Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Human Face: Why I Acquired Missing Pieces

As the end of any year rolls around, we’re often inundated with recaps of major news and/or human interest stories that captivated the nation or world throughout the year. Ranging in gravity from Kim Kardashian’s mini-marriage to the death of Osama bin Laden, these reports keep us informed, entertained, inspired, etc., reminding us that we are part of a larger whole and providing us with a place in a global society that is at times rock solid and other times shaky at best.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to remember the “human” part of the human interest aspect. We see the pictures, the videos, and the quotes expressing sorrow or shock or unbridled joy, but we rarely get to glimpse the reality of these situations as experienced by those most closely involved. It is an exceptional piece of work that allows the average reader/listener/viewer to really understand the mindset and challenges and triumphs of people caught up in situations that will change their lives forever.

This is why I acquired Missing Pieces, a young adult novel by Jon Ripslinger. Author of How I Fell in Love and Learned to Shoot Free Throws (Roaring Brook), Derailed (Llewellyn/Flux), Last Kiss (Llewellyn/Flux), and The Hustle (Ampichellis Ebooks), he expertly puts a human face on a small town murder scandal, one based loosely on real events and one that is definitely hard to forget.

In Missing Pieces, Kyle and Kelly Donovan’s mother has disappeared, and their father is accused of dismembering her and dumping her pieces into the Mississippi River. The story begins when the family is waiting for the father’s second trial to begin—his first ended in a hung jury—and subsequently follows Kyle’s desperate search for the truth about his mother’s disappearance.

The focus is not the morbid details of the crime, but the effects of the whole terrible situation on two teenagers suddenly thrust into facing a grim reality no child should have to face. Either their father killed their mother and they could end up with no parents if he’s convicted, or their mother ran off with a lover and abandoned them, framing their father for her murder. Imagine that you’re a teenager and those are your choices: Live with a murderer, live with no parents, or live with the fact your mother ran off and left you…

Which would you prefer?

Jon Ripslinger is at his best in telling a tale that is at once chilling and inspiring. He skillfully and realistically brings to light the silent suffering of those of those touched by horrific events beyond their control with empathy and insight, and from the first read of the manuscript, I was hooked. It’s an intriguing read, and just when you think everything is as resolved as it can be, Mr. Ripslinger throws in a bittersweet twist that will leave the reader stunned. This is why I acquired Missing Pieces, and this is why I recommend it to any reader looking for a compelling read that will resonate far beyond the last word.

As 2011 draws to a close, unforgettable stories will continue to connect and captivate us. If you are a fan of YA literature (and maybe even if you’re not), I highly recommend Missing Pieces be one of them.

HAPPY NEW YEAR from Ampichellis Ebooks!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

To Market--to Market...

"Nobody was willing to take a chance," says Ms. Chan, a 37-year-old lawyer who drafts environmental legislation. "It was too much of a publishing risk."
It’s a shame but true of so many first-time writers and it seems, even though Ms. Chan has sold over 400,000 copies of her self-published novel, "The Mill River Recluse," that even being on best-seller lists hasn't changed anything. She still hasn't gotten that BIG contact that others like John Locke and Joe Konrath have received. Major publishers now claim that with sales of 400,000 copies, there might not be enough legs left to warrantee a large advance for hardcover publication. It's a huge stretch, it seems, for a novel that sells for 99 cents on the internet to be able to garner $27 sales in hardback. My take on this is why bother. Ms. Chen has already proven that mainstream publishing and the way it's always been done is a thing of the past.
So what can be learned from her success? It's just a matter of reading between the lines to discover that, according to Alexandra Alter, the author of this piece, Ms. Chan's success"is as much a tale of digital marketing savvy and strategic pricing as one of artistic triumph."
Ms, Chan, a lawyer "drafting legislation concerning clean air and water, highway infrastructure and climate change," spent around a thousand dollars on marketing her novel, which included a "paid for review" from Kirkus. Yes. If you publish electronically you have to PAY to have a major reviewer read your work.
However, she also admits that the real sales started appearing right after a mention on an Internet site called Ereader News Today. After this mention, her sales on Amazon jumped from around a 100 copies a month to over 600 sales in three days. Large sales in a short time jumped her into the top 100 on Amazon and, possibly because her category is assumed to be literary fiction, her novel probably stayed in the top 100 for awhile.
This is a great example of the power of finding and targeting ebook readers where they live. Self-published or publisher published, marketing is, has been and always will be key to publishing success. Failure to market leads lost in the wilderness which leads to publishing failure. If one truly analyzes any publishing success story, they will find this to be true. For instance, I've watched Joe Konrath since his debut novel, Whiskey Sour. When I was an agent, Joe and one of my clients attended to same conference and she reported back that, even then as newly published author he was a marketing dynamo. During that first conference, he was constantly smoozing everyone he met.
Fast forward a few years and, even though he would probably never admit it, because of his understanding of getting his name in front of everyone, he had no problem entering into ebook self-publishing. Why? Because he had already built his name-brand. However, to get out there even further, he made himself The Ebook Expert at a time when this industry was coming into its own.
Marketing is what sells books. Name brand is what sells books. You can be the best author published but if no one knows your name, you're just a face in the crowd; just another author, one of millions of authors with a book to sell.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Buyin’ In or Sellin’ Out?

