TEDx Postmortem


One of the twins from my fictional tale about publishing. I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. She’s gorgeous.

I did the TEDx event this morning at Pinewood Prep in Summerville, SC.  I had a fantastic time, and I met some great people.  I spoke to a roomful of mostly kids about publishing using a fictional tale of twins exploring separate paths to fame and fortune as authors.  I’m not sure how it went from their perspective, or how long I actually spoke.  I rehearsed several times before going in and came out anywhere between 13 minutes and 25 minutes, so I’m guessing I got close to the required 18 minutes.  I kind of expected a countdown clock in the room to keep me on task, but there was just an old analog clock in the back of the room, and I was too preoccupied to do the necessary math to keep track of time.  I used no notes, but I had prompts in my PowerPoint that triggered facts and figures I needed to tell my story.  I had this whole thing about the honor in failing I wanted to get into, but I got sidetracked.

I got the opportunity to talk to a couple of the kids about writing after the program, and met one young man who has already finished his first novel.  He asked for advice, and I’m afraid I failed to give him anything inspirational.  I have to come up with a better response to that request from young writers.  When I was his age, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to ask an adult about writing.  My hats off to him for being passionate enough to complete a novel at such a young age, and for having the guts to talk about it so openly.  It’s not easy to do.  I know.

The speaker after me was Brian Thomas, a Yale graduate, renowned educator and former Emmy Award winning actor for his role in Fast Break to Glory.  When I heard his credentials, I was convinced they had asked me there as a joke.  He was a super nice guy, and made it a point to tell me that he felt like the kids got a lot out of my presentation.  I don’t know if it’s true, but he made me feel better.  I was up the night before with a stomach bug, so I was still kind of floopy during my presentation.

That’s enough rambling.  Now that TEDx is behind me I’m going to do a feature on the narrator for the audiobook version of Bad Way Out.  His name is Dan Wallace, and he is an incredibly talented voice over actor.  He’s so good I don’t know how I was fortunate enough to get him.  More on that to come.

It doesn’t matter what you call me

My clown selfie

My clown selfie

Every six months or so someone on the traditional side of the publishing fence feels the need to blast the internet with their opinion on the unsettling trend of self-published authors flooding the marketplace with material that hasn’t been vetted by the increasingly irrelevant gatekeepers of the industry.  The fact that anyone with a computer can publish a book sickens them, and they bark out their dismay until their throats get sore, and they annoy the holy hell out of everybody in the process. We get it.  You’re upset.  Move on.  There is nothing new you can say.  Your point has been made… repeatedly, and uttering another word about it is completely unnecessary.

The latest grumbler is Michael Kozlowski, Editor in Chief of Good E-Reader.  He is so miffed that he is even offended self-published authors are allowed to call themselves authors.  I’m guessing he wants self-published authors to wear a scarlet letter… only not an “A”.  He suggests that self-published works should be segregated from those published by what he calls “professional” authors.   His logic here is that it’s unfair to consumers to subject them to a plethora of inferior works on an e-tailer’s website. They should be given a clear path to the deserving works of traditionally published authors.

Kozlowski’s argument would be valid if not for the fact that by his own definition Snooki is a “professional” author, along with Pamela Anderson, Britney Spears, John Travolta, and the list goes on. Bad writing abounds amongst the offerings of traditional publishers and self-publishers.  To suggest that a bad writer deserves to be called an author because he or she has a contract with a traditional publishing house while another one doesn’t because he or she self-published is more than a bit shortsighted.  It’s an elitist-laden load of pap.

Here’s the good news.  Good writing can be found in the indie world just as plentifully as it can be found in the traditional world, maybe even more so.  Self-published authors are more apt to take risks and bring readers something new, while “professional” authors often play it safe and follow formulaic writing not because they want to, but because they’re being paid to.  I ask you which has the potential to bring more value to the literary world.

I’m a writer first and foremost.  I’m devoted to the art of fiction.  Whether or not you call me an author matters not to me.  Call me a hack or Bobo the typing clown for all I care.

