Friday, September 23, 2016

On-Site Research Resulted in 'Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal'

Today is Release Day for the 9th novel in the Chase Baker action/adventure series,

I traveled to the Middle East in May of this year and "Seal" is the book that resulted from it. Judging from the reactions of my beta readers, it just might be the best Chase yet. In fact, for those authors who feel as though they can get away with Googling all their information about a specific locale somewhere outside their writing room, I'd like to submit this: You can't possibly get an idea of the true smell, taste, or feel of a place unless you immerse yourself in it for a while.

In Jerusalem, I climbed the stone walls in the Old City, explored the tunnels under the Wailing Wall, bribed a teenage kid to take up through the Muslim cemetery to the top of Golgotha where Christ and two thieves were crucified for all of Jerusalem to see and be fearful of. The top of the skull-like hill is exactly 777 meters above sea level and it's the highest natural point in the city (the Bible speaks of 7 codices and when the seal on the 7th one is breached, the end of times will be upon us). It's located right outside the Damascus Gate on what was the Damascus Road back in the 1st century AD. There's a garden nearby and a tomb which has only been used once in its two centuries of existence. One of the two resting places was hastily chiseled out to accommodate a man who measured 5'11", the exact height, it turns out, of the man whose likeness appears on the Shroud of Turin. Coincidence? Or fact.

Or perhaps you believe in tradition...that Jesus was crucified on the spot in which The Church of the Holy Sepulcher now resides. I spent a lot of time there as well.

But you be the judge. Read the book... 

Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal is one of those novels that will elevate your heart rate and make you think...

Here's the deal: It's offered up here for just 24 hours only at a .99 so that we can sell as many as possible on opening day and propel this one right up the charts.

Since my readers can be found the world over:

Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal UK Edition

Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal CA Edition

Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal AU Edition

Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal JP Edition

Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal FR Edition

Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal DE Edition

Chase Baker and the Seventh Seal IT Edition

Lock n' load



Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Things I Cannot Control

Richard Prince

 A while back...actually a long while back wife and I were having dinner with artist Richard Prince and his wife back when he kept a house in upstate New York. Prince was already a world renowned artist/photographer at the time and a mega success. But he was also a huge noir fan, a book collector, a rare bookstore owner, and also a writer. As we polished off a bottle of wine together while the girls chatted among themselves, he offered me up a bit of advice that I've never forgotten.

But before I reveal the advice, I should tell you that this was around the time I'd signed on for a big advance with Delacorte Publishing for a two book, hard and soft deal, and if I recall correctly, my first novel, The Innocent (As Catch Can, as it was titled back then), had already been published. So I'm guessing the year was around 1999 or 2000. I remember relaying to Richard about how anxious I was about the book's sales, which at the time, weren't exactly hot. Richard nodded, and listened, and then, sitting back in his chair said, "Listen, the only thing you have control over as a writer, is the writing. That's all you can do. Throughout your career publishers and editors and sales people will come and go, but you and your writing will always be there. Concentrate entirely on the writing. Work harder than the other guy.  Make it the most important thing in your life, and you will succeed." 

Of course, many ups and downs have occurred since that dinner at the Prince home. But I have gone on to make a nice, solid, career for myself. I guess you could say, I have become established. But even after hitting two Amazon No. 1 Overall Bestsellers. Even after having spent 4 weeks in the Top ten (with The Innocent), and another three weeks with The Remains. Even after hitting the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Even after winning the PWA Shamus Award (Moonlight Weeps) and the ITW Thriller Award (also Moonlight Weeps), even after selling hundreds of thousands, perhaps even a million, copies of my books over the past five years alone, things still sometimes don't go my way.
The novel that would become The Innocent

Just this past two weeks alone, I learned that one of the architectural trade publications I've been writing and editing for for ten years no longer needs my words now that a new owner has taken over. Add to that a two book deal my agent has been working on for months, which even included a rewrite for the acquiring editor, just went inexplicably belly up. Hmmmmm. Go figure.

There's no one to blame in all of this, since this is how the business side of the writing game works. Nothing is forever. But then, these events most definitely fall into "the things I cannot control" category.

Now, I've also been lucky these past couple weeks.

