Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review: Shadow Tyrants by Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison Morrison and Clive Cussler are back with Shadow Tyrants, the 13th book in the Oregon Files series. The series follows the exploits of Juan Cabrillo and his crew, who work under the moniker of “The Corporation,” and draws its name from Cabrillo’s ship, The Oregon.

Shadow Tyrants begins in typical Cussler fashion, with a prologue set in the past that lays the groundwork for the conflict that drives the story...

Read the full review at New York Journal of Books.

Friday, August 17, 2018

57- 2017 Earnings Breakdown and Analysis

Here's the breakdown by vendor and source of my 2017 publishing income along with comparisons to 2016:

Share of Gross Income by Vendor
Kindle: 73.8%
Nook: 5.3%
Kobo: 5:7%
Audible: 5.6%
iBooks: 4.8%
Print: 2.3%
Google: 1.4%
Other vendors: 0.1%
Translations: 0.1%
Trad pub: 0.8%

Kindle: 77.7%
Nook:     6.2%
Kobo:     5.4%
Audible: 4.4%
iBooks:  3.7%
Print:     2.0%
Google: 0.4%
Other vendors: 0.1%
Translations: 0.1%

Income Increase/Decrease from 2017

Google Play 223%
Translations 39%
Apple 27%
Audible 21%
Paperback 14%
Other 13%
Kobo -1%
Kindle -8%
Nook -17%

-Kindle decrease is primarily attributed to the amount of time and effort invested in Kindle Worlds. Those books sold well, but brought in much less per-unit sold than books I published myself. Also, most were underpriced, in my opinion.

-I was pleased to see income from iBooks (Apple) increase.

-Audible increase is primarily due to sales of audiobook bundles as well as terrific sales of Primordial.

-I'm not sure why paperback income increased, but I'm not complaining.

-Google Play increased significantly. This is mostly due to the fact that I didn't have my full catalog in GP in 2016, but I do think their market share is growing.

-Nook income fell, which is not surprising to me.

-Income from translations and from "other" channels (Scribd, Tolino, Overdrive...) increased, but the income from those channels are so small that the changes aren't statistically significant.

Looking Back at Last Year's Musings

Last year: Several of my author friends tell me they are doing very well on iBooks. I'd like to increase my sales and visibility in that store.

 Mission accomplished! 27% increase in gross income and a modest increase in market share.
LY: I'm curious to see whether or not the lending program Kobo is beta testing will have an impact on sales.

Not yet. At this time it's only available to a couple of countries.

LY:Rumors are circulating that Audible plans to roll out an audiobook lending service, which will also be interesting to watch.

As far as I'm aware, this is still limited to the romance genre and authors have been unhappy with the compensation.

With the launch of the Dane Maddock Kindle World, I expect Kindle income to continue to rise in proportion to the other vendors.

In terms of units sold, this did happen, but not in terms of income.

-I am strongly considering going exclusive with Createspace, as the paltry sales through Ingram mean the annual listing fees for all books in my catalog aren't worthwhile.

I did cancel a number of titles with Lightning Source, but I have been experimenting with Ingram Spark. Rumors are circulating that CreateSpace will be going out of business. We'll see what happens.

Looking Ahead
-I expect Google, iBooks, and Audible to continue to grow.

-Not sure what to expect from Kindle. I'm still in the process of republishing the Kindle Worlds books. I'm hopeful they'll perform better now that I can control the advertising.

-I'm interested in seeing what happens with CreateSpace. I will probably experiment with KDP print because you can run AMS ads for print books published with them.

-Indie-published translations have not been worthwhile so far. This year, a single advance on one translated book earned four times as much as I made from my entire catalog of translated works in 2017. I might cancel my translations once the contract terms expire and see if I can sell rights to foreign language publishers.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Book of Bones Part 14

Review: Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott

I picked up the audiobook version of Murder in an English Village on a whim. (I think Audible might have had it on sale but I can't remember). It's not my usual fare, but I enjoy the occasional mystery novel, I like history, and I love British mystery shows like Foyle's War, Hinterland, and Broadchurch, so I thought I'd give it a go. I was not disappointed.

When two old school friends reunite in post-World War I England, their investigation into a young woman's disappearance leads to murder. Their search uncovers a variety of secrets, some dating back to the war years.

The pacing is slow and steady, but seemed about right for this type of story. The characters are interesting and the mystery intriguing with just enough twists and surprises to keep the pages turning. Like any good mystery, there were several times I was fairly certain I knew who the killer was (and I was wrong every time.) When I  neared the end of the book, I was particularly proud of having figured out that one particular person was no good, but then it turned out that I'd only figured out a tiny fraction of the real story. The conclusion wrapped everything up in a satisfying way that didn't leave any loose threads.

