Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gerard de Marigny: The Watchman of Ephraim

(Gerard is a talented writer but also an innovative, hard-working guy who believes i his message--and is smart about it! I am proud to have influenced him a little, along with other writers. We are all in a learning process, and we all can improve, which is something I learn again every day. Here's Gerard...)

What I’ve learned from Dean Wesley Smith, John Locke, and Scott Nicholson

Here are three writers from whom I’ve learned so much – Dean Wesley Smith, John Locke, and Scott Nicholson. An eclectic bunch, no doubt.

Let me give you a breakdown of what I’ve learned from each, but first, I want to thank all three for their bodies of work and for their advice and support. They are each an inspiration to me as they should be inspirations to all new writers.

Dean Wesley Smith – Dean taught me first and taught me the most about self-publishing. He destroyed the myths I held about legacy publishing and showed me a step-by-step, cost effective way to self-publish. More than that, he drilled into my head that it takes more than one published work per year to become a successful writer.

I remember falling off my chair when I read an article by him where he stated that a fiction writer should write three to four novel-lengths per year. Another newbie writer left a sardonic comment saying, “That’s impossible Dean, have YOU ever written four per year?” To which he replied, “Actually, over the last 25 years, I’ve averaged over four per year.” That’s a man I’d follow over a hill!

When I finished my debut novel in January, I was so excited I wrote to Dean to tell him. His reply to me was, “That’s great, now write another!”

I love that man … and Dean, #2 will be out in September and #3 in December … thanks brutha!

John Locke – I only came across John fairly recently when I saw a few bloggers promoting his _How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!_. I bought it, read it, and decided that the man knows his stuff when it comes to marketing! I can tell you this; the day after I read John’s book and implemented his advice - I IMMEDIATELY saw my sales numbers more than double, and my sales revenue jumped by a factor of 5! I wrote him to thank him and he replied that he’s there for me anytime. That’s not special to me though. John Locke replies to every email written to him. I admire him a lot for that too!

Scott Nicholson – I saved Scott for last because – well – I wanted to thank him especially for giving me the opportunity to write this piece and have it appear on his site – thanks Scott! He doesn’t know this but I’ve learned a lot from him too. For one – I learned about how to launch a blog tour. Actually, I learned the particulars from another writer-friend of mine, Jeff Bennington, but Jeff learned it from Scott!

I followed Scott on his last blog tour and found that you can be a prolific writer but still maintain your zaniness (Scott’s got the BEST hat collection of any writer – I can tell just from published photos of him). The man also puts me to shame. He launched a 90-date blog tour while continuing to write at a frenetic pace. In comparison, my blog tour has 45 dates. I’m only halfway in as I write this and I’m already seeing dead people. Then again, I think seeing dead people may be a normal day at the office for Scott.

Scott befriended me in the kindest way. He emailed me some encouraging words about _The Watchman of Ephraim_ and allowed me to place a link to it in two of his novels – _Liquid Fear_ and _The Skull Ring_.

I’m especially inspired by Scott every day, when I track my Amazon rankings in two of my genres – thrillers and political thrillers and see his novels peppered throughout, starting at the top of each ranking.

As far as prose and personalities go, Dean, John, and Scott are quite different but they have each helped me and inspired me a great deal. What these three successful and prolific writers taught me the most can be boiled down to this … 

To be a successful fiction writer you have to write well, write a lot … and let ‘em know you’ve written it!
Now rinse and repeat.

Author Bio
Gerard de Marigny is the author of the geopolitical thriller, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, Book 1 of THE Cris De Niro series. The sequel, _Signs of War_ is scheduled for release in September 2011.

Gerard de Marigny resides in the beautiful foothills of Las Vegas, NV with his wife Lisa and his four sons. When not bending an arm with friends at the local pub, he's putting to paper the stories and characters that are alive in his mind.

Author/Publisher Sites
Author's Website:
Author's Blog: SelfPubber's Pub

Social Networking Sites

Buy Links
Barnes & Noble: Gerard de Marigny Books
Smashwords (all eBook formats): _The Watchman of Ephraim_
Personalized, signed copies are available at the author's website: (all transactions secure via PayPal)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Amazon @author Beta Test for cool new Kindle feature

I'm one of a handful of lucky guinea pigs (Ted Dekker, James Rollins, Susan Orlean, more) beta testing a new Amazon feature. Basically, Amazon is exploring ways to connect readers with writers and other readers, both on the Amazon author pages and in the Kindle itself. You can ask authors a question and readers can chime in on the conversation, too. I see tons of potential for this--essentially building a Goodreads-type playground right on the Kindle!

