Writing for the joy of it; and a few peanuts

Mentioned last week that I might use repeats for the blog this week due to my arm injury; but, good news, writing (typing) is not causing me any complications.  Thinking is sometimes on the blink, but that’s a different problem.


This blog focuses on books and writing, especially indie books.  While writing is a passion for many authors, the money side of this activity is a big factor in what is written and what is read.  Keep in mind most authors write because it gives them something that is important, regardless of the money; but a little money would not hurt. 

A friend of mine passed along a white paper from the Author’s Guild titled “The Profession of Author in the 21st Century.”  Many pages of stats and interesting detail.  Let me summarize—it is bleak.  Most authors today cannot make a living just writing, much less only producing books.  If you are looking for a good paying profession, consider something else.

No big news to anyone associated with book writing and publishing.  A few top authors make tons of money, everybody else barely survives.  Publishers are only paying good advances to sure-thing celebrity (or at least famous [is that different?]) authors.  Tell-all political gossip books look lucrative.

The real world consequences of this is very possibly, almost nothing.  You can bemoan the fact that literature as a word may not have much meaning in the future—but who cares?  The readers?  The authors?  Literature means: written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.  Maybe that world has already gone?

The white paper places a lot of the blame on Amazon.  As an indie author I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon.  The publishing world was once totally controlled by a few people in New York (okay, it still is), who would not have given me the time it took to say no.  The business model of the major publishers (of which there are only five) incorporates a snobbery that’s more like royalty than anything relatable to “best practices” (or for that matter common sense).  The fact that the publishing world has become more challenging and less controlling of all things related to books is no doubt good news.  Or is it?  Or who gives a shit?  But why blame elitist publishers for the dark cloud over book publishing when you can blame Amazon and its computers?

Without Amazon my books probably wouldn’t even exist.  Self-publishing existed long before Amazon; but it was targeted to a different audience.  Self-publishers once offered personal attention and care for a price.  These vanity projects resulted in a few books being distributed by the author to their friends and family; not much impact on the “real” book world.  Amazon offered something new, a presence in the book market place to almost anyone who wanted it.  How you presented yourself in the market was up to you; but the market was open.  Amazon changed self-publishing from a small number of vanity projects to a large (way too many) number of indie authors who are producing a million plus books a year.  More books than can or will be read.

The downside of Amazon is the devaluing of books themselves.  There are many readers today who only read free or almost free books.  It is the same thing that happened to music.  Free sounds reasonable to the consumer.  Maybe the consumer is stupid and thinks these creative things just arise by themselves with no effort or cost; why shouldn’t they be free, or maybe the consumer says; if you, as the creative person behind these things, offers them to me for free—you’re the stupid person, not me.  The real stupidity is ever offering these creative works for free in the first place.  But when the competition is so intense for visibility in the vastness of millions of books, what are the options.  The only winner in any of this is Amazon, which, of course, is what creates the resentment and eventually the hate.

The ugly side of market dominance is that Amazon gets to make the rules.  Indie authors have no power and thus make little money.  There are exceptions; but they are few.  I’m not sure literature is dead, but I think it is seriously wounded.  The major publishers want proven winners or at least famous/infamous names, that leaves little room for serious, but unknown, authors.  The indie author’s path to success seems to be writing a large number of books with a new book every three months or so tied into an ongoing series; not exactly the path toward literature.  I tend to think that literature was dead a long time ago, we just didn’t notice; because there was no sizable audience for such writing.

My books have no pretentions towards literature, they are written to be entertainment.  Still they’re worth more than free; but that’s on me, nobody else.  When I started writing I thought I could make a little money writing and that is exactly what has happened; I make a little.  At least it’s not zero.

In the Author’s Guild white paper, they seemed to suggest solutions that had something to do with Amazon not having such a vice grip on the industry, they would probably return to the “good-old-days”, when snooty agents manned the gates to the publishing world; not sure that is better.  Maybe a guaranteed income to all creative people?  Why do I think that would increase the number of creative people; but not creative results.  

The only way to force Amazon to share more of the wealth would be if it benefited them; which it wouldn’t.  Every day there are thousands of new authors offering Amazon a consignment product and if it sells –giving Amazon a percentage. Plus, those same saps pay Amazon to advertise their books on Amazon, so Amazon can make money selling more books, and also make money not selling those books.  You’ve got to admire their system—it is designed to do one thing; make them money—and it works.

