Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jacked Up with Tracy Sharp

A while back I decided to allow other authors to write books in my universe, using my characters. I've gotten sixteen short stories and two novels so far. I'm hoping to get them all published in November.

The very first story, JACKED UP!, is live right now. It was written by Tracy Sharp, and features her character Leah Ryan (from the novels REPO CHICK BLUES, FINDING CHLOE, and DIRTY BUSINESS).

Currently, all four titles are only 99 cents each, for a limited time.

Here's the jacket copy:

Leah Ryan used to steal cars for a living. A former repo chick, she'd hung up her lock picks for a new career as a private eye. But when her old boss calls up with an offer to repossess a Rolls Royce, the thrill-seeker in Leah can't refuse.

Things get crazy and dangerous when Leah's trip to Chicago turns out to be more than just a simple boost. As the dead bodies start piling up, she runs afoul with a homicide cop named Lt. Jack Daniels, and her uncouth ex-partner, Harry McGlade.

JACKED UP! teams up Tracy Sharp's unorthodox heroine with J.A. Konrath's stalwart cop, in an action-packed, hilarious mystery-thriller.

This short novel is 20,000 words long (about 75 pages), and is a great introduction to the worlds of Leah Ryan and Jack Daniels, while also being a treat for longtime fans of both series. 

Warning: Contains what may be the funniest sex scene ever written. And a ninja.

Joe: So tell us about Leah Ryan.

Tracy: Thanks for having me, Joe. Leah Ryan is a woman with a shady past. She’s a former car thief who spent time in juvee. She was a repossession agent whose work lead to the discovery of some pretty shady dealings, which led her to private detective work. She’s a basically good person with a bit of a bent moral compass.

Leah doesn’t flinch in the face of danger, and actually enjoys the adrenalin rush. She has a knack for finding it. Or it finds her. She hates bullies and the exploitation of people who can’t fight for themselves, and so she often ends up in really precarious situations trying to right wrongs or bring some bad guy to justice. Someone always ends up dead.

Joe: What's your publishing experience?

Tracy: Besides the Leah books, I’ve also written a YA horror novel called Spooked, a horror short story called Camilla, and a horror novel called Soul Trade.

The Leah books were published by two small presses. When the last small press went under, another publisher was taking them over. I had the option to go with the new publisher if I wanted to, but decided to go it on my own. I’d been following Joe’s blog for a while, and I was inspired. It was the best decision I could’ve made. I’ve done far better on my own than I ever did with a publisher. I’m certainly not rich, but I’ve definitely done better.

Joe: I've heard the Leah books were originally erotica. True or false?

Tracy: Actually, Repo Chick Blues wasn’t erotica. But I sent the book to a the publisher a friend of mine was with, not realizing that they did “romantica.” The editor loved the book and said that if I added five sex scenes she’d publish it. Finding Chloe came a year later. Same thing. I wrote the book, added five sex scenes. It was pretty seamless, actually, but the books definitely stood alone, without the sex.

I wrote Dirty Business for Nanowrimo, and sent it to another publisher, who didn’t push the sex as much, so Dirty was much more tame.

Still, the Leah books were never originally meant to be that steamy, so I’ve taken out the really graphic stuff and toned down the steamy stuff considerably. Much of it is suggested, now.

Joe: What's Jacked Up about?

Jacked Up brings Leah to Chicago to repossess a Rolls Royce, the owner of whom hasn’t been seen or heard from in a while. During the repossession of the Rolls, the body of an aspiring model is discovered in the car. This puts Leah under the scrutiny of the Chicago Police Department, and Lt. Jack Daniels. Jack tells Leah to leave her city, but of course, Leah won’t go. She instead pairs up with Jack’s nemesis and ex-partner, Harry McGlade, to investigate the murder on their own. The intensity just jacks up from there.

Joe: What was it like writing for Konrath's characters?

Tracy: It was a complete blast. I loved it. I’ve been reading the Jack Daniels series for years, and I have always loved them. Especially Harry. He actually makes me laugh so hard that I can’t breathe. I have such a fondness for these characters that my only fear was whether or not I’d able to do them justice. But Joe an excellent mentor and he jumps in whenever needed. Nobody writes Harry like Joe, so it was important for him to take over for Harry. I was thrilled by what he came up with for Leah, too. He speaks her voice perfectly!

Joe: What's it like working with Konrath?

Tracy: Oh, he’s brutal. My eyes are still puffy and red from all the crying. I’m still deaf from all the screaming.

Just kidding. In a word, awesome. Joe is extremely easy to work with, and he’s clear about what he wants from a writer and the project. He’s open to ideas and is excellent at building on them. He’s a master plotter, so if you get stuck, he is absolutely the guy to talk to. He’s so approachable, and makes it so easy. He is far more than fair and he’s funny, too!

And as I said, Joe writes Leah fantastically. The story is seamless. I think we collaborate very well. Also, I’m easygoing and really open to suggestions too, so that helps as well.

Joe: Will you work with him again, even though he talks about himself in the third person?

Tracy: Absolutely. I’m so excited about working with Joe. I adore the Jack Daniels universe, and being able to bring my characters in with Joe’s has been a dream come true for me. I’m really over the moon about it. It’s been so much fun! I am already working on the next project. Was that good, Joe? Don’t whip me again, ‘kay? I promise I’ll do better! (Jk!)

Joe: What's next for Tracy Sharp?

Tracy: Joe and I are collaborating on a full-length Jack Daniels/Leah Ryan novel, which I’m really jazzed about. I love the idea of bringing more characters from Leah’s world into the Jack Daniels universe. So much fun and just so very cool.

After that, a new Leah Ryan novel. I’ve had an idea floating around my brain for about six years and I tried it with other characters, but it’s a Leah book. I actually have two ideas I’d like to bring together in that book. It’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds. Sometimes stories tend to write themselves. They don’t always behave, and that’s a good thing.

