Posts Tagged ‘ future of e-books ’

Secret Lives of 2 Genre-Jumpers – NYT Best-Selling Author Ruth Harris Embraces Self-Publishing.

New Renaissance

When we think about indie publishing and the New Renaissance we think mostly about new writers, frustrated by the old system of begging & groveling to the gatekeepers, who take matters into their own hands.

And once they’ve enjoyed the freedoms indie publishing brings they suddenly aren’t in such a rush to chase the old dream of the agent-publisher route. If you’re one of the few that still is living in the fantasy world that agent-publisher is the only, or indeed the best, route to success I suggest you check out my post over at WG2E (appearing some time today).

Here at MWi I’ve been saying for a long time that for new writers wanting to get a foot in the door the window of opportunity will not be open forever. Traditionally-published authors who have already established a loyal fan base will be watching the rise of the indie, doing the math, and realizing the future is digital.

Of course they can still stick with their traditional publishers and be digitally published too. But that means they’ll still have to play agents’ and publishers’ games, follow the agent-publisher snail’s pace timetable (typically at least eighteen months from completion of book to the book actually being available) and then giving the agent their fee and watching the publisher pocket the bulk of the sales money.

But if you’re a million-selling traditionally published author there’s no argument. Trad-pub is still the best, surely? Million-selling authors don’t need to go indie. That would be backward step.

I’ve argued many times here on MWi that actually they do, they will, and more importantly they are.

You see, traditional publishers live in a time-warp world where, even as they embrace digital technology, they are quite unable to embrace the digital mentality that makes indies the success they are. They cannot think outside the box.

Trad-publishers think all they have to do is convert a paper script to digital format, stick it on Amazon, and everything continues as usual. The same old rules apply about marketing, about pricing, about genres and about what will sell. You write sci-fi and your next book is lit-fic? Say goodbye to your contract. You write crime thrillers and your next book is fantasy? Forget it. Write what we want you to write or say goodbye to your contract. And then we’ll price it to suit us, market it in the only way we know how, and blame you for being a crap writer if it flops.

Thankfully those days are nearly over.

As I said over at David Gaughran’s  a few days ago,

The digital revolution is more than just about how we reach our readers, important though that is. It’s also about what new things we offer them to read.

One of the key points of that post over at David’s was to discuss collaboration. Writers teaming up to co-author books, just as we have done.

Enter NYT Best-Selling author Ruth Harris. For the second time in a month I’ve managed to tempt Ruth away from the comfort of Anne R. Allen’s blog to share her unique perspectives with MWi readers.

Ruth isn’t just a million-selling author. Ruth has worked within the Big Six industry and knows first-hand their dirty secrets. Ruth knows how they work, she knows all the benefits they can bring, and she has the status to knock on the right doors.

She’s also married to a best-selling non-fiction author, Michael Harris. So when they decided to collaborate on a book together it goes without saying this dream partnership would take full advantage of their best-seller status and get their next book out in glossy hardback with a Big Six publisher. After all, indie publishing is just for us losers who couldn’t get past the gatekeepers, right?

Here’s Ruth:

I’m known for my bestselling women’s fiction. My DH, Michael, is known for his bestselling non-fiction. So, of course, we decided to do the next logical thing and write a thriller—a form both of us love whether in book or movie form.


We wanted the challenge of trying something new and thought since we are both pros, we would know pretty soon if our thriller, HOOKED, was working or not. Michael is an excellent editor with special strengths in organizing and outlining. I shine when it comes to manuscript editing, revising and rewriting. Depending on who felt more strongly about which scene, we both wrote first draft.


One of my first publishing jobs was at Bantam where I started out as a copywriter. At that time, Bantam published a full menu of paperbacks. They ranged from classics, to mainstream bestsellers, to romance-mystery-thriller-sci-fi-western genres, some original, others reprints of hard cover editions. Thus it was that in the course of a week, I wrote blurbs for a new nurse romance, Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy, a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a top bestseller and a series mystery. Without knowing it, I was learning to write in a wide variety of styles in order to appeal to different audiences. Looking back, I realize that this experience helped give me the confidence to try something way out of my usual genre.


For Michael, who wrote about his experiences as a human guinea pig during the seventeen US H-bomb tests in the 1950’s, a fictional thriller was far more appealing than the real thriller he endured at the Pacific Proving Ground. His memoir about his eleven years working in television for the Ed Sullivan show where his duties included meeting the Beatles at the airport on their first trip to the US and writing as many press releases as I did blurbs. A thriller about the rich and famous was a way to use his showbiz background as a setting for fiction.


The prospect of creating larger-than-life characters (although, God knows, there were plenty of those in the US military and TV showbiz not to mention NYC publishing) and coming up with shocking plot twists and turns had irresistible appeal for both of us.


Last of all, the need to offer the reader a satisfying quantity of sex and violence appealed to us both.  I ask you: What writer could resist?


We’ve always worked closely together, whether on my books or Michael’s, so the actual process was smooth. Michael is good at adding a bit more explanation when I skim over an important point too quickly. I’m good at coming up with far-out plot twists we both think can’t work but eventually do.


The result is HOOKED, an international geopolitical-medical thriller about a brilliant and charismatic celebrity doctor whose miracle treatments make every fantasy come true—at a price.


Sexy, exciting, diabolical—that’s what we were aiming for. Readers will now get the chance to see if we succeeded.

So, all sounds good, but now we’ve got to wait a year until the book is actually published, right? And then take out a mortgage to be able to buy the hardback, or pay a fortune for the over-priced ebook because the Big Six publisher needs to pay their shareholders.

Well no, actually. I predicted way back in April here on MWi that it was just a matter of time before mega-sellers started self-publishing at indie prices.

That time has come. When Ruth Harris goes indie, she goes indie! Pop along to amazon.com and you can download Hooked right now for just $1.41 or on amazon.co.uk for a mere 86p.

