Sunday, May 27, 2012

Self-Publishing Hits and Misses

An interesting article in The Guardian reported that, based on a survey of 1,007 self-published authors (a tiny fraction of this group) the average amount of money earned in 2011 was $10,000 and half of those surveyed earned less than $500. If any of you have been following the forums on or Kindleboards these stats probably won’t surprise you. Sure, there are many success stories of authors doing far better than $10,000, but there are even more who aren’t despite good promotion efforts.

Here’s another interesting tidbit from the study. Romance authors earned 170% more than those writing in other genres. Science fiction writers earned 38% of that $10,000 income, fantasy writers earned 32%, and literary authors just 20%. Mystery/thriller writers weren’t even mentioned in the study, so I have no idea where we stand.

The thing is, the success of people like Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and El James (all of whom have sold a million ebooks or more) has become so widespread that plenty of newbie authors with rejected manuscripts in their drawers are pulling them out and publishing them in hopes that they might grab a piece of that action. Some of them will, but a lot won’t, especially if they haven’t taken the time to edit and format their books properly, not to mention acquire a great cover and jacket blurb. You can read the article at

If you’re interested in hearing more self-publishing success stories, Kindleboards has published a list of 145 authors who have sold 50,000 copies or more of their books, which you can find at,103665.0.html This link is also included in a really interesting blog by someone called io9. The blog contains a somewhat disheartening photo of the slush pile at Tor books, where piles of unopened manuscripts sit on a tall cart. You can read the blog at

While self-publishing is still flourishing, it’s not a dream come true for everyone, but it certainly seems to offer more writers the opportunity to make money and gain readers than they would have if their manuscripts were still languishing on that slush cart.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Writers' Tools -- People Watching

I spent the last two days with the Southern Indiana Writers Group at an outdoor family fair. Vendors of arts, crafts, snacks, cottage-industry products, and plants set up booths around the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They also have Authors' Row, where local authors and publishers hawk their wares.

It's a great place to people-watch. They pass, in all shapes and sizes and varieties of clothing. Sometimes they linger by our booth, where we offer nearly 20 years worth of our group's anthologies, covering themes from dragons (DRAGON: OUR TALES) to the far future (FUTURE PERFECT (TENSE IN SPACE)). It's always interesting to see who is attracted to which covers, who thumbs through which book, who buys what.

GHOSTS ON THE SQUARE ... AND ELSEWHERE always garners a lot of attention, and often leads to an exchange of spooky experiences. Since the stories are set in Corydon, Indiana, it often also leads to conversations of the "My people are from ... Do you know ... We lived in the house across from ..." variety, which are my meat. One of our buyers on Saturday was the guy one of our daughters bought her house from, and who taught all our kids and oldest grandson in high school.

Then there are the people we stop, so we can ooh and aah over their shirts or hats or tattoos or dogs or babies.

But it isn't only the ones who stop who are material for stories and characters. One woman passed who will definitely have a story; I've already started it.

If you're a writer: Please, never be bored! The people around you are each the main character in his or her own story. Each is a character -- main character or bit character -- in other people's lives. And, no matter how long you've known any person, the story you "know" is not the story they live. On top of that, there are an infinite number of stories that would be possible. An infinite number of possible futures, just given what you know (or think you know) about each person.

Today, I get to take my mother's cat to the vet. I can hardly wait to see who happens.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Is Publishing More Work Really Better For Authors?

Over recent years, I’ve had several interesting discussions with writers, albeit none of them with the big six publishers, who’ve been lamenting over the pressure to write more books quickly. Many felt pressured to write one book a year. Many also discovered that their second or third books didn’t garner the glowing reviews of their first book, often because reviewers thought the plot or characters weren’t as fully developed as they could have been. This was a dilemma, I thought for all writers, however, a recent post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch was a real eye opener.

Rusch maintains that as little as three years ago, big six publishers were discouraging their writers from producing too many books, primarily because the cost to produce them was so high. Rusch states that the average midlist novel costs the publisher $250,000 to produce, figuring in the cost of paper, shipping, returns, etc., and that fewer authors were selling enough copies to reach the 4% profit margin the publisher wanted. Therefore, unless the author was a guaranteed superstar, such as Nora Roberts, publishers were reluctant to publish a book every year. Rusch also said that publishers now seem determined to rid themselves of mass market paperbacks by producing fewer of them, opting for trade paperbacks instead.

