Sunday, July 31, 2011

Benefit to Help Author L.A. Banks

Every once and a while this blog has the opportunity to help someone above and beyond the normal ebook rah-rah-rah.

I met Leslie Banks at a conference in New Orleans, and she quickly became a friend. She was interested in self-publishing, and I got her in touch with my people (Rob Siders, Carl Graves. Cheryl Perez--all in the sidebar) who helped her self-publish her novel Shadow Walker.

Leslie was recently diagnosed with late stage adrenal cancer, and she's getting hammered by medical bills. This is from the Liar's Club website:

Come network, rub elbows with authors and editors, and, above all, have a night of fun for a good cause. It’s all part of a special Writers’ Bash on Saturday, August 6th, beginning at 7 p.m. and going on till closing at Smokey Joe’s bar located at 208 S. 40th Street in University City on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Nab your ticket and reserve your spot now by clicking here.

At the bash, enjoy music and munchies, discounted drinks, and chances to bid on amazing silent auction items including full manuscript critiques by top New York literary agents and editors! (*Just added items to auction list: scholarship to the Backspace Conference in NY, and a chance to name a character in the upcoming thriller STIRRED by Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch!) Admission to the event, which is sponsored by the Liars Club, is $20, $10 for college students with I.D. All proceeds go toward the expenses of ill author, Liars Club member and wonderful friend Leslie Esdaile Banks (who writes under the name L.A. Banks). Leslie is battling a rare cancer.

At the Writers’ Bash on August 6th, in addition to $2 beers and $3 wines, there will be a special drink for the adventurous called “The Vamp,” dedicated to Leslie and her popular Vampire Huntress novels. And throughout the night, try your luck in a 50/50, and with inexpensive basket raffles. And don’t forget that impressive silent auction.

“The silent auction is going to be really exciting,” predicts Random House author and Liar Marie Lamba. Items include tickets and a backstage tour for Jersey Boys on Broadway; full scholarships to writer’s conferences such as Backspace; signed books by New York Times bestselling authors such as Charlaine Harris, Heather Graham and Sherrilyn Kenyon; and the coveted manuscript critiques offered by a number of New York editors and literary agents. Lamba says, “How much would you pay to have your full manuscript read by a top literary agent? And then have that agent give you a full critique over the phone? For us writers, that’s simply priceless.”

So far, we’ve got crits offered by editors from Pocket Books, St. Martins, and Ace/ROC. Literary agent crits hail from McIntosh & Otis, Harvey Klinger, Jennifer DeChiara Agency, the Bent Agency, and Folio. More great stuff keeps being added. To see the most up-to-date details of this event and the latest items added to the auction, click on the Writers’ Bash Details tab above, or click here.

“Personally, I’m really looking forward to the Bash, and getting to know even more writers and editors from our area,” says New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry. Maberry, who is a founding member of the Liars Club, went to Conwell Middle School with Leslie in Philly. “Leslie is an exceptional treasure. A warm and talented woman.”

L.A. Banks (right) with Merry Jones at one of our many high-spirited Liars Club talks

Leslie (L.A. Banks), a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, has written over 40 novels and 21 novellas. She was honored by the University of Pennsylvania Black Alumni Society as “A Living Legend,” and Mayor Nutter appointed her to the Philadelphia Free Library Board as a commissioner on the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy. In 2010, as a single mom and freelancer faced with a massive increase in her insurance bills, she fired off an eloquent email to the White House. President Barack Obama took notice, and Leslie had the distinct honor of introducing the President when he came to Philadelphia to talk about health care reform.

Ironically, just a few months ago Leslie learned she had late stage adrenal cancer, and that her insurance is inadequate, leaving her family facing massive expenses.

Leslie is a University City resident, and a Penn and Temple graduate. “She’s truly one of our own,” Maberry says, “and we hope everyone will come out in full force to Smokey Joes on the Penn campus to honor this amazing woman and help her family at this difficult time.”

“This will definitely be a red-hot meetup,” says Lamba. “A chance to network with the creative community, and do some good, too. So join the Liars Club and come hoist a cold one for Leslie. It’ll be a blast. Honest!”

Joe sez: If you can't attend, you can still help. They've set up Paypal donations for Leslie.

*Can’t make it to the bash, but want to help out? Then donate toward Leslie’s medical costs by clicking here: (Note, donations are not tax deductible.)

I donated $2000.00. But any amount is helpful.

