Jul 20 2014

A Few Thoughts on Kindle Un/Limited (and the Biggest Mistake Amazon Is Making With Writers)

If you’re not familiar with Amazon’s new subscription service for ebooks, here’s two articles for background:

Those articles both offer more than a knee-jerk anti-Amazon response, which you’ll often find in the media, but both sum up what I’ve been hearing from readers: meh.

kindle-limited

Been thinking about this a lot for the past week, as the debate on this is raging all over the Internet. The one area where I think Amazon is making a mistake is their bizarre fixation on getting authors to go exclusive. I have mixed feelings about what these kinds of book subscription services will do to the book industry in the long run (look at what Spotify and Pandora have done to muscians’ incomes), but as it stands right now, Kindle Unlimited (which should really be called Kindle Limited because it’s less than 1/5 of their ebook catalog) is a lot like Netflix. Netflix has some original content but it’s mostly backlist.

There are times when going exclusive makes sense for a writer, if you get some combination of money or exposure that makes it worth it. Think of selling a story to Ellery Queen magazine. That’s a short term exclusive. Or House of Cards on Netflix. Long term exclusive. Game of Thrones is exclusive to HBO, which is short term, because you can eventually buy it on DVD. A lot of shows put up their first couple seasons on Neflix hoping you’ll get hooked. You could do the same thing with Kindle Un/Limited, opt in with the first book in a series. But for me, I won’t do that because of their demand for exclusivity. I want my loss leaders on all platforms. Imagine if Netflix demanded that every TV show and movie had to be exclusive to them. They’d go out of business in a heartbeat. That Amazon thinks they can pull that off just makes me shake my head. They’re not asking traditional publishers to be exclusive in the program (most of which have turned them down; the name books in there Amazon is paying full royalty on), but they demand it of anyone who’s in Kindle Select.

If they uncoupled this from Select, it might be good for authors to use in a limited way, such as for the first in a series, but Amazon’s bizarre fixation on exclusivity prevents this. I happen to love Amazon. They really have done more to advance the cause of literature than any company in the history of the world, but their obsession with getting indie authors to go exclusive is a mistake, and it also gives easy fodder to their critics.

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Jul 19 2014

FREE for a limited time: THE GRAY AND GUILTY SEA

guiltyseaA dead girl on the beach. A private investigator haunted by his wife’s death. Get THE GRAY AND GUILTY SEA for FREE for a limited time.

Set on the moody Oregon coast, The Gray and Guilty Sea is FREE as an ebook for a limited time from all of your favorite retailers.  Readers have called the book, the first in the Garrison Gage mystery series, “irresistible,” “unputdownable,” and a “fascinating character study.”

Want to find out why?  Now’s your chance.

Download the ebook for FREE:
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

“Carter’s writing is on target.” - Publishers Weekly

  

A curmudgeon. An iconoclast. A loner. That’s how people describe Garrison Gage, and that’s when they’re being charitable.

After his wife’s brutal murder in New York, and Gage himself is beaten nearly to death, the crippled private investigator retreats three thousand miles to the quaint coastal town of Barnacle Bluffs, Oregon. He spends the next five years in a convalescent stupor, content to bide his time filling out crossword puzzles and trying to forget that his wife’s death is his fault. But all that changes when he discovers the body of a young woman washed up on the beach, and his conscience draws him back into his old occupation – forcing him to confront the demons of his own guilt before he can hope to solve the girl’s murder.

Author’s Note:  A newly revised and reformatted edition of The Gray and Guilty Sea was published in June 2014.

  

If you get hooked on the grumpy Garrison Gage like many other readers, there are two more books in the series:

  The-Lovely-Wicked-Rain---Ebook-Cover-final

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Jul 15 2014

A New Edition of The Dinosaur Diaries (and Some Thoughts About WIBBOW)

dinosaurdiaries2_ebookcoverMy first short story collection, The Dinosaur Diaries and Other Tales Across Space and Time, has been republished by Flying Raven Press  (links to retailers below).  This is my own publishing company, of course, which gave me an opportunity to package the book in the way I really wanted it, with a snazzy new cover and everything.  The eighteen stories originally appeared in places like Asimov’s, Analog, Ellery Queen, and Weird Tales, among others. I have nothing against the fine folks who published the book originally back in 2010, but it was just time to make a change. 

I never liked the original cover much, and I also didn’t like that in the print edition they tried to squeeze 80,000 words into under 200 pages. It made the book seem quite thin, and even if the number of words is the same, it can give a potential reader the sense that the book is not worth the money if they happen to pick it up.  This print edition stretched it out to around 250 pages.  The original ebook was also four years old, so I took the opportunity to reformat it with some of the better tools available today.

From a business perspective, this was probably not the wisest use of my time. Yes, I’ll see a higher royalty, but honestly, if I was interested primarily in what was in the best interest of my bank account, the time spent re-publishing this book should have been spent working on new material.

From a writing perspective, however, it feels great.

Here’s how I see it.  I know there are writers who can approach writing purely from a business perspective, but that doesn’t work for me.  A few years ago, when Dean Wesley Smith and I were co-teaching some “Indie Publishing” workshops to help writers get started in this arena (this was way back in the cave man days of indie publishing, you know, circa 2011), I coined an ugly acronym as a test writers could use whether some non-writing related task was worth their time:  WIBBOW.

Which stands for Would I Be Better Off Writing?

Lo and behold, this ugly acronym actually caught on and I see mentions of it around the Internet, often by people I’ve never met.  The idea was that as indie publishing gained popularity, there were even more tempting ways to spend your time other than writing new material that could make you feel productive but, when playing the long game, might not be the best choice.

However, the thing about WIBBOW is that it is entirely subjective. It’s up to each writer to decide whether something is worth doing when measured against spending that time writing.  For me, re-publishing The Dinosaur Diaries passed the test, because I also operate by another motto:  Write for yourself, publish for the shelf.  What I mean is that no matter what happens with my writing career, I want to feel good about my choices.  I want to feel like I wrote what resonated with me (hoping it does for others) rather than writing what I think resonates with others (and hoping it will for me). And when I publish something, I want to be able to look at it on the shelf (even if that’s metaphorically, online) and feel that the book’s presentation is giving it the best chance to find an audience—and even if it fails it that regard, that I’ll always be proud of it when I look at it.

I’m proud of this book.  I hope my readers will feel the same.

* * *

dinosaurdiaries2_ebookcoverThe Dinosaur Diaries and Other Tales Across Space and Time

More About the Book

Available Now:

Ebook:
Amazon | B&N | Kobo 

Paperback:
Amazon  | B&N

 

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Jul 10 2014

Presenter at North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference September 19-20

redwoodLife is so busy these days I don’t have a lot of time for workshops and conferences.  However, a couple years ago I was a presenter at the North Coast Redwood Writers’ Conference in Crescent City, California and had such a good time that I couldn’t resist making a return appearance this year when I was invited to be a presenter.

It’s a cozy little conference held at the College of the Redwoods, Del Norte. I have been to the area many times to hike in the Redwoods, which of course is why I have a hard time resisting the temptation to go again. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking among trees that were around when the dust was still settling on the Roman Empire.

On the panels I’m on and the workshops I’m presenting, I’ll be talking a lot about what’s happening in publishing right now, on both the traditional and indie side, and what writers can do to find success.  If you’re anywhere close to the area, take a look at the conference schedule to see if it’s something that might interest you. Since it’s a very small conference, there will also be a lot of opportunity to chat and ask questions. Hope to see you there.

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Jun 20 2014

The Point of Unplugging: It’s Not About the Technology

Casey N. Cep’s article, “The Pointlessness of Unplugging,” published a few months ago over at the New Yorker, is well worth a read for those of us who make an effort to occasionally disengage from what I call the Great and Powerful Hive Mind. From her conclusion:

That is why, I think, the Day of Unplugging is such a strange thing. Those who unplug have every intention of plugging back in. This sort of stunt presents an experiment, with its results determined beforehand; one finds exactly what one expects to find: never more, often less …If it takes unplugging to learn how better to live plugged in, so be it. But let’s not mistake such experiments in asceticism for a sustainable way of life. For most of us, the modern world is full of gadgets and electronics, and we’d do better to reflect on how we can live there than to pretend we can live elsewhere.

I confess I’d never even heard of the “Day of Unplugging” until this article, which either says something about how little known the movement is or how disconnected I am from it.  Maybe both.  Here’s the thing, though: While Cep mades some good points, I think she misses what unplugging, for most of us, is all about. It’s not about the technology.  It’s about disengaging from the hyper-connected information sphere.  It’s the modern equivalent of the introvert just wanting to be by himself— to be alone with his  own thoughts, to take some solace from the silence (even mental silence is a kind of silence), to find some inner peace away from all the digital noise.

For many of us, information overload, especially of the ephemeral “I had a donut this morning” and “I haz cats”  variety, can eventually be toxic.  You are what you eat.  You are also what you put into your mind. I took a two-year break from social media before realizing that I was being silly doing so, that I never really had a problem with social media, and I especially had no problem with technology (which, at its core, is a word that just means tools that make our lives better).  I just needed to find the right balance.  I agree that the person who makes a big show out of unplugging may be a bit of an exhibitionist, just another way to say “Look at me!,” but that’s not why I do it.  I do it because disengaging from everyone else, and the Internet in general, is a way of engaging fully with me.

