Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 2)

The Double-Edged Sword of Kindle Select

As discussed a post or so ago, Amazon announced Kindle Unlimited on Friday. $10 per month, “unlimited” access to Kindle books. None of the one-book-at-a-time limit that the Kindle Owners Lending Library had, but it seems I do have to put “Unlimited” in quotation marks because there’s a limit of ten books at a shot. I don’t know how one reaches that limit–if it’s ten books at a one time or ten books in a month’s period. I have a feeling it’s the former, which I guess means you have to remove one from a device to read another?

I’m sure I’ll figure that out this month before my subscription ends. Depending on whether I re-up–and I probably will, because I think I mentioned before I usually drop twenty bucks as soon as I see each month’s new Kindle Monthly Deals.

But I wanted to talk a little more about it from an author/publisher perspective.

I’m both. Reader first, which led me to becoming an author (I had to write the books I wanted to read that didn’t exist yet), which led me to becoming a publisher of both my own books and then other people’s.

If not for Amazon, I wouldn’t be the latter. If the third-generation Kindle hadn’t finally, finally gotten digital reading right, I would have continued on the query carousel. I would have continued to send out both Meets Girl and The Prodigal Hour, hoping for an agent, an editor, a publisher, hoping to sign at the dotted line so that one day my book would be on a shelf at a Barnes & Noble. I don’t know that it would have happened. Toward the end there, I got a lot of rejections along the lines of “The writing is good and the story is well told, but the market is just too tough right now.” Particularly with regard to The Prodigal Hour (“Time travel is a difficult market,” said nearly every query response I received).

But then in 2010 I started reading using the Kindle app, and then bought a Kindle just as I was completing Meets Girl, and I looked at it and I thought: I can do this.

And I did.

And not long after I did, Amazon announced the addition of Kindle Select to the KDP Platform. Authors could offer their books for free, if they wanted, for just a few days out of 90, but it could lead to a nice sales boost, and the books could be part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library–

If you made the book exclusive to Kindle.

If you decided you’d sell your title through Amazon–and only Amazon–for 90 days.

And there’s the rub.

One of the great things about digital is how fast it makes things. Not long ago, Nick Earls and I decided to update his novel Tumble Turns. I wanted to put it on sale and give it a new, better cover. I sent him a handful of images, and as soon as he chose one, in a matter of a few hours I’d created a new cover and uploaded it. That’s how fast this all is.

As fast as digital speeds, the internet grows, “viral” becomes digidemic, 90 days’ worth of exclusivity feels like a long time indeed. That’s 90 days when if someone refuses to use Amazon for whatever reason, they can’t get your book. And 90 days when, if someone wants to read your book on an iPad or Kobo or Nook, they have to buy it from Amazon, use third-party software to convert it to an ePub (if it’s published without DRM), and then sideload it onto their reader–and not everyone knows how to do that.

More so, it’s 90 days when you’re not contributing to the growth of the digital ecosystem, of which Amazon is merely one part. Apple could make iBooks great. Barnes & Noble could finally figure out what the heck it wants to do with Nook. Smashwords could decide to redo its website to become a robust marketplace itself (its strength seems to be as an aggregator/distrubutor–which it’s really good at–and not a retailer itself).

But the thing is, those are all things that could happen–not things that have already. iBooks is fine, but it’s limited to Apple devices, of which there may be, like, a billion or so, but on how many is it actually installed? (I hold out hope that September will bring not only new iDevices, but improvements that make iBooks truly great.) Barnes & Noble hasn’t seemed to have a Nook strategy since it first launched the Nook Color, but I don’t envy its position, trying to innovate digitally while still keeping corporate publishers happy with their stores.

And in the meantime those things could happen, Amazon is already pretty much without peer in terms of the services it provides. Look at its customer experience index–that’s a measure of how satisfied its customers are, and this year it earned the top spot, according to Forrester Research’s survey of 7500 consumers, and specifically as a consumer electronics manufacturer for its Kindle (emphasis mine).

Is it really so bad to be exclusive to the number one customer experience in the US?

My feeling is it’s not. My feeling is that Amazon has created the number one customer experience and that’s one that it’s good to be a part of, and further that you know, for 90 days, why not give it a shot to see if it works?

My further feeling is that when authors sign contracts with corporate publishers, they basically agree to go exclusive with those publishers for the life of a copyright, which includes all the time up to authors’ deaths and then 70 years beyond, and surely 90 days worth of exclusivity to Amazon is pretty much nothing compared to that.