I will write another book or maybe two or –hell who knows how many; and will not make much money.  Why?  I think many creative people are masochists and I might be one.  Or they gain a sense of personal worth that has more value than just money—not sure about that either.  Before I wrote books I painted pictures—I’ve made ten times the money writing as painting—so I guess, I’m moving up in the world.  Thanks Amazon.

Thanks for being a reader!

A sad note. Clive Cussler died this week. I read many of his books over the years and while I found the circumstances on some a little over-the-top, I loved them. Always a fun read.

He lived in the Denver area (where I live) and on several occasions thought about trying to make contact; never did. Interesting that this week’s blog is about making money writing books, Cussler was supposedly worth about $120 million; now that is writing success. He will be missed.

Tumbles and Reading

Winters in Colorado can be mild or not so mild.  Snow and ice are normal, usually welcomed as part of this beautiful world.  However, along with this joy of white landscapes comes shoveling.  Until that big one shows up with heavy wet snow measured in feet, I kinda enjoy shoveling the snow.  It’s one of those little accomplishments that helps us feel productive.  But on an occasion there is an oops.  I had an oops.  Slipped on the ice and took a not so acrobatic tumble.  After some brief moments of “what just happen isms”, got up and managed to make it inside.  Falling on the ice comes so swiftly that there is no chance to anticipate or dread; one second you’re just fine; and the next, flat on your back with many areas of pain.  And, the worse part, there is no one to blame except yourself.

Net result, I broke my arm.  Writers do not need broken arms.  Good news is that my arm movements are only restricted– did not need a cast.  With a little office re-engineering and a lower table for my keyboard, I’m typing again; just a little slower. 

Obviously this causes some complications with this blog and my progress on current book projects.  I am able to write, just much slower and with many, many rest breaks.  This will have impact on the blog, newsletter and other writing for about a month (I hope no longer than that).  But none of that will stop completely.

This week’s blog (and probably next) will be reprints from past blogs.  After that, my plan is to get back to my normal pattern.  Thanks for your patience.


Fewer Readers Reading Less

I grew up in a household where reading was honored.  This was mostly based on my father’s love of books.  There wasn’t a lot of family discussion about books, but it was obvious they were important.  My father’s bookcase was held in high regard and given a prime location in the living space.  Both of my parents grew up in households that did not have a lot of possessions.  Books would have been a luxury.  My father in particular was raised in very humble conditions.  As his own new family became more prosperous in post WWII America he purchased books and they became his treasures, a luxury he had never experienced as a child.  Coming from this background reading became a habit and a source of great pleasure for me.  Reading books was something I just did, it was natural.

Taking an unscientific survey during Thanksgiving, it is apparent people are reading less and in many cases not at all.  I have read the stories about the decline in hours spent reading books and knew this was happening; but it is still kind of shocking to talk to relatives and realize the new normal is to not read; at all.  Not one book in years or maybe decades, I can’t imagine not reading.  Of course, I write books so I have lots of reasons to be shocked at this trend.

And it is a trend.  The decline in reading has been going on for a couple of decades.  Lots of factors but the most likely culprit is TV.  You would think the number of hours spent watching TV would have peeked somewhere in the past and leveled off, nope.  It is increasing.  People are watching more and more television.  Some of this, I’m sure, is due to the increased options being offered, streaming services and vast numbers of channels on cable.  With the average hours of daily TV watching increasing substantially in the last ten years; there is no time to read.

Reading, TV watching, smoking are all habits.  Once you stop some activity the habit goes away and usually something else fills that need.  TV apparently has filled the entertainment, information need of books.  Many people will think so what, entertainment and information from TV is just as good as books.  Maybe so; but most experts (whoever they are), say it is not the same.

In an article for The New Yorker, Caleb Crain observes: “In a culture of secondary orality, we may be less likely to spend time with ideas we disagree with,” (He) wrote. “I suspected that people might become less inclined to do fact checking on their own; forced to choose between conflicting stories, they would “fall back on hunches.”  Note– “secondary orality”—(is) a sociological term for a post-literate culture.

A post-literate culture–doesn’t that sound alarming?  To me it does.  Our brains function in certain ways and it matters how we get our information.  Reading seems to reinforce many good qualities about “thinking” that do not seem to transfer to such things as television watching.

