Amazon Speaks!

Taken from the Amazon Discussion Boards just now, their word on the kerfuffle with Hachette: 

The Amazon Books team says:

(AMAZON OFFICIAL)
We are currently buying less (print) inventory and “safety stock” on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future. Instead, customers can order new titles when their publication date arrives. For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order at which time we order the inventory from Hachette — availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Hachette to fill the orders we place. Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to the customer promptly. These changes are related to the contract and terms between Hachette and Amazon.

At Amazon, we do business with more than 70,000 suppliers, including thousands of publishers. One of our important suppliers is Hachette, which is part of a $10 billion media conglomerate. Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually-acceptable agreement on terms. Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives. Nevertheless, the two companies have so far failed to find a solution. Even more unfortunate, though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.

Negotiating with suppliers for equitable terms and making stocking and assortment decisions based on those terms is one of a bookseller’s, or any retailer’s, most important jobs. Suppliers get to decide the terms under which they are willing to sell to a retailer. It’s reciprocally the right of a retailer to determine whether the terms on offer are acceptable and to stock items accordingly. A retailer can feature a supplier’s items in its advertising and promotional circulars, “stack it high” in the front of the store, keep small quantities on hand in the back aisle, or not carry the item at all, and bookstores and other retailers do these every day. When we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers. Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term.

A word about proportion: this business interruption affects a small percentage of Amazon’s demand-weighted units. If you order 1,000 items from Amazon, 989 will be unaffected by this interruption. If you do need one of the affected titles quickly, we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors.

We also take seriously the impact it has when, however infrequently, such a business interruption affects authors. We’ve offered to Hachette to fund 50% of an author pool – to be allocated by Hachette – to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties, if Hachette funds the other 50%. We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago. We hope Hachette takes us up on it.

This topic has generated a variety of coverage, presumably in part because the negotiation is with a book publisher instead of a supplier of a different type of product. Some of the coverage has expressed a relatively narrow point of view. Here is one post that offers a wider perspective.

http://www.thecockeyedpessimist.blogspot.com/2014/05/whos-afraid-of-amazoncom.html

Thank you.

Sooo, a little more depth to counter the newspaper articles which seem almost uniformly pro-publisher / anti-distributor.  And DISCLAIMER, Amazon has been a great outlet for those who have chosen the Indie-published route when folks at the Big Six (Five?) publishers — like Hachette — wouldn’t give ’em a chance, that is, wouldn’t take a chance on books like A Sword Into Darkness  or REMO that have sold well and have been well-received.  I’d love to be in with the Big Guys, instead of sipping Kool-Aid at the kids’ table, but since I am there, it is some mighty fine Kool-Aid and I’m proud to thank my host.
 
Thoughts?
 

Achievement Unlocked: 100 Customer Reviews for ASID!

To quote the irrepressible Sally Field, “You like me!  You really, really like me!”

Well, at least 90% of y’all anyways.  As of a couple of minutes ago, A Sword Into Darkness logged its 100th customer review, and it did it in the best way possible, with a short and sweet 5-star love note.  THANK YOU, DEAR READERS!  For those of you keeping a tally, the current count is 68 5-star reviews, 22 4-star reviews, 8 3-stars, and one each of the 2-star and 1-star variety.  I’m pleased as punch about the whole thing, not because I’m that concerned about my own vanity (though I do go tee-hee and squee a little every time I get a new 4 or 5-star one in), but because I genuinely want to show folks a good time.  I’ve stolen perfectly good beer money from you.  You deserve to have a few hours or days of kick-ass super-sciencey fun in return.

ASID is not a perfect book.  I acknowledge that, and its admitted flaws are probably what kept the gatekeepers of traditional publishing from allowing me into their club.  But, I think it is a really fun book and one I hope subsequent folks will like just as well as those 90% which have so far.  It’s my first book “worthy” of publication, and as a first novel, I get a by for some of its less-well-put-together elements by a lot of people, but I don’t think kindness is the sole reason I’ve got the track record I do.  There are a lot of things that people think I accomplished pretty damn well. 

Some commonly noted positives:  I got the science right and it’s earned its bona fides as hard science fiction, with SCIENCE actually being necessary to the plot.  Yes, I have a very important, very central, very unexplained macguffin in the story, but its limits are well-charted and used consistently.  And as one reviewer noted, everything else is done so well, they can forgive an element or two of hand-wavium.  Another positive is my true-to-life portrayal of the Navy and the military in general, as well as its interaction with corporate interests and civil government oversight.  I’m glad folks recognized this, because it really was important to me (though some did note I was a bit heavy on the lingo and mil-speak).  In this, I cheated a leeetle bit, in that I have a modicum of experience in those roles due to my unspecified day job.  So I stole shamelessly from years of interaction with superiors, subordinates, and shipmates all. 