Mainly my feeling is that authors need to try things out and see what works. They need to explore options open to them (and it’s great when all are, but that’s not always the case). They need to decide what they want, what their goals are, and try to figure out how different tools and strategies and tactics might help them achieve those goals.

One of the things that Nick Earls has said to me he likes about how we work together is that we can try new things immediately, that we can be agile and flexible. To that end, I’m pleased to announce that Exciting Press is participating in Kindle Unlimited, if on a limited basis. You’ll find my novel, Meets Girl, which was available for a long while on the iBookstore but never really sold much there. You’ll also find several books by Nick, including the aforementioned Tumble Turns. We still have a dozen or so titles on the iBookstore (several free, so be sure to check those out), and we’ll also continue to explore new options as they make sense (so I don’t know if we’ll ever be on Nook again. When I see B&N has some strategy for it, I’ll consider it).

#venisonburgers and #shocktopbeer Happy Independence Day…

#venisonburgers and #shocktopbeer Happy Independence Day everyone!

from Tumblr

Martin Lastrapes & Signal over Noise

Not long ago, an author with whom I work via Exciting Press, Martin Lastrapes, asked me if I’d participate in a blog tour for him. I first encountered Martin several years ago when he wrote a post about being independent and what it meant for him and his passion for both telling stories and getting them out there.

When I was in my early to mid-twenties, I used to go to bars to see my buddies play in a band which went through several line ups and iterations. In those bars, I often felt like a lot of those aspiring bands attempted to use volume to make up for their lack of talent. I feel the same way about a lot of the current writing/publishing scene lately, which is why I’m so happy to work with Martin–dude’s got chops. I don’t know what sales of his novels are like, but I know his debut, Inside the Outside, is among the best I’ve read. It’s just so creepy and surreal and so utterly matter-of-fact about both. I can’t imagine anyone else who could make a lesbian’s escape from an incestuous, cannibalistic religious cult seem un-extraordinary, and that’s the highest praise I can offer.

I know what sales of his short stories are like, because those I’ve worked with him to publish. Healthy, certainly, but short stories are still a difficult thing to market.

What we share in common is the idealistic hope that, ultimately, quality will bear out. That things like “building a platform” and etc. are all just noise when what we really need is writers who produce a signal.

So this is his blog tour, I think. I haven’t blogged much lately. Sometimes I think about it, but there’s always something else to write or publish. I might not have blogged much in the past year, but I’ve published like a dozen books, and they’re all amazing.

That’s actually the answer to the first question (there are four).

What am I working on now?

Exciting Press. Independent digital literature. Sure, I’ve got half a dozen works in progress, including two or three novels, a non-fiction piece, a couple of scripts, and several short stories. My ideas aren’t going anywhere, though, and for now what feels vital to me, what feels important, is what I’m making possible. I’ve written two novels I’m damned proud of, both of which have been received positively and one of which was, for a brief and shining moment, the most popular ebook in the world.

And that’s why I’ve wanted to focus on Exciting Press. That’s why I wanted to focus on the amazing authors who’ve given me a chance to produce their stories as ebooks. That’s why I wanted to break publishing, once and for all, by totally up-ending How Things Are Done. That’s why I’m using a limited-term license (7 years) and offering my authors 70% of everything that comes in.

In a time when corporations think that 25% royalties is fair, I want to be the signal demonstrating it’s not.

To that end, I’m working on the final installment of Nick Earls’ new Brisbane Rewound trilogy, Bachelor Kisses. I’m also working on a couple of other novels from some other authors I’ve signed, but Nick’s latest novel The Fix was just published by Amazon, so it’s in front of me.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

To be honest, I don’t even know what this question means anymore. Genre is really just readers’ way of sifting through books on the Kindle bestseller lists. I don’t really write to genre: I write to story. I want to write the most exciting and visceral stories I can manage, and I usually want to subvert any genre they’d ostensibly be part of. My first novel, Meets Girl is sort of an urban fantasy, but really it’s a debut literary novel that in addition functions as a satire of debut literary novels.

My time travel novel probably bears the influences of Michael Crichton and Dean Koontz more than anyone.

Like I said, I work backwards. I just have the story, and I want to tell it as excitingly and realistically as I possibly can. I really don’t think about genre until I go to Amazon to click ‘Publish.’

Why do I write what I do?

Because nobody else has. If the books I wanted to read existed, I wouldn’t have to write them.

How does my writing process work?

One word at a time.

That’s it from me. Go check out Martin Lastrapes. And PS, it’s Lastrapps, in case you thought it was Lastrayps, as I did.

And PPS, sorry this was a day later, Martin.

