Monday, August 27, 2012

Killer Thrillers and author collectives

Yes, I have been away for a long time, two mind-bending weeks in Australia, which I will post about when I can wrap my own thoughts around the trip.  That will not be today, however. I'm still trying to wake up.

But life and work go on, especially work, and today is a big launch of a new venture in publishing that I wanted to write about: a collective of thriller writers called Killer Thrillers.

I've been blogging more and more here about e publishing and marketing, because these days it's impossible to have a career as a novel writer without being an expert in both. So today I'd like to talk about the issue of filters.

One of the huge problems of e publishing from a quality perspective is that in the brave new world of self publishing, "gatekeepers" have essentially been eliminated.  Agents and publishers are no longer filtering books before they're put before the public. While there's an argument that that's a good thing, I know from my years as a reader for film production companies how very much absolute dreck is screened out by early readers:  agents, editorial assistants, editors - and when I say dreck I mean scripts and books that should never have been read by another soul besides the purported author.

I'm all for readers being allowed to discover books on their own, and it is true that the actual purchase or publication of a script or book is subject to personal taste, the specific needs of a publishing house or line, and the vagaries of the market.  But those screeners also kept some seriously awful material from ever seeing the light of day.

So now that anyone who can figure out the e publishing platform can upload virtually anything to Kindle, Pubit, Kobo and Smashwords, where's the quality control?  You can argue that the readers are their own quality control now, but seriously - the vast number of books - and especially free books - on offer has made sorting through the dreck that's out there (and oh yes, the dreck is out there) a time-consuming proposition for a reader.

Personally, I WANT some screening.  But where is that going to come from?

While literary agencies are a logical entity for promotion of quality authors and books, they seem so far reluctant to set themselves up as publishers or storefronts for their clients.  And since agencies are not performing this function, I have thought for some time that authors should be banding together to support and promote their own books, and there are more and more of these author collectives springing up (not surprisingly the majority are romance authors).  I've been asked to join various author collectives but have so far been wary about committing because I haven't heard of or more importantly read most of the authors involved.  I can't in good conscience post about other authors' books on Facebook and Twitter and on this blog and others when I haven't actually read the goods. I think we all have a responsibility not to waste other people's time by randomly promoting mediocre books and leaving readers to find for themselves that those books were better avoided.

So so far my only choices have been to form a collective of authors I admire myself, or wait for someone like-minded to do it. And luckily for me, thriller author Karen Dionne has done exactly that. Karen is a bestselling author and organizer extraordinaire: the founder of the writers forum Backspace and the Backspace Writers Conference.  For Killer Thrillers she's put together a group of thriller authors I would have approached myself: friends and blogmates from Murderati:  Rob Gregory Browne, Brett Battles and Zoe Sharp, and other authors I know and love like David Morrell, Blake Crouch, CJ Lyons, Keith Raffel - all authors I have read and can recommend without reservation.

All Killer Thrillers authors are bestselling, award-winning and/or internationally published; most are traditionally published as well as e published.  Those qualifications do not guarantee that a particular reader will love all or any of the books offered, but they do say that a significant number of readers have found the books worth reading. And most of the authors involved know each other from Bouchercon and Thrillerfest, MWA and ITW and Sisters in crime, and can promote each other without the slightest hesitation.

In essence authors are banding together to establish their own publishing imprints, just as publishers do. We are creating an umbrella organization that guarantees a certain genre and a certain quality of work. How effective these collectives are going to be in the Wild West of e publishing is an open question, but Killer Thrillers is a brand I can put my energy into building with real enthusiasm. I hope you'll check out the site and the books today, and if you see anything you like, tell your friends.

Killer Thrillers

And today I'd love to talk about book screening.  How do you find your books these days? Have you seen other effective methods of quality control and promotion?

- Alex

Related e publishing and marketing posts:

My e publishing decision 
E publishing - Where do I START?
To Nook or Not to Nook? 
Giving it Away (Kindle Select promotion)
Marketing = Madness
Letting it Ride (Kindle Select promotion)
Bestseller lists and Tag lists
Liking, Sharing and Tagging


In other news...

I'm thrilled that Huntress Moon is a featured book in Amazon's KDP newsletter this week.

And I made IndieReader's  Top 100 Indie Authors list for August with the sales of Huntress Moon alone.

Yes, I am happy I decided to e publish!

A driven FBI agent is on the hunt for that most rare of all killers: a female serial.

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon FR
Amazon ES
Amazon IT

Monday, August 13, 2012

Subscriber glitch, and time-bending

Due to some bizarre glitch of - I guess Feedburner! - some people who are subscribed to my Screenwriting Tricks site are getting sent a post that I made back in April, saying that The Price and The Space Between are free today.  They're not!

I have no idea why this his happening and am on my way to Australia so I can't look into it.  It doesn't seem to have affected that many people, but I don't know for sure.  So sorry for any inconvenience!

It was a day of time weirdness - some major time misreadings on the travel front.  I guess that means while I'm traveling, I'm supposed to live in kairos rather than chronos. As we all do on the road, really.

So as I hit the road... um, air... for Diamonds are Forever, the RWAustralia National Conference,  I'm leaving you with a post on this fascinating concept.  Have a great week!

- Alex 


Well, convention season has kicked into high gear.    If one were looking to avoid writing, just for example, one could jet off to – Romantic Times,  Book Expo America, Mayhem in the Midlands, American Library Association,  Thrillerfest,  RWA National…  to mingle, network, party with hundreds of favorite and soon-to be-favorite authors, librarians, booksellers, DLers, 4MAers, MWAers, ITWers, Sisters, and most importantly, readers.

Authors are strongly advised to go to conventions and festivals to build their careers.  There is no question that the networking is gold.   And except for having to continuously “sparkle”, as Margaret Maron puts it,  it’s so easy to network at these things.  All you have to do is relax and walk around and just run into the people you need to run into. Really, it works. Reviewers, booksellers, your publicist, the author whose incredible book you were reading just the night before, extraordinary friends you haven't seen in ten years - they're all there in a very contained space and you will drift into them if you just go with the flow.

Some people call that work.   But what it really is, is magic.   What it is – is Faire Time.

I learned the concept of Faire Time, or Festival Time, over the years of my interestingly misspent youth, hanging out at the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire –a month-long semi-historical recreation of life in an Elizabethan village, except with sex and drugs and overpriced irresistible craftish - stuff.

(Wait, what am I saying?  Of course they had all of that going on in those real Elizabethan villages, too...)

I’ll be lazy.  Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about festivals:

Among many religions, a feast or festival is a set of celebrations in honour of God or gods.

Hmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?   A set of celebrations in honor of gods – and goddesses.   Take a look at the guest of honor lists for any of the above- mentioned conventions.   Gods and goddesses of the mystery/literary world?   You betcha.

What else?

Festivals, of many types, serve to meet specific social needs and duties, as well as to provide entertainment. These times of celebration offer a sense of belonging for religious, social, or geographical groups. Modern festivals that focus on cultural or ethnic topics seek to inform members of their traditions. In past times, festivals were times when the elderly shared stories and transferred certain knowledge to the next generation. Historic feasts often provided a means for unity among families and for people to find mates.

Now, does that sound like a convention or what?

Maybe it’s that first, religious purpose of festivals but I do notice this unifying principle of “Faire Time” or “Festival Time" in full force at conventions.  There is an element of the sacred about a festival – it is out of the ordinary, out of simple chronological time, out of chronos - into kairos (again, from Wikipedia): "a time in between", a moment of undetermined period of time in which "something" special happens.

And here’s an interesting bit:

In rhetoric kairos is a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.

Synchronicity and opportunity happen with such regularity at these convention things that they’re really more the rule than the exception.

