Friday, May 18, 2018

The ever changing, ever volatile publishing landscape...

Where the big books get published or rejected...

...back in the old days (say the mid '90s), when I first started out in this business, I had always intended to write a lot of books as quickly as possible (I got lambasted for this attitude in writing school). I also intended to get them to market as quickly as possible. I would then spend the bulk of my free time on wine, women, and song (I played drums in a bunch of punk bands). Woe was I to find out that while the writing came quickly to me, the publishing game quote one of my late dad's favorite euphemisms...slower than whale shit.

On top of that, it turned out that aside from a very select group of writers (about .0095) of them, acquiring major publishing deals of say, $250K or more (plus the multi-media rights that go with them) every two or three years without question, was akin to winning Power Ball over and over and over again. I hit one of these mega deals right out of the gate and since then, I've struck a ton of "nice" deals, but nothing that nice. Simply put, if your book doesn't earn out and then some, the monies offered goes down on you faster than Stormy Daniels.

Then came the indie publishing movement, and gone suddenly was the query, wait, and hope days. Suddenly, the publishing end of things go from agonizingly slow to as fast as you can put out a book. To make the sauce sweeter, books no longer have a shelf life. They will be published long after you become worm food. Here's what this means (bulleted of course):

1. Your words are no longer dead once the publishers and bookstores say so.
2. Your books become investments, much like mutual funds or perhaps more accurately, real estate. You put up an initial investment and every year, year in and year out, your books earn you a solid return of perhaps %25 (My indie books on average earn me %40 annually, while my mutual funds earn me about %5. You see where I'm going here.)
3. Fiction writing has become not about the initial advance, but more about the tail end "passive income." If I get sick tomorrow, and can't work for a month or two, the money keeps coming in. It also means...and this is the magical unicorn feel good portion of our story...that my kids and their kids will eventually earn several thousand dollars per month for the rest of their lives.

Back to traditional publishing. Yeah, I'm a hybrid guy. I publish traditionally and indie. I do it all, because I lust publication in all its forms. Plus I'm a control freak and I love controlling my own destiny rather than a bunch of accountants and sales reps determining it for me. Over the past seven or eight months I've started working with a new agent on a couple of books that will eventually go up for sale to the big five or four or whatever they are now. We're working very carefully on these books and quite arguably they are the best of my career. In a sense we are manufacturing a deal here, which is precisely the point.

But the going is slow. As a full-time professional writer, I could never depend solely on this "traditional" publishing model. This model is for "authors." Authors generally speaking have day jobs. They are either lawyers, or writing teachers, or famous journalists, or dentists, or what have you. Again, generally speaking, the traditional model is too slow and too risky to actually give up your day job.

However, for those of us who possess God's gift of proliferation (I'm a machine), we can indeed quit the day job and build an indie list to supplement one's traditional efforts. We are not authors, we are "writers." Think about it, in the seven or eight months I've been working on those two big manuscripts with my agent, I've written three full-length genre novels and another six novellas, plus a ton of short journo pieces and blogs. And folks, even though I do this full-time, let's face it, it's part-time work. In other words, Although it looks like I'm always working, I still have time to work out a couple hours a day, take a nap, go fly fishing, fly to Vietnam (did I tell you I'm heading back to Asia next month on a research trip?), or just pretty much do whatever then hell I want to do when I want to do it.

So there you have it, the hybrid life to date.

One bit of news before I go: Amazon Publishing has very abruptly shut down their Kindle Worlds program. A lot of writers are pretty upset about it. About four years ago I was commissioned to write a novella for the program. It was an X-Files novel. It was fun to write and I was paid $10K, but it never saw the light of day since in the end, Fox couldn't come to a satisfactory licensing agreement with Amazon. Ironically, I might now be able to somehow legally publish the book. However, the point here is that AP is going through some definite changes. They've been wonderful to work with (I have 9 novels at Thomas & Mercer), and I hope to work with them again. But take my advice and be sure to diversify your publishing. Go traditional, go indie, go wide, and build up that mailing list. One day sooner than later, you just might be publishing your books directly to readers off your own website.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What, another new Zandri Release?

The brand new release

...I know, it seems like every month I have at least a new novella being released. That's because I do, and that's the plan for the year (my traditional publishers only publish one book per year, and I write more than that). So far I've been holding true to my personal promise.

The latest addition to the Zandri canon is The Flower Man. This one is the second in the unbelievably successful (lol) Steve Jobz Thriller series. That's Steve Jobz, as in Jobzinski (the name was cut short at Ellis Island back in the 1920's). Here's the quick product description copied and pasted from its Amazon page for your reading pleasure:


Private Investigator and anti-hero Steve Jobz has screwed up big time. He had one too many the night before and it gave him the courage to text photos of his naked chest to his new, hot co-worker at The State Department of Insurance Fraud Agency. While the lovely Kate is keeping quiet about the texts, Jobz feels like the boom is about to come down on him when his boss orders him into her office. Seems Homicide Detective Nick Miller wants a face to face with the former cop.

