Friday, November 30, 2012


by Peg Brantley

Out of the fifteen books on the New York Times Best Seller List for June 4, 1961, eleven of them had been on the list for ten weeks or more. One had been on the list for forty-four weeks, another for eight-one weeks, and a third for ninety-five weeks.

-->Fast-forward--> to the list for January 1, 2012. Out of the fifteen books, only two of them had been on the list for ten weeks or more. One for ten weeks and one for twenty-two.

Seth Godin wrote on his blog recently, It's not unusual for a movie or a book or even a TV series to come and go before most people notice it. Neophilia has fundamentally changed our culture. He goes on to say, The result is that there's an increasing desire, almost a panic, for something new. Yesterday was a million years ago, and tomorrow is already here. The rush for new continues to increase, and it is now surpassing our ability to satisfy it.

In 1961 both novels and their authors could actually have a run. Runs that could last for months and even years. Today? Not so much.

Seth concluded his post with this: The real opportunity, I think, is in trying to build longer arcs. Now that the cycle of new is eating itself in a race to ever-faster, there's a bigger chance to make long term change by consistently focusing on what works (and what's important), not what's new and merely shiny….What's important, what's always important, is useful change.

The application of this interesting observation is the trick. How can we extend whatever arc we have?

I see two things for authors today. One is to reflect social issues or difficult topics in our books. Not necessarily in a direct or preachy way, but in a way that matters to people. In a way that gets them to nod their head and consider their reaction. The second is to consistently deliver quality stories. An author who made the best seller list in 1961 may have been able to wait three or four years between books because their name wouldn't have been lost and forgotten after a couple of months.

What do you think would build a longer arc?

(And for those of you who are curious, the books in 1961 I highlighted above were at forty-four weeks, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee in the number 2 slot; at eighty-one weeks, Hawaii by James Michener as number 5; and at a whopping ninety-five weeks, Advise and Consent by Allen Drury as number 11. The 2012 snapshot in time had The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks in the number 6 position after being on the list for ten weeks, and A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin as number 14 having been on the list for twenty-two weeks.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Better To Be Lucky, Or Good?

A guest post by Michael W. Sherer

Thriller writer Stephen White tells a wonderful story about how he came to be a NYT best-selling author. His first Alan Gregory novel sold well enough in hardcover that his publisher was pleased to make an offer on his second book, and that sold better than the first. The publisher’s lead title for the month White’s second book was supposed to come out in paperback was behind schedule. In a meeting to decide which book should take its place, his publisher’s editorial staff discussed everything but. Right before the group broke for lunch one of the editors piped up and said, “What about White’s book?” Heads around the table nodded, and rather than delay lunch, they decided on the spot to make White’s book the lead title the month of its release.

Six months later, when White flew to Pasadena for his first Bouchercon (my first, too, and I think Patricia Cornwell’s first as well), he saw his book prominently displayed in the airport bookstores. A print run of 400,000. Serendipity, he says. But was it? White is an extremely talented writer. Though his second book wasn’t originally intended as a lead title, surely his third or fourth book would have been chosen. He’s that good. But in his case, he was in the right place at the right time.

My career as an author tracks more like the Albert King song “Born Under A Bad Sign.” You know, the one where he sings “if it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all.” My first publisher, Dodd, Mead & Co., went bankrupt. My second publisher, HarperCollins, passed up its option on my fourth book after seeing one month’s sales figures for the first book. (Obviously, when the second and third books were released Harper didn’t do much to promote them.) My fourth publisher crafts beautiful hardcover editions, but sells only to libraries, offering writers only limited exposure. My fifth publisher sells by direct mail, and though I sold decent quantities of the titles they published, the royalties they pay are laughable.

When my sixth book, a standalone, failed to attract representation despite being the best book I’d written, I knew that I had to come up with something new if I was ever going to land both an agent and a publishing contract. I spent eighteen months plotting and writing the first Blake Sanders thriller, and it took another two years to land an agent and another year after that to find a publisher. During that time, the opportunities to self-publish have exploded, and anyone can get into the business of writing and selling books. Now, luck alone can lead to huge sales. (John Locke might say otherwise, but he does admit he’s not that good.)

There are so many books being published now that even if an author does everything right—gets ARCs out to reviewers, uses social media, attends conferences, blogs, runs contests on his or her website, produces a book trailer, sends out press releases, etc.—there are no guarantees that readers will find the book.

