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Monday, September 15, 2014

Speaking Out About Ugliness in the Publishing Industry

I’m Robert Stanek, author of over 150 books, read by more than 7.5 million readers and translated into 34 languages. I’m speaking out about ugliness in the writing industry that has to end. Society gives this ugliness many names because it has many ugly faces. Whether you want to call it railroading, a hatchet job or a frame up, the Internet gives these shameful acts new meaning and new ease. On the Internet, the court of public opinion can destroy you simply because someone points a mob in your direction—or in my case, keeps pointing mobs in your direction again and again over a period of more than decade.

Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” But I bet he never imagined the Internet where a lie can travel millions of times around the world before the truth even remembers it has shoes. In this highly connected online age, it seems all someone needs to do is write hateful nonsense about someone else, point back to their own handiwork while writing more hateful nonsense and enlisting others to do the same, then rinse and repeat as they work their way across the Internet. That’s been the tactic used to trash my reputation since 2002 by a group of competitors I call the architects of hate. I’ve been blogging about what these despicable persons have been doing for years and years, recently in the posts titled “Unethical Competitors,” “Authors Who Trash Competitors,” “Authors Who Are Trolls,” “Speaking Out About Haters,” and “The Internet Isn't the New Wild West” as well.

Their latest hatchet job? On Sept 2 2012, The Telegraph wrote an article on RJ Ellory titled “RJ Ellory, Author, Caught Writing Fake Amazon Reviews For Books.” On Sept 4 2012, a Huffington Post blogger picked up the story added some additions regarding other authors who’d been doing the same and posted the story with the title “RJ Ellory, Author, Caught Writing Fake Amazon Reviews For Books.” (And to be clear, anyone, actual credentials or not, can blog for Huffington Post and post just about anything they want. The author of this particular entry is a self-published author and blogger with a single book to her credit at the time.)

The blog entry was posted at 1:26 PM on Sept 4 2012 and a regular member of Go Indie posted a link to the article shortly afterward. I read the original article at that time but not the article as updated several times afterward (with final edits at 2:44 PM on Sept 4 2012). As part of the edits, the following was slipped into the article along with a link to an i09 post which was itself a post from a message forum:
“Science fiction and fantasy authors also found that frustrated writer Robert Stanek was sock-puppeting in 2009.”