Is it any good? Ruth sent me an ARC.

Now that alone is worth becoming an indie author for. Living in a mud hut in West Africa and being sent ARCs by million-selling authors like Ruth Harris? You couldn’t make it up!

Here’s what I said about it:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the operating theatre… NYT best-selling author Ruth Harris and Michael Harris take on the medical-political thriller. Sleepless nights ahead for Daniel Silva and Tess Gerritsen as their crowns are threatened.

I just hope Ruth and Michael don’t decide to do crime thrillers next!

I concluded on David Gaughran’s blog,

Far from a tsunami of crap, the future holds a tsunami of excellence as writers experiment and innovate, unfettered by the shackles of the old corporate publishing box.

Hooked, by Ruth Harris & Michael Harris, is a fine example of the tsunami of excellence threatening to drown us all.

What a way to go!

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A cappuccino, a latte, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood. No sprinkles on the Atwood.

Nathan Bransford this week has been posing the question more and more indies are struggling with:  do they need a publisher at all?

With agents and publishers turning away new writer after new writer more and more authors are self-publishing and proving there is a market for the work the gatekeepers rejected. At which point the gatekeepers come knocking at the door, kindly offering to represent us.

But by that time it may be too late. The author has experienced the true freedom being an indie can bring, and even if a publisher can make them more money (which is increasingly not the case) fewer and fewer authors would be willing to sacrifice their freedom for the sake of a contract.

For established authors with a back-list like Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch, Bob Meyer, etc, the rewards of indie publishing increasingly outweigh anything a trad publisher can offer. More and more established authors are moving to the indie side.

Nathan says,

I think publishers are going to have to think long and hard about what exactly they will actually be providing authors in an e-book world. There needs to be a major mindset shift from a gatekeeper-oriented “You’re lucky to be with us” mentality where authors are treated on a need-to-know and your-check-will-arrive-when-it-arrives basis to a service-oriented “What else could we possibly do for you” mentality.

No more books that get dropped in the ocean without publisher support. Embracing and investing in new marketing tactics for the Internet era. Becoming an integral part of how consumers find books.

And innovating with new ideas and experiments and models. Some publishers are, yes, but is it enough?

Authors should want to have their e-books published by the traditional publishers, not be forced to grudgingly give them up in exchange for being published in print. Big authors are soon going to have a choice, and publishers are going to need to make themselves indispensable once again.

Meanwhile prospective thriller writer Jake Hardman was wondering on his own blog about the future of ebooks vs paperbacks. Jake diagrees with me and others that the future of paperbacks is bleak.

If you only read one or two books a year it’s probably not worth buying an e-reader. It makes sense, however, for an avid reader to own one. Electronic books are generally cheaper and easier to get hold of than paper. What’s more, there’s the growing range of exciting books that are only published electronically. These reasons, however, don’t stack up for the occasional reader who’s unlikely to review the book blogs or buy on-line via one-click.

You can’t pick up an e-book (and probably never will be able to) in a supermarket, train station or airport, which is where I believe most occasional readers buy books. When placed by the checkout, cover facing outwards (something most authors can only dream about), paperbacks have the potential to attract their attention. E-books don’t. My guess is that avid readers who haven’t yet moved over to electronic formats will do so shortly, but the vast majority of occasional readers may never do so.

Traditional publishers – selling a limited range of blockbusters – will, for this reason, I believe continue to dominate the occasional-reader market.  Promoting their books in the aforementioned outlets, the death of the independent bookshop won’t affect their market, but they will lose a slice to the indie authors.

Jake makes some interesting points, but I disagreed on some things here. I did try and debate this over at Jake’s site but Blogger ate my comment, as happens all too often. However, the points Jake raised, especially in view of Nathan’s post, deserve a wider discussion. Do publishers and paperbacks have a future?

Anne R Allen ran a post on publishing ten years down the line. She predicted the following will survive:

Top-Selling Superstar Books in Hardcover, Suitable for Gift-Giving

Humor Books

Coffee Table Books

Impress-the-Guests/Keepsake Literary Books

Bibles and other Iconic Religious Books

Decorator Books

Books for Small Children

And of course, Snookibooks

No sign of paperbacks there. I’m not privy to Anne’s reasoning for the demise of the paperback but suspect it will be something like this:

Jake’s right that the occasional reader and impulse buyer is going to be tempted by the high-profile elite the trad publishers have paid to promote. Those are the books you see on the plinths, in the window displays, and in the supermarkets.

But bookstores have no future, and nor do supermarket book sales. At least, not for paperbacks. Because it won’t just be the independent booksellers that fall. It will be the giants like B&N and Waterstone’s. Sure, they may still exist in name, just as WH Smiths exists in name as a book seller in the UK. But the token array of books they sell will diminish and diminish until it’s just those books identified by Anne that survive.

The paperback, even for the mega-names like Patterson and King, will fade into oblivion. Perhaps lasting a year or so beyond the rest, but they cannot stay afloat on their own.

A common argument of the anti-epub brigade is that only a minority will ever own an e-reader. This is true.

But e-readers per se are not the future of ebooks. Tablets are. Or whatever the next generation of e-reading smart mini-computers may be called. If dedicated e-readers were the only way of reading ebooks then the digital future would be bleak. But dedicated e-readers like the b&w Kindle are already all but obsolete.

Even if you only read one or two books a year you will most likely soon be owning a tablet / smart phone or other device.

Paper sales will therefore continue to decline and a vicious circle of economics will render the mass paperback commercially unviable because the book stores will be either closed or just selling ebooks and coffee, and the supermarkets will want prices so low to buy-in that the printing costs will no longer be covered.

Bear in mind stores like Tesco (largest UK retail chain) has its own ebook store. Others are following suit. Presumably the same is happening in the US. Nothing too exciting now but who knows where it might be in a year’s time.