So which is better, being lucky or being good? After all these years, I’m still inclined to believe talent wins out in the end, but I want to be both. Write the best book you possibly can and then be prepared to take advantage of Serendipity when she shows her lovely head. Make your own luck. Then again, we all know crappy writers whose books sell like hotcakes because they were in the right place at the right time.

What do you think?

After stints as manual laborer, dishwasher, bartender, restaurant manager, commercial photographer, magazine editor and public relations executive, Mike decided life should imitate art and became an author and freelance writer like his Chicago-based hero Emerson Ward. Mike has published six novels in that series and the stand-alone ISLAND LIFE in addition to NIGHT BLIND. He’s working on the fourth book in the Blake Sanders series and BLIND INSTINCT, the second in a YA thriller series.

Former public affairs consultant Blake Sanders figures he’s fallen about as low as he can go after losing his job, his marriage and his only son to suicide. But when an elderly customer on his newspaper route is brutally murdered and Sanders becomes the prime suspect, he gets caught up in a maelstrom of murder and deceit involving a pre-Civil War secret intelligence mission, hundreds of millions in buried gold and a bio-weapon that could cause a worldwide pandemic.

When the only man who can help him is assassinated, Sanders finds himself on the run from the cops, a murderer and a shadowy rogue French agent. His only hope of staying out of jail is his ex-wife’s law firm. His only hopes of staying alive are his wits and a mysterious naval intelligence officer. But Sanders isn’t sure he can trust even them.

NightBlind is a breathless thrill ride on and under the streets of Seattle as one man’s quest for the truth turns to a fight for survival.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A New Way To Rob the Poor?

By Andrew E. Kaufman

Simon & Schuster has announced they’re getting into the self-publishing business with a new imprint called Archway Publishing.


Not really. Well, actually, not at all.

Why? Lots of reasons, the biggest of which being cost. The  publishing packages go from $1,599 all the way up to $24,999. How much you get depends on how much you pay--and quite honestly, how much you get doesn’t seem at all commensurate with how much you pay. These are services you can provide for yourself at a fraction of the cost. Besides, I've heard there's a land called Amazon where authors can publish their books free of charge.

And a few of the services themselves seem questionable. For example, the packages don't include editorial assistance; those can be obtained for an additional cost ranging from .035 to .05 per word (So as an example, for a 100,000 word manuscript, you can add an additional $3500-$5,000). They do, however, include what they call an Editorial Assessment, which in reality, amounts to nothing more than a sample edit (typically the first chapter, or about 1,700 words).

Here’s another problem: after paying all that money, authors are also required to hand over a cut of their sales, half, to be exact, for an e-book.

One more interesting (if not misleading) fact: Simon & Schuster will not be hiring new staff to provide these services. Actually, they won’t be providing them at all. The venture will be operated by the folks at Author Solutions (recently bought by Pearson), a vanity press that itself has questionable practices, not to mention a litany of complaints from its customers, not to mention, a statement from an employee, quoted as saying:
 You folks have no idea how deep the deceit runs at Author Solutions.
So really, Simon & Shuster is doing nothing more than lending an air of legitimacy to a company that seems to be lacking any. All this at a substantially higher cost than what Author Solutions normally charges its regular customers.

They do offer the enticement of the “Opportunity For Discovery”.  According to their website, there’s this:
Additionally, we will alert Simon & Schuster to Archway Publishing titles that perform well in the market. Simon & Schuster is always on the lookout for fresh, new voices and they recognize a wealth of potential talent in Archway authors. 
But you don’t have to be an Archway author for that. Simon & Schuster and several of the other Big Six (or soon to be, Big Five) publishers have been grabbing independent titles from Amazon's bestsellers lists for quite some time now. So again, yet another service you can provide for yourself, and again, at a fraction of the cost. 

The short version? This feels like another example of the big publishing houses trying to take advantage of an industry they not only wanted no part of, but also one that came as a direct result of their poor treatment of authors and ones aspiring to be. 

Or even shorter: a new way to rob the poor.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

eBookery 101: A Handbook

By:  Kimberly Hitchens is the founder and owner of, an ebook production company that has produced books for over 750 authors and imprints.

For the next few weeks, during our busy season, I'll be reproducing bits and pieces of our free "eBookery:101" handbook that we give away to all clients and prospective clients.  If you want a complete copy for yourself, you can download it for free from our Knowledgebase, at: note:  this is not a "how-to make your own ebook" manual, but, rather a simple basic explanation of ebook fundamentals and things a beginning epublisher should know.  It's not all-inclusive, and it's not a beginner's guide to self-publishing, either, although we do have some marketing tips in there as well.  Thanks!

What are the basic ebook formats?

There are really only two remaining ebook formats, of the numerous types that were floating around some years ago.
  • The first and foremost, in terms of commercial sales, are the Kindle format(s), those being mobi, prc (old) and azw. Colloquially, these are called "mobi" by most people in the business.
  • The second, used by Apple, Adobe Digital Editions, Nook, Google Editions, Diesel, Kobo, etc., is epub. Epub allows greater design flexibility than mobi, because it uses a more advanced level of htm.  

 What are the limits of ebooks?

To start with, there are some basics:
  • No backgrounds or background images can be used on any ebook that will be converted into Kindle (Mobi) format for the e-ink devices. The newer devices, and the Kindle Fire tablet, do support this capability.
  • Text boxes or pull-quotes will have to be formatted differently than in print.
  • Images in Kindle e-ink volumes can't be wrapped inside paragraphs, but can have this in ePUB format and in the newer Kindle devices and Fire Tablet.
  • You can’t put text over an image in an Amazon Mobi book that will display on the legacy e-ink devices.
  • You can only use tables that are about 3 columns wide, and very few rows.
For most things, you can only have a single column of text. No “newspaper-like" columns. (See Figure 1 - Sample of Kindle e-ink device text, Font Size 1.) Some small areas with two column items can sometimes be made to look right by using tables, but it needs to be used sparingly.

Many graphic elements, like characters from foreign languages, can’t be used. Generally, we recommend that most indices be omitted, or simply entered without page numbers. Almost every ebook reader out there has a great search function. This makes it better for your readers and less expensive for you!

Is it true that readers can change how my book looks?

In almost all reading devices, users can change the font size. In the Kindle, the font can be changed from the default size of 3 down to the smallest size of 1 and the largest size of 8. You may see two samples, below, of the same page of “The Prince and the Pauper,” shown at two vastly different reader-selected font sizes. (Click to enlarge images)

Figure 1 - Sample of Kindle e-ink device text, Font Size 1 (From the Prince and the Pauper, formatted by Ignacio Fernández Galván and used with his kind permission)
Figure 2 - a sample page of the same Kindle e-ink text at Font Size 1.  Same book--nothing different except, the human reader wanted a larger font size!

In many ereading devices, the human reader can even change the font style. This will also affect how the book looks, not only in the font. This will change the spacing between letters and words, changing your book yet again.

Next time:  Text reflows, or wraps, and, what about those footnotes?

Thanks, guys!  Remember, if you want the entire 80-page PDF, replete with images and a linked Table of Contents, bookmarks, etc., go here:

Monday, November 26, 2012

What's Next for Thursday?

The Woman Who Died a Lot (Thursday Next #7) by Jasper Fforde (Viking hardcover, 20 October 2012).

Reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.

Thursday's had a rough time.  Injured in her last adventure, she[s been quietly recovering at home in Swindon, trying to ensure that her brilliant daughter Tuesday, now sixteen, has a somewhat normal life.  Her son Friday is dealing with the  dissolution of the Chronoguard and looking for a new direction for his life.  And then there's Jenny, the daughter who doesn't exist.

Now, hoping to get back into Bookworld SpecOps, she is instead offered the supposedly more prestigious position managing the All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso's Drink Not Included Library.  She's disappointed, but decides to make the best of it, when suddenly she realizes she's not herself but a temporary replacement created by the evil Goliath Corporation.

Running a library is difficult, especially when she has to explain to the board why she's not in favour of dawn raids for library fines and deal with militant Enid Blyton fans who want the books returned to their original non-politically-correct form.

Yes, the storyline is as confusing as it sounds.  That's one of the hallmarks of a Jasper Fforde novel.  Fforde plays fast and loose with time, existence, bureaucracy and religion, but he has a wonderful way with the English language and the many shades of meaning a single word can have.

It's probably best to read this series in order, beginning with The Eyre Affair (2001) in order to become accustomed to Fforde's unique writing style.

The Penguin Group has kindly offered  a hardcover copy of THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT for one of my readers.  Please comment below about Jasper Fforde and/or Thursday Next, and make sure to include contact information.  Entries from the US only, please.