But what Miller wants has nothing to do with Jobz’s texts. Instead they have everything to do with a local television news personality known to all as Mr. TV. Much like Jobz, the lovable news anchor has also texted photos of himself to a co-worker. But these photos were not of the relatively tame chest high variety. Rather, the pictures were taken below the belt. As a result, Mr. TV is not only getting sued but being issued death threats from the victim’s Russian immigrant father.

When Miller assigns Jobz to personally watch over the Mr. TV and his cougar wife, Janice, what he discovers is that the couple are up to their necks in more than just a sexting scandal. They are in fact broke and living on cash that is coming from a very unlikely source. The Russian mob. What follows is a quagmire of sex, shootouts, serial murder, and a quirky private detective who just can't keep himself from getting in trouble with the ladies.

Like The Embalmer, the first novel in the new Steve Jobz PI series created and written by Thriller Award winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Vincent Zandri, The Flower Man culminates with an explosive climax and promises to keep readers glued to their chairs for hours. For fans of Michael Connelly, Robert B. Parker, Charlie Huston, Jim Crumley, Lee Child, Brett Battles, and more.

So as you can see, this one borrows from some current events. A lot of my novels and stories are lifted from current events, many of them reported by local Albany news junkies like Anya Tucker (give her Twitter page a like) or Brendan Lyons (give his Twitter page a like), and some from other more national or global sources. The fun about writing fiction is you can pick and choose which stories you want to embellish and/or fictionalize while still holding true to some of the facts. I guess in that sense, if you're looking for real fake news, this is it (that's supposed to be a joke).

Here's hoping you grab a copy of the The Embalmer today and be thrilled.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Writing short stories isn't worth the effort...

...I hate to disagree with the premise of the title, but in truth, they are still very much worth it. Many authors have discounted shorter works, or what's known in indie/hybrid world as "short reads," altogether since they make squat when it comes to Kindle Select/Unlimited. But I still write and publish short stories for a variety of reasons, not all of them having to do with making actual cash.

 Presently I have maybe a half-dozen short stories for sale under my own label, Bear Pulp. These include Dog Day Moonlight, Pathological, and Bingo Night. All of them not only sell a few copies every month, the majority of them also appeared in various magazines and journals, or were a part of an anthology published by the likes of Down & Out Books. These little devils are a great little marketing tool and also provide a nice creative outlet between novels and novellas.

Still think you can't make money with them?

Let's do the maths (as the Brits like to say).

Setting aside the 50 bucks or so you might receive as payment from a journal for the privilege of publishing your story, say you have 10 stories for sale on KDP. If you price them at $2.99, you make $2.09 per copy sold (I always add a substantial free sample from a novel just to offer up a little more value for the reader and to further market my longer stuff). Say you sell five copies of each throughout the month. That's $10.45 per story, or a total of $104.50 for the month. Doesn't sound like a whole lot, but multiply that times 12, and you get $1,254. That, my author friend, pays the rent for the month (depending upon where you live). 

This is a numbers game. Write 20 stories and you can easily double that $1,254. Write 30 stories, and, well, do the maths again. Some authors like Dean Wesley Smith, who is a strong proponent of the no-luck/no-big-ass-promos-required method of indie/hybrid publishing success, has maybe 400 short stories published. An old timer like Harlan Ellison has 1,200 and counting. Both writers are millionaires.

Admittedly, I spend most of my time writing novels and novellas. But short stories most definitely have their place in my canon. By creating short story collections, like my Pathological: Collected Short Reads of Sex, Lies, and Murder, I'm also able to create a book-length product that can also generate lots of reads on Kindle Unlimited. Make the collection available in paper, eBook, and audible and you begin to realize the enormous possibilities short stories still offer up in this new century.



Monday, March 26, 2018

Father of Orlando nightclub shooter worked for FBI...

Papa Mateen preparing a report for his boss, James Comey

Still drooling over the Stormy Daniels double-D nonsense the mainstream media is shoveling into your insatiable gullet? Multiple media outlets and journalists (most of them independent) are reporting that Seddique Mateen, the father of the Orlando terrorist at the Pulse nightclub, served as a "confidential source" for the FBI from 2005 up until and including 2016. A search of his residence has apparently produced receipts for money transfers to both Turkey and Afghanistan. And guess when just such a transfer occurred? Only one week prior to the shooting. 

Mateen, whom you can see prominently seated behind Hillary Clinton during one of her 2016 campaign rallies, was apparently cleared by Comey and Mueller when it was determined that he bore no terrorist connections. Really? Perhaps they need only look to his son for that. Now, the FBI is nailing Mateen's daughter in law, a Muslim, with conspiracy to commit mass murder. Something rather fishy is happening with the FBI and it's a hell of a lot more important than some porno bimbo spewing forth about banging Trump and being paid to shut up about it.

