Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Social media for writers

Marketing is dull. Practically everyone hates it. We are all trained to tune it out. Authors have it drummed into their heads: "Get people to buy your book or you're dead."

I've been a busy proponent of marketing and have written about it a good bit. More and more, my ideas fall under the category of "Everything I know is wrong." I do sell books, maybe not millions, but a respectable amount that pleases more. But the whole push is not that satisfying, and not the real goal. Selling lots of books is disguised as the real goal, which is to influence people or change a mind with your thoughts.

I've already been shifting away from the "promo blitz" that I lapsed into when I started self-publishing, which wasn't much different from the days when I was pushing product for a corporation and making pennies on the dollar. I'm moving to a place of service. How can my work help somebody or make the world a better place, not just buy me another can of beans?

As the universe does, it was nudging me to the right crevices, such as Seth Godin's ideas on community communication. I just found a neat list on social media today at Conversation Agent. The bottom line is to be useful to others--why should you come read my blog to hear my ideas about (a) my books, (b) the changing publishing industry or (c) occasional gardening news?

Okay, let's start with Drummer Boy. New novel. Sure, a purchase puts a few coins in my pocket and maybe bumps it up the sales ranks a notch. A review is even better, as it improves recommendation slots. And I wrote it to work out some "misfit" ideas from my own childhood. And that's the reason for this book. Some kid somewhere, probably in his early teens, is going to find this book and it's going to help the kid through a rough patch, or at least say, "Hey, you're not alone."

The trick is that it's presented as an adult novel (though it doesn't necessarily have mature content, just that it features adult characters as well as kids). And because it's POD and e-book, it's less likely to just drop in as a used copy from a garage sale. So the job is to find that one kid who will benefit from the book.

They say authors should write for themselves first. If you are doing that, why not just stick with a diary? That's not communication, and it's not service, no more than sitting in a cave meditating for 80 years constitutes a sacred and moral life. "Faith without works is dead." That's a nice social media message.

How can I help you today?


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BEA and I'm not there...

Book Expo America. Everybody who is somebody in the publishing industry. Corporate people saying dumb things, writers taking notes. Happens every year. Life goes on.

I was telling my wife that I am glad I am not a bestselling writer. What an incredible burden, sitting in all these panels, vying for attention, having to listen to protectionist ideas of what a book should be and which way the industry should go. As I've moved farther along the path of my career and chucked more of the "conventional wisdom" overboard as I went, I've been a lot happier. Naturally, I'd love the big checks and armies of readers that come from fame, but fame is a type of slavery. Doesn't fit the Taoist desire for detachment.

An interesting blog on author branding at Blood Red Pencil, talking about the "soul of the brand." Simple notion, identify the quintessential self you are putting in your work. For me, it's simply "What are we here?" The journey of faith and love and meaning. Big, unanswerable questions. And that's why I have so little patience for disposable, mindless entertainment as I age. I don't know whether it's because I know I have less time, or because I have less mind.

The Scott brand: be a better man. Maybe I should be writing self-help guides for hopeless romantics...


Sunday, May 23, 2010


I've just started doing some podcasting and audio recording, starting with a babble called "So You Want to be a Writer?" Mostly autobiographical...

Interesting article on Kindle Nation Daily about the new influx of ebook prices, proving the conventional wisdom that publishers couldn't long sustain the artificially high e-book prices. As an author with cheap e-books (I prefer the label "working-class fiction"), I had hoped the window would stay open longer but now it appears even the smaller authors are going to have to compete with the big names at low prices.

Having recently finished the first draft of a YA novel, it's time to tackle a couple of revisions and adapt one screenplay into a novel (I know, I know, that's backward from the usual order of things, but I tend to do everything in a series of disconnected left turns.)