The novel that was supposed to be sold in said two book deal got immediately picked up by another publisher also in a two book "nice" deal. The book will come out in hardcover in Jan, 2018 and be found on every New Releases table in bookstores from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, as well as on your favorite eReader. Lucky, yes, but in the end, I still had no real control over the deal. It just sort of happened and I'm happy for it.

But what I do have control of is my writing. No matter what happens on the business side of publishing, whether it be something positive or negative, one thing holds true above all others: My writing comes first. No one can take that away from me.

Tomorrow morning is Monday. The beginning of the working week. I'll wake up after the sunrise and like, Papa Hemingway used to say, I'm going to bite on the nail. Writing is the hardest work there is. But it is also something I have total control over. Thanks for the advice Richard. I'll never forget it.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Best Part About Being a Writer

I wanted to use a stormy day in New York to add emphasis to my newest video on how good it is to be a writer, rather than a lemming working for the man (which I used to be). I still work my tail off, sometimes seven days a week. My days often begin at dawn, but I will say this: there is the occasional Monday, especially a rainy Monday, where I get up, take a look outside, and head back to bed.

Why do I do it? Because I can...

I'll be talking about this stuff at the Writer's Digest Conference in New York City this Friday, August 12 @ 1:00 Don't be late!

Sleep well...


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Why Publishers Hate Writers...

Okay, I'm exaggerating here. Perhaps even grossly.
But maybe it's more accurate to say, publishers need writing, not writers. And to a degree, editors enjoy terrific relationships with their authors, the big sellers and the dogs included. I have several editors with at least three separate publishers at present and I consider them friends. Same goes for my agent (we laugh at our stupid ass jokes more than we talk actual business. Life is short after all).

But the point here is that publishing houses, especially the big ones, need content and lots of it, that will drive sales (only about 10% of the titles make 100% of the profits). They don't need writers per se. In fact, when the day comes where writers, like waiters at McDonald's who are slowly being phased out for the cheaper robotic equivalent, aren't required to produce high quality literature and thrillers, there will be quite a few of us trying to land a new occupation.

Or will we?

I've been preaching for a quite a while now that writers, like stockholders, need to diversify. They need to tap into many different forms of publishing, including traditional and indie. Therefore, when one opportunity dies because of any number of reasons, the writer can then rely on his income from another source. This is what the hybrid model is all about.

I learned the hard way. Back in the late 90's and early 2000s I went all in with one publisher while cutting ties with the rest of my writing and publishing venues, and when the publisher went through a consolidation and kicked a bunch of editors and writers out into the street, I suddenly found myself starting over. The publisher really didn't care very much about me as a writer, or a human being with a family and little kids. The publisher already got its writing...its content...and while I, the writer, was kicked to the curb, the publisher hung onto the writing, until many years later when, through careful and expensive negotiations, I was able to yank the rights back. Thank God, because the books I'm talking about would go on to sell a few hundred thousand copies under new management.

Publishers may not actually hate writers, but no one is going to put the tender loving care into a manuscript like you the writer can. No one is going to push your book in the marketplace like you will. It's probably more the case that an overburdened publisher will choose to ignore it, or toss it up against the wall to see if it sticks. Only you can take control of your own work and promote it to the best of your ability. Which is why every writer should publish a significant amount of titles under an indie label.

Going indie was something I resisted for a long time. But when I started realizing the financial results that can come from publishing just a few indie titles, I began to change my mind. Today I have maybe eight novels and some short stories published under my label, Bear Media/Bear Pulp, but I hope to double that over the course of the next twelve months, doubling or even tripling my monthly take in the process. Sure, I'm still working with publishers (I'm currently in contract negotiations for two books). But I always keep in mind the fact that the publishers are interested in the content, not the man.

Like they say in the Godfather, it's nothing personal, it's just business. 

Tessio got fitted for a pair of concrete shoes. But it was purely business.

But that's all the more reason to go hybrid, to build up a personal list of books alongside your traditional titles. A couple of days ago, a writing colleague asked me what I foresee for the next five years of publishing. I told him, I see many more books being published by many more writers, and that discoverability will be the key. I also envision traditional publishing giving way to more and more indies who build up a significant subscriber list and who eventually will sell their books primarily out of their own website, which will act as their own personal bookstore. Many authors are doing this now, and even selling works from other authors as well.