I don’t have any answers to this trend of fewer readers reading less; but I do find it disturbing.  And not because of book sales.  I think it makes us less capable of deeper more complex thoughts.  I believe we lose the ability to digest nuances in all sorts of matters, from basic living circumstances, to politics to personal relationships.   I also believe we become more susceptible to misinformation; especially well-crafted propaganda.

Or maybe it is more simple than brain functions declining; it is that the love of books is disappearing.  It makes me sad.

Thanks for being a reader!

Bit of This and That

Last week I spent a little time discussing business valuations for both private and public companies as a lead in to my new SuccessPaths series of business “how to” books; no doubt, super boring.  Sorry, here’s a little follow-up.  Had some input from people asking about companies that are worth billions that have never made a profit—how can that happen?

The quick, easy answer is that it’s all bullshit.  Hype on a huge scale.  The more detailed answer is that it is based on an assumption about the future, best described as wild-ass guesses.  Take Uber for example.  Imagine being involved in the first presentations regarding Uber.  They were going to take on a tired, stale basic service industry that did not offer much service, the taxi industry.  With tech innovation they will improve the service, solve the labor issue and will be able to scale up at a rapid and massive rate.  Going from one city to thousands almost overnight using a vast labor pool; the general public.  By-passing regulation authorities with a combination of technology hype and political clout.  This model could go from zero revenue to billions in revenue in the blink-of-an-eye.

If you were concerned about profitability you were just an old-school, out-of-touch worry-wort of the past.  It will become so big; profits will just fall out by magic.  The magic didn’t happen; or if you believe the company, has not happened yet.

The company has a market value of $70 billion, revenue of $3.1 billion.  The founders and initial investors have made billions for themselves; so where is the problem?  It loses money; lots of money.  Without investment capital Uber would be bankrupt.  Somewhere in the future, those chickens will come home to roost.

This is speculation on steroids.  The value has no meaning other than the off chance that it can figure a way to profit from the massive size of the enterprise.  Much of the speculation about profits now centers on something never mentioned at the beginning; monetizing the vast data base and self-driving cars.  Or, in other words: magic.

Uber is one of many examples of the power of free money.  If you can entice investments on a large enough scale you can achieve a burst of “success” while failing.  With enough money almost anything can look plausible for a certain amount of time.  Much of the hype around innovative, new companies is that their business model has not been proven.  That also means it has not been proven wrong!  So most of the invested capital will be spent to prove the business “idea” works.  But by “works”, we mean can it make a profit?

Let’s go back to Uber.  Until the company can show a path to profits and then demonstrate that path is working there may not be any value there at all.  So a company worth $70 billion might be worth zero?  In the common sense world that would be true; but in the speculative world of crap shooting investments the value could climb to $100 billion on nothing but promise and hope.  So if you invested at $70B and sold at $100B, you’re very happy.

Is that wrong?  Of course not.  As long as investors understand the risk and freely chose to invest based on some future out-come; that is not wrong and is at the heart of most high-return investments and the speculation that drives them. 

Businesses exist primarily to make money, so profits do matter.  But with enough “free money” the business can survive while searching for those profits and everything will be great (someday); unless it isn’t.

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Back to books and writing.  Interesting reader review for Murder So Wrong.

Realistic read February 5, 2020

As a reader who grew up in Oklahoma City, the setting of the story, the detail is so realistic as to make one wonder if this is a lightly disguised report of true happenings. Either way, it seems real and reads well.

That was one of the best reviews I have read on any of my books.  Murder So Wrong is a story based on true events and to have a reader say it “seems real” is absolutely great.  While the basis of the books in this series is based on true events the stories are fictional; totally made up.  Writing non-fiction books about true events is much harder work; tons of research, fact checking, interviews etc.  My forte is just making stuff up; but still I want it to seem like it could have happened, even if it didn’t.  Thank you very much reader for your kind words.

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A few weeks ago I had some thoughts about the controversy surrounding the new book American Dirt.  One comment I made was that even with the massive negative reaction, all of the hype would only promote more books sales; and sure enough, American Dirt is number one on Amazons most sold list.

Interesting side note, number one on the most read list (digital subscription services) is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Controversy and celebrity will still sell a lot of books; but if you just want to read a good book, go back to a well written and entertaining story.

Thanks for being a reader!

Mysteries of the Business World

I write mystery books, usually murder mysteries.  My stories are not based on deep analysis of much of anything, other than human nature and a little common sense.  By design the characters are flawed, but interesting (I hope).  Perfect characters would most likely not be involved in murder and no doubt would not be very interesting; or at least would be hard (for me) to relate to.

