Saturday, June 25, 2011

JK Rowling says, "Bookstore? I don't need no stinking bookstore!"

I love bookstores. I've been an avid reader since I was a little kid, and anyone who loves books will be able to relate when I say there aren't many things better in life than spending a couple of hours browsing through the new releases, trying to decide what to buy next.

I mention this as a preface to the following question: What obligation does an author have to try to support bookstores, the vast majority of which are struggling mightily, caught between a down economy and the ebook publishing revolution?

As basically an outsider to the debate (my debut thriller, FINAL VECTOR, was published in ebook form only, as will be my followup, THE LONELY MILE, at least for the time being), I can't help but be amused by the bookstores' hysterical reaction to the news out of Merrie Olde England that JK Rowling intends to make the ebook editions of her smash Harry Potter series available ONLY through her own Pottermore website, bypassing not just Amazon, but the brick-and-mortar Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waterstone's, and all other physical booksellers.

Why am I amused? Because as a mostly unknown author it would be just about impossible for me to have ink-and-paper editions of my upcoming StoneHouse Ink thriller, THE LONELY MILE, stocked in any of the gigantic chain stores, even if there were ink-and-paper editions to sell, even in my own local area.

Space is limited in a bookstore, obviously, and why would Barnes and Noble allot any of that valuable space to an author most people have never heard of? Even if I begged and groveled? It's a financial reality that the bookstores have to allot space to the books they believe will best sell. In genre fiction, that means stocking the biggest names only.

Nothing personal; it's just business. It only makes sense from a financial perspective.

But of course, JK Rowling is one of those "biggest names." She might just be the biggest of the biggest names. The launches of her Potter books have been EVENTS, each one more gigantic than the last, with anxious and adoring fans lined up around the block outside the stores, waiting breathlessly for the midnight opening of the store on release day, so they could rush in and spend their money on the latest Harry Potter adventure.

But here's the rub, the thing I find so deliciously ironic. JK Rowling is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. I don't mean that literally - she looks quite lovely - but in a very real way she has outgrown the need for bookstores or anyone else to help sell electronic editions of her work. The very thing that made her book releases so attractive to bookstores - her unparallelled popularity - has made her realize there is no reason to share any of the take with bookstores or anyone else.

I'm sure there's nothing personal; it's just business. It only makes sense from a financial perspective.

So all of this leads back to my original question: Does JK Rowling - or any author, for that matter - have any obligation to support brick-and-mortar bookstores? Or does the continuing rise of ebook popularity mean the symbiotic relationship between authors and bookstores is doomed?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Locke to join the club

Let's play a little game. I'm going to throw the names of a few authors out there, and you tell me which one doesn't fit with the others.


Okay, here we go: James Patterson. Nora Roberts. Lee Child. Michael Connelly. John Locke.

Any thoughts? Which one doesn't fit?

Okay, okay, I'll come clean. I cheated. The answer is that there is no name out of the above five that doesn't fit with the others. Those five, along with Stieg Larsson, Charlaine Harris and Suzanne Collins, make up the Kindle Million Club, that is, the eight authors who have sold over a million Kindle books.

So all of those authors fit with the others, but there is one who is different. John Locke. If you're a mystery/thriller reader, maybe you recognize the name; maybe you've even read one or more of his books. But if you're not, the name likely means nothing to you.

That's because, although the other seven members of the Kindle Million Club are established, world-famous authors with the backing of large publishers and promotional budgets, John Locke is independently published - what used to be known, in the olden days of a year or two ago, as self-published. In other words, he did it himself. No Random House. No Penguin. No Ballantine. Just John Locke.

According to the Kindle Direct Publishing newsletter, as of two days ago, June 19, John Locke had sold 1,010,370 Kindle books, joining the other seven names mentioned above in the rapidly-growing club of authors who have sold over a million Kindle books. Around a year ago, James Patterson became the founding member.

But the name John Locke is a groundbreaking one because he is the first independently published million-selling Kindle author, although he undoubtedly will not be the last. My understanding is that my friend and fellow StoneHouse author Vincent Zandri is well over a third of the way there, and with new Zandri books coming out at a dizzying pace - I'm convinced there are really three Vincent Zandri's, each one typing madly away in an office somewhere - Vin is practically a lock to reach the club at some point in the not-too-distant future, too.

If you take a quick glance at the Amazon bestselling lists or the John Locke page, you will notice immediately that John Locke's books sell for considerably less than the other seven members of the club, many of them for a lot less. As an independent (self) publisher, one person controls the pricing of John Locke's books - John Locke.

And although a price point of 99 cents might seem ridiculously low, like he is practically giving his work away, a little quick math tells you that with a thirty percent royalty from Amazon on books priced at 99 cents, even if every single one of John Locke's book sales occurred at that price, the man has earned $303,093.00 from his work, almost all of it in the last year.

Giving away his work? Doesn't seem like it with those numbers, does it?

As a fellow thriller author whose first book, FINAL VECTOR, was published by an Indie publisher, Medallion Press, and whose second book, THE LONELY MILE, will be released this summer by another Indie publisher, StoneHouse Ink, and whose first horror novella, DARKNESS FALLS, will be published in September by highly-regarded horror Indie publisher Delirium Books, I look at those numbers closely. I gaze lovingly at them, like a new mother at her swaddled infant, imagining what might be.

