Friday, May 29, 2009

Guest Blogger Stacey Cochran


Today, What Fresh Hell welcomes a longtime friend, Raleigh writer Stacey Cochran. Stacey is a prime example of the type of good and generous folks that make it so much fun to be in this business, a fellow who doesn't consider other writers competition and thus will work his tail off help you put your work out there as well as his own. As just one example, a while back Stacey put together several bookstore events with himself, Yours Truly, and the lovely and fiercely talented Alex Sokoloff on "how to get published." And they packed the house, and we all sold books.

Welcome Stacey!

I am not supposed to be a winner. I am an underdog to the underdogs. I am the guy at whom people like to throw tomatoes.

So how in the hell are my books suddenly hitting bestseller lists? I mean check your pulse, people; I think we might have entered a parallel universe or something.

Earlier this week I put two novels on Kindle - CLAWS and The Colorado Sequence - and I set a price point of $1.59 and 80 cents respectively. Next, I started a single post on the Kindle Discussion Board titled “Books Under 2 Bucks” and asked folks to list their favorite Kindle books that cost less than two dollars. I posted links to both my novels.

Within 24 hours, both books came out of nowhere and started hitting bestseller lists in the following categories: Suspense, Action & Adventure, Horror, and Science Fiction. At one point, CLAWS was ranked #357 for all Kindle books (there are nearly 300,000). TCS was ranked #1 overall in the Sci-Fi Adventure category.

So what the heck is going on? How did an unknown author with two self-published pulp novels gain any traction at all?

Five things contributed to this:

1) The price point for both books is competitive. Most major publishers are setting Kindle book prices anywhere from $6 to $15. By listing my books at 80 cents and $1.59, I’ve given myself an edge.

2) The book covers and descriptions look like something you’d see from a major publisher. That is, to the average reader when they see the Kindle pages for my novels, they see a book that looks professional and interesting. Book Marketing 101 here.

3) The Kindle Forums. There is a sentiment on the Kindle forums that publishers are charging too much for Kindle books, and Kindle readers seem eager to help out the little guy who has a good story, good cover, and price point that is fair.

4) Kindle readers want books. They are the most die-hard book fans on the planet, and they’ve just spent nearly 400 dollars for a Kindle. They want to load up their Kindles with good books, and a novel that is priced at 80 cents seems practically free. Worth a mouse click.

5) Viral marketing. If you can maintain a high ranking and stay on several category bestseller lists, you have higher visibility and people start linking to and discussing your book elsewhere. My hunch is that you’ve got to maintain this momentum for at least a month to reap the rewards of viral marketing. Too soon for me to really tell, and it could be that my books will drop as fast as they climbed.

We all know that Amazon rankings fluctuate wildly.

Nonetheless, riffing off of what Konrath mentioned last week and what his publisher (Grand Central) is doing, if you’ve got a couple trunk novels or novellas and can get your publisher to list your book for free on Kindle, it can rocket you to the top of bestseller lists. This, in turn, will lead to readers looking up your other books and a percentage of them will buy.

The idea is to throw out a couple books for free to gain exposure.

It’s really smart. And nearly all of us have a trunk novel or novella that our publishers could toss to Amazon Kindle to sell for free.

I should mention, too, that anyone can upload a book to Amazon DTP (digital text platform), so what a few authors (Konrath and Boyd Morrison, for example) are doing is putting their own trunk novels online and setting a competitive price point. Joe’s doing this simultaneously with Grand Central’s efforts to get one of his novellas online for free (currently ranked #1 overall); the combined effort is making him a nice pile of change.

Keep in mind we’re drawing 35% royalty for the trunk novels we’re uploading ourselves through Amazon DTP.

So what’re you waiting for? Dust off your trunk novels, folks. Use Word to save them as an .html file and upload it to Amazon’s Digital Text Platform. It’ll sure as heck make more money than if it’s sitting in cold storage.