Joe sez: Please buy all four books. One of the big reasons I decided to work with other writers is to cross-pollinate our fan bases, so it would mean a lot to me to see Tracy's backlist get a sales boost. She's good. You'll like her stuff.

Besides Tracy, I've finished five other collaboration projects that will be released within the next week. They average from 10k to 20k words.

I've been busy with other projects (namely Naughty) which took longer than expected, so I apologize to the authors have waited two months for me to get to them. But I'm quickly catching up.

Here's how my process works, for the curious and for those who are considering working with me.

When an author submits a story, my wife reads it and decides if my fans would like it. If she thinks they will, I read the story and begin to edit, polish, and rewrite. On average I contribute about 20% to 35% to the story. I usually wind up adding a few thousand words, mostly to my characters. Mainly dialog, and plot. I change very little of my collaborator's prose, unless I feel it is absolutely necessary, and then I usually explain why I did what I did.

When I finish my part, the writer gets the story back and accepts or rejects what I've done. Sometimes we discuss cover art concepts, but the final say is mine because I'm paying for all costs out of pocket. So far no one has been unhappy with my rewrite or the covers. I don't recoup my costs. As soon as the book begins earning money, we split the profits 50/50. So the co-writer is in the black immediately, and I have to wait for the book to sell enough copies for me to earn out my investment. With cover art, proofing, and formatting, my investment is about $800 a title.

Then we sign the collaboration agreement, and the story is sent to my agent to upload. The co-writer can cancel the agreement at any time, for any reason. The co-writer decides on the cost of the book, and the platforms it appears on. My agent pays us each monthly.

So far, this has been a ridiculous amount of fun for me. Seeing what other writers do with my characters is a joy, and getting our IPs to interact should be a lot of fun for fans. Every writer I've worked with has been professional, pleasant, and laid back.

Hopefully this will continue to be win-win. I get to release titles a lot faster than I could on my own, my co-writers get a sales books from my brand and platform, and hopefully a lot of my fans go on to read their series.

The final result, after doing this for a year, will be unique to the publishing world. There will be, literally, a minimum of thirty different writers' universes all linked through me. The hundreds of thousands of Jack Daniels fans will not only get more Jack Daniels, but they'll have dozens of new series to try.

But it's not just a linear progression. It's more like a woven tapestry. Tracy Sharp fans will discover Jude Hardin, and his fans will discover Bernard Schaffer and Iain Rob Wright, whose fans will discover Joshua Simcox and Garth Perry, who will then get turned on to Blake Crouch and Ann Voss Peterson and Henry Perez and Jeff Strand and Tom Schreck and F. Paul Wilson. Every new collaboration is another chance for readers to discover dozens of authors who write the kinds of things they like.

Eat your heart out Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Readers are desperate for good books, and hopefully this multiverse will be fun for them to explore, while also boosting sales across the board.

I urge readers and writers alike to support this endeavor by spreading the word and buying books, and I encourage writers to keep sending me stories, and I encourage the writers I've worked with to work with each other. As long as quality control is maintained, and good stories are being released, the opportunities are endless.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guest Post by K.D. Lovgren

These are the things I tell myself while I write a novel. This is my wiser self, speaking to the one who flails about and doesn’t believe. This is what works for me. Want to eavesdrop?

Get in the bubble. The bubble where you can get lost in another world.

Go to a music service that lets you create a playlist. Think about the scene you want to write. Choose a playlist of a bunch of songs that create the mood you want for that scene. Name the playlist your story’s name.

Put in the earphones. Press play.

Open writing software. Hold the scene in your head, the one that inspired you, that bit of dialogue or image of a character or location. Begin writing out of the mood inspired by the music and the image in your head.

Is the music not jibing? Go back and mess with the playlist. Get it right.

Each story, sometimes even each important character, might have a different type of music.

Get to the place where you’re not thinking about what’s next. Get caught up in a tide of movement impelling the story forward, effortless and in the dream.

This is the shift from the analytical mind, the critical mind, to the freer-flowing, associative brain. Shed the to-do list, the thoughts of others, anticipation and regret, and live in a present that allows the story to take over. It’s a pleasurable state, but that’s an afterthought. It’s being suspended in time, in a state of flow, as described by Milhaly Csiksentmilhaly in his book Flow.

Let the story lead you, instead of pushing it where you think it should go. When you have to force it, over and over again, butt your head against character and plot issues, you’re not letting a deeper knowledge take over, the part of you that knows better than your everyday self. Take off the daily thinking cap. Access the deeper fount of creation.

If you need a reassuring voice, remember the books that helped you get a feel for what is necessary:

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

Remember the ingredients for that atmosphere of creation:

A comfortable chair with lower back support and an ottoman to put your feet up. A place to rest your elbows while you type.

A playlist which creates a mood for what you’re writing. More important than lyrics or type of music is the feeling it creates when you listen to it.

A pleasing spot to rest your eyes when you look up from the screen.

A drink to hand, tissues, lip balm, etc—whatever means you won’t have to get up unnecessarily and break the dream.

That’s it.

With that, you’re ready to fly.

When you get to the editing phase, remember well. This can be a treacherous swamp, with many “fool’s self-chosen snares.”

Back story, cut it out. Too much exposition, cut it out. Stuff you needed to know to write the story but the reader has no need for, cut it out. When in doubt, cut it out. Sentences that you think are lyrical masterpieces, cut them out.

Be wary of what you love as much as what you loathe. Therein is the tricky balance: you must be dispassionate, as an editor of yourself. You must cut out like a surgeon those parts that your instinct tells you do not belong. You must have a longer vision, not the close-up worriting of the copyeditor, but the long-sighted view of a detached observer.