What Getting An MFA In Fiction Meant To Me

What Getting An MFA In Fiction Meant To Me:

Alexander Chee with a great essay on getting an MFA.

I went to USC to study fiction—and hoping for a book deal with a major publisher. Rather than getting one, I got started on the path to—hopefully—ultimately becoming one. I also became a better writer.

I don’t think workshops produce the same sorts of fiction; I think a lot of writers read the same sorts of books and writers, and that bears out. I think the more widely an author reads, the more likely their will be more breadth and depth in their fiction.

from Tumblr

Seduce the Whole World: Gordon Lish’s Workshop : The New Yorker

Seduce the Whole World: Gordon Lish’s Workshop : The New Yorker:

Wow. The New Yorker pretty much bringing Lish down. I’ve always been kinda meh about Lish. I’d heard great things about him, but then I read—also in The New Yorker—Raymond Carver’s original “The Beginners” story, which Lish edited into “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” and it really wasn’t all that *better*. Different, sure, but better? Not so much.

from Tumblr

Why Traditional Publishers Should Surrender To Self Publishing | Eoin Purcell’s Blog

Why Traditional Publishers Should Surrender To Self Publishing | Eoin Purcell’s Blog:

This is great. “The ‘self-publishing’ war wasn’t and isn’t real.” So true. This is a revolution of technology and information, and what we’re seeing is several large corporations struggling to keep up with early adopters and innovators who are outpacing them, pound-for-pound.

Agents (and managers and financial/legal consultants) aren’t unnecessary. Editors will always be invaluable. Designers will always be imperative.

In the end, though, it all comes down to the idea that the only thing absolutely essential between writers and readers is stories, and anything that tries to add friction to that is in trouble.

from Tumblr



The changes I mentioned to Raven Noir were the least of a reorganization I’m in the middle of. You can find all our Amazon titles right here.

In fact, I’m in the middle of a reorganization of my whole life. In my day job, I’m performing the same function but moving around within my department. At home, I’m trying to get things organized and packed away, trying to get things in order.

And with Exciting Press, I’m trying to create a bold new strategy that will mean more readers will find great books.

I’m converting a bunch of books from print to digital. Two novels by Nick Earls, another by Kurt Wenzel, several others besides by James Brown. It’s not an easy conversion process; I have the right hardware and software, but scanning a print book doesn’t just give you the words in a neat manuscript; it gives you new pages and sections and some elements drop off, which means I have to go back over everything to ensure it’s correct.

It’s slow going, unfortunately. But it goes nonetheless.

That’ll mean Exciting Press will have at least three new novels this year, plus some other work. New titles.

New prices.

I’d been operating Exciting Press as a start-up, with new-to-everyone authors. I was also looking at it as a reader, first. Whom did I want to read?

How much did I want to pay?

Me, I notice more and more than I’m less likely to simply pick up free and inexpensive ebooks than I used to be. I still get newsletters every day with new Kindle deals, but I might pick up one or two per week; rarely do I buy more. I also thought that $4.99 was the upper limit of how much I’d want to pay for an ebook, but I’m realizing that’s not the case–lately I’ve been going as high as $6.99. That feels like a mass market paperback price to me, and especially when there are complementary titles, I’m happy to explore. Just the other day I picked up two books, one of which was a sequel to the other; the first was 99c, while the second was $5.99. Two books for $3.50-ish each total?

A lot of indie authors go with the $2.99 price point, or even 99c (or free). Some argue it “devalues” writing–I’m not one of those. I’m not sure I believe in inherent value; value isn’t what something’s worth so much as what the market is willing to pay. And I think the market is willing to pay more. I’d based pricing at $4.99 on Apple; the iPad is priced at $499, which clocks it in at just under $500, which is a psychological barrier. I think I was mistaken in doing so, because I don’t think $5 is the psychological barrier $500 is.

We’re also moving away from free promotions as we move away from Kindle exclusivity. There are so many iPads and iPhones out there it makes much more sense to address both platforms.

Here a lot of people cry foul that there are many more platforms, and what about those readers, and here I say, look, I’m a nano-press; I can’t please everyone all the time. I can try my best to offer the best services I can. To readers and authors alike.

Last year, we had set it up so that, every day, Exciting Press offered a free title.

This year, we’re setting a few particular titles to permanently free status for iOS. We’re going to hope Amazon matches that price. They do so at their discretion, so I’m not counting on it, but I think it’s a fair compromise.

We’re also moving away from 99c. From now on, we’re not publishing indivdual stories for 99c. Instead, we’re packing three (or more) stories together and pricing them at $2.99. It just about evens out, and it means we make more per story even while we can still offer some titles completely free.

