Sunday, June 24, 2012

Print Still Rules

Bowker released some stats showing a 6% growth in the number of print books published in 2011 in the U.S.; the first significant growth in four years. In case you’re curious, the number of print titles published last year was 347,178. Would you be surprised to learn that the extra 6% came solely from self-published books? Without them the number of titles would have been completely flat, although, given the number of books already on the market, I’m not sure this would have been a terrible thing. Many of us won’t be able to get through a fraction of the number of books published in a single year, in our lifetime.

According to an article excerpt in The Passive Guy newsletter, most people are still reading print books, says an analyst with publishing research firm Simba Information. Based on my own anecdotal observations, I agree. Whenever I’m on planes or ferries the majority of readers are holding print books. On a recent airplane from Toronto to Vancouver, I spotted about six electronic reading devices, but many more people held paperbacks. Whenever I sell books at venues, perhaps two out of every fifty people ask if they’re available on Kindle. Sure, the ebook revolution is growing, but it hasn’t taken over yet, and won’t be this year. You can read more of the article by subscribing to the Passive Voice newsletter at

Here’s another reason why print still rules. A recent Pew Center poll showed that over half of Americans aren’t aware that libraries lend out ebooks. Only 12% of Americans had borrowed an ebook last year. Aside from the lack of awareness, a little over half of those polled said the ebook they wanted to borrow wasn’t available at their library, or there was a waiting list. 18% of people said their ereaders weren’t compatible with the ebooks they wanted. Interestingly, 46% said that they’d like to borrow an ereader with the book they wanted already loaded, while only a third said they were interested in learning how to download borrowed ebooks. Clearly, there are still glitches in the ebook borrowing system, but they will be worked out over time. Meanwhile, I'm still loving both words and the freedom of choice it brings. You can read more of the article at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

THE CORNER CAFE -- Another Kind of Fast Food

About four months ago, Dani Greer, the fearless leader and Drill Sergeant of the Blog Book Tours, and den mother of the Yahoo! group BBTCafe said, "Hey, kids! Let's do the show right here in the barn!"

Er, I mean, she suggested we all learn the self-publishing business by publishing an anthology. So we did.

We wrote stories, Dani and Helen Ginger edited them, Bodie Parkhurst of Magic Dog Press did the cover, Bob Sanchez taught us how to format for Kindle and Dani made it so.

The result is called THE CORNER CAFE.

Now it's available for Kindle for $0.99. Ain't it purty? We enrolled it in Amazon's KDP Select program for 90 days. That means it can't be published electronically anywhere else, it's free to borrow for KDP Select subscribers, and we can make it free for everybody for 5 days during the 90-day enrollment. We could continue the enrollment for unlimited numbers of 90-day stretches, with 5 free days each 90 days, but we won't.

Next month, I'm going to walk us through formatting for Smashwords, and then we'll put it up there, formatted for multiple e-readers. It'll be free at Smashwords, and we want it to be free at Amazon, as well; we aren't doing this for the money, but for the experience.

Nobody wants the headache of doing bookkeeping for distributing the income, so any money the anthology earns will be given to charity.

My story, by the way, is "The Catfish Enchantment". If you've read my story collection THE KING OF CHEROKEE CREEK, you'll know the characters in "The Catfish Enchantment".

Now we're three-fourths of the way through a month-long Blog Book Tour for the anthology. From spark of inspiration to promo burn-out in a few short months. That's fast.

The tour stop today is at Straight from Hel. Hop on over and see what's on the menu!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Has the Indie Author's Time Truly Come?

I came across an interesting blog by novelist Jon F. Merz this week, where he wrote (and apparently has written) a lot about the changing tide in publishing. You’ve heard it before: traditional publishers are losing their stronghold on publishing and many still refuse to accept that self-publishing is working well for a number of authors. He believes publishers are still spewing a load of BS about the importance of traditional publishing because of better editing and marketing, etc. Merz wrote that of his first four books published by Kensington, only one was edited. He also wrote that the national TV, radio, and print campaign he understood would be forthcoming never happened. Needless to say, he’s now a champion of self-publishing, stating that complete control over one’s publishing career is better, as are the royalties (70% vs. 17.5% his publisher paid). Merz believes this is truly the time of what he calls the Authorpreneur.

