Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Robert Bidinotto is Beating Publishing

Robert Bidinotto's Hunter just broke into the Amazon Top 10.

He's ahead of the new Stephen King
He's ahead of the new Robert Patterson
He's ahead of the new John Grishham

And he's a self-published author.

There are two reasons why Robert Bidinotto's book is on fire:
  1. It kicks asterisks 
  2. Amazon agreed
They put Hunter on sale and featured it on a front page promo. And that's all they did. The rest was consumer driven. (Only us blokes get to decide what to 1-Click, after all.) Now Robert is kickin' it with the King of Horror.

I'm left wondering about the psychological impact this is having on bestselling authors and their giant publishers. An indie author breaking into the Top 10 is sort of like some random dude in a bathrobe strolling into the Oval Office in the middle of a cabinet meeting. It's just not supposed to happen. But that's exactly what Robert did. And now he's watching TV on the President's couch.

This is a pivotal moment for the many actors in the publishing game. Until this week, the Big-6 retained an unassailable hold on the NYTimes Bestseller List. Many—including myself—believe that a large publisher's marketing muscle is its greatest asset. Robert's success is a direct challenge to that muscle. It shows that on this new frontier, their efforts can be matched or beaten. David just knocked down Goliath. It doesn't mean the end of the publishing industry, but it does warrant some changes in strategy.

Name brand authors have to be scratching their heads. After all, if a no-name author can get into the Amazon Top 10, why can't best-selling authors, with their huge retinues of loyal fans, not do it all themselves? Surely if the best-of-the-best were to charge a little bit less than standard $12.99 for their electronic editions, they could outcompete the man in the bathrobe, right? Publishers are going to have to offer more concessions. It's becoming far too tempting for them to pull an Eisler.

Large publishing houses have to be wondering how to catch this new author's fire. I expect at least one of the Big-6 will be offering Robert a six-figure deal in the coming weeks. With Hunter, Robert has proven with Hunter that his work is in serious demand. (The man is selling thousands of copies a day.) The only question that remains is whom can afford him. Further, smart publishers have to be wondering how they can sign up-and-coming indie authors before they hit it big. It's far easier to make a deal with a gal selling a few hundred copies a day than it is with one that's already in the Top 20. They've gotta start hunting in the Amazon mid-lists.

And indie authors have to be encouraged. One of our own is sitting in the crow's nest. Most of us are having trouble processing it. It was only two years ago that I was told if I self-publishing my novel no publisher would ever touch it. One agent I deeply respected compared going indie to catching leprosy. But then authors like Hocking, Konrath, Crouch, and Eisler showed us all that going indie could land you six or even seven figure book contracts. It turned out that if an author succeeded on Amazon, the publishing industry came knocking on their doors. The era of query letters can end; readers are the new arbiters of taste.

And on a more philosophical  level, Robert's success makes me think back to something Steve Jobs said years ago:

"This revolution, the information revolution, is a revolution of free energy as well, but of another kind: free intellectual energy. It's very crude today, yet our Macintosh computer takes less power than a 100-watt bulb to run it and it can save you hours a day. What will it be able to do ten or 20 years from now, or 50 years from now?" -Steve Jobs

Well, Mr. Jobs, twenty years have passed, and now an unknown author can pen a book in his living room, publish it for free on the internets, and outsell some of the most powerful media machines in the world. I'm just sad you're not here to witness it.

Where this all goes from here is unclear to me—but that we are in motion is undeniable.  Robert's success is another tiny pebble along the path.


UPDATE #1: I'm told that Robert Bidinotto wasn't actually the first indie to vault into the Top 10. That honor goes to Darcie Chan's Mill River Recluse. Sorry, Darcie!

UPDATE #2: Hunter just hit number 5. It's hanging out with the Hunger Games.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sure I'd like your corrections!

I had a few readers ask if I wanted corrections (typos, spelling errors, formatting funks, and the like) to Zero Sum. Of course I do. Any author that would refuse corrections is batty. Feel free to post them to the comments section of this post or Email them to me directly (bjustinshier at the G-mail's dot com). Please include a few surrounding words so that I can locate the error in the document. I'll be patching Zero Sum up with your fixes this month. You'll get an Email from Amazon/B&N when the deed is done.