I'll send a signed hardcover of Bloody Mary to anyone who donates $30 or more. Just forward your Paypal email receipt to me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thinking Global

I've touched on this before, but due to recent news I feel it needs to be addressed as its own blog post.

The recent news is that Amazon is launching Kindle in India early next year.

This comes on the heels of Amazon's Kindle launch in Germany a few months ago.

This is a Big Deal. And yet, the only writer I know of who has capitalized on it is Scott Nicholson, whose German translation of his thriller The Skull Ring (Der Schädelring) is now the #246 bestseller on the German Amazon website.

My own legacy published books have appeared in ten or eleven countries (possibly more--it's easy to lose track.) Foreign advances are usually small, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and most midlist writers just regard these as bonus income, if they're lucky enough to sell these right in the first place.

Kindle is going to change all of that. The Internet, and digital downloads, has allowed self-publishers to become part of a global economy. And the globe is much bigger than just the US, Canada, UK, and Oz.

In the past, foreign sales were small and largely out of an author's reach.

Times have changed. The potential to make money world-wide is an unprecedented opportunity for vast riches that makes current ebook sales pale by comparison. There are billions of people in 196 countries. More and more have acquired computers, cell phones, and mp3 players. Ereaders will come next.

Here's what we need to do:

Find translators. They're expensive, but it's a sunk cost, and ebooks will sell forever.


Let your estributor handle the translations. I have enough work on my plate just deal with English-speaking countries. If my agent, who is assuming some estributor responsibilities for me, can handle the translations and uploading to foreign territories, I'd offer more than 15% for that service.

This is low hanging fruit, waiting to be plucked, and no one is taking advantage of it. Foreign markets are going to be starved for good novels. Those who get in early, like Scott Nicholson, are going to make a fortune.

This is an even bigger deal than when Amazon launched the Kindle back in 2007. That gave writers an opportunity to bypass the clunky old gatekeeping system run by legacy publishers, and reach readers directly. Guess what? The gatekeeping sytem for foreign sales is even clunkier and more inefficient. You have to deal with multiple agents and publishers, I've never earned out a single foreign advance except for UK (no doubt due to the inability to track sales in foreign markets), and there are many countries I'm simply not available in because we never sold the rights.

Now distribution is going global, and the writer can be in charge. I joke that I spend a lot of time "managing my empire." When Kindle is available worldwide, it will indeed be an empire. I won't have 40 titles for sale. I'll have 4000.

Think about that. Forty ebooks available for sale in one hundred countries.

It will require work, and an initial investment, but I can't imagine a brighter future for the self-pubbed author.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Are You Writing?

I've got some bad news for you.

Right now, you're reading one of the most relevant, controversial, popular, and opinionated blogs about the world of publishing, and it is an epic fail on your part.

You want my sales. That's a statement, not a question. Or if you're dreaming even bigger, you want John Locke's or Amanda Hocking's sales. You want to make enough money to retire within the next 12 months. And you've dropped by my blog to learn how.

Maybe you've been following me for years. Maybe you just discovered me via a Twitter mention. Maybe you heard about me from a friend who said you should come here. If that's the case, your friend wasn't doing you any favors.

Because this blog is a time suck. There are hundreds of entries to read, and tens of thousands of comments. It's easy to get pulled in and waste hours, days, weeks.

Here's the bottom line: every minute you spend here is a minute you aren't spending on your writing.

You want my sales? I've got 40 different ebook titles currently selling. I'll have five more by the end of the year.

Amanda Hocking? Eleven so far. That Locke guy? Eleven. My writing partner Blake Crouch has more than 20 titles. That's why he's making over $30k a month, and you're not.

You'll notice Amanda doesn't comment here anymore, when she used to with regularity. Blake will pop in every once and a while and leave a comment, but he doesn't stick around.

That's because they're doing what you should be doing.

They're writing.

I'm lucky enough to be a full time writer, and I'm fast enough that I can waste my time here and still churn out more publishable words than most. And while it tickles me to get hundreds of comments to my posts, and though my message is no doubt being heard by many writers who are benefiting from it, the best thing you can do for your career isn't reading A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.

The best thing you can do is write. The more, the better.

How many words have you written today?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Be Deliberate

Don't write crap.

I've said this many times, but I believe it needs to be clarified.

Here's my succinct explanation:

Write deliberately.

