Okay, time to make an announcement. Well, it’s not much of an announcement… if you’re connected to my Facebook Fan Page you’ve known about this for a couple of months. I just never said anything in this venue because I have no idea what the timetable is for what is going to happen.
That is, my entire back catalog of Del Rey and Bantam era books is going to be released in audio book form by Audible.com.
This is exciting news for me because audio books was the last frontier I hadn’t yet conquered. Unless you count TV and the movies, and I came close there. But never mind that. With the advent of ebooks, I’ve been too-slowly getting the back catalog out there for the Kindle, and was wondering what to do about the other e-reader book formats in the world (and more about that in a couple more graf). But one of the things on the back of my mind was how to get the catalog into audio form. I’d done a little research, but nothing earthshaking. Until October.
That’s when I received an unexpected email from my former agent offering to pitch my backlist to Audible to see which titles, if any would stick. As it turns out, all of them did.
So the paperwork is signed, and I’m waiting. I’ve gotten one email from Audible about some issues with A Death of Honor, and suspect there may be others as the time draws nigh to produce.
At present, I don’t have any more information about release schedules or anything like that. Rest assured as I find out, you’ll be hearing from me on this screen and in the aforementioned Facebook page.
And what about non-Kindle format ebooks? Those will be coming, too, slowly as I turn them out. But the current three, A Death of Honor, The Mushroom Shift, and The Company Man are all in the process of being converted, as it turns out that one of my former agent’s new missions is to open up client backlists to the ebook world as well. So I’m glad he still considers me – or my backlist, at least – a client.
So. Back to work now on the new stuff.
You can get it for the Amazon Kindle, and if you don’t have one, you can read it on a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android or Windows Phone 7 with Amazon’s free Kindle Application.
And it’s only $0.99, for a limited time.*
And remember: You folks are my 401(k)!
* That is, until Desperate Measures is released.
A lot of my posts come from questions I get from aspiring writers struggling with some part of the writing process or another. The other day I got an email peppered with questions I had mostly already answered. However, it occurred to me that there might be others out there who, like this particular reader, who haven’t had the chance to wade through the 700+ posts here to find what they want.
So instead of cutting and pasting a whole bunch of links to essays in this side, I went for the short answer, knowing I would post the results in a kind of Cliff’s Notes version of this blog.
So here’s the short answer version of many popular writer’s questions. For more detail, see the rest of the blog.
(Note: questions in parenthesis are paraphrased by yours truly for the sake of brevity)
(Reader mentions different jobs he has had, including a recent stint in the military)
Thank you for serving in the military. I can’t thank you enough for doing that.
It sounds you have a lot of different experiences, which is a good thing. A writer doesn’t have to have experience in a lot of different jobs and rely solely on imagination, but I think experience helps. Your resume sounds a lot like my early one before I settled down.
(Reader asks about how one should go about tackling a writing project)
If you’re reading my blog, you’ve probably found tons of information about writing from my particular point of view. You should hunt up some blogs from other writers to see how they’re handling things. I’m a big proponent of finding out what works for you as a writer, because what works for me or another writer might not be your cup of tea. Plus, the way I write has evolved over the years.
I’m 39 and I’ve wanted to write my entire life but have yet to finish a book. I have multitudes of ideas streaming in my head with good ideas.
Yup, you’ve got it bad. Welcome to the club. Most writers have tons of ideas (I even do a writer’s seminar called “The Idea Is The Easy Part” to show how easy it is to come up with a concept for a novel). Our big issue is time to do something with those ideas.
I have a friend who is a brilliant idea man. He’s always coming up with a new idea for a book. His problem is, he gets these new ideas when he’s supposed to be working on another book, and he gets so taken with the new idea that he abandons his in-progress for the new idea. Those writers who are published learned to discipline themselves and pick one idea, working on it until it’s done. If the new idea is really good, it won’t go away.
I go out and buy notebooks and pens and write short spurts here and there.
I do that too. I have notebooks with notes and starts of books all over the place. It’s like buying a new notebook and/or pen validates the new idea. But again, that discipline is the key.
But I make excuses and think that I can’t make money doing that.
