Monday, December 31, 2012

Be Careful What You Write

At the forefront of my earliest years of writing and publication I queried quite a few professional authors for advice and guidance. I wanted to know the easiest, less painful ways of achieving publication with full size books. I had a plethora of old-timers and experts from which to gain any hints or tips that would cut through the crap and get me off to a good start. These contacts came primarily from the Science Fiction Writers of American. They had some standard warnings and insider information for me, which has served me in my later years. I was first told that non-fiction books (at the time) outsold fiction 3--1, and if I had anything near a respectable platform, then to produce an informative non-fiction title. I did so--twice in a row--and was rewarded with almost immediate publication, with nice advances and global bookstore presence. I couldn't believe how dead-on their advice was. I was also told what not to write in a fiction or non-fiction format, since the chances of certain types of books hadn't much of a chance of acceptance or publication. I was warned away from several types, and these books are often the target or favorites books of brand new writers. Herein lies some examples with "danger zone" written all over them:

Memoirs and Autobiographies 

Writing is expression and passion put to paper. It's an outlet that can convey frustration, deep, inner feelings, conflict, anger-rage, concern and even accomplishments and joy. One of the first attractive stories a fledgling writer is apt to gravitate to is a story about themselves. It could involve growing up in a difficult or dangerous family setting, overcoming a divorce or job change, the formative teenage years, battling cancer, sexual abuse and domestic violence, the death of a family member or pet, a stint in the armed get the idea. What often happens in the prose department is that stories like these become blatantly self-indulgent, egocentric, rife with personal opinion, spiritual or religious in nature, politically motivated or even preachy. And this is the worst kind of author intrusion you can commit. They usually end up with entirely too much "I,I,I," and "me, me, me." Almost always, First Person POV is the default writing style. And it seems everyone n terra firma has a story to blow off their chest.

Your biggest obstacle here is platform and notoriety. Common folk, like you me, are apt to write the same boring story, and the only thing that might be different is the byline and plot. The themes have been thrashed to death--man against man--man against God--man against nature--and man against himself. You're nobody, really, and why oh why should your story be any more relevant than any other? Unless you're an A-list actor who has gone through rehab, a serial killer that needs to confess, a star athlete with a checkered past, a past president, a madame that has a little black book, or one of the other socially exciting figures who everyone has heard of, swallow a couple of aspirin, go into a dark room, lay down and wait for the feeling to pass. You will get rejected more times than you thought possible.

Granted, in just the last three or so years, memoirs and autobiographies have seen an upsurge and comeback, even from some perfectly unheard of authors. Opra's Book Club might have had something to do with this--but there be dangers, toils and snares there too since some recent titles have been fabrications and tagged frauds. I wouldn't suggest that you bury your notion about writing your personal memoir, but you better be damn certain there will be a likely market for it. And there just aren't that many publishers looking for them, which will hamstring you from the starting gate. A good question to ask yourself: what are you famous for and how many people already know about it?


There is a very small market for this type of writing. The markets that do exist pay very little or nothing, other than a contributor's copy or two. There must be a 100 million poets out there that first began their adventure in this style whilst in high school. If you don't have any poetry credits, say, some literary clips, you're not likely to impress a publishing house that is serious about poetry. Oh, and did I day it doesn't sell? Poetry is very difficult to master and there are several styles. If you insist on writing it, master the styles that teach you rhythm, beat, tone and nuance. Poetry is a great teacher of emotion and extended narrative where words are used to paint and describe. There's nothing wrong with writing poetry for your own enjoyment and satisfaction. But beware that it's uphill battle and the competition is fierce. Money? There is none. Did I say that?

Short Story Collections

Lots of writers start out writing short fiction and end up trunking most of it. It's difficult to write, since it requires lean, mean prose where every word counts. You have to read tons of it in order to learn how to write a pound of it. The competition is staggering. Unlike poetry, though, there are thousands of anthologies, journals and magazines looking for the stuff. We're talking about single, standalone short stories. If you can sell a dozen short stories to some the of the semi-pro and pro markets, you stand a slight chance of landing a deal with a publishing house that might take your collection to print. Might. And there's only a few such publishing houses out there for collections from unknowns. I think I could name them on one hand. So odds are very much stacked against you. Compared to novels and nonfiction books, SS collections are terrible sellers. Submitting them is hardly worth the effort unless you're a brand-name author in one of the popular genres, like science fiction, thriller, horror and fantasy. The best short story collections for the new writer are probably horror, what with the recent popularity of vampires, werewolves, ghosts and zombies. We're going through a zombie phase at the moment--they can't seem to get enough of the stuff to the readers. 

Nonfiction Books

You better have a platform here, or have precious writing credits in the field in which you write. That includes degrees and working experience. If you're writing about science or health, make sure you are a master in the field with lots of experience and years to your credit.. The only other job vocation that might help you, is if you're an award winning journalist, TV commentator, or top-notch reporter. There you can objectively report, as long as all your facts and research is inline and spotless. Because you will be fact-checked. You might be responsible for your own artwork and photographs, in addition to some celebrity blurbs, an extensive table of contents and footnotes up the wahzoo. Non-fiction books that explore any facet of the core sciences are horrendously difficult to write and get right. The money is very, very good here, though. Chances for publication are very high, with good advances and distribution. Even niche or regional titles do surprisingly well. 

Stop and think before you lay fingers to keyboard. Know the risks and pitfalls. If you can't be deterred from writing any of these types of books or collections, I bid you good luck and God's speed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

There's Nothing New Under the Sun

This post was inspired by a thread in the AbsoluteWriters forum. It really hit home with me, since I've had my own experience. It went something like this:

Where do I begin? How do I begin?

Over the last year I've had three fans, four counting my publisher, compare my book, Planet Janitor Custodian of the Stars, to the Firefly concept/world. The last fan asked me if I'd ripped off Firefly to create my now planned series. I told him I didn't even know what Firefly was, having never seen the TV shows. Strange, I know, for a die-hard SF writer to not keep up to date on such matters is beyond reason. But honest to gawd, crucify me on the Tree of Woe if I'm not telling the truth. I'd only had time to watch most of the New Generation Star Trek stuff, and not much else since my time was strictly dedicated to punching keyboard plastic and getting pixels on the screen for new books. And I had no cable TV from 2001 to 2005.

I broke down last night and watched two episodes: Heart of Gold and Objects in Space. Then I saw a 10-year reunion interview with the cast, and later the full Serenity feature movie. I had no idea that Josh Whedon was directly tied to the franchise in a producer capacity.

I was totally blown away--haunted, disturbed, endeared and very shocked in a happy way to have discovered this phenom. It seemed like my book had been brought to film, but not in its full scope with all the details. But the similarities were so striking, I wondered who in the hell had been channeling who for an idea like this. Then I discovered that the series began in 2002 and my story was written in 2006. I was late to the game--Whedon beat me to it! But the story lines and settings were far enough apart to distinguish both of these titles as separate concepts. I was deeply humbled and honored when I saw what the writers, director and producer tried to accomplish with this series. Then I discovered that it was canceled in 2003! But Why?

I can't even begin to list all of the similar concepts, ideas and hardware that crossover between PJ and Firefly. I'll try.

My ship, Shenandoah, is a broken down used Russian Ore freighter that is described as an insect: a "big fat beetle." She runs on hydrogen drive within close solar system jumps. Her name, Shenandoah, means Daughter of the Stars. Captain Zaz Crowe adores this old girl and keeps working on her to improve the systems and interior. This ship is always on the move.

