Will Authors Quit Writing in 2016?

photo: Wikipedia       

That seems to be the prediction of Mark Coker, Founder and CEO of Smashwords. Via his blog:

“Many indies and traditional publishers alike reported flat or lower sales in 2015. The go-go days of exponential ebook market growth of the early days (2008-2012) are over. As I shared in my November 2014 post, Things Get More Difficult from Here – Here’s How to Succeed, a key factor in the slowdown is an emerging equilibrium for consumption of print and ebook formats. Due to the law of large numbers, ebook sales growth (or declines) will begin to more closely mirror the overall market for all books. The book market is mature and is therefore a slow or no-growth industry.  Additionally, there’s an ever-increasing glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks that will never go “out of print.” These continuing factors paint a picture for a more competitive landscape for authors in 2016 and beyond. Every author will face more competition today and tomorrow than they faced yesterday. In addition to the factors I outlined above and in the “Things get more difficult” post, the growth of Kindle Unlimited presents a new existential threat to the industry (more on this in the next item).

 Kindle Unlimited will gut single-copy sales and drive greater ebook commoditization

Earlier this year I blogged how Amazon’s merchandising pages encourage Kindle customers to read books for free as part of a Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime subscription. Most of the publishing industry remains oblivious to the long term ramifications of Amazon’s strategy here (not a surprise, because despite Amazon operating with amazing transparency and predictability, most industry watchers and media still don’t understand Amazon’s long term self publishing strategy). The issue of immediate concern is that Amazon’s merchandising tactics discourage readers from purchasing single copy ebooks. Amazon is training Kindle customers to view even 99 cent ebooks as too expensive when other books can be read for what feels like free. Amazon’s success with Kindle Unlimited, which now offers over 1 million books almost exclusively supplied by indie authors is going to gut the market for single copy sales at Amazon. It’ll be death by a thousand small cuts.  The pain will be felt by four publishing industry constituencies. In descending order of pain, and in order of who will feel it first, these constituencies include traditionally published authors and their publishers which I’ll consider as a single group; non-exclusive indie authors; Amazon-exclusive authors; and competing retailers.

Basically what Mark is saying is that selling single e-book copies, or even e-book bundles will soon become obsolete, replaced by subscription programs. The only question is whether the distributors assume an pool-sharing model (where money is collected and distributed equally among contributors as the distributor sees fit) or agency (where the contributor is paid for each book downloaded or read as an individual unit). If Mark’s prediction is accurate, and Amazon shifts more and more e-books into a subscription program, then you should know much much harder it will be for an indie author to make money. Especially since Amazon continues to dominate e-book sales. Read his post; it’s worth your time.

He also writes:

“During the early days of the indie ebook revolution, it was relatively easy for a quality writer to earn good income self-publishing low-priced ebooks. The market was doubling and tripling each year, readers hadn’t really seen 99 cent ebooks before, and everyone was happy.  As I mentioned in the “Ebook publishing gets more difficult from here” post, the exponential growth masked challenges that market’s maturation has now brought to light. Many indies who quit their days jobs to pursue writing full time will find they need to return to a “real” job in 2016, especially authors for whom writing is their sole source of income and they’re already feeling challenged to make the monthly rent. This means production will decline among the indie midlisters. As I’ve been telling the audiences for my ebook publishing workshops for the last seven years, if you want to make a lot of money publishing ebooks get a job at McDonalds instead. Publishing has always been a tough business. Witness the fact that most traditionally published authors must maintain day jobs. Ebook publishing is NOT the path to riches except for a very few authors. Yes, I’ve been pleased see the many Smashwords authors whose indie ebook earnings have allowed them to pay off mortgages, buy homes and save for retirement. These stories inspire me, yet we must remember these are the exceptions, not the rule. In 2015 I witnessed a growing desperation among many bestsellers, some of whom – I can imagine due to their prior successes with indie publishing – had might have changed their lifestyles or quit their day jobs. These authors are now feeling the financial and emotional pain of struggling to make ends meet. I hate to see this pain and anguish. As I’ve advised in the past, your prior success is no guarantee of future success. If you’re among the many Smashwords authors who’ve been blessed and have done well, or if you’re fortunate enough to sell well in the future, please bank that money when it comes. Pay off your debts and be conservative with your savings so you can build up your rainy day fund.”

No one has ever said publishing was easy, but I’ve noticed big-time indies are often more optimistic than the rest of us into the future of indie publishing, in terms of making serious money and not just doing it as a side-hobby. It’s easier to think earning money writing is easy and Amazon is great if you’re one of the lucky few to earn 6- or even 7- or 8- figures a year writing, just as a lot of the blockbuster best-sellers in the traditional system rarely complain about their publishers or support changes to the traditional publishing system that are needed. It’s a matter of whose bread is begin buttered by whom, I guess. I’d guess an author has maybe a 2% chance at best of earning enough money a year to sit around and write (and do writing-related activities) all day. That includes authors who could do that, but who choose to maintain other occupations, such as with non-fiction writers. And that’s just to pay bills; that’s not the lavish lifestyles some of them live.

