Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Crazy Ass Christmas Season And My 2012 Writer Resolutions!

So the heralded 2011 Christmas season has come at last as has the much anticipated Kindle sales rush. I posted earlier in the year about the skyrocketing Black Friday Kindle Fire sales. As was discussed all year by many with dogs in this race a lot of phenomenally good things have happened for E-publishing.

Side note: I thought the pic here was hilarious and aptly illustrated how some writers are figuratively "getting some" this holiday sales season.

Back to the Amazon Kindle discussion. This news below is from Dec 15 but describes a pretty good precedent to assume sales up to today, read the Amazon press release here.

Here's a standout comment;

“Kindle Fire is the most successful product we’ve ever launched – it’s the bestselling product across all of Amazon for 11 straight weeks, we’ve already sold millions of units, and we’re building millions more to meet the high demand. In fact, demand is accelerating – Kindle Fire sales increased week over week for each of the past three weeks. People are buying Kindle Fire because it's a simple, fully-integrated service that makes it easy to do the things they love.

So, to overview some obvious ramifications:

1.) There are now a mutiple of millions of new e-reading devices and e-reading households out there right now.

2.) The silly little kiddie fad of E-reading is officially a cornerstone business of the worlds largest bookseller.

3.) More e-readers means more devices, more people reading, more people buying affordable and instantly delivered material. More "new favorites" being discovered and even more of those author's titles being bought.

4.) More book sales all with a royalty return (at 2.99$ or even more if at a higher price) comparable to that of a top priced hardcover. This is less and less dollars for Big 6 houses, not that I'm a DIE-BIG 6-DIE pundit but it's relevant to see how their declining profits affect their interaction with the digital market.

Easy math here. What E-commerce has been doing since day 1.

For a fresh example feel free to click over to Mr. Konraths site. He's always been open and vocal about his sales. Whether you think he posts his numbers to "stick-it" to the Legacy Man or to inspire newbs over what's possible is irrelevant. He's done very well in recent years publishing on his own.

This week though the man made 10k$ in one day!

So we all know what's possible and what can happen when planets align, whether those celestial bodies be comprised of luck, talent, perseverance or an amalgamation of all three, and an indie pub becomes a breakout...whether the overnight success took two months, years or decades.

Before my resolutions, this note:

I wanted my Novella "The Doomsday Door" (see "Coming Soon" for a description...that needs updating of course ) uploaded to throw my hat in this seasons sales and downloading rainstorm but it simply didn't happen. A highly qualified failure, I think, but I won't go into any long, painful overviews of my current personal and family challenges, no one likes a blogging complainer. So, having (seemingly) missed the boat this holiday season all I can do is to look ahead to 2012 and start drawing more lines in sand.

Which brings us to:

My 2012 "Goal" resolutions

- Finish my final revisions of "The Doomsday Door."

- Allocate funds for editing and cover design of "The Doomsday Door."

- Execute said editing and cover design for "The Doomsday Door."

- Upload "The Doomsday Door" and finally become an e-published author.

- E-market and promote the living hell out of "The Doomsday Door."

- Repeat this process for "Subversion", "The Ambassador" and "Holy War".

In short, meeting these goals will give myself a full length novel, two novellas and a (as of right now) one short by this time next year. Not a bad "footprint" for  first year of self-publishing I think. As is the mantra for setting goals...all attainable, are achievable by me alone and are not dependent on anyone else.

My 2012 "Writer" resolutions.

- I will write everyday, even if it's only 100 words or less or only for a few minutes. I need to keep my head in my stories everyday until they are complete. The words will all add up to finished works which is key.

- For the love of God I need to nail down some good, experience, non-family related Beta readers..can someone, anyone...throw me a bone here!

- Continue to enhance my web presence. I will expand and utilize my unused Twitter and my "writer" Facebook pages as I have with my much improved blog. Got two compliments on my blog this past month...still only at 5 followers as of this writing but it's 5 more than 0. Also more than some guys with actual books available online.

- Continue to formulate and analyze my marketing strategies and plans...IE: identify what book review and reader blogs I will submit to. 

- I will stay optimistic because while success is always possible it's rarely easy. The first month(s) or maybe even year(s) could be dismal in terms of readership and sales. If so...tough shit...that's life...I've had much worse problems in my 39 years. The readers are out there and it may take a lot of time and effort to breakthrough to them in any respectable number.

- I will analyze and objectively evaluate everything I do...plans need to be flexible and change should never be prohibited. 

- I will follow the examples of bestselling authors but not necessarily their footsteps. Every writer is a different creative entity and cannot expect similarities in how their work is received.    

- I will continue to evaluate my writing, always remembering that almost every creative professional out there has a story on how their personal favorite work is not their most popular. I will objectively evaluate myself as a Science Fiction writer, as a Thriller writer...as an Action Adventure writer. many writers have "switched" genre's and found true success. I will always consider all creative options. 

- I will remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. If I do find some level of success this year it will be roughly 24 years in the making.

