Friday, August 27, 2010

The Big Kindle Price Experiment

The most successful author I know of in the world of ebooks is J.A. Konrath. Joe and I go way back, to the first Love is Murder conference I attended, and he blurbed my first novel in print. His blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing is a bottomless font of valuable information. And Joe is paying his bills with ebooks, mostly for the Kindle. So, yeah, I pay attention to what Joe says when it comes to selling novels.

Konrath has created an interesting model for ebooks sales: publish several titles, sell them cheap, and promote them like crazy online. Sounds like something someone like me should try.

So I did.

My five mystery novels and two thrillers were already available for the Kindle, but prices varied. The Intrigue Publishing titles sold for $6.99, while the Echelon Press book (Blood and Bone) was priced at $2.99. Each was moving at the rate of 2 or 3 each month, so price didn’t seem to matter. But I had not explored the third leg of Konrath’s plan, so I figured I would give it a shot.

Two mystery-writing pals of mine, Debbie Mack and Rob Walker, had had success chatting with readers on forums. Since both were on the Kindle Korner Yahoo group that seemed like a good place to start. But if you’re going to be there you need to have something to talk about. They don’t allow you to just pop up and start talking about your books. I needed a news hook.

Well, that seemed obvious. I dropped the price of my first novel (The Troubleshooter) to $2.99 to match Blood and Bone. And since the moderators wouldn’t let me start the conversation about the change, I asked a friend to mention it in a post. That got people asking questions, which it was then okay for me to answer. Here was an unexpected happy result of this sly marketing approach – I got to have serious, honest conversation with readers about my books and others. I gained priceless insights, received valuable feedback and became part of a community of people who love books! It was already worth the effort.

But, did it result in my book becoming a bestseller? Maybe not yet. But when I checked the stats yesterday I was stunned to see The Troubleshooter ranked #6901 of all Kindle books. With 690,419 titles available for the Kindle, that put my novel in the top ONE PERCENT of Kindle titles. If that wasn’t enough of an ego boost, Amazon breaks titles down by genre. In the hard-boiled mystery category The Troubleshooter was #88. I don’t know how many hard boiled mysteries there are on the Kindle, so I choose to believe there are tens of thousands. (If you happen to know there are only 90, please keep that knowledge to yourself.)

So one Kindle copy of the Troubleshooter sold last month, and 40 sold in the last week. I guess I have to declare the experiment a success. How long will it last? Who knows? But you can bet I’ll try the same approach with another book next month!

Have YOU had a moving Kindle experience? As a writer or a reader?

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Real Blockhead

Richard Gazala is NOT a blockhead. He IS a pal and the author of an excellent thriller entitled Blood of the Moon. When we talked about his writing a guest blog for me about the experience of being a writer he said he'd like to give a somewhat different view of that author nemesis, writer's block. The impressive bit of creative writing below is the result.

Call me Blockhead.

It’s not my real name. I don’t have a real name. I get called plenty of other names, always by frustrated writers thinking I’m the enemy I’m not. Just about all those other names are unprintable in a family-friendly blog like this one, though. So we’ll keep it clean, and go with Blockhead.

You can’t understand me, unless you understand writers. I understand writers. I spend a lot of time tormenting them. I torment them, because I respect them. Sure, I delight in agonizing writers, but I know without them I wouldn’t exist. And without me, they wouldn’t write as well they can. We need each other. Of course it’s twisted and codependent. However, unlike other spheres of human endeavor, in the arts twisted and codependent often produce stellar results.

I understand writers, but they usually misunderstand me. There’s no number high enough to count the times I’ve been damned as an unfeeling and unyielding monster, content to sup on the misery of a writer stuck for a word or a plot twist or even an entire storyline. Unfairly cursed, I hasten to add. I do what I do out of love for literature, and the literate. All the bedeviling I do is with clearest conscience and purest heart.