Writer out.

I am not J.K. Rowling

Proof that I am not R.W. or J.K. Rowling.

Proof that I am not R.W. or J.K. Rowling.

As if we needed further confirmation, we now have undeniable proof that I am not J.K. Rowling or in any way related to her.  On more than one occasion, I have received emails that have started with Dear R.W. Rowling.

The actual literary Rowling confirmed this week that she has published a book under the pen name, Robert Gailbraith.  Sales for the book written under her nom de plume, The Cuckoo’s Calling, soared an astonishing 507,000% shortly after her announcement.

Recently, I made a similar announcement on this blog that I too published under a pseudonym.  Sales did not increase 507,000%.  They went up about 300%, but I have a feeling we are talking even more dramatically different actual sales numbers.  She can buy an island with her 507,000%.  I can maybe buy a “J.K. Rowling bought an island and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” t-shirt with my 300%.

So congratulations, J.K. Rowling!  You win! Again!  You couldn’t even let me have this one thing, could you?

BTW – I feel compelled to say that the snarkitude of this post is all in good fun.  I truly do admire Rowling and appreciate everything she’s done for publishing.  Let’s face it, she made reading cool to an entire generation.

The results of the ‘reveal’ poll

I’m as conflicted as this guy.

So, the poll results were unanimously in favor of ‘my friend’ revealing his identity.  The comments on Facebook, however, strongly advised against it.  They also didn’t bother pretending ‘my friend’ wasn’t actually me.  So, what does that tell me?  It tells me I have a lot of great friends, family, and supporters who are kind enough to indulge my occasional bouts of artistic uncertainty.

When I was eighteen, I didn’t secretly and slowly gravitate towards the mind of a writer because I thought it would one day provide me with financial stability (thank GOD!).  I wanted to be a writer in those days because it would allow me to express myself.  As you get older, your priorities shift, and you soon discover, as much as you hate to admit it, you make decisions for financial reasons.  I’m no different than every other adult on this planet trying to pay the bills and contribute to his or her family’s wellbeing.

With those financial obligations comes the erosion of artistic conviction.  Your fear of offending someone and losing their support trumps your desire to take risks.  In a lot of ways, I’m fortunate because I pushed the boundaries with my young adult material from day one.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by people in the know that I need to change the first line of my first book because it’s offensive.  Of course it’s offensive.  It’s supposed to be.

But speaking to young adults using frank and even shocking language to get their attention is completely different than allowing my sometimes cynical and inappropriate adult voice to infiltrate my writing.  I recognized with the writing of Two Notch that I liked playing with ‘adult’ themes and after publishing that book I knew I wanted to dive deeper into that style.  I also knew I didn’t want my young adult readers rushing out to read that kind of material just because my name was attached to it. Having a need to express myself in a sometimes ‘vulgar’ (Think George Carlin as a hillbilly) manner doesn’t mean I’m willing to be irresponsible and shirk my accountability as a member of the global community.

Where does that leave us with ‘the reveal’?  I am as conflicted as ever, but I am going to reveal the title of the book… eventually.  Before I do, I’m going to share two of the reviews that will give you, my R.W. Ridley readers, an idea of the content, theme, and tone of the book.  I’ll follow with a post with detailed information about the book.  It will not be my practice to post about this book or future books under this pen name on this blog.  I have a separate blog for ‘him.’  That blog will mostly address the things that tick me off and the tasteless things that make me laugh. I’ll even touch on political and social issues that put me at odds with a lot of my Southern brethren. I want to keep the two worlds separate, but I also don’t want to be accused of ‘hiding’ something from my readers.  Having a secret identity is cool in some ways, but it also makes you feel like a bit of a liar.

And now the reviews:

From the UK

Could this book start off a craze of what can only be called Appalachian crime noir? Meet E. R. Percy, mountain man and the brewer of the best moonshine you will ever sip. Life has always been hard for the mountain folk, but illegal stills and their product is nothing compared to the drugs trade. When E. R. first refuses to work in the drugs business he is at first threatened, but this escalates to a feud. Throw in a mysterious mountain of a man that suddenly appears in his brewing shed and you find there is a lot of comedy to what would otherwise be a bloody and dark tale.

