ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No Such Thing as Saturation - eBook Logic

The pre-eminent John Scalzi tweeted a link to an article about writing (because that's what he does) that got me thinking about how eBooks are more of a game changer than I thought they were. For a long time, I've considered eBooks as nothing more than an electronic version of a book. Digital vs textual. Not something that can be grasped by the hand, but something that can be grasped by the mind. But my idea of it was akin to someone looking at a picture of Earth and calling it a circle. By doing so, they miss all the three dimensionality, the fourth dimension of time, and the things scrabbling for existence beneath the layers of polluted clouds.

I recently bought a Kindle Fire and love it!
Chris Meadows of TeleRead, quoting a NY Times article written by Julie Bosman said, “It used to be that once a year was a big deal,” said Lisa Scottoline, a best-selling author of thrillers. “You could saturate the market. But today the culture is a great big hungry maw, and you have to feed it.”

I grok the once a year book thing. I've tried to have them published faster and even established specialty press houses were afraid to saturate the market with a single author-- probably because they were a high end collector market. But the fact is, folks, there is no more such thing as market saturation when it comes to ebook publishing. Readers want to buy more books. When they find an author they like, they're much more apt to shop with their Kindle, Nook, or reader of choice and purchase something else the writer has written. I know because I've done it myself.

Having recently purchased a Kindle Fire, one of the things I did right away was add books to it. Some were free, some were impulse and some were ones that really snagged my attention. Nick Cole's Old Man and the Wasteland was one of my first purchases, not only because of the post apocalyptic and Hemingway themes, but also because it had 700 reviews. I wanted to purchase something else from the author, but he's too busy working in the opera in Southern California. I did recently see a book (recommended to me by the Amazon Bot) that I picked up. After a sample read, I immediately picked up the next two eBooks as well, just because they were so good. This is Michael J. Sullivan's first book of his trilogy, Theft of Swords. Even at the outrageous price of $9.99, which I spent three times, I bought these books. Not only are they badass and the perfectly updated homage to Fritz Leiber's Fafhard and the Gray Mouser books, but they were originally self-published through Amazon, then picked up by Orbit, so I had to see what all the hub-bub was about.

It’s not just publishers asking the writers to do more, the Chris Meadow's observation of the NY Time's article goes on to explain, but sometimes authors feel the need to keep busy themselves, just to make sure their name stays out there in the public eye. And since e-books are much more conducive to impulse-buying, having more titles available more often means they’re likely to sell more often to voracious readers who want to read anything they can get their hands on from their favorite authors.

Over the past year I've been publishing my back list with Crossroads Press, as well as an original novel. With one book published, I wasn't doing so well. With two books, also not so well. Now I have about six books with them and the money I receive every month is astonishing. It's certainly not Joe Konrath cash, but it's an income stream that was an impossibility only a few years ago.

Folks read my original eNovel Velvet Dogma and before they are halfway through, look at my inventory of books and buy one or several. We know because of the analytics and because I get emails from readers telling me this. In truth, the more books you have for sale the income increases exponentially.  That is of course if the writing and the packaging is up to par--defined as whatever the reader/buyer believes the professional standard is, based on their own expectations. There are really bad books with hundreds of reviews and really good books with very few.

I've discovered that packaging is almost everything. You'll note the cover of Velvet Dogma. It was my first eBook cover. I bought the art from Danielle Tunstall for what I consider a substantial sum and read everything I could get my eyes on about eBook covers. The book cover won an award, citing the movement of the art, the white space in the framing, and the large enough letters to read when it's a thumbnail. I've since created two more covers: one for Blaze of Glory and the other for Butterfly Winter. And the best thing about it is that Velvet Dogma has already earned me as much money as a standard Leisure Books (formerly of Kensington Books) advance.

In fact, Butterfly Winter is a prime example about packaging. Look at this original cover. Frankly, I don't know what I was thinking. What sort of book do you think this is? Would you believe it's a military thriller? Stop laughing. I know. What WAS I thinking. Cute girl, but there's nothing military or thriller about it. So here's the new cover I've created using creative commons-licensed images and photoshop. We're going to do a relaunch soon and my bet is that this will sell as many copies in the first two weeks as it sold all last year -- 50. Packaging. Everyone who has read Butterfly Winter has emailed me (okay, most everyone). They love it, but it was not what they expected from the cover. At least half of the emails said that the ebook made them cry. So there's no argument that the writing is there and that the story is there, it was all about the packaging. Gonna fix that. Gonna give them what they want.

 And the thing I never anticipated was that I'd be spurred to write more. Readers want more so I have to write more. This is a funny thing. The model used to be that writers wrote, submitted through an agent, and got a book deal, then the publication would slow roll for a year. That still exists. In fact, I do it. I still have my agent selling novels for me. My big book deal with St. Martin's Press is still working. And I write the occasional short story that I send out to markets in the hopes they'll be published. But no longer are those my only options. Now I have a choice, especially, it appears, with short fiction.

Here's what Chris Meadows said about the possibility of short fiction success in eReaders: The difference is that previously they were limited to the available markets for short stories—mostly magazines such as Fantasy & Science Fiction for, well, fantasy and science fiction, or Ellery Queen for mystery. And those could only take a few stories per month, and pay has gotten steadily worse as the market for short story magazines declined. But now the stigma against selling short stories or novellas individually has lessened since e-book sales aren’t constrained by format limitations of physical books, so writers can self-publish short stories on-line inexpensively (and more frequently than entire books).

Blaze of Glory is a short novel at 50K. Butterfly Winter is a novella. I'm going to package several themed stories together and sell them, in addition to several stand alone novellas. I'll send them to my eBook publisher, Crossroads Press, with excellent packaging and competitive pricing, they'll do well, you know why? Because people out there are looking for more Weston Ochse books to read.

The least I can do is provide them what they want.