Serenity, a Firefly class ship that is described as looking like a Firefly (insect). This ship also looks like a used freighter. It appears to run on hydrogen fuel (non-FTL), just from my observations. Serenity stands for comfort, peace, calm, etc,. Serenity's captain also loves his ship. This ship is always on the move.

The interior of both ships looks like an oil refinery had coitus with an executive suite--both are rather grungy, worn, and dark, but very lived in. Both ships are equipped with small shuttles--mine are called "zip shuttles." I also have metal staircases and similar bunking arrangements. My ship is about 1,000 feet long--don't know the dimensions of Serenity, but it looks close to that. The fuselage of Shenandoah and Serenity could pass for near duplicates. Mine has no airfoils or tail structure.

My crew of Eight

Zaz Crowe--Captain--40 years old and handsome.
Dendy Dollar--Botanist/nurse, 20 years old, black hair and petite
Galoot--Mechanical engineer/security officer. Eight feel tall, 500 pounds
Carl Stromboli--Demolition expert--excitable and brash
Carybell--stowaway whore
Samantha King--Nav officer and pilot--extremely intelligent and buxom.
Paddy Jackson--Geologist--old
Lyle Wagner--Cryptozoologist--old

You all know the crew of Firefly; I believe there's nine living on board. My crew also calls the ship their home. Firefly's crew will work for hire, just about any job that comes along. But something always seems to go wrong with a simple mission, often transpiring the plot into a fight for their lives. And this sometimes requires mercenary action. Most of the mission assignments are very strange.

My crew is also for hire and will tackle any job assignment, but they're primarily space junkers, picking up all kinds of flotsam like broken sats, discarded fuel stage tanks, abandoned ships, and frequently hunt for asteroid minerals. They are environmentalists, primarily. But something always goes wrong with a simple PJ mission, forcing them into a mercenary status. Both crews used old or new percussion pistols/rifles. PJ has very strange, out-of-the box mission assignments.

Both crews are devastatingly loyal to each other, willing to sacrifice their lives at a moment's notice to save another. The main theme focuses on a loving family unit, cooperation and coordination. Falling in love with the characters comes before falling in love with the adventures of space. None of them are above pulling some illegal stunts for gain, but both captains really have Boy Scout personas and prefer to do things the right and moral way. PJ has three romantic relationships going on at once, and I think Firefly has an equal number of attractions and passionate underpinnings cooking just underneath the surface. Secrets abound with both crews.

BTW, the official PJ website and the character logos are almost identical. I mean the cartoonish type renderings of the crew. As soon as the domain is reinstated, I'll list it. It's a shocker. Looks like the same artist was used.

I could go on and on, but this isn't really about me. I would like to give tribute to Firefly in some way--pay my respects. Because, obviously, it's near and dear to my soul in kind of a double whammy way. I'm writing the sequel to PJ right now. So I'll construct a complete acknowledgment and dedication page for Firefly. Hell, I can always say I was inspired by FF, and even do some subliminal tagging in the sequel.

After my marathon night with all things Firefly and Serenity, I admit to being a little misty eyed when it was all over. A profound sadness came over me that's hard to describe. Especially when I saw the emotion on the cast's faces as they talked about their brief run, the joys, pitfalls and accomplishments. It's like I'd just met an intriguing friend and they were whisked away from me before I could get better acquainted. Why do I now yearn for 2002? So, in a very intimate and private way, I understand the loss of this potential franchise.

Anyway, it just goes to show you that there's nothing new under the sun.

Thanks for reading. I'll red-shift now and get back to work.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Submisson Spreadsheet

I thought I would throw out an example of my submission record, for anyone that might have one of their own. I'll bet yours is more precise and organized than mine, and that you might even use a form/database on QueryTracker or one of the other resources. Mine is personalized and simple, and I'm able to examine it at a glance. I usually put a one-word descriptor of the book, like "Fusion" which is the actually title, but I'll cut it down for longer titles like The Girl They Sold to the Moon, which will end up "Girl." PJ will stand for Planet Janitor, and Wolfen will stand for The Wolfen Strain. I'll use parenthesis to show the contact editor (when I know it), then the mode of submission--synop, full, query, or R&R. If if receive any requests for partials or pages, I'll state that. Everything that is in bold indicates a rejection. The last statistic is the date I submitted. If I have a request for further material or a contract offer, I'll pepper it with exclamation or asterisk marks to draw attention to it. It's kind of simple, but effective. The idea is to get the information down and keep track of all responses and correspondence. In some I'll list a token or negotiable advance by "token" or "neg adv."  Form submissions are market as such.

Here's is the current list, and it primarily covers SF, Fantasy, thriller, paranormal romance and is some cases horror. I consider these outfits about the best in small press quality, distribution and possible advance. Nearly all of them do not require an agent--my agent is handling the majors at the moment. I try not to cross paths with my agents submissions, but when I suspect that we might be on the same wave length, I'll let her know who they are--like Snowbooks, Soho, Zharmae, Pry, and some of the other better independents. Anything marked in yellow is a special circumstances case, which might be a referral or indicate a later date to send.

Everything in non-bold are awaiting replies. You can see some of them are approaching or have reached the 1-year mark. What I might do in the future is add a response date so I can judge their response time. But you can probably discern some of the publications that are obviously non-responders, like Crescent Moon Press.  