An Authorpreneur, he says, is someone who embraces technology that puts them in charge of their own destiny. They study the industry and position themselves to take advantage. They work continuously at their craft and adopt many hats, including editing and formatting, hiring cover designers, and marketing, etc. Merz ends the piece by saying it’s the time of the Authorpreneur and it’s about time, too.

Well, maybe, but maybe not. Not all traditional publishers drop the ball as badly as his did. My publisher edited both of my books. They sent out many advanced review copies, which resulted in reviews I could never hope to gain as a self-publisher. They also have my books distributed through the Chapters chain, something self-publishers cannot do thanks to chain's policies.

Secondly, many of the authors who’ve left traditional publishing to celebrate the control self-publishing offers had already developed a readership, largely due to better distribution and access to reviews self-publishers would kill for. Would people like Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith be selling as many copies today if they were just releasing their first titles now, as self-publishers?

Third, and here’s my main point: a lot of self-published authors don’t want to be Authorpreneurs, aren’t keeping abreast of industry changes, and don’t view writing and publishing as a business. I don’t want to speculate on the percentage of self-published authors who have no interest in working that hard, but I’m guessing that it’s pretty high. Despite technology, ease of publishing, and access to potential readers, it’s not that much easier to sell a book, especially in large numbers, as a self-publisher than as a traditionally published author. Just ask the authors (indie and traditionally published) on Kindleboards who share their stats, good and bad.

The bottom line is that, sure, for many lucky, excellent, or marketing savvy authors, self-publishing’s time has come, but there are plenty of others who are watching from the sidelines, their single copy in hand, wondering how they managed to miss the boat, and whether they should really care. After all, there’s always another book to write, another chance at fame and fortune.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Self-Publishing Debate Rages On

I’ve come across a number of blogs and articles about the pros and cons of self-publishing lately. If you’re considering self-publishing, I’m not sure if all the opinions are making things clearer or muddying the waters. But here are a couple of articles that seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. The first is rather cautionary and focuses on six aspects that self-publishers tend not to talk about when advocating self-publishing. It’s somewhat revealing that the blogger posted an old sepia photo of a snake oil ad at the top of the blog. Here’s the points he’s made:

  1. Stimulating sales is hard
  2. Many self-published authors earn less than $500 a year
  3. The biggest contributing factor to sales is luck
  4. Designing a cover and editing is not easy
  5. Kiss movie and foreign rights goodbye
  6. Advocates aren’t selling a new paradigm, they’re selling themselves.
 He’s not wrong on most points, but I will say that on the forums I visit, authors are very open about the difficulty of selling and the question of luck. Many are also vocal about the importance of having professionals design covers and edit books. Furthermore, I know of several authors who’ve signed movie and foreign rights deals, although they are in a minority. Still, self-publishing is hardly the kiss of death. You can read the whole piece at

The flipside to the pro and con debate is a piece by bestselling author Robert Bidinotto, who writes ten reasons why you should self-publish rather than traditionally publish. He has a picture of a Kindle reader at the top of his blog. I’ve condensed his points here:

  1. Nobody can stop you from publishing your book
  2. You’ll make a lot more money and be paid faster
  3. You’ll publish incredibly fast, or at your own pace
  4. You’ll have complete creative freedom
  5. You’ll finally find an audience
  6. Finally, you’ll be on the right side of history

Again, Bidinotto isn’t wrong on most points, however, whether a self-publisher will find an audience and make a lot more money is really dependent so many uncontrollable factors. These kinds of bold statements can confuse or even mislead newbie authors. To get a truer picture of successes and failures, visit the forums where writers share their stats, and highs and lows. Kindleboards is one of the best, particularly if you go to the Writers’ Cafe thread. forums will also provide some interesting insights. Good luck!

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Story Behind Rubicon Ranch

Almost two years ago, I got the idea to write a collaborative novel online. I broached Second Wind Publishing authors with the concept, and I found eight other writers willing to participate in the experiment. It took a few months to hammer out the details, which seemed an endless task back then, but now I see as incredibly swift. The story was, after all, a committee production.

We started out with what we considered the most heinous of crimes --- the death of a little girl. In the first chapter: Chapter 1: Melanie Gray — by Pat Bertram, which was posted on October 24, 2010, Melanie found the girl’s body stuffed in an abandoned television console when she was wandering in the desert, trying to come to terms with the death of her husband. Poor Melanie. So much death!

Each author created a character who might have a reason to kill little Riley. And each character was hiding something.

