Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's All Hard To Believe

It is hard to believe that this is the 73rd blog post for Writing4Death, just shy of one and a half years. During this time we have published one novel, Elk River, and two Sharon O'Mara Chronicles. We have redone the covers and updated the files at Amazon and Smashwords (which then flows through the bookselling industry). I can also say, without reservation, I have learned a lot about everything from blogging to creative writing. Forcing yourself to put out two columns a week (check out COGITO URBANUS) for the last couple of years will require you to become a thrifty wordsmith. Yes, less is more, especially if the less is getting better.

On or about the first of February, I posted a schedule for the next book. I should be at 60,000 words by June 1, I'm now at 58,000 words and the story has taken on a life of its own (I just love it when it happens) and I will continue to push through the schedule - and maybe beat my expected time. For me a schedule is necessary, it may not be for you, but when you have two more novels ahead of you under development, well ya' just have to push through.

The backstory for the new book is the America's Cup sailboat races in the San Francisco Bay Area. Rich boys and their toys, who will win and who will die? Sharon will find out! And you thought sailing was only dangerous on the high seas!

BTW, in Toulouse 4 Death I had a bike chase through Paris, well Sharon and her close friend Gina, are staying in a palazzo in Venice, and with all those canals and tourists - well just let your imagination run wild.

I hope to post the ebook by October 15, 2012.

I am also looking for brave souls who might want to review the draft book so I can get feedback - drop me an email at - your identity will remain secret. Put "I Want To Read W4D" in the header. I will get back to you. This is NOT an attempt at free editing - I have a very good man for that, what I want to story criticism, I don't want copy editing - it will have typos and rough spots so be warned if interested. I will even put your name in the acknowledgements.

Get feedback and comments from Sandy's followers and an uptick in sales as a result. I did a ten minute interview for Sandy and she posted it on her site (Sandy's Spotlight). Please check her out!

Here is the YOUTUBE video I put together with Sandy, enjoy!

More Later . . . . .

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Killer Reviews 4 Toulouse

You must check out Sunny Solomon's wonderful review, I'm even a bit embarrassed by it. And yes Sunny, the next O'Mara Chronicle is pretty good too. (CLICK HERE 4 THE REVIEW)

AND . . . Friday April 20, I am the featured writer at Sandy Wolters' Spotlight, her fantastic review blog. It should be posted at her site (CLICK HERE). It even has a YouTube video of yours truly blabbing away about my books and the writing craft and my personal relationship with the other redhead in my life. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Does an Ebook Byte Really Cost?

There has been a lot of ink, real and digital, spent on the current government “crackdown” on those felons that run the big publishing houses and Apple over price fixing ebooks. Comments and articles about forcing the consumer to pay millions more than they should for an ebook are everywhere. And the scenarios imagined in the press (they have these perps meeting in darkened rooms to fix the price of a bundle of bytes), are well, just head-scratchers.

Is there is a common price for ebooks? Go to iBook, or Barnes & Noble, and even Amazon and scroll down the prices. At first glance they seem all over the place, and at second glance you notice that they ARE all over the place. Part of the reason for trying to fix a price for a service or product across an industry is to insure future profits and ultimately control over that market. It is a way to attempt to control the marketplace, this is why the Feds feel entitled to wave a big stick. Ultimately this leads to complete failure, whether the nannies in Washington get involved or not. I for one missed the price sheet, I set my books at whatever price I hope the market will bear, so far some of my books have sold in the price range of $5.99 to free. Some days I think the market wants me to pay them to read the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles.

I really don’t care what these publishers tried to do; it would have failed miserably anyway, the market just doesn’t care. The market will do what it does, they may control prices for a while but they will not win. They may have, like the meetings of the Dons in one of Mario Puzo’s books, even tried to set the price of these electronic books. But my take is a bit more sinister, suppose the real reason is to control the Internet itself. I can just imagine the scenario:

“But, Don Corleone, you are the biggest of us, you have millions in the bank, and control over the politicians and the judges, in all fairness you must allow us a taste.”