Taste is subjective. But very few people are able to separate their feelings about something from the value it might actually have (as evidenced by the thought that went into it), simply because they can't perceive its value, or don't bother trying to perceive it.

Which is lazy. Or ignorant. Or outright stupid. Or some combination of all three

We can offhandedly say "That TV show sucks" simply because we don't like that type of show, or don't care for one of the actors on that show, or it didn't provoke emotion. But chances are high that the show doesn't actually suck, because there was a lot of work that went into it, by a lot of people who did their best. It takes a lot of dedicated folks a lot of hours to create a television show. That doesn't mean the show is automatically excellent, but knee-jerk or cavalier dismissal of something that took so much time shows little understanding of the creation process, and devalues it.

All opinions are valid, because you can't argue with subjectivity. But just because something doesn't work for you doesn't mean it doesn't work.

So I've begun taking a closer look at media that I both like and dislike, and have been searching for the thing that indicates quality, even if it isn't something I enjoy.

I believe that thing is deliberation.

Since I write fiction, let's focus on novels. According to my criteria, a novel is a success if:

1. The writer intentionally sets out to do something within the story.


2. As a result of deliberation and execution, the story meets the writer's expectations.

No story will ever meet all readers' expectations. Some readers don't even know what to look for. Some will confuse their personal taste with quality. Some form instant opinions based on misapprehension, bias, or false expectation.

But if a writer is completely aware of why they wrote what they wrote, and can explain the reason for every chapter, scene, and sentence, I'd call that deliberate, and by definition, it can't be crap.

It's similar to a pool shark running a table, calling his shots. If you call it, and make it, you're doing something right.

Of course, that means having an understanding of writing craft, but for the sake of this argument let's assume a base level of professionalism. To know craft is to intentionally use craft.

I've tried a few times to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I don't enjoy his prose, and believe he takes too long to get into conflict. But I'm betting this is deliberate on his part. He's not a newbie without a clue what he's doing. In fact, he knows exactly what he's doing. It just doesn't appeal to me. This doesn't make it crap, much as I don't like it.

An easy example of this is the story I wrote with Blake Crouch, Serial. As of this writing, that free story has gotten 139 one star reviews.

As I like to say, it's difficult to judge quality if you're an idiot.

In the case of Serial, I can safely qualify most of those one star reviewers as idiots, because they criticize the story for doing the exact things Blake and I want it to do. No one should be surprised that a story about two serial killers is violent and disturbing. But because it is free, and the description likely wasn't read before the one-click download, many readers were surprised by the content, and they responded with one-star reviews.

That's their problem, not the story's problem.

Conversely, we got hammered for being overly gory and gratuitous. This amuses me to no end, because Serial is purposely understated when it comes to the on-page mayhem. The prose is spare, not purple. We don't go into descriptive detail. We pull way, way back and let the reader fill in the blanks.

We did this deliberately. The fact that people imagine gore that isn't there is proof the writing works. If you don't like it, it doesn't mean the story sucks.

One of the deep-rooted problems in our society is how people form quick opinions without analyzing why they reached their conclusions. Then they'll defend those opinions without thinking. It's a basic flaw of human nature that most people would rather fight to the death for their beliefs before questioning them. The ability to change one's mind is a rare thing.

I understand that casual dismissal is necessary, to a degree. We're bombarded with choice, and we need to be able to quickly make decisions.

But casual dismissal coupled with the anonymity (and the cushion) of the Internet has turned a bunch of lazy morons into bitter critics who spout off their idiotic opinions without any sense to back them up.

Note I am spouting off my opinion here, but I'm backing it up with a clear trail of logic. I'm also keeping this argument general, rather than personal. Much as it might amuse me to attack specific people or reviews, you won't see me do much of that.

I don't like critics in general (I don't like awards either, but that's another rant.) But a good critic can remain somewhat objective.

The world wide web has spawned an unpleasant epidemic of idiots who are quick to criticize, insult, dismiss, and reject without any accountability. These folks really believe their nearsighted and downright idiotic opinions are not only correct, but need to be voiced in public.

Are you one of these idiots? I hope not. And if you are, I hope you have the capacity to change.

Here are some signs you might be an idiot.

If you've ever called someone a name without any provocation, you're probably an idiot.

If you think the world really cares about how much you hate something, you're probably an idiot.

If you've ever given a one-star review to anything, you're probably an idiot.

If you've ever posted anonymously, you're probably an idiot.

If you've ever casually dismissed something that others find value in, you're definitely an idiot.

