Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why Zero Sight Will Only Cost $2.99

What can you buy for $2.99?

  • one Starbucks skinny vanilla latte
  • or 2 loaves of white bread
  • or 3 small apples
  • or 4 tea candles
  • or 5 ounces of toothpaste
  • or 6 Dirt Cheap Premium Light beers
  • or 7 first-class stamps (almost)
  • or 8 paper cups
  • or 9 chicken McNuggets
  • or 10 yards of floss
  • or 11 chocolate chip cookies
  • or 12 eggs
  • or 250 pages of novelly goodness with tons of magic and mayhem

    Raw eggs may cause a biotin deficiency. Choose the Novel!

    Wait. $2.99? Have you gone mad, Mr. Shier? Why is Zero Sight selling for such a low price?

    Because the game is changing. 

    Let's look at the standard math:

    • A hardcover novel costs $25.00; the author earns $2.50 (10.0%)
    • A trade paperback costs $14.00; the author earns $1.05 (7.5%)
    • A pulp paperback costs about $8.00; the author earns $0.64 (8.0%)

    Wait, authors only get 10% of the sale price?


    Many people are surprised by how little authors make on paper books. After all, $25.00 is quite a bit of money. But unless they're someone special, they're only walking away with 10% of those sales.


    Because to produce print novels, you need large publishing houses, numerous distributors, and thousands of retail stores. Plus, publishing is not unlike the fashion industry. Each year has it's own trends, fads, and not so tiny surprises. But months (if not years) before their release dates, publishers have to guess which books will be hot, and retailers try to decide how many copies they want to buy. If and when they miscalculate, thousands of books get left on the shelves. That is a terrible waste of both paper and money. And these losses must be absorbed somehow. The publishing houses have come up two simple solutions—pay authors less and charge readers more. 

    Their decision making was understandable, but it was also poisonous. Big list prices generated even bigger problems. I might spring for a new Jonathan Franzen novel at $25.00. Franzen's an awesome writer, I've read all his books, and I can't wait to get my hands on anything new he's written. But Franzen is the exception, not the rule. I wouldn't want to risk $25.00 on an unknown—and I'm guessing that you wouldn't either. This apprehension created a logjam. New authors became risky propositions. They didn't sell many hardcovers, and hardcover sales determined which books get reprinted as a paperbacks. Publishers make most of their money on hardcovers, so they decided to only take a few risky bets like this per year. They focused on maintaining the great Franzen-esk brands they already had. For many years, it was rough going for new authors. It was also not good for the industry. Instead of developing more new talent, they were stuck burning future revenue streams to answer the needs of the day.

    Fortunately, ebooks came along and offered a different paradigm:

    Under Amazon's new scheme, as long as an ebook is priced at or above $2.99, the author walks away with 70% of the sale. The reader gets an 88% discount off the hardcover price and doesn't have to deal with one of those cursed dust jackets. (I never know what to do with mine. I hate it when I rip them, so I remove the jackets while I read...they seem to serve the purpose opposite their intent.)

    But why the dramatic change in royalties?

    Because ebooks eliminate paper waste and printing costs. Retailers don't have to worry about inventories, and much of the pre-emptive guessing has been removed from the system. Online ratings help filter the good from the bad, and hesitant readers can peruse free samples before committing to even a $2.99 purchase. Authors now sink or swim on their merits, and Amazon and Barnes and Noble have passed some of these savings on to their authors and readers. That's why you can buy a brand new book for 8-times less than a hardcover, while I still earn a respectable profit.

    If you haven't picked up an e-reader yet, I would urge you to do so. Zero Sight is not the only indie title out there. I've personally discovered dozens of books that I wouldn't have dared pluck off a bookstore shelf. E-readers have turned out to be the opposite of what many of us feared—they encourage more reading, not less. And it's the adventuresome kind. The kind we thought we lost. That's why I'm not just excited to be an author right now—I'm excited to be reader.

    The only one not happy is Dieter. It looks like he's not gonna catch a break!


    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Why Zero Sight Will Be Released DRM-free

    Because DRM stinks.

    No, seriously. DRM stinks. Digital Rights Management (DRM) refers to the anti-piracy measures embedded into an ebook's source code to protect it against illegal copying, printing, or file sharing. DRM is an optional feature for all ebooks, meaning authors decide whether or not to place DRM on their titles. The problem is DRM technology fails to protect against ebook piracy and causes headaches for the reading public.

    DRM is like an electronic guard dog. It is designed to define how, when, and where you are allowed to read the ebook you just purchased. Adobe, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon all have unique DRM schemes. Amazon allows some sharing of DRM titles. Barnes and Noble allows perusal of DRM ebooks in their stores. Some versions of DRM limit how many devices an ebook can be viewed on. Others are particular about which device is doing the reading.

    The cornucopia of ifs ands and buts drives me crazy. You've bought the darn ebook. You should be able to read it any way you darn please. If you want to print the book out, great. If you want to put it on a 3.5 floppy, load it onto an old Apple IIGS, and read it off a Jumbotron, that's your business. But DRM code prevents you from doing much of anything. It defines how you may (or may not) enjoy the ebook you purchased. But that's not the worst of it.

    Remember these?

    To the uninitiated, you're looking at something called a Betamax tape. Once upon a time, Sony developed them so you could watch movies at home. This was cool. The people rejoiced. But worried that Sony would corner the market, JVC developed a competing format. They called theirs VHS. The two formats were not compatible with one another. You needed a unique type of VCR to play each one.