The struggle for most of us is not whether to unplug.  It’s how. I’ve worked hard to completely unplug from the Internet while in my home, which works for me because of the circumstances of my life, but even that’s been a challenge lately because of how embedded the Internet is in everything I do now.  Do I tell myself it’s okay to look up the weather online, but that I can’t go on Twitter?  Do I avoid reading CNN.com, but allow myself to use Google Maps to get directions?  It’s not as clear cut as it used to be.

What I have found is that if I commit as much as possible to unplugging while in my home, then I tend to have a list of things to do when I permit myself to get back online. But it’s still not easy.  I’m still trying to find the right balance, and I suspect that most people taking part in the “Day of Unplugging” are the same. I just do it daily instead of once a year.

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Jun 13 2014

New Book Published: THE LOVELY WICKED RAIN

It’s been far too long, but The Lovely Wicked Rainthe third in my Garrison Gage mystery series, is finally out in the world.  It was a lot of fun to spend a little time with Gage again, and I’m hoping my readers agree.  A little more information about the book is below.  These are standalone mysteries, so you don’t necessarily need to read the first two before reading this one, but they are books heavy on character, with an extended cast that return from book to book, so if you want to start from the first book, check out the Garrison Gage page on this site for more information.

 

The-Lovely-Wicked-Rain---Ebook-Cover-finalEbook:
Amazon | B&N |Kobo | iBooks

Paperback:
Amazon
 | B&N | Indiebound

(More links to retailers coming soon.)

Genre: Fiction | Mystery

A troubled young man.
A murder that shocks the town.
Buried secrets exposed to the world.

*****

They find him on the beach, shooting bullets into the sand. 

His name? Jeremiah Cooper, the son of the bullheaded high school football coach. Slight of build, soft of voice, he’s got all kinds of torment lurking behind his eyes. But despite Garrison Gage’s best efforts, he can’t pull the kid out of his shell. Then someone turns up dead at the local community college, and Jeremiah’s fragile world shatters.

Add a crisis in Gage’s good friend’s life, an ongoing feud with his adopted daughter about her life choices, and a hauntingly beautiful FBI agent with secrets of her own, and it’s a lot more drama than a half-retired private investigator with a bum knee wanted. Whatever happened to quiet rainy nights sipping bourbon, watching the sun sink beneath the waves on the Oregon coast, and trying to think of a ten-letter word that means grumpy and glad about it?

But before Gage can even write the word curmudgeon, he’s pulled deeper into Jeremiah’s world–a world of sex, secrets, and a sadistic evil that preys on human weakness.

Read the First Chapter Online.

The Garrison Gage Mysteries (in chronological order):

  • The Gray and Guilty Sea
  • A Desperate Place for Dying
  • The Lovely Wicked Rain 

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May 30 2014

All The Ways to Find Success as a Writer Start With Thinking for Yourself

Over at The Passive Voice, there’s a great post titled, “Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs” that’s worth a read:

If you care to contribute such anecdotal evidence in comments to this post, please do.

If you think it’s your private business, don’t be offended. Just don’t post anything.

Feel free to post anonymously or under an online pen name if you like. If someone points out a trollish comment, PG will probably delete the comment when he gets around to it.

If you’re a writer, or simply a reader who’s interested in the many ways writers have found success outside of traditional publishing, read all the comments. Very inspiring stuff.

choiceAnd I want to add something here, something I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a while. As you can see from the comments, there are lots of ways to skin this cat.  We’re four or five years into this “indie publishing revolution” now, depending on how you measure it, long enough that some of things that I advocated to writers a couple years ago, both at workshops and online, I wouldn’t advocate today. I know of writers who have done well since then, and others who are bitter that things didn’t go as well as they’d hoped — and some of these bitter folks direct their anger at the people who were trying to help them. Why? Because whatever technique or method or approach that was advocated didn’t work for them. Therefore all of that advice is suspect.

Oh really? It’s not weakness to change your mind; it means you’re adaptable, capable of changing your approach to fit the reality on the ground. And reality can change.  One of the greatest dangers when you teach others, especially if you have a voice that leans toward the dogmatic (and sometimes you have to be dogmatic to break through people’s mental barriers), is that people will take what you say as gospel.  As rules to be followed to the letter, rather than suggestions to take into account.  As a formula to be copied, rather than a method to be studied to see if it might work for you.

Because here’s the only truth I know about this crazy business of stringing words together and selling them for money. All the ways to find success as a writer start with thinking for yourself.