Fun to read and hard to put down this is a great tale of hillbillies and their culture versus the modern drug lord. The characters come to life in all their glorious eccentricities, from a man mad seventeen year old girl to the corrupt reverend. Unfortunately this book will probably get overlooked, which is a shame, as it is such a great read and should appeal to a lot of people.

…Certainly original, this is full of violence and humour, and certainly a thing that Quentin Taratino would love to get his hands on.

From the US

(Author Name withheld) thriller took me back to my favorite Robert Mitcham movie of 1958. “There was moonshine, moonshine to quench the devil’s thirst”.

(Title of book withheld) is one fast ride for sure! E.R.Percy and his fat cousin Crick are a pair to draw to but then toss in a naked giant, a too sexy for her own good jail bait teen, a demonic drug Lord and you have a potent 190 proof white light in showdown breaking.

The lingo is country fried as you would expect in a story set in the backwoods where E.R. , a Junior College graduate, is considered a mountain Einstein of the art of Copper Pot Chemistry cooling up the best white whiskey some declare to be in the entire country.

E.R. is content with his wife Rose and his baby until the meth deal in Milo jumps ugly and covets E.R.’s whiskey business and wants to turn all his whiskey customers into meth addicts.

Milo thinks his big city gangster rules will work for him in the backwoods on these hillbillies. Well, you’ll just have to read and find out for yourself if E.R. , cousin Crick, and the Giant survive to supply Mountain Falls with the best whiskey that ever soothed a troubled soul. Buy this book, and pray that Brother Caldwell will keep us supplied with simple good stories from out the backwoods.. Wish I could have given this one 10 Stars!

I chose these two reviews for a reason.  They are incredibly flattering (Hey, I do have an ego, you know?), and they perfectly encapsulate the tone and content of the book.

More to come.

BTW: I’m aware that I’ve provided enough information for anyone to easily find the book via a simple Google inquiry.  I thought about ‘redacting’ the obvious indicators, but that would have made this post look like an NSA document.  That’s an association I’d like to avoid, thank you very much!

To reveal or not to reveal, that is question. (Poll)

I have this friend.  He’s written a number of books under his real name, which are geared toward the young adult market.  But he’s also written another book under a pen name.  That book has some pretty salty language and suggestive situations.  Nothing too outrageous, but definitely not for the younger members of his fan base.   As one reader said, it’s “nothing you would not see on TV, granted it would be after 9 PM or on cable.”

The problem is that the book has gotten some really great reviews from readers. And, recently, the book won an award (if you count a bronze medal as winning).

So my friend now faces a dilemma. He’s really proud of this book and wants to let everyone know about it.  But, he’s been advised to keep his “brand” uncomplicated.  What do you think he should do? Should he publicly reveal the title of this questionable material or should he play it safe and keep his pen name a secret?

Correction Amazon does pay advances

Timebound by Rysa Walker

Timebound by Rysa Walker to be published by Skyscape

In my post earlier this week about the woeful woes of woe-weary authors, I made the statement that Amazon doesn’t normally pay large advances.  In fact, I said they likely don’t pay any advances at all in most cases.  Turns out I may have spoken out of turn.  Jane Friedman’s Writing on the Ether blog has a story about author Rysa Walker receiving a $50,000 advance for her self-published title Timebound.  That is not chump change, and congratulations to Walker on signing her first publishing contract.  With such a big investment on Amazon’s part, you can be assured she’s going to get some well-placed ad support on the mega online retailers site, as well as some push in the trades.

For those of you not familiar with advances, they are usually paid out a third at a time.  In the olden days of publishing (approximately 5 years ago), it took 12-18 months for authors to receive their advances in full and those advances were usually around $5,000. Authors would get a third upon signing, a third after the edits had been approved, and the last third when the manuscript was sent off to the printers.  I’m guessing Amazon is doing something similar although in a shorter period of time.  I think the book will be re-released under Amazon’s Skyscape imprint in October.