The link that they used to make this nonsense seem legitimate? It’s to the following io9.com post from June 23 2009 (http://io9.com/5300748/how-much-damage-can-a-maniac-and-his-army-of-sock-puppets-do-on-amazoncom):
How Much Damage Can A Maniac And His Army Of Sock Puppets Do On Amazon.Com? Science fiction and fantasy authors, including Pat Rothfuss and David Louis Edelman, have started noticing a rash of one-star reviews of their books on Amazon.com, all at once, The reviews seem to come from newly created profiles, and often say the same thing in slightly different words over and over. And now, observers think they've fingered the culprit: frustrated fantasy author Robert Stanek. In the past, Stanek has had the habit of posting tons of "anonymous" one-star reviews of people's books which all said, "This guy is rubbish, if you want to read real fantasy, go read Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin and Robert Stanek!" The new batch of reviews don't mention Stanek by name, but do suggest that the authors should try serving in the armed forces to build character (a Stanek bugaboo.) And if you look at their profiles, the anonymous accounts have all tagged Stanek as a favorite author. All of this raises the question: How much damage can one anonymous maniac with an army of sock puppets really do to an established author on Amazon? [SFF World]
Which is itself from a message posted on the forums at Sffworld.com made by Adam Whitehead on June 18 2009:
Okay, now this was pure surrealism.
Last week Pat Rothfuss made a comment on his Facebook about how THE NAME OF WIND suddenly started getting a rash of one-star reviews over on Amazon.com. Whilst the book has gone down quite well, it is understandable that, even on just a purely statistical level, some people out there don't like the book and are vocal about it, especially given the 'hype' it has received in some quarters. Fair enough.
But what was odd was that all of these one-star reviews were written one after another in a very similar tone by newly-created profiles and all seemed to be making the same, highly questionable, claims that the book was 'objectively bad' and that all of the 500+ positive reviews on Amazon had been written by Pat himself, his friends or family. They ignored the fact that the book has been an international bestseller, is published in multiple languages by reputable publishers, and just continued making questionable claims about the author's moral character. It was very weird. They then tried to get the Rothfuss' Wikipedia page eliminated and also made a very half-hearted effort to level similar complaints against Abercrombie, although I get the impression this was solely to make it look like they weren't just picking on Rothfuss.
All of this smelled like a rat, most notably when one of the reviewers started saying that Pat Rothfuss should go to Iraq to get the 'moral character' that only comes from serving in the armed forces. This was VERY familiar. Then I remembered that the legendary self-published, alleged author Robert Stanek kept making a huge fuss about how serving in the armed forces had been an important character-building exercise.
I dismissed the idea it could be Stanek though, as the critics weren't using Stanek's normal MO of ripping into the author and going "This guy is rubbish, if you want to read real fantasy, go read Robert Jordan, George RR Martin and Robert Stanek!"
Then today one of the other commentators following the situation on Amazon pointed out that almost all of these suspect reviewers had started 'tagging' Robert Stanek's books (you could see this on their profiles). By the time I checked them out, only three had them left, the rest having apparently removed them when they realised they were rumbled.
So there you have it, it appears that self-published, low-selling author Robert Stanek, infamously responsible for one of the biggest scams in SF&F history on Amazon (which Amazon still hasn't sorted out), is using his multitude of alias accounts on Amazon to tear down a new, fresh and critically-acclaimed author for petty and disturbing reasons.
Honestly, you could not make this up.
One of the same reviewers concerned has gone on to rip into David Louis Edelmen and Jim C. Hines' books as well. For those not in the know, both of these authors have posted blog entries about Stanek's activities in the past. Astonishing.

As I blogged about previously, Adam Whitehead is of course one of the original architects of hate and he actually did make it all up as he was one of the perpetrators who created the nonsense in the first place. He, David Langford, and others having started all this nonsense about me going all the way back to 2002. Incidentally, the "rash of reviews" on Patrick Rothfuss's book was exactly two reviews -- two reviews created by Adam himself and/or his associates, as I blogged about here.

The real MO here is how the people in the same core group keep working their handiwork forward. It’s how a 2009 message forum post by Adam Whitehead gets re-posted to io9.com by Adam Whitehead or an associate, cross-referenced in a 2012 a Huffington Post blog entry and then worked forward.

The Huffington Post blog entry was re-posted in its entirety to the Oh No They Didn’t blog at 2:39 PM on Sept 4 2012 by an anonymous blogger, the basis of a BoomTron post on Sept 5 2012 by Matthew Funk, and the basis of an Oct 14 post on Philly.com by David Griesing.

Matthew Funk said: “And if Locke isn’t enough to prove a trend, there’s Stephen Leather, thriller writer, and Robert Stanek, sci-fi writer, and Orlando Figes, historian.”
David Griesing said: “Writers such as John Locke, Stephen Leather, and Robert Stanek have all been exposed for submitting bogus reviews.”

Note how my name is worked in without context and as if fact. And it’s how a message forum post by an architect of hate works its way across the Internet. That’s how these people operated in 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2009 when they spread other nonsense around in big ways as well.

It’s interesting to note that in 2009 when Adam Whitehead and the architects of hate were spreading that particular nonsense at Sffworld and many other sites, I had over 120 published books to my credit. Those books had been read by over 6 million people and translated into over 30 languages. Today, I have over 150 published books.

As a point of fact, I’ve had 7 or more books published every year since 1995 when my first book was published. My body of work encompassing many millions of words and many thousands of published pages should speak for itself. As anyone who’s written a few books can tell you, writing that many books for that many years is a full-time occupation and then some.

Writing that many books for that many years required a tremendous dedication to the writing craft and a tremendous dedication of time. But I loved the writing craft and that love of the writing craft kept me going, even if it meant working 80 to 100 hours a week.