The ebook revolution, however, has changed these publishers’ attitude toward volume. They’ve begun to see the financial gain in publishing ebooks (because many of them aren’t granting their authors large royalties), and they’re jumping on the lets-publish-lots bandwagon that self-publishers have been doing for some time now. Admittedly, much of the drive to publish more comes from readers who want lots of books from their favorite authors. Romance authors, for instance, have been dealing with this for a long time, and it wasn’t uncommon (probably still isn’t) for established authors to write three books a year.

To meet the demands of readers (and make more money) big six publishers are now apparently pressuring their writers into writing more ebook novellas or long short stories. Publishers tell their writers that it will help sell their next book. One of the problems with this thinking is not only the pressure to maintain quality work, but the lack of financial benefit for the writer. Rusch points out that these big six, and often bestselling authors (excluding the superstars) are receiving no advances and terrible royalties for their novellas/short stories. In other words, it’s more work for a financial payoff that may or may not happen much further down the road.

Rusch says that “every writer gets better terms from traditional publishing on paper formats than they do on e-formats”. And this, folks, is an important aspect about the business of writing that we all need to keep in mind. Traditionally published, established writers are doing more work just to maintain the status quo, but not necessarily seeing the extra dollars in their pockets.

Rusch writes a great deal more about this issue than I can discuss here, so I encourage you to read her fascinating blog at

Saturday, May 19, 2012

You Are Invited to Submit an Entry to the Second Wind Publishing Short Story Contest

Second Wind Publishing invites you to submit an entry to our holiday short story contest.

 Entries are to be holiday stories of any genre that mention a food of some kind. (The food item can be a focus of the story or simply a prop.) The winner will be included in Second Helpings, a short story/recipe anthology to be released in time for Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, New Years. So, be thinking of holiday stories with delicious recipes. The story and recipe must be your own original work since the recipe will also be published in the anthology. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. The story must not exist in print form or in any current or upcoming anthology. The story must be no longer than 5,000 words.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. There is no entry fee. The best entries will be posted on the Second Wind Publishing contest blog for everyone to read and comment. The authors and management of Second Wind Publishing will choose the three finalists, but reader comments will be taken into consideration. Entries will be judged on originality, readability, writing skills, characterization, plot, and how well they fit in with the theme of the anthology. Spelling and grammar count. The decision of the judges is final.

Everyone is welcome to vote for the winner, which is to be chosen from the three finalists. The winner will be the finalist with the most comments.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Second Helpings. (Title is subject to change.) The winner will also receive a coupon from for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs. And the winner will receive a one year free VIP account from Angie’s Diary, the online writing magazine to help you get even more exposure for your writing. ($99 value).

All entries will be deleted once the contest is over.

The contest begins April 1, 2012 and ends June 30, 2012.

June 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm ET: Contest ends.
July 1 — July 15, 2012: Judging of entries by 2W (and 2W authors) to pick top three entries
July 15 — July 31, 2012: Judging of the three finalists by blog readers to pick the winner
August 1, 2012: Winner announced
October 1, 2012 Book published (In an ideal world …)

Please send your entries as a Word .doc or .docx to secondwindpublishing(at) Be sure to replace (at) with @ and use “Holiday Contest” for the subject line.

See complete listing of rules at

Best of luck to all of you!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Last week I was on Blog Talk Radio discussing my new non-fiction book Grief: The Great Yearning and explaining why it is important.

I’ve written four novels, all published by Second Wind Publishing, and although I thought the subject matter of each book important enough to spend a year of my life writing and another year editing (to say nothing of the years on the arduous road to publication), I have a hard time telling people the novels are important.

The basic theme of all my novels is conspiracy, focusing on the horrors ordinary citizens have been subjected to by those in power. Most people who have read the books seem to like them (though a few who didn’t like them seemed befuddled by what I was trying to accomplish). Light Bringer in particular seems to arouse a difference of opinion. Written to be the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories, Light Bringer traces the push toward a one-world government back 12,000 years. Based on myths, both modern conspiracy myths and ancient cosmology myths, Light Bringer is a thriller, or mythic fiction perhaps (if there is such a thing). I never intended it to be science fiction since the science is gleaned from ancient records rather than futuristic imaginings, but that is how it is perceived.

Still, despite the scope of Light Bringer, despite it being my magnum opus and the result of twenty years of research, I can’t in all honesty say it is important to anyone except me. It probably won’t change anyone’s life or anyone’s thinking. For the most part, we bring to books what we believe, and so those who believe in conspiracies see the importance of my novels, while those who don’t have even a smattering of belief that there are machinations we are not privy to might even think them far-fetched.