UPDATE – I neglected to credit Porter Anderson as the author of the piece on Writing on the Ether.

One day I hope to konrath

Konrath (kon*rath) verb: To succeed in the world of publishing without the aid of a publisher.

Author Jude Hardin has an interesting post on Joe Konrath’s blog, A Newbies Guide to Publishing. For those of you not familiar with Konrath, he’s the author of a number of books under a couple of different pen names.  I’m most familiar with his Lt. Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels novels.  In recent years, he’s become the voice of the indie publishing scene.  He broke away from the traditional publishing world and has flourished as an indie author.  Every author wants to pull a konrath.

Jude Hardin is also the author of a number of books, the most successful of which feature a former rock star turned unlicensed private investigator named Nicholas Colt.  Hardin made the monumental decision to quit a good-paying job last year to pursue writing fiction full time.  He did so with a publishing deal in hand from Amazon’s publishing imprint, Thomas and Mercer.

Keep in mind, Amazon does not pay enormous advances (unless you’re Penny Marshall – $800,000).  In fact, I believe their general practice is to not pay any money upfront.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a great achievement to get a publishing contract from them.  It is.  I worked for an Amazon.com company.  They know who I am.  They’ve read my books, and they’ve never offered me a contract.  So, they do have some discretion. They won’t publish just anyone.  Bastards.

So, Mr. Hardin should feel good about his publishing deal.  Unfortunately, he discovered that not everyone can hit Joe Konrath’s numbers.  I don’t want to speak for him, so I’ll just direct you to his post – PUSHING THE BUTTON, PART 2: GOING INDIE.  Here’s a sample.

Sales haven’t been terrible, but they haven’t been great either.  Among the three series titles that have been available, I’ve sold about 20K copies over the past twelve months.

And here’s the deal, ladies and gentlemen: that ain’t enough.                      

It’s not enough for me to make a living, really, and it’s not enough for publishers to make an offer on future books in the series. Not the kind of offer I’m interested in, anyway.

My experience has been closer to Hardin’s than Konrath’s. I honestly believe my accountant must joke about my returns at dinner parties.  He even refused to imagine a scenario where I made a significant amount of money when we were discussing different tax structures for self-employed people.  He actually snickered with derision.

I’m not complaining, and I don’t believe Hardin is either. I think he’s just giving a factual account of his journey so far.  I am reminded of Brenna Clarke Gray’s post on Book Riot titled Readers Don’t Owe Author’s Sh*tSimply put, Gray is tired of authors pouring on the guilt trip because they aren’t selling enough books.  She points out it’s not her responsibility to support an author’s dream.  And I couldn’t agree more.

**To be clear, I’m not saying that Hardin is doing anything other than writing an informational post for educational purposes.

Writing is a job like any other.  Authors are no more entitled to throngs of fans than a dental assistant or a help desk associate.  I’ve seen authors on social media sites go nuts with ‘share’ requests and reminders that they ‘welcome’ reviews.  Early in my career, I may have done the same thing.  I may have even encouraged other authors to do so.  I know better now.

There’s an odd sense of panic when you first publish a book.  You feel an ever present clock ticking away in the back of your head signaling you’re running out of time if you want your book to be a success.  That finite window of opportunity only exists in the traditional publishing world.  Indie authors live in an evergreen world thanks to ebooks and POD.  There’s no need to panic.  We have no clock. There’s plenty of time for we indie authors to konrath.

The Book That Can’t Wait – Good idea or marketing ploy that will quickly fade?

I’m not sure how I feel about this idea.  Here’s a quick description I lifted from Yahoo!

Buenos Aires-based bookshop and publisher Eterna Cadencia has released El Libro que No Puede Esperar – which translates as ‘The Book that Cannot Wait’ – an anthology of new  fiction from Latin American authors printed in ink that disappears after two months of opening the book.

