Mark Terry

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Traditional Publishing Is Dead

April 19, 2012
Well, okay. It's sick. For me, personally, as a writer, traditional fiction publishing is dead.

Will it rise up like Lazarus in the future? Could happen. I'll cross that particular crosswalk if and when the need arises.

What brings me to lurch out of my blogging lethargy to make this claim?

I got an email from my former agent yesterday indicating that she had received my most recent royalty statement and check from my former publisher. That would be for both THE FALLEN and THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. I haven't seen either, but I believe it covers the time period from about June 2011 to December 31, 2011. Or not. It doesn't matter for the discussion at hand. What was pertinent to me was that the check she received was in the amount of $249.99. She'll take her 15% of this magnificent sum of money and send me the remaining $212.49, give or take. Then I'll automatically take 24% out for the federal government and 4% out for the state government. That'll give me about $153 give or take, to play around with, pay bills, or sob over.

In comparison, in March I received a royalty check (direct deposit, actually) from Amazon (alone) for $1013. That reflects, I believe, either the month of January's ebook sales or December's. I'd have to think that through. I think it's January.

Please note. I ain't getting rich here. I read posts by Joe Konrath, Blake Crouch, Lee Goldberg and many others about the thousands and thousands of dollars they're making epublishing and I want to pound my head on my desk. But such is life. I am not making my living writing fiction. I am, however, having a hell of a lot more fun with a lot fewer headaches. And I'm paying my Visa bill fairly regularly with the royalty money. Once I get that driven down, maybe I'll have even more fun.

But there are two factors here. One, having a bunch of ebooks for sale can be reasonably cumulative, whereas having two hardcovers for sale, not so much. So, the more books you have for sale, well, the more money you make. Two, my royalties on my ebooks are actually higher both in terms of percentage (about 8% on hardcovers for my legacy publishers and 70% on ebooks myself) and in hard dollar numbers (calculating hardcover royalties after discounts, etc., is a nightmare, but let's be optimistic and say 8% on $25, which is $2. My Kindle royalties on a $2.99 ebook comes to $2.04 per copy downloaded).

So, anyway...

The cover art is for the next Derek Stillwater novel, THE SINS OF THE FATHER. I'm tweaking the final draft right now, will get it off to my layout guru when I'm done and I imagine it'll go live by the beginning of June.

And for anyone else interested in a fairly interesting blog post about the publishing industry today, I suggest you check out Kristine Kathryn Rusch's post today. 

Friday, April 06, 2012

What I've Been Reading

April 6, 2012
Here's the last 10 books I've read. With comments!

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
I've been slowly re-reading the entire series in order. This is the second to last book (in case you didn't know) and provides most of the setup for the last book. This is a good one, but like I said, it sets up a lot of things, but it also explains an lot of things as well.

2. McGrave by Lee Goldberg
What can I say about this book? It's definitely Lee's love letter to 1970s TV detectives. It's pretty thin - reading it I thought, "I wonder if this started out as a film treatment." Then in the afterword Lee says that yes, indeed, that is the case. Nonetheless, witty, fast-moving, clever, silly, fun. "Tidal Wave" McGrave is an LA cop who finally destroys enough property that he gets fired, and follows the case to Berlin anyway, where he works with a female detective and her boss. She thinks McGrave's a jerk, but her boss thinks he's the reincarnation of John Wayne. Very fun.

3. Gideon's Corpse by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston
This is the second book in a new series by two of my favorite authors (alone or together). Gideon is completely different than Agent Pendergast, their premier character, but he's enjoyable, for the most part. There's a fair amount of "why the hell did he do that?" in this book as the character makes some fairly odd decisions to keep the story going. Basically he's coerced into dealing with a hostage situation - a former friend from his job at Los Alamos is holding hostages and claiming the government (or "them") is irradiating him to keep him from talking. When that goes horribly wrong, Gideon ends up working with an FBI agent to try and find a possible nuclear weapon somewhere in the U.S.

4. The Mugger by Ed McBain
An early 87th Precinct novel by the master of police procedurals. It's quite good, although it feels more dated than the last one I read. It was published in the last 1950s or early 1960s. As the title would suggest, a mugger is operating in Isola (McBain's stand-in for NYC) and the cops aren't getting anywhere with it. It's possible this was the 2nd in the series and it was McBain's way of introducing a cast of characters. Steve Carella, for instance, who played so prominently in Killer's Wedge (and most McBain novels), is on his honeymoon and only makes an appearance at the end. It introduces Bert Kling primarily. Wonderful writing, fantastic characterizations, an effective plot.

5. Sandstone Spine: Seeking the Anasazi on the First Traverse of the Comb Ridge by David Roberts
Roberts and two friends hike the Comb Ridge, a 100+ mile mountain ridge in Arizona that has an  unusually high number of Anasazi ruins on it. I enjoyed this even though I don't think I would enjoy the hike they were on very much. But in many cases, it's the only way to see some of the Anasazi ruins they saw. And, in its own way, quite illuminating about the Anasazi in a way other books aren't.

6. Victims by Jonathan Kellerman
The latest mystery featuring child psychologist Alex Delaware. It's rock solid.

7. The Spires of Denon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Science fiction. This is part of Kristine's "diving universe" of books, although it doesn't deal with the character of Boss, like the others do. Again, it deals with archaeology in the way, way, way distant future and on the planet are these complex spires that nobody understands. This book feels a little bit like a set-up for other books within the universe and it's a tiny bit unsatisfying as a result, because there's not a lot going on here and what is going on doesn't really make much sense. It's entertaining, it's interesting, there's a sense of wonder, but you do get to the end of the book and sort of go, "Um, what?"