The thing is, there’s nothing to stop Tesco or any other major retailer having an ebook display of the mega names at the till.  Maybe they can listen to an audio teaser on earphones while they queue. A click of a button and the book is downloaded to the customer’s smartphone, tablet or whatever as soon as they pay for their shopping.

Books take shelf space. Shelf space is money. The supermarkets will stock books only so long as they are bringing in more than they cost to stock. Why would they waste shelf space on wads of paper that fewer and fewer people will buy when they can instead sell ebooks with no shelf space?

If I were running a supermarket chain I would be looking at a leisure-cafe instead of those diabolical shoppers’ restaurants. A leisure cafe where customers can buy expensive coffee with huge profit margins while sampling ebooks from the supermarket’s own ebook store, clicking buy and having the ebooks added to the check-out tally when they pick up their groceries.

The ONLY way paperbacks can survive is if POD technology improves to the point where in those same cafes you can order a print version of whatever book you wish and have it printed in-store, to a professional standard and at a sensible price, and have it ready to collect at the checkout.

Yes, the technology exists, but it’s a novelty toy that will never ctach on in any meaningful way.  The practicalities of operating (staff), storage (paper and ink for printing) and maintenance would leave the supermarket or bookstore little better off than before, and catering for a diehard and ever-diminishing minority of readers.

It’s a matter of time before similar browsing cafes appear at major train stations and airports, most likely by the big e-retailers teaming up with the big coffee bars already in position. Many bookstores already host coffee bars. Books and coffee are already as one in the public mind.

New technology will determine just how the future pans out, but the mass paperback is on its death bed.

Which brings us back to Nathan. Why should mega-sellers like Patterson and King stick with their paper publishers, beyond special edition hard-backs, once digital fully takes over?

Nathan said,

Publishers are going to need to make themselves indispensable once again.

I suspect one way they will do that is by buying their way into those browser cafes (Starbooks?) and making sure ebooks by their own published authors get the big promotions, just as they do now in the bookstores with paper products. That way they might just hang on to some of their big name authors, and rely on the niche paper products Anne referred to for their other income.

The big issue for the future is whether those publishers that survive, leaner and meaner, will be able to buy or bully their way into the e-distributors’ favour, or challenge them head-on.

As Amazon moves more and more into publishing it seems there are two likely futures for the major publishing corporations:

1.     The so-called Big Six get their act together to buy rival e-distributors like B&N and the smaller e-book outlets like the UK’s Waterstone’s and set up their own e-store based on known names, while refusing to supply Amazon (and perhaps Apple too).

2.     The so-called Big Six collectively come to an agreement with Apple to exclusively supply, and go to war against Amazon, B&N and the smaller outlets.

Paperbacks have no future, but let’s not write off the big publishers just yet. They have the money and the muscle to evolve.

How do you see the future of paper publishing?

Blog Round-Up August 25th

Contrary to popular opinion it was pure coincidence I happened to return to the UK just as civil unrest peaked once again. A timely reminder of the tensions that simmer below the surface of even outwardly wealthy and stable societies like Britain.

But yes, I survived the mindless violence of the UK riots, the exorbitant prices of the UK coffee bars and the dreadful UK summer weather that drove me out several weeks early. I even survived (with some mental scarring, admittedly) meeting co-author Saffi for the third time. And now I’m back in beautiful West Africa where, if I never leave again, it will be too soon.

Today, a quick pick of recent blogs elsewhere that have caught my attention as I play catch-up.

John Locke

The BIG story of the past week has of course been John Locke’s deal with Simon & Schuster, whereby they get to publish his books in print and he gets to keep his e-rights. Or something like that. Details remain sketchy, but if the initial indications live up to expectations then this is major new development in publishing.

Of course Locke is in the enviable position of being a million-seller indie writer. Will the same option be open to lesser mortals? That remains to be seen.

Kris Rusch

For Kris Rusch this is yet another example of the survival instinct of the traditional publishers kicking in. Kris argues the trad’ pub’ industry still has plenty of life in it and will remain “the gold standard” in the same way the big TV channels remain the gold standard for broadcasting. Kris is a long-established writer who built her empire the only way possible at the time, but now enthusiastically embraces the new world while keeping the best of the old. Of those either / or types, she says:

Some are still stuck in traditional-think, including an influential blogger whom everyone says is brilliant and who simply pisses me off because he can’t seem to look beyond his traditional publishing training. On the other side of the equation are the all-indie-all-the-time folks who ignore (or perhaps don’t understand) that traditional publishing will never leave us. Traditional publishing will remain the gold standard, partly because they have so much gold.

Interesting stuff. Be sure to check out Kris’s post in full.

Joe Konrath

Of course one of the biggest proponents of indie-publishing is the ever-lovable Joe Konrath, who sees the Locke deal as another nail in the coffin of traditional publishing:

Publishers will start folding. It’s inevitable.

What S&S did with Locke was a ballsy move, but also a desperate one. It’s desperate, because they are hastening their own demise, and are just trying to make a few more bucks before it all falls apart. Not to get all Godwin’s Law here, but there is a Vichy French analogy to be had. S&S is going to try to make a few bucks from Locke, whose business model is ultimately going to put them out of business.

My thoughts are that while paper is unquestionably in demise and the future of publishing is unquestionably digital, many of the traditional publishers will survive the Transition and simply shift their emphasis to digital, emerging smaller, leaner, but still able to deliver a service that will suit readers and writers alike. I’ll be blogging more on this third way option in the near future.

David Gaughran

Another big discussion recently has been what, exactly, sells books. And the consensus seems to be: word of mouth.

David Gaughran ran a post on this –  – which sums up the reality of book-selling:

Unless you have already had a bestseller on your hands (and your next book will essentially market itself), word-of-mouth is your only chance of breaking out.

We have all seen it in action. A friend presses a book into your hand – with a fevered look in their eye – and says you have to read this. Or someone gifts you a book on Amazon because they are so determined for you to read it, they don’t want to take the chance that you won’t act on their tip. I remember a friend refusing to talk to me until I read a particular book. It was that important to him.

When you get someone that passionate, they will recommend it to everyone they know. A book really takes off when all those people then become equally passionate and recommend it to everyone they know. Then word spreads exponentially.

Anne R Allen

Of course getting the book noticed in the first place is key, or people won’t spread the word in the first place. Anne R Allen’s latest post is on the demise of the book tour and how blogging does a far better job anyway.

That’s because it’s not just the ebook that’s killing the book tour. Social networking has affected it even more—simply because social networking has turned out to be a better way to sell books than traditional advertising.

Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb meanwhile makes the point that blogging for fellow writers, while a great way of increasing exposure, is only reaching a small fraction of the reading market.

As Kristen says,

We MUST reach out to fresh blood and bring new readers into the family. If we don’t our platform becomes almost inbred, then starts playing the banjo and firing a shotgun in the air and it’s all downhill from there.

A pretty sobering thought! Kristen concludes,

Next week we will talk more about some ways to break out of the comfort zone and start tapping into larger networks that can become readers. Go after new blood.

So, not only hitting home with her main point, but also guaranteeing we’ll be back next week to see what solutions will be revealed. Not for nothing is Kristen Lamb’s column a must-read for anyone hoping to make social media work for them.

One last selection from the industry bloggers.

Meghan Ward debates the thorny issue of copyright, plagiarism and cryptomnesia.

No, cryptomnesia isn’t some dreadful fungal infection of the nether regions, but the technical term for remembering something long forgotten and regurgitating it as something new and original.

Meghan says,

Okay, first let’s take a poll. How many of you recite The Lord’s Prayer while having sex? Can I see a show of hands?

Please don’t answer that in the comments section! Pop across to Meghan’s site to see the relevance. No blasphemy or graphic sex scenes there, despite the quote above. But an important debate on plagiarism, what constitutes it, and why cryptomnesia is a reasonable defence in law before you waste money trying to sue someone.

On other blogs, Lindsay Buroker has a great piece on why you should have a news-letter if you’re a writer. Compelling stuff. So compelling that I’ll be having one here at MWi just as soon as I’ve worked out the behind-the-scenes widget stuff to make it happen.

BTW the image, left, probably isn’t Lindsay, but seems the real Lindsay, like me, prefers not to see themselves staring back from the screen.

Prue Batten

Over at Mesmered, meanwhile, Prue continues her Big Red Chair interviews with Shea MacLeod in the hot seat.

Shea MacLeod

Prue has her own unique approach to interviewing writers that reveals much more about the author than just their latest book.

Mesmered: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

Shea: I love old school sci-fi B-movies.  You know, those horribly cheesy black and white movies where some kind of bomb irradiates the world except for one house in a valley somewhere.  Then the survivors are attacked by mutant bugs.  Awesome!

If I didn’t already have Shea’s book on my Kindle that’s the kind of interview that would have me hitting the buy button.

Megg Jensen

Meanwhile Megg Jensen just knocked up her first one thousand sales for her wonderful historic-dystopian coming-of-age books. Megg has been embarrassed by me before for lauding her wonderful debut novel, Anathema, so I shan’t mention it here.

I remember when we first reached that 1000 sales milestone, so can share Megg’s elation as described on her blog:

Over the first month, a number appeared in my head: 1,000. I wanted to sell 1,000 books. That, I decided, would be my goal.

Well, earlier this week I surpassed 1,000 sales. It took me nearly seven months, but who cares? I DID IT! 1,000 paid sales of my books. It’s unreal.

Now that I’m on the other side of 1,000, things don’t look too awfully different. There’s no BMWs, no champagne and caviar parties, no afternoons lounging by the pool while I watch the pool boy from the corner of my eye.

Yep, at the end of the day it’sa number. But a pretty cool number. And the great thing is, 1000 sales is just the beginning. Who knows how many books Megg will sell in the next seven months. Safe to say it will be substantial.

So many more blogs I’d love to mention (and lots more still to catch up on), but time and space are against me. Megg’s thousand sales seems a great place to stop.

Western travelling is one great time suck nowadays. Great for reading. Not so great for being on-line and keeping up with things. And much as I’d like to read all the back-posts I’ve missed, I’ve also got to get on with the next books. With three co-authors now screaming at me simultaneously there’s even less time to browse.

So, any other juicy must-read blogs I’ve missed this past few weeks? Any news or industry gossip I’m missing out on?

Let me know!

Harry Potter and the New Renaissance

No, it’s not an exclusive on the latest book from Ms Rowling. Sadly it looks like Harry Potter has finally outgrown his own series

And anyway no-one in their right mind would write a story about a boarding school. That went out with Anthony Buckeridge, Enid Blyton, Angela Brazil and Elinor Brent-Dyer, right?

Jolly Hockey Sticks, and all that. Just so last century!

Or so the gatekeepers would have us believe. And fourteen years after Ms Rowling proved that a boarding school setting for a book can scrape up the odd sale or two after all, the gatekeepers are still firmly dictating what will and will not sell.

Usually by the simple expedient of making sure it’s not available to buy.

But the digital revolution in publishing means the gatekeepers no longer have the monopoly on what readers will be allowed to read. And that means writers are at last free to write what they want to write, to target their own audiences, to find their own markets, and to prove their own worth.

A month or so back we were contacted by one of the biggest New York agents, keen to represent Sugar & Spice. Not that she’d read it, you understand, but the numbers excited her. Which pretty much summed up the reason why we had to send out the rejection letter. Call us old-fashioned, but we kinda think an agent could at least have read the book they are pretending to be excited about.