Look, to me, writers are superheroes. They willingly confront a barren page and out of nothing more than their inherent creative powers concoct memorable characters and compelling stories in places familiar or strange to amuse, inform or shock us.

Think about it. Leaping over skyscrapers and running faster than a speeding bullet are astounding feats, no doubt. So is dressing like a giant bat and ridding our streets of psychopaths. Yet even those superpowers are unimpressive next to the indefinable creative brawn necessary to wrench Superman and Batman from sheer nothingness and propel them to global sociocultural immortality.

Still, what is Superman without Lex Luthor? What is Batman without the Joker? Inarguably detestable as Luthor and the Joker are, they are the indispensable nemeses that make Superman and Batman worth embracing. Without their supervillainous banes, these superheroes would have no reason to be either super, or heroic.

Enter Blockhead. My writers are superheroes. I am their supervillain. They struggle mightily to create. I use my power of writer’s block to stop them at every turn. True, I can be a tad sadistic from time to time, and I can’t recall ever being accused of understaying my welcome. To write their best my writers have to battle me knowing I never fight fair. When they persevere and overcome every obstacle I hurl at them, their writing is sharp, clear and far more worthy of reading than had I failed to make them suffer and sweat. I’m not their enemy. I’m their ally. I just don’t dress the part too well, and my P.R. team does an abysmal job trumpeting my invaluable contributions to authorial achievement.

Call me Blockhead. Or call me those other words unfound in respectable dictionaries. Sticks and stones. The only way a writer can hurt me, is to let me win.

You can see more of Richard Gazala’s creativity at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why I Blog

Author Ann Simon has recently become a regular blogger so I thought it would be nice to have her tell us how she feels about that. In the process I think she offers an interesting perspective on what makes a writer write anything.

Some time ago, I went to see my Perfect Grandchildren. I slept on the spare bed wedged next to my 18-month-old grandson’s crib. I was awakened in the middle of the night by Alan sitting straight up, singing to himself. I opened my eyes, and he grinned at me. I thought, “Oh, boy. Now he’s going to want to get up and play.” I shut my eyes quickly, but I needn’t have worried. He continued to babble happily and then, being almost two, practiced saying no in various pitches and inflections. Satisfied with his own performance, he lay down and returned to sleep.

The exact impulse that stoked Alan’s middle-of-the-night performance impels me to write. If there’s an audience, fantastic; if not, I still find myself up in the middle of the night putting on the show. In fact, the only way to get the stuff out of an endless loop in my head is to write it down.

The middle of the night show is just a metaphor (you knew it was, didn’t you?). There’s plenty of middle of the night rumination, but the show is often my Blog. I’ve been a technical writer and teacher for most of my professional life, and the “show” for my writing has been published as articles and poems. I’ve tried to get my book published, but its cross-genre world (modern-day thriller with Shamanic spirit animals racing around all over the place) seems too risky for agents and publishers despite their compliments on my writing.

I had a Blog a few years ago when we lived in Moscow (yes, Russia, although Idaho would have been pretty foreign to me, too). It was a great way to convey my experiences and observations to friends and relatives. Its purpose faded on our repatriation.

About couple of weeks ago, though, I was trying to drift off to sleep when I felt the old writer’s curse return: sentences, topics, phrases were racing through my mind, demanding to become real. I resisted the urge for at least three days – for me that’s the epitome of patience -- but I couldn’t quell it entirely. During those three days, I kept a list.

By the fourth day, I couldn’t contain myself. I chose my venue by the highly scientific method of asking a friend which site she thought was good. I set up the background, lay-out, etc., and narrowed my focus (retirement, aging and membership in the sandwich generation). I wrote in my first entry, a sort of general hello. Now I sign on, babble on my chosen topic until I’m satisfied and then hit “publish.”

“Publish”: is there a more satisfying word in the English language? Please, visit me at, and maybe Austin will write something for me there, too.

That last bit I can guarantee. Keep an eye on Ann's blog...