It is my absolute conviction that much more important career business gets done at conventions and festivals than anywhere else because it is being done in Faire Time – a suspended moment of opportunity.

And that is not even mentioning the creative and personal inspiration of being in that state of suspended time with so many passionate worshippers of the book.   By the end of a convention I will always know the next right step to take, professionally and creatively, just as clearly as if it has been spoken to me.   All it takes it to ask the question.

And one of my favorite things about conventions these days is running into aspiring authors who I met and connected with at previous conventions – only to find that they’re now published or about to be.   It reaffirms my whole faith in the process.

As many of you have witnessed, I love the total debauchery of these gatherings, but I’m never unaware of something also sacred under all that revelry.

I’m sure that all of us have stories of improbable connections and synchronicities at festivals, and I’d love to hear them today!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I rarely find myself in the position of defending anything Hollywood does, but D-Day is fast approaching, and I don't mean the global apocalypse, or at least, the reset of the Universe anticipated by the Mayan calendar.  I mean the release of the first Jack Reacher movie, based on the incomparable Lee Child's Reacher books, (specifically One Shot), with Tom Cruise as Reacher.

And the protests have started up again over the casting, and I am again unable to shut up about it, especially since I'm off to Australia in a few days and everyone can rage at me all they want and I will be completely untouched by the maelstrom in my state of transhemispheric bliss.

I understand that some Reacher fans, a lot of Reacher fans, are disappointed in the casting, to put it mildly.  Look, nobody has to tell me about having your heart broken by Hollywood.  I worked as a screenwriter, heartbreak was a constant state of existence until I finally snapped and started writing novels instead.

But seriously.  We've all been watching Hollywood movies since before we could talk, right?  So what in the world did anyone EXPECT?

I don't think I should have to point out how very few movies have ever lived up to the books on which they were based. Considering the development process of film, it's a miracle a decent adaptation ever happens at all.  Hollywood is a commercial market, and rare gems are as rare as rare gems.

Hollywood casting is about what will make the most money for the studio. In these days of the weekend box office being reported like football scores, is this is a surprise to anyone?

But there is also a jeering ugliness to some of the criticism that really bothers me. And a literalism that mystifies me.

What are people obsessing over about this casting? “Cruise can’t play Reacher, Reacher is 6’5”.”


That’s all we’re getting out of that character and those books?

I've been excoriated for saying Reacher's size doesn't matter to me. Actually, I'm a big fan of tall men, as my romantic history bears out. But apparently I don't understand the books at all because I really don't care how tall Reacher is.

You see, I had this idea that action has something to do with character. That there’s something about an iconic character that has to do with essence and soul.  I thought that Reacher’s brains and the fact that he’s a walking (literally) archetype – a modern and completely fucked up – I mean wounded - knight errant had something more to do with his charm than – inches.  I thought the actual stories - the Mission Impossible-like intricacy of Reacher’s plans and the way he is constantly able to rally the most unlikely teams of misfits to accomplish hopelessly lost causes had a little to do with the appeal of the books.

As much as I am in total favor of the objectification of male bodies, preferably as often as possible, to me Reacher’s size and six-pack are completely incidental to the man.  But people are posting photos of their picks to play Reacher that would launch me into the mother of all feminist rants if people were posting the equivalent photos of female actor choices for – oh, say, Clarice Starling, Jane Tennison, Jane Rizzoli, Elizabeth Bennet.  It’s embarrassing.

Would any one of us really want any of those slabs of beefcake who were hulking around the Reacher Creature party at the SF Boucheron to play Reacher?  Really?

And yes, there are some actors being named that I would have agreed are perfect Reachers - like Russell Crowe and Liam Neeson.  Perfect - ten years ago, that is.  The practical reality is, both of those fine and gorgeous actors are too old to do a three-movie action series now, unless their age is factored into a  portrayal of an older Reacher, which would be absolutely fine with me, but I suspect not with quite a few other Reacher fans.