On the other hand, Grief: The Great Yearning is an important book. It is composed of journal entries, blog posts, and letters to my dead life mate/soul mate, all pieces written while I was trying to deal with the unbearable tsunami of emotions, hormones, physical symptoms, psychological and spiritual torments, identity crisis and the thousand other occurrences we lump under the heading “grief.” Because of this, the emotion in Grief: The Great Yearing is immediate, the experience palpable. This is a comfort to those having to deal with a grievous loss because they can see they are not alone. (One of the side effects of grief is a horrendous feeling of isolation.) They can see that whatever they feel, others have felt, and that whatever seemingly crazy thing they do to bring themselves comfort, others have done.

This book is also important for the families of someone who has suffered a grievous loss. Too often the bereft are told to move on, get over it, perhaps because their families don’t understand what it is the survivor has to deal with. Well, now they can get a glimpse into grief and ideally, be more patient and considerate of their bereft loved ones.

This book is especially important for writers. I’ve mostly given up reading for now because of the unrealness I keep coming across in fiction. So many novels are steeped in death, with bodies piling up like cordwood, yet no one grieves. The surviving spouses think as clearly as they did before the death. They have no magical thinking, holding two disparate thoughts in their minds at once. (For example: I know he will never need his eyeglasses, but I can’t throw them away because how will he see without them?) The characters have no physical symptoms or bouts of tears that are beyond their control. There is no great yearning to see the dead once more (and this yearning is what drives our grief, not the so-called stages). In other words, we are continually conditioned to downplay the very real presence of grief in our lives. If we don’t see people grieve in real life, in movies, in books, where are we to get a blueprint for grief?

As Leesa Healy, Consultant in Emotional-Mental Health wrote, “If people were to ask me for an example of how grief can be faced in order for the healthiest outcome, I would refer them to Grief: The Great Yearning, which should be the grief process bible. Pat Bertram’s willingness to confront grief head on combined with her openness to change is the epitome of good mental health.”

So, yes, Grief the Great Yearning is important, and it was good to have a chance to talk about the book and to spread my message: It is okay to grieve. It is important to grieve. And as impossible as it is to imagine now, you will survive.

If you’d like to listen to me talk (and laugh) and discover that I really am okay despite my continued sadness and occasional upsurges of grief, you can find the show here: Talk Radio Network with Friend and Author Pat Bertram

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Are Agents Still Good for Writers?

Not that long ago, and perhaps for some writers today, a writer’s goal was to land a top agent who could sell their manuscript to big six publishers, obtain foreign rights, movie deals, and get the best possible contract for each. But things began to change. Recession made publishers more “risk adverse” and therefore less likely to take on new writers unless their books had obvious bestseller potential. The ebook and self-publishing revolution enabled thousands of writers to reprint their backlists, or publish new work without going through the long ordeal of acquiring an agent and publisher. Writers began to wonder if there was any point to having an agent? The answer is both yes and no, depending on the writer’s dreams and desires.

I have plenty of anecdotal information about my and colleagues’ experiences with agents, and most of it hasn’t been great, but I repeat, this is anecdotal only. A recent blog by Dean Wesley Smith, talking about agents, caught my eye, and no, he wasn’t agent bashing. In part, it was stupid writer bashing. What he did say about agents, though, was interesting.

The bottom line, Smith says, is that agents stopped working for writers years ago and began working for publishers, unofficially, of course. He goes onto say why agents are bad for the smart writers of the world: ie., taking part of their copyright, having complete control of funds going in and out, etc. He also says that the AAR (an American association many agents belong to) doesn’t like the lawsuit the Department of Justice filed against publishers and Apple for colluding to keep ebook prices high (see my blog of March 11, “Ebook Pricing Issues Could Wind Up in Court”).

Smith maintains that agents and publishers came together (sort of) to help establish ebook pricing that would grant both of them a larger piece of the pie, and that little thought was given to authors, at least those who aren’t bestselling authors. It’s a thought-provoking blog, and I would encourage anyone who’s thinking of acquiring an agent to read it. I really have no idea whether Smith is right or wrong about agents working for publishers. I haven’t been in his shoes, however, he has had three top agents, been traditionally publishing books for over thirty years, and understands the business better than most writers. So, take a look at

I'd love to hear your thoughts about agents. Good, bad, or indifferent!

Friday, May 11, 2012

New Release: How I Made Over $42,000 Selling My Kindle eBooks

In March 2012 one Canadian author boldly went where few have gone before—into the land of making real money with Amazon's KDP Select program.

