Saturday, January 29, 2011

How NY is Fueling Its Own Demise

I don't like to talk sales numbers, because it inevitably sounds like whining or bragging, but since Jan. 4, I have sold more books than Snooki, according to this article.

I know the major publishing industry is desperate and that's part of the reason they have been tossing real writers overboard while others are fleeing like rats from a burning ship. Every "sure bet" deal for Snooki or George Bush or Sarah Palin or Madonna sends 100 real writers to the soup kitchen.What's stunning is how New York is so actively and willfully tossing gasoline on the flames of its immolation. By failing to recognize the tastes of readers or developing the literary talents of tomorrow while engaging in a wholesale denial of what people want to pay and how they want their books delivered, their ship will soon be a smoking cinder slipping beneath the waves.

Not coincidentally at all, those writers look for their audience elsewhere, and the largest, hungriest audience in the world is sitting next to their Kindles as we speak. The Kindle/Nook phenomenon is not just a tech craze or a groovy new consumption model. It's a release valve for the pent-up desires of so many people craving a wealth and diversity of reading material. Your average public book display will have 20 copies of the same 20 books all across America. Those books are the top 20 on the bestseller lists for obvious reasons.

People now have a choice. Nearly a million choices, really. And it's only the beginning.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Widget World

After some research, I've finally cracked the arcane secrets to having my very own Amazon Kindle widget, which you can see here to the right. I look forward to exploring more ways to use these and I'm also getting my Barnes & Noble affiliate account.

If you want your own Scott Nicholson Amazon Kindle, I'd be happy to send you the code, and if you're an Amazon affiliate, you can easily set it up to earn 4 to 6 percent commission on sales of my books. Money earned while sitting at home in dirty sweat pants, just like me. Who says I don't love you?


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Published at 72

In all the hype, numbers, and money a lot of people are throwing around in the digital era, it's good to remember the basic act of communication that the entire dream is built around.

Case in point is Elizabeth Egerton Wilder's Spruce Gum Box, which she released on her 72nd birthday as her first novel. The work of historical fiction took her several years, and in the "old days" she might never have been able to fulfill her dream so easily. Sure, it doesn't appear to be tearing up the charts, but visualize the power of her work finding even one reader, much less several, much less more.

And that book should be online in perpetuity, finding the audience it needs and deserves. I haven't read it and can't speak to quality, and "quality" is a matter of great debate as writers chase some arbitrary "professional" standard. Is direct emulation of major publishing even valid and worthwhile anymore?

The only standard to which one should aspire is to tell your story as best you can, and then turn it over to whatever readers you are fortunate enough to find. Way to go, Mrs. Wilder.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Choose the cover-- Transparent Lovers

This is one of those difficult choices but I hope you will help make it simpler, as you did in helping us select the cover for the children's book "If I Were Your Monster." (Which turned out very well, thank you!)

Today's mission is to help select the cover for my supernatural mystery novella. Maybe it's more of a paranormal noir, or an afterlife romance with guns and vindictive ex-lovers, or a love story with dead people in it. I get easily confused these days. At any rate, feel free to weigh in. There may be a prize in it for you, such as an advance copy of Transparent Lovers! (Leave your email address like hauntedcomputer AT to get a free advance copy).

(Top cover image via Simon Howden. Bottom cover image via Graur Codrin.)
Here's a revised version of the Blue Cover.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Piracy. Five reasons not to worry.

There's a little debate going around in which writers are calculating the millions of dollars they've lost, as well as that wonderful, lofty perch on the bestseller list, because of all those meany pirates out there dumping their book files into torrents. I tweeted last week that 10,000 illegal downloads doesn't mean 10,000 lost sales, it means maybe five lost sales. And I'll bet it was because the book was overpriced to begin with. (Which almost universally means either someone else is setting your price who has their own agenda instead of the writer's best performance and income in mind, or else you have not paid one bit of attention to the digital market in the past two years. Or, in the case of New York publishing, both).

My books have been stolen for years. Ironically, it's only my corporate books that are illegally shared; my DRM-free ebooks don't show up there, yet they could easily be shared, swapped, ripped, and even rewritten. I only even notice the piracy when I do Google alerts of my name and see them in the rapidshare and torrent streams. I don't even know what those streams do, or how they work, and I don't care. It would be like sticking my thumb in a river to try to plug a dam six miles downstream. It would be a full-time job and all I would get is a wet finger. And the pirates would never even notice.