It’s hard. And it’s hard for outsiders to understand that, for every Tom Clancy or Stephen King, there are 1,000 writers like me who do it for the love of writing, and of course, for a shot at that brass ring.
Fortunately, with the advent of the Amazon Kindle and other e-readers, it’s become easier to make money on one’s work by self-publishing. Good money. One woman just signed a $2 million contract with a major publisher based on the Twilight knockoff novels she was self-publishing. But it needs to be good. Or shamelessly commerical.
Do I need an agent?
There’s a joke in the industry that you can’t get a book sale without an agent, and you can’t get an agent unless you have sold a book. If you want to get published by the Big Six, you need an agent. If you’re willing to go the self-published route, no. If your self-pubbed stuff catches on, the agents will find you.
The story of how I got my agent is on my blog. It helped that I went in through the Science Fiction/Fantasy Door. That genre is more open to new writers and unsolicited submissions than the more mainstream stuff.
How do I get a book contract?
By writing a darn good book. And you do that by writing and writing and writing and writing. Every time you write you get better at it. No anabolic steroids necessary.
How can I get a publisher to pay me while I write?
1) Write a darn good book
2) Sell it to a publisher
3) While you are marketing the first book, start on the next one. This way you can tell your publisher you’re working on a new book and they will understand that you’re serious about writing.
4) If your book gets buzz, or hits it big, or perhaps even breaks even, your publisher will want to tie you down with a multi-book contract. When that happens, congratulations!
That’s approximately the way to do it. Fortunately for us all, publishers want to make sure an author can go the distance and produce something both readable and salable before committing to their writing careers.
I’m sure some people have gotten contracts without going through some version of this, but they were either celebrities who could be hooked up with ghostwriters, or had established themselves as writers in another area (short fiction, journalism, etc.)
When you were writing the Angel’s Luck series what was your writing process?
It depends. The first book, Desperate Measures, was the first novel I ever wrote. During its writing I was going to college, getting married, and looking for a job. It was written piecemeal over the course of 4 1/2 years, and the original version was twice as long as what was published. While it was at market, I wrote A Death Of Honor, then The Mushroom Shift (about police work – I worked for a few years as a sheriff’s dispatcher), then The Company Man. By then I was a better writer and was able to hack the mess that was DM into shape.
The other two books in the trilogy I was under contract to write. I had said I was never going to write a trilogy, but the characters wouldn’t leave me alone. So I pitched DM to my editor as the first book, said a few words about what the other two books would be like, and Del Rey bit. I wrote those two as a full-time writer, and I treated it like a full-time job.
How many hours a day did you write?
Again, it depends. When I’m writing a novel, I tell myself my daily goal is 5 pages, and I take however long it takes to get there. Many days I’d get on a roll and write more in just a couple of hours. If I was having a bad day, I told myself I had to get through at least one page. More often than not, getting through the first page made it possible to write four more. But sometimes one was all I could struggle through.
WARNING: Telling friends and family that you are writing full time will often lead them to think that, since you are home, you are “not doing anything”, and are therefore eligible to do things like help them move pianos.
How did you find a decent Editor to read your work?
I was marketing A Death of Honor, and since it was Science Fiction, I was going the Slush Pile route (SF is institutionally more friendly to unsolicited submissions than any other genre – although romances may be this way also… I wouldn’t know). A bunch of smaller houses turned it down. A big house wanted it, but they wanted changes that I felt would have damaged the integrity of the story. My wife kept telling me to send it to Del Rey, and I kept saying no because they published Heinlein and Clarke – what would they want with me? She persisted. I gave in. And I can’t count over the years how many times I have been grateful for my wife’s encouragement.
I do want to write and I feel that is my talent.
If you really, really want to write, nobody can stop you. Not even yourself. All sorts of people have told me they wanted to write, but when it came down to it, no encouragement I gave could make them actually sit down and write. A few did and succeeded, but if they didn’t have that spark inside driving them, they never would have made the commitment. Many others tried and gave up, or ended up not trying.
