Saturday, January 29, 2011

Copycat! Who to copy and how to ride the wave.

I speak here and there on eBooks and if you follow this blog you will see that I am a pusher. I am pushing to try to dump the Traditional Publishing boat over. The Big 5 need a wake up call and I am one on many willing to stick a long neck out there. This being said I am going to talk about something completely different... hee hee.

In my talks I get one well meaning person ask the question. The one most assume I don't know or won't acknowledge.

The question goes something like this: "Don't you think some of your success has to do with your last name?" This is said with the idea that I will discount my last name. James Patterson being the popular author that he is must be the reason I sell so many ebooks.

To this I say: "Well Duh!" Well, maybe not like that but I might say, "Momma didn't raise a dummy."

I call this the art of the Copycat! Now don't go and get all up in arms filled with your own sense of artist blah blah... If you have a brain, and if you want to make it in this market, you have to do the best with what you have.

What do I mean?

First is your name: Mine is easy, Patterson. I just happen to write in a similar genre so I got lucky. If your name is not close to any other bestselling authors in the same genre as you write I would think of maybe a pen name that is close. A good example of this is Joshua Graham. He writes legal thrillers. Guess who his fans are?

I bring this up because it is hard to break into the book world. Do whatever you can and once you get readers hopefully some will become fans.

Now the next stage is your book cover:
Readers see a cover and make a mental note and connect you with something. For example James Patterson has a style that carry's through his covers. Big font for the title and it takes up most of the page. His name most of the time is on the top and Patterson is big and James is small on top. If you look my covers do the same thing. Why? Because when they see my cover they make that snap connection.

"If I like James Patterson I will like this too." This is not cheating only being smart. I want his fans, that is the reader base that are more likely to like what I write. Who is your fan base? Who do they read? What kind of covers do they connect with you?

Again Joshua Graham is a good example of this concept and it has served him well. Here are some examples.

The last thing is marketing and Tagging: Once you have the the name and the look, (Now be smart about the name, don't go crazy and the most you might want to do is have the same letter in your last name the same so you are on the shelf in the same place) it is time to attach you book.

Amazon has a tagging system. It is where you can connect your book to another author or other titles. This helps the reader to make the connection to you and to your wave runner. Live in the shadow, don't feel bad, you have a good book and in order to make it you must do all you can to find and reach out to readers.

In the tag area type in your full name and your last name in every title of your author. Now add in his or her name under your book. Once this is done you will find that when you look at your title below it will say something like: customers who bought this product recommend: You should see your authors books listed. Now you are on your way.

The big thing to remember is not to outright copy, just look, and do all you can to look and feel the same so it makes that connection. I know I keep saying that word connection but we all do it. I do judge a book by its cover, and so do you.

The three things you must have to make it in the eBook world are a Amazing cover, Good book and reviews. The things you need behind the scenes is a Good cover, Author name and Tagging.

Some may take offense to this, but ask yourself. If Dean Koontz was going to review your book would you take it? Would you try to use it for all it was worth?

If you want to use my book cover artist you can email him at: his name is Fiji.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guest Post by Ron Knight: Living as a writer

Living as a Writer

Authors can relate to each other like no one else. We support each other through the writing of books, marketing, and publishing. Authors never punch the time clock. The day turns into night, while our imagination continues to flourish.

Break tradition.

• Write about what you fear the most.
• Do not write everyday. Let the story build in your mind.
• Write about what you do not know. This will take more research, but you will expand your ideas.
• Distractions are part of being an author. Learn to write, despite what is going on in your life. If you wait for the perfect moment to write your book, you will be waiting a long time.
• Wherever you are writing, is the best place to be writing.
• Authors need to read everyday. No exceptions.
• Your readers are more important than your career.
• What a shame it would be if no one had an opportunity to read your book.
• You do not have to live in New York, Maine, L.A., or Toronto to be a successful author.
• Enjoy writing re-drafts. With each one, your book will increase in value.
• Writing a book is easy. (At least, it is easy for you.) The challenge will come when you have to market that book.

Here are more things to consider.

• Not everyone will like your book. However, there is a niche for every author.
• Feedback can be tough, but it is necessary.
• You are not wasting your time. Keep writing books, because when the world discovers your talent, you are going to be busy.
• Your first book will take plenty of time to write. With each book, you will excel.
• Professionals in the publishing industry will be the most honest about your book. Family and friends will be the most supportive.
• If you are stumped when writing, pick up a book and read. (Or, walk around the block.)

Whenever you are feeling dejected, read these words. This is all about you!