That, too, I think is a fair compromise.

We’re going to be pricing this year’s new novels at $5.99. Given the time and effort that’s gone into creating them. We’re going to see how that works out, and go along accordingly.

We hope you’re going to continue to find new books and read new authors. It’s been a great ride so far, and it’s only getting more exciting.

Raven Noir Available Again


Several years ago, I first published Jamais Plus, a collection of two short stories–one of them interactive–that focus on an investigation into the death of Edgar Allan Poe. The book was the first I used in joining Amazon’s KDP Select program–my first time going all-in, and exclusive, with Amazon. The first story of the collection uses the html coding to make the ebook interactive, such that readers can, at certain points in the story, choose one action or another to progress–which makes the structure very much akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books so many readers, including myself, loved as children.

Turns out, enough readers loved those books that the actual phrase Choose Your Own Adventure is trademarked, and registered to a Vermont company called ChooseCo. ChooseCo was founded by a guy named Raymond Montgomery, who was one of the original writers of the series. Apparently, the original series started in the early seventies, when a guy named Edward Packard had the idea to personalize stories for his children. He started it as “Adventures for You,” and brought on several writers, including Montgomery. When the series gained popularity, Bantam books bought it and rebranded it as “Choose Your Own Adventure,” which is the phrase we all know and remember, and the one Bantam trademarked.

Random House bought Bantam sometime later, and eventually let the trademark lapse, at which point Montgomery founded ChooseCo and registered the trademark for the company, and has been republishing those beloved stories for Kindle. Packard, meanwhile, uses the phrase “U-Ventures,” and looks to be affiliated with Simon & Schuster.

At least, I think that’s how it shook out. That’s the story as I’ve been able to determine it over the past week. Why have I been trying to figure it out, you ask?

Because last week, I got an email from Kindle that Raven Noir could no longer be sold as such, due to a complaint from a rights holder. I was surprised, because I endeavored to ensure that everything appropriated was public domain. The story is sort of fan fiction, really, featuring Poe’s fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin (and one of the stories features Charles Dickens), but it’s not like Dupin’s under copyright.

No, the problem was that, in trying to help fans of that genre of story find mine, I’d subtitled “Raven Noir” as a “Choose Your Own Investigation of the . . .”

And ChooseCo cried foul. They had a trademark to protect.

Everyone was very accommodating. I wrote to ChooseCo and talked to two of their associates, and in the end simply had to remove the “Choose Your Own” words from the title, description, and meta-data. Done and done.

Just got word that the book is now live again. You can find it right here.

I like the story. It’s the first fiction I wrote in the graduate program where I studied writing, and I think it’s an interesting demonstration of how feedback can so markedly change a story’s execution. The first version was a lark, snappy and brisk, while the second was darker and more somber, perhaps more complex, too. And regardless of whether the story or characters are complex, the structure now is, considering that it’s coded that way.

I rather like that the mixed review the story has notes you can tell there are two authors, and posits the “original Edgar Allen [sic] Poe story,” given that I wrote both. I’ve sometimes feared my writing voice gets so strong you can tell it’s me, but I suppose not so much. That’s sort of fun.

I think the story is, too. I hope you’ll give it a try, if you haven’t already.



Via The Passive Voice, which focuses on interesting articles related to publishing, I just saw this one, at Kirkus, in which Bob Mayer argues that to “self”-publish, you need a team. I love that Bob used quotes there, given my feelings for “self-publishing” and my desire for people to stop calling independence that, but I’m also intrigued by Bob’s suggestion that authors need teams, and even teams who have vested interest in authors’ work. It sounds a lot like what a publisher does, but I think it’s more complicated than that. I think it’s more about hybrid publishing.

I’m coining that term to describe a new sort of publisher. There’s been talk of “hybrid authors” for a while; Chuck Wendig suggests a definition here:

The hybrid author merely looks at all the publishing options available to her. She is told she is supposed to check one box and move on — “Stay within the clearly-marked margins,” they warn. “Check your box, choose your path, then shut the door gently behind you.” But the hybrid author checks many, even all the boxes. The hybrid author refuses to walk one path, instead leaping gaily from path to path, gamboling about like some kind of jester-imp. She says no to coloring within the lines of a traditionally-published or a self-published drawing.

She opens all the doors. She closes none of them.

“Do one thing?” she scoffs. “Do all the things!”