In my other life, I’m involved in business.  Some of that activity is focused on financial analysis and forecasting.  I look at businesses’ data and try to determine the value of that on-going business.  This is taking historical numbers and placing a current value for the future prospects of the enterprise. 

Earnings (or profits, or cash flow, or some other measure) are a key to calculating value.  In my case I’m valuing non-public, mid-size businesses and the measure is usually something called EBITDA, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.  Whatever the particular measure, it is based on the assumption of profits—in the future.  Value is always a guess about the future.

This week’s blog might seem entirely off my normal subjects of books and writing; but I will connect the dots at the end of this article. 

The over-hyped and inflated value of the stock market has created an unreal (or unsustainable) expansion of market value.  Because I have a good sense of how non-public companies are valued, the public companies appear to be super over-valued.  The why of this is due to the vested interest by almost everyone in an over-valued market.  Politicians want a hot stock market so they can claim it is because of their wise policies, all of Wall Street wants a thriving market because they make money, investors want a growing market because, duh!  No one wants a down market (there are some marginal players who bet on a down market but are a relatively small group), so all of the hype is promoted by almost everyone.  No one suffers from an over-valued market, or so it seems.

Except, it is not based on any viable measure.  The most common measure on public stocks is price earnings (PE).  This is a common sense measure of the return in profits as a percentage of the price of the stock.  So what would be a good return on the stock; 10%, 20% or what?   The PE does not give you the percentage, but the number of times the stock is of earnings.  So earnings of $1 with a PE of 10 would be a stock price of $10.  A PE of 10 is a 10% return.  A PE of 20 is a 5% return.  A PE of 50 is a 2.5% return.  This is a list of some of the top companies selling at a PE of 50 or more (that is a 2.5% return or less):

  • Amazon.com (AMZN)
  • Liberty Global (LBTYA)
  • Salesforce.com (CRM)
  • Tesla Motors (TSLA)
  • Netflix (NFLX)
  • Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)
  • Twitter (TWTR)
  • Illuminata (ILMN)
  • General Growth Properties (GGP)
  • Prologis (PLD)

It is very unlikely a private company would sell at anything close to those PE ratios.  Because a large portion of that value is based on speculation.  Speculation is the anticipation that you as an investor can sell the stock you purchased at $1 for $10 in the future.  So that speculation is based on your perception of the rise in value of the stock, which is not necessarily tied to any kind of earnings.  You hope someday in the future an investor (sucker?) will pay 10 times what you paid knowing (mostly likely) that the company’s earnings or assets or any measure of value will mostly likely not grow all that much.  Your investment is a leap of faith based on market hype.  But, you might say, lots of people make a ton of money doing just that!  And, yes, they do; until they don’t.

In my private company mid-sized world, a common measure of value is a multiple of EBITDA.  In most industries the value of a business will be in a range of 4 to 6 times adjusted EBITDA.  There are exceptions of course, but on average that range will cover it.  The EBITDA multiple for public companies is readily available; so these are a few of the above companies EBITDA multiple:

  • Amazon  27
  • Netflix  64
  • Prologis  31
  • Twitter 22

In most cases public companies will always be worth more than private companies (no reason to get into that briar patch—no doubt you’re already wondering when this will end—soon.)  But if a private company’s higher end value is based on 6 times EBITDA; how can a company like Netflix be worth 64 times?  The simple answer is that under any normal economic measure, it isn’t.  What creates that higher value is speculation—the hope a future investor will pay you more for the stock you purchased—regardless of the underlining economic factors. 

At some point this overvalued reality will become evident and the whole mess will collapse.  The bubble will pop.  In case you’re wondering, I have no idea when that might happen; I just know it will.

This is an oddball way of letting you know that I’m in the process of writing some business books.  Some of you may be aware of my background (CPA, CFO and other initials without much meaning), and understand that a murder mystery writer penning business “how to” guides is not completely farfetched.

At one time when I was considering this, I thought about using a pseudo-name for the business stuff; so not to confuse readers of Ted Clifton’s mystery books.  After a little thought, decided that was just stupid.  So I write mystery and non-fiction business books, it may be odd to some but not to me; so I will use my real name and assume the readers can tell the difference.