And yes, the term 'break-feast' was intentional : )

Thank's for your continued support,


Sunday, November 27, 2011

All About The Elliot Coat—I Mean, Robe.

So what's the deal with Elliot College's robes?

What do they look like, exactly...and do they come in taupe?

Many questions have been asked. Few have been answered.

Until now...


Elliot College's tradition of fine seasonal outwear dates back to the mid 1600's, when the proud institution was founded in the newly established colony of New Haven. During their day-to-day business, Elliot students donned the standard academic regalia of Europe, now referred to in America as "cap and gown" attire. These days, the cap and gown is only worn during graduation ceremonies, but these robe and beanie combos were in fact a day-to-day affairs only a few centuries ago. No one batted an eye at them in town, and these classic robes served young Magi well. The journey from initiate to adept can be quite hazardous. Stout protection from the errant fireball or bolt of lightning is a must (and even more so after bad break-ups).

But the academic robe was not timeless. As the times changed, Elliot students began receiving strange glances in public. By the 1800's, other local universities such as Yale had abandoned the ancient relics, and the puritanical witch-roasts remained fresh in every mage's mind. The administration was finally convinced that Elliot students needed to better blend in with the surrounding Imperiti hordes. Thus, just prior to the start of the American Civil War, Elliot College commissioned a new design "to mimic the contemporary couture".

Unfortunately, the old hag awarded the design job had not left her forest abode in over fifty years. This initial frock style was quickly abandoned, largely due to the First Elliot Robe Revolt (1859), in which students were known to chant, "Get frocked yourselves! We'd rather meet the shivers!" while prancing about in their nightgowns. (The faculty finally gave in when a wave of yellow fever decimated the campus.) They authorized a more rational double-breasted riding coat that became the standard for many years.

The new design was not without its critics, however. The cumbersome buttons made dawning the coat a chore, and the tufted velvet exterior had a tendency to catch alight. After a few close calls, the issue came to a head in the winter of 1917, when a heavily mittened third-year named Jed Starling strayed a wee bit to close to one of his circle's candles. Despite the garment's thorough charming, the poor lad was immolated in front of his Iota squadmates at the very center of Elliot's great lawn. Eyewitness testimony describes the desperate Starling thumbing at the coat's resistant buttons until the roaring flames obscured him from view.

The deans rushed into production a Western duster made of asbestos-infused canvas. This model was far hardier, but the mostly Bostonian student body declared the design beyond appalling. A man-high mountain of the flame-retardant coats was set alight in front of Central Hall. When the coats failed to burn, some students began to urinate on them. Infuriated by this breach in decorum, the dean of student affairs cast a frost spell. The five most proximal lads had to be hospitalized, and the Second Elliot Robe Revolt began.

After a counter-hex turned all wall coverings on campus into sheets of revolting purple paisleys, the chancellor herself intervened. The dean of student affairs was summarily dismissed, and a professor by the name of Joseph Albright was brought in to replace her. Dean Albright proposed a new robe based on a British Navy coat that had become popular during the war. Surplus coats were readily available, and after the student body president signed off on it, the change was made that very evening. The students especially liked the coat's wooden toggles, which could even be undone while wearing mittens.

Known varyingly as the convoy coat, the navy coat, and the Montgomery coat, the Elliot Duffle Coat has hung from the shoulders of Elliot students from 1917 until the present. The coat is the garment any long-time resident of New England associates with Elliot College. It is all that is required to obtain a student discount in New Haven, and why Elliot students are lovingly referred to as toggle-heads.

The modern Elliot Robe is composed of a material called duffel. Duffel is a form of coarse wool originally developed in Belgium. The material is both thick and cheap, offering a high degree of warmth at a very reasonable price. Coats made of duffel became popular during the two World Wars, when burgeoning armies and navies required thousands of coats that were cheap and easy to construct. Duffle was chosen because it could provide warmth even while wet and could be taken on and off with ease. There are actually many types of duffle coats, but the British style is the most well known.