“This may be true,” the elder Don said thinking of his empire of editors, warehouses, print shops and bookstores. “But we must go after the younger people, we have to get them hooked on our product, make it so WE are their only source. Let the others have their hardbacks and paperbacks; they are only librarians anyway. We are the future, we will control their minds through these iPads and readers.” Corleone said as he pointed to the piles of shiny tablet computers strewn about the dark mahogany. “It’s through these that we will control the market and thus make millions.”

The heads of the other families nodded, for many decades they had tried to control their respective neighborhoods through intimidation and fear. By twisting their street peddlers, the bookstores, with high wholesale prices, the bookstores were forced to continually raise the product’s price, but hell their customers where addicted, who cared as long as the money flowed.

“But I fear for a new gang in town,” a small voice said at the corner of the table.

“What new gang? If you are talking about the Independents, they are nothing to me.” Don Corleone said thinking of his dead brothers Don Amiche and Don Knotts. He hadn't heard from his missing brother, Don Rickles in months. “They sell a poor product, they are nothing, they know nothing of our business, they are foolish children. We will step on them like the little bugs they are.”

“But Don,” the small voice insisted, “we are only five or six or some other number I can't remember, and after the mysterious death of one of our best dealers, Don Borders, we are all afraid, should we go to the mattresses?”

“Fear, I laugh at fear, and quit talking in confused sentence structures.” The room was immediately filled with the Don’s booming laughter. He almost spit the tissue he had jammed in his cheeks. “That is why I am here, to save your miserable shelves, let me set the price for these ebooks, I know what’s best.”

“But Don, with all respect, these are some of our most addicted souls, they are writing and putting their ebooks on the market right next to ours, without our help. Their dealer Amazon…”

“Don’t mention Amazon to me in this room, they are lost to me. If I could I would kiss them on the mouth, that would show them.”

“Yes Don, we all know of your hatred for these people, but they are also one of our biggest dealers, we have to meet with them.”

“Who are you to tell me what to do?” The Don nodded to one of his henchmen, B. Noble, there was a shot. “Does anyone else have a question?”

“We are on your side Don Corleone, you will lead us,” the chorus of family heads said as one voice. Smiles ringed the table.

Their revere was cut short by a knock on the door, henchman B. Noble squinted through the door’s peep hole, “Holy horse head Don Corleone, it’s the Feds.”

All the others looked at the Don with fear written in large letters (Garamond font), on their faces, he smiled and strummed the back of his cheek with his fingertips. After a dramatic pause, he said, “I invited them.”
More later . . . . .

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Exciting New Covers and Special Spring Pricing

The wonderful thing about ebooks is the ability to quickly fix problems. A kind reader suggests an overlooked typo, a idiomatic phrase is correctly adjusted, and spell check is spell checked. A quick revision and the text is reposted on Amazon and Smashwords (it's a little more complicated, but you get my drift). This wonderful thing also allows the change out of covers. That's what I'm in the middle of.

I am "recovering" the first two Sharon O'Mara Chronicles (see existing covers, right column, Containers 4 Death and Land Swap 4 Death). After a couple of years and reader feedback I now believe that they need a boost. I also have tried to interlock the three book's appearances so there is a common graphic signature between them. I also wanted the text to be more in line with current thriller/mystery covers. And yes, there are genre font types - just look at the romance covers, thriller covers, and "big book novel" covers. You will see trends and looks - it's no different than changes in fashion and car styles.

So here they are, please comment. I would like to hear your thoughts.

Book 1

Book 2



 Until June 21, I am repricing all my ebooks at $0 .99. 
That's right! For this very limited time you can enjoy the trials and travels of Sharon and her cop friend Kevin, as they fight crime in the Bay Area of San Francisco. See her vanquish oversexed environmentalists, shady developers, Chinese Tongs and Mexican cartels. Follow her back in time to help recover billions in stolen Nazi gold and return an unknown Toulouse-Lautrec painting. 
It's all here. 
Chills, thrills, intrigue and a hot chick with a gun. 