I said that it took me 4 1/2 years to write Desperate Measures. That’s because I wanted to be a writer more than anything else. And I wrote whenever I could steal the time to do it. A lot of times it was a half-page, page, two pages here and there. It added up. When I finally finished, I learned that I could write a novel. I started to get an idea of how I worked as a writer. I learned that, every time I wrote, I got better at it. And I learned that, having done it once, I wanted to do it again.
And I’m still trying. I’m not where I’d like to be as a writer, either. But I haven’t given up because I know how much writing means to me, and I know I’d rather be writing novels than anything else.
So steal what time you can to pile up those pages and see what happens.
And that is Volume One of the Cliff’s Notes. Feel free to question or append in the comments.
Okay, it’s finally time to say something because it’s all getting close.
I’m in for a writing career reboot here, and it’ll likely all start happening by the end of the month. The retooling of this web site some months ago was the first step, but now there are others. I’ve slowly been putting things into motion, but it looks like they’re all going to converge at once.
So I have not one, but two major announcements — and a minor one.
First, my new novel, …and that’s the end of the news, is almost done. I mean it for sure this time. After 10 years, a long hiatus to take care of my mother (during which time I tried to re-imagine myself as a songwriter and learned that I hated performing live) and four drafts, I’ve gotten the book where I want it, where it should be. So it’s soon to be going out in search of an agent and/or publisher.
This book has been with me for so long that it’s hard for me to look at it as “the new book”, but it’ll be new to the 99.99% of you who haven’t had some kind of preview or were pressed into service as an early reader. Anyway, once and/news goes out into the marketplace, it will be time to start what really will feel like a new novel. This will likely be the project that I have discreetly code-named “The UFO Novel.”
Which brings me to the minor announcement. Just for grins, I thought I would post very short excerpts from The UFO Novel as status updates on my Facebook Fan Page. There’ll be one excerpt from each chapter as I finish writing it, and there will be lots of chapters. It should be fun. Or not. Tantalizing, perhaps? That’s the idea. So become a fan now and get miniscule glimpses of a book in progress (or be tormented by them – your choice).
So now it’s time for Major Announcement number two. If you’re one of the lot who has been to my Facebook Fan Page, you may have seen the fanciful logo for an outfit called Thief Media (you can see it now in the upper right hand section of this page). That’s the imprint that I have started to release my old, out-of-print novels for the Amazon Kindle and in epub format for all the others. This will begin with my first published novel, A Death of Honor – which I hope to have out by early March – to include all 7 novels over the course of the next year or so.
(Actually, they will appear as only 6 novels – Ferman’s Devils and Boddekker’s Demons will be issued as one novel, which was my original intent.)All of the novels will have new cover art, and all except for the Angel’s Luck trilogy will have some kind of bonus material included. A Death of Honor will feature the original epilog that I cut from the book before publication. The Company Man and Ferman’s Devils will feature short stories that overlap into the respective book’s universe.
In addition to my out-of-print titles, Thief Media will also be releasing two previously unpublished JCF novels. The Mushroom Shift is a profane and darkly funny novel about police work that was written between Honor and Company and will be released between them. Trust is a political thriller written in hopes of being published in time for the 1996 election. It will be released before Ferman’s Devils.
To celebrate this in a small way, I have changed the graphic in the banner above to a section of corrected page from the third draft of …and that’s the end of the news. There may or may not be other surprises and releases, but I’m going to leave things at this for the time being. After all, I have a lot of work to do right now.
I thought that people who did a lot of reading were supposed to be smart.
See, at the end of 2008 I ordered an Amazon Kindle, and it arrived at the end of February in 2009. I love it. It’s a brilliant device that does one thing – let you read – really, really, really well. But for such a brilliant device, it’s inspired an awful lot of unbrilliant thinking on all sides of its release.
While I was waiting for my Kindle to arrive, I subscribed to Amazon’s discussion board for the Kindle in the hopes of having a leg up before when it actually came. Well, I got that. But I got something else.
It seemed to me that a lot of other Kindle owners have the biggest entitlement mentality I’ve ever seen. I know not all of them are like that, but the ones with their hands out are the biggest complainers.
