Other Author Blogs of Note

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m active in a group of writers who, like me, are promoting their formerly published backlist books as ebooks. Our group is called Backlist Ebooks. Many of the members blog from time to time on the subject, and I thought you might like to check out some of their blogs. They work in a variety of genres. Here’s a starter list:

Doranna Durgin
Gerald M. Weinberg
Marsha Canham
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Jill Metcalf
Terry Odell
Maryann Miller
Patricia Rice
Pati Nagle
Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett
Karen Ranney

There are lots more authors listed on the main Backlist Ebooks webite. More authors are joining all the time, so keep checking back.

Surprise Peace Offering to Authors from Amazon and Macmillan

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Many of you will remember the Amazon Buy-Button Removal War of one year ago, in which Amazon decided—in a dispute over new ebook contract terms—to blast Macmillan US by taking down all of their books, paper and e, from their catalogue. I was one of thousands of writers affected, and the memory still stings.

Well, according to this post at E-reads.com, Macmillan and Amazon have jointly decided to make reparations to authors for their estimated losses on ebook sales during that week. I don’t know how they’re calculating the estimate; I haven’t gotten my royalty statements yet. But I do appreciate the gesture. (Realistically, I don’t expect it to make much difference to me, as the reparations were only for the loss of Kindle-book sales, and where I think I got whacked the most was in my newly released paperback of Sunborn. Still, it’s a gesture they didn’t have to make.) Further, in the letter to authors reportedly enclosed with forthcoming royalty statements, Macmillan’s Sargent offers to amend ebook royalty rates to its authors to the somewhat higher, now-semistandard rate of 25% of net receipts. (That’s still not quite where they should be, in the opinion of many, but it’s a clear step in the right direction, and I’m pleased to see it come as a willing offer from publisher to author.)

Change of topic, but still on publishing and books: a reader helpfully pointed me toward this fascinating blog series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, called The Business Rusch. (This link will kind of put you in the middle, but she has some links in the article to good places to start, depending on your interests.) A must-read for authors!

Guest Blogger Today at Star-Crossed Romance

I’m traveling again today, offering a guest blog at Star-Crossed Romance—a blog for lovers of science fiction romance. While I’m not considered a romance writer by anyone, romance is nonetheless an important part of my writing. Why? (Do I really have to say why? Maybe I do.) If you’d like to know what I have to say about it, go take a look at

By the way, one of the editors of the blog has just reviewed my novel Neptune Crossing. You can read the review on the same blog, at

Go pay them a visit. They’re nice people.

So How’s It Going with the Ebooks, Anyway?

When I started my program of self-repubbed ebooks a few months ago, I promised I’d tell it like it is on the results of the experiment. It is an experiment, after all (one I’m doing along with some of my fellow scribblers at Backlist Ebooks and elsewhere). I was a little leery of going the self-republishing route, I guess because there was always a stigma attached to that—but it is, after all, working for some writers, including some famous and now wealthy writers. I wasn’t making much money directly from the free ebook distributions—though I was enlarging my readership, and some readers made voluntary donations. I finally decided it was time for a new approach, and in September I took the plunge.

First up were the first three Chaos books: Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractors, and The Infinite Sea at $2.99 each. Sales at first were, to put it mildly, sluggish. I followed in December with Eternity’s End at a price that wobbled around and eventually settled at $3.99, and The Chaos Chronicles 3-book omnibus at $6.99. For these last two, I got professional help with the covers, and they both look great.

In late December, sales started to pick up—meaning they went from 2-3 sales per day total to 7-10 per day. Christmas was coming, and a lot of people were getting shiny new Kindles and Nooks and Kobos and Sony Readers and iPads. Sales growth! Yes! The new level of sales continued through the first week of January. Then, whump. Holiday sales bump over. Back to a handful a day. A week went by. You could hear my fingers drumming on the table, day and night. And then…for no obvious reason, things started picking up again, even better than before. For the last ten days, sales have been in the range of 10-18 books per day. Is this a sustainable rate—or better yet, a rate upon which I can build? Time will tell. Some of my colleagues are reporting better results; some are reporting worse.