For those who seem to have never done good, honest, hard work like that in their lives, let me be the one to tell them that when you work 12- to 16-hour workdays 7 days a week you don’t have time for anything. The only thing you want to do at the end of the day is collapse into a heap and maybe spend a few minutes with your kids before you tuck them into bed.

It’s interesting to note that while screaming about sock puppets and fake reviews for the past 12 years, the authors responsible for all this, their blogger buddies and their associates had no qualms whatsoever about creating sock puppets, writing fake reviews and threatening anyone who stood up to them. Over the years, they’ve created hundreds of sock puppets to spread this idiocy and spreading this idiocy is something they’ve worked tirelessly to do using every dirty tactic you could ever think of from hiring lawyers to send notices to paying off distributors to drop listings.

Those who have been active participants in these hateful activities include:

David Langford (author)
Stephen Leigh (author)
Jim C. Hines (author)
Victoria Strauss (author)
David Louis Edelman (author)
Patrick Rothfuss (author)
Tim Spalding (Library Thing)
Maureen Johnson (author)
Melissa Foster (author)
Adam Whitehead (Wertzone, Best Fantasy Books)
Patrick Dennis (Pat’s Fantasy Hot List, Best Fantasy Books)

As the victim of these hateful activities, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time investigating the motivations. David Langford (author), one of two originators of this, is one of several high-profile influencers who made Harry Potter Harry Potter. David Langford also is highly connected into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and related fantasy franchise.

In 2002, when all this started, Harry Potter wasn’t the Harry Potter we know and love today and the franchise could have gone either way: success or failure. I’ve no doubt the sudden rapid success of Ruin Mist Chronicles and The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches put fear into Bloomsbury/Scholastic, as both Bloomsbury and Scholastic made contact with me personally multiple times during the years 2002 to 2007. On separate occasions, Bloomsbury and Scholastic requested reading copies of all the books, related marketing materials, sales history, and other promotional backgrounders. More than once, under the pretense of using the books in their book clubs; more than once under the pretense of possibly publishing the books.

In these years, I was also contacted several times by Gollancz, David Langford’s UK publisher. Once was under the pretense of publishing the books in the UK, and as with Scholastic, requesting reading copies of all the books, related marketing materials, sales history, and other promotional backgrounders. Gollancz, Orbit and several other UK publishers were particularly interested in my approach to publishing separate adult and children’s editions of my books, and this was something they would later do with the books of a number of authors, including with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I mention this because having separate adult and children’s editions of my books has been a particular bone of contention for the parties involved with trashing my reputation.

Adam Whitehead (Wertzone, Best Fantasy Books, etc), the second of two originators of this, is an associate of George RR Martin and like Martin a conscientious objector. In 2002, when all this started, A Game of Thrones wasn’t the A Game of Thrones we know and love today and the franchise also could have gone either way: success or failure. I’ve no doubt the sudden rapid success of Ruin Mist Chronicles and The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches put fear in Adam and others as they started writing trash reviews of my books that kept mentioning George’s books and using the public trashing of my books as a promotional platform for George’s books has been a constant with them for the past 12 years.

The fact that Adam is a conscientious objector is of note as his associates were particularly hateful when it came to my military service. I am a distinguished combat veteran. When my nation called upon me to serve in dark hours, I did so without hesitation. Duty, honor, and country mean a great deal to me, and they always have.

For these despicable persons to try to claim that I wasn’t a combat veteran, hadn’t even served in the military or earned my military honors was the deepest of insults. Worse, was enduring years of threats and harassment from those who listened to this idiocy accused me of stolen valor.

As I’ve written about previously, here, in fall 2001, Reagent Press and I tested the market by publishing my first fiction book as a serial ebook. The test was hugely successful and we released ‘Keeper Martin’s Tale’ as a single volume in February 2002, where it quickly became a Science Fiction & Fantasy bestseller.

With the phenomenal sales, the book started getting reviews. First, two short supportive reviews from readers who liked the book, then a strange one-star review that said, among other things, “I’ve been had. This is nowhere near a 5 star book like all these reviews claim.” Another of my books, published shortly after my first, got a similar strange ranting one-star review—the second review ever for that book.

