Saturday, April 30, 2011

Folk Lives

The Fleet Foxes new album, Helplessness Blues, finally releases on May 3rd. I'll be listening to it on loop while I study for the USMLE.


The initial reviews are quite strong:
“In making this record, I think I finally became totally comfortable with our choice, which is being a folk band.” So said Fleet Foxes front man Robin Pecknold, to the online music site Stereogum about the recording of Helplessness Blues, a striking, soulful outcome seemingly of exasperation and fatigue. — Globe and Mail
Helplessness Blues is vocalist-songwriter Robin Pecknold's dazzling evocation of early-Seventies rock Eden: the Sunflower-era Beach Boys and the spaced-cowboy romance of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, dosed with the Indo-Celtic exotica of the Incredible String Band. — Rolling Stone
If you like bands like Simon and Garfunkel, Iron and Wine, and/or The Swell Season, I think you'll dig their style.

You can pre-order Helplessness Blues on Amazon today.

Cheerio,

B.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Calling All Reviewers


Did you read Zero Sight?

Did you like it?

Love it?

Hate it?

Doesn't matter. I'd like to encourage you to review it.

Amazon is running a new program that ranks books based on reader ratings. In order to qualify for this program, Zero Sight needs to get at least 10 reviews posted.

I'd be grateful if you'd be willing to post a review of the book once you are able to read it. The review can be just a couple sentences long but should reflect your opinion of the book. Your honest opinion. Like it, love it, or hate it.

Readers need to know if Zero Sight is good, and I need to know if it's bad.

Links to review Zero Sight on:


I'd also like to update ya'll on the state of us poor 2nd year medical students. The first of our three licensing exams is just around the corner. It's called the USMLE STEP I, and it is one scary mother. We've completed our coursework and review classes, we're drilling with questions day and night, and in the next few weeks each one of us will sit down in front of a computer screen for an eight hour marathon. If one of these medical students is a friend or kinsman, send them something nice by post. We like oatmeal cookies and fresh underwear all clothes and socks.

Oh, and if someone could tell me if The Pale King is worth a read, I'd be much obliged. It's staring at me from across the bookstore.

B.

EDIT #1 — My classmates have informed me that the laundry situation is worse than I originally feared.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ich möchte in der großen in Deutschland


Zero Sight just became available in Germany

Amazon.de has my "Produktbeschreibungen" up and everything. 

I want to own in my fatherland. I mean, Dieter Resnick (my main protagonist) is of Germanic stock. That's gotta earn me some points. 

Problem is, the "Produktbeschreibungen" and "B. Justin Shier Auf Amazon Seite" are still in English. I want to put my best foot forward. Can any of you help me out with a proper translation? We're talking about six paragraphs.

Vielen dank im voraus,

B.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Konrath Challenges Writers to Chart Their Own Path




"Unless you're making over a million dollars a year with the Big 6, continuing down the legacy path is a crazy bad idea."

-JA Konrath






A post by e-publishing advocate JA Konrath gave authors defending traditional publishing a brutal drubbing. It's causing quite a stir in writers' circles, and his website has received comments numbering in the hundreds. (Some bestselling authors even wrote in anonymously.) Mr. Konrath's essay offers a great distillation of the arguments for and against an author striking out on their own. I highly recommend you read it:

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Are You Dense?

Mr. Konrath's arguments have become so popular that many authors have taken to plastering "What Would JA Do?" banners on their webpages.



It's sorta like the "Drum Machines Have No Soul" sticker for writers.

The traditionalists have been rather quiet of late. Perhaps it is due to the Association of American Publishers' April 14, 2011 press release. Compared to February of last year:


  • ebook sales grew by 202.3%
  • hardcover sales declined by 43%
  • mass market paperbacks declineed by 41%

Those are the industry's own numbers. E-reading is now the #1 format, and print is taking a nosedive. In the past, the publishing industry served as the only viable conduit connecting authors to bookshelves. Now Amazon et al. offer authors direct access to their readers. This is forcing publishers to re-evaluate their business model. I had a post prepared to discuss the terrible squeeze traditional publishers have found themselves in, but the changes from January to February were so dramatic that I need to go back to the drawing board.

