Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Devil You Know E-book Coupon Weekend!


Mr. Jonathan Frid's birthday was yesterday and I was all over Facebook on that one. I owe him so much for his portrayal of Barnabas Collins!  Few fans today realize how revolutionary it was back then to have a vampire character who had a conscience, was vulnerable, yet strong, and possessed of a fierce loyalty to protect his family. So what if he chewed on a few necks in the process?  ;0)

And yes, you bet yer sweet fangs I named Jonathan Barrett after Mr. Frid!

I'm gonna (belatedly!) celebrate this wonderful man's big day with a tiny little sale on The Devil You Know ebook.  Jonathan is the special "guest character" in the story!

Anyone going to Smashwords this weekend and putting in this coupon code can get the book for half off!

Smashwords has downloads for ALL e-reading devices! Pick your fave!

Promotional price: $2.00

Coupon Code: DG62D

Expires: December 5, 2012

Cheers and many happy returns!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Do you think it is possible to write a good book if you never read?

The title is a question posed by a young would-be writer on a message board.  She added that she doesn't have much of a vocabulary because she doesn't read, though she did finish a popular book by a writer whose derivative crap is selling well. She only reads when she has to. Can she still write? 

My reply:


Unless you get past the not-reading thing, you're never going to make it as a writer.

I doubt anyone else here will be honest with you about that, either.

You're looking for an excuse to get out of reading, yet be a writer, but that's like a composer who refuses to listen to music, or an artist who doesn't go to museums, or an actor who doesn't watch movies and plays.

I'm a professional writer and editor and will let you know you will never get a thumbs up from me or anyone else in the publishing industry unless you suck it up and start going through books like a threshing machine. I can tell who's got something worth reading and who's just phoning in a recycled version of a book they skimmed back in the day.

You are at the perfect age to start, too.

For someone who wants to write, yet not read books, it's completely ridiculous to avoid reading, so put on your game face and make the library your new second home. You will never get the vocabulary you need unless you put the words into your brain. Your brain is a sponge and starved for new stuff. Feed it.

EVERY writer I know is addicted to reading. You just never found the right books that made you want to finish them.

The big fat popular book you did finish is one of millions out there, and you'll figure out later that the writer of that book is not that good. I think the book's pretty lousy, but you love it. Why is that? Because you don't know what's OUT there!

You're settling for crappy stale bread and think it's great because you've never sampled anything better. Just for the asking you can have a gourmet meal of reading. It's all at the library. For free.

You must think you won't be a good writer, so you can blame future failures now with the "I don't read" excuse.

Well, (bleep) that!


Or begin considering a career in the housekeeping industry.

No, I take that back. I was at a writing conference and got a box of free books that I could not take home on the plane. The housekeeping lady who made up my room was thrilled to get them. She adored reading and so did her kids. I helped her load 20 books into her cart next to the clean towels. She'd share with her family because there was something for everyone.

So how are you going to write anything better than recycled crap unless you read?

You won't.

Get cracking.


She later posted a thank you and said she'd not thought of things from that direction before. She promised to go to the library.

I hope it works out for her

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weekend Coupon for Omnibus!

Signed a rider today to my 1988 contract for the first 6 Vampire Files that will soon have them available in digital format. In the meantime, if you're jonsing for other VF stories, they're still here. Have a coupon for 40% off!
Smashwords allows downloads to all reading device apps like Kindle & Nook.

Whatever you've got, they can deliver!

Reg. 4.99

Promotional price: $2.99

Coupon Code: CE46N

Expires: Sunday October 23, 2011
P.N. Elrod's favorite short works available for the first time in digital format for her "Lunch Time Reading Series."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

P.N. Elrod Lunch Time Reading OMNIBUS - Now a Trade Paperback!


This title has been offered for some months as an ebook and is now available as a hard copy trade size paperback from Amazon.

Vampwriter Books is working to have a "Look Inside" feature attached, but preview samples of ALL the stories are on the Vampwriter website:

Will soon update the website to include the new cover for this book.

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writer Girl

I am 14 again. My parents and big sister are still alive. I’m in my room in the 1950’s shoebox house we’d lived in since I was in the third grade. The usual household noise is going on beyond my closed door.