David Boyle of the Society of Authors, based in the UK, writes:

“You worry a little, as an ebook author, that people might be sceptical that you have ever written anything. Or indeed whether all that writing exists in any real sense, since you can’t see it on your shelf. I mean, where is it? You can’t lend it, copy it or give it as a present. Yet bizarrely, online pirates seem capable of giving it away for free within days of it going on sale.

There are certainly advantages to writing the new generation of ebooks that are designed as such, rather than as reluctantly issued e-versions of printed books. They are often a convenient length – maybe a fifth or quarter as long as a traditional book, just long enough to read on a transatlantic flight or a train to Scotland. And they are priced low enough to sell widely. It is a marginal decision to buy a short book at £1.99 or £2.99. You might as well buy it as not.

an ebook writer, I’m only too aware of the problem flagged up by the Society of Authors, that the income of writers is still falling. I certainly agree that authors should get at least half the royalties on ebooks; the big publishers often fob them off with 25% or less. Well, I would say that.

Yet this is not primarily a difficulty with ebooks. It is a symptom of two more fundamental, linked problems. The competition watchdogs have allowedAmazon and the big supermarkets to strangle what had been a working business model. As a result, the remaining, desperately consolidated, mainstream publishers are trapped in a business model that works for nobody – except perhaps for the 5%, the mega-earning authors, who take 43% of all the money.”

Though Mr. Boyle says he will continue writing (and I assume working his financial services job while he writes on the side), no doubt many authors will come to the conclusion that yes, it’s really, really hard to earn a living from writing and the time spent writing could be better done doing other productive things.  I think his concern is more aimed at the Big Five traditional publishers, who are losing to Amazon and who don’t offer a good deal on e-book royalties to their writers. I can’t speak for smaller presses.

So writers of the world: How many of you will continue to write, and how many will decide the time spent writing just isn’t worth it anymore?

Nielsen says: More Dead Trees Coming

A recent blogpost by Joe Wikert, Director of Strategy and Business Development at Olive Software, recaps data from Nielsen Bookscan on the reading habits of Americans. Here is Joe’s analysis:

Self-publishing and the Big Five are crowding out everyone else – According to Nielsen’s data, from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015, self-published books have grown from 14% to 18% of the overall market. In that same period the Big Five’s share has grown from 28% to 37%. Meanwhile, the rest of the market, all the large, medium and tiny publishers, have seen their share decrease from 58% to 45%.

The print/e split is now roughly 74%/26% – Plenty of articles have been written about the plateauing ebook market. Most publishers report ebooks represent anywhere from 15% to 30% or so of total revenue. According to Nielsen, the current state of equilibrium is closer to a 74%/26% split. That ratio varies widely by genre, btw, but it’s worth looking at your own rate to see how it compares to the overall industry average.

Price drives ebook interest – According to Nielsen’s consumer survey, almost 60% of respondents said they’d choose e over p if the savings is at least $4 for the former. Additionally, approximately 50% said they’d do the same even if the ebook is only $2-3 cheaper than the print version. So as publishers wrestle back consumer pricing via the new agency model, driving ebook prices up, it’s clear they’re inadvertently (and sometimes deliberately) nudging consumers back to print.

Consumer prefer print and e, not or – 49% of consumers surveyed said they bought print and ebooks in the past 6 months vs. 42% who only bought print and a paltry 9% who only bought e. Just because a consumer buys ebooks doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned print. This is a huge opportunity most publishers are overlooking. Why aren’t there more digital products that complement print rather than assume the ebook is replacing the print one?

Amazon dominates subscriptions too – It’s been hard to find data on the all-you-can-read ebook subscription market but Nielsen is finally shining some light on the model. And just as they do pretty much everywhere else, Amazon is crushing it. First of all, according to Nielsen only 5% of consumers have signed up for any ebook subscription solution, so the market remains small. Kindle Unlimited led the way with the largest chunk of market share, jumping from approximately 40% in January 2015 to almost 60% in April. Scribd and Oyster were tiny players by comparison in that period, and they’re only getting smaller. Given their teensy share of a small segment, it’s no wonder Oyster is going away soon.

Let’s add that many e-books do not have ISBN numbers and their sales don’t count. If they were, the share of self-published would be higher, between 20-25% of all sales. The takeaway here is the squeeze smaller companies are holding, every single publisher that isn’t the Big Five or one of their imprints. This is worrying, because most publishers are not big corporations or their subsidiaries. If the trend continues, you will see a gap between the select few who get a major publishing contract, and those who self-publish. Those who pursue an indie publisher could wind up at a disadvantage down the road.

Like most people, I prefer print books, but I’m more likely to buy e-books. Why? I spend all day on screens, and print books are essentially my “escape”. With non-fiction, I like being able to physically have information I may need later. Anecdotally, most people I know who are not avid readers prefer print to e-books, though nearly all own some type of e-reader (includes smartphones).

The publishers are overpricing most e-books, and it’s pretty clear they want to protect paper sales. That’s partly why paper is still strong- most people figure for $15 they should just get the paperback. Personally, I think that’s a mistake- the e-book ought to complement the print book, not compete against it. If self-published e-books continue to rise, this model may change as publishers much charge a price comparable to an indie-published book, which means growth in e-books.