Click the Titles to go to Smashwords:

For Amazon ebooks:

is also $0.99

"Guns and handbags, all the things you need 
to start a war."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Rotary and Me

The iPad and its Creator
At lunch today I am giving a short speech on the state of the Indie publishing industry. It is for the Concord, California Rotary and I expect that most of the members don't know about the revolution in publishing that is underway. So below is the speech - if questions please ask them in the comment section below.

I want to thank the Rotary of Concord, California for inviting me and to have the opportunity to discuss the current state of writers and their relationship to the publishing industry.

There are revolutions everywhere, some are serious such as the Arab Spring and others, like the Occupy Movement, are well, just silly and dysfunctional. We have technological revolutions, changes in the solar power industry, transportation, and even political revolutions. It’s so easy to say “There’s a revolution going on,” that the claim is probably even attached to a new brand of potato chips. The term is overused and as a result loses its meaning. But, there is a revolution going on in publishing and it is not over by a long shot.

We are the early days of a revolution that started twenty years ago with the desk top computer. It is a revolution that began around 1440 with movable type and the eventual mass production of books and printed information that barely changed even with the invention of the radio. And for 560 years almost nothing changed except for the production technologies to get the written word to the marketplace. But today’s revolution is different, very different.

We are going through a remarkable and transcendent revolution today in almost all forms of publishing. We are all aware of the general issues surrounding and the collapse of Borders and other national bookstores. Changes in communication technology, the rumor that no one reads anymore, bad business plans, and other excuses have been expressed, but the real reason is yet to be determined. But, during the last five years, due to both the economy and technology, the publishing industry found that it is now faced with a serious challenge in both how books and magazines are created as well as how they are sold and distributed. This is leading to a basic and fundamental change in how we acquire information as well as how we read for pleasure. While it is safe to say we will always have paper books it is also safe to say the consumer will have many, many, new and varied options on how they acquire information, read books, sell books, and pass on the news.

And it starts with this:

The iPad
This tablet, and its sisters and brothers, the Kindle, the Nook, Sony’s e-Reader, and many other devices including your own phone, are as dramatic and dangerous to the written word as the invention of movable type, Xerox, television, movies, and even the telephone. It is changing society whether we like it or not.

Opting out is not an option.

Just as a point of information I will call all books that are read on one of these devices an ebook (and I won’t confuse you with the ongoing war over which type of ebook is the best), and a new word that has popped up and one that I find pejorative and annoying, the pbook – this is obviously the traditional paper version. Gutenberg is probably rolling around in his grave.

There are two basic forms of book publishing now. The old traditional form with its six or seven major publishing houses such as Random House and Scribner’s, mostly located in New York City, and the subversive and behind closed doors and hiding in basements and lofts version of publishing called Independent self-publishing, Indies for short.

I am one of these.

The simplistic and traditional old school of publishing was the process of an author writing his book and then finding an agent who is supposed to represent the author’s rights. Then, through the agent, a publisher is found, (which, let me tell you, is the subject of another and much longer and different presentation), then the book is vetted, edited, corrected, formatted for production, produced, marketed, printed, warehoused, distributed and hopefully bought. In the end the author, especially the unproven one, maybe gets five cents on the dollar. The publishers, distributors, and stores get the rest – sometimes the agent makes more than the author. At every level there are gatekeepers and managers that protect this archaic system.

But, with the creation of these tablets, readers and other similar devices and with new and creative software, people like me, can write and produce a book for substantially less than the Big Houses, market their product to the world with a click of a mouse, and keep upwards of 70 to 80 percent of the revenue. And their product is indistinguishable from the books and magazines published by the BIG Houses.

While these big publishers have access to all these same tools they are like supertankers trying to come about in a storm, they are confused and challenged by these changes to an industry they once tightly controlled. But they are not alone, even many of these Indie publishers don’t understand what’s going on and are as confused as the Big Houses. But today, and please understand, that even though many would like to put the genie back in the bottle – it’s impossible.