Could Kourtney and Jeff Peterson have killed their daughter, mischievous nine-year-old Riley, 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?

So many villainous characters! And until the very end, no one knew who committed the dastardly deed, not even the writers.

The novel was supposed to be a promotion stunt, but halfway through, it got derailed by life. One author had to deal with colon cancer, including three debilitating operations. Another author had to deal with a flooded house that was uninhabitable for six months. Still other authors had to deal with grief after the loss of significant people in their lives or heavy job pressures. When we started in again, we’d lost all our readers, so there was no longer any promotional value, but still we persevered.

And now the book is finished. You can read the entire novel online for free. If you prefer to read the book on an ereading device, Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story is available as a Kindle or in the ebook format of your choice from Smashwords. It’s also available in print from Amazon and Second Wind Publishing.

But . . .

That is not the end of Rubicon Ranch! Though some of the authors went on to other projects, enough wanted to continue the Rubicon Ranch saga, so we lassoed a few additional authors into creating characters.

And now we have a new story.

Three months after finding the body of the little girl, poor Melanie is again wandering in the desert, still having a hard time dealing with her husband’s death, when she sees a congress of ravens pecking at a dismembered foot. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? 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.

Although some of the characters from the previous collaboration are featured in the new story, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces is a stand-alone novel. The first chapter will be posted Monday, June 11, 2012 on the Rubicon Ranch blog, and a new chapter will be posted every Monday after that.

I hope you will join us in this new serial adventure. It should be a devious tale.
Map of Rubicon Ranch.
A) Melanie Gray
B) Moody Sinclair
C) Eloy Franklin
D) Leia Menendez
E) Ward Preminger
F) Egypt Hayes
G) the Peterson house
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!

Fun at Bloody Words Conference 2012

I just returned from my first Bloody Words conference in Toronto since 2000. Although I was born in Toronto, my parents left when I was a baby so my connection to it is kind of strange. I have relatives there, yet the city feels like a foreign world on the rare occasions I return. I have to say, though, that the clouds and rain, and downtown construction which messed up traffic was a lot like being home in Vancouver.

As a member of Crime Writers of Canada’s executive board, it was time for me to brave the long plane ride and finally return. I was impressed with the Hilton’s facilities and really enjoyed the conference. Things were easy to find and the coffee maker in my room was a huge bonus, since I averaged 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night.

Aside from the great pleasure of seeing old friends and meeting new ones, there were many highlights, but I can’t cover them all, so I’ll focus on Thursday night, which was the banquet to announce the Arthur Ellis Awards winners (I listed the nominees back in April). As part of our promotion efforts to raise CWC’s profile, a couple of board members arranged a special themed dessert with Sugarstars, a team of people who produce a show for The Food Network, which will be shown in August (date to be announced).

After the banquet and awards ceremony, we were hurdled to another room where the TV cameras and desserts were waiting. The team recreated an autopsy room, complete with a skeleton and x-rays on screens. There was a shrouded “corpse” with two large feet made of cake sticking out. You know, it’s pretty weird when someone’s standing there with a knife, asking if you’d like one toe, or two. Also, there were arteries, cupcakes iced with “brains” which looked far too real to eat. There were also test tubes filled with a red drink I wasn’t bold enough to try either, plus “eyeballs”. For a moment, I thought I'd walked into a horror set, but it was all great fun.

And here’s the list of Arthur Ellis winners:

Best Crime Short Story went to Cathy Astolfo for “What Kelly Did” in NorthWord Magazine. Cathy was also awarded the Derrick Murdoch Award for her many contributions over the years to Crime Writers of Canada.

Best Crime Nonfiction went to Joshua Knelman for his book Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art.

Best Juvenile or Young Adult Crime went to Tim Wynne-Jones for his novel Blink & Caution.

Best Crime Book in French went to Martin Michaud, for La chorale du diable

Best Unpublished First Novel went to Sam Wiebe for Last of the Independents

Best First Novel went to Ian Hamilton for The Water Rat of Wanchai

Best Crime Novel went to Peter Robinson for Before the Poison

The Derrick Murdoch Award also went to Don Graves, a terrific reviewer for the Hamilton Spectator and longtime supporter of Canadian crime fiction and crime writers.

Needless to say, there were many more highlights throughout the conference, but it would take too long to mention them all here. All I can say is that another Toronto conference will be held in 2014. Be there!