This hybrid state is, likely, the best possible scenario of all possible scenarios. It’s the “I’m going to publish some of my own short stories and novellas and maybe a niche title or two, but here I have these other novels that Simon & Schuster wants to publish in print to deliver to bookstores, so I’m going to let them” scenario. I think, by Chuck’s definition (and there may be others), Hugh Howey is probably a hybrid author. I think Chuck is, himself, in fact; he’s published stuff like an awesome short story collection via Kindle Direct Publishing, sold a whole series to Amazon, and has an entirely separate series with Angry Robot Press. He flits about with unsurprising agility–he’s a good writer with good stories, and he’s smart to boot. Moreover, he refuses to stick to one, safe thing; he reminds me of Neil Gaiman that way.

As I note here, the problem with the scenario is that “get an agent and a publishing contract” is not, in general, a box authors can simply check. One can hope to eventually check that box, but it’s a box that has to be offered.

Independently publishing is a choice. Corporate publishing isn’t, really. You can pursue it. You can make choices along the way; you can choose to submit queries to agents, but ultimately you can’t choose to have an agent. That choice is most often left to agents.

I’m pleased to see this is becoming less true. I’m seeing more and more authors whose agents came to them–I think Howey is one of them. I’m seeing more authors get approached by corporations. This is a good thing, and it means authors will have more power, overall, but it’s something that’s occurring slowly.

Point is, independent publishing is a button an author can push. Publishing with a corporation isn’t.

But I digress. I want to talk about what I see as hybrid publishing, and hybrid publishers.

There are benefits to independent publishing: rights and control remain with authors. That’s pretty huge. On the other hand, that means all the responsibility remains with authors, too, as do costs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can easily get expensive, and it can easily go awry. Cover design isn’t inexpensive, for example, and while authors can do it themselves, most often, at least at first, it’s best left to professionals. From personal experience: I didn’t outsource cover design to begin with, and my first cover for my debut collection was terrible. But I kept learning, and beginning with Meets Girl I think I’ve gotten better, and continue to do so. I love what I did with Miya Kressin’s Asylum saga, cover-wise, for example (and I’m pretty sure she does, too). Hiring a publicist and buying ads and etc.–all those things cost money, and they’re usually things a corporation would pay for if one signed a publishing contract with them.

As I see it, the major benefit of a corporation is potential access to its larger budget. Keep in mind, though, that’s potential; I’m not sure marketing budgets are ever guaranteed. I could be wrong, but from what I’ve seen from authors with corporations, even they wish they’d had more support in terms of marketing and promotion.

There’s also the question of rights. When you publish with a corporation, they get the rights to publish your work. Clauses in contracts pertain to revision of rights–that is, when rights to work revert back to authors. I remember back in the 90s, I was a big fan of Dean Koontz, and there was a time when, because he’d been smart and gotten the clause included in his contract, rights to his backlist had reverted to him, allowing him to sell those rights to paperback publishers, who were happy to exploit them. If only the Kindle revolution had begun then.

I think hybrid publishing combines the best of both worlds. It’s what I aim at with Exciting Press–through Exciting Press, we provide to our authors most of the support a corporation might in all the ways we can. Our authors keep control and have say in everything from the editorial process to the cover design process. They ultimately have final say over the entire product, and most of all they keep their rights. I’ve worked it out so that rather than acquiring rights, Exciting Press acquires only a digital license, and a limited-term one at that. I don’t have the pockets that a corporation does, so promotions and advertising are far more limited, but we’ll get there. And because I’m an author first, our authors get so-far-as-I-know industry-leading royalties.

I’d say I think this will become more common, but really it was never uncommon. There’s a long history of savvy authors becoming more invested in their own publishing. Stephen King, who’s often credit as a pioneer in digital publishing because of his The Plant serial experiment and his Riding the Bullet ebook experiement, has–from what I’ve heard–a unique contract with his publisher, Scribner, that means he gets higher royalties from and more control over publishing in exchange for far lower advances. After his breakthrough A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers went on to found McSweeney’s Press–which has since issued all Eggers’ novels (and many by other writers) in hardcover. Talk to almost any indie author and they can tell you about all the authors who’ve taken that initiative–usually included in the discussion are names like Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, John Grisham, and Tom Clancy. One can generally make arguments for or against several.

Hybrid publishing simply highlights that there’s no one way to be a publisher. What it also highlights, though, is that it seems like often the most successful businesses are the ones who know what they want and take active, certain steps to do it.


Robot city: how machines are driving the future of PIttsburgh

After more than a century, steel production in Pittsburgh is all but over, leaving in its wake industries based on higher education, health care, academic research, and robots. Lots of robots. And when it comes to robots, the goal is more focused on building a framework for the future than an infrastructure from the past. And for that reason, the city has become a place where far-flung ambitions are supported and encouraged, even if the end goal is a long way off. Sometimes it’s as “far off” as the moon.