• I am not going to waste my gifts.
• The world needs my books.
• Everyday, I will do something to realize my dreams.
• My experience, good or bad, will be useful in my books.
• The only person that can stop me from becoming an author is me.
• I will make the necessary adjustments to improve my writing and author career.
• Experience = Wisdom.
• I am not going to regret what I haven’t accomplished yet.
• I am going to accomplish what I haven’t done yet.
• My big break will be just as rewarding as my journey.
• What I have learned, I can share with others.
• I am already successful.
• Ten million people will enjoy my book. I just need to find them.
• I am glad that my career will not take off in a day, or even a month or year, because I need the experience.
• My life can change in a day.
• How much money I make, will be determined on how much time I spend serving others.
• There are millions of books, but there are billions of readers.
• I may not be able to see the path, but I can see the destination.
• My future is based on my gifts and the avenue that has already been pre-chosen for me.
• The only sure thing is that I will not give up.
• It is never too late for me to have a career as an author.
• My perseverance will overcome any obstacles.
• My destiny is not dependent on the world, but rather dependent on me.
• I will gain confidence by conquering my fears.
• I have patience.
• I will never lose control of my emotions.
• When people in the publishing industry tell me what I did wrong, that is good; because it is the last time I will make that mistake.
• I am one day closer to being discovered.

You were born with a gift and a dream has been placed in your heart. Do not let a day go by without doing something as an author. Reading, writing, and marketing should be a part of your daily life.

Ron Knight

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guest post by Robert W. Walker: Weighing Up Traditional Publishing & Ebook Publishing

Weighing Up Traditional Publishing & Ebook Publishing
by Robert W. Walker

In any non-traditional publishing as in ebook publication, there is no such thing as “an advance against royalties”. In Traditional Publishing as we know, now often termed DTB’s by our younger generations, ie. Dead Tree Books the “advance” has always been there. This is a significant difference. For the older generation, my generation, the first phrase that comes to mind for the author is “an advance against royalties” and what this means is the author gets a lump sum “loan payment” to start work on the process of crafting a book or novel. However, in ebook non-traditional publishing wherein everything is lower case, there are NO advances. In fact, in “non-publishing” as some like to call it, there are a lot of “NO’s” to the traditional model.

However, before we get too far afield, an advance against a royalty of a $100, 000 is a thing of beauty on the surface. No doubt about that. A writer can rejoice. However if it is for four books to be written over four years, that’s pretty much slave wages or $25,000 a year, which if one is independently wealthy makes for nice pen money. Not so with most people who are attempting to make a living (no joke) at writing.

To the midlist author who wins this arrangement or spin of the publishing wheel, 25,000 a year does not go far. It’s about minimum wage if that. Whereas in ebook publishing, there are NO advances and no paying back of that 25,000 a year either. On the one hand, your publisher grants you a “loan” to be paid back via your royalties (if royalties even occur); on the other hand, every cent of an advance must be paid back to the publisher via your royalties, and until that hundred thousand is worked off by your royalties (if at all) you see no additional funds from royalties. Should your sales be too low to return that advance to your publisher, you are both left with a bad business loan, and your name or reputation as a writer is mud thereafter.

The above is one area where traditional and non-traditional publishing go in very different directions. But there are far more differences for the writer as businessman as well. Below are some of the glaring differences other than no advances.

Traditional Publishing:
They contract for all rights including ebook
Your royalty rate for paper is 10 percent/12 hardcover
Your chance of having returns is 100% & remainders too
Your chance of getting a rejection letter 90 to 100%
Prestige of publishing with 1 of the big six…
Professional, topnotch editorial help at no charge
*Author pockets 10-12% of a $25 book

(* This means an author makes more on each 2.99 ebook than each 25 traditional book)

9 months to 2 yrs. from acceptance final MS till pub date
Publisher provides overworked PR person
Publisher determines everything on cover
Publisher writes copy/description of book
Publisher can/often does change title
Publisher determines price of book
Publisher dictates/curtails length of book
Publisher’s royalty statement routinely confusing
Publisher’s royalty statement not seen for 6-12 months
Royalty statement/payment confusing 90% of the time
Publisher may/may not find review outlets

Ebook Publishing:
You are in a partnership with Kindle/other
Your royalty rate is 70 percent
So few returns, negligible/no remainders
No rejection letters
Little to no “prestige”/much criticism
Editorial help at your expense
Author pockets 70% of 2.99/3.99
Author publishes when s/he wishes
You are PR or you hire PR
Author decides all cover art matters
Author writes copy/description
Author determines title
Author determine price
Author determines length
Ebook gives clear daily sales report
Ebook statement daily report
Payout arrangement clear
You seek out reviewers

Allow me to add some other hard-won lessons regarding the above points. Publisher determines design matters such as single or multiple volumes or a series, and in ebook publishing, the author has control over such issues as series, stand-alone, or three volumes in one.