Recent posts include a guest slot on Straight From Hel called "Publishing Ground Zero" and the first up in my regular gig at Blood Red Pencil, this one on building non-fiction clips.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guest blog: Christa Polkinhorn

Love of a Stonemason
Available as ebook on and on Smashwords

The young painter, Karla Bocelli, is no stranger to death. When she was five years old, she lost her mother in a car crash in the south of Switzerland. Her Peruvian father lives at the other end of the world, and a year ago, her aunt and guardian passed away. Now, at age twenty-four, the talented artist has another close encounter with death. On her way to an art gallery, she almost gets hit by a speeding car.

As if this wasn’t fateful enough, Andreas, the driver, turns out to be a sculptor and carver of tombstones. In spite of his profession, Andreas is anything but morbid. Quick-tempered and intense, he exudes a rough-and-tumble energy. Karla is intrigued by the fierce young man with his green cat-eyes and invites him to an exhibition of her paintings. This marks the beginning of a passionate relationship and a journey to selfhood for Karla. After a tumultuous start of their relationship, Karla comes to see in Andreas the "rock in her life," the perfect antidote to her fears of abandonment and bouts of depression. Andreas, however, wrestles with his own ghosts: an alcoholic father who abused him as a child and his own fits of anger. Together, the two artists must confront the demons that haunt them.

Love of a Stonemason is a story about the struggle of two artists with their past, their family, their creativity, and their love for each other. Told from the point of view of Karla, it depicts the world through her painter’s sensibility. It takes the reader on a journey full of sights, smells, tastes, and sounds from the south of Switzerland to Italy and the Peruvian Andes. The novel will appeal to lovers of art, to readers of romantic fiction and to people interested in foreign countries.
Christa Polkinhorn, originally from Switzerland, lives and works as writer and translator in Santa Monica, California. She divides her time between the United States and Switzerland and has strong ties to both countries. The tension and excitement this "double life" creates informs her work.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

J.A. Konrath and new era of publishing

Since the big publishing news is J.A. Konrath's deal with Amazon to pick up the seventh book in the Jack Daniels series, it's a good chance to reflect on what it means. (By that, I mean what it means to most authors and what it means to me and what it means to readers). I won't go into details since it's clearly outlined at J.A.'s Newbie's Guide blog.

Joe repeatedly warns that writers shouldn't compare themselves to other writers, or expect the same results, yet he's also launched a tidal wave of authors onto the Kindle--me included. True, I do feel the best Kindle mob rushes happened last year when there were few titles and lots of eager early adopters of the Kindle, so I've set out for a long-term foundation. But several key questions of the Konrath/Amazon partnership remain--though I don't see this situation as the ultimate test of Publisher Fail, because it's already guaranteed to be financially successfully simply because of the publicity.

To me, the most significant point is that Amazon basically agreed with Joe that $2.99 is the standard price for a new e-book release, no matter whether it's before, simultaneous to, or after the paper release. This skips the entire $9.99 debate, the price that was "too low" for NY publishing. So Amazon has set a baseline for the expected price of a new ebook. But that means that indie authors (and Joe himself) utilized a competitive pricing advantage to gain market, but that advantage has now shrunk dramatically. If Joe was once considered a lesser-known author (hard to believe, but in the hardcover pantheon, he's probably on Level Two), what about all the writers at Level Three or on no level at all? Then they are at $1.99 or 99 cents. And likely, in five to 10 years, free.

Compared to other types of digital content, $15 is absurb for a new ebook. That's nearly two months of Netflix and unlimited movie viewing. Maybe even $2.99 is too high, though it sounds like a real bargain right now. But at 1,000 sales a day and a dollar a sale, I'd guess that's acceptable to Joe!

Interesting contrast is Dean Wesley Smith's "Killing the Sacred Cows" blog, in which he talks about all the different ways writers can make money, and how many of them are doing very well in traditional publishing. So clearly both paths are viable, and I still plan to pursue both. I got a rejection from a publisher today that basically reminded me that I still have plenty of room for improvement, no matter which way i want to sell books, and the commitment to craft is where the real journey lies.

(Oh, yeah, if you want to get Konrath's first comics story, it's available in digital download for 99 cents at Haunted Computer.)