The British style consists of:
  1. A three-quarter length coat
  2. Made of genuine Duffle material
  3. Lined with a woolly tartan pattern of the maker's taste
  4. Cinched by four or more front wooden or horn toggle-fastenings with rope or leather loops to attach them to
  5. With two or more large outside pockets with covering flaps
  6. And a large pancake hood with a buttonable neck strap
The finest examples of the British style are produced by a company called Gloverall. Gloverall was founded in 1951 by Harold and Freda Morris. Apparently, Britain had a ton of surplus duffle coats left over from WWII, and the Morris family started their business selling off the inventory. When demand failed to slack, they began to produce the duffle coats themselves.

The Elliot duffle most closely resembles the Gloverall Classic. Gloverall describes their Classic as featuring "a wool rich main with fully bound seams and a slim tapered fit, contrast leather and buffalo horn toggle fastening, twin flap cover pockets, strap to the cuff with a toggle fastening, pancake hood that lies flat against the body and an inverted box pleat to reverse."

In the following video, the company demonstrates the inevitable awesomeness that ensues when you wear one of their duffle coats in public:

Elliot mages love the large pancake hood of the classic British style because it offers both discretion in public and singe-free casting in the forest. However, unlike the Gloverall design, an Elliot coat is nearly full length and offers a more plentiful array of internal pockets. Like all the Elliot robes before it, the Elliot Duffle is charcoal grey. This is consistent with the school colors (charcoal grey and gold). 

Dieter Resnick's personal duffle coat has undergone a free dye job thanks to a rather nauseated Nostophoros. His coat now boasts an alizarin crimson underhue, which is noted to wax and wane in Zero Sum.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Zero Sum Has Launched!

We Have Liftoff!

I'm happy to announce that Zero Sum, the sequel to Zero Sight, is now available for purchase. Like it's predecessor, Zero Sum is provided to you DRM-free. That means you can read it however you want, on any device, or print it out onto linoleum siding.


Zero Sum picks off right were Zero Sight left off. Lambda squad has been handed a heavy task: prove Talmax's ACT devices are made from contraband from beyond the frame. No pressure, though. Only the West Coast of the United States is at stake. Zero Sum is another complete novel, weighing in at over 137,000 words, or approximately 450 pages of literary goodness.

Hope you enjoy it, and please spread the word!

About The Making Of Zero Sum
knowledge of Gurren Lagann would be most helpful in this section

Every project carries certain competing pressures. Surgeons want that tumor out, but dread nicking one of those pesky vessels. Internists want to keep that blood flowing, but worry about inducing an arrhythmia. Writing my first book was no different. It came with a whole list of competing dreads. Was the pacing of the novel too slow, or was there too little detail? Were the characters compelling, or were they on the verge of being overblown? In the end, I had to admit I didn't know. I decided to just try my best and put Zero Sight out there.

Maybe I'd even sell 100 copies.

But there was one thing I didn't have to fear: reader expectation. You see, I didn't have any readers to begin with. No one had read my work before.

But in writing the second volume of the Zero Sight Series, I battled with two new impulses. On one hand, I wanted to continue to follow William Carlos Williams' advice:

“Forget all rules, forget all restrictions, as to taste, as to what ought to be said, write for the pleasure of it -- whether slowly or fast -- every form of resistance to a complete release should be abandoned.”

I love writing like that. It's like charging forth with a battle axe and a roar...but on the other hand, I also didn't want to ignore J.A. Konrath's words to the wise:

"If you're really worried about readers being subjected to %#$@, here's what you can do: DON'T WRITE %#$@." In other words, if you don't write to your readers, they'll chop your hands off.

So should I write what I really wanted to write, or adjust my writing to better suit what I believed my audience wanted to read? I was thrown into a deep septic tank of doubt, and if you've never experienced it before, I can tell you that doubt is far worse than writer's block. It poisons every step of the writing process.

I tried rewriting passages that were fine to begin with. I tried killing off Rei in the first chapter. I tried giving Dante breast implants. I even tried tweaking Jules' accent so it sounded more like Jar-Jar Binks'. Fortunately, as I began to describe Jules' new lilt, a beam of lightning shot through the clouds. It was Kamina. He descended in a shower of fire.