Also puzzling: Some writers find that the majority of their sales are at Kindle, with the Nook store and Smashwords hardly worth noting. Others, and I’m among them, are finding sales at Amazon sluggish, and the Barnes & Noble Nook store where the action is. Nobody can figure out why. For some of us, the sales are coming where we’re doing less promotion, rather than more.

So…am I making any money? Well, with most sales at 60-70% royalty, yes I am. Not a lot of money, but still. Why don’t I just cut the crap and show you some of the numbers? I generally don’t wave private numbers around publicly. But maybe it would be useful for people to get a glimpse of how much (or not so much) money a respectable but not-bestselling SF writer makes from one significant component of his career, ebooks. Here are some numbers for Kindle U.S. sales:

Sept-Oct (combined) — $84
November — $76
December — $244
January (through the 22nd, the last date for which I have dollar amounts) — $410

My January numbers for Nook are similar (slower start, but now pulling ahead).

Add in earnings (some reported, some estimated) from Kindle UK, Smashwords, Apple, Sony, and Kobo—and I’ve netted a little over a grand to date from my self-repubbed books, since late September. I should see the money in about 60 days. That time-frame of payment, while it feels slow, is practically tachyonic compared to the rate of payment from regular publishers.

Let’s compare these findings to my likely earnings through other publishers. Nine of my backlist books are with E-reads (a respected print-on-demand and ebook publisher specializing in backlist books). Past royalties there have been in the range of $300 – $900, per quarter, for all nine books. Those nine books are selling in many of the same stores, but at a typical retail price of $6-10. Indications are, they’re not selling as well. Is it the price? Unfortunately, I can’t directly compare recent sales of those books to my new ones, because I have to wait for the retailers to close out a reporting period and remit money to E-reads, and then I have to wait for E-reads to close out a reporting period and remit money to me. This means a lag between sales and reporting to me of as much as 6 – 9 months. But still, that’s better than the case with traditional publishing.

As for my three ebooks from the traditional print guys, who knows? They’re selling at $7-10, and are not all well distributed. Reporting is so slow and cryptic that by the time I see the numbers, I’ve forgotten what we were talking about. The royalty rates are lower. And in any case, ebook sales from those books are first applied to earning out the advance—fair enough—but because many books never do earn out, this can mean that ebook earnings serve only to reduce the unearned balance. The money to the author’s pocket may be zero…or little, and late. That might seem like a slam at the traditional publishing model, but it’s not. Remember, the publishers advanced the money that helped make it possible to write the books, provided the invaluable work of my editor, and through their marketing helped build an audience and recognition by way of paper books. You really can’t make a direct comparison of the two models.

In short, I’m not agreeing with the gurus who say, “Traditional publishing is dead! Long live self-publishing!” I don’t see it that way. Traditional publishing is still important. But for backlist sales, which publishers have largely abandoned as uneconomical, self-repubbing is clearly an exciting option.

Have I found the key to mega-sales, like J. A. Konrath and others? Clearly not. But while my self-repubbed books haven’t exactly caught fire, they are selling and at the moment they seem to be making more money for me, and paying faster, than all my other ebooks combined. It’s not exactly a living wage. But now the game is to see if I can build traction and grow my own audience along with the general burgeoning audience for ebooks. (And with luck, these sales will help to generate additional sales of the publisher-issued titles.)

Is it a sales bump, or a snowball? I guess I’ll find out.

Maybe in a future post I’ll talk about the challenges of self-promotion. In the meantime, here’s my quick guide to ebook samples, downloads, and purchases.

Short Stories

What with one thing and another, I seem to have forgotten to mention that I’ve started putting some of my short fiction up for sale, along with the ebooks. I’ve always had a few of them up on my website, and people do seem to read them. But this is the first time I’ve put them in format for the Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, etc.—and I’m adding a bunch of other stories that haven’t appeared anywhere since their first publication. I don’t really write a lot of short stories, but you could say that these represent a brief history of my career. My first few publications were short stories, and I’ve written a new one every once in a blue moon since switching largely to novels.

For starters, I’ve put three stories up: “Shapeshifter Finals,” “Reality School: In the Entropy Zone,” and “What Gods Are These?” No, they’re not in chronological order according to when I wrote them, though that might have been clever, too. Here’s a bit of background on them.