Monday, May 17, 2010

Quick bits and bobs

Fanaticon in Asheville was a blast--Dan, Miles, Gina, Scott Kimberlin the T-shirt genius, and Mickey, hello! I got to see my first actual iPad, and it was much smaller than I thought it would be. I am not that interested int he device but I love what it does with comics. I think there's a revolution about to happen there, including a change in the storytelling medium and the dance and rhythm of panels. I'm not much of a visual artist, but as a storyteller it certainly merits close attention.

We're very close to release of the Grave Conditions and Dirt trade paperbacks--still ad space available, $25 for a quarter-page ad gets you in with Brian Keene, J.A. Konrath, Jonathan Maberry, Stephen Susco, William Harms and plenty more. Old-school horror comics shorts in the tradition of Tales from the Crypt, Creepy, and Eerie.

Me-ness on the Internet: the cool site Feo Amante has a feature on Drummer Boy; podcast archives are up at Funky Werepig and Seattle Geekly. I have an article coming out this week in Helen Ginger's free writing newsletter "Doing It Write," you can sign up at Link to cool person of the day: Kewber, the artist for the Dirt series. Thanks, Kew, for all your great work!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Social-media overload

A fellow author was asking about social media this morning and I reflected on my constant struggle to be plugged in or just go dig in the garden. Actually, I enjoy both, to different degrees, and they each have their demands. Being a visible Internet pied piper can be exhausting, and if you're good at it, it requires even more time as people's expectations rise. You become the crack pipe your followers are constantly sucking on.

In one of my more crass moods, someone was talking about a recently deceased OD celebrity, and my comeback was "Well, that's what we PAY them for." In a way, that's true--they pay the toll for all the attention, adulation, wild wealth, fame, drugs, sex, tabloid content--and clearly some handle it better than others, such as Betty White at 91. But it's also a case of "They lead the wild life so we don't have to. They flame out to make a beautiful meteor streak across the sky that we can 'ooh' and 'aah' over." Outwardly jealous on the ascension but secretly glad it's not us on descent.

The same way with social media. Some people tweet every single detail of their lives, several times an hour, from the cat making a cute mess on the kitchen counter to the famous person they just saw. It must be exhausting, and I don't know whether it's narcissism or simply the way they feel connected to their fellow human beings. Strangers pass each other on the street, more connected to the device with which they are texting to distant friends about being on the sidewalk. These observations have been made before, and being narcissistic, I wonder how it all fits my life. I have a cell phone, but it's one of those lifeless TracFones that I barely know how to operate, and it's lost half the time. I resent it. It's more for me to be found than for me to find anything. I can't imagine having it as a constant live wire.

I strive for visibility, or at least some acknowledgment by friends and readers, yet I don't want to share the full extent of my life. I want to be a member of the community yet many of my passions are outside the mainstream. I cultivate a simple Taoist spirituality yet my chosen career demands that I seek attention. I want to be relevant without being one of those annoying yip-dog leg-humpers we all know and loathe.

Personally, I don't care if Iron Man 2 sucks or not, yet every newspaper, blog, and web site in America was obliged to do something on it. Same with Twilight. I am not sure whether people talk about it because it's easy common ground or that they are genuinely interested. American Idol horrifies me, but there's a deep passion for it. Here at work, it's the first topic of conversation each morning. To me, the cow manure in my garden, and the fact my corn is coming up, is far more interesting.

I greatly enjoy the one-on-one interaction of email. I've always done better with written communication than speaking or acting, and nothing thrills me more than to discuss ideas with someone, whether it's my book, their book, somebody else's book, or even social-media theory. I am all about ideas, not time-killing entertainment, and I guess that's the heart of my struggle. I know I'm not alone. Plenty of writers just want to write and be left alone.

I have a laptop, and I will probably get a little cool tablet or netbook in a year or so when they are plentiful and cheap. My business includes selling content for all these devices--books, comics, and probably soon to be video and the elusive, murky "transmedia content" that publishers keep hinting at. My job is to keep up, to plug in, to be ahead of the curve. I missed the Kindle boat last year because I wasn't tuned in. Some authors made a ton of money or got other great opportunities by being first to the party. I don't know if that fervent, fertile atmosphere will ever be replicated for e-books, though surely there are other trends in digital content just ahead, such as the explosion of indie comics, and then direct-download indie movies.