Why do I not care? It's stealing, and stealing is wrong. Anybody who says it's not stealing is wrong. I don't even make cassettes or copies of my own CDs, not even for personal use. But I am not casting stones, because I've conducted other illegal or immoral acts. None of us are without sin.

But I'm a writer, not the world's morality cop. And I have plenty of my own shortcomings. Anyway, the author has many antidotes to piracy:

1. Quit freaking out--stealing or not, this is how people communicate in the modern age. They share. They mutually create content and their shared experiences. They aren't as hung up on "ownership."

2. Take control of your content (from a corporation) and make it cheap. If your book is a buck or two, all but the most ardent thieves (who are spending their time stealing instead of reading anyway) would rather just buy the book and save the hassle. And you'll make the same amount of money, anyway. Actually, far more.

3. Find your own translators. Even if you gave up control of your English rights to a corporation, you can still seek translators on your own. If somebody cracks your book, translates it, and puts it out, that's an incredible homage--many hours of their life. This way, you can make a little money and pay them a royalty.

4. Use it as a positive. In five years, you'll be "selling" your download stats to sponsors and advertisers. And getting ripped off big-time then becomes an asset. Think of them as your future shares in the new market.

5. Why do we write in the first place? If you had told someone 100 years ago you could widely spread your ideas to millions of people at no cost, they would have said you've gone to writer heaven. Or you've gone insane. Which, when you look at it, is basically the same thing.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Archer McFall--the sequel

Since The Red Church is a perennial favorite and Drummer Boy is gaining ground, I have been exploring the idea of writing the third book in the "Littlefield series." While many of my earlier novels reference other fictional locations in Windhsake, Pickett County, and Whispering Pines, as well as Black Rock, these two books both have Sheriff Littlefield as a prominent character (though they are separate sets of events, Littlefield has a few "WTF" moments because he knows more than anyone).

My idea at this point its to bring Ronnie Day from The Red Church and Bobby Eldreth from Drummer Back back, and this time they are in high school. An older, more dissipated and perhaps bitter Sheriff Frank Littlefield (think: if Clint Eastwood did for Dirty Harry what he did to his western persona in Unforgiven) and that's where I headed. And, of course, Archer McFall is now back in town. Maybe in the same form, maybe not.

Do you have any ideas to share along those lines? Just guessing, I'd say the cover is likely to be red... Thanks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

new mystery release--CRIME BEAT

Hey, sign up for my free newsletter and be entered to win a limited-edition hardcover of Transparent Lovers, from PS Publishing. Also giving away used hardcover of Max Brooks' World War Z and three sealed copies of Black Static magazine. Drawing Thursday to commemorate launch of my new mystery novella Crime Beat.

Crime doesn't pay...but neither does journalism. When John Moretz takes a reporter job at a small Appalachian newspaper, a crime spree erupts that quickly escalates to serial killing. And Moretz seems to know just a little bit more than he's putting on the front page.

99 cents for a limited time at Amazon
Or at Amazon UK
For Nook at
In all formats at Smashwords

Thanks for helping spread the word.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Why Did I Read That? By Guido Henkel

(Today's guest post is by Guido Henkel, author of the Jason Dark series. See the first, Demon's Night, in multiple formats at Smashwords)

As I finished reading Moses Siregar’s “The Black God’s War” and began looking for a new book to read next, for some reason, I asked myself the question, what is it that makes me like and favor certain authors?

The entire world fawns over Stephen King, for example, and each of his books turns automatically into a bestseller. While I don’t dislike King, I do not consider myself a fan of his, either. To me, he wrote good books and bad books, and among them, a handful of true gems. Too often, however, I feel as if he’s getting lost in his own stories. I once said that if a director needs 3 hours to tell a story, then he’s doing something wrong — my case in point at the time was James Cameron’s “Titanic.” I still stand by that sentiment with maybe one or two exceptions, such as “The Lord of the Rings” movies and stories that contain so many side plots that it would actually harm the film if it were cut down for length. There is certain epic material that commands more length, clearly, but the story of an Atlantic crossing and the included sinking of a passenger ship is not one of them.