Amazon explains it better than I can:

You can also drop by my Amazon Author Central page and ask a question directly. I am right now brainstorming a way to use the new feature in my Be Nicholson's Agent event, with a neat giveaway there.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Scott Nicholson's Be Nicholson's Agent giveaway

It's almost September, and you know what that means...autumnal splendor, Labor Day, football, and Be Nicholson's Agent. In the old days, agents sold books to publishers and got 15 percent. Now readers sell books to other readers. I want you to be my agent and spread the word about my books. And I'm giving you 15 percent of my ebook earnings this month.

Here are the participating blogs and the books they are repping. The money will be given away as gift cards to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner's choice for each event). The best way to follow is to sign up for my newsletter I will also make daily postings here, on Facebook, and on Twitter about each day's giveaway.
These blogs will also be hosting events and giveaways during the month (and they are cool blogs anyway, so why not follow them?)

Kindle Obsessed ...Liquid Fear
Rex Robot Reviews ...October Girls
Wendy’s Minding Spot ...Speed Dating with the Dead
Bewitched Bookworms ...Disintegration
Fictitious Musings ...Crime Beat
My Reading Room ...The Skull Ring
What Book Is That? ...Burial to Follow
JoJo’s Book Corner ...Transparent Lovers
Vvb32 Reads ...Zombie Bits
Booked Up (UK) ...Creative Spirit
Candace’s Book Blog ...The Red Church
Parajunkee's View ...Forever Never Ends
Jenn’s Bookshelves ...Drummer Boy
Book Faery ...Flowers

Great Minds Think Aloud ...Gateway Drug

Fang-tastic Books ...Ethereal Messenger
Motherlode ...These Things Happened
I Smell Sheep ...Head Cases  
Insatiable Readers ...Nicholson's Ghost Stories
Kindle on the Cheap...The First
The Top Shelf...Ashes

Castle Macabre...American Horror 
Earths Book Nook...Curtains
Kindle in the Wind...As I Die Lying 

The first giveaway will be on Sept. 1 to spread the word about the contest: $10 giveaways to tweet, $10 for Facebook post, $10 to a random newsletter subscriber. Help me kick it off big and help me give you more money!

If you want to be on Team Scott and get some "promotion internship" as well as a book listing in one of my books (for authors," email me at Let's rock. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

E-book Covers: Anatomy of Changing My Mind

(Note: Be sure to get on board with Be Nicholson's Agent to get some of my book revenues in September!)

My novel The Red Church, the first one I ever published and then self-published, was an easy one--it did well in paperback and has done well in ebook. The title was mine, and the publisher stuck with it, and I liked the title later, too. It was a title I could live with.

Last year, when I got back the rights to The Harvest, it was a title selected by the publisher that I didn't really like, although in retrospect I can appreciate the publisher's goal of trying to develop a brand. The title had been used for other books, was a bit ordinary and non-evocative for my tastes. In other words, the title by itself did not really declare genre, tone, or intended audience. However, I actually liked the original cover the best out of my six Kensington paperbacks, with the cool hillbilly vibe and the green glow.

However, being arrogant, I decided I could do better, so I re-imagined the book, going after a science fiction audience. Neil Jackson of Ghostwriter did the new cover and I went with my title "Forever Never Ends," which is one I'd used early on, along with "Metabolism." I thought it would expand my audience, but I think all it did was get lost in space. The cover is professional enough, but not really reflective of the story, and not a little grungy as many Scott products are.

When I went through a brief phase of creating new covers for some of my books, mostly because I recognized how small "book covers" are in the digital era, I played around with a more mysterious, feminine cover and even dabbled in changing to "Metabolism: Forever Never Ends." (In fact, this is the version currently out there in Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, and Sony).

Despite one or two surges over the past year, the book remains my poorest-selling novel. As a science-fiction, alien-infection B-movie zombie type of pulp thriller, it probably isn't as broadly appealing as my thriller and ghost stories, yet some weirdos like it best of all my work. I need to find more of those weirdos. So I went back to the original title and a new cover, shaping the new presentation with input from my peeps Vicki Tyley, Guido Henkel, Moses Siregar, Joseph Nassise, Shaun Jeffrey, and David H. Burton.

I will probably work on the author font a little more, but I like weighting the entire imagery to the left, creating a sense of unease with the look space. The Harvest may well stay a niche proposition, but I feel a little better about it now and it fits in with the others. The great thing about the digital age is that these changes are made rather easily, and most consumers are prevented from accidentally buying the book a second time. (I simply overwrote the Forever Never End pages at Amazon and BN and I don't even know if I will bother changing the Smashwords version). The downside is that Amazon now limits the number of keywords to seven, so the price of revision was losing a couple dozen keywords there. We'll see if the change offsets the costs.