If you talk before you think, you're definitely an idiot.

If you have a closed mind, you're definitely an idiot.

If this blog post makes you angry, you're definitely an idiot.

Now you might say, "Joe, but I've done one or more of these things. Does that mean I'm an idiot?"

Possibly not. True idiots usually aren't aware that they're idiots. But if you're doing a lot of the above, you aren't doing yourself any favors.

Remember how I said that writers should be deliberate?

That goes for everyone. We should all be self-aware. We should be deliberate in everything we do, including when we're being critical. Especially when we're being critical.

So, to recap:

If you're a writer, make sure you understand why you're writing what you write, and have a clear idea of what you want those words to do. Then you'll never write crap.

If you're a human being, make sure you truly understand why you say and do the things you say and do. An unexamined life ain't worth living. And an unexamined life that tweets or posts reviews on Amazon is a big waste of carbon. And oxygen.

There was no particular inciting event that made me go off on this rant. But I've seen too much stupidity on the Internets over the years, and the number of clueless morons seems to be rising.

Don't be a clueless moron, in your writing, or in your life.

Be deliberate. Everything you write, whether it be fiction or commentary, should be carefully thought through and intentional. If you ever dismiss something deliberate without being deliberate yourself, you're going to come off looking like an idiot.

And to my many critics: Disagreeing with me doesn't make you wrong. It's your inability to adequately articulate why you disagree with me that makes you wrong.

Being wrong is fine, if you learn from it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

One More Nail in the Coffin

Well, I took my first vacation in years, and now I'm back.

Actually, it wasn't all vacation time. Blake Crouch and I spent a week in a cabin writing STIRRED. But the week after I actually spent time with my family, and was pleased to find out some of them even remembered who I was.

During my absence, two interesting things happened.

1. My Amazon-published ebook SHAKEN hit the Top 100 again on the Kindle bestseller list. I can only attribute this to some promo Amazon did, since I was off the grid and not doing anything.

2. It looks like Borders is going to liquidate.

This quickly tells me two things that I suspected all along. First, that signing a publishing deal with Amazon is a good thing. Who ever heard of a publisher doing a marketing push nine months after the book came out?

As I'm fond of saying, ebooks are forever, and Amazon is happy to support a backlist that lasts for infinity.

Second, if Borders goes bye-bye, the death spiral I predicted is right on course.

Here's something I said in that blog post:

If the majority of bookstores close, the print midlist will probably disappear. Bestsellers will still be sold in big boxes and non-bookstore outlets, but if a book isn't a blockbuster, it likely won't be released in print.

Now, we can debate the health of indie bookstores, and the two remaining chains, B&N and Books-A-Million, but pretty much every account I've read says that print sales are down and ebook sales are up. I'm confident the end result is the Big 6 publishing fewer books in print, which means fewer print sales, which is bad for the publisher/bookseller bottom line.

Will ebook sales be able to save bookstores and publishers?

Not if authors continue to wise up and tell the Big 6 to take their 17.5% ebook royalties and choke on them.

Even if you are an optimist, it's tough to argue against three obvious points.

1. Print sales are falling.

2. Ebook sales are rising.

3. 70% royalty is more than 17.5% royalty.

The obvious and eventual conclusion to draw is that authors are going to continue to abandon the Big 6, except for a few bestselling names who will continue to move print through non-bookstore outlets.

The infrastructure as it exists cannot survive without the midlist, and the midlist is going the way of the dodo.

This will mean fewer books printed, fewer books sold, and fewer choices for readers until they're forced to buy an ereading device if they want to read anything other than Stephen King and James Patterson.

While on vacation, I took two Kindles. But my 13 year old son also wanted to read, and was using his iPhone Kindle app. After being stuck tethered to an outlet (the iPhone doesn't have the longest battery life) I went to Staples about bought one of those new ad-supported Kindles for him, for the measly price of $114. I got this version not because I'm cheap, but because I wanted to see how the "special offers" and "sponsored screen saver" works.

(Joe to Amazon: Let me get into this program and buy ads for my ebooks. I will pay you a lot of money to do so.)

My point? Kindles have dropped in price to the point where they've become disposable, like cell phones and laptops and digital cameras. Ever notice that you buy a new cell (or computer, or camera) every few years, even if your old one still works?