Always nice to see Pittsburgh get some love!

On any given afternoon outside of the cheerful, modern white building, parents congregate to wait for their kids. Chit-chat includes the typical fodder like play dates and birthdays, or who was cast in the school play. But occasionally the topic of illness arises — which is where things can take a turn towards the atypical. You might, for instance, hear about “chicken pox parties,” where healthy kids come over to sick kids’ houses to catch the disease.


Today’s Classic: Selfportrait by Arnold Böcklin

I went to Berlin and its art museum several years ago, and a postcard of this was one of only a few souvenirs I have. “With Death Playing a Fiddle” is the full title, if I’m not mistaken—and if I am, it should be.

Do you use your e-reader for good or for evil?

Do you use your e-reader for good or for evil?

What would be the consequences if a large internet corporation such as Google were to buy the entire publishing industry?

Google Books. Literally. (via millionsmillions)

Interesting that it’s a Google thought experiment. Why couldn’t Amazon be the company to easily buy majority stakes in corporate publishers?

C360_2011-04-12 11-50-21

I grew up in a small suburb of New Jersey I left in 1996 to attend college in Jersey City, where I stayed after I graduated while working in Manhattan. I left Manhattan at the end of 2001 to move back in with my family. During the time I’d been gone, Barnes & Noble built a store not far from the closest shopping mall, and after my return I often found myself frequenting that store like some people frequent the local bar. Rather than losing myself in a drink, I’d spend an hour in the newsstand, reading magazines I’d never buy, then browse the paperback racks all over the story. I was largely genre-agnostic, and found that categories often failed me, anyway (around that time I’d discovered the work of Jonathan Carroll. Generally a fantasist, but B&N held fast to stocking his books in the general Literature & Fiction section. I’d found Carroll’s work through Neil Gaiman, whose books were maybe a little less surreal than Carroll’s but in general not really that much more fantastic, and yet Gaiman was always in the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. So I generally took it upon myself to explore all the shelves I could).

After standing around with my head cocked enough to the right as to develop an almost permanent crick in it, I’d move on. Sometimes I’d have picked up a mass market paperback or two, always priced at $7.99. If I could find trade paperbacks–generally priced at $12.99 or more–on tables that include a “Buy Two Get One Free” promotion, I might pick up a few of those, but I generally bought and read way too many books to pay more than $10 for any one of them. I made exceptions to that rule solely for signed hardcovers I’d pick up from ABEBooks only after having borrowed the book, and enjoyed it, from my local library.

My next destination would be the bargain racks, where I might pick up a hardcover for $4.99 or so. If I found a particularly compelling one, I might be convinced up to $7.99, but that was rare; I found I thought most of those books had been remaindered for a reason. I might find two or three for less than $5, and I’d stick those under my arm, too, then make my way to the register.

It’s amazing how things have changed.

Continue reading


Just two days after I wrote about how KDP Select and free promotions seemed to be less effective than they used to be, my novel The Prodigal Hour became the #1 free bestseller on Now, I’m cognizant that downloads are not sales; as I told my wife, I know many who argue that Amazon’s free rankings don’t count as bestselling because it’s not as though people are actually buying the book.

But I’m also cognizant that 45,000 readers have downloaded The Prodigal Hour in the past three days. I know, too, that a book needs to get more downloads to hit the free bestseller lists than it must get sales to hit the paid bestsellers lists; from experience, several hundred sales in a day are enough to get a book charting in its respective categories, and close to 1000 mean it might hit Amazon’s top 100 overall. I don’t know how many sales it takes for a book to hit the top of the paid list, but I now know that approximately 30k downloads can put it atop the free list, and from a promo with Meets Girl earlier in the year, I also know that 10k might get it into the top 10. (Meets Girl hit #8 and managed 12000 downloads over a week.)

And honestly, I couldn’t be happier. It couldn’t mean more to me. I love Meets Girl but The Prodigal Hour is, somewhat ironically, a more deeply personal book for me. I think people think Meets Girl is my story because it’s about a young Manhattan writer and it’s written in the first person, but in the end I think I identify more closely with Chance Sowin. He’s infuriatingly stubborn and often so wrapped up in his own head he neglects the bigger picture or at least its context, and I may know a thing or three about both.

Moreover, The Prodigal Hour challenged me in ways Meets Girl didn’t. It took me forever to get Meets Girl‘s ending right (if I might be so bold as to claim I did), but The Prodigal Hour required more attention and focus to handle bigger ideas and themes in ways I was afraid of. It’s no secret that the World Trade Center attacks of 2001 play a central role to the story, and it was as difficult to revisit my memories of that day as it was to portray them and ensure that day was honored and true.