This continued. An anonymous one-star review soon asked “Is it just me, or what?” before trashing the book and me personally. A series of one-star reviews followed, one in mid April 2002 stating “For those who enjoy a great fantasy read, no one comes remotely close to George R. R. Martin's ‘A Song of Fire and Ice Series’. Stanek has the initial makings of a good storyteller, but he's still a long, long way off. Don't waste your time with this one...”

This was followed by an anonymous one-star review on April 19 2002 stating “There's no way it even begins to compare to the works of authors such as George R.R. Martin.”

Another one-star review, written in an identical style, with the title “What book are the rest of you reading?” soon followed in late April 2002. This review said, among many things, “After reading him for an hour, I had to go pick up Lord of the Rings just to confirm to myself that Tolkien's writing wasn't that bad. I don't see how Stanek can even be close to Robert Jordan or George RR Martin, its like comparing a high school english paper with War and Peace.”

The flow of one-star reviews from anonymous (and sometimes from someone using pseudonyms and newly created accounts that typically had only reviewed my book the day the account was created) continued into May 2002 when David Langford / Adam Whitehead wrote the following in Ansible:

“Amazon Mystery. Authors of fantasies on sale at Amazon.com have noticed a rash of oddly similar customer reviews that rubbish their work and instead recommend, say, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Robert Stanek. The number of Big Name commendations varies, but not the plug for self-published author Robert Stanek. Who could possibly be posting these reviews (many since removed by Amazon) under a variety of names? It is a mystery, but Ansible is reminded of how Lionel Fanthorpe's pseudonymous sf would often mention those great classic masters of the genre, Verne, Wells and Fanthorpe.”

After this appeared in Ansible, for whatever reason, I was suddenly being trashed all over the Internet by other authors, SFF bloggers, anyone with a bone to pick. Suddenly, authors, bloggers, others, who had never even read my work were writing hateful reviews and commentary, and just as often as not, they used sock puppets to do it.

Move forward to the present and the same core group is still doing the same dirty work and they’re just as active at it as they were in 2002. Why? Many are employed to do so, and by employed, I mean paid, as these types of activities are their full-time/part-time occupations. They are paid to be influencers, to be franchise makers and breakers.

Entertainment franchises are big business. The Harry Potter franchise has earned billions. The Game of Thrones franchise has surpassed a billion in earnings. With billions and hundreds of millions at stake, it’s no wonder why some organizations employ “actors” to do dirty work. And for relative peanuts, those “actors” will tirelessly work their social and online contacts to break some while making others.

At the end of the day, it’s the words on the page that matter. The books that matter. I encourage you to read the books for yourself to see why they matter and why certain competitors have spent 12 years trying to get you not to read them. Currently, there are 18 books set in Ruin Mist:

Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches
Winds of Change
Seeds of Dissent
Pawn of Dragons
Tower of Destiny

In the Service of Dragons
A Clash of Heroes
A Dance of Swords
A Storm of Shields
A Reign of Dragons

Guardians of the Dragon Realms
The Dragon, the Wizard & the Great Door
A Legacy of Dragons

Dragons of the Hundred Worlds
Breath of Fire
Living Fire

A Daughter of Kings
Betrayal
Deliverance
Rebirth
Discord

Magic Lands
Journey Beyond the Beyond
Into the Stone Land

Read the books if for no other reason than my competitors are desperate for you not to. If you enjoy the books, wonderful. If you don’t, there are plenty of other books out there.

Thank you for reading,

Robert Stanek

Monday, May 5, 2014

Being a Solo Flying Writer Can be Scary As Hell. Being a Pro Writer Offers Grounding. Being an Indie Author Too Gives the Best of Both Worlds.

My first published works appeared in the Janes' School Gazette in 1976, a grade school newspaper where I wrote columns and was a junior editor. (Yes, that was when I was in the 4th grade. :-)

Ten years later though, in 1986, I finished my first full-length novel. In 1991, I won my first writing award--an award that sat on my desk for some 20 years, reminding me where I got my start in this crazy business called publishing.

