Wednesday, August 31, 2011

ebook reading clubs

Despite all the obvious signs, the popularity of ebooks has caught a lot of people by surprise.  USA Today recently had three ebooks listed among their best sellers.  Last week, fellow thriller author Michael Prescott had a 99-cent self-published e-book in the paper’s top 150.  Sadly you can’t sit in a bookstore and sign your ebooks, but then again there are fewer and fewer bookstores to sit in anyway.  So how does the enterprising writer reach out to his audience in a personal way?

News in Publisher’s Weekly seems to indicate that book clubs may be the answer.  According to a survey done by Reading Group Choices, more and more reading groups are picking e-books over the dead tree publications.  Twenty-five 25% of the book club members surveyed said they are using e-books.  In fact 21% of those surveyed said they are reading most or all of their books on e-readers.  Nearly 60 percent of those books were read on a Kindle, but the Barnes & Noble Nook held a strong second place at 26%.  There was also a certain amount of overlap in platform choice.  For example, tablet computers as e-readers were used by nearly 20% of reading group members who read e-books.

I can imagine several advantages of visiting a book club if they are ebook readers.  There would be no reason to carry books with you.  If you impress a room full of Kindle users they can download your other titles on the spot.  And because ebook prices are lower, many people who order one of your titles will get them all. 

Also, readers who are comfortable with ebooks may be more open to virtual visits.  You could join the reading group via Skype or some other remote computer interface.  That would certainly widen your reach, allowing you to meet with readers across the country.

So if you enjoy personal contact with your readers, book clubs may become your targets of choice, especially if you are a romance writer.  Most reading groups are largely female, and 60% of all titles purchased in e-book format are romance fiction.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Are e-book Royalties Fair?

I hold my own e-book rights and a couple weeks ago dropped the Kindle price on my novels to 99 cents.  I expected a bump in sales but not the explosion that ensued.  I then noticed that the major publishers often charge as much for e-books as they do for paperbacks, and wondered if writers were being fairly compensated for those sales.  It didn’t take me long to find an authoritative opinion.
In a recent interview, Brian DeFiore, President of DeFiore and Company, a New York literary agency was asked if it was fair that large publishers pay the standard 25% of the net to authors on e-book sales.  DeFiore was once a Senior Vice President and Publisher of the Villard Books division of Random House and the founding Editor-in-Chief of Hyperion, so you might expect his opinion to favor the publisher point of view.  Instead, he said that authors are getting shorted by the big publishers.

Of course there are a lot of advantages to getting a book placed with a major publisher.  Just the publisher’s name adds a lot and there is value in the marketing and distribution they can offer.  They also handle expenses that man authors might overlook or undervalue, such as the legal efforts to stop piracy.

But despite all the hidden costs publishers may have to cover, DeFiore said that that are saving huge sums on e-books just because printing and shipping books is enormously expensive.  So all along the process, from the production department to the warehouse, publishers are reaping big savings and authors are just not being credited for those savings.  The price of e-books is almost always below the price of a hardcover, but the publisher’s contribution on every sale of an e-book is about the same as a hardcover.  However, the author’s share has dropped by about 1/3.  It’s hard to see that as fair.

Here’s how it shakes out.  Suppose my e-books were put out by Random House.  They’d retain at near what the paperbacks cost, around $13.  After Amazon’s cut, the publisher gets $9.10.  If I self published at that price the $9.10 would be mine but if the book was with Random House at that price I’d get a 25% royalty, so about $2.27.  The rest is gravy for the publisher.

I’m not saying any author should or shouldn’t take an e-book deal with a big publisher.  I’m just saying they should look closely at the math. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

From Noir to Horror

I took a hiatus from blogging over the summer but now I'm back and you can count on hearing from me a couple of times a week.  For today:  Washington DC crime writer Quintin Peterson has taken a step out of his usual comfort zone to write something even darker than noir.  I asked him to explain the how and why.  Here’s what he said:

I am a contributor to a recently released anthology of tales of horror and the paranormal; FromShadows & Nightmares, edited by Amber L. Campbell, which is available at,, et al. My contribution is the genre-blending ‘Round Midnight, a cop/ghost story. Hard-boiled chills and thrills.

In my youth, I read a lot of horror and speculative fiction and watched quite a few such movies and my writing back then reflected that. While I was a high school student, I received the University of Wisconsin’s Science Fiction Writing Award, the National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award, and the Wisconsin Junior Academy’s Writing Achievement Award.

During my career as a DC police officer, I turned to noir fiction and became “the cop who writes crime fiction” and now I am known as “the retired cop who writes crime fiction.” I considered it an interesting challenge to generate a ghost story rooted in the crime fiction genre. So, I combined a cop story with a ghost story and came up with ‘Round Midnight, the story of a DC cop’s on and off-duty ghostly encounters with a childhood friend who died in his youth. It begins:

“Police work had taken everything from me and over time had left me virtually hollow. Seeing humanity at its worst on a daily basis had taken its toll and left me jaded and faithless. And yet the biggest case of my career, a murder involving a childhood friend who died decades earlier, changed my outlook and renewed my faith.”

I’m sure fans of both genres will enjoy it.

From Shadows & Nightmares: Travel through the darkest shadows and twisted thoughts of a group of talented authors. From the traditional werewolf to an ancient curse to brain eating zombies, the authors' imagination will make you squirm in your seat. Your stomach will clench as you read one, and then you will question just how depraved our fellow human beings can be as you read another. The talent gathered in this latest addition to the Nightfall Publication anthologies present to you spine-tingling, blanket clutching stories, all brought to life from their own Shadows and Nightmares. James Dorr, Jeffrey Wooten, and Michele Wyan are among the 22 authors featured in this anthology, which has something for everyone who enjoys creepy stories.

This fledgling independent book publisher is still going through growing pains. This is only its third anthology. Currently, the publisher has released only ­­one novel and three thematically different anthologies, but more books are in the works. I support what Nightfall Publications and other indie book publishers are trying to achieve.  Check the book out here: