Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's Coming Next...

El Chupacabra!

That's right. My long awaited "goatsucker" novel is coming. You might think science has cleared all that up with a diseased coyote or two, but they haven't explained a thing... There are no coyotes in Puerto Rico - never have been.

Mangy dogs? Certainly. But they don't exsanguinate livestock nice and neat. They tear them to shreds. I've seen their handiwork. It ain't pretty.

No. Chupacabra is out there. AND HE'S COMING FOR YOU!!!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Amanda Hocking Fumbles at the One Yard Line!

It's all over the net that Amanda Hocking, Kindle's first million seller (I'm pretty sure) has signed a deal with St. Martin's Press. Two million dollars for four novels. Sounds great. Would I take that money? Absolutely. Wouldn't think more than twice. But what would be right for me could be wrong for her. Two reasons for that: 1 - I've never sold a million in any format or at any price. 2 - I know I can write more novels. Stacks of them if need be.

First, a few assumptions: that St. Martin's Press, part of Macmillan, will continue to insist that they get 75% of ebook revenue and that they continue to insist that their ebooks sell for $10.99 and more, never less. If either of these assumptions is wrong, then maybe this wasn't a colossal mistake.

Why is this a fumble for Hocking? She was on the cusp of becoming a household name and getting 70% of her sales for her troubles. Now she'll be submitting to the traditional publishing process which means if she has a novel ready to go right now, we'll see it early next year at the earliest. Or an editor might say, "Can you rewrite this for a slightly older market?" In that case, 2012 is probably out of the picture... And when the book hits the stores, she'll be seeing $2 on a $25 book (because in the normal contract, there's a penalty if your book sells through a place like Barnes and Noble...Or maybe that's just my contract...). And what are the chances that she'll actually earn out that $2 million? Especially when her Kindle/Nook following is pretty much bound to leave her in droves? Imagine the teens who buy her stuff now and will be shocked to see her next offering out at a $10 markup. All because St. Martin's has to prop up their paperback sales. Which wouldn't start until some months after the hardcover comes out.

What a mess for her current readers. And is it likely that she'll replace those readers with print readers? Don't know. Maybe St. Martins has a plan for doing that... One they haven't yet shared with me.

Of course, if she really hasn't been able to write for all the promoting she's had to do, then maybe this isn't so bad a deal. I'll point however that the promoting work doesn't stop just because she's signed with a traditional publisher. Also, there's a sense in which the effort she's poured into building her name will be partially wiped away. She won't be dominating the Amazon Kindle bestseller's list, for instance. And probably not the other lists for traditional books.

In any event, I've made $15 off of Kindle. Haven't started promoting my stuff yet. Hope to get to that in the Summer. Expect to make at least another $15...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Website Update

For the first time since 2007, the site has been updated. It now includes references to my last few publications - four Kindles and a hardcover (or "real") book, BLACKOUT IN PRECINCT PUERTO RICO, which came out to some pretty good reviews last year.

A bit more on the website later.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Amazon Review

VJ Banis was kind enough to take a look at my second collection of stories, Killing Ways 2. He liked it and I thought I'd share a snippet of his review up on Amazon - the only place the stories are available so far.

"priced at .99 for the Kindle edition, it's a steal for readers who like well crafted prose and especially gritty, hard boiled fiction with unique and intriguing characters."

Reviews don't get better than this, but if you don't trust his judgment, it'll cost you a buck to see for yourself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Killing Ways 2 - The Descriptions...

Here are some descriptions for the stories in my second collection of stories called Killing Ways 2: Urban Stories. As you can see from the subtitle, the collection hangs together on the urban angle. The Killing doesn't happen in every story though every story is noir-ish.

The original publications were Crimespree, Uncage Me!, Crimespree, Plots With Guns, Crimespree, and Bronx Noir.

Hard luck, hard knock, hot and cold blooded killers, criminals, and the people they collide with.

1 - The Biography of Stoop, the Thief - Chapter One: Stoop and Clyde. Stupendous Jones has had a hard life from the day he was born, but can he (as a twelve year old) save the life of the only guardian he's ever known? Should he even try?

2 - The Biography of Stoop, the Thief - Chapter Three: Stoop and Elizabeth. Stoop finally finds the woman he thinks is his mother, but will the cost of saving her from her own demons be too high for a young boy to pay? Publisher's Weekly called the story "moving." I challenge you to disagree.

3 - Bronx, Summer, 1971 - Ray Cruz hurts people for a living. When family members are found murdered, it's a race against the police to find the guilty and make them pay.