Subscription models are the new model of business for many distributors, whether or not they’re good for content creators. Increasingly, consumers expect to get a buffet at their business of choice, paying a flat rate for all the products they can consume. The problem is, not all subscription models are sustainable, and many content creators (rightfully) object to some of the practices by the distributors, namely in how little the creator gets compensated while the distributor keeps most of the money. To be fair, a lot of authors have complained about this with the traditional publishing model too, and it is a legitimate topic of discussion.

The conclusion: Continue to write e-books, but don’t stop killing those trees just yet. A lot of readers want them for their books, including yours.

What if Harry Potter was Crowdsourced?

Happy-Thanksgiving-Pictures

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The publishing world has changed, and the major players have lost ground to Amazon and some new upstarts looking to cash in on the rising indie-author boom, where more and more authors are choosing to self-publish their work instead of seeking a publishing contract.

The style of work has changed too. Short stories have come back in vogue, in no small part due to shortening attention spans among everyone with internet access. Heck, I stopped twice while writing this post to check e-mail. Even shorter pieces, called flash fiction (1200 words or less) are also in style, and some authors are demonstrating their ‘creativity’ and ‘talent’ by tweeting their work, others post to Wattpad or a similar social sharing site, and now we have interactive books courtesy of Apple. There are still ways to tell stories that have not yet been discovered.

One way which has and which is now being touted is crowdsourcing stories. The idea appears to be, someone writes an idea and writers compete to write the best versions of a chapter. Readers then vote on which chapters they like best, and that goes into the book. From Publishers Weekly:

“Traditional print publishing is gatekeeper driven. The traditional publishing model has focused mostly on large-scale print production and relies on a small number of retained authors with a proven track record of generating commercially successful work. The relationship between publisher and author is nurtured at a high cost. Publishers control their ROI by focusing on a small number of proven writers. With the emergence of e-books, the risk of picking the wrong author is reduced, but because of print’s continued focus on big authors, large publishing organizations are still a tough nut to crack for new authors or hard to categorize material.

Digital publishing is automation driven. Digital publishers saw an opportunity to automate many of the steps of traditional publishing, including digitizing books. This created cost efficiencies and increased the size of the market but the essential process of creating content remained the same. Hundreds of Internet-based publishers emerged to sell digital books, which gave birth to self-publishing and hybrid models in which authors pay partners to be published in exchange for a higher percentage of royalties. While digital publishing has expanded the number of published authors, it has not generated the revenues of traditional publishing, or garnered much respect for its content.

The sharing model of publishing is profile driven. In the newest sharing model of publishing, bits of stories are crowdsourced, and the community defines the best writing. Whereas the other models rely on the market to determine quality after the publishing process is complete, with customers using their wallets to vote, the sharing model publishes stories that have already been embraced by the crowd, eliminating the risk of publishing unwanted material. Instead of being process driven, the sharing model is profile driven. Readers and writers sit at the heart of this ecosystem of content generation, with their profiles defining the value they bring. A good analogy for how this model has evolved is the job postings market. Monster automated the process of scanning newspaper job postings. LinkedIn then focused on the profile of job seekers and allowed the community to crowdsource their careers.

Today there’s a similar opportunity for writers with the new sharing models of publishing crowdsourced original content through “competitive collaboration,” with writers competing to write sections of a story, and readers voting to determine which sections are published. Models like this turn the storytelling process into a social media experience.”

The premise is kind of like Wattpad meets celebrity authors, like how sometimes authors collaborate on a project to produce a book. But now, you promote your rough draft to the crowd, and let the reader tell you what’s good, rather than you finishing work and showing it to the reader.

The basic problem with crowdsourcing stories is that not all writers are equally talented. Yes, if five equal authors got together and agreed beforehand on a plot, it might work. The problem with Skrawl’s idea is, if one author is significantly better than another, then the good author will be dragged down by mediocre to poor authors, having to a) publicly show work that isn’t ready yet and b) being forced to compete with someone who may not be as good

Let’s use your favorite book, which is probably Harry Potter, since it seems like a lot of people’s favorite book is Harry Potter. In the old days, JK Rowling wrote an outline, then a book, then queried until a publisher bought the rights to the first book. The publisher edited the book, added a cover, and sold copies in bookstores. Today, if she received dozens or hundreds of rejections due to declining space for new authors, she could self-publish an e-book and hope for the best.

Under this crowdsourcing model, JK Rowling would post chapter 1 of Harry Potter to a website like Skrawl or Wattpad and then “compete” with some random schlub named Steve, living in Manalapan New Jersey, whose idea of a novel opener is “King Liprix wore a green coat and carried a purple sword.” Steve would post his chapter 2, and most of us agree it would suck. But, because readers determine via poll which chapter to vote on, Steve would get lots of his friends to vote for chapter 2 of the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s in UK) Stone. He has more friends who vote the same way most people do for social media competitons, so Steve wins. Then for chapter 3, Tanya from Redding, California gets her friends to pick her chapter 3, leaving JK out of the next two. By the time she’s ready to write chapter 4 (“Diagon Alley”), it no longer makes sense because the story is now about Harry using a staff and rubber band ball to fight a unicorn on a pogo stick while Harry Styles of One Direction looks on approvingly. Thus a great story is now ruined.