It's the age of experimentation, now more than ever. Or maybe it was a case of reinventing a wheel that was already round and rolling pretty well. But when you have nothing to lose, why not experiment?


The Harvest (under any title) is available for $2.99 at Amazon US, Amazon UK,, Kobo, and iTunes/iPad/iPhone

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Be Nicholson's Agent! Win 15 percent of my money

I've announced this a little but it's time to get serious. In traditional publishing, an agent earns 15 percent for selling a book to a publisher. I think my readers who help sell my books to other readers also deserve 15 percent.

So, in September, I am giving away 15 percent of my ebook revenues in the form of gift cards to Amazon and, as well as prizes to supporting blogs. It's simple. Watch this blog for different ways you can enter, simply by spreading the word about my books.

Each one of my books also has a blog serving as its rep, with guest posts, events, and special giveaways at those blogs. There will be other ways to win gift cards, too. No complicated, seven-step keys to entry. Each giveaway will be for one specific action. And this is one to tell your friends about, because the bigger it gets, the more I give away. And in this economy, who doesn't like free money?

I am also looking for core volunteers to serve on Team Scott and help out with the promotion. In return, you get inside tips on marketing and, for authors, a 50-word listing of your book in one of my books for three months. Plus you're still eligible for all the giveaways. Email benicholsonsagent AT to volunteer for Team Scott.

The best way to stay clued in for giveaways is to follow this blog, sign up for my newsletter at, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google+. Big, fun, and easy, just like me. Be Nicholson's Agent and we all win.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sugar & Spice - The Story Behind The Story

It’s just over a year now since the Saffina Desforges Partnership began. And what a year!

It’s been a roller-coaster ride so improbable that if we used it as the plot for a novel it would be rejected as unbelievable.

An unknown name (actually two writers collaborating via email from different continents, that met for only the third time just this month) with a novel some of the UK’s top agents branded as “unsellable” and “the last taboo” (not to mention, at 120,000 words, too long).

This was the summer of 2010. Of course we’d heard of Konrath and Hocking and the way things were going across the pond in the States, but in the UK the Kindle-UK site had only just been launched, and seeing as no-one actually owned a Kindle in the UK it all seemed pretty pointless.

Besides, we’d been brought up on the dogma that self-publishing was vanity publishing. So we pitched to agents and followed the rules and guidelines, jumping through ridiculous hoops just to get the opening chapters read. Then jumping through more hoops on those few occasions where we got to the next stage.

And when the rejections started coming back we faced the big question all new novelists have to confront: How can professional agents be wrong? They’re the “experts” in this business, after all.

Sure, you can ignore the “thanks, but no thanks” slips. No writer can learn anything from a form rejection.

But if the top agents say it’s too long, it must be too long. If they there’s too many POVs, there must be too many POVs. If they say the storyline is “unsellable,” then at what stage does a writer face the truth? Maybe we are just deluded wannabes, and in reality can’t string a sentence together for toffee.

But I’d been a creative writing tutor for more years than I care to admit. I’d written for TV, radio and theater, and freelanced as a journalist and travel write. Whatever the requisite number of words is to have under your belt before you can supposedly write a good novel, I had long surpassed that number.

That said, writing a novel is a whole different ball game from writing for theater, or running off a short article about an exotic island in the sun. And I had taken what I believed were the best aspects of theater (dialogue driven) and TV (visual imagery without long descriptive prose; switching between short scenes rather than lengthy chapters; fast paced action interspersed with short breaks of relaxed writing).

On top of this we has Saffi herself, bringing to bear her own unique style. A raw, edgy writer still new enough at the game not to be over-burdened with pointless rules created by the gatekeepers.

The thing is, we knew Sugar & Spice was not the same as the other crime-thrillers out there. But as readers we wanted to read something different from the plodding police procedurals and stereotype serial killer novels that turned up time and time again in the book-stores. So we threw away the rule book and wrote something different.

What we hadn’t realized then was that the gatekeepers don’t want different. They want safe. What could be less safe than a novel exploring the innermost workings of the pedophile mind? It became clear the gatekeepers did not want it. And if the gatekeepers don’t want it, the readers don’t get the option. Therefore it doesn’t sell, proving the gatekeepers were right.