"Author!" He said unto me. "Believe in yourself! Not you, who believes in me. Not me, who believes in you. Believe in you, who believes in yourself!"

"Wow!" I exclaimed. (I was unaccustomed to such manly visages appearing in serenades of fire.) "But, All-knowing Kamina, how can I possibly write a riveting sequel to Zero Sight?"

"Silly, fool!" He said with a laugh. "Whether it be impossible or laughable, Great men open up paths of battle!"

"Open up paths of..." I began to frown. "Are you saying that all I need to do is kill off more people?"

Kamina gave me a proud nod. "Absolutely. And add more blood showers!"

That was all the inspiration I needed. I got out my scalpel-pen and got to work.

And A Thank You

Many people deserve thanks.

To my wife-unit for not murdering me for staying up so late.

To Jon Steller for another fantastic effort on the editing and author coddling.

To Jordan Kimura for another wonderful cover.

To the beta team for the challenging task of rooting out all those devious little typos.

To my medical school class for allowing me to bum gum off them at 03:00 hours.

And to Zero Sight's rabid fans, for their undying patience with my dithering. I hope you enjoy the result. We all put a lot of blood, sweat, and manly tears into it. But if you hate it, never fear, there's always another Skyrim mini-quest to complete. Word of advice, though. Leave the chickens alone.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The clock is ticking...

"Every artist was first an amateur ... Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well, here goes nothin', Ralph...


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gettin' There

The Zero Sum beta is all patched up.

I'm formatting the EPUB and MOBI files now.

What do ya'll thinks about this blurb for Amazon + B&N websites:


The Great Slump continues. America is on the skids. The President calls for calm, but not even she knows the worst of it: America's magical factions have drawn blades, and the Department of Mana Affair's once omnipotent DEA agents have been left cowering behind their wards. Left undefended, the proud Magi of the West have been forced to flee their homesteads, and the Weres are having a field day picking off those who dare stay behind.

The fate of thousands rests in the hands of ten students headed towards the front. Lambda squad has been ordered to recover a sample of the illegal contraband the enemy is using to overcome their defenses. 

The new conscripts are hoping to stop the war.

They'll be lucky enough to get out alive.

Dieter Resnick finds himself stuck in the middle of the mess. The new Elliot initiate has only been practicing his craft for three months—and his friendship with the only vampire on campus has led many to question his loyalty—but his resistance to glamour has made his services invaluable. He's going to be packing his duffle bag with the rest of them.

Oh, yea, and Rei Acerba's coming too. She's even bringing snacks.

In the newest installment in the Zero Sight Series, alliances will shift, good friends will be lost, and only one thing remains certain: Dieter Resnick is going to get his hands on a decent cup of coffee.


Hate it?

Would you prefer something in the first person?

Let me know in the comments,


Edit: What this means is you're gonna have the book before Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview On Fantasy Book Critic

Earlier this week, I participated in an interview with Mihir Wanchoo over on Fantasy Book Critic. Despite their focus on mainstream titles, FBC has been tremendously supportive of new indie talent. They were good enough to review Zero Sight in October, and you can see many other indie reviews there each month.

Mihir asked me about the road I took to indie publishing and a bit about how the Zero Sight covers were created. We then moved on to talk about J.A. Konrath, the revolution in e-publishing, and the hard decisions each author faces while carving out their own literary future.

There's also a bit about recurring themes in fantasy and my utter hatred of the Dark Lord trope. I know I'll get some push back on that one, but sometimes it is important to challenge the status quo.

The interview was great fun, and I wish to thank Mihir and FBC for the opportunity to talk with them.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Quick Update On Zero Sum

The Zero Sum manuscript has now entered the second and final beta round. We are still on course for a late November release.

If I can figure out the HTML, there is going to be a cool map of Elliot included with the book. It is being drawn by an actual architect, who may or may not also be my younger brother.

I am truly sorry for the delays, but I've gotta make sure the typos are kept to a minimum. Some typos can be  laughed off, but accrue too many and it can turn into a total mess. The long and short of it is that people actually read these books now. I've gotta be sure to deliver a polished product on launch.

Thanks for your continued support and patience,


P.S. The first round beta readers said Zero Sum is better than Zero Sight.