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, the secret to greatness isn't in knowing where the puck is on the ice at any given moment, but where the puck is going to be. The same can be said of the writing and publishing game.


By the way, I'll be speaking about this very topic at this years Writer's Digest Conference in NYC on August 11-14. Stop by and introduce yourself. 


Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Writing Life

Recently I was able to catch bestselling author Wayne Stinnett's videos on the writing life and goal setting. They are quite good. That said, I thought I would imprint my own brand on the topic. It's totally unscripted, and I try holding back the laughter at some points. Imagine the absurdity of it all. Me standing in the middle of a trout stream making a video. But here you go.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Observations by the Hybrid Author Thus Far

Back in the old days (I'm talking the late 1990s here), when I wrote my first book for Delacorte Press, there was only one way to publish. Traditionally. You submitted the manuscript you'd been agonizing over for the past two to three years (or in writing school, like I did) to an agent, and when and if they agreed to shop it, you'd then wait another period of months until it was sold.

More than likely however, it would have been rejected. But...Big ol' booty BUT here...if you were one of the lucky ones, said agent fielded an offer for you. Or two. The more the better because that meant the book was entering into an auction and that would drive the price up. That happened to me with that first book and I ended up with a pretty hefty advance.

However, the book pretty much tanked and after having left all that money on the table, no one wanted to offer me more money for more books. I was out of business for a while (but the joke was on them, because the second edition of that book would go on to sell well over 100,000 copies).

Fast forward to the early 2000s and the advent of indie publishing and suddenly authors have options like never before. We can publish the old fashioned way and hope, or we can publish with smaller more digitally based presses, or we can form our own publishing companies and self-publish our books (so long as they are rigorously edited...this of course, takes investment money). A fourth option is the one I prefer which is hybrid authorship, or a combination of all the above.

I've been at the hybrid game for about three years now, and at this point I've been able to make some interesting observations (these are personal observations and by no means the rule...what works/doesn't work for me, might be different for another author).

1. Small independent presses can't move units. Simple as that. In other words, if you sign with a small imprint, regardless of their quality, author stable, and distribution, it's hard for them to move as many units as a big publisher can. They simply don't have the resources to make it happen. Now if you're publishing with the small press for the honor of doing so (maybe you have another job or you teach), and not relying on the money, then by all means, indulge. Some beautiful books are being produced by more than a few of these companies. 

2. The big publishers, and I include Amazon Publishing imprints in this group, can indeed move a lot of units, but only when they are paying strict attention to you and your library pretty much all of the time, or at least, a lot of the time. Which, of course, is impossible. Big publishers have a ton of authors vying for their attention and not everyone can get a big bite of it all the time. Ironically, it's the authors who sell the best who are going to demand the most attention. That's the way it's always worked and that's the way it will remain. I personally like to use big publishers, especially Amazon Imprints like Thomas & Mercer, for my stand-alones since they have an aptitude for marketing like no other. 

2A. Big Publishers still move a lot of paper (I exclude Amazon Publishing imprints in this one, since they rely almost exclusively on Kindle and audio).

3. Indie or self-publishing is all about the math. What I mean is, having now been publishing one entire series, The Chase Baker action/adventure pulp series for three years now under my own imprint, Bear Media, I can see that the best marketing tool for succeeding independently is to write more books. Five books sell more than one book. 10 books sell more than 5, 20 books sell more than 10, and so on, rinse, repeat. However, to be a successful indie writer, you need to market aside from writing more books. This means paying for FB ads, BookBubs, KNDs, and any one of a multitude of advertising sites that are presently available. There are days I am so confused and overwhelmed by marketing opportunities that I find myself having to lie down and take a nap. Also, has anyone tried to figure out precisely how Facebook ads work? You need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. But wait, you can now hire other outside firms to do this kind of thing for you. In turn you're free to write while they build up your subscriber list which in time, will result in increased sales.

To sum it up (this was supposed to be a short blog), numerous options still exist for all fiction writers, especially genre writers like me. It's all about personal choice and comfort and how much control you're willing or not willing to give up. If you make your living as a writer, like I do, you'll probably find yourself shying away from small presses and concentrating on bigger trades for certain books (like stand-alones for instance) while spending a significant amount of time building up your indie list of series books.