It's because new technology costs so little, and we've become conditioned to upgrading and replacing. Why repair a phone, or TV, or monitor, or printer, or any other piece of tech, when it is cheap and simple to buy a new one? Why stick with an outdated piece of tech when you can get the latest, improved model for less money than you paid for the previous version?

Why buy four hardcovers when you can get an ereader for the same price?

I have no doubt that by the end of the year, there will be many ereaders under the magic $99 price point. They're already showing up in department stores and drug stores, along with bookstores, office supply stores, and electronics stores. Google is releasing a new ereading device. This is the future, and it will become widely adopted, and everyone knows it. Soon, readers won't even have a choice.

Everyone, except the booksellers who refuse to sell ebooks (or Amazon-published books), the Big 6 who continue to fleece authors and customers with low royalties and high ebook prices, and an ever-shrinking group of authors with Stockholm Syndrome who remain tied to the old ways.

I know I keep beating this drum, but unfortunately I'm forced to because even though this is old news for my regular blog readers, it continues to be new news for hundreds of authors on a daily basis. While on vacation I was bombarded with thank-you emails from authors who are either giving self-publishing a try, or have self-pubbed and sold a lot of ebooks. I even got a call from a notable author, asking specific questions about how to get started.

This message needs to be repeated, over and over and over, because there are still thousands of authors who spend their hard-earned $$$ on conventions that supposedly teach them how to write killer query letters.

Ack. That's so 2009. So is crossing your fingers, hoping your publisher is smart enough to buy the next book in your series when all the other books have made money. Hint: your publisher isn't smart enough.

So here is my advice:

To booksellers: Read my blog entry about surviving in this new publishing climate. You need to start working with authors and selling self-pub.

To publishers: Lower your ebook prices and raise your ebook royalties, or you're over.

To writers: Don't take any publishing deal for less than life-changing money, and make sure you get that money upfront. Otherwise, self-publish. Or sign with Amazon.

Yes, I know this horse is dead. But I have to keep beating it until everyone hears the message.

And to those folks who think that other bookstores will fill the void left by Borders, and the status quo will remain intact, I admire your optimism.

I also have some junk bonds I'd be happy to sell you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ann Voss Peterson Interviews M.J. Rose

My writing partner Ann Voss Peterson (Flee, Wild Night is Calling, Babe on Board) recently interviewed self-publishing entrepreneur and marketing guru MJ Rose, and I'm pleased to post it here on my blog.

Rose's terrific thriller THE HALO EFFECT is now 99 cents on Amazon. I encourage folks to check it out. Now here's Ann and MJ...

Ann: First I have to make a confession. I talked Joe into letting me do this interview because I’m a big fan. I have your Butterfield Institute novels on my keeper shelf, and they’re some of the most suspenseful, sensual, gritty and emotional books I’ve ever read. So I’m excited to hear that you’ve self published THE HALO EFFECT, THE DELILAH COMPLEX and THE VENUS FIX as ebooks (Halo is 99 cents, the others are $2.99 each.) For those out there who aren’t familiar with sex therapist Dr. Morgan Snow and Detective Noah Jordain, can you tell them a bit about the series?

MJ: Thanks, Ann. As an author (and a terrific one) I know you know how much your kind words mean to me. Nothing is as wonderful as meeting a fan – even in email. :) So thanks for asking Joe and having me on your keeper shelf – I’m honored.

There are three books in this series – so far. Dr. Morgan Snow – or Dr. Sin as her fourteen-year-old handful of a daughter calls her- is a sex therapist in New York City - which is very much a character, too.

In each book, Morgan struggles with the conflict of preserving her patient's privacy and the dangerous and sometimes criminal things she hears.

Noah Jordain is a detective with the sex crimes unit in NYC, so their paths cross quite a bit.

They’re both pretty damaged and troubled in their own right and that’s not helped by what they deal with every day in their jobs.

On Morgan’s part she sees everything from the abused to the depraved, from couples grappling with sexual boredom to twisted sociopaths with dark, erotic fetishes, and the Butterfield Institute is the sanctuary where she helps soothe and heal these battered souls.

Ann: You are not new to the world of self publishing, in fact you were a bit of a pioneer. What was it like to self publish your novel LIP SERVICE in 1998? And how is coming back to self publishing the same/different now?

MJ: 1998 was the dark ages.

I had an agent and two finished and unsold novels. Publishers had been really excited about them but ultimately too uncomfortable with my genre-bending writing to bite. They wanted me to write either this kind of book or that kind. Not a bit of both.