If any of you can find a good counter post to Mr. Konrath's arguments, I'll post a link to it here. In the meantime, I'm going to make sure my investment portfolio doesn't have too much exposure to paper mills.

B.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Is Komondor?

I've received a few questions about one of Zero Sight's major characters. I'm speaking, of course, about Rei's dog Kumo. Turns out many people have never heard of komondors. Some are even having trouble believing that the breed exists. This is unfortunate. I've asked Ms. Rei Acerba Bathory of Elliot College to elucidate a few key points about the breed.

Rei:

Indeed. And so I am here. It is still early in the afternoon, and I'm feeling a bit nauseous, so I would like to complete this presentation quickly.

You there—yes, you by the STEP I review literature—post slide #1.

Me: Sorry.

Foolish uncouth masses, this is a komondor.

Rei:

I find it most absurd that I must speak on this topic, but Dean Albright insists that presenting facts to my peers is an essential component of an Elliot education. I do not fully understand this concept. What does speaking to others have to do with my learning...and why must I do this speaking to you? However, the dean of this establishment is reasonably wise, so I shall defer to his judgement.

*Ms. Acerba takes a sip of her coffee. It is black with no sugars.*

The komondor is the finest breed of dog in existence. When the kings of old wished to play, they sought out their vizslas. When they were besieged on all sides by ravenous dread-wolves, they sought out their komondors.

The komondor is a heavy boned animal with unusually thick musculature. The average male can be expected to rise to your hip and weigh a good 35-40 kilos. My Kumo is a bit larger...but he is of the Royal Line.

Legend tells us that the komondor arrived in Hungary at the same time as the cursed Huns. It remains unclear whether the Huns were chased out of Asia by the komondors, or if the komondors merely tolerated the Huns until they found better companions. Whatever the case, after killing all the Huns, my people adopted the komondors. Our Nagyar shepherds received the glut of them, and the resident bears and wolves were quickly pushed out of our lands.

This is a komondor puppy. Is he not adorable?

I do not understand this, why is it not...fool! Post slide #2!

Me: Sorry.

Of course he is adorable. Do not dare to think otherwise.

Rei:

Komondor puppies are the most stubborn puppies known to man. They make up for this deficit by wearing a coat of fur that is softer than the finest silk. They will test your will early and often. If you fail to demonstrate proper dominance, they will seize your place in the food chain. But whether you win or lose this game of wills, your Komondor will guard you always.

Feel free to leave your broodlings in their care:


But the breed truely shines when herding sheep:


You enjoyed the song, yes? It is "Fohász Egy Lóhoz" from Vágtázó Csodaszarvas. This means Dancing White Stag in my favorite tongue. I find this band most hard striking.

One last word to you. Do not dare mock a komondor's tassels.

Heavily armored

These ingenious wool weavings make the komondor unfreezable during the coldest night, unbiteable by the largest mammal jaws, and perfectly camouflaged in the smallest flock of sheep.

Here are my sources (because only thieves and cowards fail to cite):


Now if you'll excuse me, the glare coming through the windows is irritating my eyes. 

Me:

Phew.

I'd like to thank Ms. Bathory again for spending the time to stop by. And I'd also like to thank those of you who didn't flee at her sight. It's nice to see that we live in an age where we wait and see before pulling out the torches and pitchforks...she's gone, right? 

...

Like out the door? 

...

Okay. Great. Get the freakin' wards back up.

B.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

JA Konrath Just Threw Down The Gauntlet


If, like me, you've been following the NY Times Disunion Series, you know that April 12th was the 150th anniversary of the Battle for Fort Sumter. After 34 hours of continuous artillery fire, Major Anderson agreed to terms. The Confederates claimed the fort, and the American Civil War began.

Fort Sumter after the battle

Sheesh. They don't do artillery bombardments like they used to.

Anyway, bestselling author Bob Mayer decided to publish a new novel on the anniversary of the conflict. Duty, Honor, Country: West Point to Shiloh focuses on the West Point graduates that were forced to pick sides.

Bob Mayer also had to pick a side. 

He chose to self-publish.