You may hate your work, at this stage. You may hear a voice that says it’s stupid, juvenile, embarrassing, and pointless. Do not listen to that voice. That voice is as untrustworthy as the one that tells you it’s wonderful. Ignore the hyperbole on each side and continue to be the dispassionate god of your world, doing only what is necessary.

Let go of perfectionism. Professional will suffice. The perfect manuscript is by its nature unpublished. Give your work. The circle is complete when the story is re-created in the mind of the reader: a collusion between writer and reader. Let it go so you can get the gift back in what you learn from giving it.

K.D. Lovgren is the author of novels Sea Change and Photographic.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Naughty Questions with Konrath and Peterson

Ann Voss Peterson: To shake things up a little, I'm going to ask the questions this time and put Joe on the spot. So Joe, tell us about Naughty, the 30,000 word prequel to the Codename: Chandler series. (Available now on Kindle for $2.99)

Joe Konrath: Naughty is the third prequel (following Hit and Exposed) to the Chandler trilogy. These short novels lead up to the events in Flee, Spree, and Three.

It follows a similar formula to the others in the series; a spy faces impossible odds, nonstop action, sex, and violence ensue. Think a female James Bond, but with a much faster pace.

Ann: I wrote the lion's share of Exposed and Hit, the other two prequels. So Naughty was your turn to do the heavy lifting. What was it like to make bad girl Hammett the heroine of her own story?

Joe: It's a challenge to make a villain into the main protagonist. I did something similar in my Jack Daniels novel Cherry Bomb, where fully half the book was in the killer's point of view. But those scenes were balanced with Jack chasing the bad guy.

Hammett is the bad guy for the trilogy, and the reader should justifiably fear her in Flee, Spree, and Three. But in Naughty, she's the protag. I couldn't make her too heroic, because she's psychotic. But I also couldn't make her too evil, because then the readers would be detached.

So it was a tightrope walk between being too extreme and not extreme enough. Hammett does some terrible things in this story, but she does them to terrible people. Hopefully she's compelling enough to carry the story, and readers will root for her, but then root against her in the later books.

Ann: You've mentioned that Heath is your favorite of all the characters I've created (Hit, Three), and he makes an appearance in Naughty, too. I thought you did a great job. What did you enjoy most about writing him? Least?

Joe: Thanks for the compliment. Heath is a terrific character—a Mexican assassin who is charming, funny, sexy, and very dangerous. I did a Heath scene in Hit (when he and Chandler played blackjack) and wrote some of his lines in Three, but this was the first time I got to do whatever I wanted to with him. Which, predictably, resulted in a shootout and an extended sex scene.

Heath provides some much-needed humor in Naughty, as well as some much-needed heat. It's a lot of fun, as an author, to make the reader feel different things. Fear, joy, surprise, arousal, sadness, laughter. What makes Heath such a great character is that he has an unusual ability to amuse, titillate, shock, and excite, often on the same page. Most characters aren't that versatile.

The only thing I don't like about Heath is that you created him, not me, so I can't write a novel with him as the hero. That would be a lot of fun.

Ann: Naughty also features the other four sisters to Hammett, Chandler, and Fleming; Ludlum, Forsyth, Clancy, and Follett. And we get to see them in action.

Joe: Without spoiling anything for new readers, this series is about a secret government agency called Hydra that trains spies to become super-assassins. I felt like there was a lot of juicy backstory that we didn't get in the novel trilogy, so it was fun to revisit these characters in the prequel trilogy. As a result, they become fleshed-out, and readers learn a lot more about the world they inhabit.

Ann: You've written some sex in our other books, even though readers often assume I wrote it all. In this story, you wrote all the sex, with just a few additions from me. Do you like writing sex scenes? What do you think sex adds to a thriller?

Joe: Sex scenes are really entertaining to write, and I hope my enthusiasm comes through in the final product. But unless you're specifically writing erotica, the sole purpose of which is to arouse, then the sex has to be more than just friction and fluids.

In Naughty, there are two sex scenes, a brief one early on and then one later that's about 2000 words long. They help establish the kind of person Hammett is. They also further the plot and create an internal conflict in Hammett—something that gives her the opportunity to change and grow. A good character is a dynamic one; she has to change as a consequence of the plot.

The longer sex scene was unusual in that the point was competition—both characters are trying to make the other orgasm first. Their competitive nature was established earlier, and this was an obvious, and needed, escalation of that.

As I mentioned earlier, and many times on the blog, stories are way for readers to vicariously and safely experience emotion. I love to make readers laugh. I love to scare readers. I also love to turn readers on.

And I think I'm getting pretty good at it. My secret pen name writes erotica (as many of you have suspected) and those books have been getting great reviews and are selling well.

In thrillers, which are all about quick pacing and suspense and action, sex adds another layer of urgency and playfulness to the story. Reading about Hammett killing bad guys and kicking ass is entertaining, and adding some mind-blowing, over-the-top sex makes her character, and the story, more like the thrill ride it is meant to be.

I've read reviews of the Chandler books—all of which have some hot love scenes in them—from readers who felt the sex wasn't needed. And then they blame you for it, Ann, since you've written thirty romantic suspense novels.

I find these reviews fascinating. People are okay with us torturing someone for information, but consensual sex between two adults makes them upset.

Sex is the reason all of us are here. Sex is one of the most fun things you can do. If you don't like fiction that gets you aroused, there are plenty of other things to read.

Just remember this important point: if you read the sex scene and are offended, blame Ann.

Ann: Whenever I talk to authors who have self-published or are considering it, they overwhelmingly focus on the business end of publishing; namely self-promotion, sales numbers, and reviews. Are those the measures of success we should be focusing on? Shouldn't the actual writing be somewhere on the priority list?

Joe: You and I have talked extensively about this. I've also had similarly long discussions with Blake Crouch.