Crowdsourcing would require previous collaboration between authors, and voters who are truly impartial and capable of understanding the storytelling process are deciding one step of the way; and also if the authors are of relatively equal strength and talent. And as readers are already gatekeepers of literature, do you really need to check in with them first in a race to the bottom to see who can turn literature into whoever can push the most votes online?

Bottom line for Skrawl: Potential as a niche form of storytelling, but unlikely to replace conventional stories. I have a feeling most readers would rather just read a great story when it comes out instead of devoting hours to reading stinky writing so they can feel “important”.

No posts until next week. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

I Interviewed a Woman and She Nearly Killed Me. Here’s Why.

Shocking Finds

Today I interview Marin Yarthine, the main lead in Shocking Finds, a Finder’s Keeper’s novel. She has superpowers but isn’t quite up to Superwoman level yet. Or…is…she? Muwahahahahahaha .

S: In the beginning of the book, you were described as having the ability to move a Toyotal with your mind. What was that like?
Marin: Whoa, whoa whoa… if you’re gonna start with insane questions, I need another cup of coffee first. *sigh…
S: Can we get Miss Yarthine some more coffee. Okay… while we wait, why don’t you tell me about the Toyota?
Marin: Fine. But there really isn’t anything to tell. That wasn’t me. I may accidentally shock people, but I’ve never moved anything with my mind. And you can call me Marin. Besides… Kyland says my last name is actually de Platadreki.
(At this juncture I put down my recorder, cried onto my YouTube channel for no reason, then rechecked my questions)
S: Speaking of Kyland, he informed us that the first time he saw you, you were flipping a car through the air, managing to save your own life.
Marin:… (like in Final Fantasy when you know an imposter’s coming and you’ll have to fight its outrageously high HP)
S: Marin… are you alright? Ouch!
(The Interviewer dropped the now smoking recorder, and shook the sting out of his hand before picking up one of the spare recorders Kyland had suggested he have on hand.)
Marin: Sorry. *ducks to hide her flaming cheeks… I still have a lot to learn, and I guess no one has gotten around to telling me that part. Not that I can’t remember the moment vividly. It was the first time I ever allowed my anger to show, to reach the surface. I remember thinking that the anger, or some large power, was moving through me, flying off to bat the Toyota away. It was so strong that I got slammed backwards into the parking lot. And yes it freaked me out. But then, a lot of this magical stuff freaks me out.
(The Interviewer slowly placed the recorder on the table sitting between them.)
S: Sooo… Take us through your mind the first time you met Kyland. How do you
feel about him now?
Marin (A big smile on her face): I absolutely love that Fae. Don’t get me wrong, he drives me crazy… but he also gets me through all the changes in my life that would have sent me into hiding without him. When I first met the man, he was saving my faux-aunt. He didn’t have to do that, but he worried about how me. As for my part, I was in the middle of a nightmare, afraid my only family would die before my eyes. And still, my hormones – my previously thought dead hormones – perked up and took notice. But come one. Have you seen him? The man is absolutely lickable.
I even found him to die for when I woke up to find he had stolen my clothes. Don’t ask.
S (stunned): If you could have one additional enhanced sense you don’t currently
have, what would it be, and why?
Marin: Wow. Now that’s a horrible thought. I already have all five of the human normal senses. Plus the Fae ability to sense emotions. Well, I can sense them sometimes. That one is the most annoying. I mean, who wants to sense emotions without contexts. I guess it would be nice to sense curses and spells, like Kyland. Not only to I have enough curses to live with, that I am still trying to get rid of, but knowing if an attacker was under a curse would be helpful. I hate the loss of innocent life more than anything else about my new reality.
S: What is the best part of being a Princess now?
Marin: That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I even want to be a Princess. I’ll have to get back to you after I’ve gotten used to the idea. Though being noticed by those around me, being seen… even though it freaks me out a little, it’s nice to be a part of the crowd.
S: How did you feel when Lindal revealed her true nature?
(Marin flinched a little. Sparks started flying off her fingers, but one deep breath and the sparks died down. The recorder was still working, but the Interviewer gave Marin a moment to calm down by switching to a new recorder and handing off the current one to his assistant.)
Marin (looking off to the left): My heart broke. I was angry and lost, and I wanted someone to tell me it wasn’t true. It isn’t like Lindal even pretended to love me. She was just the only family I had ever know, the only acceptance no matter how abusive. And yes… I now know without a shadow of a doubt that the way she treated me was abuse.
(Marin feel silent. After a few minutes, the Interviewer decided to continue.)
S: What’s the Queen’s real name? We won’t blab to the whole world, promise.
Marin (Shaking her head): I’m sorry. What did you ask?
S: What’s the Queen’s real name? We promise not to repeat it.
(Marin opened her mouth to answer, but stopped and looked over the Interviewer’s head as a gruff male voice answered for her)
Kyland: I warned you what would happen if you strayed from the list of approved questions.
S: (trying to get over tingling electric shock): Sorry. I didn’t think that one would hurt.
Marin: It doesn’t matter. No one will tell me anything other than Queen de Platadreki.
At that point I tried to politely end the interview before a dude seven feet tall tried to kill me. All the lights in the studio exploded and I was thrown from my chair by another electric shock. Marin growled, “Mine!” and stomped from the studio, dodging the Fae medical staff they hand on hand for just this reason, and knew that Kyland would follow. That’s all the questions I got. The takeaway: sometimes it’s better to ask fewer questions, especially when your guests have superhuman powers and you don’t.
In the meantime, follow Marin’s journey and read this book before it hits the USA Today and New York Times bestsellers lists and those who haven’t purchased a copy will find out what it’s like to face a human who can electric shock you at will. And before Dogbert takes over the world 😉.