Other elements of goodness reviewers have noted:  The characters are interesting and quirky, the action scenes are clear, fast moving, and inventive, the plot is well-balanced, flowing briskly with a realistic timeline, and I had a few real surprises for readers, things they’d never seen before, but I also paid homage to a lot of classic sci-fi that preceded me, namely that of Niven, Heinlein, Weber, and Ringo, while still putting my own spin on well-used tropes.  One of the biggest notes of appreciation most folks had was that the book was well-edited and professionally assembled.  It does not read like a screed cobbled together in someone’s basement print shop.  Apparently there is a lot of self-published work riddled with typos, and copyediting mistakes that should never have been made public.  For that, I have to give credit to my own OCD and to Jeff Edwards, a true professional and a kick-ass author who has the attention to detail to save you from my usual misspelled rabmlings.

And then there’s the not-so-positives:  my ten more-critical reviews.  Some folks think I needed a bit more editing, less for bad copy and more to remove some meandering elements that perhaps should not have made the final cut.  I’m accused of shallow characterization, but some may have had preconceptions in that regard, considering it a common element of the genre.  Now, me . . . I like my characters, but I admit that I did not delve too deeply in their pasts or their internal lives.  They grow, but this book is not about catharsis.  It is a plot-driven vehicle and I think it’s a fun one, but deeper characterization is definitely a goal for the sequel.  Then there’s the accusation of predictability, which I both understand and somewhat disagree with.  It is a book of genre-classics, an intentional homage trying to one-up or become perhaps the definitive version of those tropes.  It is recognized that there are certain expectations in the plot.  As soon as a main character recognizes the potential for an alien visitation, you KNOW there is going to be an encounter, likely of the invasive kind.  That is expected, anticipated, but predictable?  I dunno.  Recognizing that something is likely to occur, that a pleasant, fun novel like this DOESN’T end with all the protagonists dying and the antagonists upsetting the whole apple cart is not necessarily predicatability.  How was the journey to that point?  Was it worth the trip, even if you anticipated what the destination would look like and turned out to be right?

So, check out my reviews, and if you haven’t tried it yet, give the book a spin!  It’s a whole lotta fun for less than a Venti Starbucks coffee (and not nearly as bitter).

5_Star

 

You’re Gonna Break Your Arm Doin’ That

Patting myself on the back, that is.  Yes, I am grotesquely pleased with myself, racking up 1600 sales, Top 5-10 Bestseller in three different sub-genres, 21 reviews and 4.5 stars in three glorious weeks.  But all I did was write the damned thing!  The people I want to thank are YOU, THE READERS, the folks that gave a no-name a chance and (for the most part) liked what you saw.  And the question repeatedly comes up on Twitter, Facebook, via e-mail and blog comments, and over and over again in the reviews, “What happens next?  When is the next one coming out?”

I’d love to say “Next week!”, but that just ain’t happening.  Unlike many folks out there, I don’t have a ready supply of sequels waiting in the wings.  I have to write one.  Hell, I have to THINK of one, but I’m not too far off.  Now that I know there is a demand, I can think about dipping back into that well.  So, there WILL BE a sequel (and perhaps more) to A Sword Into Darkness!

In the meantime, though, I have GOT to stop being overly pleased with numbers, stop continually refreshing my Amazon, Goodreads, and KDP pages, and GET BACK TO ACTUAL WRITING.  First, I invite you all to follow me as I continue to plot out the apocalyptic adventures of poor Josh Montgomery on The Ends of the World.  Pull for me as I wait to hear back on my short stories making the rejection cycles:  “The Rememberists”, “Bumped”, and “ILYAMY”.  Then, bear with me as I tackle my ever-shifting works-in-progress list, which includes Echomancer, two movie scripts, a short story or seven, and the ASID sequel. 

But I do what to fill out my bench a bit, so be on the lookout for an e-book collection of my military science fiction tales (gotta prove I’m not a one-trick pony!), as well as the ASID audiobook, and the ASID app/game. 

And check back here often!

Whups!

Apparently, every day being some sort of “BLANK” Day is a thing. Today, the 11th of February, is Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, and no, I am not making this up.  Therefore, I am not going to cry over spilled milk, in that I am going to rally and soldier on after one of my plans failed to work out completely.

What plan failed?  A problem with the book launch perhaps?  Nope, that’s going swimmingly.  Reviews and sales are both rosy and I’m pleased as could be.  In fact, A Sword Into Darkness is CURRENTLY IN THE TOP 10 ON KINDLE FOR EACH OF MY SUB-GENRES:  Military Sci-Fi/Space Fleet, Alien Invasion, and First Contact!  I’m quite proud to be in the same Top 20 as one of my favorite books, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, as well as a number of other worthies, all deserving a read (but me first).