I wrote a blog post called Quitter Quitter that explained how difficult this business is, how luck plays a huge part, and how there are no guarantees. In the comments, a few writers admitted they were quitting. But the reason why they're quitting is interesting. To paraphrase, they're quitting because they aren't selling well.

This really intrigues me, because I understand it. But it also runs counter to why I became a writer in the first place.

Way back when I was a kid, I wrote for the sheer pleasure of it. I loved making up stories. Then I shared those stories with my very tolerant friends and family, and took pleasure from their enjoyment of my work.

But the end goal was to do this as a job. And once I began to make money, my mindset changed. I began to judge my successes and failures not by how much I liked writing the story, or how much my peers liked it, but instead by how many copies it sold, and how many good reviews it got.

I think most writers fall into this trap—and it is a trap. You go from writing for yourself, to writing for the market. And when the market isn't meeting your expectations, you get frustrated and unhappy.

I'm trying to get back into my original mindset, and write for the sheer joy of it. When I abandoned legacy publishing, I abandoned a lot of the bad stuff associated with it: deadlines, forced edits, word length, bad covers, title changes, lengthy time to publication, book tours, and the biggest one of all; the necessity for my latest book to outsell my previous book or else I'd be dropped.

Now that I self-publish, I no longer have to deal with all of that negative stuff. But I still vary the biggest baggage from those days—I'm still worried about sales. So I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to increase sales, wondering why some sales drop off, trying to figure out some basic rules for selling as many books as possible.

And I learned something profound. NO ONE knows why some books sell and others don't.

Since that's the case, I try to no longer worry about sales. I write what I want to, market to the best of my ability, and then it is out of my hands. Either the book will do well, or it won't.

But if it doesn't do well, so what? I still enjoyed writing it. Maybe it will find an audience next year, or after I'm dead. That's beyond my control. What's within my control is to keep writing.

I'll never stop writing, even if my sales all dry up. I love it too much. And while I treat writing as a business, I refuse to let the business aspect become the reason I write.

Ann: Every time we release a book, we recap what we have coming up. I looked back on a few of those interviews and noticed that we are a bit behind on our promises. For instance, I'm still working on my follow up to Pushed Too Far (now titled Burned Too Hot) and it seems to be taking me forever. Life gets in the way. The rest of the business gets in the way. Any advice on how to balance everything and focus on the writing?

Joe: Heh, you asked me that because you know how chaotic my life is, and how thin I'm spreading myself.

The chaos is self-inflicted, and having too many things to do is a quality problem to have. I'd certainly never complain that I have too much to do.

My ever-present goal is to stay on top of things as they pile up, so I'm never overwhelmed by them. I wish I could work faster and get more done, but I'm only one person and things take as long as they take. Lately, I'm trying to focus on one project at a time, get it done, and immediately jump onto the next project. I've got 14 more Jack Daniels collaborations to edit and release, and I apologize to all those writers whose stories I've accepted, because it's taking longer than I want it to. But when I do get to your story, it will have my full attention, and the end result will be worth the wait.

I don't believe in balance. I equate it with complacency. So instead, I bite off more than I can chew to see if I can handle it. That way, I'm constantly trying to do more, to get better. If my life were balanced, I wouldn't be challenging myself, and I think that taking on more and more is one of the reasons I'm successful.

Ann: So what do you have coming up?

Joe: I hope to get a dozen Jack Daniels collaboration stories up by the end of the year, including a novel I'm doing with Blake Crouch to wrap up the Luther Kite/ Lucy & Donaldson saga. In 2014, I'm going to write a sequel to Origin, the third Timecaster novel, and perhaps the fourth Chandler novel.

Ann: The Codename: Chandler series can be read in any order, and it isn't necessary to read everything to enjoy any story by itself. But if you're a reader who digs reading in chronological order, it goes:


Flee, Spree, and Three all take place in the same week, and Hit, Exposed, and Naughty take place prior to that trilogy.

The prequels can also be read after the trilogy, as the prequels might contain some minor spoilers. If you don't like spoilers, read them as:


Joe: They can also be read alphabetically, but I can't think of a single advantage to that. But if you're OCD, go for it. And when you're finished, come over to my house and organize my sock drawer.

Ann: Soon we'll release a paper edition of the three prequels, along with an ebook box set. The three novels are also available as a collection. What is the advantage of offering box sets?

Joe: The more virtual shelf space you have, the likelier you are at being discovered. So make your novels into box sets, release shorts singly and as collections, and join forces with other authors to exchange fans.

I've noticed that certain readers tend to buy at certain price points. Some may not think anything less than $9.99 is worthwhile, so make sure you have ebooks available at that price. Some don't ever want to spend more than 99 cents, so make sure you have ebooks in that range too.

The goal is to have so many titles available, at some many different prices, that you have something to offer every reader. That's one of the reasons why I hop around in different genres. Besides being fun, it also lets me reach readers who aren't interested in my other work.

Ann: I also want to mention that Flee, Spree, and Three are only $2.00 each for the month of October, so now's a good time to grab them. And check out Hammett's story in Naughty. It's only $2.99.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Guest Blog by Birgit Kluger

How to sell your English ebook in the German market

My name is Birgit Kluger and I have been a writer since more than a decade. For a living I write about various topics such as logistics, project management and marketing. For fun –and hopefully one day for a living- I write ChickLit, Fantasy and Mystery novels.

My latest book combines these two areas since I am trying to help authors market their English books in Germany. The idea grew with my own attempts at marketing the English version of my Fantasy novel in the US and UK market. Something that was harder than I first thought.

I know I was being naive but I figured what –still- works in Germany, would also be successful in other countries. Which is why I started a free KDP promotion, the giving away of free ebooks on Amazon by signing exclusively with Amazon for 90 days.

I did the usual: Contacted some websites and Facebook pages that feature free books, twittered about my promotion and then waited to see how many downloads I would get.

