Friday, September 30, 2011

Author Jess Butcher Joins the 99¢ Ebook Trend

Another independent author to adopt the 99¢ ebook price is Jess Butcher. The self-published author’s newest book, Muleshoe, released in June of this year is already a Kindle best seller.
Jess Butcher has published eleven other titles in the author’s Lexington Avenue Express short fiction thriller series including Cold Feet, The Sentinel's Wages, Remnants, and Mr. Pennebaker's Tractor—all but one of Butcher’s Amazon ebooks are available for the 99-cent each price.
According to Jess Butcher’s author page on Amazon, a new Mike Bishop thriller and a collection of selected Lexington Avenue Express titles are scheduled for release in late 2011—so keep reading!

PS: Ebook mysteries by whataboutebook.com host Tom Collins are also available for 99¢ on Amazon; autographed print copies are available on http://store.markrollinsadventures.com/.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Join the Social Network Goodreads If You Love Books

Another good way to stay abreast of the book world is the social networking site Goodreads.com. Social networks provide a vehicle for contacts and friends to stay in touch and share a common interest. In the case of Goodreads, the interest being shared is a love of good books.
Goodreads isn’t biased by genre or publishing process. Goodreads covers the field: all genres, traditionally published books, books by independent authors, printed books as well as ebooks. Goodreads is a community of book lovers and authors. It keeps you and your friends posted on what each of you is reading. It provides an online home for niche book clubs. Authors can tell you about themselves, up-coming events, and promote new works. But, the focus of Goodreads is on the reader and what they are enjoying.
You will find Mark Rollins Adventures on Goodreads including Mark Rollins New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, and Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer .   Search Amazon’s Kindle Store for “Mark Rollins Adventures” for these books as 99¢ ebooks. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Convert to Ebooks Explains

One of the readers of this blog sent me an e-mail explaining why she converted from printed books to ebooks. 
“I just wanted to let you know I am enjoying the new blog. I am a pro e-book girl. I LOVE my Kindle and frequently get the .99 books to support new authors. I find some of them very entertaining. While I never thought I would be converted to an e-reader I certainly have become a fan. It is so much easier for me. I can travel with multiple books, organize them the way I want and when I read one it goes right where it was unlike on a book shelf, and speaking of bookshelves, I would never have enough space. And another great thing for me since I have small kids who love to see what I'm reading and pick up the book only to lose my place not a problem with the Kindle. Anyway I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't know.” 
My comment about her e-mail is "Ain’t that the Truth!"  “The feel of turning paper pages” just can’t compete with the advantages of the digital word vs. the printed word.

 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Self-Publish?

Part of the problem is difficulty of securing an agent, and the second part is that common courtesy is missing from the participants in the traditional publishing system. Top selling self-published author John Locke did a good job explaining why authors have welcomed an alternative to the agent/publisher model when he said: 
“It wasn’t so long ago that an aspiring author would complete his or her manuscript, only to don a pair of knee pads and assume a supplicating posture in order to beg agents to beg publishers to read their work.  And from way on high, the publishers would bestow favor upon this one or that one, and those who failed to get the nod were out of the game.” 
Apparently there are more authors (hopefully, good ones) chasing agents than the existing stable of agents have the capacity to handle.  The oversupply has allowed too many agents to get away with a “judge like” arrogance when dealing with authors.  I recently heard one agent scold a group of aspiring authors by instructing them “to be sure you brush your teeth before meeting with me.”  The “I’m-better-than-you” implied messages intimating from many agents is a real put-off.  Are they the elites with a distain for us poor masses of writers?  Sometime it appears that is what they think.  Common courtesy isn’t always high on the list of traits possessed by literary agents.  It is an infallible rule of business that when common courtesy is missing, customers (and that is what authors are) will go elsewhere when they eventually have an alternative.
 