4 - Padrino - Ray Cruz is back, and his goddaughter has been brutally attacked. She's not sure who beat her, but Ray makes it his mission to find out.

5 - Elena Speaks of the City, Under Siege - It's a city under siege and you are young, beautiful and smart. But can you make it out of the city before your sanity crumbles like the infrastructure? And what would you do once you've left?

6 - Early Fall - Yolanda Morales comes across a young runaway who calls herself "Jasmine" and tries to save her from a life on the streets even if she doesn't want to be saved. But what can one determined woman do when the rich and reckless come to the city looking for prey?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Selling Like Hotcakes...

Sold my first copy of Killing Ways 2: Urban Stories. It's a collection of badassery not to be found between other covers...

Anyway, get them now while they're still only .99 cents.

Killing Ways: Stories, my original collection of ten stories is also at .99 cents.

That would be 16 stories for a little less than two bucks. I ask you, where do you think you're going to get a deal like that?

New Kindle Book

For those who have been waiting anxiously for my next collection of stories. It's finally here: Killing Ways 2: Urban Stories. One of these stories is a prize winner. Another is a nominee. They've all been published before. One story was praised by Publisher's Weekly. How many short stories get praised by Publisher's Weekly? No really. I have no idea. Maybe all of them. but you get the idea. If you want to read sad stories about bad people, your .99 cents will go a long way here.

Descriptions coming soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Cover

Here is a look at the ebook cover Graham Powell was good enough to conjure up for my second collection of short stories called... Wait for it... KILLING WAYS 2: URBAN STORIES.

It will be on sale soon to the delight of millions. Of course, the first set of stories sold like hotcakes. Amazon is nearly out of KILLING WAYS: STORIES. You'd better hurry...

Descriptions for the second compilation coming soon.

Ebook Apocalypse...

I was reading JA Konrath's blog the other day and came across something I thought might not actually be true. Konrath assumed (and he's said this before) that there is nowhere for his Kindle money-making power to go but up. The reasoning is that more Kindles are sold each day, adding to the number of potential readers, and, without too much of a leap, more actual readers/ebook buyers. This part sounds right.

But maybe I'm just a little too nervous. I see a potential problem. Assume that Kindles keep selling at an amazing rate. Assume they win the lion's share of the ereader market. Then wouldn't Amazon be smart to lower the royalty rate that they pay out to authors? And if every ereader were a Kindle (or if most were) then what could author's do but accept the new rate? And by offering a high rate now, Amazon encourages writers to flock to them (not exclusively... yet) even leaving behind the until recently coveted print contract.

And if Amazon does get the lion's share of the ereader market (once the dust has settled in a couple of years) it's not like there would be easy alternatives for writers. Unlike products put out by print publishers, the technology of ereaders is not compatible. If I have a Nook, I can't read a Kindle file (I'm guessing). So if I get a Kindle following (complete with groupies) and I don't like Kindle's new rules, it's not like I can just tell the fans to catch my next book on Nook or iPad. I mean would Joe Konrath be willing to tell Amazon to take a hike if they lowered his royalty rate from 70% to 40%? He might. I don't know Joe well. But he'd be losing a lot of readers. Most writers making as much money off of Amazon as Joe makes (or, to be real, even 10% of what he makes) would take the cut and still put up their wares for sale with Amazon. And if the royalty rate were cut to, say, 20%, how many writers could pass up making that number of sales?

Of course, my worst case scenario is for a future that's still a few years away and may never actually appear. Amazon may be fighting it out with the other ereaders for decades. In fact, the fight may never end as new technologies replace what's cutting edge today. I have a two year old daughter and I know for a fact that she won't be taking a Kindle to college.

It's probably nothing. Don't worry. Think of me as that man standing in the middle of the street screaming about pod people and drive on by, honking your horn. You're right to ignore me. I haven't slept in days...


Thursday, March 10, 2011

My UK Sale

Somehow, I made a sale through Somebody in the UK now owns a Kindle version of Killing Ways. They got it for 70 pence. I've never made a sale of any type in the UK (as far as I know) so this is exciting.

Figured out how to upload photos to blogspot too. It just takes the click of a button, but I hadn't recalled that so it's been two years since I uploaded a photo. Sad, no?