    Since VCRs were super expensive, you had to choose a side. A great battle erupted. Sony and JVC fought over the home VCR market for quite a few years. Many consumers bought Betamax players because of the high quality of the recordings. Others chose VHS because you could record longer on their tapes. Eventually things went sideways. Betamax lost too much market share, and the movie industry stopped producing Betamax tapes. Owners of Betamax players were left out in the cold. They either had to re-buy their entire movie library or keep their giant Betamax players plugged in next to their newer VHS players.

    Fast-forward a few years.

    Remember these guys?

    LaserDiscs. Now those things were awesome. They were the future of home video: No-loss recordings. Dozens of subtitle tracks. No rewinding. Sure they were expensive—but they were going to last forever. And the discs did, but the LaserDisc market didn't. DVD players came out and replaced them. And then Blu-ray players came out to replace the DVD players. And now electronic streaming is on the horizon...

    This trend is a bummer. You buy something, the technology changes, and then you have to buy the content all over again. My concern is that some e-readers could face the same fate. E-readers are new technology, and the course of new technology is notoriously unpredictable. What if Borders goes under? What if Amazon stops selling the Kindle? What will happen to all those ebooks you purchased? Do you have to buy them all over again?


    If your ebooks are DRM-free, they can be backed up and saved forever.

    If your ebooks are DRM-laden, you may be re-buying some ebooks.

    But doesn't that sound odd? If the e-reader you picked turns out to be destined for the dustbin of history, why aren't you be able to take all the ebooks you purchased with you to the new device? They're electronic files. What's the big deal?

    The big deal is authors want to protect their work. They've spent years writing and editing those novels. The idea that the product of their sweat and tears could be uploaded onto a torrent site and sent out to millions of non-paying readers is distressing. That's money that should be in their threadbare pockets, right? Why on earth wouldn't they endorse DRM?

    Fair point. I feel their pain. I too would like to be paid for my hard work. But DRM does a terrible job protecting authors. Any hacker with a C- in C++ can crack DRM encryption. Heck, the real thieves have programs that can shred DRM protection off hundreds of ebooks at once. The hard truth is that DRM fails to achieve its stated goal. DRM doesn't reduce the rate of ebook piracy. (Check out a few torrent sites if you don't believe me.) It only succeeds in making paying customers' lives difficult. You're denying them the ability to format the ebook's text to their liking. You're denying them portability. You're essentially punishing them for purchasing your novel.

    And that, my friends, is bad for business.

    So I'm saying no to DRM. All copies of Zero Sight will be released DRM-free.

    But please don't pirate it. You'll make Rei angry.


    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Zero Sight Series Facebook Page

    I know as much about social networking as I do about nuclear physics, but my web design amigos have recommended I set up a Zero Sight Facebook page. Then I can beam my intentions straight into your brain, and you can claim you liked Zero Sight way before it was cool.

    If you'd like to become a Facebook fan, here's the link:

    T-minus 8 days until Zero Sight launches.


    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Zero Sight's Bloody Cover Art

    Here's the cover art for Zero Sight, the first book in The Zero Sight Series. It's the result of the hard work of photographer Sarah Pedersen and graphic artist Jordan Kimura. I'd like to thank both of them for not running for the hills when I described the project. I think they did a bang up job.

    The cover was inspired by a particularly unsanitary scene in the book. In the hospital, it would be time to fill out a Blood or Body Fluid Exposure Incident Report Form (BBFEIRF). But for novice mages Dieter Resnick and Rei Acerba Bathory, it would probably be best to burn all the evidence.

    Hope you like it!


    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Announcing The Zero Sight Series

    After many months of edits, redrafts, and beta reads I'm happy to announce that my first book, Zero Sight, is about to be released on both the Kindle and Nook. Zero Sight is the first book in The Zero Sight Series. It follows the adventures of Dieter Resnick, high school student turned spell-slinger. Zero Sight is a contemporary fantasy aimed at young and old alike. I think fans of authors like Jim Butcher, Suzanne Collins, Rachel Caine, and Richelle Mead will really enjoy it.

    Here's the hook I'll be posting on Amazon:

    Meet Dieter Resnick. Dieter is the sole child of an abusive single father, a perennial schoolyard brawler, and Ted Binion High’s number one academic prospect. Dieter is terrified of staying poor. He has few friends and is absolutely obsessed with earning a college scholarship. He’s also a latent mage—one of the few humans left that can bend the manaflows to their will.

    Too bad no one told him. Now a boy is dead.

    Meet Rei Acerba Bathory. Rei is a second year student at Elliot College, the premiere magical training academy in North America. She’s also on an all-liquid diet. Rei acquired her odd speech and mannerisms living among her centuries-old kin—strange vampiric creatures that have carved out the Midwest as their playground. She can kill a man without blinking, but has a serious weakness for puppies. Thanks to a childhood spent living cloistered from the public, Rei knows little of modern society. She’d do well to make some friends, but her fellow trainees despise her. Rei is the first of her kind to be admitted, and many hope to make her the last.

    Dieter was raised in the grimy outskirts of Las Vegas. Rei was homeschooled in a Chicago mansion. Both are on their way to Elliot College. Both believe the other is a creature of idle fantasy. In ten hours, they’re going to be at the center of a war fought by shadow actors. In eleven hours, they’re going to become a weft-pair, bound together by the most sacred spell in the magic canon. And in twelve hours? Well, in twelve hours, they’ve got to get to class…
    I'm excited to have made it this far. I'm attending medical school, so squeezing in time to write has been quite a challenge. Then again, I've found dedicating an hour or two to writing each day is a great way to stay sane.

    Next up, cover art...