Buy the book at Amazon HERE or at Barnes and Nobles HERE

Visit the author’s webpage HERE or the webpage for the Finder’s Keeper’s books HERE

toad photo: www.kissin993.com

If Book Publishers or Amazon did this, they could solve our reading deficiency problem

It’s not looking good for authors who seek to make money from their writing. Recent data from Author Earnings shows a growing gap between authors who self-publish/go with a small publisher vs. those who receive a contract from a “Big Five” publisher or one of their imprints. And the obvious takeaway: Writers are really, really, really, really, really, really unlikely to make money from their writing, despite the vague “more writers earning a living from their writing than ever before” meme pushed out by a few top authors.

Books have never been the most popular form of entertainment and while there’s been a bounce with people buying more work, particularly from indies, the long-term challenge of encouraging a reading culture remains. The problem is, the literary world is ill-equipped to overcome these challenges. There are many reasons, but today we’ll focus on what book publishers can do to improve the quality of their product.

As a newbie writer, I have no ill will towards publishers, nor do I believe an author is wrong for choosing traditional publication. But I do follow publishing news, and I get the impression the major publishers (other than Amazon) have no idea how to consistently build readership. I say to build a readership, they need to develop the talent who can build the readership. So I propose the publishers…

create an Author League.

The concept is simple: publish fewer books, but invest more in their talent to develop. I got this idea from baseball. Players are drafted and nearly all go into the minor leagues. The goal is to develop the players and see who is good enough to become a pro. While most will never make it that far, at least they get some level of coaching. And those who DO make it are better because of the training, the experience, and the commitment to the player from the organization.

Here’s the plan: Sign an author to a contract and place that author in a ‘league’. The expectations and money goes up as the author’s writing improves. Authors who don’t improve or who miss objectives get cut.

Pros: Reserved for only the top few authors who either have, or are capable of, massive sales. These authors seldom need coaching, though having some from time to time never hurts. They have big platforms and really need help distributing their works, primarily in print. These authors are fully ready for international tours, major Hollywood movie deals, merchandising opportunities, and essentially running a medium business. Authors who can sell 50,000 or more copies a year belong here.

AAA: Authors here are emerging breakouts, but not quite mega stars. These authors are well-known in the literary community, and they have a solid fanbase who will come to their book signings or other events, though they may not be household names and blockbuster franchise-ready yet. These authors are experienced and skilled writers who may or may not need additional help with their prose. The main challenge here is helping them improve their storyboarding or getting their careers to the breakout level. They may be ready for minor movie deals or limited merchandising/licensing opportunities. Expectations are high and advances and contract perks are higher as well. Authors who sell between 15,000-49,999 belong here.

AA: The next level up for authors. These writers have some type of working platform, some level of public speaking ability, have shown a greater range of talent needed for major publication, and are taking the craft more seriously. Authors here tend to not be the best at marketing themselves and still need help improving their craft and productivity.  Authors here typically sell 5,000-15,000 books per year.

A: The lowest tier for all authors who are ready for professional publication and don’t qualify for Rookies. These authors typically lack previous writing experience, including coaching or supervision. They also lack the star power needed to move lots of copies. Expectations are lower, but so are advances. Authors here have some talent, but need help improving their writing. That may mean improving productivity, forming outlines, or platform building. Publishers will dedicate help to authors who land here. An author who would sell between 2,500-5,000 books per year would be best suited here. Note that authors who really could not move at least 2,500 copies (smallest possible print run for a publisher) are not worth the publisher’s time and would be better off self-publishing or doing something better with their time.

Rookie: Reserved for new authors under 30 who aren’t ready for higher levels. This is more of a “career development” than anything. Not just improving writing, but helping young talent adjust to becoming a professional. The truth is, few teens and twenty-somethings are fully prepared to be working professionals, putting in all the time needed to be a full-time author, and even fewer would be prepared for celebritydom if their novel took off. The goal here is to seek publication for short stories or small works and build their platforms.

This is only a base guideline, but it’s something to think about. Whoever comes up with this idea is in great shape to retain talent and cut into losses. If you give every signed author some marketing help and lowered expectations for smaller players, the industry would be more likely to break even or profit from work rather than lose significant money on most books. Publishing a book with almost zero marketing help is totally worthless.

What would you add/subtract to my list?

Author Interview: Ann the Supreme Overlord

Ann Livi Andrews is the “Supreme Overlord” of the Support for Indie Authors Goodreads group, which she started in January 2015. The group has grown to over 3,000 indie authors bound by a desire to help each other. Here’s my interview with Ann about her debut novel, Hollow Towns.

S: You wrote in multiple viewpoints for this story, as opposed to just one person. Did that make the writing style more difficult, or was it a fun challenge?