But it wasn't until 1994 that I signed my first contract with a publisher, which makes 2014 officially my 20th year as a published professional writer.

Between 1994 and 2001 were a lot of good and great writing years. In 2001, I went independent and straddled the so-called hybrid-author line between published pro and indie writer.

Of all the things I've done in my life, going indie was one of the scariest. Why? Independent writers fly solo. They rely on no one and nothing. It is refreshing. It is releasing. It is renewing. And yet it also can be scary as hell.

ABOUT EBOOKS AND AUDIOBOOKS

Many people think ebooks are something fairly new, but an interesting fact about ebooks is that they've been around since the mid to late 1990's when there were several very popular ebook programs that helped writers produce books on floppy disk and later CD-ROM. The first really big ebook push was around the fall of 2001. Back then, Amazon carried ebooks distributed by Ingram Digital. 

Ingram Digital's initial ebook distribution program went to websites all around the world. The first Ruin Mist novel was released as a serial ebook in 2001 as part of Ingram Digital's early ebook service, as well as other early ebook services, and was very successful. Reagent Press and I followed the successful ebook launch with a print release in February 2002 and the Ruin Mist books quickly became bestsellers on Amazon and elsewhere. 

In 2005, Reagent Press and I brought the Ruin Mist books to audio, focusing particularly on digital audio which was something fairly new at the time and available from sites like The Audio Book Store, Emusic, and Audible. Upon their release, the Ruin Mist audiobooks quickly dominated bestseller lists, especially at Audible. 

Like Harry Potter, Narnia, and many other popular books, the original Ruin Mist books are available in editions for adults and young adults. For adults, there are 'Keeper Martin's Tale', 'Kingdom Alliance', 'Fields of Honor', and then 'Mark of the Dragon'. For young adults, there are the four 'Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches' books and the four 'In the Service of Dragons' books.

The world of Ruin Mist is expansive and there are many other related novels. 'Journey Beyond the Beyond' and 'Into the Stone Land' are Ruin Mist: Magic Lands novels. 'Breath of Fire' and 'Living Fire' are Ruin Mist: Dragons of the Hundred Worlds novels. 'The Dragon, the Wizard & The Great Door' is a Ruin Mist: Guardians of the Dragon Realms novel. Companion guides like 'Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ruin Mist', 'Keeper Martin's Guide to the Fantastic', and 'Art of Ruin Mist: Heroes and Villains' are also available.

About all this, I am certain of one thing and it is this: If the Ruin Mist books had been published only in print or only in print in standard markets, the books never would have sold over 1 million copies. Just as the availability of the Ruin Mist books in print beyond standard markets created new opportunities, so did the wide availability of ebooks and audiobooks. As you plan your author platform, you too should be looking at releasing your books in formats, editions and markets that make the most sense for you.

ABOUT MY DAY JOB

An industry joke by and between writers is "Don't quit your day job." Of course, I wrote the Ruin Mist books and many other fiction books while also working a day job. My day job from 1985 to 1996 was in the military. From 1996 to the present, my day job is as a technology journalist and writer.

After high school, I joined the military to see the world--and really did. I was stationed in Japan, and toured Asia. I was stationed in Germany, and toured Europe. I saw what hell is like during two combat tours in the Persian Gulf War. I was stationed in Hawaii, and toured the Pacific.

After the military, I began work full-time as a writer. My writing though was primarily focused on nonfiction. I wrote articles for PC Magazine, Dr. Dobbs, and other journals, and I wrote technical manuscripts and other nonfiction works for publishers like Macmillan, McGraw Hill, Pearson, Microsoft, and O'Reilly. This work paid the bills, the mortgage and kept the lights on, but I also kept dreaming of things beyond.

Lessons and experiences from all my military service and traveling spill over into my writing like water over Niagara Falls. When my children were young, I started writing the Bugville Critters books in the 90's and over the years finished dozens of illustrated picture books featuring a little bee called Buster, a little lady bug called Lass, and their friends. My children have always been big Bugville fans and they're the ones who urged me to get the books published. 

