Sunday, April 28, 2013

Amazon’s Kindle Singles a Win for Readers, Authors

Reprinted with permission from the  Authors Guild Blog, April 23, 2013

We’ve been frequent critics of Amazon’s tactics in conquering established book markets, but credit is due to the company for doing what many would have considered impossible: creating a genuine market for novellas and novella-length nonfiction. In the New York Times this morning, Leslie Kaufman profiles Kindle Singles editor David Blum and cites Amazon’s statistic that about 28 percent of the 345 Singles published since January 2011 have sold more than 10,000 copies. Kindle Singles are a curated list of short e-books (5,000 to 30,000 words in length) available through Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Though publishing arrangements vary — some Kindle Singles are published by traditional publishers, others are self-published or put out by an emerging group of new publishers, such as Byliner — authors may earn as much as 70% of the proceeds from sales. Since bestselling Kindle Singles sell for an average price of $1.50 or so, a self-published author selling 10,000 or more Singles would likely earn revenues of $10,000 or more.

The current bestseller list of Kindle Singles includes many familiar names writing in genres that do particularly well in e-book form — including crime fiction and thrillers. What’s especially welcome to authors and freelance journalists is the healthy number of nonfiction titles on the list. These include works of history (#4, Mayflower: The Voyage from Hell, by Kevin Jackson; #16, Always Right, by Niall Ferguson), memoirs (#15, Dresden: A Survivor’s Story, by Victor Gregg), essays, and long-form journalism (#3, Trial By Fury: Internet Savagery and the Amanda Knox Case, by Douglas Preston; #13, Guns, by Stephen King, who’s donating proceeds to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence). Writing on science also makes a credible showing on the Kindle Singles bestseller list (#43, Higgs Discovery, The Power of Empty Space, by Harvard physics professor Lisa Randall), as do works Amazon categorizes as reporting (#29, Here’s the Deal, by David Leonhardt).

It’s early days for Kindle Singles, too early to judge the eventual breadth and depth of this market. According to Amazon’s own numbers, just 100 Singles have sold more than 10,000 copies so far. But the trend, by all accounts, looks promising: Amazon is curating a new, significant short e-book market for authors and readers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Top 5 Sites for Science Fiction Writers

Updated 3/10/24

Of all the fiction genres, sci-fi – aka speculative fiction — stands as the one most likely to inspire devotion. Sci-fi buffs are die-hards. That’s because sci-fi authors are required not just to do world-building, but to do universe-building. That’s real escapism.

Traditionally, a background in science has been virtually mandatory for sci-fi writers, and there are still many sci-fi magazines that require a strong scientific element in their published stories. But, as the concept of “science” has marched on to include not just the “hard sciences” (notably, physics and biology) but the social sciences (anthropology, sociology, history, and, to a certain extent, linguistics), sci-fi has matched pace. At this point, the subgenres are almost too numerous to name: cyberpunk, steampunk, apocalyptic, dystopian, space opera, spy-fi, and “soft sci-fi,” which originally meant anything written by a woman. (For decades, sci-fi has been an all-male club.) Naturally, such a variety allows for considerable leeway, not just in what may be considered sci-fi, but how to write it. There is perhaps no other genre that has encompassed such a broad range of writing styles and voice.

How lucrative is the sci-fi market? It’s hard to say. Compared to romance novels, which generate a huge amount of revenue, sci-fi is a country cousin. But, what the sci-fi market lacks in big bucks, it makes up in sheer rebellion. As a case in point, Hugh Howey sold the print rights to his self-published underground sci-fi hit, Wool, to Simon & Schuster for a “mid-six-figure” advance. Howey had turned down “multiple” seven-figure advances because he’d already raked in over a million dollars of royalties from his eBook, and he was determined to keep electronic rights.

And Howey isn’t the only word-of-mouth wonder in the sci-fi world. This is a genre that thrives in the dark, subterranean alleys of the net, exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no man, woman, or cyborg has gone before.

These sites will help you on your mission.

As a bonus, here are some great publishing resources for speculative fiction writers:

Mega-List of Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines - Paying markets

4 Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishers Accepting Unagented Manuscripts from Writers

12 Scifi and Fantasy Review Sites for Self-Published Authors

1) Christoper McKitterick

Christoper McKitterick has an extensive list of science fiction resources on his website, including Writer Resources, College Programs in SF, SF Teacher and Scholar Resources, Science Fiction Awards, Science Fiction Magazines, Science Fiction Review Magazines and Websites, Important Anthologies and Scholarly Works, Fandom, Great Author Blogs, SF Artists, SF Conferences and Conventions and more.

2)  Internet Science Fiction Database

This site is shamelessly geeky. However, it contains the most complete catalog of science fiction, fantasy, and horror you will find anywhere. It links together various types of bibliographic data: author bibliographies, publication bibliographies, award listings, magazine content listings, anthology and collection content listings, and forthcoming books. You can find a huge list of magazines and fanzines on this site if you are interested in submitting short work, as well as publishers, awards, and statistics.

3) Links to Science Fiction Websites

The University of Michigan's Fantasy and Science Fiction website features a list of sci-fi and fantasy sites, a library where you can read science fiction ebooks, films, a dictionary of symbolism and research tools. It is not as well organized, or as broad in scope, as the Gunn Center’s page, but there is a greater focus on contemporary sci-fi magazines, fan pages, and review sites, which makes this list quite useful to those trying to get stories published.

4) 80 Best Science Fiction Blogs and Websites

This is the most recent Feedspot list. (It is automatically updated every year.) The best Science Fiction blogs are gleaned from thousands of blogs on the web and ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness.

5) Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

SFWA is the professional organization for authors of science fiction and fantasy. Past and present members include Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, and Andre Norton. It goes without saying that if you join SFWA, you will be in good company.

In their own words: “SFWA informs, supports, promotes, defends and advocates for its members. We host the prestigious Nebula Awards, assist members in legal disputes with publishers, and administer benevolent funds for authors facing medical or legal expenses.  Novice authors benefit from our Information Center and the well-known Writer Beware site.

SFWA Membership is open to authors, artists, editors, reviewers, and anyone else with a professional involvement with sci-fi or fantasy. Affiliate membership is $90 a year. Professional membership is $100.

Additional sites of interest

Worlds Without End

WWE has everything about Speculative Fiction, including compilations of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Clarke and Stoker Award lists, sci-fi classics, book reviews, author interviews, and a complete list of publishers of science fiction.

Locus Magazine

News about science fiction publishing and coverage of new science fiction books and magazines. The site also provides a chronological listing of upcoming science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions, conferences, and symposia; author events; sci-fi awards database; and a huge sci-fi index (books, magazines, anthologies, collections).

Friday, April 19, 2013

Self-Published Book Skyrockets Author to Success

Updated 5/25/24

This article captures the key to self-publishing success. If Colleen could do it, so can you.

According to Publishers Weekly, a whopping five books by Colleen Hoover—three of which are backlist titles—made it onto the overall and adult bestseller lists for the first part of 2022. Thanks to "adulation" on Book Tok, four of Hoover’s titles made the top 10 overall, and five made the top 10 in the adult category.

"SULPHUR SPRINGS, Texas — After a feverish month of inspiration, Colleen Hoover had finally fulfilled her dream of writing a book.

With family and friends asking to read the emotional tale of first love, the married mother of three young boys living in rural East Texas and working 11-hour days as a social worker decided to digitally self-publish on Amazon, where they could download it for free for a week.

“I had no intentions of ever getting the book published. I was just writing it for fun,” said Hoover, who uploaded “Slammed” a year ago in January.

Soon after self-publishing, people she didn’t know were downloading the book — even after it was only available for a fee. Readers began posting reviews and buzz built on blogs. Missing her characters, she self-published the sequel, “Point of Retreat,” a month later. By June, both books hit Amazon’s Kindle top 100 best-seller list. By July, both were on The New York Times best-seller list for e-books. Soon after, they were picked up by Atria Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint. By fall, she had sold the movie rights.

"I wasn't expecting any of this at all. And I'm not saying I don't like it, but it's taken a lot of getting used to," said the 33-year-old Hoover, who quit her job last summer to focus on her career as an author.

Hoover is both a story of self-published success in the digital age and of the popularity of so-called "New Adult" books, stories featuring characters in their late teens and early 20s. Others in the genre include Jamie McGuire's "Beautiful Disaster" and J. Lynn's "Wait for You." The novels, which often have explicit material, are seen by publishers as a bridge between young adult novels and romance novels.

"In a nutshell, they're stories of characters in their formative year, when everything is new and fresh," said Amy Pierpont, editorial director of the Hachette Book Group's "Forever" imprint, where "New Adult" bestsellers include Jessica Sorensen and J.A. Redmerski.

When Hoover finished her third book, "Hopeless," in December, she initially turned down an offer from Atria and decided to digitally self-publish again. By January, that book too was a New York Times bestseller and she signed that month with Atria to publish the print version, but kept control of the electronic version. The paperback is set to come out in May."

Read the rest of this fascinating story HERE.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What is Success? The Best-Seller's Numbers Game…

Neal Pollack
It’s not often you get to find out exactly how many books you have to sell before you can call yourself a “best-selling author.” Take a guess. Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

How about 10,000.

In a revealing interview on the A.V. club, best-selling author Neal Pollack not only gives us the inside skinny on his own numbers, but the inside skinny on what it means to be a “success.” Big publisher, six-figure advance, media hype?  It turns out it’s all relative.

This is what Pollack had to say about those mysterious numbers:
Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature: ”despite all the attention it was getting, sold maybe 10,000 copies.” 
Never Mind The Pollacks: “I’m almost embarrassed to say it, but I got a six-figure advance for Never Mind The Pollacks. Low, low, low six figures, but it was there … It is for a book that has sold, to this day, maybe 4,000 copies.” 
Alternadad “… got more publicity than two-dozen books combined. I was on Nightline, and they did a piece on my family life. That book was everywhere and did a ton of press. But, again, it sold only 10,000 copies.” 
JewBall (Pollack’s self-published book): “500 copies Kindle and paperback. Which is pretty normal for a self-published book … [Amazon's Thomas & Mercer imprint] republished it and quickly, very quickly, published it online and, a few months later, as a paperback. It sold 10,000-plus copies since they did that. And it’s never appeared, as far as I know, in a bookstore.”
Downward-Facing Death: “I wrote a yoga novel about that, again sold 10,000 copies. Ten thousand copies appears to be my threshold.”
If 10,000 copies is a measurement of success, then I can pat myself on the back. But, in spite of what you may hear, numbers aren't everything. Like Pollack, I’d like to see my book on a shelf somewhere, someday ... before I die.

Incidentally, I would also like to be proud of what was between the covers. And, if I were Neal Pollack, I would be.

In Allen Toussaint's immortal words:
"How does one decide
That the methods he's using,
They just don't jive
To truly believe and keep trying
Over and over again
Living in hopes,
That someday you'll be in with the winners
When should one change his mind
And jump the fence
For the dollar sign
It’s a sad thing, it's a bad thing
But so necessary
That this cold world forces
Your values to become monetary.
(It ain't necessary)"

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Slow Death of the American Author

It only hurts when I write...

Yesterday, The New York Times published an op-ed piece by Authors Guild president, Scott Turow. If you've been wondering how Amazon's proposal to sell used ebooks will affect the slew of self- published authors, it isn't a pretty picture.

"The Slow Death of the American Author"


Published: April 7, 2013, NYT Opinion

"Last month, the Supreme Court decided to allow the importation and resale of foreign editions of American works, which are often cheaper than domestic editions. Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.

This may sound like a minor problem; authors already contend with an enormous domestic market for secondhand books. But it is the latest example of how the global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams. It seems almost every player — publishers, search engines, libraries, pirates and even some scholars — is vying for position at authors’ expense."

Read the rest HERE.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Top 6 Sites For Mystery/Thriller Writers

Updated 5/24/24

One of the chief advantages of writing mysteries is that you can actually make a living at it. 

Usually, mysteries are published in series. Once you have established an engaging main character and a perfect setting (according to Bowker, Americans like their mysteries set in “the misty bogs of Scotland and London’s Trafalgar Square” – but New York or Rome will do in a pinch) you are in business forever. 

Because human beings are hunters at heart, there is an insatiable demand for whodunnits. Roughly 48% of those who purchased novels last year bought mysteries.

Whether you are just starting your career as a mystery writer, or have a book or two under your belt, these should be the top sites to put on your “favorites” list.

As an extra bonus here are two  great publishing resources for mystery writers: 

13 Paying Markets for Mystery and Crime Stories

12 Mystery and Thriller Publishers Accepting Unagented Manuscripts

The Mystery Writers Forum is a little peculiar looking, but it is the most useful site I've found for researching a mystery or crime novel. Some of the goodies you will find on this site are: forensics (everything from fingerprints to poison), handwriting analysis, law links to law libraries, journals and internet resources, organizations, police procedure, DNA analysis, print publishers, ebook publishers, short story publishers, writing resources, and a long list of review sites. You can even consult a cop (for a fee) if you want firsthand information from someone in the trenches.

Special feature: The “Find a Death” link will take you to a site listing the deaths of celebrities – always useful fodder for a crime novel. Sadly, the link to the Mafia home page is broken.

This site lists over 5,500 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 66,000 titles), both series and non-series, which you can search alphabetically or through specialized indexes: diversity, historical, genre, job, and location. The site also features a comprehensive list of mystery/thriller awards with archives going back to 1988. New hardcover, paperback, and audio book releases are listed by the month, which makes this is a great resource for researching your competition. Stop You’re Killing Me also hosts giveaways. This is a great place to have your book reviewed!