But in my humble and rather non-expert opinion, I see something rather nefarious in the works. A strange pattern emerging, if you will. Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nik Cruz was setting off alarm bells and red flags so bright you could see them from outer space about the danger he posed to humanity and guess what? The FBI does nothing about it.

And what about the Vegas shooting back in October? Why have we heard nothing more about Stephen Paddock and his motivation for shooting up a country music concert from a hotel window high above the crowd of innocents? Could it be that the most videotaped piece of real estate in the country never captured his image? Oh, wait, some CCTV video take was finally released showing Paddock accompanied by some bellhops who were entrusted with carrying his guns and ammo into his hotel room. He appears to be joking with them, and in any case, perfectly comfortable with their presence. Trust me when I tell you bags filled with semi-automatic weapons are heavy as hell, and they make noise. Gun metal and against gun metal kind of noise. The bellhops had to know they weren't transporting Paddocks fat jeans and BVDs.

What do Mueller and Comey really know about terrorism in America? What don't they want you to know? And why does the mainstream media seem to not only treat them like Gods, but why do they insist on diverting our attention to stories that just don't matter?

POSTSCRIPT: CNN online is presently reporting on the Mateen FBI connection. Let's see if the other cable mainstream outfits follow suit. 




Saturday, March 24, 2018


...Some authors swear by it.
I'm not talking the chemical version, though some authors (one of them that guy up in Maine who wrote The Shining), have admitted to swallowing speed in order to boost productivity levels. I'm talking about one's natural ability to write a lot of good to great content and do it fast, or faster than the average author who maybe puts out one book per year. Prolific is the word I'm going for here.

Don't write so much

In the past I've written about agents and/or editors who have asked me to slow down, take some time off, don't put out so much material...whatever. While they might have defended their position by going on to say that time off would be good for me, I now realize they were more or less watching out for their own best interests. Publishers and agents can't wrap their brains around high volume clients.

Dean Wesley Smith who's published 400+ books knows the true meaning of being prolific

Pulp writers wrote and wrote and got rich

The writers of the Pulp generation (the 1920s-1960s) were able to write lots of words and do so everyday, day in and day out. Some of these authors made millions for their bank accounts. They weren't writing with speed necessarily, but their output was steady, consistent, and they did it knowing that the more good work they produced, the more they would get paid.

Writing school discourages speed

Back in writing school, one of my profs wrote and published a novel in 1975, and never published again. I overheard another one telling a fellow student, "I don't make any money from my writing. I train dogs for that." Yet another wrote only when the he felt inspired and another told me to my face that in the course of his lifetime, maybe he would write five or six very good stories. Huh? I guess that's why these people were teaching. Not for love of the game, but for the payday. I've always made my money from putting words together (discounting my days in the construction business). It takes discipline and it takes speed. These were things that were not taught in writing school. If anything, writing school taught me to write slowly and in some cases, not at all.

Writing as exercise

Writing for me is like exercise. If I don't do it on a daily basis...if I don't work hard...I don't feel right. It's as if my soul left my body and went on vacation for a while. So I write, everyday. Many people think I'm fast. I'm not (I still type with two fingers). I'm just consistent. This isn't a hobby. It's my work. My livelihood. 

Listen, if I listened to every agent or publisher out there who told me to slow down, I'd be broke. But then, there was a time not so long ago, prior to the indie revolution and hybrid publishing (I'm a hybrid guy, meaning I publish traditionally and indie), where I was dependent upon these same agents and publishers who told me to slow down. Take your time, they said. Meanwhile, they would maybe take months upon months going over one of my manuscripts. If and only if, it were taken on by a publisher, it would then sit around for another year or more before pub date. My advance, even if it was large, would be quickly swallowed up by the agent, the tax man, and the daily bills, not to mention those pesky credit cards many of us writers had to live on while we were taking our time.

 Independent writers

We were slaves then, at the mercy of the process. And the process people, was very, very, very fucking slow. Death by a thousand cuts. Not anymore. Now I can write what I want, when I want, and as much as I want. I can put the material out there for the world and my readers can buy direct. Oh, and I get paid once a month. Doesn't mean I don't work with traditional publishers because I do. It's just that I'm not dependent on them anymore. I'm free. Independent. No longer at the mercy of others.

Speed, it doesn't kill. It frees.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Books signings suck...

A fun place to sign: Thriller Fest in NYC. Yup that's Diane Capri and Lee Child
...unless that is, you're an angry celebrity politician like Hillary or a witty cable television news anchor like Gutfeld or Sleepy Eyes Chuck (sorry, couldn't help it). A few authors can still command a decent audience at book signings. Lee Child, and of course, JK Rowling. Maybe if you write children's books you can gather a tribe of school kids who love your books. Some romance authors maybe. EL James and all her "Shades of Grey."