But I've also have seen some perfectly idiotic casting choices floated on boards and lists, and no, I’m not going to name names, because those actors might actually be fine actors.  Or something.  But we are not talking about repertory theater, here.

The height thing aside (and height in Hollywood is relative - it's incredibly amusing how many people are protesting that - I'll call him Actor X -  is the only one who could possibly play Reacher when Actor X is in fact a couple of inches SHORTER than Tom Cruise....), there’s a whole hell of a lot more to playing a role like Reacher than acting.  We are talking about a mega-million dollar movie that is supposed to turn into a multi-billion dollar franchise. You don’t just need an actor for Reacher, you need a movie star.  You need more than a star - you need someone who can carry the movie.  And not just carry the movie, but carry the franchise.

Carrying a film is something more than acting. It’s not a very tangible thing. It has to do with being able to be present as a unique character but also letting the audience inhabit you.  It’s about being the point of view character, a vehicle for the audience, and the film’s authorial voice, all rolled into one.  It’s why movie stars are rarely as good actors as the character actors around them are, and why character actors are almost never able to play leads.  A lead actor can be acting his heart out and the movie will still be dead on arrival because the actor isn’t doing that other essential intangible thing.

And the more action and special effects going on, the more important it is to have a lead who can carry all that action.

Those wonderful actors who seemed to be rising really fast and suddenly disappear and are never heard from again? Well, maybe they’re on the rehab circuit, but just as probably they were cast in a film that was supposed to be their big breakout and they just weren’t able to carry the film.

Carrying this movie is going to be ten million times more important than size.  I can think of a couple of actors, good actors, who seem to me physically perfect for Reacher, who in fact work just fine as Reacher in those random Reacher fantasies, you know the ones I mean - but who I wouldn’t want to gamble on being able to carry this film.

Tom Cruise has been carrying movies consistently since he was 21 years old. Ironically, what all these size-obsessed complainers don’t seem to realize is that Tom Cruise is one of a handful of actors on the planet BIG enough to carry a franchise that big.

And anyone who thinks Tom Cruise can’t act should go rent Collateral, or Magnolia. Or Jerry Maguire. Tom Cruise is a hell of an actor. You don’t have a string of dozens of successful movies over thirty years, the majority of which have made over two hundred million dollars each, and more, worldwide, without having something going on. Or would you like to try to argue that that list of movies succeeded in spite of Cruise?

Moreover, he is a terrific action star.  He is a superb athlete and known for training for weeks on end to get the physicality of every action he performs in a film exactly right.  Do you think it’s easy even to fire a gun convincingly on screen, much less perform the kinds of stunts he routinely does in the Mission Impossible films (not that I’m a huge fan of those, but that has nothing to do with Cruise)?

I say, give a major actor some credit for knowing what he can and can’t play. No one thought Dustin Hoffman could make a convincing woman and he only got cast in Tootsie by making demo films of himself as Dorothy Michaels to convince the powers that be that he actually could do it. But he knew.  And after the fact, can you imagine anyone else in that role?

Well, newsflash: Tom Cruise knows a whole hell of a lot better than a bunch of us mystery readers what he can do.  This is not a man in the habit of doing things badly. Will he pull if off?  Maybe, maybe not.  Think about it. Any time we sit down to write a book we think we just might be able to do it some meager form of justice and from there we work like dogs and pray like hell. What makes anyone think it’s any different for an actor?

But we are talking about one of the hardest working and most passionately dedicated actors in Hollywood.  I’d lay down money that Tom Cruise has a better idea of who and what Jack Reacher is than the vast majority of the naysayers. Character is his job and he’s been doing it brilliantly for over 30 years.

He’s a seasoned and successful producer as well, which I’m not going to get into, but you better believe it’s good news for the movie.