Zharmae (Agented) Susan wants structural re-writes on Fusion.--6-7-2012
Sunbury Press, sysnopsis and full Screamcatcher, to Mr Knorr on 1-13-2012 (Try Girl)
Entangled—Query of Screamcatcher—12-27-2011
Oceanview Press—3 Chapters of Fusion—1-6-2012
Anachronpren—D.I. Pages or Full—12-16-2011
Crescent Moon—Screamcatcher—Full--10-10-2011--Nudged 4-12
Dark Quest—Scream--Chapters or Full—9-11-2011
Crossed Genres Pubs—Scream--10 pages and synopsis--12-4-2011
Elder Signs Press—Scream--Synop and 3 chapters--1-16-2012
Red Deer Press—Sceam--Query and 3 Chapters—1-26-2012
Bell Bridge Books—query—synop--Full--Scream--1-27-2012 This is a rejection, but they want to see it as a first sub in 2013—Debra liked the plot.
Wild Child—full--Dispossessed Accepted*****************************
Entangled—(Ms. Howland)--Girl to Moon—synop-3 chapts 2-28-2012 (adv)TURNED INTO FULL REQUEST ON 6-21-2012
Crossed Genre Pubs--(ms. Holt)--Form--Girl--synop and 10 pages—2-28-2012(adv)
JournalStone Press--(Joel)--Girl--3 Chapts (single-space)--query--2-28-2012-Turned into full!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Try Scream)
Morrigan Books (Mark)--Girl--synop--3 Chapts—2-28-2012 (adv)
Zharmae Press (Ms. Grundy)--synop--3 Chapts—Girl--2-28-2012 (adv) JUST REQUESTED THE FULL ON 6-5-2012
Steward House—Shafer—Fusion--full--synop--3-18-2012
White Cat (Charles)--Fusion--3 chapters and synopsis—4-22-2012
Glasshouse Press (Judy)--Girl--Synopsis--4-25-2012
Sourcebooks—Girl--query--synopsis--full--4-27-2012 (advance) (Scream later)
Medallion—Form--Girl--Synopsis--3 chapters—4-27-2012
Nightbird Pubs—Fusion--Synopsis--4-28-2012
Entranced Pubs (Diana)--synop-query-full--Girl--5-1-2012 ($200 first prize)--Girl is on its way to final round judgement—possible contender to win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I JUST WON FIRST PLACE—200 ADVANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LLDreamspell—5000 words, single space, synopsis, Fusion—5-8-2012 (250 adv) REQUESTED FULL ON FUSION 6-25-2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Diamond Heart Press—Query and bio—Girl--5-10-2012 (neg advance)
Diamond Heart Press—Query and bio--(form)—Scream--5-12-2012 (neg advance)
Red Deer Press--(Mr. Carver)--3 chapts, query—Girl--5-17-2012
Journalstone—(Joel)--Scream--3 chapters single—query--5-18-2012--(neg adv)--Joel wants the full and a bio of my books and sales—sent requested full 5-31-2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Prometheus (Seventh Street)—Mr. Mayer, Full, synopsis, marketing plan—Fusion--5-31-2012
Crossed genres—form--synopsis--10 pages—DI--6-1-2012
Steward House—Fusion--synop and full--(negotiable advance)--6-1-2012--ATTENTION: THIS IS A DOUBLE SUBMISSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Atom books—Girl—Synopsis, 3 chapters—6-4-2012 (NOTIFICATION FAILURE)
Bolinda—Girl--query only and question—6-4-2012
Clarion—(Ms. Stevenson)--Girl--full and synopsis—6-4-2012
Lands Atlantic—Girl--Synopsis and 1 chapter—8-21-2012
Amulet Press—Girl--Query and five pages (Ms Metre)--9-3-2012
Albert Whitman and Co—Girl--Query and five pages (Whitman)--9-3-2012
Atom Press—Girl--synopsis--3 Chapters—9-3-2012
Diamond Heart Press—Girl--synopsis and three chapters (form)--9-3-2012
Sunbury Press—Girl--(Mr. Knorr)--synopsis--9-9-2012
Dark Quest—Girl--(ms. Morris)--query--9-9-2012
Ephemera Publishing--Girl--query--full--9-9-2012
Arctic Wolf pubs—Girl--synopsis--3 chapters—9-9-2012
Shaddowfall Press—Girl--online form--full--9-9-2012
Jolly fish Press—Girl--synopsis--3 Chapters—9-9-2012—REQUESTED 150 PAGES ON 9-18-2012—FULL REQUEST ON 10-9-2012*********************************************
Luminis Books—Girl--synopsis--10 pages in body—9-9-2012
Post Mortem Press—Girl--synopsis--full--9-11-2012
Pyr Books (Prometheus—R. Sears)--synopsis--full--Girl--9-11-2012
White Cat Press—Girl--synopsis--3 Chapters—9-11-2012
Month9Books—Girl--Pitch on FB--9-16-2012
Belle Books—Girl (deb dixon)--full--synopsis--9-17-2012
Precious Gems Pub—Girl (Ms. Lignor)--query only—9-17-2012
Montag press—girl—full, copyright and synopsis—9-18-2012
Lerner Press (Carolrhoda books—Mr. Karre)--Girl--SENT FULL—9-20-2012
Coliloquy Press—Girl—Synopsis--(Ms. Rutherford)--9-20-2012
Haven Books—Girl—Synopsis--9-20-2012
Damnation Books—Screamcatcher—synop--marketing, 3 and last chapters—9-22-2012--REQUESTED FULL 9-24-2012 ACCEPTED FOR CONTRACT**************************
Harper Voyager Teen—Form: Girl, synopsis, query, and full--10-1-2012
Harper Voyager Teen—Form: Scream, synopsis, query, and full--10-1-2012
Harper Voyager Teen—Form: Fusion, synopsis, query, and full—10-1-2012
Alloy Entertainment—query, first five pages, Girl—10-02-2012
Dark Fuse/Delerium—Scream—query, synop—10-2-2012
47th Street Publishing (Amazon), Girl—synopsis, marketing, full—10-3-2012
Zharmae—Screamcatcher--synopsis--3 chapters—10-11-2012
Crossed Genres Press--Dispossessed Inc. (Form-10 pages, synopsis- 10-17-2012
Blue Leaf Books—Scream (J. Grant) marketing, synop-4-chapters—11-5-2012--REQUESTED FULL ON 11-08-2012********************
Jolly Fish—Scream--synopsis and 3 chapters—11-15-2012
Snowbooks—Scream--synopsis and full—11-21-2012
Pyr Books (Rene Sears)--Screamcatcher--full and synopsis—11-26-2012
Quirk Books (Jason)--Girl--Query--3 chapts—11-28--2012
Soho—Scream--3 Chapts—Synopsis--(ms. Kowal)--11-29-2012
Spencer Hill press (ms Rilely)--Girl--query--10 pages--12-10-2012
Etopia Press—RTF in Full and synopsis—Fusion--12-13-2012 Advance 100 to 1,000
Arctic Wolf Publishing—Scream--synopsis and 3 chapters—12-15-2012
Month9Books—Scream--synopsis and full (From FB pitch)--12-1502012
Turner Publications—Fusion--Query to Mr. Bottorff--12-18-201



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Got An Agent? Why Not Double-Tap?

Now, I'm not talking about bumping your agent off, although I'll bet it's crossed the minds of some writers out there. Kidding aside, I've had more people ask me this question than any other over the years, so I thought I might 'splain' myself. And, of course, this is Guerrilla Warfare For Writers, where I tend to do some things that might be unconventional, or suggest things you haven't heard of before. To the gritty, here's the question:

"Chris, why in the hell are you submitting to publishers when you have an agent?"

Answer: "Because I wouldn't have it any other way."

I've had three agents over the last 24 years--good agents--A-listers, and if there's one thing that I do stipulate in a contract with an agent, or make perfectly clear via email or over the phone, it's that I intend to be PRO-ACTIVE in my association with them. And that is the perfect word to use when describing your intentions. You wish to be pro-active and part of the submission process. It goes without saying that your agent knows what he/she is doing, has been doing for (probably) years, knows the submission ropes, contract snafus, and, above all, has the contacts in the industry. This is a given and we hope our agent has all of those bases covered. What your agent doesn't have is an endless amount of hours to pour hundreds manuscripts into the Valley of the Editing Damned, considering he/she might have a hefty client load, and that's besides little ole you, who might be a new addition to the fold, and an unknown, nobody, whosit. 

In the first place, don't even think about submitting (the same manuscript your agent has) to the Big Six, or is it the Big Five now? You can't anyway--their door swings open only for agent subs. Stay away from the huge independents that might not require an agent submission, but are most certainly known to your publisher in the pertinent genre, like Baen, Daw and some of the others. However, keep on the lookout for major publishers who sponsor "open calls", (like Harper Voyager) which are designed to open the flood gates to new authors without agents. Your agent might miss a few of these, and you can certainly alert him/her to the notice, or ask if you could send in a sample. This goes for major contests too, and you can really shine here and add some heft to your submission stock. Also, new publishers crop up all the time. The ones to take notice of are the one's who pay advances and have a good, legit distribution--it happens--some publishers come into the arena fully prepared--I know of about six houses that have just surfaced and offer mildly lucrative contracts, even if the advances run from $200 on up to $2,500.

Just to put you at ease: I've never had an agent refuse my offer to help out. Never. In fact, they appreciated the offer. This also works out when you find or suggest a publisher to your agent that he/she might have missed or never considered. I just recently tipped my agent off to a publisher who just started accepting thrillers. The result was a $6500 advance and contract to one of her clients; one of my stable buddies. I was thanked profusely. Not the first time this has happened. When you have your eagle eye on the markets like I do, you can bust out with the latest info or opportunities and alert your agent. That's just one way of showing support and helping out. 