Shapeshifter Finals — One day some years ago I got a call from Roger Zelazny, who was practically a god to me. He said he was editing an anthology of SF stories involving martial arts. He’d heard somewhere that I’d been a wrestler in school, and would I like to submit an SF story about wrestling? I stuttered something about how if I could come up with an idea, I’d send it to him. But I didn’t really expect to. But then…I got an idea about a high school wrestler facing a shapeshifter. Not by accident, but because Earth was hosting the 57,463rd Games of IIMAWL, the IntraGalactic Interworld Multicultural Amateur Wrestling League, and one Hog Donovan was competing at 138 pounds. He knew he’d be facing tough, alien competition. But wrestling a shapeshifter? With Earth’s honor at stake and his mother screaming from the stands, what’s the young wrestler to do? “Shapeshifter Finals” originally appeared in the anthology Warriors of Blood and Dream, edited by Roger Zelazny.  Kindle | Nook | All-format

Reality School: In the Entropy Zone — This story had its own weird origin. I wasn’t really thinking about writing a short piece, but one day I was thumbing through the newspaper and I saw a small ad for…as I first read it, Reality School. I blinked and read it again. The ad was for realty school.  But the thought stuck with me. As it happened, I had an earlier, unfinished story involving the world being swallowed up by a creeping zone of entropy. I put the two together, and decided that the reality school must be a place where kids—with their elastic minds and incredible imaginations—would have their talents harnessed to defend the integrity of reality and the world itself against encroaching, and potentially devastating, entropy. “Reality School” first appeared in the magazine Science Fiction Age.   Kindle | Nook | All-format

What Gods Are These? — To be honest, I don’t remember where this story came from. I know it emerged from a time when my view of life was rather dark. At least, it’s definitely a darker story than I usually write, and all I can say for sure is that there was something dark inside me that wanted to be let out. Earth has been conquered by invading aliens—not because they want our water, or our mineral resources, or to eat us, or to use us as batteries—but because they see it as their mission to save us from our self-destructive character. All of Humanity but for a lone holdout has been killed or transported to a place of enforced peace and good behavior. And that holdout, holed up in a ruined space station, knows they’re coming for him. Can his human spirit survive in the face of the Saviors’ overwhelming force? Writing “What Gods Are These?” was a good catharsis. It first appeared in Galileo SF magazine. Kindle | Nook | All-format

More are coming. About half of them exist only on paper, so they need to be scanned or typed in. Fortunately, my daughters offered to pitch in—so stay tuned!

Holiday Reading—Oh, the Trials!

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I left for our holiday travels with two ereading devices, just to make sure the bases were covered, and that I wouldn’t run out of books to read (hah). On Christmas Eve, Allysen was reading a newly acquired SF book by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller on my Sony Reader, Plato—when suddenly it froze like a brick. Aughh! Aughh!

Probably just needs a simple reset, right? Wrong. Plato was bricked right through Christmas and for our trip from Miami to Ponce. I tried everything I could think of. Nada. Then, two nights ago, I left Plato plugged into the laptop to recharge fully while I slept, and also plugged in my Dell PDA (an Axim named Maxim) to top off. (I was reading the latest Vorkosigan book by Lois Bujold, Cryoburn, on it.) The next morning it was bricked, too! Auggghhhh!

What to do? What
to do? Running in circles didn’t help. Neither did any of the usual techie approaches. Finally, this morning, I plugged Plato into my laptop again, for one last try. Windows Explorer told me it found a file error. It removed the offending file. Voila! Plato lives again!

Maxim is still lifeless. But at least it has a removable battery, so I hope when I get home I can swap in another battery and bring it back, too. Just have to keep the faith on that one.

I realize that my tale isn’t exactly the most ringing endorsement of ebook reading, but if you’re one of those with a shiny new reader, I’ve got a hot tip for you. From now until Dec. 31, there’s a 25% off sale from many authors of various genres at Backlist Ebooks. Head over and take a look for some great deals!

Meanwhile, here in Puerto Rico we’ve been having cloudy skies, mugginess, and rain—while back in Boston, I imagine everyone is still shoveling out from a foot and a half of snow. Either one is better than the folks on the west coast pumping mud, though. What a crazy winter for weather. But did I mention the fantastic flight we had over the mountains from San Juan? It was a night flight in a 12-seat Cessna 402, and it reawakened every nerve in my body to a longing to start flying again! Someday, someday!