They said there was no way to market a book that was so hard to categorize.

I was in advertising and didn’t like the words never or no.

So my idea was to print a few copies and offer an electronic download all in an effort to run an advertising experiment and see if I could figure out how to market the book.

I had no sense I was doing anything terrible.

But self publishing had quite a stigma. My agent was furious with me and we split over my decision.

My friends thought I was nuts.

Everyone told me people would think I was self publishing because I was a failure and that no one would ever take me seriously.

I remember one day that winter standing in the snow outside a bookstore in my tiny town and bursting into tears. I’d asked the owner if I could give her a copy and she wouldn’t even turn around and face me – “I don’t look at self-published books,” she’d said with utter derision.

I was such a neophyte – I’d had no idea self publishing had such a bad connotation. I had so many friends who were artist and indy film makers – individuals all who operated creatively and on their own. I didn’t see what I was doing as being very different.

The other thing that was so new was the internet. I’d gone on line in 1994 and been fascinated from the beginning with the marketing opportunities I imagined. So I was most excited about my electronic download - my book was an ebook before the phrase really existed.

The only place to even sell the electronic book was from my own website. And the only place I could sell the printed versions was Amazon – they’d just started the Advantage program for anyone with a book, an ISBN, and a dream.

No one was more surprised than me when the book started really selling. Or when, within six months, Lip Service became the first self-published book and the first ebook discovered online to go on to be traditionally published.

The publishing world could not be more different today. In a lot of ways it’s very gratifying. The world many of us – Douglas Clegg, Seth Godin, Doug Ruskoff and others – envisioned,is here.

As I’m answering this, one of the richest writers in the world announced she was self publishing. Times sure have changed since I stood outside that bookstore in the snow.

In many ways it has never been more difficult to make a living as writer as it is today and in other ways it’s never been more exciting. The rules have all been bent or broken and the future is wide open to anyone with a good idea and time and energy to devote.

Ann: What tips would you give someone who is considering self publishing?

MJ: Do you have a week?

But seriously - I think the most important advice is the same no matter how you are being published… it’s all about the book.

You have to write the absofuckinglutely the best book you can.

Readers have such a huge choice when it comes to what to buy. And they don’t have to buy blind. They can read excerpts, reviews, etc. So whether you self or trad publish your book is going to sell because it captures the reader. Because it makes them want to keep reading. Nothing else matters. And there are no shortcuts to that. Find your voice. Find your métier. Do the best you can.

Ann: As a follower of your blog,, I know you have many thoughts on the current state of publishing. Care to share some of those thoughts here?

MJ: I have been saying this since the early 2000s– writing is an art but publishing is a business and an oft broken business at that.

We are in the middle of a total revolution – which is always the most difficult period to live through. Even the best minds who think they know what is going to happen - don’t. There are no good guys and bad guys here. There are a lot of people trying to keep up with the changes – adapt – and succeed. Some are managing that. Others aren’t. It’s the wild west in so many ways.

When I was in advertising my boss used to say that when the creative department – the men and women who wrote and art directed the ads—left for the day, the company’s inventory walked out the door.

That’s why writers will survive no matter what.

Publishers need books to publish. Editors need books to edit. Agents need books to sell. Readers need books to read. Booksellers need books to sell.

At the same time it’s dangerous for us writers to think we don’t need any of those people. I have so much respect for Amanda Hocking. I’ve been on both sides of the publishing /self-publishing paradigm and am here again, and she’s right – it takes a ton of effort and is an amazing amount of work to do it on your own. And it’s not for everyone.

For instance –I would never try to publish without a terrific editor. I can’t see my own mistakes. I can’t get the distance needed to make the book the best it can be.

Everyone needs to figure out what they are good at and what they aren’t - no one can do it all. Being an auteur sounds sexy but it’s not always smart.

Ann: You have an advertising background and provide a treasure trove of information to authors looking to market their books, from AuthorBuzz to your fabulous blog. Can you tell us a little bit about these resources?

MJ: No one can buy a book they never heard of... and once I got into publishing I realized how few people were hearing about so many books.

So I started teaching authors about guerilla marketing and how to do more fortheir books. But ultimately I realized marketing – like anything else – is a learned discipline. Writing ads that work isn’t easy. Not every author is good at self-promotion. Not every author can do or wants to do what needs to be done.

So in 2005, I started AuthorBuzz - the first marketing company for authors.