For the first time this morning, I realized that a traditionally published author's job is to write books, but an indie author's job is to sell books. Huge difference. And right now there are a million self-published authors out there. Somebody's always working harder than you, typing faster, meeting more readers, proliferating pixels.

Hmm. Tough decision. I'm uploading this post, tweeting, FBing some links. In the meantime, go listen to my interview on Seattle Geekly, which is also on iTunes on all those phone thingies and probably devices I don't know about. I'll be live at Fanaticon in Asheville NC Saturday (May 15) and then on the Funky Werepig Blogtalk radio show Sunday night at 9 pm EST.

By coincidence, searching for a graphic for this blog, I found a poignant post by TV writer and producer Alan Spencer.

Now I'm going out to the garden to reflect on it all.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flash rehash: The Drummer Boy Flash Mob at Amazon

Experiment: Internet flash mob for digital content known as Drummer Boy

Hypothesis: A concentrated cluster of sales can stimulate a Kindle book's Amazon rankings and lead to more sales

First, this wasn't a calculated, well-organized campaign. While I spent a year planning the launch for release of The Red Church in mass-market paperback, I got the flash mob idea about a week ago. The marketing was mostly limited to my Twitter account (178 followers), Myspace (10,000 friends), Facebook (1,300 friends), and the forums at Kindleboards, Mobilereads, and, to a limited extent, Amazon. The biggest megaphone was J.A. Konrath's Newbie's Guide blog.

Drummer Boy had been up on Amazon for about three weeks, with very little promotion and sales of about one to two per day as I tinkered with the description and categories. It started Flash Mob Morning ranked #12,440. At Flash Mob Hour, 3 p.m. EST, it ticked up to #6,972 on three sales for the day. I suspect one or two participants might have jumped the gun or had their clocks off a bit, because there was a flurry of 23 sales in an hour, and the Amazon ranking rose to #6,024. (I learned the ratings updates at Amazon are delayed a full hour, so even though sales are reported immediately in your DTP account, the Amazon algorithms kick in later.)

From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., there were seven additional sales as new people discovered the event. At shortly after 5 p.m., the ranking rose to #557 as the Flash Mob Hour numbers took effect. From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. an additional five copies sold, yielding the best ranking of #524. Clearly, the rankings are averaged not just in short-term and long-term, but in near-term, averaging out recent activity. Of course, the rankings are a moving target, as other books are also rising and falling at the same time.

Six additional sales overnight, or about one every two hours, left Drummer Boy at #1,108. In 24 hours, 41 sales moved the book from #12,440 to #1,108. It also sold three paper copies during the blitz.

A flurry of sales can shoot your books up the chart in a brief spurt. That's pretty obvious, but here is some real-time data on the effects in the mid-range list. My novels generally rank between 3,000 and 8,000, so I consider myself in that second tier of sellers, those with an audience but who have to work to find new readers with half a million Kindle titles available.

Having people visit the Amazon page, with no purchase, doesn't seem to have any effect at all. I thought that might stimulate "People who viewed this" appearances, but unless people are browsing, clicking around, or buying books, it probably wouldn't matter. It might be cool in the future to pair the Flash Mob up with a new-release bestseller, have people click back and forth on both, and see if that leads to some impulse buys. You'd also benefit by having at least 20 reviews, so the book pops up in more recommendation slots, but that's difficult to do unless you've lined up your reviewers in advance and had them all post a couple of days before the Flash Mob.

The blitz didn't affect my other Amazon sales at all. They sold very close to their usual daily average and their rankings did not significantly alter.

I'll probably try this again in October, for a new book. (I will probably release two more between now and then, but this is the type of thing that can really exhaust a fan-and-friend base and quickly ceases to be fun.) I will build it up longer, have some cool prizes, and promote it for a month or so. I will also do the Flash shortly after the book's release, because I suspect the long dormant period before the blitz may have diluted the flash effect in the ranking averages.