I’ve been proud of the book since the moment I uploaded it. I really feel like it achieves something I hoped for but never dared attempt, focusing instead on writing a good story well. And of course now my hope is that all those readers who found it might enjoy it.

I always used to imagine a particular moment: the first time I saw a novel I’d written on a bookstore’s shelves. I imagined how I thought I’d feel, and back when I used to receive rejection letters regarding queries I’d sent to agents, I’d file those rejection letters away to focus instead on how I imagined it would feel, finally, in that mythical bookstore.

Eventually I stopped sending queries. Eventually I learned too much about business to want to get that bookdeal I’d always dreamed of, finally becoming aware of the rights and control I’d have to give up over work that would, ultimately, have my name on it. Eventually I got a Kindle and realized how much I preferred reading on it, and wondered how many other people might, too, and began to direct my attention there. To endeavors in my power and under my control.

My fantasy of that bookshelf-feeling never faded, even if I became uncertain about any possible replacements. I stopped thinking about it, really, because I got the idea that there would be no real feeling of either arrival or culmination; that the whole process of journey is the end in itself. Through Exciting Press, I’m doing work I couldn’t be prouder of nor believe more powerfully in. I’m working with authors who completely astound me, and when I see readers connect with their books, when I see a review of something by Nick Earls by a reader who mentions he or she had never heard of Nick before . . .

It’s all so brilliant, and yesterday brought that home to me. Because yesterday, in addition to all the new readers who discovered The Prodigal Hour, someone also mentioned they thought what I was doing with my authors is amazing.

Last night I was elated. It’s not a destination; it’s one more milestone on a journey that is continuously surprising and delighting me by being everything I ever wanted in ways I never expected. I know that, but I also know that yesterday I found my bookshelf moment.

And there aren’t any shelves in sight.

I started this post as another press release in the same style and tone as the ones announcing when Exciting Press has signed authors, but I realized as I wrote it that it required a different approach. I need to tell a story, here, because while “self-publishing success stories” have become a common enough meme in publishing, I see fewer and fewer people pause to consider what success means, and I think I need to.

Continue reading

A Name and a Face: Exorcising My Anonymity | Self-Publishing Review

A Name and a Face: Exorcising My Anonymity | Self-Publishing Review

Amazon’s Awesome Customer Service

Several weeks ago, I purchased a Sony RX100 to bring on my honeymoon—where I was disappointed to notice a dark spot on the sensor. After getting back, I filed a return claim with Amazon. I printed out the new shipping label to put it in the mail—

But Amazon’s already sent me a new camera. It’ll get here tomorrow. Even before I’ve mailed the old one back.

That’s customer service. Well done, Amazon.

Writing for free has value but you have to have to be able to see that value and ensure that it’s not a meaningless risk: anyone who asks you to work for them and promises exposure is whistling lies through their asshole. As I have said before, if you’re going to be exposed, expose yourself: control the message and the release. When in doubt: don’t write for free.

Miley Cyrus – The Backyard Sessions – “Jolene” (by Miley Cyrus)

I want to hear her cover this again in ten or fifteen years, after some whiskey has aged her voice and given it some depth (and maybe a crack or three) and she not only really believes Jolene might take her man but is utterly terrified by the idea.


Steam pipe apocalypse on Broadway/41st Street tonight! 

I never was good at maintaining a blog

But I’ve seen some great things on Tumblr, so I’m going to give it a whirl. Certainly seems easier to use.

: Will Black Clock Remain at CalArts?

: Will Black Clock Remain at CalArts?

On Monday, the University of Pittsburgh announced that its upcoming Honors Convocation on February 24th will launch its celebration of the 225th anniversary of the University’s founding.

As part of this celebration, Pitt created a website celebrating the breadth and diversity of its history, from its founding in 1787–the same year as the US Constitution–through to the present. Pitt’s history is fascinating. I’d tell you more about it, but that’s why the site’s there. For people to learn about Pitt, and discover its rich history.

Plus, I helped write the stories there. So I could tell you about it, or I could just point you to the stories I already helped write, and, really, the latter is far more interesting.

Contributing to the project has been a terrific experience, and I’m really proud to have been a part of it. I’m also thrilled to be able to talk a little more about it, now that it’s announced and launched and live.