8. Chasing Midnight by Randy Wayne White
Every time out of the box Randy's Doc Ford novels are different. Sometimes they're straight thrillers, sometimes they're convoluted mysteries, sometimes they're something else entirely. They can be really uneven that way (I hated his last book, the only one I can say that about). This one would seem to have been structured as a straight thriller. Ford and his goofy sidekick Tomlinson are on a private island off the coast of Florida attending a "conference" related to the international caviar trade. The top four (or is it three?, I forget) international caviar distributors are in attendance, who also tend to be international mobsters, as well, as it turns out, as some crazy eco-terrorists who take over the island. It would be quite straightforward in someone else's hands (say, me), but in Randy's hands, a ten minute action scene can go on for pages as Doc reminisces about flashlights and sturgeon and flashes back to conversations with Tomlinson. I enjoyed it a lot, even thought I found some of it very frustrating.

9. Paydirt by Paul Levine
Another of Paul's serio-comic mystery capers. This one about the attorney for the fictional Dallas Mustangs football team. The main character's gotten fed up with bailing and buying thuggish NFL players out of rape and assault charges and has a major fight with his father-in-law, the owner of the team, resulting in his getting fired, disbarred and divorced. A couple years later, working as a pretty bad bookie in Miami, he gets tangled up with mobsters and his ex-wife and ex-father-in-law, custody hearings, and decides that fixing the Super Bowl would get him out of his troubles. It's funny - very; a good mystery. The characters are pretty much vintage Paul Levine, which is to say, usually fatally flawed, lovable losers with hearts of gold who win in the end (complete with precocious tween sons). I would highly recommend this book. Alas, I would also recommend (are you reading this Paul?) that Paul send the manuscript to a copyeditor and re-publish it after the typos have been cleaned up.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Might have heard of this one. The final book in the Harry Potter series. I'm more tolerant now of the wandering in the wilderness bits of this book. I'm still somewhat mystified by why Dumbledore made it so difficult for them to do their job (although it does force them into the school schedule, conveniently), and although I think Mrs. Weasley's battle with Bellatrix Lestrange is better in the book than in the movie, I think the final battle between Harry and Voldermort is better in the movie. As is almost everything related to Neville Longbottom. Neville really comes into his own in the movie. Still, enjoyable.

How about you? What have you been reading?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Mark's Movie Madness

April 5, 2012
I decided to keep track of the movies I watched (and in what format) this year, because I often get to the end of the year and can't remember what movies I watched or what year I actually watched them. So here's the last 10.

1. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. (theater)
Fun. I've been sort of tepid about the first three. They all had great action set-pieces, but the characters aren't necessarily likable, they seemed to exist in a humor-free zone and in the case of the first film, it was practically incomprehensible. I liked this one a lot. Simon Pegg was wonderful, Tom Cruise lightened up, and none of the technology worked.

2. Source Code (Video)
Technically, this was a second time around. I saw it in the theater, but Ian got it as a DVD for Christmas. I really like this movie and this type of movie. It's sort of hard to describe if you haven't seen it, but it involves a kind of time travel/alternate universes/stop the terrorist thing. Really works for me.

3. The Adjustment Bureau (Video)
Again, one I liked a lot with a nice philosophical underpinning about alternate realities. About a politician (Matt Damon) who discovers a mysterious Adjustment Bureau that makes adjustments to people and timelines to keep things on track. And the Powers That Be want him to eventually become President of the U.S., but he falls in love with a woman during a chance meeting and they want to eliminate that because he won't become President if they fall in love and marry.

4. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (TV)
This movie sucked. I'm sorry. I'm forgiving of Matthew McConaughey and of his shitty taste in scripts and am generally forgiving of romantic comedies, but almost everything about this film sucked dead bears.

5. The Next Three Days (Video)
A Russell Crow thriller about a college professor whose wife goes to prison for murder and he decides to break her out and go into hiding. The skepticism thing here is huge - it never quite made me believe it was possible - but Russell Crow is usually interesting to watch and that was the case here.

6. Moneyball (Video)
Oh yeah. Fantastic film about baseball. Loved it.

7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Video)
A rather slow, artsy and too long film with Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. If you take it as an artsy movie you'll probably like it. If you think it's going to be a western shoot 'em up about Jesse James and train robberies, no, you're going to be disappoitned. And apparently it's reasonably accurate in terms of historical events. Casey Affleck is pretty amazing in it. But it's really slow.

8. Real Steel (Video)
Giant fighting robots. Hey, what's not to like? It's incredibly predictable, a good family film. We had some fun because some of it was shot in Michigan, including a couple scenes in Oxford only a mile or two from my house, so we got to spend some time saying, "That looks familiar! Hey, what about..."

9. The Hunger Games (Theater)
A powerful and disturbing movie that's quite faithful to the book. I might like to see it again, but it's not something I necessarily want to see again and again.

10. The Ides of March (Video)
George Clooney and Ryan Gosling and Paul Giamatti and Marisa Tomei and.... hell, the cast goes on and on. A thoughtful political film, not really a thriller, but I think you could argue that it's really about how politics turns idealists into cynics. And it sure as hell is cynical.