When I started the journey to get the Bugville books published in 2004, I decided to bring the books to audio first and then print. Audio seemed a natural fit as my children loved hearing the stories as much as they loved reading them. At the time, I also was starting work on the Ruin Mist audio books.

The first Bugville Critters audiobooks were released in 2007. The print books followed in 2008. After releasing the original books starring Buster and Lass, I realized I also had a wealth of early learning books. These books became part of my Bugville Jr and Bugville Learning product lines. About all this, I am certain of one thing: If I had not expanded the Bugville Critters into new product lines, the books never would have sold over 1 million copies. It was the wide selection and diverse product offering that helped the books become successful.

As an author, your books are your brands and you too should be looking for ways you can expand. Expand into areas that make sense based on what you are writing.

I've sold 2.5 million Robert Stanek books, but I don't know if I'd have been able to continue as a writer without also having sold 7.5 million William Stanek books. Selling 10 million books over 20 years is a solid success, but one without the other? I'm not sure that would have worked, and it's one of the reasons I decided to be both a pro and an indie author. 

I hope my insights from 20 years in this crazy writing business help you in your writing.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Long Hard Slog Up the Middle: A Writer's Journey Part 2

As I was saying last time, I finished my first full-length novel in '86, won my first writing award in '91, and signed my first book contract in '94. Since then, I've written over 150 books which have been read by over 10 million people. But I almost gave it all up in the late '90s.

After months of waiting to hear good news, my wife and I were considering our options and wishing we’d sold the family home and moved to Seattle where I was working at the time, having gone back to full-time work other than writing.

Thankfully though after months of waiting, I heard got good news from my agent. The publisher wanted to meet with me. The publisher wanted to discuss my ideas.

During the meeting, it was clear that the publisher liked my ideas but I’d need to provide sample chapters, expand the series details, have more face-to-face meetings, and generally do more to convince them. The hard part that followed required a leap of faith. I couldn’t do all that was required of me, in the time that was required of me, and keep working full-time elsewhere. I had to quit the day job and proceed, or keep the day job and let the dream die.

I chose the dream. I gave notice, worked my last two weeks while I continued developing the materials needed. A few weeks in, I learned the publisher had one idea for the series and I had another. Worse, the concepts were radically different.

I thought for sure disaster was ahead. Thankfully, the publisher did eventually sign me to a two-book contract. A contract to do things their way—and not my way.

However, the sample chapters I’d written over the past weeks were for my series concept and not theirs, so I kept writing the books my way. For this publisher, it was something unheard of for any writer to go outside the standard or to deviate from fixed standards. But my editors loved the final chapters I submitted, and I completed the work in its entirety ahead of schedule—so many weeks ahead of schedule they didn't quite know what to do, and this also was something else that was unheard of.

In fact, I was so far ahead of schedule, that the book’s publication dates were moved back several months. Those several months proved critical, as they allowed the publisher to showcase the books at a major industry event when the publisher otherwise would not have been able to. And the books done my way were smash hits at the event.

The rest as they say is history. Those contracts were followed by two other contracts from other publishers that I’d contacted previously. Suddenly, I was back in the publishing business.

Looking back now after I these years, I know exactly what I would have given up, had I not chased the dream. That little series I started? That series would eventually go on to become one of the biggest blockbuster series for the publisher, with $100M in worldwide retail sales—and counting.

Those first books I wrote in that series? They set the foundation for the entire series and became critically-acclaimed, award-winning bestsellers.

Sometimes in life you must take that leap of faith. Sometimes you must believe in yourself when no one else does. Sometimes you must follow the wrong path to find the right one.

Talk to you next time,

Robert Stanek

Monday, March 10, 2014

Long, Hard Slog Up the Middle: A Writer's Journey Part 1

I’ve been a writer for more than 30 years. I finished my first full-length novel in 1986, won my first writing award in 1991, and signed my first book contract in 1994. Since then, I've gone on to write more than 150 books, which have been read by readers all around the world.

I earned my stripes in this crazy business when I wrote for many years for the simple pleasure of writing itself. It wasn’t until 1994 that I signed my first contract. It wasn’t until 1995 that my first book was published. It wasn’t until 1996 that I was able to write full-time.