I want privacy so I can research something important in peace.

I’d wanted to be a professionally published writer since I was 11 and that ambition is literally in my grasp.

I’m on my bed reading an issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It cost fifty cents—which was my allowance for the week.

On the bed next to me is a battered library copy of the Writer’s Market for that year. It’s opened to the page that has EQMM’s address and submission requirements. I have them memorized.

Reading the current issue’s stories will tell me the kind of stuff they buy, which will be the kind of stuff I will write and sell to them. I want to be one of those writers.

It occurred to me that I could make a darn good living selling a story a month to EQMM. I would, in fact, be rolling in dough. To a 14-year-old limited to fifty cents a week, augmented by a dollar for every “A” on her report card, the payment of three cents a word for a five thousand-word story was a bloody fortune.

I read all the stories in that issue. I’d read all the stories in the collections at the library. I’d read Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie…I would be a mystery writer, sell a story to EQMM, and THEN people would take me seriously!

For weeks afterward I scribble on notebook paper fastened to a clipboard permanently “borrowed” from my dad’s office (the carport where he and the neighbors hung out next to his fridge full of beer). I’m writing THE story, the one that will send the editor at EQMM hurtling toward his checkbook, anxious to pay me so I wouldn’t send the story to some other magazine instead.

The writing consumed me at school. Or perhaps I wrote it in the summer, back to a wall, knees braced to hold the clipboard and my favorite blue pen in hand, words tumbling out of my ambitious brain almost too fast to write.

It was exhausting. I’d take breaks when I got tired and walk around the house, watch a few minutes of TV, maybe read a bit for inspiration, and then go back and write some more with classical music on my radio blocking out distracting house noise. That pattern of working would remain with me for life, though I didn’t know it at the time.
The story was finished. I typed it when I was alone in the house. I used carbon paper, addressed it to EQMM the way they instructed in Writer’s Market, triple-checked that I spelled the editor’s name right, included a SASE and cover letter, and then sent it out.

I wasn’t too disappointed that it was rejected. After all, every writer gets rejection letters; that was normal, so said all the books on writing. I filed the story away. (Some years later I found it, was horrified that another human being had ever read it, and quickly fed it to the wastebasket.)

I didn’t tell my parents about that first rejection. They’d not invented the term “dysfunctional” to describe them yet, but if I had shared, then I’d get a bunch of “I told you so’s” and with merciless teasing they’d never let me forget it. They knew I wanted to be a writer, but gave no encouragement. I was actively discouraged from writing. The idea was to protect me from rejection slips or something stupid like that. They had no clue of how wrong that was, but time and death cures much, allowing us to forgive.

My big sister wouldn’t have done that; she wanted to be a writer, too. I got the idea about becoming a writer from her. I may have told her. I just don’t remember. She’d have been nice about it, I know.

I got busy with other things. I was 14. Short attention span. New stuff to learn. Countless books to read. My whole life ahead of me. I was cocky, smart, and knew I was smart.

And sooner or later I’d send EQMM another story to consider, and maybe they’d buy it.

Decades later, I have to get out of my house. I’ve got deadlines, day job responsibilities to meet, writing stuff to do to press forward my tiny little publishing imprint (Vampwriter Books); there’s not enough in the bank to cover the mortgage tomorrow, the car insurance is coming due, and a few hundred other dreary, insane, and wholly stupid adult-life things no one bothered to warn me about are pressing, but I HAVE to get out of the damn house.

I don’t need it, but want it, ordering a burger and fries at a favorite eatery to screw up my arteries and add more lard to my writer’s spread.  But it tastes good and I appreciate every comforting bite. To entertain my brain I’m reading the 70th anniversary issue of EQMM. It has reviews mentioning novels I want to check out at the bookstore across from the burger joint.

Later, in the store, I scan the magazine rack, then move on to the S.F. aisle, the mystery aisle, the romance aisle—the genres I love to read and have worked in for 20+ years. I’ve been published multiple times, felt that giddy rush of seeing a title on the racks, signed copies on the sly and slipped them back into their slots. Viewing the shelves full of new releases, I can’t help but feel a little pang of jealousy for those writers who seem to kick books out effortlessly, year after year. I know it’s not effortless, but that pang is never logical. I will use its energy when I get home to drive me to scrape new words from my brain and hopefully meet those deadlines and take some of the pressure off my head.