I was lucky – it was the right idea at the right time I had the right skill set- I understood Internet marketing and had a strong knowledge of the world of publishing and a deep background in theadvertising world.

What we do at AuthorBuzz is try to do is come up with ways to do promote books in the most economical way.

Ann: A little while ago, there was a big discussion here on Joe’s blog about writing organizations and their attitudes toward self-published writers. You are a founding member of International Thriller Writers. Can you tell us about the organization’s take on self-publishing?

MJ: I am not speaking for the ITW board here, but I am a past ITW board member and still active in the organization.

What most people don’t know is how open to self publishing ITW is – in fact ITW itself has self published.

In 2008, we did a unique publishing deal with Audible – breaking ground with The Chopin Manuscript – an original audio book which went on to win the Audio Book of the Year award for 2008.

We then self published the ebook of Chopin in July of that year.

When it comes to membership, ITW does not exclude self-pubbed authors out of hand. Anyone can apply. Many have and many have been accepted. Some have not.

As writers we want things to change as fast as we can rewrite a sentence – but organization and companies need to work through certain issues. ITW is committed to being innovative and be supportive of writers and I expect they will continue to look at this issue and figure out the best way to help authors.

Ann: You’ve most recently written the fascinating Reincarnationist series (THE REINCARNATIONIST, THE MEMORIST, and THE HYPNOTIST). What’s next for you? Would you consider self-publishing new stories (like more Butterfield Institute books? hint, hint)?

MJ: My next book will be published in March of 2012 – The Book of Lost Fragrances. And yes I would consider doing more Butterfield books – I’d love to – I have to see how these books work first. If they do really well – hint, hint – I think I’ll be able to pick up the series again.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Tsunami of Crap

Some people believe the ease of self-publishing means that millions of wannabe writers will flood the market with their crummy ebooks, and the good authors will get lost in the morass, and then family values will go unprotected and the economy will collapse and the world will crash into the sun and puppies and kittens by the truckload will die horrible, screaming deaths.

Or something like that.

This is bullshit, of course. A myth. A fabrication. One rooted in envy and fear.

Readers aren't the ones worried about the scores of new ebooks being released. They have no need to be worried. There are already billions of books in the world. A few more million won't make a difference.

Readers are able to find what they want, quite easily. They can go into a bookstore and come out with a purchase, even though that store stocks 150,000 titles. They can go into a library, and ten minutes later walk out with a handful of books that interest them.

There are millions of websites, and YouTube videos, and things to buy on There are thousands of choices on cable TV and Netflix and Hula. Yet we're always able to find gems.

No, the readers don't care if some moron uploads his ten-years-in-the-making opus "Me and My Boogers: A Love Story." They'll be able to avoid it just by looking at the crummy cover art, the poor description, and the handful of one star reviews.

Readers don't care if something is self-pubbed or not. They've read books they don't like by legacy publishers, and they may find books they don't like by indie authors, but they aren't going to give up reading. In fact, they're going to help each other find good things to read. is a perfect example of readers becoming gatekeepers, sharing reviews and recommendations.

Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention knows that ereaders are actually increasing the number of books bought, and causing people to read more. There aren't droves of readers ditching their Kindles because they bought a bad indie ebook. Rather, there are hundreds of new ereaders and many thousands of new ebooks sold every day.

So readers aren't the ones perpetuating this stupid myth that the crap will destroy the world. It's the writers--specifically the legacy writers--who keep trotting this one out.

The reason for it is disappointingly obvious. Legacy writers no longer feel special, because now anyone with a book can sell it. Even worse, they can sell it for cheap, and get higher royalty rates, meaning these pretenders to the throne can actually make more than those who "earned" their spots in the pecking order by kissing legacy butt and waving around their rejections as badges of honor.

These authors fear loss of income, and are envious of the ease in which indies can self-publish and the money they can earn. But saying that out loud would make them look petty.

So instead, they cloak their fear and envy in a poorly constructed argument that says their real intent is protecting readers from crap.

Newsflash: there has always been crap, and always will be crap. Get over it.

Whenever someone feels the need to make decisions for me because I'm apparently incapable of doing it myself, it irks me. I can decide by myself who to sleep with, what to smoke, what God to worship (or not worship), and what to read. I don't need anyone to protect me from indie ebooks, and neither does anyone else.

If you're really worried about readers being subjected to crap, here's what you can do:


But enough with the whining about it. It makes you look silly.