What a fabulous organization! Sisters in Crime offers an enormous list of mystery websites. The resource section on the website includes a helpful book publishing glossary. Membership dues are a mere $40 annually for an author pursuing a career in mystery writing, a bookseller, a publisher, a librarian, an editor or anyone who has a business interest in promoting the purposes of Sisters in Crime, Inc. Membership includes:

  • inSinC, a quarterly 16-page newsletter
  • Sisters in Crime listserv, including special guests on "Mentor Mondays"
  • Regional chapters, including The Guppies, a support and critique group for unpublished writers
  • Website link to titles by Sisters in Crime authors via WorldCat, a global catalog of library collections
  • An institutional presence at national and regional book events, mystery conferences and festivals with opportunities for individual author participation and/or distribution of promotional materials
  • An ongoing mystery review project that monitors media coverage of female and male authors
  • Our blog written by board members and other distinguished SinC members
  • Our monthly "SinC Links"—a digest of "news you can use" about the mystery business
  • New Sisters in Crime interactive map to find SinC authors and their most recent titles
  • Discounts for Members in 2013 - Gotham Writing Workshops and Writers' Police Academy
  • Reports from SinC's annual publishers summit
  • Networking, mentoring, and fun

The best Mystery Book Blogs are gleaned from thousands of blogs on the web and ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness. You can submit your blog here for free. 

Mystery Writers of America is the leading association for professional crime writers in the United States. Founded in 1945, MWA presents the Edgar® Awards, widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious awards in the genre.

Membership is open to professional writers in the crime/mystery/suspense field whose work has been published or produced in the U.S., and who reside in the U.S. (special memberships are offered to those living abroad); agents, attorneys, booksellers, editors, reviewers, librarians, journalists, and publicists. 

The MWA website features an extensive list of author newsletters, author blogs, and an extremely useful list of over 150 approved publishers (including periodicals and ezines).

6) International Thrillers Writers

The International Thriller Writers is an honorary society of authors, both fiction and nonfiction, who write books broadly classified as “thrillers.” This would include (but isn’t limited to) such subjects as murder mystery, detective, suspense, horror, supernatural, action, espionage, true crime, war, adventure, and myriad similar subject areas.

There are two ITW membership classes, Active membership for commercially published writers, and Associate membership for industry professionals, non-commercially published writers, and others. ITW is an honorary organization that does not charge membership dues for qualified, active members. Membership is free. Instead of charging dues, ITW asks its members for their volunteer work, their effort on behalf of fellow writers, and their time and energy supporting reading and literacy.

Some benefits of membership include:

  • Marketing and promoting your work to over 12,000 readers, bookstore owners, librarians, reviewers, and other thriller fans through THE BIG THRILL monthly webzine.
  • The opportunity to participate in successful ITW thriller collections. Previous bestselling projects include THRILLER ANTHOLOGY and the award-winning CHOPIN MANUSCRIPT audio book. Recently published projects include THRILLER ANTHOLOGY 2, FIRST THRILLS, WATCHLIST, COPPER BRACELET, and FEAR (YA Anthology).
  • Being a part of ThrillerFest, the publishing industry’s fastest growing writer’s conference along with accompanying CraftFest and PitchFest
  • Opportunities to participate in exclusive strategic relationships with,, and other author-oriented websites.
  • Participation in the exclusive Debut Author Program helping to launch new thriller writers into the exciting world of publishing
  • Opportunities to have your book reviewed by noted websites such as and others
  • Many opportunities for midlist authors to advance their careers through special programs, signings, events, free promotions, publicity, and advertising, networking, and participation in anthologies.

Additional sites of interest

Crimespree Magazine - a recently updated website has given Crimespree a sleek new look. Founded in 2004, Crimespree is an award-winning print magazine that covers all aspects of crime fiction, including books, movies, DVDs, comics and more.

The Criminal Element - "Murder. Mystery. Mahem. Boiled daily." Criminal Element is a community website featuring daily content for fans of the crime and mystery genres in all of their forms. The site features original short stories and excerpts from upcoming crime and mystery novels along with daily blog articles.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Random House Opens Its Doors to Self-Publishers, Perhaps

Article first published as Random House Opens Its Doors to Self-Published Authors, Perhaps on Blogcritics.

Vanity of vanities; all is vanity

NOTE: Random House has now closed its Hydra imprint.