I’d bet a shiny penny on that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Future of Publishing Goes Right in the Toilet

Forget fancy digital readers and electronic paper, the future of reading is written on a different medium. Japanese horror writer Koji Suzuki just published a nine-chapter novella on a roll of toilet paper.

[Insert Jim Born Joke Here ]

The "Drop" novella is set in a public bathroom, and can be read in a few minutes--taking up three feet of toilet paper. According to the AP, it retails for about $2.20 a roll. Suzuki wrote the "The Ring," a scary story adapted into popular Japanese and American movies.

I don't know what's worse. the fact it's written and sold on TP or the fact that it's called "Drop". I suppose I should count my blessings. It could be called "Plop."

Here's the spooky rationale behind the story: "Toilets in Japan were traditionally tucked away in a dark corner of the house due to religious beliefs. Parents would tease children that a hairy hand might pull them down into the dark pool below." (Via Ron Charles)

Makes me glad I grew up in America. We only had to worry about the ghoulies under the bed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oh. My. God.

Canadian Governor general skins seal, eats heart
Governor General MichaĆ«lle Jean, on the first day of her trip to the Arctic, gutted a freshly slaughtered seal, pulled out its raw heart — and ate it.

Hundreds of Inuit at a community festival in Rankin Inlet gathered around as she made a gesture of solidarity with the country’s beleaguered seal hunters.

Jean knelt above a pair of carcasses and used a traditional blade to slice the meat off the skin.

After repeated, vigorous cuts through the flesh the Queen’s representative turned to the woman beside her and asked enthusiastically if she could try the heart.

Afterward Jean used a tissue to wipe her blood-soaked fingers, and explain her gesture of solidarity with the region’s Inuit hunters.

Y'know, I confess, I always thought of Canadians as kind of laid back. Not wimpy exactly, but not the kind of bad-asses who'd "enthusiastically" cut the bleeding warm heart from a seal and chow down on it.

I apologize. I got it wrong. Your leaders are insane. We're talking batshit crazy on a Ted Nugent level. I'm beginning to see why the Russians never fucked with you people. I'm thinking Hillary Clinton needs to go on TV, rip the heart out of a grizzly bear and consume it on live TV, then turn to the camera with blood on her teeth and ask Kim Jong-Il if he'd like to cut the bullshit with the missile tests and return to the six-party talks.

I'm reasonably sure it would work.

Another Case of SWORS

Mike Huckabee on Obama's new Supreme Court nominee:
The appointment of Maria Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama's campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bipartisan way were mere rhetoric. Sotomayor comes from the far left and will likely leave us with something akin to the "Extreme Court" that could mark a major shift.

Huckabee's criticism might be taken a little more seriously if the nominees' first name was actually Maria. It's Sonia Sotomayor.

If he hasn't taken the time to actually get the candidates' NAME right. how are we to believe he's actually familiar with anything Judge Sotomayor stands for?

Another case of Spasmodic Wingnut Outrage Syndrome in full bloom.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Only Steal FromThe Best

Since we're seeing a return of my least favorite kind of comment, to wit: the "why are you talking about that, why aren't you talking about this?" I thought it might behoove us all if I gave a quick and clear statement of policies and procedures here. And since I'm basically lazy, I stole this one from John Scalzi's excellent blog, Whatever:

Everything on the site is my opinion (except comments written by others, which are their opinions). I have strong opinions. At times, you may not agree with these opinions, or how I choose to express them. This is not my problem.

I make no claims as toward being even-handed, fair, or nice. I write what I want here. Your being offended is not a reason for me to stop writing as I choose.

I run this site as I please. You do not get a vote. If you try to suggest that you do, I may be rude to you.

I prefer to take a light hand at comment moderation, and thanks to excellent commenters, I am usually able to do just that.

