Do ebooks make it all about price, price, price?

 

It’s Writing Wednesday and I have only one question – does Amanda Hocking hold the key to how the publishing world may survive?

For those that don’t know who Hocking is, she is the self-publishing “phenom” that sold 450,000 of her self-published book in January. Yes, I wrote self-published. Yes, 450,000 copies. Yes, is one month.

How, you ask? She’s writing in a popular genre – she described her work as ” young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly.”  But I think it’s mostly about the price.  The ebook sell for 99 cents to $2.99. Hocking’s cut of the $2.99 book is 70%; 30% of the 99-cent books. Even if most books sell for $.99, she’s already made a half a million this year. Not bad. Plus, rumor has it the traditional publishers are circling, and dangling $1 million on their hooks. Not bad at all.

So, is it mostly about price? The ebook version of my latest book, The Brink, is $7.99. And I’ve sold nowhere near the number of copies Hocking has. As Snoop Dogg says, should I “drop it like it’s hot?” I think I will. I mean, what’s the downside? Should you? That’s for you to decide. But just remember this, people are more apt to buy when they think they’re getting a good deal. One only needs to look at the success of Groupon to see that truism. Sometimes a quarter pounder is just another burger at $3.19. But at $0.99 it’s a hell of a deal, especially when you’re jonesing for a pretty good burger and you’ve only got a buck in your pocket.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

Where’s the beef?

 

First things first. My apologies for missing Friday’s post. We got caught in a massive traffic jam on I-35 outside of Austin on the way home from Sea World in San Antonio and didn’t get home until late. If anyone’s been on I-35 around Austin, you feel my pain. And that was after dealing with massive crowds at Sea World. Anything for the kids, right?

Nevertheless, we move forward with another Mystery Monday. We’re all trying to find a certain niche with our mystery writing, something that will make the critics say, “now this is a fresh approach in the mystery genre, these are unique characters, this is a truly different story.” Well, for all of us looking for both unique characters and fresh plot on this Mystery Monday, I give you cattle rustlers.

Oh yes, you heard me right. Cattle rustlers. Thieves of the Beef. Cattle rustling isn’t something that’s stuck in the Wild West, or days of yore. It’s alive and well all over the world. In fact, with beef prices on the rise, law enforcement is seeing more cases of cattle rustling today than ever.  Back in the olden days (1930s-70s) rustlers would herd cattle into trucks in the dead of night. From 1970 through today, they often use helicopters to manuever herds into temporary pens and then load them into the trucks from there.

Now where does a story go that starts with cattle rustlers? How to formulate a plot around a cattle rustling operation? There are many different directions. Maybe your lawyer hero used to be a cattle prosecutor who’s moved on to the big city, but still uses the small town tricks he learned in said profession to solve the case. Maybe a female police chief in a town along the Texas-Mexico border witnesses a helicopter that she thinks is being used for a cattle rustling operation only to investigate it and discover its being used for something much worse. Or, how about a reformed cattle rustler as one of your supporting characters?  

Wherever you go with your mystery, unique characters or a fresh approach to a story will always make readers raise an eyebrow, and hold their attention along the way. Stories about the characters that are associated with off-bat subjects, like cattle rustling, might be just the right meat in your Mystery Sandwich.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

The Rules of Writing from the Masters…and the rest of us

 

Okay, it’s humpty-hump day and that means it’s Wednesday Writing Class here on Mark Fadden’s Blog. Today, inspired by Eric from Pimp My Novel’s Monday post of Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules of writing,  we are taking the rules topic one step further. Because while Vonnegut has his eight rules, Stephen King has rules, and so does Jonathan Franzen. So do I and so do you. We all have rules, and I bet my asterisk that if we all were told to name our top 10 writing rules, no two lists would be the same.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t necessarily like rules as a youngster. Rules typically mean limits. And, like every red-blooded American boy, I liked to think of myself as indestructible and, therefore, rules weren’t for me. It is only now that I’m older and smarter that I’ve realized most rules are in place for my own good. I, dare I say, like rules now? But I do, I do…especially when it comes to writing.

There are writing rules and they are in place for a reason. Now, I’m not talking about rules of grammar, which should be pushed to the limits at all times. I’m talking about the rules of a good story, those unwritten rules that every good storyteller abides by to make sure that his or her reader ends up with a satisfying story. They are the rules of expectation, and it is these rules that allows someone to walk into their local book store and pick up a Steven King or Jonathan Franzen novel knowing exactly what they are going to get. And even though King and Franzen may end the occasional sentence in a preposition, they will probably always adhere to their own specific rules, which can be seen throughout their writing.  