The video at the end of this post explains their reasoning for publishing a book with a short shelf life, but the quick pitch is they believe their authors will be more successful if readers change their reading habits and devour a book as soon as they buy it instead of taking their time to read it.

Take it from me, publishing is a tough, tough business.  How tough?  I wrote The Takers in 2004.  Eight years later I’m still getting requests from publishers to read it, rewrite it, and resubmit it.  That’s eight years trying to get one book published by traditional publishers.  If not for my agent, I would have given up years ago.  At this point it’s turned into a weird social experiment.  I’m just curious how much interest and rejection one manuscript can collect in my lifetime… I’m assuming my agent will stop submitting it for consideration once I’m dead.  Hell, maybe he’ll have me killed so he won’t feel obligated to keep shopping it around.

I should insert a note here about my agency.  They haven’t been with me the whole eight years.  They picked me up about four years ago.  I have no complaints.  They’ve been friggin’ champs in this process.  They’ve never earned a dime off of me, but they’ve spent a whole lot of time and money trying to make good on a promise they made to me a long time ago.  “We’re going to do whatever it takes to get you a publishing deal.”  Kudos to them for going the extra mile.

So, that being said, I cheer for new authors when they get published because I know what they went through.  I want them to succeed, but industry numbers reveal that year in and year out, 70% of books published by traditional publisher fail to earn back the advance money paid to the authors, and we’re not talking about huge advances either. Those get all the press, but they are few and far between.  Most advances are in the $5,000 – $10,000 range.

When an author can’t generate sales, he or she rarely gets a second chance.  That’s why I’m intrigued by the Book That Can’t Wait. I like the premise that it may help the authors included in the anthology get a second opportunity to publish and earn money, but at the same time, it prevents people from sharing the book.  Sharing is a huge benefit for authors.  True, it doesn’t help sales numbers in the short run, but it greatly bolsters the sales numbers in the long run.  Word-of-mouth was, is, and always will be the greatest marketing tool for authors. When one of my readers shares one of my books with a friend or family member, another person is added to my word-of-mouth army.

Is the answer here really to bully readers into reading faster?  I know this is primarily a marketing ploy that will fade almost as quickly as the ink they use, but I find it interesting that they’re trying to change the habits of the reading public instead of adopting a strategy that will maybe alter their own paradigm.  For instance: they may want to reconsider putting their resources into publishing anthologies in the first place.  They just don’t do that well, and the authors involved don’t make a lot of money.  And, as a consequence, they don’t get a lot of exposure.  They may also think about a marketing strategy that does less to build brand awareness for the publisher and spend some of those marketing dollars to actually promote the authors.  People don’t buy publishers.  They buy authors.

I applaud them for trying something new, but in the end, I just don’t see this being of much use to either readers or authors.

My Latest CreateSpace post – Getting to know your characters

Here’s my latest contribution to the CreateSpace blog.  As always, be sure to join the community if you want to get some excellent advice on writing, publishing, filmmaking, music, virtually anything creative.  There are a lot of great people to connect with and learn from.

A taste of my latest post: Start a Dialogue with Your Characters

I use the word “uncover” deliberately. I think it’s important for you to approach the task of creating and building your characters from the viewpoint of a complete stranger. Flesh them out from scratch. Sometimes, if you go into character creation with the idea that you know that character already, you overlook the nuances that clearly define him/her and miss the opportunity to give the character real depth.

First draft of new book – Done!

Working Title and Mock Cover of New Book

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, and it feels so good.  Moments ago, I typed those two words every writer yearns to type once they start a new manuscript.  What words?  These words.  THE END!  I just finished the first draft of a new book.  It doesn’t matter that this draft probably doesn’t amount to more than a very, very detailed 67,000 word outline. 

In other words, there is still a lot of work to do, but the story has a beginning, middle and end, and it’s fully equiped with subplots and deeply flawed characters and dialogue galore.  It’s fleshed out.  I just have to make sure the the skeleton is intact.

Pardon me while I celebrate!