The first book in the business series, which will be under the series name Success Paths, will not be out until the latter part of 2020.  These books will have little value to you unless you own a business or are starting a business.  Of course, there may be people who just buy business books for their entertainment value, but that’s got to be a fairly small group.  For those people, I would highly recommend my mystery books, easier reading and definitely more entertaining.  As the Success Paths business series progresses I will keep you advised. 

Thanks for being a reader!

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Lots of public noise about the new book American Dirt.  Mostly seems centered on the author not being an authentic voice for the places and people she wrote about.  This is a common complaint when someone of another background/race/ethnicity/or whatever writes about a certain group of people.  How can you know anything about being _____________, when you’re not?  Well, of course, if you’re writing a fiction book you can just make shit up, so what if I’m not authentic enough for you; I don’t have to be.  If you could only write fiction about what you had a personal experience with, there would be no science fiction books and probably a lot fewer romance novels.

The complaint I saw the most about American Dirt, which also had the most meaning to me, was that the book was full of stereotypes and did not reflect accurately the locations of the story.  Now, that has meaning.  But that sounds like a “bad book”—there’s lots of those; why the hub-bub?

Apparently the author received a huge advance (seven figures) with extensive pre-publishing marketing.  Some of the marketing was in poor taste at the very least and potentially offensive.  On top of that Oprah selected the book for her book club.  What this is about is a relatively unknown author receiving amazing money and hype for some reason—that’s enough to piss off a lot of people in the industry.

I haven’t read the book so don’t know if it is any good or not.  Even if I did read it, all I could say would be whether I liked it or not.  Some of the criticism sounds valid; but a lot sounds like jealousy. 

A very recent reader review of Santa Fe Mojo said, “It’s not a deep thought provoking book, but really entertaining.”  Thank you Mr. Reader.  Plus, it was a five-star review. 

I think there has been a trend for some time that books need to be of substance (and not just entertaining).  Let me readily admit that I write books to be entertaining.  That is my goal; my entire focus.  If you find deep meaning, or hidden insight; that’s wonderful, but that will have more to do with you, the reader, than me, the writer. 

American Dirt might also be entertaining, but it was marketed as something else.  It was a serious book that had more meaning than just story telling.  It was insightful, inspiring, important.  With that foundation, the criticism feels more appropriate.  It is a fictional book with attitude.  You better have your act together on all fronts if you expect no criticism with that sort of approach.

If I write a reasonably entertaining murder mystery for no reason but to provide you with some (cheap) entertainment, the bar of approval is set pretty low.  If I declared this is the most amazing detective story every written with insight into the inner workings of a sex-starved, Sherlock Holmes level genius and delivers the best surprise ending of any book written in the last five-hundred years—the likely criticism will be vicious (or humorous).

Ms. Cummins, the author of American Dirt, had written three other books; all of those appeared to be based on her life in some way.  Then she wrote a book about a Mexican woman making a treacherous journey with her child across Mexico to the United States—she isn’t Latino and evidently has little experience with Mexico.  You wonder why she chose that subject?  Trendy?  Marketability of a struggling immigrant story?

Most of my wild ideas for books get shot down by me.  Although I’m still struggling with Doctor Hightower which involves a very, very old man who appears middle age.  Even with that unusual premise, I placed the story in Denver so I was at least familiar with the story locale. 

I would be the last person who would want to criticize the approach of Ms. Cummins, after all she got a million dollar plus advance.  She’s a genius!  And all of the controversy and ugly words directed at her and her book will no doubt boost sales and once again prove the worth of publicity– whether it’s good or bad. 

*

I would imagine Ms. Cummins doesn’t have to worry about scheduling ads for her book, but I do.  The ad plan is usually about two months out.  While I was working on my ad plans, I had reason to go to each book’s page on Amazon.  The description that appears on each page, which some people say is one of the major elements that can contribute to increased sales (although I’m not completely sure about that), had changed.  The description for several e-book versions had reverted back to an older version.  Now, of course, the new version was by far the best and this obviously was tragic news.  (Okay, maybe more annoying than tragic).

Still not sure why that happened.  The Amazon system that supports both buyers and vendors must be a nightmare to maintain and keep from blowing up; but sometimes it seems like the simplest things go wrong with no explanation.  Now, there’s something else to add to my list of things to check on a regular basis.

I mention this in case you visited one of my Amazon pages and didn’t buy the book because you didn’t like the description, you should go back; the new description is fantastic and no doubt you will want to buy the book, or at least admire the new book description.  Thanks in advance.

Thanks for being a reader!

