Kindle Unlimited — threat or menace?

Amid yesterday’s depressing news about bombs and rockets and body parts strewn on the ground, we find out that Amazon has created a Netflix-like Kindle subscription service to compete with Oyster and Scribd.  The Passive Voice has a couple of posts about this, here and here.

For now, Kindle Unlimited appear to offer mostly indie books in the Kindle Select program, plus a sprinkling of mainstream books.  There are none from the Big Five publishers, apparently, unless the author owns his or her own ebook rights.  Presumably participation in Kindle Unlimited becomes yet another item to negotiate with these publishers.

My books aren’t there because the publisher I work with doesn’t like the premise of Kindle Select, which requires selling your ebook exclusively via Amazon.  (BookBub, it turns out, gives preference in its decision-making process to books available from multiple sources.)  Of course, if other ebook vendors collapse, things might change.  And it’s also possible that Amazon could retool the Kindle Select program to make it more attractive to authors who currently aren’t signing up.

Some articles I’ve read think that Kindle Unlimited is another step in reducing author’s incomes, the way Spotify and its ilk are causing problems for musicians.  Beats me.  It also seems likely that, unlike Spotify and Netflix, Kindle Unlimited serves a bit of a niche market: people don’t read as much as they listen to music or watch TV.  Ten dollars a month isn’t much money, but I couldn’t justify spending it, given the amount of reading I have time to do.  And unless the selection were virtually unlimited, I’d probably find the service too frustrating.

The novel was pretty much finished on Tuesday, and then . . .

. . . I woke up on Thursday with An Idea.  But that was OK — the Idea was limited to one section of the novel, and it wouldn’t require much rejiggering.

Then today I squinted at the novel from another angle, and that resulted in Another Idea.  This one would involve changing the motivation of a major character, with consequences through the story.

I think I need to follow up on both of these ideas.

But what will happen when I actually read through my draft?

John Steinbeck famously wrote The Grapes of Wrath in a few months.  Where did I go wrong?


Life is stupider than fiction: robot politician edition

A friend sent me a link to this article, noting that “someone has been reading your book.”

“The election for U.S. House for Oklahoma’s 3rd District will be contested by the Candidate, Timothy Ray Murray,” Murray wrote in a press release posted on his campaign website. “I will be stating that his votes are switched with Rep. Lucas votes, because it is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike.”

On the website, Murray claims that Lucas and “a few other Oklahoma and other States’ Congressional Members,” were executed “on or about” Jan. 11, 2011 in southern Ukraine.

“On television they were depicted as being executed by the hanging about the neck until death on a white stage and in front of witnesses,” the website claims. “Other now current Members of Congress have shared those facts on television also. We know that it is possible to use look alike artificial or manmade replacements, however Rep. Lucas was not eligible to serve as a Congressional Member after that time.”

The book in question is my novel Replica, whose basic plot is evident from its cover:

Replica cover

Replica was by far the most successful of my novels when it was first published. So far it hasn’t gotten much love as an e-book. Is it the cover? The price? It’s a pretty good book!  Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly said when it came out:

While maintaining a highly readable pulp-fiction style, Bowker takes the narrative through a gripping array of turnabouts, doublecrosses and twists.  Readers will be guessing the story’s outcome until the very end.

And here’s a customer review:

I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I bought this book, but I didn’t expect it to explore terroristic politics, development of artificial intelligence, and some of the challenges of AI/human relationships … all without becoming bogged down in the esoteric nature of the technologies involved.

It starts out more or less the way I thought it would, with various entities coming together to make it possible (and plausible) to substitute the President with an android. Almost everything after that, though, was a surprise … with plenty of twists and turns and misdirections and characters developing in ways you probably won’t expect.

This is a good read, and amazingly so given how long since its original publication. It’s not too often that near-future books involving technology or politics (and especially a combination of the two) are written such that they don’t become badly dated in a decade. This one is still fresh, a fun read.

The BookBub promotion for “Dover Beach”: a preliminary post-mortem

The BookBub promotion for Dover Beach expired yesterday, I think.  I just have the Amazon numbers at this point.  I’ve sold about 600 copies there, plus a bunch of copies of its very fine sequel, The Distance Beacons.  That doesn’t quite give me a profit, but the returns from Barnes & Noble and lesser markets probably will.  At Barnes & Noble, Dover Beach peaked in the 100′s in sales rank and has now dropped back to about #1100; on Kobo, it’s still in the top 100 for Science Fiction Adventure and at #188 overall for Science Fiction.

Regardless of whether I end up in the black for the investment, I’m going to consider this a success. Anyway, because this is my blog, I’m going to mention that Dover Beach is still available for $0.99, and while I’m at it, I’ll subject you to a customer reviewThis one is from B&N and is titled “Excellent story!”:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The writing style was easy to relate to and the characters had a realness to them that was very refreshing. I love books written about how a society survives after war and the author did a great job explaining the mood of the aftermath. I also appreciate that he didn’t have people being held as prisoners by some thrown together street gangs, that seems to be a plot that comes up way too frequently. It makes more sense that most people would go out on their own or team up with one or two other people. I will be buying more of his books.

The second draft is done!