The results were sobering. After three days I didn’t even have a hundred downloads. It took me a while to find out that you have to be listed with either Pixel of Ink, Ereader News Today or Bookbub to attract readers to a FREE book.

Would have been good to get information about these things, BEFORE starting the promo. My next attempts were more successful but unfortunately Amazon had changed the algorithms again, so despite the fact that I had 16,000 downloads I didn’t sell many books afterwards. Again, the information would have been helpful to have.

The good thing about these experiences was that I started marketing my English book in Germany with considerably better results. Why? Because I know the German book market very well. My ChickLit/Mystery book was the top 100 Kindle Charts for more than two months and in its Genre charts for more than a year.

I tried various marketing tools as well as selling exclusively on Amazon and using an Aggregator to reach more shops. I did blog tours, reading events and issued press releases to reach potential readers.

In my book “Going Global – How to sell English ebooks in Germany”, I am giving this knowledge to English authors.

With this guide I am trying to help authors avoid the pitfalls and mistakes I made when entering the US market. I hope it is helpful to authors who try selling their ebooks beyond the US and UK markets. In “Going Global” I explain to you which advertising sites really shift books, why free promotions still get results, which dates are the best for such a promotion and how you can sell your ebook outside of Amazon.

About the Author: Birgit Kluger published her first novel “Schau ihr in die Augen”, with Droemer Knaur, one of the big publishing houses in Germany. She is author of the best selling ChickLit-Crime novel “Trau niemals einem Callboy”. She has also published an English fantasy novel “Creatures of Fire: Demons die harder” under the pen name of J.B. Brooklin. With “Going Global – How to sell English ebooks in Germany”, she tries to help English authors sell their ebook in Germany.

Her newest endeavor is “Save Dschinnanya!” a fund raising project for Part 2 of her English Fantasy Series “Creatures of Fire”.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quitter Quitter

I was on Kindleboards reading about the reaction to my last blog post where I shared my numbers.

During the discussion, someone brought up all the writers who have given up. It reminded me of a blog I wrote back in 2005, called Quitting. It's worth reading. Go do it. You might also want to check out the comments, because I drop a lot of my philosophy about what it takes to succeed. Keep in mind, when I wrote this, I was netting about $25k a year writing.

I realize some may consider that successful, but it wasn't enough to satisfy me. And it's a big part of the reason I kept working my butt off.

I can now earn $25k in two weeks, or sometimes in a single week.

So, has my attitude changed since 2005? Do I think differently now?

I've said for years now that ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time to find your audience. It took me twenty years, from writing that first novel to making good (not great) money.

Are you willing to work for twenty years without pay? Without success (whatever your definition of success is)? Are you willing to keep at it, keep trying, keep learning, keep experimenting, when you may not have anyone to encourage you but your dog?

Did you take my True Grit Quiz back in 2006? A lot of the questions no longer apply to the self-pub revolution, but the theme remains.

I wrote a million words before I made a dime, and another million before I made an average US income. Once I did catch a break, I signed books at 1200 bookstores in 42 states. And my wife still had a fulltime job, and we still made so little we got a tax refund every year. I was on the phone earlier today with a bestselling erotica author, and we were joking about how poor we were (she had ketchup soup for dinner, I lived in a basement apartment and couldn't afford both food and electric heat in the winter and woke up one morning to find my shampoo had frozen in my shower).

Now we're each making an unbelievable amount of money.

Because we didn't know how to quit.

If you can quit, you should. Most of the people in this business do poorly. It's brutal, unfair, and ridiculous. No one can figure it out, because it doesn't make sense.

The odds are against you succeeding. That's because success is an unreproduceable phenomenon. (I keep linking to my blog posts from years ago to prove an important point. Many who have discovered this blog have only begun reading it in the last few years, since I made a name for myself self-publishing. But looking back on what I did before I self-published is like going back in time to see me before I became who I am now, and that provides some pretty powerful insights. I didn't burst onto the scene a ready-made millionaire. Dues were paid. Go and see for yourself.)

If you can quit, quit. Save yourself years of depression, worry, broken dreams, shattered hope, and emotional pain.

Now, if you can't quit, if you're driven, if you refuse to accept anything other than your definition of success, then you have no one to blame but yourself for all the hell you're enduring.

But my money is on you eventually succeeding. Maybe it will take a year. Maybe twenty. Maybe fifty. But if you can't quit, success isn't simply attainable--it's inevitable.

I used to say that there's a word for a writer who never gives up... published.

These days, anyone can publish. It doesn't require hard work, talent, or luck.

But there is still a word for a writer who never gives up... successful.

I'm an overnight success. It just took twenty years for that night to finally come.

How many years are you willing to put in?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Halloween Sale

Halloween is here, and for a limited time my Jack Kilborn Trilogy is only $2.99 on Amazon Kindle.

Three terrifying books for three bucks.



It was supposed to be a harmless camping trip. Six wayward teenagers who'd run into trouble with the law, and their court-appointed guardians, Sara and Martin Randhurst. Three nights on a small, deserted island off of Michigan's upper peninsula. A time to bond, to learn, to heal.

Then Martin told a campfire story about the island's history. Of the old civil war prison hidden in there, and the starving confederate soldiers who resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Everyone thought it was funny. They even laughed when Martin pretended to be dragged off into the woods.

But Martin didn't come back. And neither did Sara when she went in search of him.

Then the laughter stopped.


The group soon began to realize that this deserted island wasn't so deserted after all. And perhaps Martin's ridiculous story had more truth to it than anyone thought.

What's the most horrifying thing you can imagine?

This is a hundred times worse...

TRAPPED by Jack Kilborn
It starts where other horror ends



The bed and breakfast was hidden in the hills of West Virginia. Wary guests wondered how it could stay in business at such a creepy, remote location. Especially with its bizarre, presidential decor and eccentric proprietor.