While I was waiting to get my Kindle, Amazon made the decision to quit making the original model, and introduced the Kindle 2. Everyone in line for the old model would now get the new model instead. That was pretty cool of them, right?
Except among some of the owners of what is now called the Kindle 1 – especially the more recent owners. There was outrage in some corners. Some who had bought the K1 and enjoyed it up until Amazon’s February announcement decided this switcheroo was unfair. Amazon had knowingly sold them an old product when they knew a newer version was coming out.
Using this same logic, they were probably shocked when the car in their driveway was suddenly made obsolete by the newest model. The same with their TV sets, their blenders, their sofas, and especially their computers – but do you suppose they demanded a free replacement of any of those? Amazon’s woes continued in this vein as they introduced a bigger model (the DX) and an international model of the K2 (the K2i).
The wave of unbrilliance continued as Amazon tried to hold the prices of bestsellers to $9.99. Rabid customers tried to organize boycotts when prices on some books went higher than that. This has been compounded by the fact that Steve Jobs capitulated to publisher demands in order to try and make the eReader software on the iPad more competitive against the Kindle.1
What Jobs’ turn as Neville Chamberlain did was empower publishers to put the screws to Amazon’s pricing policies for the Kindle. If Apple gave them terms, then Amazon should cough up the same agreements in spite of previous precedence. The result is “The Agency Model” – a fancy term for publishers setting their own prices for eBooks.2 And by the publishers’ way of thinking, that price should be about the same as a trade paperback.3
Of course, there’s a lot of whining going on about this, too. The entitlement readers probably attended the school that in the 2000′s claimed that “music should be free.”
Now there is a little bit of logic behind their desire for low eBook prices. After all, since there’s no paper, ink, labor, shipping, storage, etc., needed for an eBook, they should be practically free, right?
I agree that eBooks should have a lower cost than DTB’s (Dead Tree Books), but as something of an industry insider, I also understand that there are some book-related costs that publishers still can’t shake, namely, the cost of their infrastructure – buildings, desks, and all those editors, proofreaders, sales persons… and then they have to pay the authors something, right?
Plus, the publishing industry has another dirty little secret they’re not sure they want you to know. That is, in an eight-figure deal (that’s millions with an extra digit in front of it – tens, twenties, thirties, etc.) with a Stephen King or a J.K. Rowling, they do not get their money back in associated book sales. What they have basically done is paid an exorbitant amount of money to have a prestige author in their house’s lineup. And no, they don’t make money from movie sales, etc., because the agents for these writers have already negotiated to keep those. Where they make their money is from mid-list authors, the ones who meet their sell-through and go on to make profits for themselves and their publishers. These are the names you’ve probably seen on the Bestseller Lists and wondered who in the world they were. Now you know. They’re the publishers’ bread and gravy.
The other dirty little secret of the publishing world is that right now, they’re in the same mess that the music industry was in a decade ago when mp3′s were coming into their own. And judging from their behavior, they have learned nothing from the mistakes the music industry made back then.
As example, early on in the Kindle’s history, many publishers put the smackdown on the Text-To-Voice feature, which reads any text document on the Kindle in a well-rendered synthetic voice. They claimed it was a threat to their revenue from audio books.
Well, let me tell you about Text-to-Speech. As I have already chronicled in these pages, when I was doing the most recent edit to …and that’s the end of the news, I loaded into my Kindle so I could read it without being tempted to edit it. While commuting, I tried using the T2S on the document and… what a rush it was hearing it read my own novel to me. I was so thrilled, you’d have thought I was listening to an audio recording of it by James Earl Jones.
But while the synthetic voice (you have a choice of male or female) is nice, it still has oddities of pacing and pronunciation (it never did pronounce my female protagonist’s name correctly). And if I was going to listen to, say, Moby Dick and had the choice, I’d take a James Earl Jones recording of it over either Kindle voice every time. It’s a no-brainer that the publishers have made, in their avarice, a brainer.
The transition to eBooks is going to be a rough one.4 Amazon has stumbled in the process too, like with their release of 1984 and Animal Farm in unauthorized editions, and the, um, Orwellian way that they took them back. But they apologized and made good on it, something a lot of publishers have yet to catch on to.