And, like I said earlier, it’s not just King and Franzen that have their rules. We all do.  So, since it’s Wednesday Writing Class, let’s all write down our rules and share them for next Wednesday’s class. It should be an eye-opening experience.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

The Writer’s Audit

It’s the first post of “Writing Wednesday” in the new and improved Mark Fadden’s Blog, and with tax season in high gear, I think it’s time that we borrowed one of the most unpleasant things that you can go through – a tax audit – and use it to make sure that we’re budgeting our writing time correctly. After all, our time is just as important, even more so, than our money. So, what’s good for the IRS Goose is good for our Writing Life Gander.

First, let’s take a look at a typical workday:

24 hours in a day – out of that we’re probably working, getting ready for work, and commuting to and from work around 11 hours a day; let’s give us kids or a hobby, which includes trying to get our daily exercise, so that’s around 3 hours a day; we need to eat – 2 hours for that; finally sleeping, let’s give ourselves 6 hours.  Add ’em up and, wham, there’s 22 hours. So, we have 2 hours a day leftover for writing. Question is, is that enough?

Well, like my statistics professor in college once said, numbers can, and do, lie. While they aren’t lying here, this is a typically workday schedule. Let’s give us 2 days off a week from our day jobs, and throw in a little time to hang out with friends and family, drink a few cervezas, and sleep in a little and we go from having 2 hours free a day to 20 free hours a week (2 hours a day during the week plus 5 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday). Sounds better, doesn’t it? So, will 20 hours a week give us enough time to not only write, but research, edit, blog, promote, and do everything else there is to do to be a writer in the 21st century?

The answer is, I don’t know.  But like saving and dieting, the proof is whether you actually adhere to your budget. Is your butt in your somewhat uncomfortable writer’s chair and are you actually doing the work? Or are you sitting there playing Angry Birds on your computer and ticked because you just can’t get the little house to crumble the right way to smash the oinking pig?

So let’s say that we’re all being good and we’re doing our work. Let’s take a look at my numbers. For me, I work from the house, so cut commuting out of my work schedule and I free up an hour each day. But, I’m also the primary caregiver for our sons, so add two hours to my kid portion of my day. That puts me around 15 hours a week. Is it enough? If I budget my time, yes. often, I let some of my writing time bleed over into other parts of the day with a little thing I like to call multi-tasking. While I’m riding the exercise bike, I’m doing research by reading a book on the secret service. When I take the kids to the library for story time, I review the 5 pages I wrote the night before. These are small things, but like saving and dieting, small changes add up to big gains over time. Making sure we are using our time wisely can mean the difference between a finished manuscript at the end of a year or starting yet another year with that same old New Year’s Resolution: “This is the year I finish my novel.”

Now it’s your turn. How does your writing audit stack up? How many hours can you devote to writing a day? How much does your actual time compare to your budget?   To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com.

Mystery Monday – The Murder Room

It’s the first post of the New and Improved Mark Fadden’s Blog! And for “Mystery Mondays” what better subject for writer’s to talk about then mystery books we love! They are at the same time our inspiration and our research. I can think of no better book that fits each of those roles better than The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo.

Opening with a scene where one of their founders breaks, of all people, a priest into admitting he had relations with young boys,  Capuzzo chronicles the adventures of the Vidocq Society, a group comprised of the Top Guns of criminal profiling, former FBI agents, and homicide veterans that meet in a room in Philadelphia to work on unsolved cases pro bono, while they feast on spectacular meals on white tablecloths. 

Reading like a best-selling mystery novelCapuzzo dredges up the details of each cold case featured in the book with a tenacity and doggedness seen in the best of today’s investigative reporters. Another facet of the book is that he also gives us an intimate, almost too much at times, look at three of the group’s founding members – William Fleischer, Frank Bender and Richard Walter, who is also known as the “living Sherlock Holmes.”

From a research aspect, I’ve dog-eared many pages in the book. The cases and characters are on full frontal display throughout. Beyond that, the writing itself is worthy of becoming a study aid for writers. Alot of non-fiction, at least the amount that I’ve seen, has a tendency to drag in places. Non-fiction about forensics and murder can, at times, be a marathon of how-much-gore-can-you-handle. But Capuzzo puts a human face on these stories; the research he completed has been exhaustive. The story that he keeps coming back to throughout the book about the “Boy in the Box” will absolutely break your heart.

Thank you to Mr. Capuzzo for putting this book together. I’m sure I’m not the only writer that will continue to use it for inspiration for years to come.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com.