I suspect you'd need a huge effort to reach the Top 100 and stay there, since it's already difficult to compete with all the free books that comprise the bulk of that list. I've heard closer to the top you are getting 30 or so sales per hour, and getting up there leads to more sales. Of course, nothing sells like being a bestseller, but bestselling writers aren't sitting around hosting Flash Mobs, either.

The Flash Mob did not seem to carry over to other formats. The page views at Smashwords peaked but didn't yield sales or sample downloads. Of course, I have no idea if the Flash Mob affected sales for iPad, Mobipocket, or other devices, though I did sell a couple of paper books directly from my site.

At $1.99, the Flash Mob earned me about $28 in royalties, but my wife and I each bought one, so that cuts it down to $24. (Your promo effort officially jumps the shark when you force your spouse to buy a copy). The paperback royalties netted me nearly $10. If I could sell that well every day, with three books, I could make a living at it. That's not realistic. But I'm thinking 10 books earning $10 a day is pretty realistic, and more than I am likely to make from a mainstream publisher in my genre.

Reaching #1 in specific categories doesn't matter a whole lot unless it's a popular category. The Flash Mob pushed Drummer Boy to #1 in the Ghosts category and #2 in the Occult category, but those aren't hot commodities. I checked the Occult rankings and Charlaine Harris was before and after me, so that's good company, but I don't think her fans are buying my books yet, though we both write Southern supernatural fantasy. I've had three books in the Top Ten in Ghosts at the same time without any noticeable viral effect. However, if you crack in Thriller or Mystery, no doubt you will get impulse purchases.

In the old days for a book launch, I'd do dozens of store signings, spending my own gas money to sit and sign books. While meeting bookstore people is joyful and humbling, it's also costly and time-consuming, plus you're not likely to see a nickel back for your efforts. While I miss the personal contact, the immediacy of the Internet is just as fun in its own way. Plus I got to go out to the garden while the Flash Mob was underway.

I suspect this could be really effective for plugged-in people like Seth Godin, Seth Harwood, Scott Sigler, or J.A. Konrath, who could make a true event out of it. I'm just a guy with wireless and a few e-books out there. My platform base isn't yet a rabid Kindle crowd, and most of my loyal fans are the ones who have dog-eared paperbacks. Creators cultivating transmedia platforms will do better in this new digital environment. Which is why I am developing a Drummer Boy video.

Which got me thinking to the next logical step. The Flash Mob was interesting because there were real-time Amazon numbers to play with and monitor. I already bypassed a publisher and agent cut by releasing Drummer Boy on my own. But if I had targeted the Flash Mob to my own site and sold those books at the same price, this morning I would have more than $100 in my paypal account. I'd be going out for breakfast.

After the Flash Mob was over, I clicked open the file for the novel I am about to finish. I wrote a couple of pages. Good pages. That was as fun as selling books. As I say to my wife, and to life, "To be continued."

(P.S. Eight additional sales the next day as the ranking slowly slid to #2,379)


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

23 copies in an low can you go?

The flash hour for Drummer Boy resulted in 23 sales as of the rough count, though ranking is sticking at #6,972. I'll keep an eye on it during the next hour to see how it follows up and make a more thorough report this evening. Thanks, all, for playing. What happens when the flash mob is over? Does someone have to sweep the digital streets?

Update: it rose to #6,024 in Hour Number Two. Guess I'll wait for 5 p.m...

I have to admit, there was a time yesterday when I was thinking, "Scott, you're just going to embarrass yourself. You will sell two copies--including the one you buy yourself. Nobody cares. They are too busy with their own lives and have more important things to do than worry about your book." I was tempted to just cancel the whole idea and go dig in the garden. But I also got support from friends and peers, and the stoopid Scott that says, "It's crazy! Do it!" I am glad I did. My wife says, "Have it all." My mom says, "Never give up." My daughter says, "Daddy is a good horror writer." (Hopefully, she doesn't say that to the school counselors, or we'd have to be in for a "talk.")

