Monday, June 27, 2011

"zero sight by b. justin shier torrent download"

It's finally happened. People are stealing copies of Zero Sight!

Check my pants! I think they're in my pants!
I made this discovery while working on the back end of this website. I was checking out what search criteria was driving traffic, when I noticed that the following keywords were becoming rather popular:

My conclusion?

Dieter and Rei are getting kinda popular.

People are going through all the trouble of running a search, wading through the dozens of Eastern Block torrent websites, dodging the five or so pop-up windows, downloading an unknown and perhaps dangerous file, and then blindly opening it to see what's inside.

Sounds annoying. Sounds time consuming. So why are people doing it?

So that they can read my silly novel, of course.

Sure, I find it strange that anyone wouldn't rather pay three measly dollars (that's even less than the price of a gallon of Tuscan Brand Whole Milk), but I'll take my compliments where I can get them. People stealing your $%@ generally suggests that your #$%^ is worth stealing. So this development, in a sense, is a good thing.

As Omar Little used to say, "It's all in the game, yo. It's all in the game."

Just don't let Rei catch you. She likes to play games, too ^,..,^


Thursday, June 23, 2011

JK Rowling Is Large And In Charge

JK Rowling just announced the purpose of

Lots of us had been wondering what this pottermore concept was all about. Some guessed at a new series. Others thought a new Harry Potter video game was afoot. Well, it turns out that JK somehow had the foresight to retain all of the e-rights to the Harry Potter Series way back in the 90's—and now she's not afraid to use them.

What can I say with certainty?

  • It is pretty clear who is holding the sceptre in this arrangement
  • We can expect many more readers will be picking up e-readers to enjoy the new JK Rowling experience
  • The publishing houses have just lost their grip on their A-list
  • Steven Stephen King and Company will be next

More news when it drops.


UPDATE #1 (6/23 20:14): Check out Joe Konrath's opinion here.

UPDATE #2 (6/23 20:30): A debate over the implications is raging over at the kindle boards...and Betsy was kind enough to remedy my foul language : )

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Zero Sight Is Now A Top 10 Hot New Release!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Top 10 Hot New Releases in Contemporary Fantasy. As of June 18th, 2011, a new challenger has arrived:
  1. American Vampire (Vampire for Hire #3)
  2. Hounded (with Bonus Content): The Iron Druid Chronicles
  3. Hexed: The Iron Druid Chronicles
  4. Witches of East End (The Beauchamp Family)
  5. The Vampire Who Played Dead (A Spinoza Novella)
  6. The Vampire Club
  7. Retribution (Dark-Hunter)
  8. Hammered (with Bonus Content): The Iron Druid Chronicles
  9. Zero Sight (Zero Sight Series, Book 1)
  10. Tangled Threads

What's that I see down that Dieter Resnick doing the happy dance?

I had to take the screen shot:

Interesting notes:

  • 4/10 of the Top New Releases are indies
  • 3/10 of the Top New Release are from Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles
    • Gotta give props to Random House for their brilliant marketing efforts
    • Gotta give the design staff credit the brilliant covers
    • Gotta give Hearne props for never giving up
  • Vampires continue to rule the school
  • Readers continue to listen to readers

What do I take from all this?

Despite having no agent, no publisher, no Publisher's Weekly piece, no big-ticket reviews, no NPR interview (yes, please!), an absolutely unknown author, and a staggering marketing budget of zero dollars and zero cents, Zero Sight is at the center of a Kevin Hearne—Jennifer Estep sandwich.

Jennifer Estep a USA Today Bestselling Author.

Kevin Hearne is a superb writer with the full backing of Random House.

Zero Sight was written and edited by two medical students.

I'm not saying this to brag. I'm saying this because I want other aspiring writers out there to realize that they can achieve great things by relying on reader word-of-mouth. I believe that if you write a good book, take special care with the editing, prepare a fun and interesting cover, and describe it with a clear and concise blurb, adventurous readers are going to take a chance on you.

They will let you know what they liked. They will let you know what they hated.

Listen to them. Thank them. Provide them with more : )


Monday, June 13, 2011

Tilting At Windmills

Ever cringe while reading an article?