These differences are due in large part to the medium. The medium is the message. What I can add is that with traditional publishing comes “traditional” notions of prestige, as in “real book publication” grants a writer a certain prestige among readers, critics, and other writers. However, a new attitude is being seen, an attitude among readers and writers that says the text is of tantamount importance, not the way a book is delivered. While this notion and ebook publishing have been around now for approximately thirty to forty years, young people, new generations, are embracing it completely. The idea that a book delivered in sixty seconds on a Kindle reader is as viable a piece of writing as if it is delivered between the covers of a hardbound book—or can be. This is something of a radical shift not in publishing but in readers.

Many traditional publishers either do not get this or simply wish to fight for the old standards of ‘proper’ format and delivery of books. In the past and now, many people believe that a book showing up in hardcover is a better book, better vetted, better edited and certainly written better. However, we have all encountered hardbound books riddled with problems from grammar to concept. More and more, readers are learning about the struggle that goes on behind the writing of a novel, the research, the rewrites, the editing, vetting and more rewrites that go into the creation of an ebook by a writer, and while some ebooks display a lack of talent, nowadays more and more display genius “outside the bun” or in this case “outside the covers”. Never judge a book by its cover takes on a whole new meaning, despite the fact ebook cover graphics has spawned a whole new ‘industry’ as has ebook digital platform and editing services.

Publishing with a major traditional publisher certainly can win one respect and sometimes critical acclaim, neither of which are automatically going to increase sales, but awards and accolades are a wonderful thing. However, the drawbacks can be many for the author, not the least being a far smaller percentage (12 vs. 70). Notably, traditional publishers, since the state-of-the-art Kindle device has skyrocketed in sales are suddenly insisting contractually that authors turn over their electronic rights to the publisher. Some authors have been savvy to maintain their ebook rights regardless. However, traditional publishers holding your ebook rights—especially the majors—as a rule will set your ebook price far too high to the detriment of ebook sales.

E-readers are savvy and will turn away in droves if an ebook is priced too high. Several of my books are saddled with this problem as the publisher set the price, while ebooks priced by me are selling a thousand books a month nowadays. In short, the e-reading public will seldom to never purchase a e-novel or e-book priced at the same or nearly the same as the paper or hardbound book. Not to mention that an author will always make more money putting his ebook rights to work on his own rather than through a publisher.

Working directly with, the author is basically given—at no charge—the opportunity to become a franchise. Most midlist authors are given no advertising budget, no coop monies, nothing as any ad dollars go for the stars alone. With Amazon/Kindle and other ebook publishers, every ebook an author places on digital platform gains instant distribution (distribution with traditional publishers presents both publisher and author with stripped, returned books, a nightmare in bookkeeping, and a sure path to remainders). Reading a royalty statement from a traditional publisher is always a guessing game; reading the daily ‘ticker’ on each ebook with your name on it is as easy as reading the stock market and about as addictive. Going back to Ebook distribution. Distribution is advertising is distribution in the ebook world. It is entirely virtual and online. With Kindle ads going out on national TV and Kindles being used as props in major motion pictures, the author can only benefit more.

There are no doubt many other comparison points between traditional and non-traditional publishing but you know what? Non-traditional modes of publication are getting to be part of the mainstream and hardly ‘non’ anymore. Many authors are going the Indie Author/Publisher route as it makes perfect economical sense to do so. This is especially true for authors with large backlists of otherwise dead books known as out of prints. Already edited and vetted books that have seen returns, remainder days, used bookstore days—all of which pulls money from the pocket of authors. Now such lost titles are working for authors to the tune of thousands going back into the author’s pocket.

I hope this little compare/contrast blog has been of help to you personally if not professionally. Hope to see you on facebook, twitter, and elsewhere online –

Robert W. Walker

Children of Salem, Killer Instinct, Cutting Edge, and soon at a Kindle near you, Titanic 2012 – Free first 14 chapters of Titanic 2012 available here

Robert has 50 books published and is a writer with a ton of experience. This is yet another trend we are seeing as the book world changes. eBooks are not a fad that will one day blow over, but will change and are changing the publishing marketplace. I wonder who will leave New York next? Stephen King? Dean Koontz?

Should be fun...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Business of writing

I talk to authors and writers all the time and one thing that seems to be a common thread, is how so many of us do not look at writing as a job. We artists and introverted types feel that it is bad to push our own work. We seem to think by doing so we are full of pride and kind of like a whore. Out on the streets with a mini skirt looking for someone to buy what we are selling.