There are people who have success in every genre—romance, fantasy, mystery, you name it. There are writers who are extremely prolific, following the “make a little on a lot” approach, the same approach that traditional publishing uses, and there are writers who make a lot on a little, using aggressive and frequent discounting and tested visibility techniques to boost their sales. To be dismissive of either approach is only an admission on your part that you are letting your biases get in the way of your learning.

DCF 1.0There are writers who publish only with Amazon, taking advantage of the promotional tools available to people who publish exclusively with them, and writers who think it’s better to cast a wider net, publishing everywhere and in every format.  There are writers who only work with traditional publishers, writers who are indie-only, and hybrid writers who do a little of both. There are writers who say never write to market, just write what’s in your heart and don’t chase trends.  And yet I just read about a guy who hit 1000 sales in one day by repeatedly targeting the market, specializing in 15-20K word serials; he does three, and if it takes off, he does more, and if not, he moves onto something else.

And it’s working for him, because he’s thinking for himself.

There are writers who hit a goldmine with one of their first books. There are writers who still scrape out a subsistence existence after a 100 titles— but would rather do that than even take on a part-time job. There are writers who bag groceries, bar tend, or other dead end gigs, to preserve their creative energy for what they love most, and other writers, like me, who made the decision to commit fully to two careers because I get tremendous value from both. That’s another thing I changed my mind on, by the way.  Because I had to change my goals to fit both my evolving needs and the circumstances of my life.

I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years.  Some I followed.  Much of it I thought about, then discarded—even if it came from people I admired.  I’m guessing that just about all the writers in that comment section at The Passive Voice have done the same.  They didn’t copy anyone. They didn’t blame anyone when things were going poorly any more than they would give someone else all the credit when things were going well.

This truth doesn’t just apply to writing, of course. It applies to achieving success in anything in life. Learn from everything and everyone—but in the end, think for yourself and find your own way.

The irony, of course, is that it is the only way.

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May 22 2014

Postcards from the Garage: Pacific City, Oregon

Published by under Postcards

wpid-20140427_201356.jpg

This one was taken a few weeks ago when we stayed at the coast for the weekend. If you squint, you can just make out my daughter, taking one last walk at the water’s edge before we call it a day.

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May 12 2014

Scott’s Surefire Formula for Achieving Artistic Commercial Success

Last year, Bookwhirl.com put out an infographic that’s been making the rounds again: Ways to Publish and Sell Your eBook.”  Or maybe it’s never stopped making the rounds.  Hard to say.  In any case, I saw it pop up on a couple of sites. What’s funny about this one is that it reads as if it were written by someone who learned English as a second language, and it’s festooned with errors (see the descriptions for #4 and #6).  The fact that it’s making the rounds again is indicative to me that people often post this sort of thing because it looks impressive when scanned, but they’re not really reading it carefully.  It’s just something to post so they “advertise and use social media” (#7) and “create platforms” (#8).

So I decided to create my own impressive-looking infographic: “Scott’s Totally Surefire Formula for Achieving Commercial Success! in any Artistic Endeavor.”  In one snazzy and appropriately colored infographic, it shares what I believe is the ultimate key to making money not only as a writer, but in any artistic pursuit.  Feel free to copy and paste it far and wide.  If you wouldn’t mind linking back to this post, it’s appreciated, but truly, my greatest reward will come from knowing that I have passed along my special secret to other up and coming writers.

swc-formula-for-success
(click for larger, even more awesome infographic)

Sure, it’s a joke (what, the exclamation point after SUCCESS! didn’t clue you in?), but here’s the thing.  It’s also true.  If we’re talking about writing, then creating something awesome involves not just writing a great book (which means learning the craft of storytelling), but it also means packaging it well — an engaging book description, a professional copy edit, a snappy cover.  The whole thing has to make potential readers sit up a little straighter in their chairs and say, “Wow, that looks awesome.”

It’s not enough to create something awesome, though.  You’ve also got to put it in front of people who can pay you money for it.  Yes, this means publishing it in as many formats (paperback, ebook, audio) and markets (Amazon, B&N, iTunes) as possible, but it also means experimenting with different types of book discovery tactics to get more eyeballs looking at your awesome thing (advertising, bundles, loss leaders).  And of course, following the arrows, you repeat this as often as possible (in other words, practice).

Beyond that?  Well, you can certainly get more specific in your advice, but truthfully, everything else that has any value in achieving commercial success in any art should fit into one of those two areas.

I mean, it has to be true, right?  There’s an infographic and everything.

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Apr 28 2014

Postcards from the Garage: Neskowin, Oregon

Published by under Postcards

image Kids had no school on Monday, so we took a quick weekend jaunt to the coast, staying in a house in the hills above Neskowin.  A bit rainy off and on, but then it did allow my wife to take this photo (which is our view from the living room). If you strain, you can just make out the gold at the end of the rainbow …

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