When the event hotel for the national Iron Woman triathlon accidentally overbooked, competitor Maria was forced to stay at the Rushmore. But after checking into her room, she quickly realized she wasn't alone. First her suitcase wasn't where she put it. Then her cell phone was moved. Finally, she heard an odd creaking under the bed. Confusion quickly turned to fear, and fear to hysteria when she discovered the front door was barred and the windows were bricked over. There was no way out.


One year later, four new female athletes have become guests of the Inn. Will they escape the horrors within its walls? Or will they join the many others who have died there, in ways too terrible to imagine?

ENDURANCE by Jack Kilborn
Are you brave enough to finish?



Nestled in the woods of Wisconsin, Safe Haven is miles from everything. With one road in and out, this is a town so peaceful it has never needed a full-time police force. Until now...

A helicopter has crashed on the outskirts of town and something terrible has been unleashed. A classified secret weapon programmed to kill anything that stands in its way. Now it's headed for the nearest lights to do what it does best. Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate.

Soon all phone lines are dead and the road is blocked. Safe Haven's only chance for survival rests on the shoulders of an aging county sheriff. And as the body count rises, the sheriff realizes something even more terrifying - maybe death hasn't come to his little town by accident...


AFRAID by Jack Kilborn
Are you afraid of the dark? You will be

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Guest Post by Tom Keller (and Konrath talks numbers)

First, a big thanks to Joe. Not only for the opportunity to guest post on his blog, but also for the wonderful way he chose to help others with Alzheimer's. My grandmother, rest her soul, lived till just shy of her 90th birthday and many of the ideas for my first book grew out of the stories she told me as a child. Which is why my book, Return of the High Fae, is dedicated to her. She spent the last 6 to 7 years of her life suffering from this disease and it was heart breaking to see its effect on her. Thanks again Joe, not only for this, but for your consistent advice and information to others in their journey to publish and sell books.

As a quick introduction, I've spent most of the last 33 years of my life as a cop and investigator. I never planned on publishing a novel and I certainly never planned on one that involved faeries and other mythological creatures. I was just one of those folks that always thought about it and then one day sat down and the words started coming. Due to certain aspects of my work, I stayed away from police procedurals and similar genres, and instead starting writing fantasy. Before I knew it, I was having fun.

Like David Haywood Young, I don't have a lot of readers, but the ones I do have are incredibly supportive. I chose to self-publish for a lot of the reasons you can read right here, but also because I didn’t want to wait around for the sometimes years it takes to sell your idea, if ever. Then, if you're one of the 'fortunate' (and I use that term loosely) ones that gets a contract, it can be more years before your book ever sees the light of day. Not to mention that now you have to rewrite your novel in their image if you ever really want to see it published. I also like the idea of owning all the rights.

Somewhere in my journey I came across Joe's blog and an article he wrote entitled "Bedtime Story," back in 2010, and the idea of self-publishing my book was born. Although I never submitted my novel to any publishing houses or agents, the truth is I’ve been rejected plenty of times. My short stories never saw the light of a page, (and I submitted quite a few) so I took that into consideration when I decided to self-publish Return of the High Fae. I've done ok with Amazon's Kindle Select for the last year and I also used ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) to publish the book in audio format. Since I wrote this post I have removed Return of the High Fae from KDP Select but still have at least one of my other stories enrolled. We'll see what effect that has on sales now that it will be back on the other venues as it gets redistributed through Smashwords.

Like others I was pretty content with selling 30 – 50 books a month, I mean, at least someone was reading them. And I like the idea of a potential long term revenue stream and thanks to the type of information found here, I'm hoping to try some different things in order to write and sell more books. I really like the idea of letting fans help choose covers and that might be an idea when choosing a narrator for the audio version as well. I've recently had fans solicit ideas in a story line with what they'd like to see, the feedback has been interesting, to say the least. The big thing I've seen is that it's important to get those books out there. From a strictly business perspective, more books = more money.

Although I started with the idea of maybe a sequel or two as I had time, recent changes in my life have forced me to focus more on not just my next novel but some new stories as well. Thanks to what I've learned here, I've also started a few short story tie-ins to try and increase overall sales. I'm also rewriting some of those old stories that might work as Kindle singles. I decided to do that with my short stories, but now Joe has me thinking again, as novels sell better than shorts, so maybe I'll try a different approach there as well. I've still got to decide why I'm writing the books and stories I do, and there are some good points here on changing genre's and using pen names as well as others to sell more books. Since they were a change of genre, and initially spurred on by Joe's 8 hour challenge, I published some short stories under a pen name, although a minute's actual investigation will lead you to me anyway. I think I did that originally to make sure that people liked them before linking them back to me. Seems silly now, but, hey, what can I say? Besides, using a pen name allows you to write in darn near in any genre, especially those that might be a little risqué for the home front.

I can't say enough about what you can learn about writing and publishing on Joe's blog. And it's not just Joe, Carlos Cooper's and David Haywood Young's posts are just a few example of the excellent assortment of ideas and experiences presented here. Carlos' and Joe's post that mentions to use all 5 of your freebie days to increase your rank on the top 100 free list is just one idea worth remembering. If I've learned anything it's that you can't buy the lifetime of experience and writing tips that Joe and his guest's present here. Not to mention that their ideas can spawn creations of your own. The 8 hour publish a book on Kindle was an amazing idea and prompted a lot of folks to do just that. I guess all I'm trying to say is that you should never be afraid to try. Just do a little research and make this blog your first jumping point to your next novel or short story.

Joe sez: Thanks for the kind words, Tom. I meant to post this yesterday, but was having some computer issues. I just bought your book, and encourage others to give it a try. There's something extremely cool about a police officer writing faeries stories, and you've piqued my curiosity.

One thing I'd like expound upon is that inspiration comes in many forms, and while I'm grateful to have inspired many writers, and humbled when they thank me, I encourage people to use this blog and my words as resource, but not as gospel.