But I will say it is stupefying to me that a community of readers and writers, in all this ranting, seem to be saying not one word about what could go wrong with the script. Josh Olson, the original adaptor (adapted and was Oscar-nominated for A History of Violence) is smart, passionate, angry, iconoclastic - I was excited that he was doing the adaptation.  Christopher McQuarrie, attached as director, ended up doing his own adaptation of the book.  He’s most famous for writing and winning the Oscar for The Usual Suspects.  All sounds good, right? But there’s no guarantee here that what ends up on screen will have anything to do with the story we know from the book.  Personally I would hate to see the incredible ensemble energy of this particular story (based on the book One Shot), the way all the seemingly minor characters come together as an unlikely and sympathetic team, get eviscerated to showcase Reacher going it alone.

But that’s an optimistic view of what could actually happen, story-wise.

Instead of bitching about Cruise, we should be on our knees lighting candles to the movie gods that whoever ended up in creative control of this film (and that could well have changed radically in between the beginning of shooting and the film’s release) didn't decide... oh, let’s say... that the stakes weren't big enough, and get the bright idea to make the villains the joint heads of the entire Russian mafia who have decided to take over the US and to do so have acquired a nuclear warhead which Reacher will be forced to dismantle while simultaneously trying to rescue his long lost and hitherto unknown son or daughter or, hey, twin son and daughter– with the loyal help of the dog the executives gave him to make him more “relatable”.

Oh yeah, there is a whole lot that could go wrong with this film.

There also is a chance that a very smart movie could have come out of this. And if it didn't, it’s not going to be because of Tom Cruise.

So how about putting some energy into wishing for a great movie?  It’s rare enough that that happens. Does everyone really want to jinx that with all this vitriol?

If you're an author, you need to understand - that you have NO POWER over who gets cast in any adaptation of your book, if you're ever lucky enough to have that happen. Even if the movie starts out with what seems a perfect director, cast, designer... that could change in a second. These things are totally out of your control.

If you're a reader, and the vagaries of Hollywood really are a surprise to you, and this wasn't what you hoped for, I'm sorry for your pain. I've been there with characters I created.  But is stupefying to me that some readers are saying that the very thought of Tom Cruise as Reacher has spoiled the books for them.  What???  We can have Reacher in any form we want, every time we pick up one of the books. Cast at will. And it couldn't be more obvious from the wide variety of casting suggestions being thrown out that not one of us sees him the same way. That’s the beauty of fictional characters.

Reacher is Reacher.  However you want him, any time you want him. That's the miracle of a book. So don't see the movie if the thought of it upsets you, but for the love of Reacher, don't let that spoil your love of Reacher. That's just - masochistic, I think is the word. You're letting Hollywood win.

But look, if you want to talk about who really should play Reacher, here’s your chance to do it. Share the fantasies. Go wild. Link to beefcake shots, or Youtube exotic videos, I’m not going to object.  Or tell us some books-to-movies that were perfectly cast, and why.

So who do I see as Reacher?  Lee Child. It is entirely mystifying to me that anyone could not think so. And there’s not a living actor in Hollywood who could come up to that level of brains and sexy. But it’s not going to happen, and it shouldn’t.

(And for the record?  Jack Reacher as a movie title?  Epic fail.  But you won't catch ME complaining).

- Alex


Huntress Moon, an Amazon Bestseller - #1 Police Procedural

A driven FBI agent is on the hunt for that most rare of all killers... a female serial.

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon FR
Amazon ES
Amazon IT

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Write about what makes you angry

Denise Mina is one of my absolute favorite crime writers and a constant inspiration. At a recent Bouchercon (San Francisco) she gave some of the shortest, sagest advice to writers and aspiring crime writers I think I’ve ever heard:

Write about what makes you angry.

It doesn’t take me a millisecond’s thought to make my list. Child sexual abuse is the top, no contest. Violence against women and children. Discrimination of any kind. Religious intolerance. War crimes. Genocide. Torture.