The future of publishing, part 1 of 2

The big talk in both the blogosphere and the traditional news outlets these days is that the publishing industry is at a crossroads. If you attended the DFW writers’ conference this past weekend, you heard that authors are embracing self publishing platforms and social media and that traditional publishing is on the ropes.  Those same folks said that you were a fool if you still chased after a traditional publishing contract. Traditional publishers are simply middle men taking a big cut of profits out of the pockets of authors. Why, they even showed us how we can become our own publishers and publish our own real books for nominal fees, promote those books to the right groups, and make out a pretty good living doing so.

But then you also heard that traditional publishers have fully embraced social media. They have the ability to maximize what social media has to offer. They will continue to promote their workhorse authors that have shown up on the bestseller lists for years as well as publicize new and upcoming authors that show promise.   

There were those that talked about eBooks being the Holy Grail, that they will put more books in more people’s’ hands for much less money . You also heard those that believed there will always be a market for real books that you can touch, smell and take along anywhere, wi-fi connection and power source be damned.

So, that begs one question: who’s right? I think they all are. I think that there has never been a better time to be a writer than right now. Sure, the emergence of self-publishing and the ability to publish an ebook for free on Barnes and Noble’s Pubit or Amazon’s self-pub service has definitely crowded the market, but it all comes down to one thing: is it a good book? Because whether you believed the agents at the conference that work hard to get their client’s a book deal with a traditional publisher or you are out there by yourself  hand selling each and every copy of that book that you sweated over for the better part of three years, one thing you must do to make sure you get the recognition you’re after is to make sure that book is your best effort. Have you reviewed it until you’re sick of looking at it? Has it been edited by a professional? Is the cover the most eye-catching it can be? And so on.  

Whatever route you want to take to get your book published, it seems you can take it these days. But, like I was reminded at the conference, make sure the book you’ve got is the best you’ve got. If not, then you’re just spinning your wheels. And whatever direction the publishing industry takes, if you’re spinning your wheels, you’ll go nowhere fast.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com.

The single biggest thing you can do for your writing career (besides writing the books)

Yes, that’s world famous author Sandra Brown with your’s truly. But we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s talk about some serious stuff. I attended the DFW Writer’s Conference this past weekend and holy crap, my world will never be the same. It was completely inspirational and motivating. I also learned that I have so much more to learn about the publishing world, especially now that everything is changing, and yet, so much is staying the same.

First, I’ve been making alot of mistakes in my approach to being an “authorpreneur.” But, by definition, authorpreneurs are those folks that take risks. They take it upon themselves to make things happen, so of course we’ll make mistakes in the beginning of our careers. We will continue to make more mistakes well into our careers. But whoa be it if we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I’ve learned about the mistakes I’ve been making and will not continue those same mistakes in the future.

Case in point, is my blog. The conference was a weekend long thing, with many classes on social media including blogging. I got to meet Kristen Lamb, whose blog I’ve been following, with thousands of other writers, for many months now. Red Bull needs to sign her up for an endorsement deal. I not only hung on her every word during her classes, but I also watched her interact with other conference attendees as she chit-chatted with several of them. One thing about conferences, everyone’s enthusiasm seems to lag as the conference drags on. Not Kristen. She was just as inspiring, genuine, and had this intense focus with everyone she met from the opening session to the last moments of the conference late Sunday afternoon. She digs writing and loves her fellow writers. Plus, she knows her stuff when it comes to using social media. I learned alot about how to blog correctly. I humbly submit myself to her cult of personality.

And speaking of people that made an impact at the conference, Sandra Brown knocked it out of the park. She was this year’s keynote speaker and if you were sitting in the auditorium filled with the 500 or so fellow writers that were in attendance and you didn’t love her books before, then you loved them after she held court with us. She was gracious, inspiring, and, above all, funny. She recounted how she got her start and told several personal stories about her writing career, funny stories that we could all relate to. She is a true storyteller, both on paper and in person. She has not only written the book on writing books, she is the textbook example of how a writer makes a public appearance.

With all that I need to tell you about what went on at the conference, and what I learned, I am keeping to my Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday postings this week. But, you will begin to see small changes, starting tomorrow. For example, on tomorrow’s post, you will see a new title of the blog. No longer will it be titled “Behind the Book.” From now on it’s “Mark Fadden’s blog.” Why? It’s all about branding, something we’ll get into tomorrow. Then, starting next week, everything changes, including the days that I blog. No one likes change, but these are necessary.

By the way, if you live in the DFW area, or in any part of Texas, Oklahoma, or Louisiana for that matter, you need to start saving up, get the vacation days off, and do whatever else you need to do to go to next year’s DFW writer’s conference. Besides writing the actual novels, it was the single biggest thing I’ve done for my writing career. If you haven’t been to it yet, I’m sure it will be the same big event for you next year as well.

More about the conference tomorrow on “Mark Fadden’s Blog.” Change, it is a comin’. Saddle up!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com.