- I will believe in myself as a talented writer capable of delivering to a readership...first and always...I need to be able to fill in the blank areas when no one else does.
- I will truly love and appreciate my beautiful, young wife for always listening to my (thus far) bullshit posturing on how I'm going to be a successful writer someday (going on since about '98) and how she still endures me tapping away when I could be doing something else.    

That's it for now, best of luck and a happy 2012 to all!

Good Times.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hachette Job!

Another heated discussion topic in the ongoing Indie vs. Traditional publishing debate recently was, if you didn't already know, the now infamous "inside memo" leaked from Big 6 house Hachette Book Group.

As is often the case of late, a topic regarding Traditional vs. E-pub was first addressed over on Mr. Konrath's site and was commented on (dissected and thoroughly Fisk'd) by JA Konrath and Barry Eisler, here. The analysis and criticism was done so flawlessly by two top indie authors with substantial traditional publishing backgrounds (which I lack) and knowledge that I won't regurgitate or attempt to imitate it. I will however provide my own commentary here.

The main criticisms of the "memo" are that it serves to remind Hachette employees and customers of their "relevance" in the face of the exploding e-publishing market, a significant portion of which represent independently published authors.

Sounds OK, normal practice for big business, but the problem is the extremely vague, unspecific, unsupported and unsubstantive buzz-word laden bullet points of the statement. It draws (and justly deserves) scrutiny and questioning of what value traditional publishing still offers to aspiring authors seeking publication as paper distribution models continue to diminish and the merit of taking disproportionately large royalty shares, particularly in the digital format.  

Not having been traditionally published I can, however, offer these observations from practical work experience: whenever you need to remind someone what you do; you're probably not doing it.

Highlights of the memo included these competencies, which we can argue are wholly unremarkable attributes for any service based business:

- They curate and nurture talent, foster rich relationships and collaborate on content.

- Venture capitalist's, investing in ideas.

- Offering expertise in sales and distribution, ensuring broadest distribution possible.

- Brand builder and "excitement generator" (this one drew some particularly harsh and humorous criticism's)

- Copyright and IP protector.

As was discussed, virtually none of the attributes cited in the memo are unique to any publisher, or for that matter, most customer service or product generation business's. The primary questions and criticism's generated were how this memo was completely devoid of recognition for the e-publishing growth and the emerging issues traditional publishers will face against this growing market.

Barry Eisler went as far as to mockingly refer to it as Bullshit Bingo for the repeated use of unsubstantive, vague and general slogans and business buzz words while not addressing any of the significant issues facing traditional and why authors should still pursue them.

As a newb looking at the fork in the road I'll just throw out some random issues that concern me (and many others) when choosing an appropriate publishing path to pursue.

- Agency model and gatekeepers; It's understandable that a certain level of quality is required for any publisher, hence gatekeepers and submission guidelines, but what we're finding out time and time again from successful independents is that it's more or less a contest of appeasing individual preferences within this system. Editor loved it, marketing department hated it, sorry.

- The timeline: 18 months or longer to see publication.

- The value of publication itself: retail bookshelves are going away. Quickly! Where is the remaining value in pursuing a spot on one.

- The true value of the "creative collaboration". Cover design, formatting and editing can be gotten, easily and professionally, for a flat charge leaving the majority of royalties intact.

-  The Marketing Push! This time in their statement was met with criticism at best and outright mockery at worst by many writers with traditional experience that I have seen posts from.

- Windowing, part of the 18 month (avg) time frame that manuscript see during their publishing. This is a cornerstone argument by indie pundits like Konrath that the digital release is intentionally held until the paper release. The complaint is that this is done to maximize the sale of a paper release by restricting the digital distribution, thereby benefiting the publisher (and not the author) who still controls said paper distribution process.

What is also clear is that the profitability of digital distribution vs paper is very evident as publishers are now moving, aggressively, to produce more digital titles, either through back list titles still under contract or through new "services" such as Penguin;s Book Country Fair, which was widely discussed with much negative criticism.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The commercial challenges of "real" Science Fiction.

At the risk of being a lazy blog poster today I'm offering links to a trio of (rather brilliant) roundtable discussions from Locus Online, the magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The table consists of of a panel of SF writer and editors discussing many of the issues facing SF. Also known as "hard", "speculative" or even "real" Science Fiction, depending if you lean that far to the end of the snob-o-meter.

Some discussion points on the intricacies of writing in genre that really stood out to me, not only as a reader but also as a writer still trying to find his place on the Sci-Fi---SF spectrum. A lot of the issues discussed in this rountable have been questions I've been asking myself about my attempts within the genre for a long time now.

- Should you write what's commercial...or what you like?

- Most SF books ARE NOT and DO NOT become break-out hits vs. other genere's. Why am I writing it?

- I will NEVER be as smart as a Brin, Bear, Baxter, Banks  (lot of B's, I know) Niven, Poul, Stephenson, etc. Why am I even trying to write in the same genre?