Then I recall I was to look for those EQMM recommended titles. I left my copy in the car. No problem, more are in the magazine section. I’ll glance inside, get the names and find the books if they’re here.

I reach in the back of the display and snag what feels to be a strangely thin copy of EQMM. The one I read from at lunch was a double issue, covering September/October. I have a seat, take off my glasses because they’re not good for reading, and flip pages, looking for the article.

It doesn’t seem to be there.

Check the contents, Elrod.

So I do -- and there’s my name.

It’s not the name I put on that first story I sent in all those years ago, but it’s still my name, and it is in an issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

This doesn’t register. Where’s the article I want?

I look at the cover. It’s familiar. I was sent three author copies about a month ago. I gave one to a friend, the other two are still on my desk in their envelope. The cover’s not the one I wanted. Where’s the copy with the cover I want?

I look again at the contents page and abruptly realize…

I say “Oh, good God” aloud, and stare at my name as though for the first time.

It’s not like this should have been a surprise. I’d submitted the story last spring, and some eight months later they accepted it. Some months after that they paid me for it. The money is no longer important. It never was.

What is, is that I have in hand the proof that I wrote a story good enough for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine to buy.

You can count it as something to tic off the bucket list or as a near-impossible life goal finally reached.  I’ll pick the latter.

But most importantly of all, as I sit there on that bookstore bench…

I am 14 again. My parents and big sister are still alive. I’m in my room in the 1950’s shoebox house we’d lived in since I was in the third grade. The usual household noise is going on beyond my closed door...

It’s a sweet moment. I take my time.

The November 2011 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine has P.N. Elrod's story, Beach Girl.

She hopes you enjoy it. It's been a long, long time coming.

The magazine is available as a Kindle instant download

It will be up on Nook shortly.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Vampwriter Editing is Open for Business!

I've hung my shingle out again as an editor!

The last time was in 2008 and not a lot happened. But things have changed in publishing as more and more new writers are uploading their works to digital hosting sites like Kindle, PubIt!, and Smashwords.

I'm no different--I've three titles from my backlist up and the books are earning money. I edited the hell out of them, proofing, tweaking and proofing again. I'm a perfectionist about that kind of thing, and it helps to have 20+ years of experience in the craft.

So I got to thinking other writers with books to upload might want to have a professional edit before releasing their words to the wild.

Where to go for a pro edit that won't cost too freaking much? That would be me.

The pitch is on the website, along with rates and turnaround time, and I DO cost a lot less than the others. The rates suggested by the Editorial Freelancers Association are also linked in, so you can compare the two.

My target market are those writers wanting a professional level edit for their baby. You get the same effort I put into the anthologies. Please, do check the names of all those NYTimes bestselling writers who have stories in them. 

No, your book probably won't make that list, but it WILL read all the better for an editor's input.

To quote Amanda Hocking:

"My biggest word of advice to any new/future writers thinking about diving into Kindle: Edit. I don't care what you think, you didn't edit enough. Some people won't care that there's errors, its true, but enough of them will. And they paid for it, so they have a right to. So edit more. And then again. Really."

Sounds like a plan. Check it out!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Devil You Know Goes Digital!

Vampire PI Jack Fleming travels to Long Island to attend a funeral Problem: There's more than one body in the grave. Delving into his past, Jack follows clues leading to an old murder, new betrayals, and a hard look at the man he was vs. the vampire he's become.  

The Devil You Know is a (nearly) direct sequel to book three of the Vampire Files, "Bloodcircle" and is full of spoilers for that novel. While this story can be read on its own, you will enjoy it more if you have read "Bloodcircle" first. You have been warned!

It's gone live on Kindle:

And Smashwords for all formats:


What's more fun than one vampire on a case?

Two--especially when they don't like each other!

