Eaters and the Order go on a little bit longer - although it's seriously cool. When Sirius slips behind the veil - AFTER being killed by Bellatrix LeStrange - seems almost anticlimactic. However, the scene immediately after where Harry tries to run after him and Lupin holds him back... now that does it for me.

Book: The death of Dumbledore.

Movie: Give the director and writer credit. Dumbledore's death has the impact you expect. But for me, the real frisson in this movie occurs when McGonagall raises her wand and shoots light into the Dark Mark and all the students follow suit, dispersing the Dark Mark. This scene isn't in the book, which is too bad, because it's great.

Book: Taking this up to the point where the first movie ends, I would have to say the death of Dobby. More to the point, the burial of Dobby in the book is such raw emotion because Harry won't use magic and won't accept any help.

Movie: I'm inclined to go with the death of Dobby again, although the actual death this time.

Book overall: When Harry walks to his confrontation with Voldemort and uses the snitch and is accompanied by the ghosts of his parents and Sirius Black, well aware he's walking to his death and doesn't know the outcome.

Movie, part 2. Don't know yet.

How about you? C'mon, you know you have some.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Jude Hardin - A Rockin' Interview

May 5, 2011
It's a happy coincidence that I'm interviewing my friend Jude Hardin on Cinco De Mayo, my favorite drinking holiday. Jude's first novel, POCKET 47, slammed onto the shelves this week and I had the opportunity to read this in manuscript form and highly, highly, highly recommend it. That's THREE highlys. Whacha waiting for? Robert B. Parker's gone, but Jude Hardin's fillin' his shoes.

So, welcome Jude, everyone!

Who's Nicholas Colt?
He’s a picker, he’s a grinner, he’s a lover and he’s a sinner. He’s a rock star turned private eye, the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his wife and baby daughter and all the members in his band. He’s a loyal friend and a formidable foe. I created the character Halloween night 2005 while goofing around on Joe Konrath’s blog. Damn, I can’t believe it’s been that long ago. Colt has been evolving ever since.

[Mark sez: Really, if I were a rock star, I'd stay out of small planes and helicopters.]

Despite the shaved head, you just don't seem like you're as tough as Nicholas. Or are you?
Actually, I’m not shaving my head anymore. So the question is moot. ;) But really, I would never shove a fully-clothed police detective into a Jacuzzi. Colt would.

Anything inspire Pocket 47?
Not one specific thing, but I was reading a lot of Spenser and Travis McGee at the time. The voice sort of evolved from reading Robert B. Parker and John D. MacDonald and Walter Tevis (The Hustler, The Color of Money), among others. I’ve always enjoyed Hemingway, and his work never fails to inspire.

[Mark sez: I have a theory that there are generations of American PI writers. The genealogy runs something like this: Chandler/Hammet, Ross McDonald, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton/Sara Paretsky, Robert Crais. And now, perhaps, Jude Hardin.]

What's your writing routine like?
I work full time outside the house, so I’m limited to about three writing days a week. I like to write in two-hour stretches. I’m not fast. Sometimes I might only finish a couple of pages in those two hours.

[Mark sez: Funny, that's about how many pages I get done in two weeks.]

Influences? Spenser? Elvis Cole? Nancy Drew?
I’ve never read Nancy Drew, and I think I’ve only read one Elvis Cole novel. I love Chandler and Hemingway for the purity of their prose, and there’s a terrific writer named Loren D. Estleman who writes about a PI named Amos Walker.

[Mark sez: Only one Elvis Cole? Get on it, dude. L.A. Requiem is a classic. As for Loren D. Estleman, he's not a novelist, man, he's a poet. I did a group book signing with him a few years back. Talented, talented writer.]

What kind of car do you drive? Would you trade with Nicholas Colt?
I used to drive a ’96 GMC Jimmy. Colt has it now. :)

[Mark sez: When it dies, I'll sell him my 2003 Saturn VUE]

Who is Jude Hardin?
He’s a picker, he’s a grinner, he’s a lover and he’s a sinner. He’s a writer and an RN and a drummer and a dad. And he can cook a mean pot of chili.

[Mark sez: Hot chili and cold beer. I'm in.]

What's next? Hopefully more Nicholas Colt. Pocket 48?
I’ve been invited to write a book for Lee Goldberg’s Dead Man ( series. Hoping to have a draft finished by this fall. It’s really different working with someone else’s character, but I’m enjoying it and it’s a learning experience--which is always good.

[Mark sez: Dayum! I'm green with envy. Totally!]

Guitar or drums?
I play some guitar, and I played bass in a trio I put together for a party last summer. But drums were my first love. And they’ll be my last love.

Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
I love them both, but if I had to pick one it would be Beatles. They never get old.

[Mark sez: Yes, but will you still love me when I'm sixty-four?]

Colt or Smith & Wesson?
I own a Colt revolver. Go figure.

[Mark sez: No firearms in the Terry household, but my wife bought a sword recently. It's under our bed at the moment. Think about that, why don't you?]

What didn't I ask that I should have asked?
You should have asked about The Great Manuscript Giveaway! ( I’m giving away pages from the original Pocket-47 manuscript in exchange for Amazon reviews. Once all the pages are distributed, one lucky participant will be chosen at random to win a free Kindle e-reader. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Enjoying The Process - All of It

May 4, 2011
Yesterday I read a blog post by former literary agent and author Nathan Bransford in which is comments that he doesn't actually enjoy the process of writing, but enjoys having written. 

It's a common enough statement by writers and my reaction is almost always, "Then why in hell would you bother?" Because, you know, this isn't a job with a lot of benefits, much stability, any guarantee of great (or even good) pay, etc. So if you don't actually like writing...