Research the living daylights out of your prospective publishing houses. Go to sites like Predators and Editors and for the low down on all of them. You'll find them and their current rating, unless they're so new they haven't made their first boot print in the snow. Look up their published titles on Amazon--look for good rank and lots of positive reviews. Contact an author or two if you're curious about how personable and efficient the pub house is. You definitely want publishers who pay advances, small and on up, and have the ability to get your book into libraries, bookstores and supermarkets. You would be shocked to know how many small and independent presses there are out there who can do this.

 Send your tentative list to your agent and let him/her peruse it. There might be some bad eggs on your list, or ones that he/she intends to solicit. And lots of agents pitch on the phone--a very effective and swift mode of  contact. Make sure you do not cross-list with your agent's list--this is very important and could cause a train wreck down the rails if two like manuscripts end up under the eye of the editor, or you have two manuscripts floating around in an office shared by two editors. 

Don't go hog wild. Give yourself a submission limit. Send out about a half dozen or so to test the waters. Wait for the responses. Keep your antennae tweaked for any comments or rewrite suggestions (see item below). Your sub train can start out right along with your agent's, but truthfully, this works best toward the end of your agent's submission process. You know, that ugly time when it doesn't look so good and you've taken a dozen or more rejections on your book and you feel or suspect your agent might be winding down? This also works great after your book has gone the agent route and there's seemingly no hope for it.

If you get a request for a rewrite, an R&R, go ahead and do it if you think the outcome will give you a much better book. Don't make any promises to the publisher. You can decline, and then actually perform the rewrite later if you want. What about rejections that suggest certain work on areas that need it? What if more than two publishers tell you that you have serious problems with plot, pace, characterization, typos, grammar problems, genre confusion, or other problems? If you agree with their reason why your book got the boot, and you can fix it, by all means forge ahead and do the rewrite. You've just been blessed by an editor and it hasn't cost you a nickle--another positive perk to getting feedback you can use. Do your rewrite and send off the new edition to your agent. It's not all that much of a bother to swap it out--delete one--paste in the other.

What if you get an offer? Politely tell the publisher that you would like your agent to check the contract. Explain that you always hand the ball off to your agent for the fine details, and you follow his/her directions before acceptance. What if the publisher writes back and wonders why in all that is holy and decent did you not state that you had an agent, and why did you make the submission in his/her stead? This won't happen if you list your agent's name and company name at the bottom of your query letter--the place where your bio and credit list goes. Second answer: "I'm allowed to be pro-active and take care of some of the smaller press and independent submissions. My agent is aware of my activity, and knows who I am submitting to.

Multiple offers? Send all that information to your agent. Your agent might have an offer on the table as well--this can all work great for a leverage type deal, or even an auction or preempt. 

Let your agent know of any major developments. But DO NOT utter one word about negotiations, deals, contract changes, rights, advances or royalties with an offering publisher. Nothing. Mouth shut. Do the lateral hand-off to the pro. Ask your agent what he/she thinks of the deal. Go ahead and express your gut feelings, if you want, but don't argue, beg or plead. Listen and pay rapt attention. If your agent thinks that a solid independent niche publisher is a perfect fit for you, pay heed and get ready to rock and roll. 

So, is double-tapping unethical? No. It's being pro-active. And in this day and age of trade publishing where it can take up to 1.5 years for your agent to land a deal, this process gives it a little fast track that can only work to your advantage. So don't sit on your ass and complain after the dust has settled. Ask to help out--be part of the process either from the beginning or toward the end. But so help me, if you feel that your agent hasn't worked for the deal that you land, and you leave him/her out of the deal, I'll come through this screen and throttle you properly.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reexamining Some Publishing Truisms

I would say, for the most part, the following publishing mantras still hold some water. But a few of them are questionable or failing to pass the test as we reexamine them in view of today's marketplace. We've all heard these before, lived by them, practiced and held them dear to our hearts when we've drawn blanks or found ourselves depressed. But folks, things are changing...and fast.

Write More Books

This one primarily comes from the self-publishing crowd who believe that the more content you have for sale, the more you will sell. The caveat here is that series and novels written in the same genre are the best candidates. That might have been true two years ago (the Golden Age), and up until a few months ago, but what kind of opinions are we seeing on the Kindle boards lately? How about sales drops for the majority of the authors in the past three months? There are some notable exceptions, but I'm constantly seeing a decline in my personal sales, and reading some very disparaging remarks coming from some veteran self-publishers. Not meaning to put a negative twist on it, but are we seeing the very beginning signs of a sales halt or wind-down? Has the bubble swollen to the point of near bursting? Are the predictions coming true, which state that an ultimate threshold will be reached, and that no matter now many freebies or books are offered, the self-publishing industry has become a gluttonous repository where demand no longer equals or eclipses supply? Are these the early warning signs of our literary self-pub apocalypse? Or is this, as some claim, a seasonal drought or extended Amazon glitch and there's nothing to be worried about? The Boy Scout Motto is "Be Prepared."

One Book Publishable by One House is Publishable by Another

 There are too many variables for this truism to hold water--editor's tastes, marketing decisions, genre, book length, publisher experience and longevity and scores of other reasons. Two small press publishers can vie for the same manuscript but for entirely different reasons. One publisher could have very low acceptance parameters, or be willing to publish strictly on the strength of the author's bio and credit list. It's doubtful that two Big Six editors could even agree upon the same reasons for accepting the same manuscript and, indeed, would probably never see eye-to-eye on the editing and marketing of such a book. After 25 years and over 4,000 rejections, I had this happen twice to me--this is not a wide-spread trend, by any stretch. I just had a book receive a grand prize, first place award in a novel-writing contest, but after sending out multiple submissions, I'm not seeing anyone beating down my front door with a contract in one hand and a pen in the other. Lightning has not struck twice, even with this book. I think the only time this truism holds up is when the book goes to auction and several publishers engage in a feverish cat fight over it.

A Great Book Will Find Publication

 I don't think John Kennedy Toole, author of  A Confederacy of Dunces, got that memo. His book was passed over scores of times, and he ultimately resorted to suicide out of frustration and deep depression. Ironically, his book was later awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Publishers have a hard time picking a diamond out of the carbon pile as it is, so how can every editor on this planet pick out all of the great books and bring them to print? Folks, there are just so many publishing slots in each genre and category to publish each year. And that's it. No more. It takes a bit of luck and pluck to get yourself on that lineup to begin with. If all great books eventually found publication, and I mean books that drew huge reader populations and produced millions of sales, then I'm wondering what happened to Harry Potter in it's early days, as well as Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. How about Wool? And all of these other self-published best-sellers that were passed over by these publishers, whose job it is to find really great books. The only way a great book will find publication is by reader vote, and they are the ones who determine who will see print, especially Big print.  And right now, books that have had severe editing problems have still gone on to make the bestseller lists, with some manuscript's prose actually left intact!