Wise-cracking, street-savvy vampire gumshoe Jack Fleming teams up with the archly genteel Jonathan Barrett, Gentleman Vampire, who's found a body on his Long Island estate and has no idea what to do about it.

Clues take Jack back to his old stomping grounds in the newspaper world, only slightly hampered by Barrett, who has his own ideas on how to conduct a murder investigation.

Before you can say "machine gun" both are up to their fangs in mobsters, murder, and mayhem in this fast-paced mystery adventure set in post-Prohibition New York.

This novel is also available as a signed, numbered, limited-edition trade paperback exclusively from VampWriter Books.

Just to be on the safe side with conservative parents, the author rates this one as having adult content because some of the characters use a bit of salt in their language.

PREVIEW EXCERPT! Check it out! 

Available for immediate download at Smashwords which supports all popular reading device apps including Kindle and NOOK.

Don't have an e-reader? Not to worry, you can download and read from your computer!

Prefer a hard copy book in hand? How about a limited-edition signed by the author? Click on the cover link in the left hand column.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jonathan Barrett: Gentleman Vampire Returns!

Yay--and it's a bargain!

Four novels.  ONE download. 

It's at Nook and will soon be on Kindle.

Check it and the awesome new cover by Jonathan's namesake, Julie Barrett!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Website Update--New Pages! has some shiny new pages! I'm gradually updating the site--not easy with out of date software, but doable.

Biggest change: pages where one may read samples from the P.N. Elrod Omnibus! Rather than 20% from the front of the  book, you can read a few pages from ALL 16 tales.

And yes, this includes the NEW Vampire Files, story, DRAWING DEAD.

And should anyone want to buy a copy, Smashwords has it available in all the popular formats, including the Kindle:

Okay, shameless plug of the day complete. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Uploading eBooks - Read the Directions!

Yes, friends who've known me for years can faint now, I've come around to ebooks as a publishing venue.

Stories that were scattered across long out-of-print collections are getting new life and new readers. Because of ebooks, my old words are earning money again. Not much, but it's early days yet.

Since the first book went up for sale on Smashwords last Sunday, it's earned more in 5 days than all the stories together have made in the last 15 years. Upload cost to me?  Zero + some time stolen from other projects.  (As busy as I am, I have to steal time now.)

I began with Smashwords. It has a comprehensive instruction book (free download) and sells books in all the most popular formats. I also met the guy who runs the place at the RT Booklovers Convention last April and got a positive vibe from him. These days I've learned to trust my gut just like Gibbs on NCIS.

But that aside, they were a solid business-based choice for a beginner.

Following directions for Kindles from this helpful blog,  I stripped formatting from each short story by running it through Notepad, then copy/saving it as a .doc file. This takes out all the hidden stuff like tabs and blank pages. If you don't do that, their vetting software will send you an error message and the book won't be listed.

The Smashwords book tells how to prep your book in detail--so READ it until all the stuff makes sense. I was on the right track with the blog, but the book was more detailed and specific.

Smashwords' "meatgrinder" software can convert files from a .doc, but you want it cleaned up from the get-go.

 I put in page breaks, but for some reason they didn't seem to translate, so I centered and put in these: * * *  followed by this on the next line _______  and then the title of the next story in caps and bold to let the reader know it was time to change gears.  I expect I should do the same for chapter breaks on future works.

I had to put in hanging indents and reinsert all italics, etc. again. Notepad takes them out.

This was a pain in the neck, so have a copy of your original file with italics and bolding highlighted so you can put them back more easily.

Then--and this is MOST important--read the directions on how to upload.

Sounds bleeding obvious, but you kinda have to do that to make this stuff work. I envy people who intuitively know computer tech. I'm not one of them. I have to work harder to get there. Happily, the directions are not rocket science. The file uploaded and the vetting bots didn't find problems.

Then I did the usual file checking, etc. to make sure what they would publish would look the way it's supposed to look.

Well, it didn't.  Every other line was a different size font on the "page". I knew I'd not done anything wrong, so I fiddled with the font size option on the left side and hey, presto, it evened out for reading. I've assumed that works the same for others with reading devices, so I stopped worrying about it. If the formatting is a problem, I think that readers will let me know. The world is full of nitpickers. Be grateful for them.