Well, Why Selling E-books at 99 Cents Destroys Minds, by Chad Post just scored a direct hit on my cringy bone. Mr. Post gets so much wrong about the e-publishing industry that it's painful to drag yourself through the paragraphs.

There was even a part where I started saying, "Oh, gods...Oh, gods..." over and over again:
At BEA, Keith Gessen introduced me to the works of John Locke (probably not the one you’re thinking of), a best-selling Kindle author whose books are all sold for $0.99. He made over a hundred thousand of dollars in royalties last year — far exceeding the wildest dreams of most every mid-list (if John Locke is even midlist) author in the country. Having read the opening of one of his “Donovan Creed” novels, I can assure you that he’s not selling all these books due to his talent.
I highly recommend a read through the comments. That's where the fun really begins.

You might expect me to be pissed, but frankly, I just feel bad for the guy. He's appears to being doing something decent—translating foreign works into English—but he won't be in this business much longer if he can't adapt to literature's new majority format.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Get Em While They're Hot

Amazon is running a huge Sunshine Deals Promotion right now. 600 big name trad-published titles have been marked down to under 3 bucks.

Some of the books are really really bad. But there are quite a few good ones:

I Am LegendOnce BittenRules of AttractionWizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth)
Casino RoyaleThe VortexSlaughterhouse FiveThe U.S. Navy SEAL Guide to Fitness and Nutrition

Get 'em while they're hot. The Sunshine Deals Promotion runs until June 15th.


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Unbearable Ennui of Amazon UK and DE

Australia, Ireland, India, Romania, and Norway—what do these countries have in common?

They all have representative governments, and they all have fans of Zero Sight.

How do I know? 

Because I've received emails from readers in all these countries.

I consider this super cool. With only three months of indie authorship under my belt, I'm having some rather radical conversations with people thousands of miles away. They took time out to read Zero Sight, and even bothered to shoot me a letter. Indie readers seem to be a special breed. I'm really happy to make their acquaintance. [And to everyone that asked, I'm sorry, but I do not know which Las Vegas casino's slot machines have the best odds. And besides, you should be sticking to blackjack. Blackjack is the card game with the smallest house advantage. But always ask how many decks they are using. The casino can still worsen your odds that way ; P]

So Zero Sight is selling well internationally. Great. How about in the UK and Germany? 

It's selling terribly. (Under one dozen sales combined.)

Big surprise. You're a nobody. But, hey, why is Zero Sight selling well elsewhere?

After an initial solid release—thanks, mom—Zero Sight has been slowly building positive buzz on Amazon. As you all probably know, I do very little promoting. I update my blog. I talk to folks on Facebook and via email. I try (and fail) to leverage Twitter. But that's about it. I don't have the time or money for anything else. The Amazon buzz is my lifeblood, and I believe that positive reader reviews and also-bought on Amazon are largely responsible for propelling Zero Sight's US sales.

So why is Zero Sight selling internationally as well? 

International readers (that do not live in the UK or Germany) are routed to Amazon's US site for their Kindle purchases. If they search in the YA Contemporary Fantasy lists, or purchase similar items, Zero Sight's bloody digits pop out at them. They can then read Zero Sight's reviews, nod sagely, and decide to buy one of Kevin Hearne's books instead.


Jules: Oh, come on now,
how am I supposta fockin'
compete with them abs?
Fortunately, Mr. Hearne only has three Iron Druid novels finished, and fantasy buffs are voracious readers. When they run out of their supply of Hearne, they seem to settle for me. (You too can visit me in the discount bin!)

Kevin Hearne's outrageously successful Iron Druid Chronicles aside, positive word-of-mouth is my bread and butter. I have no marketing campaign to speak of. I think it's the only reason I'm making any sales.

So what's the matter with Ze Germans?

The UK and German Amazon websites are special. Each one has been granted a distinct closed system. We writers get better royalty rates thanks to this arrangement, but there are also so pretty heavy costs. The reviews and also-boughts built up on the US site do not transfer to the UK or Germany. For a newbie author like myself, it's like starting back at square one.

Maybe I need to go on a charm offensive. Maybe I need to reach out to readers on both sites. But promoting on Amazon UK and Germany's discussion boards has backfired for many authors. Readers have become angry. They don't appreciate authors hawking their wares in every thread.