I particularly enjoyed the dialogue. The characters' vocabularies, idioms, and manners of speaking were appropriate to the time, place, and their respective social classes. In one of my favorite lines, one of the characters bemoans her friend's cooking skills, thinking that, "What had been done to the sausage was a bigger shame than the fate of the pigs that had provided it." I could almost see the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey making such an observation.

The narration by Barbara Rosenblat is solid and her performance added to my enjoyment of the story.

Murder in an English Village is an engrossing tale certain to please cozy mystery fans.

This is the first book in the Beryl and Edwina Mysteries series, with the second book, Murder Flies the Coop, coming out next month.

Monday, August 6, 2018

56- The World Does Not Owe Us a Living Wage for Our Art

Recently, a post has been making the rounds on social media in which the author of said post complains about people who tell struggling creatives that they should move into another field. The author sets up a very specific scenario:

-An artist is struggling financially, and is apparently complaining to others about it.
- Someone not only suggests that the artist should have gone into a another field, but in the author's scenario, this imaginary person specifies "tech or something useful."
-The author then leaps to the conclusion that this imaginary advice-giver therefore believes that artists are "drains on society and unworthy of life" and should be forced to go without art for thirty days.

Obviously, even with the very specific word choices in this imagined scenario, it's quite a leap to equate "you should have chosen a field in which you can support yourself" with "you are unworthy of life" but my issues stem more from the various contexts to which this post has been applied, and the commentary added to it by various creatives. So, I thought I'd share some thoughts related to this issue and some of the arguments I've seen it elicit.

I don't buy the scenario as it is presented.
I have never experienced or witnessed a scenario like the one the author has concocted. When I first became a full-time author, a couple of people close to me asked privately, and out of genuine concern if I was able to get by on my income, and I was able to reply with a resounding "yes." I made the choice not to work in the arts on a full-time basis until my earnings from my write had consistently exceeded my "day job" income for several months. On rare occasion, when a creative has publicly complained about his/her inability to earn a living, and has blamed it on society, I've seen someone make a snarky comment about the arts as a valid career path. I've never seen anyone say that someone is "unworthy of life" because they pursued the arts as a career path.

No one wants to hear us complain that we can't make a living in our chosen field.
When somebody complains about not being able to make a living in their chosen artistic endeavor, my first thought isn't, "This is society's fault!" My initial reaction is to feel sympathy. I've been broke. I've had books flop. it's a terrible feeling. I also feel a little sad, because I know that all the sympathy in the world won't improve that person's financial position. But quickly my thoughts turn to all the people who are making a living in that person's particular niche, and wonder what separates them from the person doing the complaining. If someone is complaining that their indie mystery novels aren't selling, I don't wonder why nobody reads anymore. I wonder what Jana DeLeon is doing that this author isn't. Finally, I begin to wonder what steps, if any, this person is taking to earn a living, since art isn't getting the job done. In any event, it never improves my opinion of someone for them to complain that not enough people want to buy their art.

Art for art's sake is great, but if you expect to earn a living, you're subject to market forces.
Understand, I'm not talking about people who make their living in one field, and pursue their art on the side. I'm addressing people who expect to receive sufficient recompense for their art to maintain a minimum standard of living. As soon as we put our art up for sale, we must accept the fact that the economic value of our work is determined by how many people want to buy it and how much they are willing to pay for it. When it comes to commercial viability, intrinsic value doesn't matter. Artistic merit doesn't matter (Dan Brown, anyone?) except to the degree that it adds the work's commercial appeal. How hard we worked on it doesn't matter. When it comes to earning a living, the only thing that matters is whether or not we've created a product that enough consumers wish to purchase.

Just because you aren't selling doesn't necessarily mean you aren't talented or that your art is of low quality.
As noted above, it's about economics. Maybe your work takes a long time to produce, and there aren't enough buyers out there willing or able to pay the per-unit cost required for you to make a living. Maybe your work is niche, cutting-edge, mold-breaking, challenging. Its intrinsic value might be great but its very nature limits the size of your potential audience. It's your choice to work in that narrow commercial space. Society didn't force you into it.

Not all of the things we love to do are viable career paths, no matter how good we are at them.
My grandparents loved to make apple butter. They did it old school: outdoors over an open fire in a big cast iron pot. It tasted amazing! They started out making it for themselves and our family, but word soon got around in the community, and people started buying it. My uncle even sold it out of his barbershop. It was a nice validation for them, but they didn't try to make a career out of it. The did it because they loved it, appreciated the praise and the extra income, but they earned their living another way, and they never complained that society just didn't appreciate home-made apple butter anymore.