Picture this: You're an author who’s sold hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ebooks on your own. You’re known for promoting the ebook path as one many writers should consider because traditional print publishing is, well, so traditional. You write books and blog and do presentations encouraging writers to try this ebook stuff—forget the major paper publishers in NYC! They’re hostile to new writers and don’t know the good stuff when it skitters across their shiny, expensive desks, the ones they paid for through the blood, sweat, and tears of their stable of underpaid (only six figures sometimes—egads!) celebrity authors. No, you, Mr./Ms. Successfully Epublished Author, soundly reject the idea of putting a book of yours in paper because the bloated bureaucracy that is traditional publishing is archaic and crumbling, and it crushes the dreams of writers and…


Author: “Hello?”
Publisher: “Hi, Mrs. Successfully Epublished Author Who Rants Against Traditional Publishers. It’s us, Huge Publishing Conglomerate, and we want to give you money so we can print your books in the paper format and charge your adoring fans way too much for them to make a disgustingly disproportionate profit neither of us deserve.”
Author: “Deal!”

What would you do if you were this author? Remember, you’ve successfully launched your own ebook empire wherein all monies flow to you and only you, and now you’d be signing a contract that gives you an advance and royalty package only, with little say in how the final product will turn out. Do you sign that contract? And if you do, are you buyin’ in or sellin’ out?

Are you buying into the idea that in this business you do what you must to make money, and that might mean signing with a paper publisher because it’s a good business deal and might expand your reader base? Or are you selling out like the people who espoused the hippie lifestyle in the 1960s until they realized that said lifestyle didn’t provide a retirement plan, nor did it include any way to pay for little Rainbow’s braces and brother Saturn Dragonfly’s school uniforms?

As with any revolution, sometimes those responsible for setting or keeping it in motion simply get tired or finally show their true colors. The ebook revolution is no different. Several major players, those in the news promoting ebooks as a viable, even more attractive, venue for frustrated and talented authors, have chosen to sign contracts for paper books with major publishers for large advances. Their reasons may differ, but the result is the same. The landscape is changing…again.

But were these players really necessary or just poster children for the cause? Were these authors unwitting marionettes controlled by a clever puppet master, one whose presence was clearly unseen but certainly felt?

Yeah, they were.

Eventually the faces of the success stories would have changed anyway as new literary phenomena replace the old, but the driving force remains the same. Technology, with its rapid advancements and subsequent imminent integration into the human race, will produce new pundits and radicals with every new version of every new thing. It is as inevitable as it is comforting, but still, I’m curious…

What would you have done?

Cowboys And Heroes

Cowboys were my heroes when growing up. Cowboys were always clean-cut, didn't drink, smoke or swear and seemed above reproach. As an adult, I don't have many heroes—maybe George Patton, Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King. They seemed above it all, but of course they are all dead so the media can't dredge up dirt on them.