With a few famous exceptions, self-publishing, aka “vanity” publishing, has always been the kiss of death for writers. For aspiring writers hoping to take a seat in the hallowed halls of authordom, launching a novel with a self-published imprimatur was almost like having a scarlet A stitched onto your bodice – as far as the major houses were concerned.

Then, along came Fifty Shades of Grey, originally published as an ebook by an obscure “virtual” publisher in Australia. Within a year, Amazon announced that it had sold more copies of Fifty Shades than Harry Potter. The publishing world was shaken. An ebook, fan fiction no less, had outsold the top-grossing series of all time. Random House, still smarting from having turned down J.K. Rowling, leapt to its metaphorical feet and did the unthinkable. It picked up a self-published ebook. This was a first for the world’s largest publisher, an opening of doors that had, up until now, been almost impossible to enter. It was hailed as a turnaround for the industry. But was it?

Random House’s sudden epiphany - “there’s gold in them thar hills!” - was followed by yet another Eureka moment. Anybody can sell electronic books! Random House immediately threw its hat into the ring, and started its own digital imprints: Alibi (mystery), Loveswept (romance), Flirt (for “New Adults,” whoever they are), and Hydra, a sci-fi imprint aptly named after a multi-headed reptile which was so poisonous even its tracks were deadly. Notwithstanding the ominous association with Greek monsters, Random House held out the biggest carrot of all time: Authors could submit their works, even those “previously published,” directly to Random House, thus bypassing the almost insurmountable hurdle of snaring an agent.

Naturally, there was a catch – or two.

The first catch was that authors would have to bear the costs of publication. This is also true for self-published authors, though now those costs would be exclusively determined by Random House. The second was that instead of receiving the traditional advance against publication, there would be “profit sharing.” The publisher and author would split revenues 50/50. As it turns out, “profit sharing” is simply a rebranding of the Subsidiary Rights clause of the standard Random House contract, in which proceeds of electronic books, audiobooks, translations, etc. are divided equally between publisher and author.

In short, by removing up-front payments to the author, while simultaneously eliminating all of its own expenses, Random House was imitating a vanity press. But, unlike vanity houses, they would take half of the profits. Random House was hoping nobody could add.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) not only added, they subtracted their members. In a scathing letter sent to its members on March 6, the SFWA stated that it had “determined that works published by Random House’s electronic imprint Hydra cannot be used as credentials for SFWA membership, and that Hydra is not an approved market.”

The reason? “Hydra fails to pay authors an advance against royalties, as SFWA requires, and has contract terms that are onerous and unconscionable. Hydra contracts also require authors to pay – through deductions from royalties due the authors – for the normal costs of doing business that should be borne by the publisher.”

Needless to say, there are serious ramifications from being blacklisted by sci-fi’s largest and most influential writer’s association. Random House was compelled to make an immediate rebuttal.

“We read with interest your posts today about the new Random House digital imprints and our business model,” wrote Allison Dobson, V.P., Digital Publishing Director. “While we respect your position, you’ll not be surprised to learn that we strongly disagree with it, and wish you had contacted us before you published your posts.”

The opening of this letter precisely mimics the simulated regret that politically correct parents employ when punishing their wayward children: We like you, but we don’t like what you did.

Sci-fi wrists duly slapped, Allison now proceeded to the spin, “with a profit-share model … the author and publisher share equally in the profits from each and every sale. In effect, we partner with the author for each book.” Allison describes this partnership as “an all-encompassing collaboration.”

(Translation: We are on your side. We’re really your friends.)

Addressing costs, Allison says, “These costs could be much higher--and certainly be more stressful and labor-intensive to undertake--for an author with a self-publishing model. Profits are generated once those costs are subtracted from the sales revenue. Hydra and the author split those profits equally from the very first sale.”

(Translation: You’re too young to handle this. Leave everything to us. We know what’s best for you.)

As a disciplinary device, this letter was nothing short of brilliant. It hit every aspiring author’s weak spots in a way that nobody could resist. But Random House has had plenty of practice at this game. These tactics are the stock-in-trade of publishing houses: shining promises, followed by intimidating jargon, followed by incomprehensible terms.

SFWA did not recant, and Random House was forced to comply with the usual standards of print publication. Authors submitting work to Random House’s electronic imprints are now offered a choice of the advance against royalties model, with a royalty of 25 percent of net receipts, and the publisher “will cover production, shipping, and marketing for all formats at 100 percent of cost.”

The day has been won by organized labor, but in reality nothing has changed. Authors still provide the raw materials (for a small percentage), and publishers provide the finished goods for the bulk of the profit. Whether it takes on a new guise, sports a new brand, or appears to adopt a new format, The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Get the details:

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