Now. Is there a way to turn a photo into a clicky-thingy?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

New Fall TV Schedule has a listing of the TV Fall pilots and series under development. Here's the one I'm hoping is good:

Poe (Drama)
Edgar Allan Poe (Chris Egan) is reimagined in this period crime procedural as a sleuth who uses unconventional methods to investigate dark mysteries in 1840s Boston. Chris Hollier (Alias) wrote the pilot and will produce along with Dan Lin (Sherlock Holmes). Natalie Dormer, Leslie Odom Jr., Tabrett Bethell and Kevin McNally also star.

How could that not be awesome?

Well, for starters I don't think I've heard of any of the people involved. That may not mean much, but it's also on ABC which is going to present Good Christian Bitches and an untitled Tim Allen Project.

I'm hoping the actor is of slight stature as Mr. Poe evidently was. Have you ever seen his house in the Bronx? Tiny.

And supposedly the Edgar award handed out each year by the Mystery Writers of America is lifesize*...

* CJ Box with his Edgar.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Reviewers and Marketing

In trying to figure out how to market ebooks (another steep learning curve) I've been told that the way to make sales on Amazon is to get Amazon reviewers. Fair enough. Not sure how that works (That is, having a bunch of reviews up doesn't drive people to your book's page, does it?) but I'm willing to give it a go.

My new collection - Killing Ways 2 will be seeing the light of day within a week or so and I'd like some reviews. It is six stories long and totals about 22k words. The stories are all noir-ish type stories, all previously published; one of them won a Derringer award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and another story was nominated for a Derringer, so they're not bad.

If you've got a blog that you're willing to review the book on (good, bad, or indifferent - it's your blog) or if you're willing to type up a few words for Amazon when the book goes live, let me know and I'll send you a pdf file with the stories.

Again, I'm not looking to control the outcome of your review, just trying to ensure that there are some reviews out there. I think the stories are quality stuff and you'll be happy (unless you don't like noir/hardboiled).

If you're wondering whether it would be worth your time, you can, of course, splurge on my first collection Killing Ways:Stories. It's $.99 until the end of the month.

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Kindle Sale

Time for my first ebook sale. Killing Ways: Stories is down to 99 cents. Two reasons. One, I'd like some sales. Two, I'll be debuting Killing Ways 2 soon, and it seems like a logical thing to discount the first set of stories for a week or two - I really haven't decided yet.

In any event, if you were looking for some hardboiled and noir stories, try my set for less than a buck.

Sold another The Valley of Angustias so that's another 35 cents in the piggy bank.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Kindle Questions

Okay, I still don't have a Kindle, and I haven't yet downloaded a Kindle "app." I'm planning on it. Just wondering if my home computer can handle it... And I haven't read up on what the restrictions are. If I buy a kindle book and download it to my desktop, can I email it to myself so I can read it at home?

And if I buy a Kindle today, won't it be obsolete in a year or two? Then what do I do? I'm sure Amazon's website can answer this for me, no?

And if I download books to my hard-drive, won't I eventually fill up the hard-drive? And by eventually, I mean quickly. How do people use their phones as Kindle machines? I mean, how many books can a cell phone hold? Or are you supposed to discard the books after you read them? Not sure I'd be happy about that.

Of course, it's not like I have unlimited shelf space either.

Anyway, time to do some downloading.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Kindle Advertising...

If anyone knows how to do this, please leave me a message... I have my own plans, but I'm not sure they amount to much and I honestly can't say that I've noticed the efforts by other authors, perhaps because I don't have a Kindle myself (those things cost $139!!!) I know, I know, I'm getting one. Just waiting for my bank account to catch a break.

Here's what I've seen so far from other authors:

1 - Hit and run visits to everyone's blog to say something like "That's so interesting! It's what happens in chapter seven of my new ebook "Mr. Perriwinkle's Twinkle and Whirligig He Drove In On" available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBook..."

2 - Blog tours. Okay, I haven't actually seen this since the announcement of a blog tour leaves me a bit cold. It's one thing to flog your book on your own blog. That's (part of) what blogs are for. but to give essentially the same message at a variety of different spots seems somehow strange to me. Maybe I simply don't have the marketing mind...

3 - Postcard advertising (and other advertising) through CRIMESPREE. I can't claim to have taken close look at the insert ads, but I know they're there.

4 - Being befriended by Joe Konrath.

Here's what I have planned for myself this year:

1 - The postcard thing since I intend to go to a couple of conferences and I figure I might drop a hundred cards at those conferences.

2 - Maybe an ad at CRIMESPREE.

3 - Some sampling - either print up a sample page of each book or maybe do a youtube video of myself reading the first page. I really can't think of anything more electrifying that Steven Torres reading, but if I can inject some humor into it, that might get some interest, no?

