Sunday, July 27, 2008

Will Amazon’s ebook reader re-Kindle sales?

After a decade of watching various formats vie for dominance I’m convinced that most people don’t want to read fiction in any way other than on paper. Despite ten years of reports to the contrary, the sale of e-books still doesn’t come close to the sale of physical books. So you may wonder why I’m putting my novels on Amazon’s Kindle.

Webster defines Kindle as a noun meaning, among other things, “to stir up.” And while I don’t think Amazon’s new machine will cause the downfall of paper books, I do think it will stir up considerable sales, even at $359 a pop.

The Amazonians have figured out the natural advantages of ebooks: they're never out of stock, they never go out of print, there’s no warehouse needed, and a couple hundred books fits in a handheld device about the size and weight of a paperback.

But then they realized the downside of e-books. Your reader has to be attached to a computer to get new material. So the Amazon folks designed a reader, The Kindle, which lets you browse, order and download wirelessly. So when you’re vacationing on the beach or commuting on the subway (this is, after all, where people read novels) you can get new books easily.

I’ve posted two of my novels as Kindle books. Thanks to Echelon Press, Blood and Bone is already available as an e-book from Fictionwise in a dozen formats including one that’s Kindle compatible. I haven’t seen many sales at Fictionwise, but then it doesn’t have the visibility of Let’s face it, NOTHING has the visibility of That alone might make this the place to be, electronically.

Still, it’s a real scavenger hunt to figure out how much you make on a Kindle sale, or how many you’ve had. And there’s no way to know how many Kindles are out there. Amazon isn’t very free with information. There is also one negative way that Kindle differs from any other publishing I’ve done. There’s no proof copy to check. As near as I can figure there is no way to see what my Kindle books really look like, unless of course I buy a Kindle, which is very unlikely. At these prices, I’ll stick to paper for a while.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Push and Pull

When I started out as a writer I thought that the publishing business worked on a push system. A writer would come up with an idea for a story, write a novel from that idea and then send it to every agent and publisher alive until someone understood his or her vision and published it.

Well it does work that way sometimes, but when you get to play in the majors it is just as often a pull system. Agents and publishers decide what they want to get published and call on an author they know to write it. One reason we attend conferences is to become an author they know.

My story thus far: On June 11th my agent called. During that conversation she mentioned that in the wake of the success of Jim Butcher and Laurell K. Hamilton, editors she works with were asking for urban fantasy. Based on my writing style in mysteries and thrillers she thought I could write one.

I accepted the challenge, but I’m not a horror or fantasy writer, so the next day I contacted my old friend Meloney, AKA the Horror Chick. Back in the 90s Meloney established a line of top-selling horror comics for Harris Comics, including the revitalized Vengeance of Vampirella. These days Meloney splits her time between working as a counselor for the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program and writing licensed trading card sets based on properties including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, LOST and Supernatural for INKWORKS. What better collaborator could there be for urban fantasy?

On July 10th I attended Thrillerfest in New York where the publishing industry, and my agent, live. Sitting in the bar of the Grand Hyatt I presented a six-page proposal for a series, which resulted in a happy agent requesting a full outline and the first 100 pages of a manuscript so she could start selling it.

I’ll keep you posted on progress. In the meantime, get out there and show your face as well as your work. Networking is almost as important a skill in this business as wordcraft and plotting.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

So what do YOU think? (Author's Spouse)

Have you ever sat through a panel or presentation that your writer was involved in and half way through you wanted to leave because you were bored or embarrassed by it?

I have!

Austin is one of the most interesting and lively presenters around, that goes without saying, but the panels and the topics he is asked to speak on aren’t always great. Even though he may try to make something out of them it doesn’t always work.

So while you are sitting there being bored here are some things that you can do to help for the next time:

Conference coordinators try very hard to come up with interesting ideas for panels and discussion groups, but if you have bad speakers or the topic just doesn’t catch it won’t work. Do you have ideas for panels? Tell your author what you think their strengths are. Let them know what you think is their best speech or topic to speak on. Then suggest them to the conference coordinators. They are always looking for fresh ideas.

On a panel is your author engaging the audience and the other panelists? If not tell them ways that you think might make their presentation better. You are audience so let them know why you were bored, what would have made it better. Was their appearance bland? Give them suggestions on how to spice it up. Are they writing a period book? If so give them suggestions for props or costume dress that might make the audience more interested in the topic or novel. Are they writing non-fiction? Give them some feedback for ways to make the audience more involved and engaged.

Years ago at one of the first conferences Austin attended he was asked to come up with an impromptu luncheon speech because the hired speaker was unable to make it. He did a very interactive and engaging speech on public speaking. He had no notes, nothing rehearsed and it is to date my favorite speech. Why? Because he was speaking about what he knows best. He is an expert at broadcast journalism and public speaking. He doesn’t need notes or rehearsal to speak about what is second nature to him.

My point is this…you are the one who has the opinions that count so don’t be afraid to tell your writer what was bad or good about their presentation, and also give them ideas for panels and presentations that they would excel at.

Writers…if your spouse comes to you with ideas don’t disregard them. Listen to what they have to say. You may not agree with the ideas or the suggestions, but listening can’t hurt and they may come up with something that you never thought of. But when they do give you an idea or suggestion that will work be sure and thank them for giving it to you. You’d be amazed how far that bit of recognition will go and when you are both involved in this beast they calling writing together it makes your relationship stronger as well.

Spouses…every suggestion or idea you come up with is not going to work for your writer so don’t get offended if they don’t use them all. You are planting a seed and believe it or not seeds do grow. Some idea you have given them will be the basis for a change in appearance, change in style, change in delivery, change in topic. And when they do thank you for that seed that you have planted be gracious and don’t get all big-headed about it. This is a team you are helping to build.

Until next time…don’t let their obsession become your undoing!