There are plenty of nice people who are also agents, but they can be hard to find.  Unless you are already famous, securing an agent is a multiyear endeavor—attending conferences, sending query letters, waiting for replies, more waiting, receiving rejections, sending more query letters, etc.  Securing an agent is hard work, and like one author said, “All I want to do is write.” Well, authors have gained an alternative and they are taking it.  Self-publishing is on the rise, and not because all those authors aren’t good enough—some are, and some aren’t.  They are self-publishing because they have the alternative.  Compared to the traditional agent/publisher route, self-publishing is easy, quick, and doesn’t mistreat you.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stay on Top of Ebook Releases with Ereader News Today

Ereader News Today is one of the larger ebook related blogs. It will keep you posted on what is hot, what is a bargain, and even what is free. It includes a “Book of the Day” feature with reviews, star rating, and special sale price, if any, for the day. For example, the “Book of the Day” on September 22 was the Drummer Boy by Scott Nicholson with a 4.7 star rating and a sale price for the day of $1.99. It is a “Supernatural Thriller” so it probably isn’t for everyone, but there does seem to be something special about Nicholson’s work that even draws readers who aren’t usually attracted to horror stories. An Amazon reviewer said:
“I’ve been enjoying previous works of Scott’s recently, but this is the best yet. His characters are well drawn and completely believable, and he pulls you into their stories and back stories with consummate ease. Nicholson is a masterful writer, at the top of his form. Miss him at your peril.”
Ereader News Today is a blog worth having on your Favorites. Better yet, if you are an avid Kindle reader you can sign up to get the newsletter content on your Kindle.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What Is an Indie Writer—Particularly a Rich One?

Self-publishing has a negative connotation so “indie writer" has been chosen by some as an alternative, but it has its own nuance problems. Some consider it as writers slightly out of the main stream—enthusiastic and maybe even a little crazy.  Some say it’s out-of-print authors coming back as independent authors—authors without agents or publishers. Whatever they are, they are cutting new ground.  Meet the latest rich indie writer.
The best definition of “indie” is that it is an abbreviation for an “independent author,” but for some, it has many other implications. Nevertheless, it has created its own special branch of the author world. For example, check out the blog http://www.novelr.com/. While it may be is too late to arrange to attend this year's conference, check out the Indie Author Conference 2011.  Don’t worry; I’m sure there will be a 2012 conference.
Self-publishing by any other name is gaining speed—and coupled with ebooks, especially those that have moved the price point down to the 99¢ level, you have a game changer for the book business. It is creative destruction at work, good for readers and authors—as for publishers “not so much.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Atlas Shrugged as an App

A September 14, 2011, story in Forbes.com’s TechnoTalk e-mail newsletter titled  “‘Who Is John Galt?’ Try the App to Find Out” illustrates how ebooks are evolving for the app world.  Forbes reports, “In a step up from a typical e-book, Penguin has announced a new iPad app—an "amplified edition" of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. According to their website, the app includes the ability to share quotes from the book via social media. It also has some enhanced features—think DVD extras. These include photos of original manuscript pages, annotations, videos, and audio of Ayn Rand discussing the book and her philosophy, as well as quizzes, a discussion guide, and internal search capability.”
 
A trip to the Penguin Group website was even more informative. The publisher announced that “Ayn Rand’s polarizing masterpiece can now be experienced as never before. The Atlas Shrugged Amplified Edition includes the full text of the novel, rarely seen photos and early notes on the manuscript, shareable quotes, and recordings of the author.”
 
The Penguin group demonstrates how publishers can adapt to the change (adding value—taking books were they have never been before) as we transition from a print age to the new digital age.  Those who don’t—and many will not—will fade away over time—victims of creative destruction.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Self-Publishing Is Easy

If you are an aspiring author, self-publishing has become a snap using services like Amazon’s CreateSpace that take advantage of print-on-demand technology.  Print-on-demand eliminates the need to print and store an inventory of books.  CreateSpace will make your printed editions available through the normal wholesales book distributor network as a part of their publishing service. They will also handle placing your books on Amazon and other online bookstores.  In addition, they will handle all the steps necessary to place your book in Amazon’s Kindle Store so that an ebook edition is available worldwide for Kindle, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, and Android-based devices. There other self-publishing services to be covered in future post, but I have used CreateSpace and recommend them without reservation.
 