I challenged nitpickers to "spot the typos!"  I want the book to be error-free and one's best friend for that goal is an obsessive reader who loves to point out mistakes. If this describes you, proofing my book makes you my new best buddy.

If readers tell you about typos and grammatical errors, don't get mad, get busy FIXING them. Be a professional about it.  There is no story so wonderful that poor spelling, typos, formatting errors, bad grammar, and a worse attitude won't destroy it and make you look like a wanking moron. Don't be one of those. It's bad for sales.

Smashwords offers "coupons" so you can send either price discounts or free downloads to specific targets like book review sites. (And free copies to friends).

Many review sites do not bother with self-published books.  Despite the fact that I'm a pro with a 20-year track record and that the stories have been previously published for real money cuts no ice;  this collection is still a self-published book.

Before sending work off for review, check their guidelines first. I did with one site, and while they wanted to review the book--they'd heard of me, yay!--they were upfront about not having the time.  I told them to give away the free download as a prize if they liked.  Free is always fun!

A few days later, with fixes in place, it was time to get the book up on the other big ebook selling sites, Kindle and PubIt! (Nook).

They each have their own way of doing things and it 's about a 24-hour wait before your book is approved and listed.

All of them will need your real name, addy, and social security number. If you sell books you're earning money and they will mention that detail to the IRS.  So should you. On your Schedule C Form next April.  They may also want a bank account and the routing number if you opt for direct deposit over a check or Paypal, which I did.

Again--read the directions!

Kindle required that I download their Mobipocket software to convert the book to their system. Ignoring that, I just uploaded the same cleaned up .doc file I sent to Smashwords, but quickly found that indents were wonky and it didn't look good.

I read the full directions, downloading the free Mobipocket software.

I then tried uploading the book to it to get it formatted. It kept stalling, sending me an "error" message and refusing the file. A few times the system locked up and shut down. Being a techno twit, it's par for the course for me, I only screamed in frustration once.

I read the directions AGAIN and found that I should save the file as an .htm or .html. I wasn't sure why, but tried it.

It uploaded fast, and I could see the "proof" on the website.  Yay!  It looked the way it should look, italics, bolds, and breaks in place.

Then I tackled PubIt!

They also like the .htm / .html kind of file, so I converted the PubIt!-specific .doc to that and it uploaded fine the first try, but I couldn't find a way to preview the file. I don't know if it came out okay or not.

But it was pretty easy.

I have a separate file copy for each venue.

Why? The front matter. This is the part of the book that tells who's publishing it and who owns the copyright. So I've one for each. Don't sell a PubIt! edition as a Kindle edition. It's just more tidy to keep them separate, like Coke and Pepsi.

Why put the same book up on all three sites?

Because more people know about Nook and Kindle than know about Smashwords, even though the latter offers the book in all formats and is user-friendly.

And I want the book for sale in as many "stores" as possible.

The book has to be the same price in all venues.  You can't raise the price on PubIt! to compensate for their lower "royalty" rate of 65%. Like one's exes, the sites all "talk" to each other. If the book is 4.99 on Kindle, Nook will not accept a 5.99 price. Books will list for the lowest posted price on each site.  Deal with it.

I figured 4.99 was a fair price for a 132,000-word opus.  That's under half the price of a trade paperback and just over the half the price of a mass-market paperback.

There is much discussion on price points (should one sell at .99 or 1.99???), and while I agree that pricing a book at .99 makes a good bargain for the reader, it can also send the message that the book might not be worth buying simply because it IS so cheap. People are weird that way. I know I am. 

Since this is a product of my own tiny little imprint, VampWriter Books, I decided to follow Dean Wesley's Smith's advice and think like a publisher:

He recommends 4.99 for a 10-story collection or full novels.  As this is a 16-story collection, the price seems more than fair.

It also gives wiggle room on sale pricing later on. When the time comes for me to promote Volume 2 in the "Lunch Time Reading Series" (that's WAY down the road yet), I can drop the price on Volume 1 as part of the promotion and perhaps tempt in new buyers for both books.

But for now, I just want the book out and selling and so far this seems to be working just dandy.