One day, I foresee one's own website acting as a one-stop bookshop for an author's personal list of subscribers who need only tap their smartphone (or wristwatch) for the books they wish to read, digitally, audibly, or in good old fashioned paper. That day is coming rather quickly. But not yet.

Note: I'll be speaking on this exact topic at the annual Writer's Digest Conference 2016 taking place August 12-14 in New York City. Click HERE for details. Please come, introduce yourself to me, and perhaps we can have a drink and chat it up.   




Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jerusalem's Melting Pot

Busy Old City market

At this point it's getting to be old writing about a hot, crowded, exotic locale that leaves me feeling entirely confused, physically bombarded, and emotionally overloaded. Jerusalem (thus far anyway...I've been here for four days), is nothing like I pictured it. Scratch that, it's somewhat like I pictured it. The Old City with its narrow passageways, ancient brick and stone entry and exit-ways one blending into the other so that even if you stuff the already torn and sweat-soaked map into your back pocket you'll need the benevolent blessings of Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah, or God knows what or who else in order to find your way back out. I've been to a bunch of these markets in countries like Egypt, Morocco, West Africa, Turkey, Nepal, India, China, and as fascinating as I find them, I also end up feeling like I'm being swallowed up by a gigantic, long, coiled snake (No, that's not meant to be mind out of the gutter please).

Yesterday it took me nearly a half hour to walk from the Western Wall portion of the Old City to the Damascus Gate on the east Arabic side of the city, simply because the narrow passageway was so (over)crowded with people, it was like being stage-rushed at a Springsteen concert taking place inside a long tube. And being that we live in some fairly dangerous times, all I could think about was something going boom and a whole lot of body parts flying around. I need my hands and fingers to make my living, thank you very much.

But the old city is as diverse a home to religion as it is food, jewelry, rugs, spice, fruits, and just general junk vendors. It's got its beggars as well, and a never ending cascade of worshipers walking the Via Dolorosa in the path Jesus walked and struggled bearing the burden of His cross on the way to his crucifixion at what is now the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. As an aside, I feel the true site of his execution is outside the city walls, at a place that's now called the Garden Tomb. A place that contains a small hill that literally looks like a skull and a nearby tomb which was sealed with a big wheel-like stone, and a garden with a cistern. It also overlooks a bus garage. Go figure.
The site of the Crucifixion? Almost maybe definitely

But there's far more to Israel and although I was going to avoid talking about anything political, I did spend some time driving around the West Bank with a Palestinian guide who offered up some interesting perspective. As a writer and a journalist I'm of course not only open to all sides of the story, but obligated to listen to them.

The story in this case is walls. The country is being divided up literally by concrete walls topped with razor wire. It's bizarre because a wall might spring up in the middle of what was once a well-traveled bit of asphalt roadway just a few months ago. Picture the road you take to your home to and from work each day suddenly being blocked off. You might now be forced to find an alternate route that takes you five or six times as long to reach your desired destination, such as work or the supermarket or your aging parents. In some cases, people have to leave their home and neighborhood altogether and find another place to live. Ghost towns are being created, literally.

Life in the West bank
It's a sad scene to be sure, but the political situation being what it is (and has been since 1948), I don't see anything improving in Jerusalem, but instead, getting worse. On one hand, the walls are succeeding at preventing the terrorist attacks that have been haunting this country for ages. On another hand, the collateral damage of walling in the innocents who don't care much about politics and only wish to live a simple life, is incalculable.

I mentioned to my guide Hamas, the tunnels, the rockets, the recent rash of stabbings and he became visibly upset and/or avoided the subjects altogether. But he did offer up his opinion on the stabbings. "These are young boys who have nothing," he said. "No job, no money, no future. So they give up their lives as a protest." In other words, out of desperation, these jerks stab and in some cases kill innocent people just to make a point and/or protest their sad living situation. I have sympathy for the latter, but no sympathy for the former. But then, I managed to keep my sentiments to myself. After all, my guide was driving at the time.

I won't comment anymore on the political situation here, because I simply don't know enough about it. All I know is that the people I've met are kind and friendly, be they Jewish, Arabic, Christian, or just plain nothing at all. For better or worse, Jerusalem is a melting pot filled with rich flavors that just wouldn't be the same if one of more of them were to disappear. 
A road to nowhere...An abandoned neighborhood