I'm just a writer trying to figure things out. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I'm a bit ahead of the curve, but my success still comes down to luck. I believe, if you work hard, you can also improve your chances at luck.

No one reading this post will ever be me, because I'm one of a kind. And I'll never be you, because you're one of a kind. We all have out own journeys to follow, our own choices to make. I'd like to think my blog helps people make informed choices, and from the email I get I know my blog as also helped many people find some measure of success. But I'm just one guy, and sometimes I'm wrong, and I should be only one resource out of many.

In other words, I share what works for me, but it might not work for you. If you do everything I do on my blog, there is no guarantee you'll succeed. Success is something you need to find on your own, and you may take a much different route than I did.

That said, here are the things I've done that have helped me get to where I'm at.

1. Love what you're doing. This is a brutally tough business, and if you aren't in love with writing save yourself a lot of heartache and go do something else.

2. Write when you can, finish what you write, edit what you finish, self-publish what you edit, and repeat. And make sure everything you release is as good as you can make it,

3. Experiment. You need to constantly try new things in order to find something that works. Don't be afraid to change covers, titles, prices, names, platforms, and even genres.

4. You should seek out as much information as you can, but don't believe everything you hear or read. Some people lie. Some exaggerate. Everyone has an agenda, and you should take it all with a healthy dose of skepticism.

5. Ebooks are forever. That means you have a very long time to find your audience. If you aren't seeing success now, that doesn't mean it will never come.

6. Work your ass off. It will always come down to luck. But the harder you work, the luckier you'll get.

7. Seek criticism, not praise. Get this from the key people in you life that you trust.

8. Ignore haters. They aren't worth your time.

9. With only a few exceptions, I haven't found that advertising, publicity, or promotion helps much. The problem is that sometimes they do help, and it is very hard to predict when that will happen. I tweet, email, and blog new releases, I use BookBub, Bookblast, and EbookBooster every so often, and I do a rare interview or appearance once in a blue moon. But most of all, I focus on my writing.

10. My motto is: Learn all you can, pass along what you've learned, leave the world a better place because you lived, and have as much fun as possible.

Several people have emailed me, asking when I'll do another numbers update. Way back in the year 2009 I began posting my Kindle numbers, and that seemed to inspire lots of writers.

I'll quote myself from that post: "So far on Kindle I've earned $2781.35 in 64 days. If the $90 per day trend keeps up, that's $32,850 a year. Not a huge amount, but not chump change either."

I've come a long way since 2009. Here are my latest, cumulative self-pub numbers, both units and dollars, as of July 2013.

These include free downloads and KOLL borrows, and are numbers for all the platforms I've been on (KDP, iTunes, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, Createspace). They do not include any of my legacy pubbed books, or my secret pen name. They also don't include my seven Amazon published books, my audio books, or my legacy foreign sales.

Don't let these numbers discourage you, and at the same time don't assume you'll be able to replicate them.

Also look at some of my individual titles and see how few they're selling. I've had some big hits, but the majority of my books have modest, and even lackluster, sales. But when you have a lot of titles, even modest sales can add up.

I'm sharing these numbers with you to show you what is possible. In fact, a lot more is possible, because there are many authors outselling me.

This isn't a contest. This isn't a competition. Don't envy me, and don't hope to get where I'm at. Envy and hope don't empower you--they're excuses for not being in control. Focus on where you're at, and what you can be doing to improve. If you have goals that are based on your efforts (as opposed to dreams, which require someone else to say yes or no) you won't need hope or envy. 

And feel free to post your numbers, even if they aren't very good. Especially if they aren't very good. One of the reasons legacy publishers controlled the market for so long was because writers were afraid to talk numbers, and everything was hush-hush. 

The more everyone shares, the more everyone learns. The more everyone helps, the more everyone benefits.