For those who do not have a an E-reader, you can download the FREE reading software app to your computer and be buying Nook and Kindle titles within minutes.  I have both on my computer. It's not as convenient as a little reader, but works fine for me for the present.

For those self-publishing for the first time, you'll be well aware that you may never make any sales to people other than family and friends who love and want to support you.  To increase your sales to readers take J.A. Konrath's advice to heart: "Don't write shit."

And have a read of this brutally entertaining blog for the self-published. Those rules apply to pros as well as first timers.

Am I going to make 100K a year on ebooks? Dear gawd I hope so, but I'll keep writing and selling to print publishers for the time being. Like they say in the fine print on those get-rich-now infomercials: "results not typical."  Believe that until your sales (if any) tell you different. Not everyone is going to repeat what Mr. Konrath and Ms. Hocking have done. 

They put some WORK into it, by the way. It just didn't happen.

However, in the time it took to write this blog, another reader bought a copy of my Omnibus from Smashwords.

Now that's pretty danged cool.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

P.N. Elrod Omnibus - The Lunch Time Reading Series - Launched!

Woo hoo! I'm feeling pretty good tonight.  Months of hard work, short sleep, and setbacks you don't wanna know about are past!

My first foray into the world of ebook publication has officially begun; I've uploaded a "reprint" collection of some of my favorite short works to Smashwords. It's called the P.N. Elrod Omnibus - The Lunch Time Reading Series, and was inspired by the fact that I like to read over lunch, and a short story is just the right length to get me through a sandwich with trimmings.

It's quite a collection, spanning 15 years of writing, containing a number of different genres. Many have been out of print for more than a decade. Yikes!

All of the stories got a fresh new polish and several had some detailed tinkering and rewrites. In the case of the space opera, it got a slight change of title and doubled in length.

Fans of the VAMPIRE FILES will be happy to know that I've included an a ALL NEW JACK FLEMING STORY!  Yay!

DRAWING DEAD was originally a 5,000 word scene that took place in THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, but even as I finished the scene I knew it wouldn't fit in the overall book. While it slowed the plot flow in TDYK, it works just dandy as a stand-alone story.

Smashwords has this 132,000 word collection available in a number of e-reader formats, and can be downloaded to your computer.

If you don't have, say, a Kindle or Nook, not to worry, you can download the reader software for FREE from their websites. I have both on my laptop and can read either just fine!

About 20% of the book is available to sample read, and I think that includes the entire first story, A NIGHT AT THE (HORSE) OPERA. It's still one of my personal favorites, where vampire Jack Fleming meets Harpo Marx--and some nasty debt collecting mobsters!

Yes, this is intended as a series. As I get more stories finished, and as others come available for reprint, I'll be doing more of these collections. They may not be quite this long, but ya never know!

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Schtuff I'm doing

According to many other writers and not a few others, I'm supposed to update my blog regularly, which is supposed to help with the promotion of my books.

Trouble is, it's hard to update when the stuff I'm doing is not particularly interesting, just part of my day-to-day work! I figure you don't want to know how many words I did or did not write on any given day, or whether I worked out the plot problem in chapter whatever. I don't care how a mechanic fixes my car, so long as the outcome means I get to drive it home.

But cool things have happened!

Yes, I DID go to the awesome RT Booklovers Convention in LA, all courtesy of the amazing and awesome Rachel Caine. I had an equally amazing and awesome time and did not make too great a fool of myself during my brief thank you speech. It seems they presented me with their Pioneer Award for "Forging the Way for Vampire Fiction Since 1990."


I'll include a picture of it if I ever find my digital camera and remember how to link it to the 'puter.

A full post of this weekend is not possible, as 1) I'm mega-busy; 2) much of it might be of little interest to anyone who isn't me; 3) I'm still mega-busy.

I did meet--in no real order--the likes of William Link and his lovely bride Margery (Mr. Link is a co-creater of Columbo) and you're danged right I got a signed book from that man! The clever and charming Lee Goldberg, who is as nice in person as he is on his blog, editor and author Laura Anne Gilman, who demonstrated enough features about her color Nook to sell me. I didn't buy it--but soon. Re-met the charming L.E. Modesitt, sitting next to him at the awards ceremony.