No, the plan which (partially) failed was the distribution of my extra Advanced Reader Copies for the winners of the Zinger! contest.  Two Proofs and an ARC were indeed mailed out, and I’ve heard that the recipients are quite pleased with them, but the other two winners never sent me their mailing addresses.  So, here I am, with ARCs on hand and no one to give them to.  I KNOW:  LET’S HAVE ANOTHER CONTEST!

Nathan Kelley, Kris Muñoz, and Gordon Lee, the main characters from A Sword Into Darkness are intimately familiar with failure.  I won’t give away the specifics, but fate (otherwise known as me) kicks them in the ass on a regular basis.  They screw up, but then they always say, “Fuck it,” and soldier on.  So you tell me:

What was your biggest/funniest/craziest screw-up and how did you shrug it off to come out on top?

Answers can be anything from twitter length epics of perseverance or extended tales of incredulous/incredible whoa/woe followed by magnificent victory.  Drop me your answer here in the comments, Tweet me at @improbablauthor, or drop me a line in the Facebook or Google+ comments.  You have from 0000R (midnight Eastern) to 2359R on Feb. 11th, Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day.  I’ll pick my favorite two entries and you’ll each win an ARC of my kick-ass military sci-fi novel.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some milk to mop up.

The Day After

How about that game last night, huh?  I pretty much think the only things preventing riots in Colorado were A) abject depression at your NFL AFC champions playing like an office flag football team, and B) the clouds of sweet, sweet, fully legal ganja you could use to damp your disappointment.  Also, it’s quite cold there.  You just don’t burn the world down when you’re chilly, bummed, and baked.

Let’s say, however, that your preferred methods of misery masking do not or cannot include toke-able diversions.  Perhaps you have an unspecified job within the military-industrial complex, or you’re not a huge Taco Bell fan.  Whatever.  Might I suggest you distract yourself with the fun little world of A Sword Into Darknessavailable for sale NOW in trade paperback and Kindle.  A couple of chapters in and — I promise — Manning’s depth perception will be the last thing on your mind.

How are things looking the day after Launch Weekend?  Pretty good, I’d say.  Sales have been steady, considering I have a very limited reach thus far, and the comments and reviews that have been posted have been (for the most part) very satisfying.  Now, I’m new at this, so as one reviewer noted/warned, I probably do look at reviews.  I admit it.  I do.  I’ve put out a product that I’m proud of, and that I’ve been told by third parties is a damn fine adventure, but I still want to know if folks are happy with it.  So, yes, I do look at reviews, but less because of vanity than as a matter of conscience.

Have all the reviews been great?  No.  One guy was kind of “meh” about the whole thing, and another guy ABSOLUTELY LOATHED it.  There’s an immediate reflex response to disregard them, to say that the second guy might be trolling, or that his extreme, dismissive dislike was because of personal hangups rather than my writing, but that’s an unworthy attitude.  Their opinion is just as valid as the majority opinions of the folks who loved it, and I just have to accept that not everyone is going to be a fan.

To that pair of less-than-satisfied customers, I’m sorry my book wasn’t what you wanted it to be.  As a consolation — and as a treat for all the rest of you who either loved my book or haven’t read it yet — I’ve got a bunch of free goodies right here on the blog!  Check over in the Pages section and you can read two rip-roaring rocketpunk/steampunk/aetherpunk tales, The Improbable Adventures of Dylan Darby (where this blog gets its name) Episode I:  “Gambler’s Cruise” and Episode II:  “Waking the Rock”.  Those stories are just the beginning of a long planned series, a series which has goals far beyond just a collection or episodic novel.  My friend Nathaniel has already made a fantastic radio play out of “Gambler’s Cruise”, available here, but we’d love it if we could sell Dylan Darby as a TV series.  And there’s more!  You can read my two pro-published short stories:  “Strategic Deployment”, a much-different military sci-fi tale (which actually has a spec-script version for production), and “Dreams For Sale — Two Bits!”, a soft sci-fi tale about infinite possibilities and the baggage you carry with you.

And what can you expect from The Improbable Author as we move past launch?  I’ll continue to cover news about ASID, concerning deals and sales, the up-coming audiobook launch and expansion of the e-book to Nook, Kobo, Sony, and iPad/iPhone, as well as the planned app and table-top game.  I’ll also begin tackling Echomancer again, continue working on short stories, and also launch something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.  What is it?  🙂  You’ll just have to click one of those Follow buttons to check back and see!  🙂

The Zinger Contest — Win a FREE Book!