A: Honestly they felt like two completely different stories as I was writing them. Yes, they do tie together, but Charlie’s personality is so different than Hannah/Lucy’s that it gave the first half of the book a vastly different feel than the second half – at least it did while I was writing it. My greatest struggle was in finding a way to put them together that wasn’t too confusing for readers. I knew they weren’t two separate books, but alternating between the two viewpoints would have given too much away too quickly.

S: To me, The Seven made the story more creepy. Your writing made them feel almost like…deities. Tell the blog reader (without too many spoilers) how these seven beings impact the story.

A: I suppose they’re a bit like a shadow government that many people have conspiracy theories surrounding. Only they’re not concerned with individuals. I’d go so far as to say that they don’t recognize anything in the singular form, which I hinted at with their reaction to Charlie and Madison at the very end of the book. Every action they take is merely a small step towards a greater purpose. As for the sense that they’re deities, I’m pretty sure they believe they are.

S: Near the end of your book, two characters talk about a possible war and whether they should participate or not. Without too many giveaways, where do you see the next book headed? Or, are you done with this story?

A: I wanted to be done with this story, but things don’t always work out the way we want them to. However, I’m excited to begin on the sequel because we’ll get to learn about this new way of life through Madison’s eyes as she experiences it for herself. In addition, we’ll learn more about The Seven and their plans for Charlie. And as Charlie and his team take on new missions, we’ll get to learn more about the environment they were raised in. As for the impending fight, they’ll have to decide whether or not they have a chance to make any changes at all by fighting.

S: Where do you get your inspiration for your writing?

A: Sometimes it’s a dream. Sometimes it’s a sentence that keeps repeating over and over again in my head until I write it down. Regardless, it never feels like something I’m making it up. It’s more like switching through frequencies until you get a clear signal on a story that’s already floating around somewhere. With Hollow Towns, I had an image of a girl waking up amid rubble with no idea of who she was, lightning flashing all around her. The story built from there due to my curiosity to find out what had happened to her.

S: Since you published this novel, what has the initial reaction been like?

A: Most readers have enjoyed it. I thought the change in perspective might frustrate a few people, but so far it’s been well received.

S: Which of the character’s perspectives was the toughest for you to write, and why?

A: Hannah/Lucy for sure. I couldn’t connect with her. I really don’t like her at all. I’m not sure if it’s her naivety or her stubbornness to keep pushing on, but she really irritated me. I had completed my first draft but after rereading it, I basically scrapped the entire first half of the book (Hannah/Lucy’s story) and started from scratch. I can honestly say that she drove me to drink.

S: What’s next for you?

A: I’m hoping to launch a paperback of my first four stories in my Rehab for Superheroes series titled “Meet Your Heroes.” This will feature an extended version of Crimson Mistress (this is the first story I ever published and I’ve known for a while that it needed to be rehashed a bit), Jack, Em, and Dakota. I also have a sequel to Hamlet that I’ve been working on for a few months now. If I could get those two out by the end of the year I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be wrapping up the full length novel of Rehab for Superheroes. My list only seems to get longer even though I’ve crossed quite a few items off of it.

visit Ann’s personal website HERE

Buy the book HERE

Book Review: Percy Jackson, the All American-Greek God-kid

The Last Olympian " Signed "

For my first book review at the rebranded site Bradan’s World, I want to focus on a hyper popular book which already has so many purchases I doubt Rick Riordan gives a darn if I steer a few more his way. But here is a review for his last book, The Last Olympian.

Where I got it from: I picked up the copy from an indie thrift store, and they just had the last book in the series. I guess I got there before the other fan finished book four.

Scoring: As you know, I give 0, 1, or 2 points for plot, style, editing, book cover, and intangibles. Book Cover replaces belivability, which is hard to be precise about. Instead, I’ll put that towards intangibles. Every review has some spoilers, so read at your own risk.

Plot: You may need to pick up books 1-4 to figure out everything that happened, but Rick’s writing is good enough that I got the plot without needing to go back. At this point, Percy Jackson, the son of Poseidon, is trying to figure out a way to stop Kronos, Lord of Time, from destroying Olympus where the Gods are. Apparently Greek Gods looove Manhattan and so this is where Mount Olympus is, along with the last half of the novel. After a losing battle with Kronos, who is using the body of Luke Castellan to do his bidding, Percy goes to camp Half-Blood to regroup. He and his friends eventually go to Manhattan where a dark battle is brewing. It’s up to Percy and his outmanned friends to stop a very powerful army, led by Kronos, at the feet of Olympus.

I will judge this book as a standalone, and I can see why it hit the bestseller’s list. It’s really good, the plot makes sense, even if the ending is not quite as dramatic as I would like. 2/2

Style: This is where Rick’s writing stands out from every other kid’s book I’ve seen. It’s really funny. The entire thing is a comedy, but he does a great job at making the dramatic scenes dramatic when he needs to. At times his serious parts were weak because of all the jokes, but no complaints with his writing. 2/2

Editing: I am generally lenient with minor spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors. If you are an indie author or small publisher, I give a lot of leeway. For a traditionally published dude? Not so much. I found a few typos and punctuation errors. Not enough to ruin the story, but come on, Disney. 1.5/2

Book Cover: I loved the cover of the reprint edition, which is the one I have. So much so, I wanted to find John Rocco (Riordan’s cover artists) and ask how much he charged to do a book cover for a comparable novel. 2/2

Intangibles: This is the “emotional” pitch of the book or other factors. Familiar readers know that if you make me cry or feel something in my stomach, you will hit the bestseller’s list. I want to lock that in as a fact.