Friday, November 23, 2012

We’re All Thriller Writers Now

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Thrilling: adj., producing sudden, strong, and deep emotion or excitement

Doesn’t that pretty much describe all great novels? Yet according to librarians and bookstore owners, traditional labeling defines thrillers as fast-paced, realistic books that focus on plot more than character and have a high-stakes conflict as the heart of the story. And by high stakes they mean a lot more than a single life—or a series of selected lives—must be at risk. Whole cities or ways of life must be in peril.

But now, with many writers labeling their own work, just about any story with a crime or an element of suspense is called a thriller. Just as one example, Amazon’s #1 book on the thriller list is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a story of a marriage gone bad and a missing wife. It’s all about the characters. Readers love the story and many have labeled it thrilling, and being a fan, I plan to read it. But it's not technically a thriller.

My new book sure looks like a thriller.
As a member of International Thriller Writers, I’ve written many features about new releases for the Big Thrill newsletter. With some, I’ve scratched my head and thought: Why is this called a thriller? The stories usually sound terrific, but still, I would call them paranormal suspense or historical mystery.

But I’m guilty of thriller labeling too. My Detective Jackson series falls under crime fiction, police procedurals, mysteries, and suspense. But a year ago, I added the word thriller to the subtitles (Detective Jackson Mystery/Thrillers) to let readers know that they aren’t traditional mysteries that can be solved at a leisurely pace and that there is plenty of action and a major element of suspense.

Also, labeling the novels thrillers expands their metadata and allows more readers to find them. But are they really thrillers? Traditionalists would probably say no. Murders, assaults, and robberies in a midsized Oregon city don’t represent high-stakes conflict. My new publisher, Thomas & Mercer, doesn’t plan to use the thriller label. So in January, the series goes back to being the “Detective Jackson Mysteries.” But I hope Amazon lists the books in the thriller category, anyway.

Because I want to reach as broad an audience as possible. Still, I wonder how much readers care about labels. Some readers love thrillers of every kind, and they judge a book by its cover, description, and word of mouth reputation, rather than by its category. Other readers actively dislike thrillers, and won’t bother with any book labeled that way. Further discussion reveals that what they mean is they don’t like spy stories or novels with big explosions or long chase scenes. So for some readers, thriller can have a negative connotation.

My website says “Author of provocative mysteries & thrillers” and I’m happy with that. In addition to my Jackson series, I have three standalones—all highly suspenseful, but with no spies, explosions, or car chases.

What does the term thriller mean to you? Does the label make a book more enticing?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm thankful for much

By Gayle Carline

It’s Thanksgiving, at least for us Yanks, and I have much to be thankful for. As always, I’m thankful for my family, for the roof over my head and the food on my table. This year in particular, I’m thankful for a good health insurance, because a week ago, I had cataract surgery on my right eye. The entire procedure was paid for by the insurance company, bless their little hearts, although I had to reach into my pocket for the bionic lens. I figure I’ve got a year to pay for it before I have to have the other eye done.

I’m also especially thankful that I’ve got a new book coming out. If I wasn’t still under doctor’s orders, I’d do a little happy dance, but know I’m dancing in my head.

THE HOT MESS is the third book in the Peri Minneopa Mystery Series. The ebook will be released this Monday, November 26, and the paperback will be out on December 10 (good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, as they say). Here is the cover:

I’ve got some wonderful friends helping me launch the book with a contest. Sometime this weekend, I’ll be posting excerpts from THE HOT MESS on several blogs, and on Monday, my own blog will have some questions that can only be answered from reading all those other blogs. The first person to answer everything correctly will win a free copy of their choice — ebook or paperback.

Here are the blogs for you to visit this weekend:

Our own adorable Andrew Kaufman,

The lovely and talented Jenny Hilborne,

The fierce but friendly Michele Scott,

A sweet cozy writer Teresa Trent,

Mr. All-Things-Dean-Martin,

When you’ve visited them, come on over on Monday and see me at

Here’s the jacket blurb.

It’s a hot time in P-Town!

No one in the small town of Placentia, California is surprised when Benny Needles’s house catches fire. The outside hasn’t seen a paint brush in years. The inside is stuffed with Dean Martin memorabilia. It would be a simple case of homeowner negligence, except for the body found inside.