5 o'clock update--shot to #648, my highest rank ever! There are seven sales in hour #2 so I will follow that up with another rank report. It doesn't seem to be stimulating sales for my other books, though. They appear to be doing their usual turtle crawl.

This is really odd--6 pm update--fewer sales (7) and it STILL rises, to #557. So the averaging formula must spread the numbers out somehow. The promo blitz officially jumped the shark when I made my wife buy one last hour so the "beat goes on."

Even weirder--only five sales in the third hour yet it rises to #524. Maybe fewer people buy books during Rush Hour!

For category watchers, it hit #1 in the "Ghosts" category for both Kindle and all books, and #2 in "Occult." I've had three books in the Top 10 of Ghosts at the same time and haven't seen major mojo from it. I've hit #1 in "Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy" (my daughter was really impressed that I was ahead of C.S. Lewis) and couldn't quit my wonderful Day Job. Unfortunately, those aren't budget-busting categories like "Mystery" or "Thriller," where the book would have a chance to go mini-viral. On the other hand, it beats a sharp stick in the eye. I will now test that theory. Ouch. Yep, definitely better'n a stick in the eye.

Beth has posted a guest blog at Maybe Tomorrow? Book Blog if you need even more Drummer Boyness.


flash mob-take two

I bought my copy...every author should buy a copy of their Kindle books to proof them. I actually found a few line breaks that needed correction, and those are now winding through the Amazon system. Seven people bought copies before I did. Thank you very much!

The rank hasn't moved from 6,972 but I suspect it will take a bit for the effect to trickle through (It may not even show up until the next hour, which means I'll have to sit here another hour and blog! That's okay, though, because it's cold and rainy here, and I'll be starting a fire, though I have some firewood to unload.)

I think this type of experiment would work really well for Seth Godin, Seth Harwood, Scott Sigler, or one of the other plugged-in 21st century creative types. It's an idea worth developing, so if I do it again, I'll actually plan ahead...

Seven copies in five minutes, or about what James Patterson sells during a sneeze...


snare a Drummer Boy

Okay, I've been drumming up "drum slogans" to launch this here novel. I had the "Beat it" campaign, which doesn't really work unless you consider beating my head in for shameless book-pimping. There's "marching to a different drummer," which I actually enjoy as a real-life phrase because I am always out of step with the world (I'll be lucky if I don't miss my own flash mob). But my favorite is "Go ahead and snare you a copy." That plays on subtlety beyond the whole drum thing.

This morning's numbers--for the month, Drummer Boy has sold the princely amount of 16 Kindle copies, or about one-and-a-half per day. Since I've done virtually no promoting for it (because I'm such a Rebel--heh heh), that's not too bad, especially when you consider half a million titles are up at Amazon. Its rank this morning was 12,440, and it actually slid as I was preparing my launch. Technically, I am at my day job right now--one of the gimmicks of the "New Super-Hyper Transmedia Digital Content Delivery Man" is to be in several places at once, so I have two computers running.

I noticed this morning that, for the release of my first novel The Red Church, I spent an entire year planning its release. I even wrote a monthly series on it, and credit the series for helping that book's success. I dreamed up the flash mob campaign last Wednesday or Thursday...

I also have notes on the sales totals of my other books, so I will be able to compare the increase in each for the flash-mob hour, the day, and maybe a week or so later, to see if there is any residual effect.

Drummer Boy marches into battle

Hi, just wanted to let you know about my new novel DRUMMER BOY, a supernatural thriller. When three boys hear a whisper in a Blue Ridge Mountain cave, they believe the legend of "The Jangling Hole" is real...and on the eve of a Civil War re-enactment, dark spirits are roused from a long slumber. And one misfit kid is all that stands between the town and a battle that never ends...