Start at the Top and Work Your Way Down

This works if you've written perfection. And I mean a slab of prose that is ready for prime time; one that has no errors: plot holes, typos, inconsistencies, pacing problems, genre confusion, weak characters, get the picture. Those books are ready for agents and A-list publishers. But what if your manuscript is not perfect? What if you expect an editor to give you some good socks and lay it on the line? What if you have some creeping doubts, as small and minor as they might be? Now that's me in a nutshell, and that's why I start out with the small press, for a limited number of submissions. Why? It's simple, and not unfair at all to anybody--I use small press as an editing guide, or my first Beta reader. If I garner the same editorial feedback from several publishers, usually more than two, I'll halt my sub train and perform a revision--especially if I agree with the suggestions. Any and all comments are welcome and I'll evaluate all of them before I even contemplate a rewrite. I'll then start at the top with the best crafted  manuscript, with at least the assurance that I've made some viable and logical changes that were recommended by a credible editor. If I have a major or minor flaw, the last person I want to hear about it is, is from one of my favorite Big-Six editors. By then it's too late and I've wasted a perfectly good submission. Now If I receive an offer from a small press, I'll politely decline, but keep them in the bullpen for a later chance at bat. Note: this doesn't work for everyone. You're certainly no worse off following it...unless you'd like to try an alternate method that might work for you.

Bookstores--Still the Only Viable Sales Platform

Not. Unless that publisher has full distribution to nearly every bookstore in the United States. Small and independent presses are woefully inadequate for getting books shelved, and many of them are dropping print lines or requiring a threshold of e-book sales. The problem is, with the recent demise of Borders, we have less and less bookstore options and they're dropping like flies as we speak. Never mind independents, the large chains are cutting back and reserving shelf space for the brand name draws or the hottest breakouts. With shelf longevity lasting from six to eight weeks, you better make your splash or face a mountain of returns. Don't get me wrong, print isn't dying. It's just seriously wounded, all for except the largest publishers with the most bookstore presence. Digital publishing has now reached nearly a 25% market share and it's still climbing, although it's slowed somewhat. To see the difference between print and digital sales, randomly pick an average author (or dozen or two of them), and compare their e-book sales rank with their trade print sales rank (forget hardbacks). Tell me what you see. Even the ten-buck e-books are winning the race.

Is this blog post a scathing revamp of everything that we've been taught and followed? Not by a long shot. It only professes to show how change is affecting the industry, and explores some alternative actions and thoughts about an industry that we have to constantly adapt to. Simply speaking, nothing is written in stone.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Tours Work.

Just had my first ever book tour, sponsored by Farah Evers Book Tours. It lasted from Oct 20th to the 29th and featured a veritable grab bag of goodies, like interviews and reviews, likes, tags, a YouTube book trailer (that I adored), chat sessions, giveaways, discounts, blog posts and announcements all over the WWW. Now y'all know how I was feeling about social media and the hard times I was enduring (read a few blog post back in time), but this type of media was something different. It was lasting, intense, interesting and you had to keep up with it to follow everything. If one thing book tours have that other media resources don't, it's range. And I mean range over a broad spectrum. You also benefit by having a whole bunch of people behind you, making their own announcements, hitting up their personal blogs, FB and Twitter spots. It's kind of a call to arms for the benefit of one author, or what you might think of as a "love flood." I was surprised. I really had no idea what they entailed. I'm glad a professional stepped in to drag me out of the mud and show me the potential of a focused and lasting event. One of my best friends, Jim Melvin, reaped huge success from one his book tours not to long ago, and I'd always remembered that.

When the dust settled, I know I made five or six sales, starting with the opening day. I received dozens of likes and tags, boosting my author FB page. My birthday hit on the 28th, so I got about 100 FB birthday wishes--a record for me. I pulled in eight new subscribers to my blog--another record. I picked up some chat fans and got the opportunity to explain some details in the book. And now I have an archive of information on The War Gate that's going to sit there for Googlers to find, and pay dividends in the future. All in all, it was a resounding success for me, and I have to thank my hostess for letting me fly with this event. 

Do I recommend book tours? Yes, I do. They work. I would like to direct you to Farah Evers Book Tours for a unforgettable experience. This gal is a graphic arts master, composer and artist. Just about anything you need in the graphic media realm, you'll find it on her home site, be it cover design, website creations, tours, or artwork. Her rates are truly affordable, undercutting most of the competition out there. You can sample first, too. Satisfaction guaranteed. 

Evers Book Tours:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This and That and Some Promotion

FIRST AND FOREMOST: Welcome to my blog tour--my first ever. Interview is up, plus we'll be offering some give-aways of the War Gate. I also have three $9.95-valued e-book gift cards in exchange for a purchase of the $2.99 War Gate. Notify me by email that you've made a purchase and I'll send you your pick of one of the following:

Planet Janitor Custodian of the Stars

John Carter (The complete Barsoom Series)

Sherlock Holmes, The Complete and Illustrated Novels, Plus all 56 Short Stories

Chris Stevenson:

Reviews are not necessary, but it sure would be nice. Please head on over to Farah's Blog Tour at:

Well, for the last two weeks the book sales have been pretty flat. Sold one full-price hard copy of Planet Janitor, which was a surprise, and also sold a way out-of-print copy of Word Wars, my first SF debut seven years ago. My frontline books have suffered. And so has my requirement to meet my internet bill, which means this might be a last post until we switch providers. I've got a total of 38 submissions out there to some token-advance and semi-pro paying publishers. My agent has quite a few out there for my last YA title, The Girl They Sold to the Moon. The also in negotiation for a film option from an indie producer at the moment. My agent is handling that one. So you can see how losing the internet for me would be a stressful proposition. That's why I thought I would run my available titles up the pole and see who salutes them. I think sales from The War Gate would offer me the best salvation as far as income.

Now, I have some e-book gift cards that I received from my publisher. They're hard cards and have a code number on the back end. Once you have the code number, or once I give it to you via email, you can turn that into my publisher (or the gift card provider) for credit on the card. The titles available on the cards number three--John Carter, The Complete Barsoom Series, The Complete and Illustrated Sherlock Homes, and Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars. Now, for every purchase and review of The War Gate, I'll offer one of these cards to you (the code), and you can turn it into my publisher (or provider) for credit. You also must name your reading format. Just get a hold of me and tell me about your purchase and review and I'll send out your pick of the gift card title, along with the code. The e-book gift cards have a $9.95 cover price. Sound like a deal? There's only three. So first come first serve. 

My email:

Here are my Amazon titles, including The War Gate.

THE WAR GATE, A PROFESSIONALLY-EDITED BACKLIST PARANORMAL TITLE, NOW SLASHED TO $2.99! Full-length, 332 pages of thrills, romance and chills. Available on Amazon Kindle:

Tag Line: Through a miraculous conception, Avalon Labrador must give birth to herself before she is executed, to solve her husband’s murder and her own wrongful conviction.
When the reincarnated Avy Labrador is kicked out of her stepfather’s house on her 18th birthday, she has no idea that the man who raised her framed her mother to cover his murder so he could acquire a major software empire. Now, years later, with the help of her magician boyfriend, Sebastian, Avy is about to discover that her birth was otherworldly and for a purpose. The ancient Roman God Janus was so appalled by the heinous murder of Tom Labrador by his brother Drake that he opened up a War Gate. Avy has received half of her mother’s soul light and half of a God’s essence. Her mission is to put the real killer behind bars. The only catch: she must learn to “Gate-Walk”, that’s time traveling to the layman. She soon finds out that she is a drunk driver on the space/time continuum super highway.
“This was a solidly written tale with a trace of fantasy and complex thought used in defining the concept of leaping from one time gate to the next—excellent job of structuring.”
Terrie G, Bitten by Books, 4 out of 5.
“The War Gate is a captivating book. Mystery, magic and the paranormal blend together in a perfect mix. I would thoroughly recommend this book to fantasy enthusiasts who also like romance.
Orcid, Aurora Reviews, 5 out of 5.
War Gate Author's Note: The antagonist character, Wax Man, is not for the squeamish. I warn you ahead of time that he is the most disgusting, vile creature/human you're ever likely to read about. Not for younger readers under 13.