That's the top of my head, I'm sure more will come to me, but in addition to meeting and greeting new friends and long time friends like Carole Nelson Douglas, I went to a number of panels, most of them to do with e-publishing, which I'm finally committing to this year.

Which is why I'm so danged busy!  I learned a lot and am applying it.

At this time I am working on the first steampunk book for Tor, ON HER MAJESTY'S PSYCHIC SERVICE: THE HANGED MAN and editing HEX SYMBOLS for St. Martin's Griffin, but in odd moments I'm prepping a series of short stories to release on Kindle, PubIt! (Nook), and Smashwords.  The latter is giving me my 101 course in how to format for digital books.

So, no, I don't have time for blogging!

Suffice that I'm putting up a collection called THE LUNCH TIME SHORT STORIES SERIES which will feature many of my long out of print tales. Each story is long enough to read over lunch--which happens to be something I like to do. While I love a good novel, it can run long, especially if it's REALLY good, but a short story (at 20-30 double-spaced pages) is just the right length to enjoy over soup and a sandwich.

The stories won't be double-spaced, that's the manuscript length!  Most run from 8-10K words, two to a volume for .99.

I'm including something for everyone: mystery, historical mystery, a science fiction novelette, and Vampire Files tales--including a NEW story, DRAWING DEAD, which was a chapter that didn't make it into THE DEVIL YOU KNOW.  It just didn't fit into the flow of that book, but works just fine as a stand-alone!

Prototypes of the covers are up on my FaceBook page, if you'd like to cruise over and check 'em out!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Publishers" to Avoid!

This post is for those who think paying to publish is how you "break in" to professional writing.

A.C. Crispin said it best in her article, "Excuse Me, How Much Did It Cost You?"

Go ahead, bookmark the link. Pass it on to other writers. From the comments I see on writing sites there's far too many people out there who don't know the basics about the business.

Ignore all the vanity, subsidy, and self-publishing services that perpetuate the lie that paying to play is perfectly normal and how it's done.

No. Don't pay. Professional writers get paid. Period. That's how it really works.  

It is called "Yog's Law," which was coined by writer James D. Macdonald, a true pro who's forgotten more about writing and the publishing industry than I'll ever learn. Bookmark that link, too, and pass it to other writers who may have doubts.

Pros get paid for their words. Got it?  Good.

Now that that's sorted out, let's look at the "publishers" who take advantage of the lie. It is, after all, in their best interest!

Where are they? Just do a Google-search of "book publishers" and you'll find many of the links on the results pages go straight to vanity operations. Do that same search for "children's book publishers" or "Christian book publishers" and you get minor variations of the same tune.

They have professional-looking websites and a convincing sales pitch.

Um, yes, that's right:  *sales pitch*. That's your first clue you're on a vanity site. They're about selling themselves to writers, not about selling books to the public.

The next clue is a lack of titles showing on the opening page. If you go to this commercial publisher's page, or this one or this one or this's pretty clear these companies have BOOKS to SELL. That's where their focus is.

Vanities usually make money selling books to their own writers.  Some have hybridized to be more attractive and have a "bookstore" on the site, or they use words like "subsidy" and "partnership" but it's still all about getting money out of writers.

Red flags:  

1) The company advertises for writers.

They have ads all over the net, ads at the top of search results pages, ads in magazines, newspapers, and Craiglist. Ignore those. Ads cost money and it's the writers, not book sales, that pay for 'em.

Real commercial publishers do not have to advertise themselves. Why waste money buying an ad for new writers when they get thousands of submissions a week? They're flooded with work from writers and agents who know how to properly submit work.

2) The company offers "packages."

Oh, dear, run away. The packages offer great-sounding options like cover art, editing, "availability" in bookstores, a spot on the website, promotion/marketing plans, e-book and audio book options...

They offer--at prices varying from 299.00-10,000.00 and more--the SAME stuff a commercial publisher does as a matter of course. The same stuff a commercial publisher does on their own dime AND pays the writer a nice advance to boot.

3) Their books are NOT in stores.