As 2010 drew to a close we watched, more curious than envious, as fellow Brit indie writers tested the Kindle waters. Not least Lexi Revellian, whose feel-good thriller Remix had already sold 10,000 by the time we joined the e-show. Remix was the first e-book I bought, and I was totally impressed by the professionalism that shone through. I’d been led to believe (as had we all) that e-books were just self-published rubbish (the “tsunami of crap” as Konrath so elegantly puts it), so Lexi’s book was a revelation.

Of course it was a totally different story from the dark and sinister insights into the mind of a child-killer that defines Sugar & Spice. The agents’ words about our novel being “the last taboo” and “unsellable” kept coming back to haunt us.

But in November 2010 we finally slipped in into the murky waters of the Kindle ocean, where it pretty much sank without trace. We were determined not to give it any artificial boost by getting friends and relatives to buy it and review it, so we told no-one it was there. And for three months we sold nothing apart from the two copies we bought ourselves to see how it looked.

Meanwhile Saffi and I beavered away at other scripts. But half-heartedly. Were we wasting our time? We were still querying agents while Sugar & Spice was on Kindle, but the rejections were still coming back. We had no idea what to work on next. Should we stick with crime thrillers, given Sugar & Spice was so unwanted? Was it the subject matter that was the problem? Or our writing style? Or our non-existent marketing? We had no idea.

Marketing was one option we could toy with, so we started new blogs and began some promotional efforts. Our promotion story, a fairy-tale on itself, can be found over on Kristen Lamb’s blog.

Somewhere along the line we started actually selling. Not many. Units became tens. Tens became the first hundred. Had a hundred people really bought our unsellable book? Were we about to get a hundred negative reviews saying they’d been robbed? Were the gatekeepers right?

At this same time another British agent came back positive saying they loved the sample. We sent the full script and a month later they came back saying their reader loved the full book. Would we give them exclusive consideration? We explained we had the e-book on Kindle and had actually sold a few, but they were welcome to exclusively consider the book. Why not? We were hardly expecting a big New York agent to come calling instead. We were fiction novelists, not total fantasists.

It took three months from first contact with that agent to them coming back with their decision. On reflection, despite the glowing review from their own reader, they didn’t think it was commercially viable. That's agent-talk for unsellable.

Well thanks, guys. Funny how your own reader thought otherwise. That was three months on exclusive, raising our hopes, stopping us querying other agents, wasted.

Were we disappointed? Well no, actually.

Because in the three months that agent played their agents’ games we had actually been selling. The unsellable story that had just, yet again, been rejected as commercially unviable, was now at #2 in the Kindle UK chart. The second best-selling e-book in the UK!

In the time that professional agent had our book under exclusive consideration, only to say it was unsellable, we had sold fifty thousand e-books. We hadn’t the heart to tell her.

And the next thing we knew we had one of the biggest agents in New York on the phone wanting to represent us.

Bizarrely, three months, on we still haven’t signed with that NY agent or any other. One thing we’ve learned is that there are good agents, bad agents and indifferent agents. And that the worst thing any writer could do would be to sign up with the first agency that comes along, just because they are “an agent.”

The publishing world of 2009-10 is a different planet from the publishing world of 2011, and a writer, if they still need an agent at all, needs one who is living on Planet Publishing 2011-12, not Planet Last Year.

Which brings us to where we are now.

The big “New York agent” (we can’t name names at this stage, but they are BIG!) who came knocking for Sugar & Spice bizarrely decided it was "too long", despite a then proven track record of 50,000 sales. They decided they liked our next book, then unfinished, but told us we should not e-publish. Let them have it exclusively for three months.

Yeah, right. Once bitten…

One of the true joys of being indie is sending rejection letters to agents.

That’s not to say we’re anti-agent – in fact we’re still talking to several. We’re under no illusions that a good agent, who understands the new publishing world, can help reach markets currently beyond us. But we engage with agents now on equal terms, not as starry-eyed wannabes signing on the dotted line.

Our debut novel, the unsellable story by the unknown writing duo that tackled the last taboo in crime fiction, has now sold close to 100,000 copies without an agent or publisher in sight. It’s hit #2 in the Kindle-UK chart on three separate occasions, with over 100 five-star reviews, and has just broken into the top twenty on the Waterstone’s e-chart (Waterstone’s is the UK’s equivalent of B&N).

As fiction writers we necessarily spend half our lives living in fantasy worlds. But when it comes to real life, you just couldn’t make it up.

This past week we launched the first of our new crime thriller series, Rose Red Book 1: Snow White. This time we e-publish first and go direct to the only gatekeepers that matter: our readers.