PLANET JANITOR CUSTODIAN OF THE STARS--Starship Troopers meets Robinson Crusoe on Mars. A must read for classic and Golden Age Fans!
Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars (Engage Science Fiction) (Illustrated) 

Captain Zachary Crowe and the crew of Planet Janitor Corporation are adept at handling environmental clean-ups and close system jumps to collect precious ores and space trash. The problem is they have yet to complete an assignment without a mishap to add to their not so stellar record. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, Orion Industries contracts Planet Janitor for a clandestine operation that no one else wants, offering them more money than they could spend in three lifetimes. The mission entails a 12 light-year trip to a newly found habitable planet in the Tau Ceti system. The crew will lose 26 years on Earth due to the cryo jump, but that is the least of their problems. What they find on Tau Ceti will rattle their wits, test their courage, and threaten their very survival.


"Planet Janitor does deliver an interstellar romp that hearkens to the best of Robert Heinlein or Philip José Farmer... A rollicking plot-driven adventure... The dangers are intimidating, the wonders evocative and the thread that ties it all together is always just a little more tangled than it seems." --The Canadian Science Fiction Review, December 13, 2010

"An intriguing and exciting cross between Aliens and 10,000 Years B.C. - Stevenson shows us a future filled with proof that we should listen to Stephen Hawking's warnings about alien life forms and what they want to do to us." --Gini Koch, author of `Touched by an Alien' & `Alien Tango', December 1, 2010

"Stevenson's book considers the possibility of an elite industry of environmental cleanup specialists who take on all sorts of bizarre environmental jobs... Clearly, this is a timely topic that hits home in the wake of the Gulf oil spill." --SF-Fandom, September 21, 2010

From the Publisher

A great deal of care went into the quality of this book, with case laminate library binding, wrap around cover art, and 26 illustrations.

Welcome to THE WOLFEN STRAIN. Half Jurassic Park, half Wolfen. A Beauty and the Beat tale flipped and ripped on its ear. Still reduced to 4.49!
The Wolfen Strain 

Product Description

In a remote compound in Wyoming a geneticist created the first female human-wolf hybrid and adopted her as his daughter. When Melina Salinger discovers who and what she really is she escapes her father's domain and sets out into the wilderness—any other life would be better than the one that was forced upon her.

Seth Anson, a ranger stationed at the Wheeler Ridge watchtower, is trying to get over a bitter divorce—working in the majestic Shoshone forest is the only way he knows how to get on with his life. Consequently, he is unprepared for the strange and mysterious woman he accidentally shoots and then must nurse back to health. As Seth and Melina form a close bond that leads to something deeper—they have no idea that the geneticist’s other creation—the result of a DNA cloning experiment gone horribly wrong—is bent on finding Melina and committing a monstrous ac

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Ineffectiveness of Social Media?

You might like to read a recent article concerning the subject of this blog post title--about the ineffectiveness of social media. Here it is:

I think that I can rightfully comment on the theory that social media in all aspects of sales -push for books is not really cracked up to what it's touted to be. And may in fact be much worse than currently evaluated. I just self-published for the Amazon Kindle Select program, and this time I watched my numbers very closely after initiating certain media campaigns. I have to stress that I didn't, nor will I ever pay for ads or any type of publicity. I'm not into tagging, buying reviews or spamming my family and friends for likes and purchases. I have a very small family-relative population, and not that many close social  friends. It's interesting to note that FaceBook and Twitter (per the article), two of the largest social media platforms, are very unlikely to produce any sales at all, no matter if you have 100 or 10,000 friends. Their pages are swamped, awash with hints and outright pleads to "buy my book." It seems that Facebook and Twitter have become the default bookstores and have been so for quite some time. They were actually designed as meet-up locations for people as social platforms for conservations, views and introductions.

Interesting that the article claims that there are now about 1.1 million self-published books out there, all of them competing with each other for front-row-center attention at the same time. That's a hell of a lot of head-knocking. It also seems very plausible that about 10% of all those authors are the ones doing most or all of the selling, with about 50% making less than $500 a year. There is another collective who claim to be the mid-list self-published who can rope in $2000 to $5000 a month—we don't have actual figures on this yet.

After 70 days of exposure, my own title has made about 14 sales and two borrows. And this has been the result of a massive promotion campaign which ate up about three hours a day, each and every day nonstop. I doubt the average self-published author even came close to what I did, where I went and how I used the different social media resources. It's just too much time away from writing. I did not spam FaceBook and Twitter, hardly mentioning my book on either more than once per day. But the fact remains that my posts there did amount mostly to book adverts, with an occasional “how y'all doing?” type post.

I'm certain that about four to five sales came from direct buyers from writing groups, and the rest resulted from free book giveaways. All that media blasting, about 210 hours, sold a mere four or five titles that copped about nine dollars. Add in the freebie books sales for a grand total of about $24, factoring in the 35% and 70% royalty rates. Can I say that social media doesn't work? From my position and what little notoriety I had, it did not work in any way, shape or form like I expected to. A very painful experiment. But an honest and sobering evaluation. It seemed everywhere I went I found others just like me listing every title they had, if not once, multiple times over days and weeks. All of us crowding for the same front-row-center platform.

Major or minor caveat: I'm in the Select program. I don't have all the other e-tailers stoking my coffer. That includes Smashwords, Goodreads, Kobo, BookStrand, Fictionwise, B & N and all the others.

Am I disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No. I went into this with my eyes open. The article mentions a real eyeopener; those who have become rich and famous pretty much got in on the ground floor of Amazon self-publishing, or at least in the last year. That makes sense and I heartily believe it, because that's where the low prices, particularly the $.99 ebook sprang from. At that time it was all the rage, causing a tsunami of purchases from readers who packed up their devices with every free and cheap title out there.

Another thing that was not so surprising: Most of the self-published titles out there are short stories and novellas. They are all listed as books, which can create some confusion. Even the true full-length books that I saw were all typically under 300 pages, with most of them in the 140 to 220 range. I have no doubt where the majority of the claims of “write as fast and as many as you can” came from. They are short titles, and they're written by very fast and tireless writers. And damn it! Wouldn't you know it? I don't write lean or short. I'm 300 pages and upward, except for true YA titles. So where does that leave me? Right now, outside the winner's circle.

As for the “bubble” thing. I hate to say it, but this is a current gold rush apt to be sapped for everything it has until the streams are dry and the disappointed miners bow their heads in disgust and vacate their claims. Anywhere when you have such competition, gluttony and over supply, you're headed for an implosion. And I don't wish to see this. Is is possible this self-publishing bubble will burst in 18 months? Yes. I'd add another six months to that doomsday figure, but I believe we're headed for it. It's simply not true that there are enough readers to consume all of these books and stories at the rate they're gushing into the marketplace. If we don't have a bubble burst, we'll see a decline in self-publishing because the average author won't be able to get a foothold at all. And this is happening right now. Crowd the market more and it's not going to get any better. Chasing algorithms, tagging, fake reviews, likes, bagging friends, email blasting, spamming are just some of the desperate devices being used to drive sales for the almighty buck, which is happening right now. What's next besides all of the publicity departments and companies out there that want your dollars because they offer “The Ultimate Program to Help you Attain Ebook Riches.”