Some authors are beginning to skip the print edition step.  Amazon’s “Kindle Direct Publishing” has made it fast and easy to do so.  Download your manuscript and follow the other steps on the Kindle Direct Publishing site and you will start earning royalties from worldwide sales of your ebook. That assumes, of course, that there are readers who want to read your book.  You still have to write a good book, and you still have to get the word out to prospective customers for your book. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Amazon’s Ebooks Aren’t Just for the Kindle

You don’t have to have a Kindle to enjoy ebooks available from Amazon.  You can download free Kindle Reading Apps by going to Amazon.com.  These include reading Apps for iPhone, Windows PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7.  There is also a “New Kindle Cloud Reader” to let you read Kindle books in your Web browser instantly.

As of today, the Kindle Store gives you access to over one million ebooks.  Over 770,000 of those books are $9.99 or less, including 73 New York Times® Best Sellers.  And prices for ebooks are falling—a surprising number of authors have joined those who are offering their ebook editions for only ninety-nine cents.
 
The message from Amazon is “No Kindle required.”  http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=sa_menu_karl3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

Monday, September 19, 2011

99 Cent Price for Ebook Editions of Mark Rollins Mysteries

In a previous post I wrote, “Like many other authors, I have come to realize that traditional ebook prices are too high.”  Top selling author John Locke points out that the $9.95 typical ebook price is ten times too high given the difference in the cost of delivering an ebook versus a printed book to a reader.

I wasn’t as courageous as Locke.  It has taken a while for me to buy into the ninety-nine cent movement.  First I reduced the price of the initial book in the Mark Rollins series as a test for getting new readers.  Then I dropped the price of the other books in the series to $2.99.  But, I finally came around, and now the ebook editions for all my books are priced at the 99 cent level:

99¢ for Mark Rollins’ New Career and the Women’s Health Club 
99¢ for Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker 
99¢ for Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer 



PS: Amazon ebooks aren't just for the Kindle. In fact no Kindle is required!  More about that in a future blog.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ebook by First-Time Author Makes the Best Seller List

The current top selling 99¢ Kindle ebook is The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan.  Chan's book is not just a bestselling ebook; it made the mainstream best seller list!

 Publishing as an ebook was not Ms. Chan’s first choice.  In a September 6, 2011, interview with RED ROOM blogger Christopher Meeks, the author explained why she elected to self-publish following the ebook path:
"It has always been a dream of mine to have a novel traditionally published, so when I felt the manuscript was as good as I could make it, I began the usual process of trying to find a literary agent to represent it. That is, I researched agents, sending out query letters, sending off requested partial or full manuscripts, etc.  I accumulated many, many rejections…so many that I stopped counting.  After I had been at it for several months, I had the full manuscript out with three agents, which was a good sign.  I worked up the courage to send a query to another agent on my “dream agent” list—Laurie Liss, at Sterling Lord Literistic.  Honestly, I expected a quick rejection.  I was so surprised when I got an immediate request for the full manuscript…and then a very happy phone call a few days later." 
"Laurie’s fabulous reputation is well-deserved, and I hold her in such high regard.  She is extremely knowledgeable, supportive, and patient, and a passionate advocate for new authors.  She also keeps it real.  Laurie told me during our first conversation that Recluse would be difficult to sell because it was a quiet, literary novel and I was a completely unknown writer.  Nevertheless, she was willing to try because she loved the story and thought that readers would, too.  Despite her valiant effort to place Recluse, none of the many publishers she approached were willing to take a chance on it.  I saved the manuscript in a folder on my hard drive, and life went on." 
"During the past few years, though, it was impossible not to notice the explosion of eBooks.  I started reading articles  about writers who were so successful with their eBook sales that they established readerships and attracted the attention of trade publishers.  Even after all the rejections, I still believed that a few people out there might enjoy" Recluse."
"I wondered whether, by releasing it as an eBook, I might be able to get some valuable feedback from readers and gradually (over several months or years) sell enough copies that I would no longer be a complete unknown when I had a second novel ready for submission.  It seemed a better plan than continuing to let it languish on my hard drive. Laurie didn’t think it would hurt anything to try it, either, so I uploaded Recluse to the Kindle Store on May 18 and to the Nook Store in early June.” 
The rest is history. You can read the full interview on Redroom.com.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Ninety-Nine Cent Kindle Ebook