- Since I'm NEVER going to write from some brilliant arena of scientific extrapolation..won't I forever be a Sci-Fi HACK!

- Conversely...seeing as how the overwhelming majority of the "serious" SF bloggers and readers (and more than a few authors) regularly glare down their tenured, credentialed noses at the "cheap seats", the SF humor novels, the serialized Star Trek, Star Wars, Video game novelizations, space marines vs. an evil alien/bug/cyborg empire shoot-em-ups, etc...(most common criticism: ack...weak science)...why is the "real SF" consistently outsold by them?  

- What's the subject matter of the biggest grossing, most anticipated summer movies...sci-fi? Save fantasy standouts like Rowling and Meyers, why isn't this reflected more in the publishing world?

Here's the opening, links below:

A question came up: Has contemporary science fiction become too self-absorbed, or does it still have the capacity to cross over to a mass audience? If so, who are the authors and books that have managed to do so? And who do the folks in our Roundtable discussion group think are likely candidate to break out of the genre and find a large non-genre readership in the future–and why?

Cecelia Holland, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Paul Di Filippo, Ellen Klages, Karen Lord, Carolyn Cushman, Elizabeth Hand, N. K. Jemisin, Gary K. Wolfe, Rachel Swirsky, James Patrick Kelly, Jeffrey Ford, Gardner Dozois, Paul Graham Raven, Rich Horton, Russell Letson, and Guy Gavriel Kay all join in the discussion.

Roundtable #1

Roundtable #2

Roundtable #3

Extremely interesting reading regardless of your chosen genre regarding the issue of whether or not to write popular and commercial.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kindle Fire Black Friday Sales News

We we're all expecting to see huge sales for Kindles this season, especially from the new and highly touted Kindle Fire. Here's a press release for you:

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–(NASDAQ: AMZN) Amazon.com, Inc. today announced that this Black Friday was the best ever for the Kindle family and the popular Kindle Fire remained the bestselling product across all of Amazon since its introduction 8 weeks ago. The bestselling Kindle family – the $79 Kindle, $99 Kindle Touch, $149 Kindle Touch 3G and the $199 Kindle Fire – are available now at www.amazon.com/kindle and at over 16,000 retail locations throughout the United States.

“This was a great Black Friday for Target and for Kindle Fire, which was the bestselling tablet in our stores on Black Friday,” said Nik Nayar, vice president merchandising, Target. “We’re excited so many guests chose Target as their destination for the new family of Kindle devices and we’re sure Kindle Fire will continue to be at the top of wish lists this holiday season.”“Even before the busy holiday shopping weekend, we’d already sold millions of the new Kindle family and Kindle Fire was the bestselling product across all of Amazon.com. 

Black Friday was the best ever for the Kindle family – customers purchased 4X as many Kindle devices as they did last Black Friday – and last year was a great year,” said Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “In addition, we’re seeing a lot of customers buying multiple Kindles – one for themselves and others as gifts – we expect this trend to continue on Cyber Monday and through the holiday shopping season.”

Four times as many kindle sales as last year and multiple devices per household!

I consider this monumental news for independent e-pubbers. I was sort of expecting to see sales perhaps not hit the stellar highs that were forcasted due to (some) poor reviews and public criticisms centered around how the Fire stacks up to the I-pad, that other super popular tablet.

Personally I thought these were unfair comparisons based on a number of points. First would be price point, they two devices may look very much alike but both are clearly marketed with a different end user in mind, Fire is clearly not designed as a PC replacement at any level, it's clearly designed as an advanced e-reader with web capability.

To me it's apples and oranges especially considering the next plateau for tablet PC's is to impart retina displays, an exceedingly high level of screen ddefinition that will enable technical professional use; for Dr's and pilots as an example. Conversely, no tablet, high priced or otherwise, has yet to deliver an effective e-ink display, which is what makes e-readers so much more enjoyable and desirable than say, your smart phone for reading!

As for an expanded picture of expected continued sales into Christmas and beyond: take a look at this report back in June from "All Things D" A WSJ web news site:

Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, a gawky novelty just three years ago, is now a big business getting bigger. Really big.

Jeff Bezos and company continue not to release sales numbers for the devices, but everyone else keeps guessing. Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney, an Amazon bull, has bumped up his sales estimates, and now thinks the company will sell 17.5 million devices this year, and another 26 million in 2012.

The big picture is that Mahaney thinks Kindle readers and books will generate $6.1 billion for Amazon next year–nearly 10 percent of its overall sales. Again, remember: This business didn’t exist until Thanksgiving 2007.

Full story here

All of this on top of news that traditional publishers are adopting more aggressive e-pub models, pay to e-pub services are sprouting up agencies are seeking out, contracting with e-pub services and vice versa.

Quick! Someone go over to Konrath's blog and tell him his tone sucks...or something else...not a lot else for anti-indie pundits to say regarding his long standing message and predictions.

Back to work...going to be a lot of new, future customers out there.

Good times.