+ + + + +

Sugar & Spice is available on and

Sugar & Spice US Edition (American English spellings. US locations. Same great story!) is available on and

Rose Red Book 1: Snow White is available from and

I'm Not A Musician, I Just Carry a Guitar

I was killing time in a coffee shop waiting for my wife and struck up a conversation with a guy lurking above his guitar case. I assumed he might be playing there, and because I used to play in bands, I was curious what the modern music scene was like.

 The guy was vaguely familiar and turned out to be the boyfriend of the daughter of a guy I used to work with...six degrees of greasy bacon. He was penciling out a set list with the idea of putting together a 30-minute performance and said he needed to practice in front of people to get over his stage hesitation (didn't seem to rise to the level of "fright.") I went outside with him to escape the din, figuring I'd finish reading my newspaper while listening to him so he wouldn't feel self-conscious.

He played one song and seemed to have it relatively right, singing with what I told him was a "Violent Femmes" flare--an interesting type of voice that would work with the right songs, and talked about developing the right body of work to both connect with an audience and be consistent with a theme or vision or available skill (Personally, I'd rather slash my wrists than drone out James Taylor songs in a coffee shop for loose change). And then he needed a smoke, and he had to get that important text message, and said he was currently homeless and broke, and then he played scraps of a Violent Femmes song , occasionally interrupted with "Wait, maybe it goes like this..." and then it was time for a cigarette and maybe that was his girlfriend texting....

I was going to give him $5 for the private concert, but he only made it through one song, and I figured he'd just buy cigarettes anyway. He kinda reminded me of myself at 20, a little unfocused, ambitious, artistically restless but having no idea how to channel it. At that age, I wanted to be the next Hemingway, which I thought was achieved by drinking and smoking and contemplating the coolness of suicide, but not suicide itself. I often wonder where I'd be if I had stuck with writing back then instead of veering into music for a decade.

But I was also reminded that it's not enough to simply carry a guitar. The guitar, like the keyboard, is the tool or the prop. Just fondling it does not make you a creator. You have to put in the work. You have to put in the time. There are no shortcuts, which a lot of indie authors are learning to their great dismay. The people who were writers Before will be writers After, and all the get-rich-quick, look-Ma-I'm published pretenders will be gone by the end of 2012, when times really get tough and there are 3 million ebooks published, the majority of them indies who thought it was easier now because they didn't have to be good enough to impress people.

That's advice I need to take for myself. I've sold a few books, but for the first time in my life I am working with an experienced professional editor, and all I can think of is the loss of time and growth and how much farther along in my craft I could be.

No, that's not all I think of...I can go back to the basics at any time, like a musician practices scales, over and over, automatically. This summer I am reading books on writing again, and I thought I'd read every such guide ever printed. I'm brushing up on The Elements of Style, and I'm flipping through the thesaurus when I need to find the best word instead of just settling for the vague, lazy word that gets the job done but doesn't aspire or challenge or imbue. I've always seen this as a lifelong dance, a commitment that ends only with death or senility, because you never say it all and you never say it as well as it should be said.

I don't know what's going to happen with the indie movement, digital books, the reader market, or the hunt for the next Stieg Larsson. All I can control is that next sentence. It's not enough to just have something to say. You better say it like you mean it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where I've Been

  • Bookie Brunch at one of my favorite blogs, vvb32 Reads

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Meet thriller writer Robert McDermott, Deadly Straits

Q: How did Deadly Straits come about?

Robert: I was working a job in Singapore when the towers came down. Prior to that, terrorism was just a vague threat to me. It was there, but off the radar, remote somehow. 9/11 changed that, and I began to think about the potential for a tanker-based terrorist attack and how that was most likely to play out. The story just grew out of those musings.

Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?

Robert: I think the deciding factor was the realization that even if I managed to land a publishing contract (a very big ‘if’), I would still be looking at a two-year wait before the book hit the stores. I didn’t think it should take longer to publish a completed book than it takes to design and build a ship. That just seemed wrong somehow.

Q: What was your biggest challenge in writing Deadly Straits?

Robert: Keeping it real. As a reader, I’m lousy at the ‘suspension of disbelief,’ thing. As a writer, I wanted to ensure my characters and their actions were believable. I hate books or movies where the hero gets smacked between the eyes with a bat and then jumps up and beats the hell out of twelve bad guys. Or books where the hero is a nuclear physicist, brain surgeon, or whatever, who gets in a bind and just happens to turn out to be a skilled helicopter pilot. To me that’s just not believable.

Q: What are you working on now?