Mayer was on JA Konrath's blog yesterday talking about how self-publishing allowed him more control over his craft. He was able to chose his release date. He was able to retain his rights. Mayer discussed a number of his reservations about the traditional publishing model and some of the advantages he's discovered with self-publishing. It's a good read. You should check it out.

JA Konrath is a well known name in authors' circles. He was a bestselling author that identified the key advantages of going it alone early on. Konrath moved a number of his unpublished novels onto the Kindle in the hopes of supplementing his income. Within a few years, he was making more money off his electronic titles than his traditionally printed novels.

Konrath has made it his business to challenge many of the long held views about publishing. He backs up his words with numbers, thinks like an entrepreneur, and has been consistently honest about his experiences. His blog was critical in my own decision to forgo the traditional route, and I owe him a debt of gratitude. It looked lonely out there for quite a while, but he didn't seem to be bothered by the cold.

The post by Mayer is excellent, but what really caught my attention was what Konrath wrote at the bottom of their discussion:

Once again, for all those industry folks who read my blog but are too chicken to leave comments, here's what you need to do:
HOW THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY MIGHT STILL SAVE ITSELF
1. Give authors fair e-royalty rates. 50% should be the ground floor, and it should go up from there using various escalators.
2. Share the e-wealth with authors by offering them higher rates on contracts that are still active.

Fair enough, I thought. But why would the publishing houses ever agree to share more of the wealth on existing contracts? The've got these poor authors locked into pitiful <15% royalty rates. Why would they renegotiate?

That's when Konrath drop a bomb:
Did you hear that, Hyperion and Grand Central? Pay me more money for my Jack Daniels books and for AFRAID. Let's redo the ebook clauses on my old deals so they're fair in this brave, new ebook world. Because if you don't, I'm going to exploit my interactive multimedia rights, release my backlist as enhanced ebooks, and UNDERCUT YOU ON THE PRICE.
I blinked twice at that one. Had he just declared war?

A little bit of background:

When you sign a deal with a publisher, you sill retain your copyright. What's really happening is you are granting the publisher specific rights to market and sell your work on the open market. You can grant them your US paper rights, your US ebook rights, or your Swaziland movie rights. (The fine points are stipulated in the contract.) What's important is that if a right hasn't been granted in a contract, it is still retained by the author. Paperback rights aren't the same as electronic book rights. Video game rights are considered distinct from movie rights. Audio books are considered separate rights as well.

That's where the concept of "interactive multimedia" rights come in. Interactive multimedia rights are a relatively new concept. The media is defined by an interactive experience in which both the user and work of art are active particpante. Think virtual reality immersion.


The point Konrath is making is current e-reader technology could offer an interactive media experience that could meet that very definition. Sure, it wouldn't be a Johnny Mnemonic level virtual reality mind trip, but an interactive ebook could certainly offer added value to the reader. For instance, what if an author took one of their current books and added color text, vibrant images, audio commentary, links to videos, a companion website, and interactive maps?

Look what Jill Williamson is doing for her Blood of Kings series. She's offering a fully interactive map that traces the paths of her characters. Isn't that added value? Isn't that more immersive?

This may all sound like a stretch, but if so, why have the publishers modified the fine print in recent contracts to include multimedia rights in their book deals?

Will this strategy work? Will his argument hold up in court? Who knows, but I'm certain that's what publishers are asking their lawyers this very second. Because you know what's really scary? A ruling against them would apply to every single title on their backlists.

B.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Big Thanks To All My Friends

Thanks for the push, mom!


Phew!

It's been 7 days since Zero Sight launched, and the initial response has been awesome. I've seen dozens of separate Facebook posts, tweets, and emails promoting the launch. Folks I hadn't seen or talked to in years were calling me up to let me know that they heard the news. Thanks for getting the word out. I really appreciate it.

Now for the sales report:


Including all fiction and non-fiction titles, there are over 175,000 books for sale on Amazon. The books are ranked from #1 (bestselling) to #175,000 (bummer-most). The number of Zero Sight copies purchased on Amazon was flat out amazing. At one point, so many of you were buying copies of Zero Sight that it nearly broke into Amazon's Top 5,000. That's not just counting fantasy books. That's counting every single book for sale on Amazon, non-fiction, fiction, or otherwise.

