Saturday, July 24, 2010

Out With the Half-Done, In With the New

When do you decide it's time to put a project on hold, especially when it's one you believe in and you are nearly half done with the first draft?

That's the queston I found myself confronting this past week. After getting a thumbs-down from the Indie publisher I sent my PASKAGANKEE partial, I reluctantly set aside the followup novel, titled REVENANT, that I had completed close to 40,000 words on the first draft.

It wasn't easy. I happen to love both the completed PASKAGANEE, and the second, half-completed first draft of REVENANT. Realistically, though, it makes little sense to continue working on a followup to a book with no short-term prospects, especially when my writing time is necessarily limited by my Evil Day Job responsibilities.

On the bright side, it's not like I don't have things I can be working on. I finished a noir short story, titled "Jersey Joe," early in the wek, and then began work on a new paranormal suspense novel tentatively titled FLICKER. It's always slow going at the beginning of a new novel, for me at least, trying to introduce the characters and set a mood, but I've completed over 5,000 words on the first draft and I'm happy with the progress so far, despite the fact it's very early in the game.

And I'm definitely not giving up on REVENANT. That novel has been placed on the back burner for now, but I still very much believe in PASKAGANKEE, and when that novel sells, I will be ready to jump right back into the sequel.

I've also pretty much decided on the plot line for my followup to FINAL VECTOR, which releases this coming February from Medallion Press. Unless things change, which they seem to do often in this crazy writing gig, my plan is to jump right into the first draft of this currently untitled sequel once I've finished the first draft of FLICKER, then work on revisions of whichever one I'm happier with.

So all told it was a pretty decent week, despite the disappointment that went with hearing the publisher considering PASKAGANKEE had decided to opt out.


Interested in winning a FREE copy of every book I ever publish? Check out the details on the "Contact" page at my website,!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How About a Free Book or Twenty?

So I wanted to do something to celebrate the long-awaited (at least by me) re-launch of my newly redesigned website, Obviously, as a debut novelist, that something would have to involve giving away books; it only makes sense - what the hell else am I going to give away that anyone would want?

But as cool as it would be to give away a copy of my upcoming thriller, FINAL VECTOR, it didn't seem like enough to me. Plus, all authors seem to give away a copy of their new release. Giving away a copy of all of my books would be much better, but of course, all of my books, at this point consist of FINAL VECTOR, which hasn't even been released yet.

I have zero backlist, which sounds a little like the punch line to a dirty joke but in reality means I don't have any previously published books to give away which would sweeten the pot for the lucky winner of my website relaunch contest. What to do?

Then it occurred to me. I'll do something I've never heard of before but which, if I achieve any measure of success, would be totally cool: I am going to give away my futurelist! I fully intend to continue producing thrillers and horror novels until either I croak or succumb to Alzheimers, whichever comes first. One winner of my contest will receive a free copy of every book I ever write, from FINAL VECTOR forward.

Like I said, I've never heard of anyone else doing this, although I'm probably wrong about that. It's hard to imagine I'm such a marketing genius that I've come up with a promotional idea no one has ever thought of before.

In any event, if you like the idea of free books from now until . . . well . . . whenever, all you have to do is go to my website, click on the "Contact" link on the left, and at the bottom of that page, sign up for my email newsletter. Do this before August 31, and you will be eligible to win FINAL VECTOR plus my entire futurelist.

Oh, and by the way, lest you're concerned I will immediately begin filling your inbox with spam, don't worry. My intention at this point is to put out my newsletter twice a year. If things get really hectic, maybe I would consider upping that to four times a year, but certainly no more than that. So, no worries.

Now I'll grant you, as I'll be 51 when my first novel is released, the odds are you won't win a hundred free books or anything, but I figure I've got a good couple of writing decades in me. What do you have to lose?

Monday, July 19, 2010

So this is How the Dinosaurs Died, Part 4

Remember when I said I thought that e-book sales could approach twenty percent of total book sales before the new year? That was way back on June 6.

Just in case you happened to miss this insightful piece of bloggery and don't feel like reading the whole thing via the link above, one of the more prescient observations I made was, "Is twenty percent of total sales likely by the end of this year? I say it's not just likely, it's inevitable."

Well, from today's New York Times Technology section comes the news that over the previous three-month period, reports it has sold 143 books for the Kindle e-book reader for every 100 hardcover books sold. Furthermore, "The pace is quickening...In the last four weeks sales rose to 180 digital books sold for every 100 hardcover copies."

The growth in e-book sales continues to rise exponentially, too. Last year sales of e-books increased three hundred percent over the previous year's numbers, and if you think that represents a pace that cannot be maintained, you could not be more wrong. According to the New York Times piece, the Association of American Publishers says e-book sales are up four hundred percent over last year's pace through May.

Granted, these comparisons are only for e-book sales in comparison with hardcover sales. Nowhere in the report are comparisons made to paperback sales, which are still "thought to outnumber e-books." Fair enough.

But for how long? E-books and e-book readers are here to stay and soon - much sooner than anyone would have thought even two years ago - will represent the vast majority of book sales in the publishing industry. "Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change...predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be print versions."

I think I might have been wrong in that insightful June 6 post. E-book sales totals by the end of the year may not represent twenty percent of all book sales. The total might just be higher.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To Trailer or not to Trailer

As a brand-new author with a very limited marketing budget - like, say, what I can squeeze out between mortgage payments, car payments, college payments; well, you get the idea - I've tried to follow trends in the industry as best I can, so that when FINAL VECTOR comes out in February, I can get the most bang for my buck, so to speak, promotionally.