Row Labels Sum of Net Units Sold Sum of Earnings USD
65 Proof 27,222 $14,511.59
2009 847 $611.24
2010 844 $1,705.04
2011 4,616 $4,817.85
2012 4,659 $4,245.99
2013 16,256 $3,131.47
Afraid 114,657 $23,546.12
2012 58,940 $7,375.38
2013 55,717 $16,170.74
Babe on Board 20,012 $5,214.39
2011 4,888 $1,329.20
2012 4,331 $1,083.65
2013 10,793 $2,801.54
Banana Hammock 11,920 $11,150.20
2010 560 $1,107.09
2011 6,571 $4,693.58
2012 2,420 $2,918.40
2013 2,369 $2,431.13
Beginnings 36 $161.65
2013 36 $161.65
Birds of Prey 22,219 $12,186.84
2011 7,431 $6,677.88
2012 6,994 $4,231.40
2013 7,794 $1,277.56
Bloody Mary 186,848 $83,598.86
2013 186,848 $83,598.86
Burners 4,043 $7,910.63
2012 2,406 $4,692.66
2013 1,637 $3,217.97
Cherry Bomb 70,999 $31,983.77
2013 70,999 $31,983.77
Crime Stories 14,355 $4,625.54
2010 789 $1,091.54
2011 7,773 $2,037.57
2012 5,156 $1,249.70
2013 637 $246.72
Dirty Martini 147,067 $32,000.49
2013 147,067 $32,000.49
Disturb 56,670 $47,364.94
2009 1,785 $1,292.87
2010 5,517 $6,940.73
2011 18,556 $21,142.74
2012 7,569 $10,882.90
2013 23,243 $7,105.70
Draculas 35,629 $40,207.73
2010 3,878 $7,640.40
2011 13,557 $18,461.23
2012 6,615 $10,162.07
2013 11,579 $3,944.03
Dumb Jokes 5,640 $922.33
2009 408 $148.70
2010 597 $225.37
2011 2,096 $254.00
2012 1,656 $257.31
2013 883 $36.94
Endurance 118,728 $124,954.46
2010 11,984 $23,586.89
2011 41,251 $59,265.56
2012 15,800 $28,289.20
2013 49,693 $13,812.80
Exposed 25,232 $15,893.67
2011 4,614 $2,264.62
2012 18,182 $8,818.28
2013 2,436 $4,810.77
Flee 36,635 $25,932.17
2011 28,358 $15,911.42
2012 8,276 $10,018.75
2013 1 $2.00
Floaters 17,495 $8,036.23
2009 609 $427.49
2010 2,990 $2,206.17
2011 4,634 $2,094.81
2012 6,116 $1,805.54
2013 3,146 $1,502.22
Fuzzy Navel 68,578 $38,680.14
2013 68,578 $38,680.14
Haunted House 53,794 $23,475.90
2013 53,794 $23,475.90
Hit 2,064 $3,913.76
2013 2,064 $3,913.76
Horror Stories 34,970 $37,903.13
2010 4,363 $6,882.19
2011 13,793 $17,887.50
2012 12,360 $10,417.10
2013 4,454 $2,716.34
How To Attract the Opposite Sex 839 $5.68
2013 839 $5.68
How To Get Rich 747 $12.40
2013 747 $12.40
How To Give Good Sex 1,983 $267.58
2013 1,983 $267.58
How To Stop Farting 3,308 $119.98
2012 5 $4.82
2013 3,303 $115.16
Jack Daniels Series - Dirty Martini  Fuzzy Navel, Cherry Bomb 6,717 $42,749.23
2013 6,717 $42,749.23
Jack Daniels Series - Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail 3,020 $19,406.02
2013 3,020 $19,406.02
Jack Daniels Stories 25,644 $29,234.82
2010 3,117 $4,543.70
2011 10,057 $10,189.51
2012 9,482 $5,730.46
2013 2,988 $8,771.15
Jack Kilborn Trilogy 616 $3,755.45
2012 144 $758.20
2013 472 $2,997.25
Killers 24,906 $24,201.44
2011 12,072 $16,754.09
2012 5,887 $5,686.79
2013 6,947 $1,760.55
Killers Uncut 2,687 $3,092.13
2011 1,895 $1,510.18
2012 488 $983.65
2013 304 $598.29
Newbies Guide to Publishing 11,015 $6,985.29
2010 1,072 $1,708.00
2011 4,282 $3,495.98
2012 3,897 $1,456.75
2013 1,764 $324.56
Origin 121,596 $117,055.29
2009 3,884 $2,792.69
2010 12,433 $16,342.03
2011 54,107 $60,368.57
2012 22,109 $24,606.85
2013 29,063 $12,945.15
Planters Punch 18,863 $4,232.54
2009 590 $413.00
2010 1,467 $1,863.09
2011 4,325 $837.37
2012 3,275 $687.12
2013 9,206 $431.96
Rusty Nail 97,405 $58,198.85
2013 97,405 $58,198.85
Serial 95,361 $2,312.91
2010 9,460 $341.19
2011 56,946 $542.74
2012 27,859 $999.76
2013 1,096 $429.22
Serial Killers Uncut 27,233 $26,417.70
2011 7,780 $9,739.69
2012 17,468 $12,082.31
2013 1,985 $4,595.69
Serial Uncut 33,110 $48,630.51
2010 5,400 $8,365.09
2011 18,371 $27,406.29
2012 7,326 $8,988.12
2013 2,013 $3,871.01
Shapeshifters 8,555 $1,550.79
2011 5,113 $790.70
2012 3,042 $531.27
2013 400 $228.82
Shot of Tequila 113,331 $70,058.98
2009 1,322 $949.20
2010 7,209 $11,085.29
2011 37,739 $24,094.89
2012 17,949 $17,930.37
2013 49,112 $15,999.23
Street Music 7,359 $768.94
2011 2,386 $181.39
2012 2,360 $330.85
2013 2,613 $256.70
Suckers 25,857 $18,193.78
2009 1,347 $944.95
2010 2,996 $3,854.64
2011 7,665 $8,093.55
2012 5,370 $3,776.24
2013 8,479 $1,524.40
Symbios 11,034 $1,253.43
2011 4,318 $735.62
2012 2,436 $389.95
2013 4,280 $127.86
The List 332,786 $226,535.57
2009 7,129 $5,293.42
2010 16,212 $17,896.26
2011 134,538 $114,268.84
2012 57,960 $71,195.72
2013 116,947 $17,881.34
The Screaming 12,237 $2,254.48
2011 5,822 $1,368.34
2012 3,544 $691.76
2013 2,871 $194.38
Timecaster 27,604 $2,603.61
2012 105 $65.22
2013 27,499 $2,538.39
Trapped 177,366 $159,242.24
2010 12,035 $23,116.53
2011 92,468 $91,309.95
2012 14,462 $30,167.73
2013 58,401 $14,648.03
Trapped-German 7,715 $3,037.31
2012 4,632 $1,763.82
2013 3,083 $1,273.48
Truck Stop 42,633 $13,511.13
2009 2,093 $1,184.88
2010 7,760 $4,126.50
2011 19,018 $5,126.99
2012 7,479 $2,042.37
2013 6,283 $1,030.39
Truck Stop-German 10,701 $1,809.78
2011 1,887 $342.53
2012 5,167 $709.22
2013 3,647 $758.02
Whiskey Sour 191,427 $101,060.02
2013 191,427 $101,060.02
Wild Night is Calling 26,758 $6,031.83
2011 14,269 $3,928.39
2012 7,009 $1,507.46
2013 5,480 $595.97
With a Twist 29,936 $2,598.45
2011 4,545 $479.66
2012 4,853 $1,031.13
2013 20,538 $1,087.66
Grand Total 2,575,162 $1,591,362.71