Under suspicion of both murder and arson, Benny turns to the one person who has always helped him, private investigator Peri Minneopa. Fire investigation isn’t on her menu of services, but Peri’s weak spot for Benny overrules her reluctance, and she agrees to look into things. Her investigation takes a dangerous turn as she uncovers family secrets, going back several decades.

There are skeletons in everyone’s closet, and even Benny’s bones are rattling.


I've never done a contest like this, so I'm interested to see how it all works. Of course, if it translated to sales, that'd be great, but I'm also hoping some readers from each blog find the others and want to read more of them (and buy their books, for the authors on this list). I'd like my friends to get something out of this, too. I'll be happy to report whether it worked to generate any interest in the book.

Happy Thanksgiving, all — Let the holiday madness begin!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An old dog needs no new tricks

By Jenny Hilborne, author of mysteries and thrillers

I've always loved Bond movies, especially the earlier ones with Sean Connery as the smooth and sophisticated, much younger James Bond. I love all the gadgets, the speed, excitement, the fast cars.
When I went to watch Skyfall earlier this month, I wasn't sure what to expect. Bond is no longer a young man, and his superior, M, is even more silver-haired. I settled into my seat with a little concern and an open mind. Was an older super agent about to ruin my enjoyment?

Bond has been around for years. In an article posted on Reuters, I read comments on the topic of relevance, especially in a world where technology has replaced the old style sleuthing the earlier Bond used to do. I found this most interesting, because I have an aging detective in my Jackson mystery series.

When I wrote MADNESS AND MURDER, I planned it as a stand alone. I never intended to write a series - ever. I rarely read books in a series, so why write one? Then I got feedback from readers. They loved Jackson and sought his return. I wanted to give them what they requested, but I had a bit of a problem - Madness and Murder spans 20 years, which means Jackson is in his early 60's by the end of the book. How much crime-fighting life could there be left in the old dog?

Back to Bond - Daniel Craig came on the screen in Skyfall as a scruffy, unshaved, silver-streaked agent who looked closer to retirement than a new mission. Oh, dear. Where was the suave, sophisticated super spy of the past? I shifted in my seat, thought "I'm not going to like this" and pitied the older Bond. I wondered what everyone else thought - and the movie theatre was packed. The first show was a sell out and I had to wait for the second showing of the night. For everyones sake, I hoped Bond still had it.

A short way into the movie (after Bond had a shave and smartened up), I relaxed. There were fewer gadgets, fewer women, and a great plot. The show was a success and fulfilled my expectations. The older spy appeared more vulnerable, more humble, wiser, and...well, better. Far less cocky and still relevant. As mentioned in the Reuters article, older values are evident, and Bond's loyalty and courage are tested. I liked this. It was more realistic.

I realize my fictional detective is also still relevant. He honors old fashioned values, where his younger counterparts might not. Something about that is appealing. His age causes tension, but his experience more than compensates. He talks to people in person, rather than using modern technology to communicate. He may be physically less fit, but he is mentally stronger.

Older cops are more complicated, more layered, and more interesting. Weakness in a tough role adds depth to their character - a crucial element to good fiction. The dangers they face are greater. And, as with Bond, older agents can still be sexy. I'm less concerned about more stories with my aging fictional detective than I was. Even though I hadn't planned it, I see he has a future.

Readers: what's your take? Do you enjoy reading crime fiction with an older cop, an aging amateur sleuth, or an older protagonist?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some Trite Things...

by Tom Schreck, author of Getting Dunn and The Vegas Knockout

Hey, thanks everyone for the warm welcome to the blog.

I write the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries where the protagonist is a social worker during the day and a pro boxer the rest of the time. His crime fighting occurs whenever he feels like someone is taking advantage of the vulnerable people on his ghetto caseload. My latest Duffy, The Vegas Knockout, went to number one on Amazon’s hardboiled mystery bestseller list.

I also have a standalone thriller out called Getting Dunn. It’s about a rash of suicides in the military that turn out to not be suicides after all but a slew of murders to cover up something else going on. TJ Dunn is a female MP who is battling her own PTSD and dealing with the suicides of her fiancé and her father when she starts to look in to things. Getting Dunn broke in into the Amazon hard boiled top ten last summer.

I love to write crime fiction but I also love to read.

I thought a good way to start off my tenure here is to start a conversation about pet peeves in the genre. If you read a lot you know what I’m talking about. Here are some of the trite things that make me roll my eyes and shake my head whenever I encounter them in a novel.