Robert: Promoting Deadly Straits is taking a big chunk of time, but I’m also working on a sequel in which my hero Tom Dugan takes on the Somali pirates. I actually have some (very peripheral) insight into the pirate situation. The M/V Biscaglia, a ship on which I supervised repairs, was hijacked several months after she left the yard in Singapore. By that time, I was no longer involved, but having gotten to know the crew in the yard, I followed the situation closely. The ship and crew were finally released two months later when the owner paid the ransom. It really changes one’s perspective when the you know the hostages as individuals.

Q: Final thoughts?

Robert: Like all new authors, I really need exposure, so I’m making an offer to your readers. I’ll send the first fifty readers that contact me a free copy of Deadly Straits (ebook only). They can reach me though the contact page of my site at They should include the words COPY REQUEST in the subject line of the message and indicate their preferred format in the body of the message.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jeffrey Mariotte on The Writing Race

The Tortoise and the Hare
by Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Literarily speaking, I’m something of a late bloomer.

Though I won a literary award in college, for a short story I wrote there, I didn’t sell a short story to a professional market until I was 33 years old. Another eleven years passed before I sold a novel. In between, I sold some comic book scripts, but I was a long way from making a living as a writer in those days.

Once I got going, I did my best to make up for lost time. Between 1998 and now, I’ve had 46 novels published (some of which were collaborations with other writers). I’ve also written or contributed to six nonfiction books. I’ve had more than 130 comic books/graphic novels published. I’ve written trading cards. I wrote a DVD game. Maybe a couple dozen short stories. Probably other stuff I’ve long since forgotten. I’ve won some awards, hit some bestseller lists, and kept on plugging.

I’ve been a busy guy, you could say. I wouldn’t disagree.

In those days, I was the hare. During that time, I managed to make the break that most writers dream of. I quit the day job and supported myself and my family primarily on my writing income. That was my dream, anyway, and I was living it. I even gave lectures on it, mostly to audiences of impressionable young people.

Then things changed. Literally, between the time that I accepted a speaking gig at an art college and the time I arrived there for the event, the dream had run up against hard, cold reality. The economy broke, and it broke at the same time that publishing was finding itself faced with a new reality. Bookstores were fading away (not all of them—I’m delighted to report that Mysterious Galaxy, the indie genre bookstore of which I’m a co-owner, is about to open its second location—but a lot of them). Borders was on the ropes, and it was a big chunk of every publisher’s pie. Mostly, the e-book revolution was kicking in, and publishers had not figured out how to monetize it effectively. They still haven’t. The result of this double-whammy was that publishing lines were cut, editors were fired, houses became ever pickier about what they’d publish, and the advances they offered were lower than they had been.

So when I gave those speeches at that art college, I had to tell the students that it was possible to live the dream of supporting one’s self through one’s art, but that it was hard, damn hard, and there might come times that one had to take a day job to get through the rough patches.

As I had done.

I still have that day job. It’s been a year and a few months, now. I was hoping it would last six months, maximum. But publishing hasn’t turned around. If anything, it’s getting ever tougher.

Scott—our host, here—he’s always been a hare. He’s put out an impressive number of novels, and done other writing besides. Perhaps more germane to the current conversation: he realized early on the potential of e-books. He exploited that potential, and he’s making a living with his writing. He’s living that dream—my dream.

But I was a tortoise in that regard--or, to mix a metaphor painfully, a print dinosaur. A long-time bookseller, a bookstore owner, and someone who had toiled in the publishing business lo these many years, I was not ready to give up on print. I’m still not. I don’t believe digital will replace print, just like TV didn’t replace movies and paperbacks didn’t replace hardcovers. But I do believe that the business is changing, quickly and inexorably. I believe that digital has opened new avenues for stories to be told, and even though its rise has closed down some of the old avenues, the new ones outnumber the closed ones. The end result is that writers will have more places to tell stories, and readers will have more ways to enjoy them.

That is, believe me, a hard admission to make. But I believe it’s the truth.

I’m a digital tortoise, just now beginning to explore the world that pioneer hares discovered. My first original e-book effort was a paranormal YA adventure called Carnival Summer, that I didn’t really ever try to promote effectively. If you put it up, they will come, I hoped. They didn’t. But with e-books, it turns out, once you publish something, it remains available. What a concept! When Simon & Schuster puts out volume 1 of my paranormal YA series Dark Vengeance this fall, maybe those readers will be drawn to it. Carnival Summer, like my other ventures into digital, is available at both and Smashwords.

More recently, I have become ever more intrigued with e-publishing. My second release was a digital reprint of The Slab, a well reviewed horror epic that had originally appeared, in an expensive, illustrated edition, from a small press. My edition was neither illustrated nor expensive. Once again, it can be found at Amazon and Smashwords.