As I hoped, the second draft of my novel went a lot faster than the first.  By the time I had finished the first draft, I had pages of notes about what I needed to change, and I came up with lots of new ideas before beginning the second draft.  New characters showed up!  Old characters disappeared!  Motivations got rejiggered!  New plot twists got twisted!

There’s more to be done, but at least now the thing feels like a completed novel.  It exists; before it was more or less a jumble in my mind.

Here’s the kind of thing I’m going to have to do now: the last words of the novel used to be “Gwen repeated.”  But this morning I decided they should be: “Gwen said again.”  But as I say the words over in my mind, I’m not entirely happy with the internal rhyme.  Will anyone care?  No.  But I think I better change them back.  Or maybe not.

A note on the authoring process: somewhere on this blog I’ve talked about rewriting on a computer.  Computers make it easy to use your original draft as the basis for the rewrite, but that lessens the incentive to re-imagine your content.  This time around I started with a blank document, but I copied the first draft into it chapter by chapter.  Often I would use a sentence from the original; occasionally an entire paragraph.  But mostly the text was there to remind me of what was going on, and most of it got deleted as I completed its replacement.  Overall, I managed to reduce the books length by about seven percent, which was one of my goals.  The first draft didn’t feel quite streamlined enough for a private eye novel.

Now on to the tweaking!

BookBub results, one day in

I don’t have any sales figures, alas, for my BookBub promotion for Dover Beach.  But I do have some sales rankings.

Yesterday, before the promotion, Dover Beach was ranked 129,749 among books in the Kindle store.  (This isn’t actually too terrible, by my standards.  It may reflect the price reduction, which occurred a few days ago.)

Today, it’s ranked #470 in the Kindle store.  It peaked in the low 300′s, I think.  It’s currently #13 in the Science Fiction Action category, which puts it in the neighborhood of books by George R. R. Martin and Hugh Howey.  It’s even higher in a couple of Technothriller categories.  (This categorization is insane; don’t read Dover Beach if you’re lookiing for a technothriller.)

The book is ranked #135 on the Barnes & Noble site.

On Kobo, which I never visit, it’s ranked #15 in the Science Fiction category.

This seems promising!  What is also promising is that the book’s very fine sequel, The Distance Beacons, has also moved up from about #270,000 on the Kindle store to about #60,000 (on Barnes & Noble, it’s around #15,000).  The hope, obviously, is that people will gobble up Dover Beach, and then quickly move on to the sequel.  After that, they will be ready to move on to volume 3, which I’m close to finishing if I’d just quit blogging for a while.

Because this is my blog, I’ll take this opportunity to reprint one of the five-star reviews for The Distance Beacons:

The President is coming to town and Walter, the one and only private eye, isn’t given an opportunity to say, “No!, when the government requests his services after threats are made against the very distinguished official. From the beginning, nothing the government does makes sense (LOL) but Walter keeps chipping away at the case, in between repeatedly being beat up and thrown in jail. The closer he comes to solving this complicated case the worse things get for him. You will love this unusual story and get to spend more time with Walter’s menagerie of friends. You will also bellow out a few good laughs at poor Walter’s expense. I can’t wait for another book about this private eye of the future!


Dover Beach goes live on BookBub!

My novel Dover Beach is now featured on the BookBub website, and it’s in the email BookBub sent out to 400,000 science fiction readers.  The book is on sale for the ridiculously low price of $0.99.   Here’s where I discuss the economics of a BookBub promotion.  (If you want to buy the book, click the link on the BookBub page — they’ll get some revenue, and if they get enough click-through sales, this may help convince them to feature another one of my books.)


My publisher came up with this blurb for the book–there is presumably a word limit:

A Philip K. Dick Award finalist set in a harrowing world devastated by war: Believing himself a clone, Dr. Charles Winfield enlists the help of Wally Sands to expose a top-secret government project. But in his pursuit of answers, Wally uncovers truths about himself — and crosses paths with a killer…

This manages to get two or three things wrong, but whatever; I probably couldn’t have done any better.  Here’s a customer review, titled “A Different but Wonderful Private Eye Story”, that does a better job of capturing what the book is about:

Walter is a quirky private eye like none you’ve ever experienced! The poor fellow stumbles into one disaster after another, making you laugh, cringe, and pity the lovable, determined character. By the way, Walter is a survivor of the downfall of America so he’s familiar with overcoming challenges. As the story unfolds, tidbits are revealed toward understanding what happened. To assist Walter is an eclectic and interesting collection of friends who assist him along the way. They will become like friends to you also. This book has twists and turns, great wit and humor, and very colorful characters. I loved book so much that I ordered the next novel in the series (A Distance Beacon) right away. Great job!

This reviewer gets everything right, except the name of the sequel.  But it’s close!

By the way, there has never been a better time to get one of my books. Senator is also available for $0.99, and The Portal continues to be free.  Here’s a recent five-star review of The Portal, titled “A Lot of Heart”:

I thought at first this was going to be another YA gimmicky novel with kids complaining about their lives and using the device of dimension travel just to come up with random quirky things, but this book is much more than that. You really get to know and care about the characters, and things move along quite well and not predictably. The really surprising part is the life lessons learned by the characters – they really leave you with something more than just a fun little read. Glad I read it!