1. The Incompetent Government Official—Don’t we just assume that anyone associated with the government is going to be incompetent, officious and corrupt? Wouldn’t it be more interesting in a novel if, say, an FBI agent was really good at what he or she did?

2. Religious People Are Always Evil—Sure, there are lots of hypocritical, evil fundamental religious people out there but aren’t there also a lot of really really good people who are into God-stuff too? Why not make a church-going character a hero or at least a positive force for a change?

3. Characters Getting Knocked Unconscious All the Time—I work in pro boxing and watch the people who can punch the best in the world and I get to watch them up close. In 15 years of doing that I’ve only seen someone get truly knocked unconscious for more than a second or two once. Yet in crime novels it happens all the time. On top of that, in fiction if you get knocked out all you need to do to get rid of all the symptoms is too squint and shake your head a few times.

Maybe with all the attention being paid to sport related concussions writers will pay more attention to the accuracy of their writing.

4. Instant, Automatic Sex—Doesn’t matter how much the participants have had to drink, how much they hate each other, the stress they’ve been under or their history with trauma, everyone if fiction can just drop their trousers and have at it like a couple of badgers in heat. Uh-huh, good luck trying that in real life.

5. Everyone Can Drive Like They’re in Nascar—I got a big 8-cylinder Crown Vic that will do 120 mph, I guess. I max out around 77mph on the highway, part because I don’t want a ticket and part because I don’t want to die. Yet, any character in fiction can grab the wheel and floor it taking turns on two wheels and spinning 360s all over the place without any issues.

Now there, I got this conversation started and I could go on and on but I’d rather hear from you. Tell me, what makes you nuts in crime fiction?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Living Creatively

By Peg Brantley, an author who utterly loves what she does.

"Love what you've got or create something new."

I made that off-the-cuff statement recently to someone. I was commenting on a surprising litany of snarky, negative authors who had big enough names they could be named in a post for snarky, negative authors.

I believe we create our lives, even the crap we have to deal with. I also believe we can find the spirit— the direction—to facilitate change, if that's what we want at our core. A further belief is that we're in some kind of weird accordance with a more powerful element who knows better than we do what we need to experience in order to truly facilitate growth as spiritual beings.

To repeat: I believe we create our lives, even the crap we have to deal with. Which means we can change it. It's one of those things that is simply stated but not particularly easy to bring into reality.

What? Are you saying I asked for this?

Well, yeah. In a sort of sideways metaphysical kind of way, you did. As did I. And the sooner you wrap your head around that, the sooner you can decide to create something new. Something different. It probably won't happen overnight, but it can happen.

I've never liked the saying "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" because quite simply, some people don't have boots. But everyone, even those who aren't fortunate enough to live in a country dedicated to free-will, have at least an internal choice to make. Every single one of us, whether we have boots or not, can choose to allow our internal lives to go in a snarky, negative direction—or not.

Every morning I write three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts. When there's something in my life I'm not happy with, I work it out—evaluate my level of control—and facilitate change. When there's something I'm not happy with and have no control over, it's time to try and understand what I need to learn from it and what my options are—what direction I want to choose. That's my choice. That's my control. There is no reason, ever, that I should become a snarky, negative author.

As a writer, I face things I cannot control professionally day in and day out. Even as an Indie, there's only so much I can make happen. The rest is up to the Fates or God or simply Readers. Also as a writer, I can use this lack of control to more fully develop my characters. To validate both their weaknesses and their strengths—because in the end, they are reflections of me. Even the snarky, negative characters.

And if I'm ever fortunate enough to find myself in a position to be named in a group of well-known authors, I can promise you that snark will have nothing to do with it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Murder Weapon

by guest blogger J.H. Bogran

One of my favorite board games when I was growing up was Clue. Do you remember throwing out your hypotheses about the place, the perpetrator, and the murder weapon? Miss Scarlet with the revolver in the ballroom! No? Perhaps Professor Plum with the wrench in the conservatory. I usually got the room and the person right; it was the murder weapon that always gave me trouble.

Just like in the game, the murder weapon is an important component of thrillers. Sometimes they become indelibly associated with the character. For example, the literary James Bond with his Walther PPK, even when he’s used others. You must remember one of the spy’s more formidable adversaries was the Man with the Golden Gun!

Weapons come in all shape and form. To borrow from other popular movies: Dirty Harry and his S&W .44. Jason’s machete is just as fearsome as the white hockey mask. The deadly Bride with her Hattori Hanzo steel. Ice picks terrified me after watching what Catherine Tramell can do with them.