The Trade Paperback and Kindle editions are ready to go, and they will do just that next Friday, January 31st.  But you can get your very own kick-ass copy of A Sword Into Darkness RIGHT NOW.

20140123_140527

Dylan has your space-opera-crack . . . and HE KNOWS IT.

To enter, you have to provide your own answer to the question posed in Chapter 3.  Nathan thinks the question is just a “zinger,” an interview exercise designed to show your prospective boss how you think.  Little does he realize that tech magnate Gordon Lee is completely serious when he asks, “How would you stop an alien invasion?”

So, that’s the question posed to you, dear reader:  How would YOU stop an alien invasion?

Provide your best Twitter-esque answer either here in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr, or via e-mail.  The only limit is the 140 characters (or so) of a standard tweet.  Otherwise, shoot for the moon (perhaps literally).  You can enter as many times as you want between now and Monday at 2359 eastern time.  Your answer can be based on the hardest of sciences, rely on supernatural forces (Cthulu smash!), Star Trek level handwavium / Doctor Who-ish macguffins, or be completely fun, insane, or off the wall.

On Tuesday, my panel of experts and I will quantifiably determine the absolute best answer and that worthy soul will receive a free proof copy of A Sword into Darkness via US mail before the big launch day.  I also have a few extra Advanced Reader Copies lying around which are just begging to get mailed out.

Enter soon and enter often and may the best invasion-stopper win!

Broadside!!!

First, a little of the old ultra-violence to make up for yesterday’s serenity:

Trenton Broadside1

Broadside!!!

That is, of course, the USS Trenton (CA-1) with railguns and laser emplacements slewed out to the side, performing a full broadside of all batteries as a power and weapons’ integration test.  In my imagination, the cruiser’s fire control logics would have to automatically compensate for the impulse of the railgun shots by briefly firing attitude thrusters to offset the resulting spin.  It is once more a Cinema 4D shot.  I like this one, because it is a) cool and b) let me play a lot with hard shadows and point light sources.  The Earth below is my own construct, using conformal cloud maps, satellite composites, and semi-transparent shells for the atmosphere.  

Speaking of broadsides and publishing, my IRL / FB friend and mentor Mark Ellis fired off his own broadside concerning the “traditional” publishing industry and how his own attitudes as a very successful mid-list author have changed concerning self-publishing.  If you can get to Facebook, the post itself is very illuminating, but it expands to genius in the comments.  

Here is the link:  Hudsucker Proxy

And here is the meat of the post if the link does not work (used with Mark’s permission):

I don’t talk much about the publishing industry here for a couple of reasons…mainly because unless you’re in it, the whole field and process is misunderstood to the point of it being arcane.

But here’s how *I* feel…it’s my opinion based on my experiences…and it’s my FB page…so…

Publishing underwent a vast change several years ago, known as “Black Wednesday”…the economic upheaval which affected so many other industries seriously damaged what is known as “tradtional” publishing…except, unlike the auto and banking industries, there were no government bail-outs or breathless updates every five minutes on CNN and MSNBC.

One of the major changes that I experienced (other than advances being slashed) is how the final decision of what would be published now rested primarily with the sales departments…not editors or editorial committees but salespeople.

In the wake of these changes, self-publishing became a viable alternative to hitherto traditionally published writers like me. Yeah, at first I considered it the same as vanity presses, but after being dealt with unethically by a publisher who first enthusiastically accepted Cryptozoica and then reneged on the agreement, I went in that direction.

It was a decision I’ve never regretted.

As for so-called “traditional” publishing…it’s never recovered from Black Wednesday and it’s feeling the bite of independent and self-publishing. Spokesmen for the industry have lately been working hard to disparage the whole thing, due in the main to outright fear. A couple of years ago, self-publishing was beneath their notice…but now–

One of the implications I perceive in these messages is this: 

Solidly selling midlist writers like myself who spent years building a readership should just go ahead and DIE ALREADY and stop taking readers away from the writers traditional publishers want them to read.

Doesn’t matter that we write what our fans want to read and buy–it’s more important we have the good grace to accept our careers are over because a handful of corporate flunkies decided they are.

It’s sorta like the Sidney J. Mussberger mantra from THE HUDSUCKER PROXY when he tries to convince Norville Barnes he’s washed up and should kill himself: “When you’re dead…you stay dead.” 

Uh-uh.

Here’s my counter-solution: Accept reality, fix what you f**ed up, treat writers ethically and honestly, keep your word and maybe you won’t be so scared all the time…and you just might be able to save your own jobs.

Mark is a prolific author of over 40 adventure novels and thrillers, including many of the “James Axler” novels, Deathlands and Outlanders series, as well as his latest Cryptozoica.