We're holding an Internet flash mob between 3-4 pm EST today, encouraging people to click on (or buy) the book at Amazon--

Because rankings are adjusted hourly, a flurry of activity could push it up the charts, so it's an interesting social experiment, even if you don't want to buy the book. The push is primarily for Kindle ebooks, but it's also available in multiple formats through Smashwords, the iPad, and all the usual outlets (though it's not available for Nook yet). You can also get signed copies (cheaper than Amazon) through the book's page at

This novel is based on my experiences as a Civil War re-enactor, though it's very much a modern tale in the vein of The Red Church. In fact, it features Sheriff Littlefield from that book. If you join the flash mob and click on the book, let me know and I will send a short story of your choice: DEAD CATS AND RAIN, a literary story that really happened, or DEAD INK, a zombie story that hasn't happened yet!

Thanks for all your support--we also have some comics out at Haunted Computer. Even if you're not into Drummer Boy, drop me a line and let me know what you're up to, so we can stay connected.

Friday, May 7, 2010

E-release before paper release?

Traditional publishers have taken a strategy of minimizing e-books by pricing the digital content so high that it forces most consumers to choose the paper version. A second strategy is to delay e-book release in much the same way a paperback is held six to 12 months after a hardcover release. One poster in an Amazon forum suggested publishers should release the e-book first and watch the sales before deciding to go with a paper version.

I just don't think there's time for that model to evolve...a few Kindle stars like Boyd Morrison were cherry-picked, but if the most loyal book consumers were the early Kindle adopters, and they are not returning to bookstores, where is the second-wave audience? Clearly the Kindle owners are the people who are the most interested in digital books.

Besides that, you have iPad owners who are reportedly not buying books (1.5 million books "sold" for the 1 million iPads sold equals a book and a half per device owner--compare that with Kindle behaviors). The core audience is already moving to e-books, and they clearly want low prices, and that means a shrinking role (and profit margin) for traditional publishers.

I just received the Author Central update where Amazon is giving authors more authority to change editorial content on the product pages--even if they were posted by a publisher. That, along with higher royalty rates, suggests Amazon is anticipating a model of more independent authors, with Amazon the gathering place for content and purchase. Or, if you prefer to view it ruthlessly, bypass publishers and stores altogether. Amazon already owns printing presses and servers and an e-book device. They have no stake in propping up bookstores or an inefficient distribution system.

If the e-book revolution is indeed accelerating beyond expectations, then there may not be any bookstores in five years beyond a few dusty specialty shops. Many were predicting the tipping point to come by 2020, then revised it down to 2015. Science-fiction author Michael Stackpole just predicted it for a couple of years from now.

Could Amazon and Apple conspire to put publishers out of business and then impose Draconian conditions that make the current publishing industry look benevolent, altruistic, and generous? It's possible they could become the Walmart of literary content. Apple has already shown a predilection for ratcheting down the controls and censoring content. Amazon has worked on the opposite model, opening the floodgates in the marketplace of ideas, but its goals seem to be one-stop shopping for all your needs, not any particular interest in what those needs might be. The publishing industry doesn't protect us from such crass concerns, because it has the same profit worries as any other industry.

As usual, I look at these things from the writer's point of view. Which route will earn me the most money and the most readers over the course of my career? Right now, it looks like releasing my own products is the way to go, through whatever outlets I can find. That could change tomorrow. But since this is my life's work and I want to rely on the products of my imagination in my old age, I'm already looking beyond the industry crash to the next crash--what happens when people are no longer willing to shell out even a buck or two for an e-book?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

flash mob for books/beat it a three

Flash mobs are fun--thousands of strangers show up at a predetermined place at a set time and cause general calamity (which I suspect means looking at one another and wondering what happens next.) So for Drummer Boy's official launch on May 11, I am rolling out (snare pun, heh heh) the "Beat It At Three" campaign, in which I hope to push up the sales rankings at Amazon at 3 p.m. EST on May 11. Show up, buy a Kindle copy, let's see what happens. If I get rich and famous, I guarantee you I will give most of it away...

Review for The Skull Ring up at Simply Stacie. Guest interview up at author David H. Burton's site.