Like many other authors, I have come to realize that traditional ebook prices are too high.  Full-length hardcover mysteries, around 65,000 words, are usually priced near twenty-five dollars.  Their trade paperback versions are priced near fifteen dollars.

The price of print books has to cover the cost of printing, shipping, and distribution—plus compensating the retailer, publisher, agent, and author.  Printing, shipping and distribution account for the largest segment of cost.  With ebooks, all that cost is eliminated.  Self-published books also eliminate the agent and publisher from the picture.Amazon is the dominant retail distributor of ebooks, and currently 35% to 70% of what you pay for an ebook goes to the author.
 
John Locke, who sold over a million ebooks in only five months, did so by bucking the conventional ebook pricing model.  That model was a defensive one—set below the print price level but high enough to keep the ebook's alternative from cannibalizing print book sales. This is what Locke said during an interview reported in the blog A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing:

“My background is niche marketing, where I built a successful business selling specialty insurance, and then another one, investing in specialty real estate.  So the first time I saw the business model for selling eBooks on Kindle, my eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas.  Why?  Because Kindle doesn’t just level the playing field for self-published authors, it actually slants it in our favor.
 
Specifically, I saw that a self-published book could be offered on Kindle for 99 cents, and still turn a 35 cent profit.  I was stunned!  I walked around in a daze for, well, days, trying to explain to people what that meant.  No one seemed impressed.”
 
While others were initially unimpressed, John Locke saw that independent authors had gained the advantage over traditionally published books.  While those others hesitated, Locke acted and earned his place among the small circle of authors whose books have sold over one million copies. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Readers Are Ready for Shorter Books

Society appears ready for a change.  Time is becoming more precious.  If an author has a message or story for us, we want it served up as quickly as practical—“Just the facts Ma’am.”  As Amazon says, tell the story in its “natural length”—no pumping up of words just for the sake of word count.   “Natural length” leaves plenty of room for a best seller—even a masterpiece like Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
 
Readers seem ready for the short novel or novelette—works of fewer than 30,000 words.  Amazon, always quick on the draw, has introduced Kindle Singles—“stories told in their natural length.”The interesting thing is that two different segments of the writer community are embracing their move. Writers who consider themselves journalists phrase the move as a likely savior of long-form journalism.  Charlie Sorrel in Wired wrote, “Kindle singles will typically run to between 5,000 and 30,000 words, the no-man’s land between a magazine article and a short book.  In the past, there was no way to easily sell work of this length.  Magazines just aren’t big enough, and book-buyers want to get their money’s worth in terms of page-count.  Electronic publishing has no such limits.  Indeed, the format seems perfect for tablets and cellphones.”

Journalists aren’t the only people interested in the 30,000-words-or-less market.  Self-publishing and ebooks have arrived just in time for traditional professional writers of fiction and non-fiction to take advantage of a growing appetite for shorter works.  With the cost of printing eliminated and with the traditional agent/publisher out of the picture, these short ebooks are priced from $.99 to $4.99.  The purchase barrier is greatly lowered.  Readers only have to click—their short ebook is downloaded instantly to their Kindle, iPad, iTouch, or other device, and the small price is automatically charged to their credit card or account.  There is no waiting, no line to stand in, nothing to make buying difficult.  And their ebook doesn’t have “too many words.”