But as I look around the book world I see a business. The authors who sell a ton of books are themselves marketing crazy people or have someone who is being crazy on their behalf.

Yes but it is art, it is our soul, our work and we are pushing it like so many drugs. Yup. If you do not look at your book or writing as a business I will almost guarantee that your book will go nowhere. If you had a bar of soap you made and wanted to start selling it how would you go about it? Why is your book any different?

I know all the reasons, your book should stand alone, is good enough that it will take off without you pushing it. WRONG! I am sorry to be That Guy, but some of the best books ever written no one knows about. Some of the worst books are bestsellers. Why? One is in business one is not.

You want to reach people? You preach that you are in this because you love writing and want to reach people. Well I say to reach people you must sell them a book. Fans = Sales. You need to get your work into the hands of fans or you will never make it.

Look at it this way. If you get books into your future fan's hands that will mean money in your pocket which will pay the bills which will allow you to wrote more and reach more people.

If you do not market and move a product, you will not sell books, you will not make any money and you will work a regular job which will hurt your writing and thus slow or stop any future you might have had as an author.

Now some out there do not need to make money writing. They might be a stay at home wife or retired and have other income. What then? Well, it is still all about fans. Reaching out because if you don't no one will ever know who you are and thus never read your stuff.

Why do i need to even talk about this subject? Because some out there do not see what they do as a business. It is art, a love of literature and so on... I know and that is fine in your quiet writing room but in the real world it is about sales. I believe in writing for you, do not write something just to sell a book. Be true to yourself but after you are done work your tail off and sell your book!

This is a business and the writers that will not see this simple fact will never impact the world. You choose what they read. You have the power, now will you make it or will you die on the vine as you hide your book from the world?

It is not selling out to sell a book. You can do it with class and tact. You can keep your dignity but you must sell. Replace the word fan with sale. Replace the word book with product. You are in business even if you do not see it, the question is will your business survive or fail.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What, When and Where.


eBooks. We as writers and readers are not new to eBooks and if you are welcome to 2011. eBooks are the future and as we used to hear of .com millionaires we will soon hear of eBook millionaires. This world of electronic reading will overtake print books and is soon to be on everyone's lips.

Why? Because it is fast, easy and fun. Is that not what everyone wants? Well, with the eBook you have it all and we see by the numbers that as a writer you must bend and change with the market if you hope to survive.

Now here is the When:

As a writer and a publisher what and when should I put a book up and on what servers? Will some hurt me and will some just be a huge waist of time?

We all know about Amazon and B&N so I will skip them just fast enough to say the big dog is Amazon, go there.

The big talk today is Google books or rather eBooks. I am skipping this for now as there stuff is junk. All the uploads are a PDF and in this form the books will look and read like crap. Not to mention what is the advantage of having your book on this platform? I am not sure I like what I see here and hope they will soon have a ePub upload so we can at least control out content a little better.

Most of the books or eBooks on the Google site are scanned in and look very bad or convert over with errors everywhere, prime example are most of the free classics.


Where should I go? Amazon, they will be about 85% of all your sales. Next big dog is B&N, they will be a slim 10% and skip Borders (Kobo) as they will change your price thus messing up everything in a trail of bodies. The other 5% is with Smashwords and other little sites... oh wait what about Apple? Yes, what about them... so far they seem to not care about eBooks and the sales numbers and support seem to reflect this.

Now all of this is just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt. But if I were you I would focus on Amazon and beat them at their own game. Who knows maybe Apple will one day have a eInk eReader and take the eBook market from Amazon but they will have to want it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Guest Post: Vincent Zandri. From Zero to Hero.

From Hero, To Zero, To Hero: A Personal Publishing History
By Vincent Zandri

A year ago my career was in trouble.
No, that’s not right. A year ago, my career no longer existed. For a career to be in trouble, it’s got to at least exist in some shape or form. And for a period of about 5 years, I couldn’t sell a novel if I threatened to set off a nuke in the middle of Times Square.

That’s not to say I didn’t have agents championing my cause. At one point Suzanne Gluck of the William Morris Agency was in my employ. Arguably one of the best, if not the best in the business, the brass knuckle toting Ms. Gluck was extremely enthusiastic about my new offering, Moonlight Falls. But even she couldn’t sell me.

Why no sale?

Precisely because a few years before that, I had become a major literary success. Yes, that’s not a typo. You’re reading it right. I had become a rock star. My dreams answered, I’d scored a two book, hard and soft deal, with Delacorte Press for a quarter of a million dollars. My first novel, As Catch Can (now called The Innocent and re-published by StoneGate Ink), was so well received, The New York Post called it “Brilliant.” Movie studios like DreamWorks and producers like George Clooney were asking for reads, a record Japanese translation sale was recorded. I was partying like a 32 year old rock star in New York City every weekend and making more money than my dad, a successful construction contractor. The future looked so brilliantly golden that to look directly into it would leave you blinded.