I have long found it toxically ironic that the crimes that I consider most unspeakable: slavery, rape, torture, the sexual slavery of children (including incest and prostitution – the average age a woman begins that life is thirteen), animal abuse – none of these were even worth a mention in the Ten Commandments. Apparently taking the Lord’s name in vain, stealing, and coveting thy neighbor’s wife rank above any of my personal hate list.

And I think the lack of Biblical sanction against those crimes has contributed to society’s continuing and pretty mindblowing ability to ignore those crimes.

And I’m angry about it.

That anger has fueled a lot of my books and scripts over the years. I've said this before, here, but I've always thought that as writers we're only working with a handful of themes, which we explore over and over, in different variations. And I think it's really useful to be very conscious of those themes. Not only do they fuel our writing, they also brand us as writers.

So when it came down to creating a series that I could sustain over multiple books, it’s no surprise that this issue came up again as one of the main thematic threads.  I’ve finally created an umbrella to explore, dramatically, the roots and context of the worst crimes I know. And at least on paper, do something about it.

But while writing is great to call attention to a problem and explore it, it's not enough in the face of real, everyday evil. There's writing, and there's action.

I've been thinking a lot about child prostitution (more aptly called child sex trafficking) recently as I'm writing the Huntress sequel, because there are characters in Book Two who are in that life. The fact is, most prostitutes start as child prostitutes. Women (and boys) who work as prostitutes almost always begin that life well before adulthood. Kids run away from abuse, usually sexual abuse, at home, and are sucked up into the life by predators: raped, battered, terrorized, and hooked on drugs so they're kept enslaved to the pimps who live off their earnings. Yes, still.

I've worked with some of those kids, when I taught in the L.A. County Juvenile Court systerm, and I find it unimaginable that we just let this happen, and often treat these victims as criminals rather than getting them help to break free.

So today, I don't want to just get angry about it, I want to do something about it.

I'm very grateful that sales of Huntress Moon have been very good - it's currently a Top Ten Amazon Bestseller in Mysteries, and the #1 Police Procedural. And since the issue of child sexual abuse is so much on my mind, I'd like to get active about it - in a slightly different way than one of my main characters chooses!  Today I’ll be donating all of my proceeds from sales of Huntress Moon to Children of the Night, a Los Angeles-based shelter which helps children and teenagers in prostitution from all over the country get out of the life.

So if you haven't gotten your copy of the book and you'd like the extra satisfaction that that money is going to an excellent cause, today's your chance:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon FR
Amazon ES
Amazon IT

Or - take that money and take a minute to donate directly to a cause that's fighting something that makes YOU angry.

So you know the question:

What makes you angry?  Do you write about it?  If not, do you think it might benefit your writing to try?

And I'd also love to hear about other people's favorite charities and causes.

Here are a few more of mine:

Planned Parenthood
Equality Now
Amnesty International

- Alex

Thursday, August 02, 2012

E publishing: Where Do I START?

Lately I have had a LOT of people asking me for advice on e publishing (or, horrors, to teach a workshop on it...) and I’ve been promising to compile a list of e publishing resources here to at least direct people to some solid help while I get my thoughts on the subject together into some kind of useful order.

But lists of resources are most helpful for people who already have some knowledge of the subject matter. That wouldn’t really address the question I keep getting, which is “Where do I START?”

Selling a book in the e publishing world has just as many steps and pitfalls as going the traditional route. Even though in the early days of e pub (like, last year!) a few people got lucky by just throwing a book up on KDP simply because there was so little competition out there, those days are over. The competition is fierce. There’s no question that launching into e publishing without having a clue what you’re doing is not going to get you very far.

On the other hand, there is no way to learn this stuff without being hands-on about it.

This isn’t a great time for me to start a new blog series on e publishing (as evidenced by how far I’ve gotten on my supposed series on series writing, hah!!). I am scrambling on a deadline for my latest paranormal while working on the sequel to Huntress Moon (nothing is more important that), getting ready to sell my house in the fall, and oh, right – I’m going to Australia in two weeks to do a workshop and panels and signings for the the Romance Writers of Australia National Conference.  