I followed that with an original thriller called The Devil’s Bait. It garnered a great blurb from e-book bestseller J. Carson Black, who—like Scott—recently signed a deal with Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint. J. Carson Black is another of the gurus I look up to when it comes to this e-book world—another hare in whose footprints I’m plodding. The Devil’s Bait is taut, suspenseful, and loaded with action, or so I like to think. Find it at Amazon or Smashwords.

My most recent release is a collection of short horror stories called Nine Frights. It’s my first short fiction collection, and it contains stories that have been previously published, in some reasonably prestigious places like the anthology Hellbound Hearts, as well as stories I never bothered trying to find a home for, because I was too busy writing novels and comics to shop around short stories. Amazon and Smashwords? You bet.

Can a tortoise morph into a hare?

We’ll see. I have to hope so. I have to hope that this new world of e-books is still welcoming to latecomers. I have to hope that a writer who’s been well reviewed, who’s received way too much generous praise from folks like David Morrell and Andrew Klavan and Christopher Golden and Don Winslow—and, yes, Scott Nicholson—and put out enough books to strain a shelf, can remake his career.

I haven’t given up on traditional publishing—my agent is out there right now with a new manuscript. But I have given up on the idea that traditional publishing is the only game in town. Or even the most important game.

Pass me one of those carrots, wouldya?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bookstore guilt: Not Interested

The closing of Borders led to a rash of articles like this one lamenting the loss of bookshelves, delivering the underlying message that now people will have fewer places to get books and caring people should all feel sad and depressed. Such nostalgia-driven sentiments are understandable, and you can't tell someone what they should feel nostalgia about (any more than you can tell them which faith to have or whom to fall in love with), but the arguments are logically flawed.

The reality is bookshelves are expanding at a more rapid rate than ever. The decline in new paper books is way more than offset by the avalanche of new digital titles. And it's not just the current crop of indie authors leading the charge. Small presses and digital publishers are staying fast and lean, moving rapidly to take advantage of the era's opportunities.

I don't celebrate the decline of bookstores, but I am not overly nostalgic about them, either. While I have done numerous signings in them and purchased books there, I get much of my reading material at thrift shops, yard sales, and the library. I am not a collector. Aside from a few core favorites, I read a book and then pass it on. I don't feel smarter standing in a bookstore, and even though I might discover titles by browsing, I see exponentially more titles on my computer every single day. And I don't think people are going to go out of their way to support inconvenient behaviors such as driving to the store unless they want the experience instead of the product.

My father-in-law was once CEO of a chain of 100 family-owned retail stores in the Midwest. They were expanding rapidly though the 1960s and 1970s. Then some Wal-Mart executives came to the family and showed the Sam Walton plan for market domination and made a reasonable offer to buy out the family chain, more as a courtesy than a cut-throat business move. After all, Wal-Mart planned to kill the chain one way or another and had little to gain with the offer.

My father-in-law said the family turned down the deal because Wal-Mart's plan was "impossible." The traditional retail business was built on a profit margin of 33 percent, while Wal-Mart was planning a 28 percent margin. It would never work, and even if it did, customers would remain loyal to the family chain where they'd been shopping for decades, even if they had to pay just a little bit more.

Wrong and wrong. The family chain collapsed within several years, and my father-in-law said the big shocking lesson was that people DID NOT CARE about nostalgia. They were going to go to the place that gave them the best deal at the most convenient location.

I was at a little bookstore in a small Kentucky town recently and I asked the owner if she could survive the digital revolution. She said, "People will always want books." I told her she had a great location, and she answered "This used to be the town bus station." She did not see the irony.

Just because bookstores die doesn't mean people will read any less. In fact, we are reading more, because it's cheaper, more convenient, and most of us have a device at our fingertips for reading. I am not going to feel guilty because "we didn't save the bookstores." The closing of a bookstore doesn't make us morally weaker, dumber, or less civilized. It's not a referendum on our ability to communicate or our intellectual curiosity. It's not any kind of harbinger at all except for the simple one that the bookstores are not serving our collective needs at enough volume to maintain a profit.

We aren't killing bookstores. We are birthing a new Golden Era of literature, by writing and reading and sharing ideas, and that's far, far more important.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

International bestsellerdom

Thanks to the talents of Christa Polkinhorn, our translation of The Skull Ring (Der Schadelring) hit #48 in the German Kindle store. The little note beside it says it has spent 17 days in the Top 100. so it must have entered a couple of months ago for a while. Due to a pricing snafu related to the European value-added-tax (VAT), Amazon actually unpublished it because the price was lower elsewhere.