My full-time work as a writer is as a technology journalist and nonfiction writer. In those early days, I wrote articles for leading publications like PC Magazine and Dr. Dobbs. I also wrote books for leading publishers like Macmillan, Pearson, McGraw Hill, Microsoft, and O’Reilly Media. For articles, I often received $1 or more a word. For books, I often received solid five-figure advances. That was, of course, success, and I did in fact rise quickly, becoming a recognized world leader in my field in only a few short years.

Success, however, can be short lived. In publishing, a writer’s last success doesn’t necessarily pave the road to the future. A writer’s future is determined by his or her next book and often also by factors the writer cannot control. The world changes every day. Trends and tastes shift. Yesterday’s media darling can be tomorrow’s nobody.

I’ve lived the change firsthand. Between 1995 and 1998, I signed more than a dozen contracts, wrote books as fast as I could write them for readers who couldn’t get my books fast enough. I was on fire. In those few short years, my books earned millions at retail. I thought the ride would never end, until it did.

The market changed. Trends and tastes shifted. The hot topics of the day were flooded with a smorgasbord of offerings. There weren’t just 10 or 20 books on that hot topic, there were a hundred. Eventually, this oversaturation cannibalized sales of all similar books. Thus, even as my success and career were hitting new highs, I was left scrambling.

But unlike many of my contemporaries at the time, I saw the light of that oncoming freight train. I knew my options. I knew what I had to do.

I could continue to write books in an oversaturated market, try to live with sales that were a tiny fraction of what they had been, or I could look to new opportunities. I chose plan b—the new opportunities. I risked everything, left my old publishers who weren’t interested in my new ideas, and went out looking for publishers who were interested in my new ideas.

The change meant I had to rejoin the working world. I took a job with a tech company in Seattle and joined the ranks of the marathon commuters, driving 140 miles round trip every working day. I continued writing in the evenings and on weekends. I continued to pitch my new ideas to new publishers.

Days and weeks passed. Months too. By the sixth month, my wife and I were seriously considering our options and wishing we’d sold the family home and moved to Seattle months ago.
But I didn’t give up. Instead, I polished my ideas yet again and sent them out via my agent to a new publisher who I heard was looking to do something different. I just hoped that the “something different” they wanted would be my radical idea for a new series of books.

The wait to hear back from the publisher was agony because at this point it was make or break. If I heard back from the publisher and it wasn’t good news, my writing career likely was over. If I heard back from the publisher and it was good news, there was hope, but no certainty.

Thankfully, I heard back from my agent within a few days and the news was...

To be continued...

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek

Monday, December 23, 2013

How I Made This Crazy Thing Called Writing a 20-year Career...

2014 will be my 20th year in publishing. I signed my first book contract in 1994 and my first book was published in 1995. The wild success of that book and its sequel made me an international bestselling author. Since those early beginnings, more than 150 of my books have been published and let me tell you it's been one crazy ride.

I've seen other writers sharing about their experiences in their blogs, though mostly from the viewpoint of strictly self-published authors, so I wanted to offer viewpoints on two things: so-called hybrid authors and long tail publishing.

ABOUT MY PATH

The path I've traveled hasn’t been all roses, cavalcades, and unicorns. The publishing business can be an ugly business; the world can be an ugly place. And yet, I’ve never lost belief in my words or my ability to instruct, to entertain, to tell a story. I love the craft.

I’ve not only written in literary genres from action/adventure, mystery and suspense to science fiction and fantasy, in subject areas from computer technology to military memoir, and in children's picture books for toddlers, preschoolers and early elementary school readers--but I’ve been successful in all.

ABOUT MY SALES

From the publication of my first book in 1995 to early 2005, I had sold well over 5,000,000 books. From 2005 to 2015, I am on track to again sell well over 5,000,000 books.

In the past 20 years, I've sold well over $100,000,000 in books and I'm on track to reach $200,000,000+ in sales in 2014. That kind of outsized success isn't something everyone will achieve. That kind of success is something I can't believe I've achieved.