Even the publishing community, according to a Publishers Weekly’s July 15, 2011, article by Rachel Deahl titled Can Short Form Content Deliver More Than Eyeballs?, is discovering that short-form ebooks priced at $5.00 or less can be profitable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Short-Form Ebooks

The classic definition of a short novel is anything less than 80,000 words.  The typical mystery clocks in at 65,000 words.  As a mystery writer, I have always found it difficult to fill out those 65,000 words when telling my stories.  The pressure for page and word count can lead to filler content that actually weakens a story's cohesion and wastes a reader’s time.  Ernest Hemingway used only 26,560 words to tell his classic story of The Old Man and the Sea.  Most agents and publishers would quickly reject any author coming to them with such a thin manuscript.  Hemingway knew that words could actually get in the way.  He once wrote a six word (unpublished) novel that he called his best work.  It read “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
 
Try to read the standard business management book or one of the political works billed as providing the answers to the all of the world’s problems.  You will find that half or more of the chapters are merely reworded prior content.  The rest of the chapters are full of repetitive paragraphs.  Ever tried to read Atlas Shrugged?  It is one of my favorite books, but I must confess that I have never read it from beginning to end.  Its message is powerful, but after awhile it becomes tiresome in its repetitiveness.  Few printed works justify all their words.  Those extra words are there to fill out the pages.  Unnecessary content is added to give the appearance of gravitas that warrants the book’s price tag. 

In the movie Amadeus, the king tells Mozart that his music has too many notes—and so it is with much of the books on bookshelf stores today.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How to Sell One Million Ebooks, or, Who is John Locke?

If you are an author, the question “Who is John Locke?” has become almost synonymous with the question “Who is John Galt?”  John Galt was a refugee from government policies run amok—policies suppressing the capitalist system.  John Locke is a refugee from an outdated and arrogant agent/publisher system.  Locke has achieved the undoable—at least the undoable according to the wagging finger of entrenched agents and publishers.  John Locke’s self-published books have sold over one million copies.  He did it by offering his books digitally—as ebooks.  And to top that off, he blew the top off of the agent/publisher/storefront models by selling his books for 99 cents each.
 
You can even find out how Locke achieved his success for 99 cents—just purchase his ebook titled How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Future of Publishing

I attended the international mystery writers’ conference, Killer Nashville, held this August (2011) in Nashville, Tennessee.  Under the guidance of founder Clay Stafford and management of Executive Director Beth Terrell, Killer Nashville has become a wonderful educational event and a valuable networking opportunity for both published and aspiring mystery authors.
 
One of the closing sessions addressed the “Future of Publishing.”  The dais of about ten people included authors, editors, agents, and publishers.  One of the panelists was the renowned author, Donald Bain, who I understand has recently decided to enter the publishing business.  I think he is doing so because he sees the opportunities being created by the creative destruction of the traditional agent/publisher model.  At any rate, he was the quietest person on the panel; thus, proving he was the smartest!
 
The other author on the stage had just self-published and had done so by offering her ebook for 99¢ on Amazon.  She had bypassed the agent/publisher route.  Her book has sold in the thousands.  Keep in mind that the traditional self-published book, in printed form, usually tops out at about a 100 books.  Her experience was quickly dismissed by several of the panelists, evidencing that they did not have a clue as to the devastation about to befall them.
 
One young agent explained that self-publishing and ebooks were weak competitors of the printed book.  A publisher explained that self-published books were not subject to the quality control of an independent entity.  Several of the panelists apparently believe that the publisher’s colophon or imprint was a critical factor in the decision of a typical reader to purchase a particular book.
 