Books/Writing/Publishing Trends 2020

The future of something?

Beginning a new year leads to thinking about what is happening on many different fronts.  For me, of course, I’m always looking at trends in books and publishing.  While I am curious this really doesn’t affect me all that much, but still feels like something I should pay attention too.  The following trends come from an article by Scott Mathews which appeared in The Independent Publishers Magazine.  The article below has been edited for length, click for the full article.

Some of this I agree with, some maybe not so much.  Still interesting.

Trend #1 Print Books are still top of the pile

This should grab your attention because surely the natural progression would be e-books taking over the throne? Not so. Well, not yet. People apparently still love to hold a real book in their hands. For this, and various other reasons, e-books have shown a decline.

Does this mean the age demographic is now 30+ for print and under that for digital? No. This is where it gets somewhat confusing. Millennials are just as likely to go for print, bucking that sector’s trend of digital-only.

Trend #2 E-books are dead, long live e-books!

Having said what needs to be said in Tip#1, it goes without saying that e-books are still a vital part of people’s lives. Industry insiders have dissected the above trend, and all are cognizant that in terms of time and legacy, e-books are still relatively young and playing catch-up to print.

It is inevitable that the digital book will have many more peaks and valleys than print, although both are grappling with new ideas and follow-throughs. E-book trends are more uncertain as the world in which they exist is more volatile and iridescent. It’s a kind of nebulous line that makes it not as easy to define, but just as urgent to detect and develop.

Trend #3 Diversity is the new dynamic

If authors, and subsequently publishers, do not grasp diversity with both hands, they will fall behind in sales. This is a clear-and-cut fact. Diversity in the form of multicultural voices and multigender voices are the norm, and the must-have. This reflects the diversity that is alive and expanding everywhere in America.

Trend#4 Bigger demand for services

Everyone wants a book or a well-written assignment, and everyone thinks they can write. However, they’ve quickly discovered that writing is in the gift and the blood and it’s not as easy as thought.

Would-be authors and students turn to services like ghost-writers and writing agencies in droves to get the work done properly. Two such services experiencing a surge in demand are Xpertwriters.com and A-writer.com.

Trend#5 A writer and Entrepreneur!

Marketing your work is an essential part of ensuring hype and sales. This goes for whether you’re self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher. You must start blogging about your work, especially as a self-publisher.

Amazon is not going to do it for you, and as part of your marketing effort it’s vital you use every social media method available to get the hype going. If you don’t do this, your work will languish in cyberspace!

Trend#6 Audiobooks are more popular

They still fall under print and e-books, but they are on the rise. Izzard Ink Publishing says that digital audio accounted for 25% of all HarperCollins digital revenue in the first quarter of 2018.

Simon and Schuster says that digital audio revenue shot up a staggering 43%, so something big is happening here. It obviously takes more investment to get this show on the road but offering a print-on-demand book as well as an audio version is a sure-fire winner.

Since Americans seem to be multitasking more in their lives, they will have less time to just read a book. Audiobooks come into their own when they fit in with all the other activities that they are pursuing.

Trend#7 It’s all about the brand

You’d better ensure that you’re fit enough to sell your book. With direct-to-reader becoming the predominant buzzword going into 2019, much of the onus of the marketing will fall to you.

And the marketing will not just be about the book – it will be about you (the author) too! So be prepared to have YouTube inserts, Instagram postings, Facebook and Google+ campaigns… the whole thing. People will follow you, then your book.

If you’re a timid author, you’d better enroll in some get-confidence-quick classes, because you’re going to need it.

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The world of books is huge.  Millions and millions of books sold.  My share of that market is so small as to be somewhere close to zero.  Overall trends in the industry may have impact on publishers, but any one author is doing their thing because of who they are; not based on some trend.  Now there may be some authors who plot their path based on statistics of what sells or whatever the hottest trend is—but that is not me.

Mystery novels have been a staple of the written word ever since there was a written word—that’s not a trend; but a fact. 

As I said, my part of the whole is so small it can’t be measured, but one thing mentioned in the article was the increase in print books and a decline in e-books.  Those are industry wide issues, but I also saw a substantial jump in paperback book sales this last year.  My books are not available (except by order) in book stores (lots of reasons for that –which I will explore in a future blog)—so this is on-line sales of paperbacks.  Those sales in 2019 almost tripled over 2018.  A “real” book is not as convenient as an electronic one—but I was very pleased to see people like the feel of owning a tangible book.