But even if they had, what really hit home was her statement (not a suggestion) that we could not write in any other genre “for at least three years.” We had written a crime thriller, therefore we were crime thriller writers. In fact, when we showed Ms New York Hot Shot Agent our WIP list, with everything from YA to dark fantasy to historic lit fic’ to chick-lit she pretty much told us to sit on the naughty step and not even think of writing another word of anything without her permission.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Had it been written at the time I would have referred said agent to Anne R Allen’s great post on the way the publishing industry has changed since 2009. As Anne shows, in the time it takes for a typical book to get from agency acceptance to the bookstore the publishing world has been turned on its head.

Quite simply it is a New Renaissance, where writers can write what they think readers will read and then let the readers decide.

Over the next few weeks here at MWi we’ll be exploring just some of the many ways writers are not just writing differently, but also marketing, helping one another, and engaging with their readers in ways the gatekeepers are still struggling to come to terms with.

The old tick-box genres the gatekeepers so loved have been among the first to fall. But in the new paradigm nothing is off limits. And many of you are pushing back the boundaries day by day, taking full advantage of the new freedoms digital publishing brings to prove the old gatekeeper rules have no place in the new world.

Leading the way is J.K. Rowling herself, who has turned the tables on the very gatekeepers who made her the biggest writing name on the planet. Ironically she does so just as her Harry Potter novel series comes to an end.

That’s the Harry Potter series about a bunch of boarding school kids and magic potions and wizard’s hats. You know, the sort of thing the gatekeepers said was unsellable.

Here’s teen author and MWi regular Charley R., lamenting the end of an era.

It All Ends Here… Or Does It?

Last night marked the end of my childhood. Sitting in a squishy chair, with a pair of funny black glasses balanced on the end of my nose, an over-priced Pick ‘n’ Mix in my lap and with my stomach doing backflips in my belly, I watched as the story that has captivated thousands like me finally came to an end.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two.

The story has spanned seven books, eight films, fourteen years, and more money than I could hope to count in a lifetime. It’s made household names of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint, and allowed me to convince every small child I babysit that, because I go to boarding school, I can – and will – turn them into frogs if they don’t go to bed on time.

But it meant more than that to me. I grew up with these books, and one of my earliest memories is of sitting outside on a chilly evening in Germany, listening to my dad read to me about the odious Dursley family, and whispering the street name to myself. Number Four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.

To me, Harry, Ron and Hermione’s world was more than just an entertaining story. Hogwarts, like Narnia, Middle Earth and countless other fantastic worlds, became my second home through a childhood that was not always as pleasant as one would like. Whenever I was sad, I would retreat inside the story, and comfort myself that, at least, I wasn’t expected to keep my dignity when faced with Moaning Myrtle in a bubble bath.

But now, if the media hype is to be believed, it is all over. The last book is out, the last movie finished, and the actors and actresses who brought Rowling’s marvelous creations to life are all moving on to bigger things in the outside world.

Harry Potter is over.

Or is it?

Can a story, really, end? Is one telling enough to exhaust it? Is it just a fad, like suspenders and mullet haircuts, that, having lived out its glory days, will fade away until nobody remembers it? Will I one day walk into a bookstore and have someone say to me “Harry who?”

I don’t think so. Stories aren’t that easy to get rid of. Stories aren’t one-use goods, seen once and gone with a miserable puff of black smoke, vanishing faster than a house elf. Stories can come back time and time again and, whether it’s the first, or the hundred-thousandth time you’ve heard it, the ones you love will always kindle that little spark inside your soul. They’ll always be there, like an old friend or treasured toy from childhood, waiting to welcome you back into the world you have come to love so much, and take you on the travels with the characters who first enchanted you all that time ago, ready to vanish into adventures beyond your wildest dreams.

The last film be over, but, like every true classic – and yes, I think this is a true classic of children’s literature – it will never, really, be gone. I, at least, will certainly make a point of reading the story of the green-eyed bespectacled teenage wizard to whatever children, god-children or any other form of young friend or relative I may come to know in future, and I know I’m not alone. That’s what stories are for; for sharing and passing on the magic, for bringing people together in the shared love of a tale, whatever it may be.

The franchise has ended.
The story never will.

Thanks, Charley. Check out her latest post on her own blog, which is a rather stunning poem. Yes, this gal is multi-talented!

And yes, you did read right. “Because I go to boarding school,” not “when I went…” Charley is just sixteen, and one of  two exciting teen writers I’ve recently recruited to the MWi hall of infamy.

Charley says, “That’s what stories are for; for sharing and passing on the magic, for bringing people together in the shared love of a tale, whatever it may be.”

Which is why I love collaborative writing. Because what Charley says applies to writers just as much as readers.

Regulars will know I’ve been co-writing with the one and only Saffina Desforges for a whole year now, with tolerable results. You’ll also know I predicted a time soon when books would join TV as multi-authored, bringing together a number of writers to work on a series, book by book. A sixty-thousand word novel between four writers suddenly becomes just 15,000 words each. With four minds contributing ideas, and four sets of eyes editing one another’s work.

That time has come. Saffi and I have teamed up with the above mentioned Charley and fellow teen writer Miriam, on the first of a new series of YA fiction set in – don’t tell Ms New York Agent! – a boarding school.

NOT St. Mallory's!

St. Mallory’s Forever! is the first of the series, currently underway. No release date in mind just yet – Saffi and I have other projects also under way not least Rose Red Book 2: Rapunzel and the first of our chicklit mystery series China Town, and the girls themselves have a small matter of exams to fit in – but it’s progressing well.

The new paradigm is a new renaissance precisely because we as writers can do something like this, which the gatekeepers would never in a million years approve.

So far the feedback has been really positive. Everyone seems to love the idea of a new boarding school series, and the involvement of two teen writers, one living that very life, will bring authenticity and insight we could never manage on our own. And as you can see from Charley’s post above, both these gals know how to write!