Then it all went south. Fast.

Anxious over a corporate downsizing by the head business pencil pushers at Random House, my editors at Delacorte started fearing for their jobs. My novels were at best ignored by the marketing department while employees looked for new jobs that would keep them paying their rents on their lower east side apartments, and their glasses filled with pink martinis.

As Catch Can slipped below the radar even before the mass market edition was published. Then it was announced that Bantam/Dell was swallowing up Delacorte, and everyone in my publishing house got fired. I literally ran into my acquiring editor Leslie walking out of the Bertlesman Building in Times Square with her desk lamp in hand and tears streaming down her face. “Good luck,” she said to me, but what she really meant to say was, “Rest in peace, Vincent!”

My contracts with Delecorte, while technically honored by Bantam/Dell, were treated with an almost inhuman disdain. Bantam/Dell had originally passed on my work, and now here they were being forced to publish me. They basically tossed the remaining contracted book, Godchild, up against the wall and hoped it would stick. In any case, they showed me the door.

My books were quickly remaindered, yet my rights were not relinquished back to the author. How is it that a publisher can refuse to print, distribute, and sell you books yet not grant the rights back to you? Goes against basic logic doesn’t it? It’s also ethically immoral and a criminal act regardless of the law. You can’t make up advance money unless your books are being sold. In the words of my then editor, “You didn’t hear this from me, but they are preventing you from selling books!”

I thought about a lawsuit.

But being in the unenviable position of zero power, I would have had a hard time suing Random House. In a word, I got shafted.

Fast forward to one year ago.

A traditionally based, small press finally picked up Moonlight Falls and published it in both paper and Kindle. Paper first, and Kindle later on. I was finally back in the game, however humbly. Ironically, the novel was so well received it became my first book to hit the Amazon Bestseller list for Hard-Boiled fiction. What’s that prove? It proved that despite the business devils in NYC, there remained a market for my work. An audience who desired my novels.

What followed was interest by another larger “Independent” press that my agent swore was making lots of noise, especially with bestselling authors whose books were out of print. Curiously, StoneHouse Ink agreed to publish my newest novel, The Remains, in Kindle first and then paper.

I was skeptical. Shouldn’t a novel come out in paper first, followed by Kindle and E-Book later? At the time, I had pretty much no idea what an E-Book was. Only that it was a way to read a novel electronically. That was back in April of last year. Two months later when The Remains would be published in Kindle and E-Book, and it would not only become Hot New Bestselling Release on Amazon, it would shoot straight to the No. 1 spot on Amazon Hot New Bestselling Releases for Hard-Boiled Mystery. It would also chime in on the top ten for Romantic-Suspense. Go figure. Suddenly, this old dog had renewed faith in the system. The independent publishing system that is. The old publishing model that had nearly destroyed me (and it did in fact destroy my marriage!), was not only being overrun by this newer model which not only gave the author more control over his product, it gave him far more money per unit sold. An astonishing 50%.

Bye-bye paper, bye-bye book stores, bye-bye big corporate publishing conglomerates! Hello Kindle. Hello new publisher, and publishing partner!

What followed were several new contracts with StoneHouse Ink and a new imprint set up for noir cats like me called StoneGate Ink. My old first novel in the Jack Marconi series, As Catch Can, was re-published under its original title, The Innocent (Oh yeah, Delecorte made me change the title), and it too went to number 1 in Amazon Hot New Bestsellers. In a few days, Part II of the Jack Marconi series will be republished. It’s called, Godchild. And I can’t wait to see it climb the Kindle charts. As for the paper version, that will be icing on the cake. But I will be sure to send a copy to pencil pushers at Random House.

Do I sound like I’m gloating?
Maybe. But I at least have reason to be pleased and excited. Kindles are here to stay. Despite the belief of a local Albany independent book store owner who refers to the Kindle as a “toy,” a “gadget,” and a “fad,” these reading devices are not going away anytime soon. The only thing that will finish off the E-Book will be Armageddon itself. A lack of power in the grid. And by then we’ll all be back to writing on cave walls.

Not since the invention of the printing press all those centuries ago, has a more exciting period of publishing been at hand. I thank God I’m young enough to enjoy it. Not only has my career been resurrected, it’s just a matter of time until I’m back making my living as a fiction author. The covers of my new books now boast the header:

#1 Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author!

Can a hero ask for anything more?