One thing that NONE of them can do is get your book into brick and mortar stores. They avoid mentioning that detail on the websites or potential customers would run away in droves. Instead, the lack is dressed up in the kind of weasel-wording that someone with no experience in publishing is likely to overlook. Inexperienced writers may assume that the company wants to sell books in stores and the logical thing to do is to have books in stores. It's what commercial publishers DO, after all!

But that doesn't happen with vanity sites. They do NOT do mass printings and they do not have something called *distribution*. Without it, books don't sell. Distribution involves printing 1000s of copies and physically shipping them to retail outlets. Vanities can't do that.

On one site they have a handy comparison chart of the various publishing packages. Each offers "Online Distribution" which means they list your book on their website and on store websites---and that's it.  It's not enough, but they hope writers won't know that.

Just below that is "Bookstore Availability" which claims "With a unique ISBN, your book is available at XX-thousand retail outlets." 

Newsflash, you can have that with a commercial house AND at less costly self-pub Print On Demand services. 

All books have an ISBN with a barcode. Host sites like Amazon demand it. You can buy one yourself at for 125.00 or ten  for 250.00. Vanities buy them by the thousand for a buck each.

"Available to."  Note that last little word. That's what keeps them out of court.

I'm available to go on a wild weekend with Sean Connery and have been for the last (cough-cough) years, but so far he's never called for a date.

"Available to" a bookstore doesn't mean the same as "stocked and shelved" in a bookstore.

But what about being on a bookstore website? That has to be a good thing, right?  Yes--providing the book is in stock, which doesn't always happen to books with no distribution. 

There is one notorious vanity author mill that has thousands of titles listed on Amazon, B&N, Books-a-million, etc. but more often than not, the titles show as "temporarily out of print." Most buyers will shrug and move on to another book that IS available for instant ordering.  If they're determined to get the title they may go to the "publisher's" website to place an order. Then they pay full price, no discount.  I believe the "publisher" does that on purpose so they don't have to share a percentage of the sales with the other website.

4) There's usually a "testimonials" page.
These sites want you to know what their happy customers are saying about them.  The author mill has plenty of feedback up, gakked from customers still in the "honeymoon" phase which usually lasts until the first royalty statement showing zero sales arrives. I know of several customers, who woke up, smelled the coffee, and departed, but their words remain on the site. 

Just keep in mind that testimonials are a sales ploy for vanity houses and most any business with a product or service to sell. Commercial houses don't need them. They're selling books, not their services.

Those are the four basics, but the main point to remember is Yog's Law and the follow up: "The only place a writer signs a check is on the back--to endorse it!"

There's better sites with this same info, start with this one. Go there. Learn. Get yourself immunized from the pay-to-play predators!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Writer Beware's Two Thumb's Down List, Publishers: ____________

I'm always referring new writers to Writer Beware's Two Thumbs Down publisher's list Blogspot post.  It is EXCELLENT.

I *was* going to do a spotlight on each of the names on that list, just to update things for 2011, a fun, 20-part series.

There were going to be quotes from their websites, links to posts from their victims, and I was going to be funny and snarky and hopefully entertaining with a fresh warning against the predators of publishing.

Well, no huge surprise, predators bite.

And that sucks. 

In response to the original post I got an anonymous, untraceable comment that I interpreted as a threat of legal action against me.

There was nothing actionable on my post, only quotes and links, all easily available on the web if you put the words into a search engine.

But I can't take the chance of getting slapped with even a frivolous lawsuit. I'm sure the anonymous poster is having a good chuckle at my expense. That's what that kind does.

Yes, I caved and removed the post and you get this wimpy one instead.  I have a sick dog to look after, two looming deadlines to meet, and a mortgage to pay. The "entity" who made the veiled threat of legal action against me just isn't worth it.

So, dear writers, I invite you to simply check out all the names on Writer Beware's Thumbs Down list for publishers for yourselves.

Copy the link, re-post it on your websites and blogs, let other writers know it exists, share with every writer you know.

And keep in mind that *maybe* one of the names on that list has money to hire a lawyer who can make confetti of my right to freedom of speech. 

Yours, too.