I made myself tired just WRITING all of that.

No, not a good time to take on anything else.

But I MIGHT be able to get this rolling for some of you with, dare I say it? – SHORTER and more targeted blog posts.

It’s tempting to just say: Go read Joe Konrath’s  Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog, in reverse order, from 2006 on. And maybe that is the best advice I could possibly give. Then you’d get it all as it actually unfolded from the actual leader of the revolution. I should actually take that advice myself, but, you know, the time thing.

It is a lot to sort through (and for God’s sake, if you do it, don’t get lost in the  Comments!).

And there’s something equally basic that you need to do if you are thinking of e publishing.

Get an e reader. And USE it.

I have to say that because it is astonishing to me when I hear authors talking about e publishing who don’t even read on an e reader.  Reading an e book on your laptop or phone is not going to do it. You will fool yourself that you get it when actually you don’t have a clue. There is NO WAY you are going to understand the incredible sea change that has occurred if you are not using the technology and understanding why and how readers are buying. You can’t. And I think once you’ve experienced the thrill of having an entire library in the palm of your hand, the delicious indulgence of being able to download ANY BOOK YOU WANT, INSTANTLY, you’ll understand why this is the greatest invention since the wheel, and why as an author OF COURSE you want to make your books available this way.

Which e reader? No contest. If you’re an author looking to make a living, you must get and understand a Kindle. I'm sorry if there are people who don't like that answer but that IS the answer. I do not know of one author who is making a living at self-publishing who is not doing it primarily through the Amazon platform. And all the authors I know who are making good money on Nook and Kobo sales launched themselves with Amazon.  (More on this here: To Nook or Not to Nook?).  I’m being basic here and that is as basic as it gets.

An e reader is easy to operate, you’ll see. So once you have one, what you want to do is start buying books. Or sampling them, it doesn’t matter, and sampling is totally free (Sampling: in the Amazon store, you can download several chapters of any book to your Kindle for free. If you do not have an Amazon Store account, you need to set one up. It's easy.).  Sampling is an important thing to learn – among other things it will teach you volumes about your own writing, and what has to go in your FIRST CHAPTERS).  But it’s also a no-cost to learn the device and experience e reading.

You want to sample books that are in your own genre, and you want to sample a lot of self-published books as well as traditionally published books . The 99 cent ones (brace yourself...) the $2.99 ones, the $3.99 ones, and the $9.99 and yike, $12.99 traditionally published ones.  Try authors you haven’t heard of whose books sound interesting. (Don’t forget Huntress Moon, or any of the fine titles you can simply click through to sample if you just look to the right of this blog...).

Take an hour and download and read twenty samples in a row, and take notes. Did you want to keep reading at the end of the sample, or could you not get through it at all?  Is there a difference between 99 cent books, $2.99 ones, $3.99 ones, and the $9.99 or $12.99 ones put out by traditional publishers?  If there is a difference, what IS the difference?  Would you pay $12.99 for an e book? If so, which authors would you pay it for, and which wouldn't you?

Wade into the market and see what’s out there. Get the lay of the land, and ask questions here. 

So there, I’ve given you a couple of practical tasks that will get your feet wet.

You didn’t think you were going to learn this overnight, did you?

I hope not. Get a grip.  E publishing is a full-time job, just like traditional publishing is. But if you don’t start now, a year from now you’ll still be asking, “Where do I start?”

- Alex

Huntress Moon, on sale now:  $3.99

Amazon IT

A driven FBI agent is on the hunt for that most rare of all killers:
a female serial.

Related e publishing and marketing posts:

My e publishing decision 
To Nook or Not to Nook? 
Giving it Away (Kindle Select promotion)
Marketing = Madness
Letting it Ride (Kindle Select promotion)
Bestseller lists and Tag lists
Liking, Sharing and Tagging