So how about you? Are you taking full advantage of the new opportunities available?

Are you discovering other writers who are experimenting, or experimenting yourself?  

Tell us about is in the comments section. Or even better, come and do a guest post and give us the full version.

Don’t Believe The Hype – David Gaughran Separates Myth And Reality About Indie-Publishing

They say tomorrow never comes, so when I said, last post, that David Gaughran would be my guest here “tomorrow” I was sort of right.

Okay, I was wrong. Events overtook my plans, as far too often recently, but (fingers crossed) MWi resumes normal service from today. Honest!

So, David is finally here as promised, fresh and  forthright as usual, and taking no prisoners!

For those unfamiliar, David has, in the space of a few short months, gone from the proverbial “nowhere” in literary circles, to one of the foremost indie bloggers on the publishing industry circuit, and probably the most significant commentator this side of the pond.

His Let’s Get Digital blog is  a must-read for its up-to-date common sense news and analysis of the latest in publishing, and his latest book, also titled Let’s Get Digital, is a must-read for anyone still on the fence about the future of e-publishing, or anyone about to embark on the journey.

Because of my connection problems back home in monsoon-ridden West Africa the intended post here on MWi to help launch David’s new book never saw the light of day. So before we move to David’s guest post for today here’s MWi regular and indie-publishing success Sibel Hodge on Let’s get Digital:

If you want to self-pub, you absolutely have to read this book. When I started out, I didn’t have a clue about all the things that an Indie author has to get involved in. It’s not just a question of writing a fab book – that’s the easy part! The hard bit is what comes next…

I didn’t have a clue where to find covers, good editors, how to market effectively and gain lovely readers and fans. PRC, MOBI, Epub sounded more like a scratchy disease than anything to do with e-pubbing. I had to learn it bit by bit and very slowly, but in LET’S GET DIGITAL you get you all the information you need in one place. David’s done all the hard work for you!

And the authors who contributed their stories to this book will show you that it really is possible to be a success as an Indie self-pubbing. Their experiences are uplifting and truly inspirational.

So do you want your manuscript sitting in a dusty drawer somewhere, or do you want to live your dream? If so, you need to get a copy of this book!

Let’s get Digital is in the top ten in its genre on amazon.co.uk with five star reviews across the board. It’s also in the top ten in three categories on amazon.com, with similar rave reviews.

Without further ado, here’s David:

Don’t Believe The Hype

Big Publishing likes to characterize self-publishing as an annoyance, a gadfly, an inconsequential nuisance that it would smote if it weren’t too busy counting its gold doubloons and polishing its Fabergé eggs.

Self-publishing is a side-show. The Digital Revolution will be tamed and assimilated. And if any indie writer does actually manage to slither out of the primordial soup, they will be co-opted.

Indie advocates are branded nefarious prophets, Pied Pipers leading clueless writers off the wharf to perish in the endless self-publishing sea.

Why the hysteria? Well, fear is a powerful tool. It can cow entire populations. What chance does a new writer have? All their hopes and dreams are wrapped up in one manuscript, and they are being forced to make a choice.

They know the publishing business is in trouble. They know that e-books are becoming a lot more popular. And they keep hearing indie success stories – new names all the time too.

But when they look at the map they were given, one path clearly leads to being published, once they get past the Gatekeeper, and the other just leads to a dark forest, and all the legend says is “Here Be Wolves.”

I prefer to deal in facts.

  1. You can earn 70% royalties from self-publishing. Big Publishing will pay you 14.9% once your agent gets their cut.
  2. If you self-publish, you will get to decide who edits your book, and who designs your cover. Your book will look exactly like you want it to. With Big Publishing, you have no choice. They may say you will have “approval” over the cover, but in practice you will be railroaded into taking whatever the designer comes up with.
  3. If you self-publish, you will decide the price. Big Publishing won’t care what you think.
  4. If you self-publish, you will decide when the book is released. With Big Publishing you will be locked into a schedule of their choosing, meaning a minimum of twelve months before it hits the bookshelves, often eighteen months, and sometimes even longer.
  5. If you self-publish, you will be paid every month. With Big Publishing, you get paid every six months, if they send the royalties out on time, if your agent processes it quickly, and if the statements are accurate.
  6. If you self-publish, you will have access to up-to-date sales figures. With Big Publishing, you never know how your book is selling until well after the fact.

Those are just some of the clear, irrefutable advantages of self-publishing. If any defender of Big Publishing would like to argue with any of the above, without resorting to nonsense arguments based on fear, I am all ears.

Big Publishing has its advantages too, and the two biggest are you the advance, and access to the print distribution network they have monopolized.

Let’s break that down. The average advance for a new writer is $5,000. If you are lucky, and you bag a contract with one of the major publishers, that might rise to $10,000. Maybe.

That cheque will be split into three payments. A third on signing the publishing contract, a third on acceptance of the manuscript (i.e. when you have made all requested edits), and a third on publication.

The overwhelming likelihood is that you will never see another red cent for that book, so their meagre royalty rate won’t even come into play. That’s all your getting. Forever.

How does that compare with self-publishing? Let’s say you price your book at $2.99, meaning over $2 per book royalties for you. To beat the publishing deal with its $5,000 advance, assuming costs of $1,500 to publish, you need to sell around 3,250 books.

That might sound like a lot to a new writer, but you have forever to hit that number. Well, not quite forever, that’s just shorthand for the length of your life plus 70 years. In other words, your grandkids will still be getting paid by Amazon, long after you are gone. Hey, it’s one way to be remembered.

Forever is hard to think about, and tastes change. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the book will sell for ten years, and then it will be badly dated and no-one will really want to read it. That means you need to sell 325 books a year to beat the average publishing deal. That’s less than one a day.

Therefore, if you think your book is good enough to sell one a day or more, then, on average, you will lose money by going with Big Publishing.