To me, the same is true for books. If an author needs over 1000 pages to tell a story that others manage to tell in 700 pages, I am getting dubious. Despite his commercial success and critical acclaim, to me King makes the same mistake over and over again — he strays. I recently read a book called “The Swarm,” which made the same mistake. Thunderously thick, the book takes almost a third of its length just to set up the story’s actual premise. That ain’t right… Don’t waste my time. It is every bit as precious as yours.

So, what is it then that I do like about certain authors? To me, it is usually a case of intrigue. I don’t care much for literary gimmicks. If an author feels he has to prove to me that he can find the most exotic words in his Thesaurus, he makes a huge mistake. Not only does he take me out of the experience of the story because the word sticks out like a sore thumb, he also belittles his readers who might not be familiar with the word. I am not advocating dumbed-down writing, but I think there is a fine line somewhere along which an author can still show his prowess and connect with his readers without talking down to them.
Sure, there is a market for so-called literary books, but when it comes to commercial, mainstream writing, I think finding the right tone is crucial.

The same goes for metaphors. Metaphors are great when they work, but some writers have a tendency to force them, pulling noticeably at straws, just to come up with something that might seem imaginative. To me, that is bad style, plain and simple, regardless of genre, on par with convoluted sentences that make you reread them three times to figure out their meaning. Why would someone write like that?

To me, good writing is like good verbal storytelling. I have never met a really good storyteller who speaks in super-injected sentences that make you ask him to repeat them, just so you can fathom out what it was he was trying to say. No, a good storyteller makes sure the meaning gets to you before he even says it. A good storyteller hooks you and takes you onto a journey. Imagine, someone told you a story that would suddenly take you down paths that are entirely irrelevant to the story, unraveling infinite details and story facets that lie a hundred years before the actual events, including people who have been dead three generations before the story actually took place and have nothing whatsoever to contribute to the plot… If you’re anything like me, you would simply tune out.

But books are different than verbally told stories, many people will say. Well, that is certainly a point that is up for discussion, and it is one point I honestly beg to differ. Are they really different, or is this just something the book critics want us to believe? That good books must have superior literary aspects? Should I really feel bad that I actually enjoy reading Clive Cussler’s adventures, easy-on-the-reader as they may be?

You may disagree, but in my opinion, good books are every bit like stories that are being told. They are to the point. They stay on topic. They hook the reader and pull him along. Most importantly, though, to me, a good book is written in the language of its readers. It makes you forget that thousands of others may read the same story. A good book makes you feel that it was written specifically for you!

There are masters out there who do an amazing job at this. When I first read Mark Frost’s “The
List of Seven,” the book instantly became my all-time favorite. Not because it had frilly language, not because Frost tried to impress the world with his vocabulary. All that is there in the book, but the way he put it all together made you forget everything around it. The story and the language were one, he made masterful use of the most powerful tool any writer can wield. He used magic! The magic to make me forget I was reading a story, the magic to conjure up images in my mind and dazzle me with deviously schemed plots. So much so that when the book was over, I sat breathlessly and asked myself, “Oh my god, what am I going to read now, because everything else will feel bland from here?”

To this day, about 20 years and uncounted books-read later, “The List of Seven” is still the epitome of a great book to me. Untouched, religiously revisited every other year or so, it is the book I wish I would have written.


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Pumpkin Patch

We had so much fun putting together If I Were Your Monster for Kindle and Nook and paper (its page is now up at my site) that Sergio Castro and I are working on a version of The Pumpkin Patch, adapted from our little-read comic Little Shivers (Only 20 copies were printed, so if you happen to have one, seal it in plastic and put your kid through college).

Sergio did brilliant work on both Grave Conditions and the Dreamboat project that is still being shopped. As soon as I post this blog I am adapting the comic script into a text story for 8/9 year olds.

Oddly enough, Monster is selling really well for Nook but very little for Kindle. I wonder if it's because of the color Nook. Monster looks okay in grayscale on Kindle but looks really clear on Kindle for PC app. The Pumpkin Patch will be a good addition to the family.