What’s also been cool about this project, personally, is that I just moved to Pittsburgh. Well. By “just,” I now mean a year ago this month. And it was a new city in a decent-sized string of new cities, and yet another in a long series of moves, but it’s the move that finally found me settling in to a place that feels like home. It’s exactly the sort of burgh I’d always hoped I might find, and doing the research for it has helped me learn it in the best way possible. What’s interesting is that I didn’t learn my new home by eating out and exploring–though those were part of the process–but rather mostly by gaining a bigger picture view of the university and the city in the context of history and the world.

So it’s been fascinating. On myriad levels. Hope you enjoy the stories if you check them out. Please do.


This GIF masterpiece was created by Patrick Fagan, a genius graphic designer and animator whose website is here. I can’t think of a single reason why you shouldn’t rush out to hire him after seeing this GIF he created, in which his sister’s dog, Birdie, chases copies of my book as though they were birds.

I also think this work of art is better than anything that has ever been shown in the Whitney Biennial, but I don’t want to get too off-topic/ piss of Raymond Pettibon more than I already have today. 

10 Common Words You Had No Idea Were Onomatopoeias |

10 Common Words You Had No Idea Were Onomatopoeias |


Jamaican reggae legend Jimmy Cliff stopped by the Rolling Stone studio recently to share some of his classic hits and talk about his upcoming EP, Sacred Fire. The album is a collaboration with Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. “The vibes just flowed,” Cliff told Rolling Stone after the performance. 

Cliff has been making music for decades, and was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, but felt there was something left to do, even after all his success. “There was a chapter in my career that was unfinished, and so, now, I’m happy that I met Tim, that I can complete that chapter in a really good and proper way,” he said.

To hear more of the interview and to stream his performance, visit

—Meredith Olson

During one of the classes when I mentioned Eddie Izzard, one of my students mentioned a documentary called Heckler. I went to look it up, because I love when comedians pwn hecklers.

Here’s Jamie Kennedy (who, coincidentally, produced the documentary):

Jimmy Carr does it extraordinarily well. Here’s one:

And here’s another:

But it’s not just comedians. Here’s Kevin Smith:

And even Bill Clinton pwning some idiot “9/11 truth conspiracy theorist”:

I mean, seriously. Some people are just douchebags.

Thing is, Heckler turns out to only ostensibly be about heckling; over the course of interviewing Jamie Kennedy, Carrot Top, and Bill Maher (among many others), it slowly became a rumination about criticism. In doing so, it raised some terrific points about critics and their relation to, for lack of a better word, “art,” and especially about the way the Internet has changed things. It featured appearances by writers from and Giant magazine and questioned the idea of random dudes commenting about cinema. Kathy Griffin made an analogy between Internet commenters and hecklers, which I thought was apt, except for one crucial difference:

At a comedy show, the comedian gets to be face to face, even if across a room, with the person.

On the other hand, the Internet allows a degree of cowardice when someone like Shecky Gangrene or, as is most often the case, Anonymous wants to crap on somebody. I swear, I’d often heard quotes attributed to Anonymous before, but the Internet exponentially increased Anonymous’ body of work, which is mostly restricted to little more than saliva-spattered vitriol. I’ve rarely seen Anonymous actually be supportive; usually Anonymous uses the old “I’m sorry, but I’ve just got to be honest with you” to make personal attacks and mostly horrifying comments they’d never make in real life to someone’s face.

And while I’ve never gotten altogether much attention from Anonymous because I’m just a mostly unknown writer still making his way in his work, any attention from Anonymous can feel like too much. Most of the negativity I’ve encountered has come from Anonymous (who most often really, really doesn’t like me). Anonymous most often believes that the ends justify whatever means it is necessary to use, and frequently makes the case that anyone who has earned any degree of spotlight whatsoever must grin and bear it because it comes with the territory and one must develop thick skin.

To which I say: bullshit.

Bill Maher and Dr. Drew (ftw) address it best in the documentary by making two points: first, honesty does not excuse douchebaggery (that’s Dr. Drew), and second, as Maher notes, entertainers can’t develop thick skin. We need some degree of sensitivity because that’s our role in the culture we need to be part of.

Which I think is an awesome point.

The documentary is well worth checking out. Here’s the trailer:

I think my favorite part was the segment dedicated to director Uwe Boll, who challenged his critics to boxing matches and summarily beat the shit out of them. It’s absolutely hysterical to watch as the movie switches back and forth from idiot bloggers making asinine comments like “No, I’ve never watched one of his movies, but I’ve heard their awful” to selfsame bloggers falling to the canvas, culminating in a shot of a twenty-ish blogger lying on the curb, post-fight, wearing a tank top with Sharpie-written “Hi, Mom!” on its back while puking into the gutter.

Older posts