Or this from an exchange in Live Free or Die Hard:
Matt Farrell: "You just killed a helicopter with a car!"
John McClane (played by Bruce Willis): "I was out of bullets"

See what I mean? As writers of thrillers, we strive to make our characters believable, but also, we love a good sidearm. They are more than a trait; they help add depth to the character, to make him or her unique.

It should not come as a surprise that researching for the perfect weapon is one of my favorite parts when developing a character or a story. I’ve been to gun shows, liked the official N.R.A. page, and the Sig is a favorite, of course. I’m always on the lookout for the next best thing.

Take this gem for example: the ASP, a handgun developed specifically for the Secret Service. How neat is that? I couldn’t pass on it; a character in my upcoming  novel Highland Creek carries an ASP. The only bad thing is that he likes to brag about his weapon.

In my short story, The Assassin’s Mistress, the lead character's love for guns is up until he uses them for a job. Then he disposes of them just as quickly as you toss an umbrella after the rain stops.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, in Deeds of a Master Archer, the lead character is a present day Marine. He loves his government-issued weapons: M-16s, rocket launchers, grenades, the works. But when he travels through an earthquake-induced portal and discovers dragons are the new enemy, he relies on tried-and-true weaponry: a bow and arrow.

Readers: What is the strangest weapon you can remember?
Writers: What is your weapon of choice?

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist, but he prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why I'm Leaving the World of Indie

By Andrew E. Kaufman

I recently made a very big decision in my career as an author. I’ve signed publishing deals with Thomas & Mercer and 47North (the Amazon-owned imprints dedicated to mystery/thrillers and horror/sci-fi/fantasy).

 After making the announcement, people began asking the inevitable--they wanted to know why I'm surrendering my status as an indie author.

It’s a good question, one I asked myself a lot before signing the deal. I’ve always been very proud of my indie status and of the movement itself because it's given me and countless others a chance to live the dream after facing years of rejection from traditional publishers.

But even though the conditions will change, I know the thinking behind them won’t. I realized this when Alan Turkus called to congratulate me on our partnership. He told me that their philosophy is to treat authors as customers, not as clients. That resonated very strongly with me, because it's a new way of doing business, something that before now has not been a common practice among traditional publishers.

And it isn't just talk. From day one, I’ve been treated in ways I know many of my traditionally published counterparts have not been. The lines of communication have been clear and open, and my input is extremely valuable to them. I feel like an active participant in my publishing process, something that as an indie author has always been very important me.

Another reason I made this move is because my goal has always been to take my publishing career to the next level, but as an indie author there’s only so much I can do to grow my readership. The publishing business is changing at break-neck speed, but it’s actually the indie portion that’s changing the fastest. With self-published books flooding the market at an alarming rate, it’s getting harder to sell them. Amazon has the marketing resources to help me reach a wider audience—something traditional publishers can’t do--while at the same time, take a significant load off my shoulders, so I can dedicate more time writing and less to promoting.

And then there are my readers, who are as important to me as the work itself. Amazon became the world's largest bookseller by putting their customers first, and I know they'll treat my audience with the same degree of care and respect that I do.

I'm very excited about this opportunity, but even more excited  to see another new and viable route for others like me who have struggled so hard to get their work into readers' hands.

Andrew E. Kaufman is the bestselling author of The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted and While the Savage Sleeps. For more information about his work, please visit his website at:

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mystery of Children's Books in eBooks

By:  Kimberly Hitchens is the founder and owner of, an ebook production company that has produced books for over 750 authors and imprints.

This week, a break from the blood and guts of Crime; a brief foray into how children's books--formerly "undoable" for Amazon, Nook, and iBooks--have blossomed onto the scene, and what you should be thinking about before you leap into this type of publishing unprepared.  This is the first in a series of articles discussing the fundamentals of epublishing--not "how-to" as much as general concepts, what ebooks look like; how they function, what they can and can't do, and what to expect. 

Before You Start

Before you proceed with digital publishing for a children's book, you need to consider first what platforms (retailers) you intend to sell upon; then, you need to decide whether you're going to publish that kids' book as a "fixed format" book or a regular, reflowable ePUB and MOBI title.  There are important considerations for both options.

What ARE Fixed-Format Books?