Maybe you think your book is good enough to bag that contract with a major publisher, and step up to that $10,000 advance level. As a self-publisher, you just need to sell two a day and you have that well beat too.

That should show the much-touted advance in a different light. To me, the only real advantage in going with Big Publishing is their ability to get your book into lots of bookstores. That’s near impossible for a self-publisher. So let’s examine that a little closer.

I’m sorry to break this to you but, on a $5,000 advance or even a $10,000 advance, your book is not going to be in every bookstore across the country. It’s not going to be in the window display. It’s not going to be in that prime spot behind the cashier. And it’s not going to be on that table that everyone sees when they walk into the store.

It’s probably not even going to be “face out”. All that bookstore real estate is bought and paid for by the publishers. They only purchase those spots for the books they have made significant investment in, i.e. not a $5,000 or $10,000 advance.

Bookstores are dying. That might sound callous, but it’s a fact. People are moving online, either because of reduced prices and greater selection, or because the recent spate of bookstore closures and chain collapses have left them without a physical place they can buy books other than the box-stores like Wal-Mart or Tesco which only stock the bestsellers anyway.

Amazon is on its way to controlling 50% of the overall US book market in 2012. Each week that one clear advantage of going with a large publisher is worth less and less, and at the kind of advance most writers will get, you won’t even get to exploit it.

These are the facts. But Big Publishing doesn’t want to engage in that argument. Instead, these self-appointed Guardians of Literature do battle with straw men, delighting in these Pyrrhic victories, cheering as straw heads are placed on their crumbling parapets.

Look over there: an awful cover by a self-publisher! Look at this atrocity: prose riddled with dangling modifiers! Look at this poor misguided soul: he only sold five copies!

They can’t defend the status quo with reasoned debate. They must resort to fear-mongering and myth-spreading. You will never make any money. You will never be taken seriously. No agent or publisher will ever touch you. No reader will ever be able to find you.

Amanda Hocking

All of these claims are false and have been debunked again and again, but my favourite is a new one doing the rounds. Apparently, the fact that Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch, Amanda Hocking, Michael Wallace, J Carson Black, Scott Nicholson, Mark Edwards, and Louise Voss have all signed deals with large publishers is proof that self-publishing is some kind of dead-end, that the smart ones are getting out, and that Big Publishing can co-opt the successful anomalies and assimilate them.

J Carson Black

This ignores one very important fact. The power relationship has been inverted. All of these writers were able to get the deal they wanted on the terms they wanted on the back of their self-publishing success.

All bar three of those writers have signed with Amazon and their royalty rates will be far, far in excess of 14.9%, and they will get an unparalleled marketing push. The other three have received eye-popping advances, which will also force their publishers to throw the entire weight of their marketing machine behind them.

Because they self-published. Fact.

David Gaughran, thank you.

Of course, you’ll be thinking “All very well, but these named writers have all been break-out successes selling in numbers most of us can only dream about.  What about the rest?”

Well, Marion G Harmon had a post recently on his progress as a newly self-pubbed writer who hasn’t yet broken-out. Marion will be joining us later in the month to tell us more, but I’ve stolen the following from his blog as a fine example of what David is describing.

Marion is author of a simply brilliant superhero novel called Wearing The Cape. He’ll be back on MWi later this month to tell us about a bold new experiment he’s trying. But for now, the numbers.

Marion started off at 99c to get some traction, as an unknown name with a unknown book, and has now upped to $2.99. Here’s what he reported on his blog last week:

After spending nearly a year seeking an agent, I self-published on April 25th, three months ago. Assuming that I had found an agent, who then immediately found me a publisher (an insanely optimistic assumption, since agented writers often go for years before closing a book deal), I would likely have earned a $7,000 advance–the industry standard for newbie writers–then had to wait for at least a year for the publishing company to actually publish my book. They might have printed 7,000-15,000 copies, not all of which would have sold, and I would probably have never seen more than my initial advance.

So. After spending a year writing Wearing the Cape and another year finding an agent/publisher for it, I would likely have made no more than $7,000. But what is happening now?

This month I sold nearly 300 copies of WtC, more than 200 at the new price, and cleared $400. Assuming growth in sales remains steady, adding around $100 more a month, in half a year I’ll be getting $1,000/month from my first book (and assuming sales of 500/month is not being wildly optimistic). Taking that out to one year, I will have made more than what would have been my author’s advance on a book doing no more than moderately well by self-publishing standards!

Let’s just here that last bit again:

Taking that out to one year, I will have made more than what would have been my author’s advance on a book doing no more than moderately well by self-publishing standards!

And of course had he signed with a paper publisher his book would not even be available in that time!

Nor is Marion a lone voice.

DD Scott - WG2E

The chicklit-and-chocolate girls at WG2E are also not just balancing the books but beating the odds with their great range of novels.

Tonya Kappes -WG2E

They’ll all be joining us here on MWi shortly to tell us more.

And in a bizarre twist of fate I’ll be doing a regular feature over at WG2E from September. Well, as regular as I can manage.

LA Lopez - WG2E

So how about you guys? David shows you don’t have to be a phenomenal success to beat the big publishers at their own game. Remember, most paper published books sell less than a thousand copies. Most new authors never get a second book accepted.

I know not everyone likes to talk exact figures, but speaking generally, how are you doing? Are you close to exceeding, or have you already beaten, the likely return from an “average” trad-published deal?

Summer Book Club Part 4: Scott Nicholson

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Yep, I’m back!

And yeah, I know. It doesn’t get much later than this! So apologies to Summer Book Club guest Scott Nicholson for the appalling tardiness.

Regulars will know I’ve been in transit escaping the tropical storms and  power / net disruption in gorgeous West Africa and have reluctantly returned to the freezing climes of the UK.

Had I opted for good old England the transition might have been easier, but I ended up in the picturesque mountains of North Wales, where net access seems to be only marginally better than whence I left, and winter appears to still be in force.