Thanks for being a reader!

Ramblings, Reality and Baseball

Without a doubt, I break creative writing rules. The main reason I break those rules is that I don’t know any better. Rule breaking is often associated with rebellion, but it also can be a result of ignorance. Point of View in a fiction book can be first, second or third person. Most of my books get this whole thing kind of muddled. Mixing POV is a no-no and would result in my writing getting a bad grade from my writing professor. Here’s the key to understanding why I do this, I don’t care.

What is a novel?  It’s a story.  My books tell a story about flawed characters involved in a mystery, usually involving a murder.  Is there a specific book of rules for this storytelling?  Yes, and no.  The objective, however, is clear.  It is to tell the story in a way that communicates to the reader what the author wants communicated.  That sounds to me like there are no rules.

Very smart authors, not saying I’m one of those, often break the “traditional” rules as an expression of independence and creativity.  So if you know the rules and break them deliberately that is okay; but if you just don’t follow the rules because you don’t want to—that’s bad.

You may be wondering why this is on my mind?  It has been suggested by someone who knows the rules that I should try writing from a slightly different approach.  I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided I should just stick with what I’m doing.  The reason is not that this advice is bad; it’s just not me.  My stories have a certain feel and flow.  Maybe a simple style or a simple author?  The most frequent comment I get from readers is that my books are easy to read.  There was a time that for some reason I was not sure that was a good thing.  But I have come to the conclusion that is a very good thing.  I want the reading of my books to be easy and enjoyable—not a challenge and laborious.  So, like my flawed characters, I will just keep doin’ what I’m doin’.

Lots of grumbling in the indie book world about changes Amazon made to emphasize paid ad space on book pages. Those changes have apparently resulted in lower sales for some of the big boys of the indie book market. The sellers of indie books are very susceptible to the whims of Amazon, and how they are completely focused on their profitability –not the authors’ revenue. As it should be. Amazon had a big hand in creating the boom in indie authors and e-books, but they are a web site focused on one thing –their success. If that matches with the authors success, so be it; but they are out for themselves. Why that seems to surprise some authors is beyond me. That is exactly what they should be doing.

During my years advising business people on selling their businesses, there was one model that consistently had buyer interest. It was the reoccurring revenue model where no one customer represented any significant portion of the business. Such as residential garbage collection. Two industries I worked in a lot that had those characteristics were propane and billboards.

Amazon has many of those same characteristics only on a scale never seen before.  Does any single customer mean anything to Amazon?  Of course not.  If you could talk to a human (most likely you can’t) at Amazon to complain about something and threaten to take your business somewhere else, they would say adios.  The collection of all customers matter but not any small number; much less just one.  Same with vendors.  Amazon owns the largest market place on the planet.  If you want your product to be in that market place, you will abide by their rules.  If you don’t; once again—adios.

Many indie authors exist only because of Amazon and many will disappear because of Amazon.  Amazon pays good royalties to authors for e-books; but it could be some day in the future they look at the number of books they have available (a billion, ten billion?) and decide why pay royalties for new books when the supply is too large already.  Good-by indie author.  Remember it’s their web site, and they can do what they want.

Audio books are becoming a larger share of the book market.  A long time ago I decided to get into the audio book segment.  It has not gone according to plan.  I still think will have a Santa Fe Mojo audio book sometime soon (yeah, no reason to believe that).  If not soon, will probably regroup and try again—maybe go with Dog Gone Lies next time. 

Not to be too crass, my goal with my writing is to make some money.  While art for art’s sake may be noble it is not very profitable.  The audio books are a total unknown to me as far as sales and profitability.  If I can see a path to some profits, I will have a lot more audio books available.  If no profits, probably not going down that path. 

I’m a baseball fan.   My team’s the Colorado Rockies.  The current sign stealing scandal is very ugly and before it’s over, will involve some bad things happening to players.  MLB can punish managers and owners, but until they do something to the players, this will not end.

Cheating has always gone on in baseball, even by the pitchers who will claim to be the most harmed in this latest case; but this seems as bad as it gets.  This was a whole team, including managers.  For maybe naïve reasons I was surprised someone had not blown the whistle long before now.

Being a fan of a losing team does have advantages.  Kind of hard to believe the Rockies were cheating, considering the results, unless they are also very bad at cheating.  I think many fans of other teams are not going to give a warm welcome to these cheaters during the season. 

Thanks for being a reader!