So what about the advice of writing and listing more and more books, books in series, serial novels, novellas, shorts and special single editions? Type until your fingers fall off? And when you discover that doing this is not working anymore, or not working like it used to, will you pull back and reevaluate your career direction? Who will be profiting from this in the future? Answer: Amazon and the reader. You will have to work harder and faster than ever before. You might finally realize that typing speed does not equate to great literature and sales, but that just maybe, quality, patience and perfection does.

I've heard self-publishers rant time and time again that they don't need agents and publishers to stand in their way of writing success. It's true. But they don't need you either, bub, and probably won't for the rest of your self-publishing life. That's because they have only to scan and acquire the best-selling self-published authors, you know, that 10% club that you don't belong to? So that will leave you kicking and squirming in the trenches with the rest of us.

I hope you have a huge fan base with a ton of blog subscribers. I hope you have thousands of friends on Twitter and FaceBook who really like you as a person. I hope you've written a really neat series of full-length novels in your favorite genre. I hope that you've already jumped aboard the self-publishing train before it started to clog up, and that you already have a solid reader group who can't wait for your next installment. I hope you are in that 10% club at this moment. I hope that you continue to write and publish thoroughly edited quality prose. I hope you never resort to chicanery and hitting below the belt when it comes to self-promotion.

As for me, well I hope that someday, maybe in the near future, I'll have a turnaround and my book takes off and makes some sales. But I'm not holding my breath. I have to go back to my agent and a few publishers, who've I neglected for the past couple of months. I don't owe them an explanation. I owe myself one.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Do Free Books Net Sales? Update

Well, it's been close to five days after the free trial period so I thought I'd splash some ink about it. The rank for The War Gate was sitting right at 550,000 before the trial. Right now it's at 103,000. It's dipped up and down about seven or eight times. I've recorded six sales for TWG and one other sale for a trade title, which has an unrelated genre. I'm guessing that someone might have made a quick read of the free book then went hunting for something else of mine. So I can definitively say that a giveaway works. No question. I'm claiming seven sales as a result. The first sale came in about 10 hours after it went live. It doesn't look like it's slowing down so I'll keep an eye on it and see if there is any type of momentum. I did notice two new library borrows, and since we get paid for that, I'll bring the total up to nine.

Nine copies in about five days. Roughly two a day. Now that wouldn't be anything to sniff at if it stayed that way.  I'm told by others that this is how it begins to climb each and every month. If you sell 40 copies in your first month out of the gate, then the next month climbs to 75, then the third month might hit 220 copies, and then it begins climbing higher and faster after the third, fourth and fifth month and so on. I've never heard a book go in reverse. It's supposed to take even up to six months to show a steady chart climb.

The total downloads were 580 from the US, 80 from the UK and 10 from Germany, for a total of 670. Now that's only a little more than the last two-day free trial two months. So that squares up as being consistent. Here's the kicker; 85% of the downloads were on the FIRST day! What does that tell you? It's very obvious that I wasted a free trial day. Not entirely, but damn near. I would say single trial days might be enough.

 What really boggles me is, that when I researched other authors on the Kindle boards, I found all of their numbers much higher than mine. I wrote down some of the totals, taking samples from single books, novellas, series and shorts. I found 15,500, 11,000, 9,000, 5,700, 4,550, and the lowest one was 3,200 downloads. I couldn't find any authors that would list anything lower, certainly not in the hundreds. These were all two-day or single day free trial events. Some of the authors ran for five days straight, taking up their maximum allotment. Those five-day trials pulled some very high download numbers. I think I saw a 24,000 and a 33,000 claim. 

No reviews. Yet. Some people might review when they get around to reading it. That's another thing I'll watch for. 

There it is--reality from a single title in a very popular genre, and with what I would consider an average cover, title and blurb. I'll do a followup in another five or so days and see where we stand. I'm really interested in this momentum thing, aren't you. We'll see it for real, won't we? Hah! If it happens.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Do Free Books Net Sales?

I belong to the Kindle Select program which allows an author client to offer five free trial days for a 90-day period. I've already used up two days about a month back. The results were meh. I really didn't know what I was doing. Ya know, for good results you're supposed to advertize or announce that fact that you're intending to offer a free trial before the fact. You should do this a few days or more in advance. This builds anticipation, especially with your peers, friends and reader group (if you have one). Well I did no such thing. I announced on the day of the giveaway, and I don't remember hitting all of my groups and sites; the ones I normally visit and interact in.  So I didn't see any great leaps and bounds in rank and sales. It's no wonder.

This time is a little different. I announced two days in advance, the next day, and today I'm on free trial and announcing again. Since I have two days running free, I'll be blasting the word out tomorrow too. I hit just about every site and group I could think of, particularly places where I'm established as a contributor--there will be no fly-bys or spamming. I'll comment and interact as I normally do, then drop a hint or a BTW comment. Nothing intrusive. And always in the proper places. Otherwise you get moderators climbing all over you sending you those specials "warning" email messages, and/or pulling your posts. And that's happened to me a couple of times. I had to revisit those sites, where I voluntarily struck or redirected my messages. 

When I woke up this morning I had no preconceived notions on what the rank would look like. But nosy me, I checked it. It sat at around 4,700 for overall rank. Not real spectacular, but not anything to be ashamed about. Now you should know this is where your reviews (if any), genre, your book cover, synopsis and title really come into play when you lay down your Amazon link. The first thing the reader will do, to see if this book is worthy of file space on their e-reader, is peruse all of that good stuff. They also might click on the "Look Inside" feature and read a chapter or two. Cripes, I have four free chapters up for sample, and I don't know how or why Amazon decided on that major chunk of text. I'd heard and seen smaller samples. So, with all those ducks in a row, you can expect a free download. And that doesn't mean you're going to be read right away or even reviewed. I've only had a few reviews resulting from free books, out of five current titles. 

I tried to forget about the sales rank and went about my announcements. If you've read this blog, you know where I go--all over hell's half acre and then some. It's now 9:30 PM, same first free trial day, and my rank has gone to 639, with a #84 position for mysteries and thrillers, if I'm reading that right. That's quite a jump. For Amazon.UK it's even better--583 overall, and #41 in Fantasy, Futuristic and Ghost, and #55 in Thriller. Truth be told, I can't even begin to understand why England is looking this good, unless my membership in the SFF Chronicles is responsible for it, which is primarily a huge group of British writers. If so, bless the Limeys from across the pond!

Now, The War Gate is a single title, a paranormal romance/thriller, and I believe it to be just as structurally and entertainingly sound as Amanda Hocking's first paranormal title. And if it is, then word of mouth should eventually carry it into some sales. And I say some sales at first, and eventually a few more down the road. That would be a typical snowball effect. But the question is, or what's on everybody's mind, does free sales work at all right after the free trial period ends and the paid status returns. Well I'm going to find that out. 

Nine months ago my publisher did the free thing with one of my titles and it worked very well. Maybe 40 to 60 copies sold after the first couple weeks. I've been hearing complaints lately that it's not working all that well anymore. Of course there are a lot of variables you have to consider, one of them being the day/days that you launch. I hear Mondays are best, but it could very well be Saturdays, when people have their checks in hand. It's a seasonal thing too, with the later Summer months being a bit slower, and the Holiday season doing much better. I think the Kindle Fire just launched recently, so this might have a bearing on overall downloads, compared to months ago. 