Sadly, this is also reality for many artists. Regardless of the branch of the arts, most of us won't earn a living in our chosen field for a variety of reasons. That doesn't mean some of us won't make it, but the odds are stacked against us. This isn't a secret, as the many "starving artist" jokes, memes, and public rants can attest.  We all know it's tough out there. That leaves us with a choice: have an alternative means of earning an income while we pursue the arts, or not. Either way, we bear the full responsibility for that choice.

Society is not responsible for our economic and career choices.
If I choose to pursue a career in the arts without a backup plan or a second source of income, and I can't make a living, that's my decision and thus my responsibility. If my partner wants to support me while I pursue creative endeavors, that's our business. If I choose a specific branch of the arts that offers very little possibility of reasonable economic return, that's my choice. If I quit my job to pursue my dream, and I don't make it, that's oneme. If I'm not as good as I think I am at my chosen art form, that's not society's fault either. (Watch a few American Idol auditions or read certain self-published books to see what I mean.)

Just because someone doesn't want to support you financially doesn't mean they think the arts are worthless.
Don't get me wrong. I'm sure there are some people out there who do think the arts are of little or no value (and they're wrong) but I don't believe that's very large cohort. There are people out there who don't think the government should take their money away and give it to artists. (I'm not taking a stand on that one. Just sharing what a lot of people have said to me.) There are people out there who are also struggling financially, but don't choose to blame it on society, and don't understand why artists and creatives get to pass the buck in that regard. There are people out there who are experiencing the consequences of their own career path missteps and have no patience for creatives who appear to be unwilling to accept the consequences of their own choices.

The arts aren't going away just because some of us can't make a living.
If I crash and burn and have to go back to my day job, plenty of other authors will fill that niche. If all the artists who can't make a living stop creating, the others who are making a living will keep creating, and new creatives will throw their hats in the ring. Yes, it would suck. The world would miss out on a lot of great art (and a ton of mediocre and bad art) but the arts would survive. Conflating the struggles of some artists with the disappearance of all art from the face of the planet only serves to make people respect creative types less.  It makes us appear irrational and not tethered to reality.

Publicly complaining that we can't make a living in our chosen creative endeavor only hurts us. 
"Eat at Joe's. Nobody else does!"
"New on DVD! The movie no one wanted to see in the theatre!"
"Buy the book that hasn't sold a single copy!"
Did you find any of these pitches enticing?
If an author publicly reveals that  no one is buying her books, human nature is not to assume that this person is an undiscovered genius who is a victim of society's devaluation of the arts. Instead, it's more likely that people will assume the author isn't selling because her books aren't as good as those of her contemporaries. It's a shame that the arts (in general) don't promise as much economic certainty as some other fields. It sucks that many incredibly talented people produce great art but can't earn a living, while a mediocre pulp writer like me is doing okay. But that's reality. All the complaining in the world won't change it. Bemoaning the way society devalues the arts won't change it (or else it would have happened long ago. The starving artist thing has been around forever.) I'd argue that such public displays only further the stereotype of the arts as a poor career choice, and make us individually look like failures.

What does this mean for indie authors, or was this just a rant with no useful application?
Honestly, this is mostly just me sharing my reactions but here are a few thoughts for indie authors:

-Go in with your eyes wide open. Understand the realities of the indie space. Do your research. Know what's selling in your genre. Know what's working in terms of marketing. Be prepared.
-Have a stable economic situation. Maybe you or your partner have a reliable income. Maybe you indie pub "on the side" until you can live off of your earnings. Have money set aside for production and marketing. Don't put yourself in a position where worry over how you're going to pay the bills impedes your ability to write.
-Know that you are ultimately responsible for every decision you make, every strategy you try, every dollar you spend.
-Always keep learning and growing.
-If your books aren't selling, don't throw a pity party and don't blame it on society's lack of appreciation of literature, or Amazon's bullying ways, or the advantages enjoyed by trad-pubs. Even if some or all of those things are true, it won't change your reality, and the couple of sympathy book sales you might make won't balance out how bad it makes you look.
-Find a safe space to vent. Maybe it's a private Facebook group of authors. Maybe it's a circle of trusted friends. Maybe it's your dog.  Absolutely share your struggles and let others support you, but don't do it in a place where you're going to look bad in front of readers.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Review- Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley former government assassin battles to survive in an apocalyptic world ravaged by war and infested with giant bugs in Apocalypse Nyx. Kameron Hurley has crafted a memorable anti-hero and set her loose to wreak havoc in a nightmarish world...

Click here to read the full review on New York Journal of Books