So watcha gonna do, buttercup?

I was raised in a city that prides itself on its service industry, and if there is one thing I was taught early, it was to listen to your customers and deliver exactly what they want. If readers don't want me posting announcements, that's the last thing I'm gonna do.

I've decided to take a hands off approach and be patient. I'll let the Amazon US buzz continue to grow and focus on the editing for Zero Sum. I want to get the second Zero Sight Series book out in the early fall, and I'm gonna need every free minute I have to get it done. I'll hope that the positive noise eventually reaches readers in the UK and Germany. If it doesn't, I'll grudgingly take a loss. I just can't stomach battles with two more closed loops. That's time I can spend writing, which is what my current readers are encouraging and/or screaming at me to do.

And would you like to deliver any words to your benevolent overlord?

Why, yes! Amazon, if you're listening, why you aren't merging the product relationships between your US, UK, and German sites is beyond me. My numbers are a case in point that if the buzz is positive on your US website, consumers outside of the US are more likely to risk a purchase. But this only works if you allow them to see the reviews and also-bought statistics you've spent so much time and money collecting and processing. You should be using it to help your authors make sales and you make commissions. It is free internal marketing data that is ripe for the picking.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

This Nook Color Ad Is A Winner

A long time ago (in a land far far away), I thought I was going to be an ad man. This was the sort of ad I wanted to make:

Anybody know the name of the song?


Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm Trying To Not Hyperventilate

Got back from a very long (and rewarding) week in the hospital, passed out on the carpet, woke up, made coffee, logged onto Mr. Lappy, filed away the ten PDFs on colon polyps (yum), booted up Firefox, took a peek at Zero Sight's progress...and found myself passed out on the floor again.


Because Zero Sight is now the #85 Contemporary Fantasy book on Amazon:

But then I picked myself up off the floor and my contrarian brain kicked in. I convinced myself that Zero Sight's new ranking wasn't that big of a deal. The Contemporary Fantasy market isn't that big, right?

Then I checked who was next to me on the list:

2011-06-04 at 9.02.17 PM

When I think awesome fantasy writing, I think Jim Butcher. This man is my hero. Zero Sight's editor and I once waited in a 2 hour line to get him to sign our books.  Now Zero Sight is sitting next to his work on the digital shelf.

This all may be a transient fluke. Maybe the buzz will die off. Maybe an avalanche of one-star reviews will arrive tomorrow. But I'll always have this day. I'll always have this screen cap.

...and now I am going to go run around the apartment complex screaming.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What On Earth Were You Thinking?

Yea, I get that a lot.

Why on earth did a medical student decide to write a novel. And a fantasy novel no less. And a young adult fantasy novel no less less.

A recent exchange via email with a very nice bloke from the UK forced me to reflect on the whole process. Let's start from the beginning...

How did this mess happen?

The first draft of what would become Zero Sight and Zero Sum was written in the course of 4 months during the summer before I started medical school. The draft topped out at 200K words, and would have served as a nice doorstop.

Now, I had never written anything other than journal articles (think fun thoughts like insulin suppression tests and skin cancer), so writing a novel was quite a bit like falling down a flight of stairs, climbing back up, and repeating the process. I had no storyboards. No world map. No cohesive plot. I only had a vision of a boy and a (very dangerous) girl riding on a bus. That vision was all that sustained me.

I nearly gave up three times. The plot would get away from me, and I'd spend a day or two in despair. But the bloody image of those two kids kept hijacking my dreams. And then, all of a sudden, my imagination caught fire. No other way to describe it. I started doing manic 36 hour writing sessions on my weekends. The plot grew into something tangible, and I could see all the major crisis points. I knew how the story would end, knew how I would get there, and most importantly, I knew the book had to be written. It was like a visceral urge.

Once I reached the end, I spent two months revising the beastly first draft. I focused almost entirely on pacing. I personally believe this remains my biggest challenge as a writer, and I'm consumed by the fear that I might bore my readers.

The second draft of Zero Sight finished, I had two close but honest friends read it. They looked at me with disbelief when I handed the pile of paper to them. Not a single soul had any idea I'd been working on a novel.