That said, I reserve the right to edit all comments, and to moderate all comment threads, as I see fit. Your comment is more likely to be edited, moderated or deleted if it contains phobic content (based on race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, etc), is a personal attack or threat toward another commenter, is entirely unrelated to the entry topic, features more than a “fair use” amount of someone else’s copyrighted work, has such poor grammar and spelling that it annoys me, is an obvious piece of trollage, or if I find it or you obnoxious and decide I’ve had enough. Don’t like it? Don’t comment. Simple.

I participate in comment threads. Fire away at me. You need to be aware that I respond to tone as well as content. If you’re polite, I’ll be polite. If you’re a jackass, I’ll be a jackass back. If you argue poorly, I may correct you. If you want to gauge my levels of
tolerance, watch how others comment to me and triangulate accordingly.

Hard to improve on that, so I won't try.

Those are the rules, such as they are. Learn them. Live them. Love them. This blog is not a democracy, although as stated above, I don't delete or ban lightly.

But if you're being tiresome and, in my opinion, driving others away from the site, you're gone.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dear Carrie

Latest Newspaper column:

An open letter to Miss California, Carrie Prejean:

Dear Carrie:
First off, congratulations on keeping your title as Miss California, despite all the brouhaha over allegedly "racy" pictures and your, uh, surgical enhancements. I've seen those pictures online, and they seem pretty vanilla, at least compared to some of the other things I've seen online, but hey, let's not go into that.

As for the other thing: Hey, it's California, right? I thought implants were more or less mandatory out there. And it's a good thing to have Donald Trump behind you. Just don't let him get too close behind you, if you know what I mean. The guy's reportedly a major hound.

Frankly, Carrie, I've been pretty uninterested in the whole kerfluffle surrounding your not getting the Miss USA title. And since a girl from my home state of North Carolina took home the crown, I'm pleased, to the extent that I care at all, which is not much.

But I do feel like I need to address one thing you said in public. Apparently you're unhappy with what happened when you answered a ­question about gay marriage by stating you felt marriage was only between a man and a woman. Your words were, I believe:

"On April 19th, on that stage, I exercised my freedom of speech and I
was punished for doing so. This should not happen in America. It
­undermines the constitutional rights which my grandfather fought for."

When I heard that, I felt I really needed to speak up. Because, see, I'm a major, major fan of the First Amendment. I'm talking pre-teen-girl-crush-on-the Jonas-brothers level of fan. I don't actually write "Dusty + First Amendment" inside a great big heart on the cover of my notebooks, at least not anymore, but still. Big, big fan. So when I heard your complaint that your First Amendment rights were being violated, I felt I had to speak up.

Carrie, you're very pretty, and you seem like a sweet girl. But here's the thing, darlin', and I say this with all due respect: You're ignorant. Now, I could be a jerk and call you dumb, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, because I'm ­awesome like that. I'll attribute this boneheaded statement to your never having been taught right, rather than any kind of mental defect.

I'll just assume that while you were learning ­little beauty pageant tricks like putting Vaseline on your teeth to make your smile wider that no one ever taught you what the First Amendment really says. But unlike stupidity, ignorance can be cured. And Carrie, I'm here to help. Because I'm a giver. I give. It's what I do.

Now, on to the First Amendment. It says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an ­establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Get that first part? Congress shall make no law. Now, if Congress was trying to pass a law to shut you up, I'd be hollering as loud as anyone. But they're not.
You got criticized. People said nasty things about you. One of them was the contest judge to whom you addressed your comments, a bitchy Internet gossip columnist who's about as far out of the closet as you can get.

And you ­didn't win. But imagine if you'd been in Alabama, and the judge was the head of the local Baptist church. And imagine if you'd made the comment that you were all for gay marriage. You probably wouldn't have won that one either, and the same people who are shedding tears for you now would be applauding the judge who voted against you.

But none of that has anything to do with the First Amendment. The First Amendment doesn't mean no one can disagree with you, or even that they have to be sweet to you when they do. It doesn't mean you can insult a contest judge and still win.

So, and again, I say this with respect: Come down off the cross, honey. We need the wood.