4 - Well, I don't really have a fourth idea. Anyone have Joe Konrath's number?

Friday, March 04, 2011

My Kindle Renaissance...

If you've dropped by the past month, you know I'm putting stuff up on Kindle and hoping for sales - I haven't advertised my wares yet, I the first wave of products, my short story collections, isn't completely out the door, though I think I've made a good start: One collection, a Precinct Puerto Rico novelette, and a stand alone short story about the Devil. Still, before this month is over, I'll have another collection or three up and running and will have started work on getting some novels up - a couple of previously unpublished novels and possibly some of my backlist. It's my understanding that novels are where the money is and since I can attest that it certainly isn't in the short story side of things, I'm inclined to believe it.

This is an interesting development for me. I have five half completed novels that I had stopped work on. I didn't stop work because the books were bad or because I lost interest. I stopped work because my agent and I agreed these books weren't as marketable as other projects. And by marketable, I mean that editors at publishing houses didn't think they could make tens of thousands of hardcover sales at $25 a pop. They're probably right. Especially during hard economic times plunking down that kind of cash for someone you've never heard of has got to be hard. And for a publisher to front me that kind of advance would take a great amount of faith on their part - not faith that the book is good since they have the entire ms in hand when they decide, but faith in consumers.

So not meeting the sales threshold a traditional publisher needs me to meet means I've got to find another way to get good stories out to readers and Kindle helps me do that. Knowing that I can get my novels out to people (and get paid for the enormous effort that takes) means I'll be finishing up those novels I had put aside. I'm glad of it. I hate writing 40,000 words only to set the ms aside.

Not to mention that among the five books I'm talking about are two straight-forward science fiction books. That's a stretch for me. Will I sell a hundred thousand copies? I hope so. But will I write books that I previously never thought I'd get an opportunity to finish? Absolutely.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Kindle Novel

Unlike a lot of other writers, I don't have a huge number of finished novels that need a home. I pretty much have two. One is a Ray Cruz novel. Ray Cruz is a meanie - he hurts people as his profession. Either that or he kills them outright. It's a story of the streets of the Bronx. Just imagine what happens when someone attacks Ray's family and you get the overall picture. Who does the attacking is a mystery to him, but how he goes about solving it and what he does with the information is all dark stuff indeed.

Then I have a novel about a young lady photojournalist and her quest to get evidence of El Chupacabra (The Goatsucker). What happens when she captures a murderer on film instead of the dreaded little livestock killing beastie?

I'm hoping to be able to bring the Chupacabra to Kindle by the end of this month and the Ray Cruz story by the end of May. These projected dates coincide with Spring break and the end of the Spring semester when I'll have some time for fiddling around with making Kindle-ready files. If I can stick to this schedule, I'll be able to finish a novel in June and have it ready for Kindle - that'll be a Viktor Petrenko novel. Then I teach Summer school...

I hope that the summer will give me an opportunity to finish another novel - Isaac Newton or female serial killer? Not sure yet.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Screwtape...And Marketing

I was thinking about my story "The Devil's Snare: A Comedy" yesterday for no particular reason and at some point in my cogitations I thought the story was similar to C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. I Lewis's book, a senior demon writes letters of advice to a junior demon who is trying to subvert his assigned human. The skewed point of view lends the book some humor amid some serious theology.

My story is told by the Devil himself as he tries to tempt an elderly lady. Things don't go exactly as he plans, but then, he's the Devil, so how bad can things get? Like Lewis, some humor, some serious thinking. I figured, if you like Lewis's effort, you'll like mine, so I went to Amazon and added a "tag," a label that buyers can use to find books in a category. I put down "Screwtape."

Now, Lewis is a popular author and outside of the Narnia books, Screwtape is probably his most popular work. When you go to the Kindle store at Amazon and type in "Screwtape," you get my short story 8th and I'm wondering about that. While I think there is a similarity and the actual titles of the two works share nothing in common, I wonder if I'm misleading readers. For instance, might someone think my story is some sort of C.S. Lewis fan-fiction that actually uses Screwtape as a character? Nothing in my description suggests that, but what if?

Well, I don't think I've done anything wrong - the buyer who thought they were getting Lewis fan-fiction would be making that assumption based on very little. But I don't know if there is a "tag" etiquette. If I haven't, then this seems like a good way to "position" one's work - look for similar authors and use their names/titles, etc as tags. Let me know. I'm curious to hear from more tech savvy readers.