And then things got complicated...they actually liked it.

I'd written the book for fun. It was done on a "things you should do before you start medical school" type of whim. My dream had always been to get a paper published in Nature; I had no literary ambitions. But then one of my two readers took the initiative to sent the manuscript to a mutual friend. That friend also happened to be a bestselling author. I talked to him later that year during a wedding, and he suggested I try and find an agent.

Mustn't let them have it! Must keep it safe!
That's when—in my mind—$%# got real. A whole new set of insecurities set in. People I didn't know would have to start reading it. I became incredibly self-conscious about having other people read it. I need to polish it first. Make it "perfect" first. I carried a copy of the manuscript around with me in medical school in the vain hope that I might squeeze in some time for edits. (That didn't go so well. I ended up waiting for summer break.) But a fellow student did get a hold of a copy. He read it from cover to cover, and raised the possibility of cutting the book in two. I near tore out my hair at this suggestion...but only because I knew they were right. It was long. Too long. It needed to be split in two.

Thus began 6 months of reworking the plot and completing the fine editing on the first 100K words. We worked in the late evenings, after we'd completed our other studies. You can see all the places where he fell asleep reading. They're marked by drooping pen marks on the draft.

After we finished editing, Zero Sight was off for two months of beta reads. I received good responses and some great corrections [note: I strongly recommend fellow indie authors never ever skip this step].

It then took me another month to figure out the e-reader conversions, and yet another month to plan out all the promotions. Then Zero Sight was off to the races, and I was off to study for my medical boards.

Why did you go the indie route?

Screw the man, man.
Because acquiring an agent and publishing a book can take well over 2 years, you only get a small percentage of the sales price (5-8%), and your publisher (if you are so lucky) might tell you to re-write entire portions of a manuscript only to decide to not publish it that season. None of these prospects appealed to me. Neither did international fame or chasing a NYTimes bestseller slot. I intend to be a doctor. Being good at medicine is my priority.

And there was one more reason I decided to go indie. It was the loudest in my head, and perhaps the most unreasonable: As I wrote out the query letters for agents, I found myself getting antsy. I wanted to get Rei and Dieter's story out there. I wanted people to read it. Love it or hate it, I didn't much care, but I did want to hear what they thought.

What are the consequences of an indie lifestyle?

Pioneers in the indie writing arena like to tell newbies to "follow the long tail". The goal is to build a following, grow sales over time, and keep our backlists

Indies can follow a different approach. They can publish digitally. With digital books, there is no need to rush out and get sales. E-bookstores have unlimited shelf space, so we don't have to worry about our books getting pulled. Instead we follow a viral marketing approach that focuses on building a readership over time. We send out ebooks to book review sites (no cost). We talk to readers on discussion boards (no cost). We hand out ebooks in giveaways (no cost). We leverage social media (no cost). And we write new works while traditionally published authors are out touring (more potential revenues). This is how you "follow the long tail". Basically, like all evil geniuses, we are marshalling our forces, biding our time, and waiting for our chance to strike... (Okay, got a bit carried away with that metaphor, but you get the general idea.)

A plug: JA Konrath was the indie pioneer I followed. Check out his blog for more details.

So, what's the damage?

The Results of this grand experiment, so far:

Month 1 — 2 sales               (Thanks, mom!)
Month 2 — 83 sales             (Reviews started appearing mid-month)
Month 3 — 172 sales           (And now up to 9 reviews!)

I am now selling 10-15 books a day in the USA, but still struggling to get reviews in the UK and on GoodReads. June is supposed to be a big book buying month. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the trend continues. Generally, if a book is good, you can expect to see major sales volumes in < 6 months. If not, you probably did something wrong. Either your cover stinks, your blurb stinks, your writing stinks or you got unlucky. For Zero Sight, only time will tell. But If I fail, I'll just get back up and start climbing the stairs again. I like doing this too much to stop.

Are you scared of the big bad sophomore flop?

Yea, it basically terrifies me. Writing a second book is like undergoing elective surgery—the danger is magnified because you have something to lose. I'll be sure to take my time and do it right. In the meantime, please be patient and check out some other indie authors!