I love the process of writing. Fiction, nonfiction, almost anything. Some I like better than others, of course, but the process of turning thoughts into words ... love it.

Editing. Pretty much the same. Love it. Maybe not as much as writing, but still...

Nonfiction publishing. For the most part, I really like it. Won't go so far as to say love, because it's a funky business and it has its built-in headaches, but yeah, I really like it.

Fiction publishing. Mmmm, not so much for a lot of reasons.

Marketing. Uh, for nonfiction it's just part of the game, getting gigs. There's nothing much fun about it, but I've routinized it enough that it's just something I do. Looking for publishers for fiction, in theory part of that has moved over to my agent, but it's not a process I like much, mostly because it's such a crapshoot. Marketing to readers ...

Let's come right out and say it. I love people who have plunked down their money and read my books. Even if they ended up hating them, well, okay, I'm sorry, but thanks anyway. And if you enjoyed them, hey, thanks very much. I'm grateful and pleased. I even like meeting readers, for the most part. I'm not the most gregarious guy in social situations, and frankly, put me in a crowded room with a lot of background noise like at a book conference and I can barely hear a word anyone's saying, so my blank look of mild interest doesn't mean you're boring me, it means all I'm hearing is "mmmm waaah mmmm" and I'm smiling and nodding and hoping I'm not agreeing that I should pick up a gun and shoot your mother.

But finding readers, marketing fiction to find readers ... no, not my favorite part of the writing process. John D. MacDonald famously said that being a writer was like dropping a feather down a well. Huh. That was before Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the Internet.

I would argue at times that the act of marketing fiction to readers is a lot like taking a bucket of water and throwing it into the ocean in hopes that someone finds your bucket of water.

Anyway. I think we should try to enjoy the process - all of it. Or at least as much of it as we can. And I'm still flummoxed by folks who don't actually like the process of writing who want to be writers. Man, find a different hobby.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Are Literary Agents Dinosaurs?

May 3, 2011
I have two agents, one that handles (if that's the right word) my fiction and one that is currently sitting on a nonfiction book proposal that's awaiting a Foreword/Endorsement before she'll market it.

There was a mention today that in the UK e-books are now 6% of the market, but grew 300% in 2010. In the U.S. it's more like 15% and growing.

I haven't heard much about what percentage of that is self-published e-books. And even for a moment if you set aside the original novels published as e-books, you have to wonder what percentage of those e-book sales are formerly out of print books now made available by established authors.

I'm reading here and there about agents that are offering themselves up as sort of quasi e-book self-publishing channels, although why you'd need an agent to do that and take a percentage is completely lost on me. This is not a difficult process and there are plenty of people out there doing affordable cover art and layout.

[My e-book cover art is done by Matt Elliott or Judy Bullard and layout is done by Natasha Fondren, all who do great professional jobs at a reasonable price].

Author Dean Wesley Smith, who is rather outspoken on this topic, argues that you don't need an agent anyway. One of his more interesting arguments to me is that you get the contract negotiated by a literary attorney for a flat fee, rather than the 15% commission an agent demands. Also, as he argues - a position I tend to agree with - most writer/agent relationships are all screwed up. The author is supposed to be the employer, the agent working for the author. But all too often the author ends up behaving as if they're the employee of the agent and the agent, once there's an author/agent relationship in place, doesn't advise, but dictates the nature of the business relationship, only marketing what materials they want to, controlling the monies, etc.

And along the lines, for you writers that have agents, here's a question for you. Does your money from your publisher go to the agent, who then pays you? Doesn't that sound as if you work for the agent? Why, if you're the employer, wouldn't you get the money, take out 15%, and pay the agent with a "Thanks, keep up the good work."????

But as more and more publishing seems to be shifting toward e-self-publishing (and no, I have no idea if this is a long-term thing at all; I keep wondering if 6 months or 6 years down the road this current wave we're all riding is going to hit the shore and disappear), agents in particular would seem to become somewhat irrelevant.

Hell, I wonder how they make money anyway, given how every agent I've talked to for the last year or two (or 10 or 20) always says, "Well, with the current state of the industry, advances are worse than ever..."

Which, on the one hand, is just them setting up the author to have low expectations and not be shocked when your advance sucks like an Electrolux (or Dyson, if you prefer). Although, do you accept that at face value, do you perceive then that your agent is lying to you, and if so, do you trust them? Or are they getting you good and warmed up for their failure to do a good job of sales and negotiation on your behalf? Hmmm? Or is it just the same old refrain, blah, blah, blah?

Anyway, what are your thoughts?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Magickeepers: The Chalice of Immortality by Erica Kirov

May 2, 2011
No doubt about it, May and June are busy months for my friends that are novelists. My friend Erica Kirov's third MagicKeepers book, Magickeepers: The Chalice of Immortality is out today. Haven't read it yet, but looks like a visit to my Kindle is in order.

And, Erica Kirov, as most of you probably know, is my friend Erica Orloff.

Pocket-47 by Jude Hardin

May 2, 2011
Congratulations to my friend Jude Hardin on the launch of first - but certainly not last - novel, POCKET-47. I've read it, it's great, go buy it!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

THE FALLEN - $1.99

May 2, 2011
Hi Everyone!
In anticipation of the publication in hardcover of my 4th Derek Stillwater novel, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, my publisher, Oceanview Publishing, has made the 3rd Derek Stillwater novel, THE FALLEN, available on the Amazon Kindle for $1.99 for the months of May and June.

So, if you haven't read it and you want to and own a Kindle, now's a great opportunity. A second favor I have is for you to mention this on your blog, on your Facebook status, or Twitter if you're a user, and let people know. Let's see if with a little help my friends we can drive this sucker to the top of the bestseller lists.