I do maybe one or two signings per year, and it usually takes place in Manhattan. These are usually quiet affairs but fun nonetheless as we like to make a night of it, no matter how many people show up (or don't). I guess I'm known mostly for my eBooks, but naturally, all my work is available in print and audio too (shameless plug).

This about sums it up...

Bad book signing memory: I show up to my signing and an old dude is standing in my place at the very front of the store as you walk in. I recognize him as a local news anchor who's penned a tall-all about the local Albany news scene. The book is published by the bookstore owner. When I enter the bookshop, I'm told to "Go to the back of the store. There's a table set up for you there." This is back when an earlier edition of The Remains was published (sloppily I might add) by a small press. I sign maybe 12 books in the hour I spend there, and then I walk out, tossing my pen in the garbage.

I never went back to that store again. Why should I? Writers have power now in this the new golden era of writing and publishing. We no longer have to be bullied and trampled on by stores, publishers, or agents who think we need them more than they need us. Hit the road Jack...

But The Remains would go on to be sold to a major publisher (Thomas & Mercer at Amazon Publishing) and overall I believe it's sold 200K units over the course of its two editions. Not bad for a guy who was pushed to the back of the store not that long ago.

Even now, I can promo my books online and sell hundreds if not thousands while doing something else, like writing new fiction for instance. Because after all, I'd rather be writing than standing like a dope in the middle of a bookstore. However, that doesn't mean I don't love meeting my fans. It's just that book signings no longer need to happen at bookstores. They can happen at conferences, bars, eateries, book clubs, you name it.

Yesterday, I told around 2K books while whooping it up in a bar for St. Patty's Day. It was a hell of a day, let me tell you. A home run kind of a day. Not all days are like that, but every now and again, you need one both for your bottom line and your head.

I love bookstores, especially those that sell rare editions. They're not going away anytime soon, or so I hope. But unlike the old days, I don't feel the need to come crawling to them in order to "move the units." When I sign live and in person, it's just more of a fun, interactive kind of thing. Bottom line: I'm happy to sign books for anyone who wants one. But it may not happen at a brick and mortar bookstore. And why should it?


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Who's afraid of flying?

Buy the ticket, take the ride
According to the stats, the overwhelming majority of US travelers the world over are afraid of flying. The rest of us just lie about it. Back in the early 2000s, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) concluded that with the proliferation of cheap, mass-transit airplane travel anticipated for the 21st century, we should expect one major crash per week. The fact that crashes are not that frequent tells us that safety boards can be wrong when it comes to statistics, which is a good thing. But then these are the same folks who tell us flying is the safest mode of transport there is, statistically speaking. 

However, when you consider most fatal tragedies are caused by gross human error, or some orange bearded terrorist who attempts to blow a plane out of the sky, or a country at war who mistakenly fires a ground-to-air missile at what they naturally assume is an enemy aircraft, you begin to understand the relative crap shoot that can be modern air travel.

Enter the sky marshals. They also work for the NTSB. They are the unsung heroes of the friendly and unfriendly skies. What's fascinating about these guys and gals is that you don't know they're there. They simply board a plane like any other working class stiff who's shoved into a sardine can, fed dog food, and issued nasty looks by the flight attendants. You don't know they are there, but trust me, they are there, ready to tackle an on board emergency like a skyjacking or a sudden fire or a an unruly passenger who is hell bent on opening up the emergency exit at 30K feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

This guy ain't Sam Savage, but they are definitely pals...

These guys are brave because once the shit hits the fan in mid-flight, there's nowhere to run. No wonder one of the latest sky marshal action adventures stars Liam Neeson. He's a bad ass mofo too. So is Gerard Butler or Bruce Willis. Just two more action and adventure actors I had in mind when inventing Sam Savage Sky Marshal. He's a bad ass who is also prone to falling in love with a pretty lady who might be traveling alone. He might be all about serving and protecting while flying the turbulent skies, but he isn't afraid to offer said pretty lady membership into the Mile High Club also. What a guy.

His first short read is now available from my very own, Bear Thrills label, and it's called Dead Heading. Grab it and be thrilled for a half hour or so. It's a cool read. I'm currently writing more of these little gems and when I have three or so, I'll bundle them up into a book which will be available in eBook, paper, and audio. What's cool about these stories is, because Sam works for the NTSB, he can be made to work not only in the skies, but on Amtrak or even a Greyhound bus. So the amount of action and adventure tales I can write about this character are infinite. For now there's just the one, so grab up a ticket and take the ride.


It's only 0.99 for a very limited time.

While you're getting your thrill on, snatch up the brand new full-length thriller, THE DETONATOR!
"It doesn't get any better than this!"--Book Reporter