This book needed to be a little darker towards the end. While the plot and the romantic angle did work, it just came up short. Much as I hate giving halfsies, I have to. 1.5/2

Overall: 9/10 Only a little too much out-of-place humor and a few typos missed by editors from a big publisher kept this from being a solid 10/10. But this book is really, really good. It’s unique (enough), creative, and fun. I can get why kids love it, and I’m sure a fairly high number of adults loved the book and the series too. Good job Rick.

Be one of over 35 million and buy a copy of his book:

At Amazon

at B&N

My Interview With The Wynn Brothers

First, I want to give a big thank-you to Francis Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, for interviewing me for his blog. Check it out, and say hi to Francis! In the meantime, stay tuned for an author interview from him.

I spoke to Todd and Tim Wynn, co-authors of Trespassers, to talk about their sci-fi humor novel. Just picture the premise of aliens landing on earth and searching for that special something…only it’s not quite the something you think it is. Let’s visit the Wynn brothers world:

S: Let’s start with your book. What made you decide to write this book, as opposed to any other concept you and your brother might have had?

WB: Like most writers, we’re always juggling multiple stories and trying to decide which to focus on. In this case, it was as if the novel decided on its own. “Trespassers” didn’t have an outline or any characters in place. It just started with page one and took off from there. It started off so fun to write that we just stuck with it.

S: In Trespassers, you indicate that the real reason aliens might visit us is for vaccination purposes. I LOL’d on this. Give us the in-depth on how you came up with that as the real reason they come here.

WB: Well, the real reason they come here is for vacation, due to Earth’s natural beauty, which is a product of it abundant water supply. The reason they abduct Earthlings is to make vaccines to protect themselves from Earth’s microorganisms, similar to anyone who visits a foreign country. This idea came from simply asking ourselves why visitors from another planet would want to abduct a local. We knew we didn’t want it to be anything that we’d seen before, so the answer was a product of looking for something new and satisfying the needs of the alien vacationer.

S: Is the novel meant to be a stand-alone or part of a larger series?

WB: “Trespassers” is definitely a stand alone, but it’s a world that we could revisit. There are certainly ideas floating around for continuing the story and following these characters. We’ve also gotten many requests from readers for a sequel or even a prequel, so an expansion of this story is not out of the question.

S: What was your favorite/least favorite character to write about?

WB: Our least favorite characters didn’t make the cut for that very reason, and they’re not in the book.

As for our favorite, Bruner was always fun to write, because we were giving him so much to handle—too much for anybody. His success came through his ability to handle failure, and we gave him plenty to handle. But it also showed that he’s driven by his faith to this purpose that he doesn’t even understand, but he can feel it’s there, for better or worse.

S: Did you show this to anyone before publishing it? What was the response to your novel?

WB: We definitely believe in early readers. We don’t rely on them to edit our manuscript, but after we spend so much time with the characters and the story, it’s good to hear the perspective of someone who’s reading it fresh for the very first time.

For “Trespassers,” the response from the early readers was overwhelmingly positive, and we got some very helpful input that made the novel even better in the final edit.

S: If you could have added one thing to your novel that you didn’t in the final version, what would it be?

WB: We’ve learned not to look back on a finished work and not to second guess it. We’re happy with the final version, and we’re looking forward.

S: What’s next for you two?

WB: We’re currently working on a novel set in the Midwest during the mid-1800s. It’s filled with murder, tornadoes, and three strangers who come together to form a search party to track a wanted man into uncharted lands. And anyone familiar with our work will know to expect plenty of twists and turns that change the way we see each of these strangers.

Buy Trespassers here

My op-ed in the newspaper: Do you agree or disagree?

I had an op-ed published in The News Journal yesterday. The NJ is a Gannett company newspaper, the same company which owns USA Today. The topic was downloading and supporting indies. Please read and comment on it. Now, as I am on good terms with the editor, I did promise to get his page some traffic, so I will post only the first half of the roughly 700 word article here. Read it, and let me know what you think.

Please consider the indie before downloading

The letter Taylor Swift wrote to Apple asking the company to pay artists whose music is streamed during customer’s free trial period shed a light on a continuing battle between digital creators and consumers that don’t want to pay for digital work.

Many musicians applauded Swift. Large companies like Apple, Google and Spotify routinely make money off others’ talent and do as much as possible to compensate as little as possible. You can go online and read horror stories from musicians who had hundreds of thousands of streams for their songs on those services, but whose royalties barely cover one night at Dover Downs. This is especially a problem for so-called “indies,” or people who create music with a small record label or none at all, and rely on their music sales to earn a living.

Part of the challenge, in addition to persuading people to pay for artists they like, is piracy. Someone decides they like a movie, song, e-book, or game and upload it without permission to file sharing sites where artists get nothing for their work. Even worse, these sites make it easier for someone who doesn’t respect intellectual property rights to just take an artist’s work and start selling it illegally without compensation. This is a problem for all creative industries, but unlike multinational corporations, indies are unable to fight piracy at all.