Later this week I shall be heading east and normal MWi service should resume, so be sure hang around!

August will be fun,  assure you. There’s a great line-up of prospective guests, some news and reviews, and all the usual inspirational stories, inside information about what authors have for breakfast, and hot celebrity gossip  you come here for.

Watch out also for a big announcement on some short story anthologies we hope you, MWi readers, will want to be involved in.

And of course it’s the official release of the first of our new Rose Red crime thriller series. And Scott, if you think we were late with your guest spot, our book release is now two week overdue and still being chased up. The best laid plans…

But for today, back to playing guest catch up. So say hello to Scott Nicholson.

Scott is one of those transition writers that started out with the legacy publishers and then embraced the opportunities of self-publishing to further expand his horizons, his career and our reading enjoyment.

His choice for the Summer Book Club anthology (available for peanuts on Amazon – royalties to the Joplin library fund – or free via Smashwords) is his dark novel Disintegration.

Given this is another quickie post while I catch up with everything else, I hand you over to Scott without further ado.

Disintegration was written four or five years ago during a dark time in my life. The title just sums up what was going on, and what I had to write to survive. I knew it was going to be dark and bleak, and that good people would do bad things and terrible people would do worse things. The evil twins are just a symbol of where I was at the time. And I knew the ending was not going to be happy, and I put off writing the last five pages for nearly a year because I knew what had to happen and I didn’t want to type it and make it real.

I don’t think I ever showed it to my agent. I thought it was too dark to ever share with people, and I was a little ashamed of what it revealed about me. I think stories help us solve what is going on inside our heads and hearts, but it also leaves us vulnerable because written communication is so personal and intimate. If it wasn’t for self-publishing, and the encouragement of mystery writer Vicki Tyley, I never would have released it. My wife said, “Somebody might need that message.”
With low expectations, I put it out during my 90-day Kindle Giveaway Blog Tour last fall, and it hit #30 on the Kindle list. That was weird, to have the biggest success of my writing career on a book I never wanted to publish, on my own, after six books with a traditional press. That taught me something about “writing to market” or “writing to please people.” First, you have to take chances and put it all there. If you get the back end, and the connection with readers, that’s the bonus and completes the purpose of the story.
Luckily, I’ve put the pieces back together over the years since I first wrote the novel, and it helped launch me onto other books and success. I owe a bit to Jim Thompson and James M. Cain and some of the other noir writers, and William Goldman, Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan, Patricia Highsmith, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Ira Levin, James Lee Burke…that list could just keep going.
I am a full-time writer now, but I’m only as good as whatever chance I take today, whatever basic principles of the craft I discover anew, and whatever I get back from a reader. Really, I’m only as good as the last sentence. And the next. There’s no other way to write a novel except by building it out of nothing. It’s easy to stay humble when you are tackling something that is essentially impossible. Once in a while, you get lucky and the words fall in place and share something about what it’s like to be on the crazy ride we call Life.
Enjoy the ride.

Scott Nicholson is author of more than 20 books, including Liquid Fear, The Red Church, and Speed Dating with the Dead. His website is www.hauntedcomputer.com and he wastes too much time being clever on Facebook and glib on Twitter. (His words, not mine!)

There was a face-to-face opportunity to interact with Scott on Facebook, but as I was unable to access my site over the weekend I had no way of alerting you all. Apols for anyone who missed it. I hope to drag Scott back here some time real soon to tell us a more about his other works and more about his life as a writer with a foot in both camps.

Hopefully MWi will be back to normal by this weekend. But don”t quote me on that. Still got  a lot of catching up to do!

I leave you with a reminder of Scott’s words on who we write for.

That taught me something about “writing to market” or “writing to please people.”

How about you? Are you still stuck in the pre-digital rut, writing to suck up to what an agent / publisher thinks will make them money? Or have you taken the plunge and are now writing for your readers (and making yourself money into the bargain)?

The Demise Of Print – Excerpts From David Gaughran’s Blog.

West Africa’s infrastructure and seasonal storms have once again banished me to a net cafe service, so it’s another quickie ride on someone else’s blog today.

And once again the short straw has fallen to David Gaughran, who together with Joe Konrath are stating a few home truths as the final end for Borders looms.

True, some last-minute deal might salvage a few key elements of the once grand book store, but the reason it failed is because it relied on paper books. Paper books that have no future.

Yes, we’ve all been shouting this for a while now, and apologies to those who’ve moved on and have embraced the new world, but many wannabe writers are still stuck with their head in the sand, dreaming the dream about seeing their name in print on a paper book, their best-selling novel sat next to Patterson, King and Rowling on the plinth.

It wasn’t likely before.

It’s getting less and less likely every day.

And very soon that dream will be over.

Best wake up now and make the most of the new opportunities out there.

David says,

A new writer, deciding whether to self-publish or to submit to agents, needs to consider not just what the market is like now. They need to look at where its going to be in two years.

That’s the absolute quickest any new writer could get through the query system, snag an agent, go on submission, receive an offer, go through the lengthy publication process, and finally hit the bookstore shelves.

For most, of course, it will take significantly longer than that (if they are one of the tiny percentage that is successful at all). So a new writer, being a little more realistic, needs to look at where the market is going to be in three years, or even five years.

David concludes,

All that time spent researching agents, learning how to write query letters, personalizing each submission, sending off each partial, and waiting for responses that will never come could be spent building an audience or, you know, writing.

Writing stuff you can publish yourself.

Writers have more choices than ever before. And I firmly believe that this is a great time to be a writer. But only if writers seize the opportunity that is staring them in the face.

The choice is yours.

Now head over to David’s site and read the full post, and then pop over to Konrath for his take. Sorry – no link. Unable to access blogspot sites again. But there’s a link in David’s post anyway.

Borders Inches Closer to Liquidation. What Happens Next?.

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