If you run the numbers: 5.1K/175K*100% = 3%

Yea, that's right, Zero Sight was ranked in the top 3% of ALL books!

That's with no advertising, no big publisher, and no famous name.

Those sales were all you guys—and that's just plain fantastic.

The initial surge is over now—Zero Sight is now ranking around 16K—but it was critical. The book's rocket-like ascent caught a lot of people's attention. Zero Sight is now being reviewed by a number of popular ebook critics. If they give the book a big thumbs up, The Zero Sight Series has a good chance of going mainstream. (I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that I didn't miss too many typos!)

Now, I'm under no illusions as to why this happened. I owe a huge debt to every last one of you. You made this happen. That makes you awesome.

For those of you who want to continue to help, please post a review of Zero Sight on Amazon / Barnes and Noble / GoodReads. In the ebooks market, strong reviews fuel future sales. It's sink or swim, and readers trust readers. I'm not asking for anything more than an honest review. Good or bad, feel free to throw it up there.

I'll be pretty busy in the next few weeks. We have our big medical licensing exam coming up next month. I'll still try to keep up with all the emails, and I have a few journal entries saved up. You can follow future posts via the RSS feed or the Facebook group. Also, feel free to post comments. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a great weekend,

B.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vegas In July



We only came out at night. That's how hot those summers were. The sweat glued us to our bus seats. The asphalt sagged at noon. Cassettes melted to dashboards, and the AC only helped melt your eyes. We ran from grass to pool. We wore our towels like capes. But mostly we hid inside, played video games, and drank gallons of Crystal Light. 

The sun ruled the day. We waited for dusk.

Then the rollerblades got laced, and out came the goals and sticks. Like the tiny bats above us, we darted back and forth. Plywood ramps. Bikes trailing ropes. Flaming tennis balls. Caves hacked into the caleche. Chalk dragged across the cement. Eight hours of energy compressed into that pathetic sliver of dusk. 

And then the sun settled. 

And we couldn't find the ball. 

And we dropped all our crap on the pavement. 

And we shuffled back inside.

"That was a good day," we'd say, knowing damn well we'd missed it. 

And then we'd do it all over again, because what the hell else was there to do?

Those summers before the cars and jobs and girls…we were like mariners tying knots in the doldrums. We sketched out plans with every free second. We build model rockets, imagined grand capers—and got stuck watching every single movie twice.

The ushers never nabbed us for theater hopping. We were local kids, and local kids got cut some slack. That was back then. Back when there was an us and a them. Back when the rules didn't go out in press releases. Back when there weren't casinos in our neighborhoods. Back when all that was great was dirt.

The author, age 6, grinding gravel
across the future site of Summerlin


"Do you live in a casino?" the scrawny redhead asked me on the trail leading back to camp.

"Yea," I replied. "But it sucks."

The son of Milwaukee squinted through his thick bifocal glasses.

"Why's it suck?"


I'd been a long hike. I finished my can of coke.

"Well, my brother gets to feed the white tigers, but all I get to do is scoop their shit."

The Midwesterner's eyes widened. He didn't know quite what to say. I turned the empty can of coke around in my hand. The glossy label still promised all the thirst quenching excitement you could ever want...you'd never know from the outside how empty it was on the inside.


"Are you serious?" he finally asked.


I dropped the empty can on the ground and stomped it.


"Does it matter?"

The greatest lesson Las Vegas ever taught me was how to entertain.

B.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Zero Sight Is Out Of The Bag!

Release day is here. Zero Sight has hit the presses.

Now available DRM-free on:


Magic. Adventure. Mayhem. Lattes!

Get your copy today!

B.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Zero Sight Launch Music

Zero Sight goes lives tomorrow.

Omygosh, I'm about see the light of day!

I think some awesome tunes are called for. Enjoy.

From Saint Saviour's new EP. Glad to see she's finally getting some attention:



And now some of Japan's finest:



From ex-MMA fighter Genki Sudo's awesome series of videos:






And because you should always finish with a classic:




Have a great April 1st. See you on release day,

B.