This is her story…

My name is Cheryl Kaye Tardif and I am an international bestselling suspense author who earned over $42,000 dollars in March 2012 selling ebooks via Amazon's KDP Select program, captured the interest of a major literary agency, and went on to sign with a foreign rights agent. And I'm about to tell you HOW I did all that.

I don't normally tell people how much money I make, but I believe writers need to know it IS possible to earn a real income from your books. Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can—if you have the right combination of criteria and techniques.

In this book, I'll share with you what I believe are four key elements you must have in place to see high sales. And I'll reveal the strategic techniques I used during my KDP Select promotions that resulted in earning over $42,000—with $32,000 of that from ONE title alone.

Not only did I earn over $42,000 in ebook sales, I was contacted by one of the leading literary agencies in New York. The chairman noticed my success when my one title made #4 in the Top 100 Bestselling Kindle ebooks, right under The Hunger Games trilogy. Since then, I've signed with another agent for foreign rights.

So, if you're ready to earn some real money with Select, let's begin…

Available at Amazon (Kindle) for only $2.99.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

May is National Crime Writing Month

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again, the month when we crime authors celebrate what we do for a living, or try to. It’s practically a motto among many of us that crime doesn’t pay, nearly enough. At least we're good at spreading the word that crime writing is alive and well in Canada.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the short list of authors for this year’s Arthur Ellis Crime Writing Awards. You might have noticed that the finalists in the Best Novel category are well-known authors not only in Canada but internationally! Beyond the prestigious list of nominees are a number of others Canadian crime writers whose work sells in other countries. I invite you take to visit the Crime Writers of Canada website to learn about more authors and there work.

This month, I have, or will be, participating in events to help raise our profile. Yesterday at the Victoria Public Library’s central branch, we held a day-long event of panel discussions and an interactive mini Toastmasters session moderated by Robin Spano. It was terrific to see so many audience members bravely stand in front of the panel and read snippets of their work and then face critique. It was helpful for all of us who have to get up there and read aloud from time to time.

Also this month, Crime Writers of Canada is being featured on CBC’s Canada Writes website, and will be posting writing tips from several members throughout the month. Yesterday was my turn, and my 100 words on writing the big scene is now up there for the world to see. You can find it at Below the tip, you’ll find a link to more writing tips.

Last but not least, we’ll be celebrating crime writing at this year’s Bloody Words conference in Toronto from May 31st to 3rd. In addition to the awards banquet announcing the AE winners on the 31st, there will be a number of great events, including workshops, agent appointments, manuscript evaluations and so forth. You can check out more information about the conference at

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Rubicon Ranch -- The Saga Continues

More than a year and a half ago, nine authors from Second Wind Publishing got together to write a novel online. We knew nothing more than that a little girl’s body had been found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill little Riley? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

From that short proposal grew a novel with intriguing and nefarious characters, each completely different because each was created by a different author.

Jeff and Kourtney Peterson are Riley’s “adoptive” parents who didn’t go through legal channels to get the child they so desperately wanted. Would they kill to protect their secret?

Moody Sinclair had once killed an eight-year-old boy. Has she killed again?

Fifteen-year-old Dylan McKenzie is a straight A honor student. By day. Did Riley discover the other Dylan, the one who prowls at night?

Cooper Dahlsing does strange things while sleepwalking. Could he have killed and not known it?

Mark and Jamie Westbrook, self-styled private investigators, show up to help solve the murder, but perhaps they had a hand in creating the crime?

Eighty-two-year-old Eloy Franklin sits on his porch and watches. But does he do more than watch?

Forty-three-year-old Melanie Gray found Riley’s body stuffed in a television console that had been dumped in the desert. But is she as innocent as she seems?

Sheriff Seth Bryan is bitter and cynical at having lost everything he values. Is he manufacturing crimes to bring him the notoriety he craves?
Life sometimes got in the way of this collaboration, so instead of posting a chapter every week, we went through a long hiatus where the authors suffered variously from cancer, death of a family member, house flooding, job loss, but we picked right up where we left off, and now this experimental novel is finished!

The book will be published during the next couple of months, but you can read the entire story online here: Rubicon Ranch, Book One: Riley’s Story

But that is not the end!!! Next week, we will begin posting chapters to a book in the series, Rubicon Ranch, Book Two: Necropieces — Residents of Rubicon Ranch find body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Eight Second Wind authors are collaborating to create another innovative crime novel set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch.

Again, we will be posting a new chapter every week. I hope you will join us as the Rubicon Ranch saga continues.