One member on the dais explained that book sales were all about word of mouth and readers would not know where to look for an ebook—apparently unaware that word of mouth plays an equal role in the success of printed and digital books.  The irony, of course, is that it is the Internet, the Web, the blog world, Amazon, and social media that have facilitated “word of mouth” to an entirely new level.
 
Another explained that people just prefer printed books—“They like the feel of turning pages,” etc.  Aren’t we supposed to be usually competent observers of people?  Look around you for goodness sakes.  The people who read books are constantly changing.  There is always a new generation of them waiting in the wings.  Those teenagers in the mall with, iPods, iPhone and iPad appendages are your next batch of readers.  They will bring with them new expectations, new skills, and new preferences.  I don’t think a preference for the “feel of turning pages” is going to be a key factor in the future of publishing!
 
The session was moderated by Clay Stafford.  Clay is a bestselling author, a filmmaker, an actor, an accomplished speaker; however, he confessed during the session that he had no idea where to even begin to download an ebook.  There was appropriate laughter from the attendees and a suggestion that he find a teenager to show him how.  Clay, with all due respect, it is time to learn how!
 
I felt sorry for some of those panelists, especially those with most of their career still in front of them.  Each is talented and capable in their field, or they would not have been on the dais.  They are choosing not to recognize the obvious, or they lack the instinct and vision necessary for long-term career and business survival.
 
Printed books are not going away in the foreseeable future; and you can expect the agent/publisher model, while under increasing economic pressure, to hang on for quite a while longer.  However, the transition is under way—self-publishing is on the rise and ebooks will become the dominant reader preference.  What is happening in the book world will leave the change resistant behind while creating new opportunities for others.  It is a matter of seeing and grasping the bass ring—or just spending your time going around in circles until the ride is over.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two Certainties Impact the Book Business

There are two certainties in life and business:  change is constant, and we are always judged by others.
 
Everything has a life cycle.  If it exists, it is in the process of breaking.  Things come into existence, peak, wane, and fade away.  Things age, they wear out, they become obsolete, go out of style, etc.  Long-term career and business survival is achieved by building one life cycle on top of another—new technology, new processes, new materials, etc. 

The old model of agent/publisher/distributor/retailer/library isn’t exempt from the certainty of change.  It peaked somewhere in the past and now it is on the downside of its life cycle.  A new model brought on by an increasingly digital world has been taking over.  The survivors in the book community will embrace the change and reinvent what they do and how they do it.  They will shift from the downward path of the old print model’s bell-shaped life cycle curve to the upward climb of the new digital life cycle that is gaining momentum.  If you are in the business of books and don’t understand this shift from the old print model to the new digital model, you won’t be in the business much longer. 

As for the second certainty, the certainty that we are always judged by others, in the book world, the judges are the readers.  A good book will be read; a bad book will not.  It doesn’t make any difference if they are ebooks, hardcover editions, trade paperbacks, or books “on tape”.  It doesn’t matter if they are self-published, published by the big houses or small publishers.  If they are good, people will read them.  If they are bad, people will not.
 
There is one caveat.  “What is good” is determined according to the interest, and through the eyes, of the reader—not the author or publisher.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

The World of Books Is Changing

The world of books is changing.  It isn’t a little change.  It is a big one.  Print on demand, the Internet, the Web, infinite digital storage, server clouds, the Long Tail, Amazon, the Kindle, iPads, iPhones, 99¢ e-books—all of these have come together culminating into a perfect storm of “creative destruction” clearing the way for the future.  The agent, publisher, printer, book wholesaler, book retailer, and library will adapt or perish.
 
As for authors, now anyone can become an author, but earning an income as one will require new skills and different tactics.

For readers, they are the one and only clear winner! There will no longer be such a thing as out of print.  The physical effort to acquire a book, any book, is being eliminated, and while cost is not going to zero, it is headed close enough to become inconsequential, e.g., the ninety-nine cent e-book.