Book Takes Wing, and So Do We

I’m typing this at 32,000 feet out of Charlotte, North Carolina over a beautiful cloud deck en route to Miami. (Oops, we just flew back into the clouds! Later: a stunning sunset above the cloud deck, just as we started our descent toward Miami. Layered clouds against a crimson horizon band.)

The last few days have been insane, but I’m about to rest. Aside from the usual trip prep, I was busy getting one last book up at Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. This is a new one, in a way—an omnibus collection of the first three Chaos books. Called simply The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3, it’s got a gorgeous new cover by Pat Ryan. I enjoy omnibus collections myself—I’ve just finished reading through a series of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan omnibuses that I bought from Baen Webscription. So I thought, why not make an omnibus of the Chaos  books myself, and maybe give the publishers a hint by example? Here it is:

Chaos Omnibus at Kindle | Nook | Smashword

I got that up just in time to see it go live before dropping everything for the trip. No time to make formal announcements—so this will be my first, whenever I have time to get online and post it.  (That would be at my brother’s house in Florida.)

Starting this evening, we’re with family, and kicking back a little. I hope Chuck’s hot tub is still working! 

Eternity’s End Gets Kindled (and More)!

Until now, Eternity’s End has been my only book not available in the Kindle ebookstore. That changed a few hours ago, when a new ebook version went live, complete with this new cover. I had this one designed by a pro, and I think it’s great.

Eternity’s End in the Kindle | Nook | Smashwords stores

I’m excited to have this novel, which was a Nebula finalist, up for sale as an ebook at last. As I write, it’s working its way through the conversion queue at Smashwords; maybe it’ll be done by the time you read this. (The Smashwords edition will be of interest for folk who prefer an ePub or PDF version, or any of several others. And eventually for those who’d rather buy at Sony, Apple, Kobo, Diesel, etc. However, even if you buy the book in the Kindle store, it’s DRM-free—so you can convert it to any format you like with Calibre, my favorite free ebook software.)

This has been a long push, and I’m very happy to hit this milestone.

EDIT v.2: I had problems getting it through the system at Smashwords, but now it’s up at Barnes and Noble (Nook) and Smashwords, as well as Kindle. In due course, it’ll be in the other locations, too.

Google Ebookstore Opens

Long promised, the Google Ebookstore opened its doors this week. Naturally, I went to take a look. Also naturally, the first thing I did when I got inside was to see if they had my books. To my surprise and delight, when I clicked on Science Fiction, I found Sunborn on the first page! Whoa, wasn’t expecting that. Further examination found most of my other publisher-issued books. Unfortunately, they’re not all on one page, because some of them are under Jeffrey A. Carver and some are under Carver, Jeffrey A. (The sort of thing that drives you crazy. But they’re there, and we’ll get it straightened out eventually.)

What’s the big deal with Google Ebooks, besides their being one more bit of competition for Amazon? That’s a little hard to parse out, because the information on the site isn’t exactly crystal clear. I know this: you can buy books in PDF or Epub format, and you can read them while tied to the web, and you can read them on a wide variety of devices. There’s a feature that will somehow enable you to patronize your favorite independent bookstore, while buying ebooks from Google. (How that works, I don’t know yet.) There will be books from indie authors, and from backlist ebook types like me. But that’s really murky at the moment. (First report I heard from an author who had tried was…waiting…waiting…for the system to respond. Still waiting…)

Bottom line, I’ll probably get my self-reissued ebooks up there in time. But I’m going to wait for things to shake out a little bit first.

Guest Blogging Today

posted in: blogging, ebooks, publishing 0

Today I’m the author-guest at Linda Wisdom’s blog. She’s a romance-fantasy writer, and one of my colleagues in the getting-books-up-on-Kindle effort.

Here’s the beginning of what I have to say…

What’s a science fiction writer doing in a place like this? he asks himself, looking around warily. Book lovers, from the appearance of the joint. Romance, okay… [more]

Why don’t you drop by and have a cup of coffee?

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