After I put it up and couldn't achieve the 70 percent royalty, I decided to go ahead and make it the lowest possible price. We'll earn less money but the volume should be higher until I can get the price set at $3.99 worldwide. The lesson here is, if you have a foreign edition, price it at least a dollar higher everywhere else besides your Amazon market. (Christa has a handy list of the book's various markets.)

The other interesting aspect is the German bestseller is clearly luck, an early entry into a developing market. I have done zero marketing, and I wouldn't even know where to begin if I wanted. The lower price also helps, although I was selling pretty well at around 3 euros, whereas now is 1 euro. I doubt if I will sell three times as many copies, but at least I will be able to gauge the size of the market (I'd guess the German market is about 1/2 to 1 percent the size of the US market).

I am currently developing French and Portuguese translations in addition to a deal I just signed in China. I will be developing a page to solicit translators, and there are a ton of opportunities for people with translating skills who are willing to work on a progressive, profit-sharing model. I have raised my royalty rate to 20 percent net for the translators, so even though it won't be a lot of money up front, over time it should really add up.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Bestselling author Victorine Lieske of the Summer Book Club

Victorine Lieske is the author featured this week on The Summer Book Club, one of last year's prominent breakthrough indie success stories. Here she is!

You know, it’s funny, I never set out to become an author. I thought it would be cool to be able to tell people that I wrote a novel. That was my whole motivation. It’s really kind of a silly thing, now that I think about it.
And of course, being a silly thought, I wasn’t very serious about it. I started a novel once, then about ten pages in I lost interest in it. Years later I started another one, but got busy and it never went anywhere.
Then, one day I was getting my daughter out of the car and my back seized up. I literally couldn’t move. I was put on bed rest to heal. Since I was stuck in bed with nothing to do, I decided to write that novel I always wanted to write. Easy, right? I set my laptop on my lap and just started typing. I wanted to write about a rich business man going incognito and meeting up with a woman on the run. I thought it would be fun to combine a light romance with a suspenseful mystery. I finished the first draft of Not What She Seems in one week. (I had no idea that was fast for a first draft. I knew nothing about writing.)
After finishing that first draft I thought I was done. I didn’t know writers edited. Funny, right? (Really, it was more scary than funny.) Luckily I decided to figure out if my book was any good. That’s when I found . I submitted my book, chapter by chapter, through the critique website. I learned that my first draft needed work. A lot of work! In fact, I threw out the last half of the novel and rewrote it. Then I submitted the book again. It took me four years to get the book into shape.
But I knew I had something interesting when I got comments from other authors telling me they couldn’t wait to read more of my book. They would ask me why my book wasn’t published already, and ask when the next chapter would come out. Honestly, this is why I kept going with it. I loved hearing the feedback from people who enjoyed reading my story.
Even though I’ve sold over 113,000 copies and made it on the NYT’s best seller list and signed with an agent, I can honestly say my favorite part of this whole journey is when I get an email from a fan. It makes it all worth it.
Not What She Seems is 99 cents on  Kindle and Nook.
Visit  Summer Book Club Facebook page for a chat with Victorine at 2 pm EST Saturday, Aug. 6. Shewill be giving away a free signed paperback copy of Not What She Seems.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nicholson signs book deal with Amazon

The third-person caption is to help with those keyword searches...the media gurus tell me to do so.

As first announced through my newsletter, I have signed with Amazon to publish two books with their Thomas & Mercer thriller imprint. Liquid Fear and its sequel Chronic Fear will be released on Dec. 20. Liquid Fear will remain available in current form until then, but I am working with a developmental editor to make it and the sequel even better!

I will be blogging elsewhere about my reasons for doing this, since I don't want to dwell too much on writer talk here at the blog. The short answer is Amazon is the best publisher on Earth and knows more about selling books than any entity in history. Amazon, with its Kindle, already helped me fulfill my dream of writing full time as a career, and this relationship will open up plenty more opportunities and freedom in the years ahead.

So if you don't have Liquid Fear, I think it's still on sale for 99 cents in some places but the price is going up soon. And, of course, once Amazon publishes, the books will only be available through the Kindle and in select print outlets. Good times. Thanks much for your support, especially those who stuck with me when I was practically invisible in the literary world. What a difference a few years and some faith can make!


P.S. I could be crass and say my guide The Indie Journey tells how I did it, but I believe more importantly it shows how YOU can do it! Also, check out Be Nicholson's Agent! for huge September giveaways--yes, I am giving away 15 percent of my income for the month...