Here are some simple numbers on what’s happened during the last eight years:
In the United States in 2009 – 290,000 new book titles and editions were published, and going back a few years to 2005 in England 205,000 titles where published. Bowker, a company that has control over most book ISBNs through that little code number that identifies each book published, estimates that in 2010, the overall number of both traditional and non-traditional publications exploded to over 3 million books. In just the area of non-traditional publishing – where they have conveniently placed most Indie publishers, that number went from 21,936 to, and this is no exaggeration, to 2,776,260 registered publications. 

This is 100 times more books presented to the public in less than five years, many written and produced by people like you and me. And there are many more that are offered without the requisite Identification.

What is in the future remains to be seen. As a comparison, traditional Big House publishers in 2005 issued 274,500 books and in 2010 they published 316,480, an increase of about 6 percent. Since 2002 the Big House publisher’s volume increased about 47%, but non-traditional writers and publishers increased to an incredible 8,406%. Now you know why the big houses are in trouble and are now looking over their collective shoulders. The customer now has many, many, other sources to look to and find their personal entertainment through the written word.

Currently, the two big dogs in the publishing world are Amazon and a small but incredible important company called Smashwords. The average consumer sees Amazon as a good place to buy books and millions of other products, but it is also a major supporter of independent publishers by helping them to post their books, give them an author’s page and platform, help them to market their books and, and all this is for free. But they also make sure that they control the book’s distribution as an ebook through the required use of their Kindle or Kindle software – but, you can download this software and load it on an iPad and even an Android device – it’s that easy. It is at the point of sale that they make their money. And Smashwords, a local Northern California Company, has agreements with Apple, Sony, Barnes and Noble, and others to distribute your ebook directly to these distributors through their site and its one stop distribution. The downloading is fairly simple and easy – within minutes you are up and running and you are now a published author.

Of course none of this necessarily produces a quality product. You can hang that colorful artwork of your five year old on the refrigerator, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will someday hang in the Louvre. It is the absolute responsibility of the independent author and the writer to insure a quality product. The cover art must be competitive – I again refer to your five year old artwork, the language, sentence structure, spelling, and all those other things you ignored in high school English have to be executed as best as possible. You never perform brain surgery on yourself and we writers should never be our own editors. And you often get what you pay for. All the vetting of these editing experts falls on you. You are now, as an Indie author and defacto publisher, not just a writer and storyteller, but you have become an editor, a creative genius, a marking maven, a world-wide distributor, and watcher of every penny.

I also have to mention that another change is developing in the printed side of this Independent publishing industry. I don’t want you think that paper books are going away – but they are changing. Many Indies now print to a very recent development out of the copier industry called Print On Demand or POD. This is simply the process of directly printing one book at a time on a large copier that also prints the color cover and then binds the book together. You can order one copy or a thousand, while individually more expensive than big high-speed traditional book printers, the savings is in time, volume (a 100 books instead of a thousand), and flexibility. Up until recently this was only black and white printing, but now there are color PODs out there – the world is changing and changing fast.

I love to tell stories and this is why I write.  
It’s also why I still have a day job.

I noted that over three million books were published in 2010 and the vast majority where in English and many were ebooks. This revolutionary process is now opening up the market to great story tellers from all parts of the world and in every language and culture, and with the new translation software who knows where the next Tom Clancy or Dan Brown will come from. But to make a decent living from just writing is almost impossible. Sure there are the great stories of Clancy’s career starting on Ronald Regan holding up The Hunt for Red October, and J.K. Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter, slaving away in a coffee shop with a baby on her lap and a hundred rejection slips, but every writer believes that they will write the next great story that will find their voice, and an audience, and make millions. I’d guess that there are maybe a few hundred, out the hundreds of thousands writers, who can afford to live off their royalty checks. But as the old curmudgeon and director, John Huston, wrote in the screenplay of Dashiell Hammett’s famous book The Maltese Falcon, “It’s the stuff dreams are made of.” But, then again, that line was lifted from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. And everyone assumed, at the time, that Hammett wrote the book after the movie. Even then the writer didn’t get proper credit.
Thank you

I’d love to answer questions - my readers can post a comment below.