Every once in awhile though, a larger than life hero rides to the front of the herd and does something that sort of puts him or her above the fray. Their name jumps to the top of my list, then, as with most heroes these days, they jumped off of it when they smell money. I don't know the circumstances, but it seems this one went down the same path as all those valiant self-publishing Ebook success stories that have surfaced in the last few years, those modern writers who have decided to take on the status quo and come out winners despite the odds.

My problem is not that they sold out. In similar circumstances, I might have done the same; however, I don't know if I would have written books damning those who cheat authors and then make mockery of the valiant lines by going over to the other side. It's not so bad if you do what one woman did, just announce to your fans that you're tired of fighting the fight alone. However, others didn't do that. They told us what scoundrels major publishers are then ran to them as soon as a book offer is made. Real heroes walk the walk, others just talk the talk and then leave those who admire them stranded in the swamp because there might be gators in it. A real hero would rather eat last Christmas fruit cake than sell out to the powers that be. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rest Of The Story

I just read yet another article about how self-published authors can maximize sales by using XZY marketing techniques. Of course, everyone who read the article probably also noticed that this same marketing guru also has a book for sale on Amazon and, in the fine print, we find that her main occupation is consultant to authors. I don't imagine too many authors fall for this gimmick, but I'm sure some do. So this post is to offer up THE REST OF THE STORY.
Yes, you can now publish on Amazon and it's OH SO EASY to join the other millions who listened to and have read articles by Joe Konrath and Zoe Winters. Yes. It is so easy in fact that a two-year-old can publish there without breaking a sweat. But the hidden part, the part that no one talks much about, is that self-publishing a book on Amazon that looks like a book instead of a do-it-yourself piece of crap REQUIRES MONEY.
Sorry to burst that bubble but just because the internet is FREE, self-publication isn't. Edits (not just copy edits), cover art, styling, and true conversion costs money. I believe, last time I checked, a professional edit costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000 dollar. Covers, good ones, run about $2000 and style and set up by a professional on Adobe InDesign runs around $1500. Copy edits, on the other hand, are a little cheaper depending on how many errors are found. What all this money produces is a novel that is eye-catching and reads like it was written by a profession author rather than a beginning amateur writer.
Another secret that no one tells anyone about is that Joe Konrath and others write novel series. They don't write single titles because single titles won't work well in the Ebook realm. Why? Because readers, once they glom onto an author they like to read, always want that NEXT BOOK. Authors who are in-the-know capitalize on this fact by giving their audience just what they want—that next book. So, if you're doing all that self-publishing requires—edits, cover art, copy edits, conversion and uploads--are you going to have the time to write all those great novels your readers crave? If you're wondering, you might ask yourself why even the so-called successful self=published authors, including Joe Konrath, gave up self-publishing and let a publisher do the heavy-lifting work for them.
Joe Konrath did a class on Self Publishing at the Love at the Murder conference in Chicago last February. I was in attendance. To a packed auditorium, he admitted that he has to pay to have his novels prepared before posting them on Amazon. When the question was asked about cost of publication, he tried to dodge it by panning it off as nothing compared to the thousands of dollars to be made in return. When pressed more directly, however, he admitted that he had a guy who did his covers and another guy who converted his books for him—'cause, you know, he's a busy author and writing occupies most of his time and he was making SO much money and all… authors who attend writers conferences are very sharp.
As an E-book publisher, I'd like to ask if there's any difference between hiring a guy to do this and another guy to do that and partnering with a publisher whose going to do it all for you for a very nice royalty split (we offer way more royalties than NYC publishers, by the way).
Self-publishing is a lonely endeavor. If you don't believe this, ask those who have self-published. The self-published author has no one to cheer him or her on, no one to help market their books, no one to offer advice, no one to offer suggestions on your next book and the list goes on and on. Having an editor in your corner is worth his or her weight. Think about it. Our guidelines are right above. We charge nothing for advice or publication.