All we can do is sit tight and see how it all spins out. Meantime, anybody got a suggestion for a good book to read?
- Although I can’t understand why he did this. He was the one who, when he found out about the Amazon Kindle, said he wasn’t worried because “People don’t read anymore.”
- But Amazon is rubbing publishers’ noses in their own dirt – check out the Kindle pricing of an eBook, and some will say “Price Set By Publisher”. But I suspect this is not so much to fight back as silence the entitlement-minded whiners who say the price is too high.
- Or, they have the right to delay release of the eBook, anywhere from three months after the hardcover to coinciding with the release of the paperback.
- No, I’m not one of those doom and gloomers who thinks that eReaders spell the end of the book – just like CD’s and mp3′s put an end to vinyl, right?
I got through the holidays just fine. We went to see the second Harry Potter movie on Christmas Eve after Christmas #2. Leaving the theater it was sleeting, and by morning my corner of Ohio had a really white Christmas. There was enough snow to make the drive to the in-laws a treacherous one, and it’s still white today – and some of the back roads are still snow packed. The day was so busy that we ended up having the Santa half of our nuclear family Christmas in the morning and the opening of presents half at 9 p.m. that night.
This morning, after thinking about it for a week, I sent an e-mail to my agent about the work he wants me to do on the PDA version of the Pembroke Hall novels. Part of what he wanted me to think about in conjunction with all of this is some kind of campaign to promote the e-release.
All of these things were on my mind when I sat down to send my e-mail, and when I started to type, the plan jelled: in order to make this project worth the time and effort of putting the editorial changes in, I want the Palm edition of the books to be one single novel as I originally intended. I came up with all sorts of related PR concepts to spin off from this, some of which would be good for the book, and others that would benefit Palm Digital Media.
I think the plan is good. Like I concluded to my agent, I work in advertising, and thinking of stuff like this is what I get paid to do. I will divulge more later when I get reaction from New York. It’s my hope is that everyone involved goes for it, because if I’m going to do all that work, it might as well be for something I really want. And now that the rights to the two books of Boddekker’s story have reverted back to me, I really want it to be a single volume from here on out, amen.
After consulting with the Mac Guru at work yesterday, I tried a couple more tricks to get past the Happy Mac icon with no luck. I even pulled out the logic board (I have a 6500, and it just pulls out of the back after you remove two screws – nice) and manually zapped the PRAM by unplugging the computer’s battery. Also took a moment to blow off the board with air-in-a-can (canned air, bottled water, aerosol cheese – is this a great country or what?).
When none of that worked, I consulted with the Macster here at work again. It’s time to pull off the 6500′s faceplate and tinker with the CDR and hard drive. In my Usenet research, I have found that the case of the 6400/6500 series of Mac is one of the hardest desktops to get into (not nice). So guitar night will get postponed while I play Ben Casey and operate.
I guess I could take the down time to cover one of my promised topics, so I’ll explain what a “remainder outline” is.
It’s basically a term I made up for a synopsis of a book that begins with chapter four. Why? Because when you submit sample chapters to an editor, they also want an outline or synopsis. And since they usually ask for three chapters, it makes sense to pick the action up with chapter four.
I came up with this about the time that I sold The Company Man to Del Rey based on – you guessed it – three chapters and an outline.
I’ve discussed my lack of outline habits here before. Since I was in the early stages of the book, I managed to cobble together a page and a half discussing what would happen in the book and sent it off.
I won’t say that my editor was horrified, but her correspondence indicated some concern over whether or not I could pull the book off. To her credit, she bought the book anyway, based on what little I gave her. I suspect she was motivated by the bang-up job I did on cutting ADOH at her request (a story for another day).
But I also got a subtle hint from her. She sent me some samples of outlines included with sample chapters. The one that impressed me the most had this heading:
Title of Book
And from that day on, I called it the remainder synopsis. It’s all semantics, I know. But I know what I mean when I say it, and now you do, too.
PS: My remainder outline for And/News is twelve pages long.
NP – Mark Knopfler, The Ragpicker’s Dream