Would I love to get a contract with Random House? Duh. Of course I would. Do I feel it's necessary to get a contract with Random House to develop a readership and brisk sales for my work? Absolutely not.

Thank you, John Locke. Congratulations on joining those other famous names in the Kindle Million Club, and I hope your success continues. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an inspiration.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Euphoric Cleveland celebrates NBA Championship

Law enforcement authorities last night praised Cleveland sports fans for their orderly behavior as the city celebrated its first professional sports championship in nearly a half-century, after the Dallas Mavericks dispatched the Miami Heat in six games to win the NBA Championship.

"Fans of the underdog everywhere can appreciate this," one exultant partier exclaimed. When reminded it wasn't actually a Cleveland team that won the series, he said, "Well, no, of course not. But here in Cleveland we still look at this as a victory. When you haven't won a championship in any major professional sport since 1964, you take what you can get."

There were scattered reports throughout the city of the occasional spontaneous Lebron jersey-burning, causing mild concern from fire enforcement officials. "Obviously," one firefighter said, "we don't ever condone bonfires in the city, but you can't really blame people from celebrating, given the circumstances."

He went on to add, "The thing that surprises me is that there were so many of those damned things left after last spring, when you couldn't swing a dead cat around here without coming across another flaming Lebron James jersey."

A high-ranking figure in Cleveland city government, who spoke to this reporter only after receiving assurances of anonymity, said, "Let's face it, of course we'd prefer to see the Cavs win a championship, but at this point, we're not that fussy. We just want to celebrate. I'm thinking of taking my partying talents to South Beach just to keep the celebration going."

Perhaps one delirious fan put it best when he said, "This is the best feeling ever! I can't wait until next year to make it two in a row. I know it's not easy to win back-to-back titles, but since we only need one of twenty-nine teams to win, I like our chances."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review of NO ONE TO HEAR YOU SCREAM, by Julia Madeleine

Justine Jameson has her share of problems. She's a teenage single mother of an infant baby, recently moved back in with her father and stepmother after the failure of her relationship with the baby's father. Her parents' relationship is hanging by a thread, as is her father's business.

And that's not the worst of it. Justine hears things; voices in her head warning her of a horrible fate awaiting her child, warning her she is incapable of caring for a baby, making her fear for her very sanity.

When the dysunctional family buys a recently foreclosed home in a tiny, isolated New York town, things go from bad to worse for Justine. Her father works long hours attempting to save his business, her self-involved stepmother disappears for long stretches at a time, and Justine feels isolated and alone until she meets Rory Madden, a bad-boy Irish expatriate who sweeps her off her feet.

But Rory Madden may not be exactly what - or who - he appears. His past is one of violence and deception, and his motives are unclear, at least to Justine. When she discovers a strange text message on her stepmother's cell phone, a deadly chain of events is set into motion that threatens everything Justine Jameson holds dear, and death and destruction lurks around every corner.

NO ONE TO HEAR YOU SCREAM is Julia Madeleine's second book, and it is written with an eye for detail that draws the reader into the plot. As the wheels of apparent coincidence and ill will begin to turn faster and faster, the suspense builds until the reader is left turning pages in a breathless attempt to discover who - if anyone - will survive a violent showdown.

The characters are layered, developed fully and richly, and every one of them has a secret which influences their actions. It is this fully developed characterization which, more than anything else, draws the reader in and makes him care about the outcome of the book, which remains in doubt right up until the very end.

Julia Madeleine is a name to watch, and NO ONE TO HEAR YOU SCREAM is a winner.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Review of LIQUID FEAR, by Scott Nicholson

A girl brutally murdered in a motel room, the corpse discovered by a man who may or may not be who he thinks he is.

A meeting between two old friends in a coffee shop, interrupted by a driverless car smashing through the wall, barely avoiding crushing them to death.

A long-ago clinical trial of an experimental drug which may or may not have been responsible for a young girl's death; a trial which may or may not have been abandoned by the scientist in charge of the research.

These are the seemingly unrelated events that form the basis for LIQUID FEAR, the new thriller from author Scott Nicholson, the prolific horror/thriller author of such genre standouts as DISINTEGRATION, SPEED DATING WITH THE DEAD and THEY HUNGER, among many others.

This book is as timely and relevent as it is exciting and pulse-pounding. Barely a week goes by without the shocking news of another drug originally approved for use, then pulled off the market due to unexpected and dangerous side effects.

LIQUID FEAR builds on that premise, offering up a psychotically driven researcher who doesn't know when to quit, an upwardly mobile politician, and a group of drug trial subjects a decade removed from an experience they would love to leave in the past but can't quite figure out how to manage it.

The goal of any thriller is to draw the reader into the plot, making him care about the characters and continue turning the pages relentlessly, holding his breath to see what will happen next. Scott Nicholson accomplishes all this and more in LIQUID FEAR, crafting a novel you won't want to put down until you turn the last page.

I highly recommend this book. You'll never look at your prescription medication in quite the same way again.