"Fixed fomat" books are ebooks that can display two-page spreads, or pages of illustrations that have text on top of the illustrations.  Below are two examples of fixed-format books.  One is from "The Big Galoot," by Shadoe Stevens, on the iBooks application (Apple); the lovely pen-and-ink "Fox and the Fawn" is shown on a Kindle Fire device, with pop-up text boxes (also called, "region magnification," but "pop-up text" just sounds cooler!)

"The Big Galoot," by Shadoe Stevens, in fixed-format, shown here on iBooks.

"The Fox and the Fawn," shown here in Fixed-Format, with "pop-up text," on the Amazon Kindle Fire device.

Now, the upside is that these books will look exactly, or "as exactly as possible" like the original print layout. The downside is that they a) are extremely expensive, and, b) are limited to use on the platform for which they are created.

What this means is that if you have a company make a Kindle Fixed-format Kids' book, it can't be read on any other e-reading device. An Apple Fixed-format book for iBooks can't be read on a Nook. And a Nook Fixed-Format book can't be read on anything but a NookColor tablet, in the special NookKids' platform. (And, note: to publish a NookKids' book, you have to be approved as a NookKids' publisher, by Barnes & Noble, or use an Aggregator/Distributor that is already approved.) An Amazon MOBI made this way only works on those devices that have "K8" formatting--basically, the Kindle Fire Tablet and certain Droid Tablets.

We at have extensive experience in making these types of Kids' books in fixed-format, including books with embedded video, audio, and even animation (the latter on the iBooks platform only (and to a lesser extent, the NookKids' platform); audio is only available to self-publishers for iBooks and Nook at this time).

An alternative to this approach, if you have simple images with text on opposing pages, is to create a reflowable ePUB and MOBI format.  While this can mean that images and text may become separated while someone is reading the book, it is significantly less expensive and has the added advantage of portability.  An ePUB made this way, in other words, works for iBooks, Nook, Sony, and virtually every other ePUB-reading device.  A MOBI file made this way will work on all Amazon devices.  Two examples of books made as reflowable ePUBs or MOBI's are shown below; "Sharon and Eleanor's Escape" by Connie Pontius (Geese image) and "Emerald Green Runner" by Andrew Kay and Romy Dingle (on iBooks, with a tree in the image).

Sharon and Eleanor, by Connie Pontious, on the Kindle Fire--a reflowable MOBI file.

"Emerald Green Runner," by Andrew Kaye and Romy Dingle, a reflowable illustrated children's ePUB, on the iBooks reading application. 

Now, on either of these last two books, when a reader changes the font size of the book, or changes the orientation (you can read both iBooks or the Kindle Fire in horizontal, or landscape, view), the relationship between the images and the text that you see here will change.  For example, in Sharon and Eleanor, it's highly likely that simply enlarging the text would move the paragraph that starts, "This day began like any other..." to the next "page," meaning that a reader would have to click to the next page to read the text.

Some authors don't want this--they want their books to have text and images "married," as you see on The Big Galoot or The Fox and the Fawn, above.  If, however, your book is sparsely illustrated, or is predominantly story with illustrations, using reflowable eBooks is a far more flexible and affordable way to go.  But if you have a storyline this is predominantly illustrations with very sparse text, then something like Fergus and Lady Jane, from the wonderful Australian "Fergus the Ferry" series, shown below in Kindle Fire Tablet, is probably a better choice.

"Fergus and Lady Jane," on the Kindle Fixed-format platform, from the enormously popular "Fergus Ferry" series, originally published in Australia, by author J W Noble. 

(For larger-sized images, please feel free to peruse our Knowledgebase, which you can see at our main KB at: . )
Whatever your decision, don't fly blindly into making your children's book into digital format.  Making these books is not inexpensive--usually starting at $10/page, including all covers, inner pages, frontmatter, backmatter, etc., and even more if you add audio (can be as high as $250 for basic audio plus $0.35/word), and that's per format.  What does that mean?  That means you can expect to pay, for, say, a 38-page kids' book, $380 for a book that will only work on a single device or family of devices.  Some companies, like mine, will give you a discount for the second book--the second format of the same book for a different device--but still, it's a lot of money.  Carefully analyze your ROI--Return on Investment--and make sure that you have a real audience for your particular book.  Make sure that you've picked up and looked at children's books on a NookColor tablet, a Kindle Fire and an iBooks app on the iPad, so that you know what to expect in your fixed-format book.  Do your research, so that you have a good idea of what you're getting into before you take the plunge!