Unfortunately, those who are not creators tend to assume that if one isn’t making money from their work, then their product must not be worth buying. The problem with that belief is, in the age of diffused media, being discovered by enough people to earn a living becomes more difficult without money, endorsements or name recognition. This has resulted in many unknown creators giving away a lot of work for free, in the hopes of being discovered. As the public became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content, and as if the ease of finding stuff for free was just too easy, the incentive to pay any creator disappeared.

Read the rest of the article here 

Author Interview: Iffix Santaph

Back to the author interviews! Today we have Iffix Santaph, indie author, on his new middle-grade novel, Impulse, which is book 1 of 6 in the Forgotten Princess series. Here’s my interview with Iffix.

S: Give us the inside scoop on Jendra’s relationship with Toby and Leon, her “just friends” friend.

I: Jendra is the doctor’s adopted daughter, and Leon is destined to be the next town doctor, so they see a lot of each other. Jendra has been searching the underground city for her father since he disappeared ten years earlier, and since Jendra is nearly expert at parkour and “not the sort to fall and bruise her ego”, Leon has been there to rescue her on many occasions. Beside this, the two “just friends” are more than close. There are some interesting secrets regarding Toby, though Jendra and he haven’t met before the ride on the ferry where Leon took Jendra to escape the “angry city dwellers” whose glares may or may not be all in her head. Toby is Leon’s cousin and a criminally-minded youth who dreams of being a pirate someday. In truth, though, Toby just knows that his father’s river ferry is getting old and will eventually be decommissioned. Toby might have been the perfect best friend for Jendra had he been six years older, but they cultivate a relationship closer to siblings, and Toby loves to drive Jendra nuts.

S: What was the inspiration for Tranoudor?

I: Actually, this stems to the top secret origin of the story itself. The story is loosely based on a fairy tale which featured characters who spent an abundance of time in caves, and as I endeavored to incorporate some of these details, I thought it would be fun to build an entire underground city which is slowly falling apart.

There were events in Tranoudor that I based on my own life. For example, I there were more than a few trips in my early life when I had the opportunity to explore caves, particularly in Minnesota and in the black hills. My love of waterfalls is based on the number of family trips we took to Niagara falls, though the waterfall in Tranoudor has slightly smaller. I once was traveling through northern Missouri where the bridge had been out and I needed to cross aboard a ferry. There was also a rickety old bridge in central Honduras that felt about to cave in, which proved to be the inspiration for another scene.

S: When I saw the Je’Raxs, I kept thinking Jurassic Park, especially with the timing of the movie. Will we see dinosaurs?

I: The Je’rax was more like a super-sized scorpion. Before I began to write the story, I approached a number of artists on the popular web-based community DeviantArt. I told them I would love to use their artwork as an inspiration for a roleplaying game; I was taking a break from my then 18 years as a sci-fi writer and attempting to learn to write tabletop games. And the response was incredible. I gathered a large collection of concepts. From these things, I learned who the arch-villain really was, I learned what my gwalfling characters looked like, I learned about the galaxy as a whole, enough to immerse myself in a really incredible world which I am very happy to share. There are a few dinosaur-like creatures in my bestiary. Impulse opens on Gavyn, the shadowman, who is essentially a sentient dinosaur.

S: Did you show this to anyone before publishing it? What was the response to your novel?

I: I actually had a number of beta readers who considered the project and were eager to read more. I showed it to a wide variety of potential agents, on the other hand, who sent the usual response. “This is a great story… for someone else.” So I decided that the someone else would be me. After all, if I had a group of betas who said “I’d buy this.” So I took a risk. I knew I had to start somewhere. If you ever take a real look at the publishing industry, it’s one gigantic circle that will make your head spin. You can’t be published without drawing and audience, and you can’t draw an audience without getting published. So now, when I pitch to agents, I can tell them “I have published Impulse, a middle grade novel, and this is my next project.” That means something. It’s an opening I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t jump into the publishing arena. Of course, I am always looking for a sincere agent. But one of the best things about being an Indie is knowing who I am and not having it taken away because the publisher wants a different story with flirtatious vampires I’m not willing to tell.

S: Which character was your favorite to write about, and why? Least favorite?

I: I loved so many characters when I was writing Impulse. Of course, Toby speaks to who I was at his age. I wasn’t criminal minded, but I was devious and to this day, I’m most content goofing off. It’s easier to write in his mindset. I am also really enjoying the evil queen. Part of enjoying the unlikeable characters is understanding what they’re so determined to accomplish. I know why she is who she is, and when the story reaches that point, I will be happy to fill in those details.

S: What’s next for you?

I: Impulse marked the first in a series of six books in the Forgotten Princess series. Deception is the second book, released in July of this year. I am nearing completion in the writing stages of Conspiracy, the third book, then I will be editing, sending to betas, editing, more betas, etc, etc, until October-ish, when the book will be released and I continue with Retrospect, Stratagem, and Nemesis to complete the base series. Also, as was evidenced last week when Teddy Bear Junction was released (a markedly different story for me), I hope to release an occasional children’s story or short story here or there as the opportunity arises. If those stories relate to Forgotten Princess, I will likely be releasing them on my website: iffixysantaph.com

Check out Iffix’s book at Amazon.