So it was with interest that I read a recent New York Times piece on the value, or lack thereof, of the book trailer. You know them, these are the bookish equivalent of movie trailers, normally running anywhere from thirty seconds to several minutes in length, produced for the express purpose of persuading you to buy the book.

The piece was an interesting read, although I'm not sure I agree with the author, Pamela Paul's, take on the situation. At one point she says, "the trailer is fast becoming an essential component of online marketing."

Yet the numbers she cites later in the story don't seem to back up that view. She says, "According to a June survey of 7,561 book buyers by the Codex Group, a marketing research firm, only 0.2 percent discovered their last book through a video book trailer, and another 0.1 percent were persuaded to buy their last book that way."

Yes, you read that quote right. Point two percent and point one percent! Or, to translate for those of you whose math skills aren't quite at the level you wish they were, practically no one! It's hard for me to imagine how one person out of five hundred, or one person out of a thousand, justifies the time, effort and cost of producing a book trailer.

To be fair, most of the focus of the story was on the non-fiction market. But my gut feeling is that the numbers probably wouldn't be terribly different for fiction readers than for non-fiction readers. The thing I found most interesting was mentioned later: a 2009 survey conducted by, where 46% of teen readers responding said they watched book trailers online, and even more to the point, an incredible 45% said they bought a book after watching the trailer.

So what does all this mean to a fifty year old debut novelist in the thriller genre? Probably not much, although if the numbers are to be believed, the value of the well-produced book trailer may skyrocket as all those teen readers graduate from young adult books to . . . well . . . older adult books, like, say, those that I write.

For now, though, I can't really see the value of a trailer for FINAL VECTOR, although I'm certainly keeping an open mind on the subject. If M. Night Shyamalan were to offer his services, I might be persuaded to change my mind.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Pretty Good Writing Week

It's been a pretty decent week on the writing front. Back on Monday, as I was standing in line at Foxwoods with my wife waiting to check in on our little two-day mini-vacation, I received an email from one of the top-tier literary agents on my wish-list. I had queried her a couple of months ago regarding my thriller, THE LONELY MILE, and she got back to me requesting a synopsis and a partial!

In this particular case, she wants to see the first 75 pages of the manuscript and if she likes what she sees - meaning she believes the writing is solid, the story is good, the characters are real, the suspense is sustainable and the book is sellable in today's market (Wow, the odds really are stacked against me) - if all that happens, then her next step would be to request the entire manuscript.

Then, if she still believes all of the above is true, and if the story is not too similar to a book from an author she already represents, an offer of representation would follow.

I'm not going to name names unless and until she offers to represent me. Obviously, this is only the first step in a long process and, realistically, representation remains a longshot for this relatively unknown author, but this agent is the real deal, repping more than one household name in the thriller genre, and it would be less than accurate to say I wasn't excited beyond belief that she wants to read a partial of THE LONELY MILE, which I believe is my best work to date.

Then this morning, within the span of a couple of hours, I received two happy emails:

The first was from the editor of Twisted Dreams Magazine, a quarterly dark fiction publication offering both print and electronic issues. My short story, "Under an October Moon" has been accepted for publication in the Fall 2010 issue, which will be available in October. One of my previous stories, "The Bridal Veil," was featured in the Summer 2009 issue and I absolutely loved the magazine, both for the quality of its fiction and the circulation it has achieved. I'm very excited to see this story in print!

The second was from the acquisitions editor of Dark Quest Books, a small, independent publisher of horror, among other things, located in New Jersey. Dark Quest publishes in both print and electronic formats, and I had queried them a couple of months ago regarding my paranormal horror novel, PASKAGANKEE. Dark Quest has requested a full synopsis and a partial, in this case the first five chapters!

The process with Dark Quest would more or less mirror the process with the literary agent I mentioned above. If they like what they read in the synopsis, and believe the sample I send is high quality and would fit their list of titles, then they would request the entire manuscript. If after that they still believe the novel would sell, they would offer a contract. So, this is the beginning of a lengthy process as well, but you can't finish the trip unless you take the first step, right?

Things seem to happen in bunches, and this week was really a good example of that.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Brick Callahan Rides Again

What happens when you mix a ruthless strip-club owner, an elderly real-estate lawyer, a teenage runaway, a divorced L.A. accountant and an irascible eighty year old Boston private detective? You get "Uncle Brick and The Little Devilz," the second installment in the Uncle Brick mystery series, featured now in the Summer 2010 issue of Mysterical-E.

When the grieving widow of a man police claim jumped to his death off a Chinatown apartment building visits Callahan Investigations claiming her husband was murdered, Brick agrees to take the case. The trail leads to the man's secretary, whose underaged runaway daughter is rumored to be working as a dancer at a local strip club.

Subtlety is not Brick Callahan's strong suit, and his plan for solving the case puts him on top of the very same Chinatown roof his client's husband recently swan-dived off, in the clutches of a murderous thug. Brick's fate rests in the hands of his nephew, an accountant by trade and a three-week veteran of Callahan Investigations. Things look grim, but Brick is not afraid to put his unconventional methods to the ultimate test.

The first Uncle Brick story, "Uncle Brick and Jimmy Kills," ran in last year's Summer issue of Mysterical-E and finished third in the Best Novelette voting for a 2010 Derringer Award, so this entry has big shoes to fill. I love the Uncle Brick series; it's completely different from anything else I write and so is a lot of fun.

If you get a chance, check the story out and let me know what you think. The link to the front page of Mysterical-E - one of the oldest and longest-running online mystery magazines - is here, and if you prefer to link directly to my story, "Uncle Brick and The Little Devilz," you can do so here.

I'm already planning the third installment in this series, tentatively titled "Uncle Brick and the L.A. Ex," hopefully to be found in a future issue of Mysterical-E. Thanks for reading!