Anyway, I'll report on my findings and list the data when the smoke clears. It will be interesting to know just how viable and effective a free trial period has on sales. Now if I had a series, I would watch my other titles for sales jumps just after going to paid status. I can see where a push to other titles could result if the book was read immediately. 

Oh, some thoughts on the A-list self-published e-book stars like Darcie Chan. I did some digging around because, as was mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to know what some of these authors were doing to drive-up massive sales with debut e-books. I pretty much came up empty, except for the recent "buying hundreds of reviews" scandal, but instead read a USA today news release on Darcie Chan. 


It seems that not all e-book stars can claim that they did nothing to gain fame and fortune. Chan sprung for over $1,000 in page placement and banner adds, $575 for a paid Kirkus reivew, $35 for an e-reader news ad, and Lord only knows what else. I'm glad I got that information. I suspected it, but couldn't prove it. Should have done more investigative reading. It's really up in the air what the others have done, but won't admit to. You know that I will not pay for promotion, as already stated. So I can now see that I'm at a self-inflicted disadvantage. But truthfully, how many of you have $1,500 or more to spend on book adds? I'm sorry. I just don't have it. I have to buy ruled tablets, pencils, pens, antivirus programs and internet bills. Oh, and lots of antacid pills when I start reading all my rejections. I should own Tums.

Until we meet again...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Rise of E-Book Gift Cards?

Here is a letter I just received from my publisher regarding a new e-book outlet that might end up becoming a ground-breaking resource for all e-book sales at bookstores. I think this is a revolutionary step in the right direction. You might mention this to your publisher and see what they think about it. It occurs to me that this might catch on in a very positive way. I''ll also try to include the contents of my e-book card.

"I do have a new avenue for sales. I had a conference call last week with the folks at Enthrill eBooks. They sell eBook gift cards in bookstores and other retailer outlets like grocery store checkouts. They are a startup company, and their eBook cards are mostly in Calgary at the moment. Here is a short video that shows their distribution model
I am the first publisher to join and sell eBooks as a wholesaler. Which means that I will be the first publisher to have eBook cards at a convention. Other publishers have joined their retail distribution, however I am looking at the wholesale program as getting my foot in the door for their retail end of the business. This new type of eBook business should help save bookstores from closing with the rise of eBook sales.

I ordered 100 eBook cards for Planet Janitor, and I put a list price of 9.95 on the cover. I plan on raising the price on Amazon for the week of the convention. I don't want to undervalue the hardcover, with a 2.99 ebook. However, what I will be doing at the convention is offering 50% off of the eBook cards as a VCON special. I think this will help drive sales, having a 50% off deal. My goal is to sell as many as possible, so that Enthrill will be interested in pitching Planet Janitor to retailers (they will be watching the sales numbers from the convention). I've attached the PJ, eBook card so you can see what it looks like. I also included both short stories on the eBook card as an added incentive to buyers at the convention. If we can get this into bookstores it should be huge!

Let me know what you think,"
                                            *                                *                          *
 Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars
Chris Stevenson
Engage Books | Copyright © 2013 | ISBN: 978-1-926606-80-4
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Captain Zachary Crowe and the crew of Planet Janitor Corporation are adept at handling environmental clean-ups and close system jumps to collect precious ores and space trash. The problem is they have yet to complete an assignment without a mishap to add to their not so stellar
record. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, Orion Industries contracts Planet Janitor for a clandestine operation that no one else wants, offering them more money than they could spend in three lifetimes. The mission entails a 12 light-year trip to a newly found habitable planet in the Tau Ceti system. The crew will lose 26 years on Earth due to the cryo jump, but that is the least of their problems. What they find on Tau Ceti will rattle their wits, test their courage, and threaten their very survival.
Planet Janitor: The Moon is not Enough
While surveying the damage to a lunar mining facility caused by a meteor shower, a second job proposition proves too sweet to turn down. Captain Zachary Crowe must now enter the devastated base. But will the reward be enough to outweigh the consequences of taking on such a risky mission.
Planet Janitor: Journey Interrupted
The Planet Janitor crew are on the tail end of a salvage mission in the asteroid
belt when they encounter a ghost ship. Faced with a volatile substance onboard, the crew race against the clock to commandeer the vessel before it reaches the Exon Refueling Station. What they find on the ship will stress their abilities to the limit, and put their lives in imminent danger.
Note: I couldn't get the book cover to show, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Abandoning Your Book?

I liken my current WIP to a date. I owe it to her and myself to have a good time and leave with her after the party is over. I chose her for a reason; I was attracted to her; I wanted to hear what she had to say. I wasn't preoccupied with what she might offer. I only wanted to take that small adventure in time with her and appreciate the ride. Oft times a flirt comes along and tries desperately to get my attention, calling out to me with wind songs and coy invites. I'm dancing right now--I can't be bothered to see what's greener on the other side of the mountain. If I'm too fickle, I'll never enjoy my date all the way through to completion, but instead have an array of disconnected flirtations with something that I end up fantasizing about. The flirtations are cheap time and flashes in a Kodachrome minute. My real date is solid and a very much worthwhile journey. I owe myself the dignity of a having a quality date and seeing it through to the end. Else, I'll hurt her feelings and waste my time. 

Do this: try and recapture that mood you had in the moment of conception--when the idea sparked and lit your mind on fire. It sounded pretty good then, didn't it? IT WAS FABULOUS. Unless you were drunk or hopped up on pills. What's really changed? Nothing has changed. You're letting seeds of doubt bust into nasty little buds and begin to take root. You're talking yourself out of it. Asking questions and giving yourself negative answers. You're warming to failure and cooling to success. Or are you making excuses because you believe you're truly blocked? Or are you just lazy right now? Procrastinating? Have you just read a book where the writing, plot and premise totally blew you away, and you're unconsciously comparing yourself to that author? 

Get real. Climb down out of that hyper-imagination tree and plant your feet on solid ground. The story hasn't changed--you have. You've derailed your creative muse, stuck pins in your own voodoo doll. Cease and desist. Unless you truly believe with all your heart that you've made a huge error and this story has no chance because EVERYBODY says so besides you.

Get right back on that baby and give her a whirl around the floor! Don't you know she's waiting for you?

                                 *                 *                *

Welcome to THE WAR GATE, a paranormal fantasy/thriller. SPECIAL REDUCED PRICE @ $2.99 (FULLY EDITED BACK-LIST TITLE). Reviews are greatly appreciated!

Tag Line: Through a miraculous conception, Avalon Labrador must give birth to herself before she is executed, to solve her husband’s murder and her own wrongful conviction.

When the reincarnated Avy Labrador is kicked out of her stepfather’s house on her 18th birthday, she has no idea that the man who raised her framed her mother to cover his murder so he could acquire a major software empire. Now, years later, with the help of her magician boyfriend, Sebastian, Avy is about to discover that her birth was otherworldly and for a purpose. The ancient Roman God Janus was so appalled by the heinous murder of Tom Labrador by his brother Drake that he opened up a War Gate. Avy has received half of her mother’s soul light and half of a God’s essence. Her mission is to put the real killer behind bars. The only catch: she must learn to “Gate-Walk”, that’s time traveling to the layman. She soon finds out that she is a drunk driver on the space/time continuum super highway.

“This was a solidly written tale with a trace of fantasy and complex thought used in defining the concept of leaping from one time gate to the next—excellent job of structuring.”
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War Gate Author's Note: The antagonist character, Wax Man, is not for the squeamish. I warn you ahead of time that he is the most disgusting, vile creature/human you're ever likely to read about. Not for younger readers under 13