People often have ask me if all the success changed my life and I’d like to think that it has in many ways. But it’s been a long, long road and a road that never started with me trying to get published.

In fact, I wrote novels for years before I ever tried to get published. For me, writing was never about getting published. It was always about doing what I loved. And doing what I love full-time for 20 years has given me great perspective on writing, on success, and on life.

ABOUT GOING FROM PRO TO HYBRID

Being a hybrid author refers to writing both as a professionally published author and as an independent author. For a professionally published author, I think it's a logical transition to the independent marketplace and it's a transition born of simple economics. Economics that work like this:

$200,000,000 at retail x 45% = 90,000,000. Based on a typical 55% discount to bookstores.

20% off the top for returns, other withholdings, etc  = 72,000,000

Average royalties = 10% (I know, I know you hear 12%, 15% numbers but the actual rate varies depending on marketplace sold, whether 3rd party distributed, how packaged, etc).

10% of 72,000,000 = 7,200,000

20% off the top of this for agents, managers, etc. leaves about 5,760,000.

5,760,000 over 20 years is about $288,000 in annual earnings (not including actual expenses like health care, marketing, etc).

Or put another way, at the end of the day, what the professional author actually gets is about 3% of total earnings.

In contrast, indie earnings can be much more substantial as a percentage of total earnings, though significantly less in the total net earnings department. In theory, indie authors can earn as much as 35% - 70% of net sales. But theories don't always hold water. As an indie, my end of the day indie earnings, after top-level expenses, actually amount to about 10% of total earnings.

* The breakout that follows does not include sales data for 2.5 million Robert Stanek, Bugville Learning, Ruin Mist Publications, etc but does include sales data for 7.5 million William Stanek, William R. Stanek, William Robert Stanek, and related titles, etc:
500,000+ sales at $70 & up ($70 x 500,000 = 35,000,000)
2,000,000+ sales at $59.99 to $69.99 ($60 x 2,000,000 = 120,000,000)
3,500,000+ sales at $29.99 to $59.98 ($30 x 3,500,000 = 105,000,000)
1,000,000+ sales at $19.99 to 29.98 ($20 x 1,000,000 = 20,000,000)
500,000+ sales at up to $19.98 ($10 x 500,000 = 5,000,000)

ABOUT GOING FROM INDIE TO HYBRID

As an independent, authors can have total control of their works. However, the indie must wear many hats and perform many tasks, including sales and marketing activities. At some point, as an indie's success increases, an indie may have to make a choice between having time to write and performing all these other activities. At that point, I think trying to transition to a hybrid author model increasingly makes sense.

With pro contracts, agents, or both come things solo flying indies can't get. For example, access to large sales and marketing networks. Also, the ability to network with other authors published by the publisher or working with your agent. It's how a newly minted hybrid indie can make connections to big name authors and suddenly get written about in major magazines and newspapers.

ABOUT MY BOOKS

I wrote for many years before I got publishing, having finished my first full-length novel in 1986. Currently, I have over 150 published works, which vary in length from 654,000 words (the longest, a 1600-page behemoth work) to 300 words (the shortest and one of my illustrated children's books).

Those many works available in many editions, many formats, many languages, and many markets become several thousand live titles. For example, I have over 1,000 English-language titles just in library distribution.

I track the sales of my books across the more than 35 marketplaces where they are sold every few years (usually every other year). That's how I get fun stats like 7.5 million William Stanek books sold, 2.5 million Robert Stanek books sold, etc.

Hundreds of books and thousands of titles is an approach to publishing called long-tail publishing. With long-tail publishing, the author relies on a relative trickle of sales over many years. I say relative trickle as some of my books sell hundreds of copies a year while others sell thousands or tens of thousands of copies a year.

To better understand trickle theory, consider this:

A $350 monthly cell phone bill becomes a $50,000 expense after 12 years. $350 x 12 x 12 = $50,400.

A book that sells 100 copies a month has 24,000 sales after 20 years. 100 x 12 x 20 = 24,000.

Thus, the trickle of sales slowly builds into a mountain.

ABOUT MY WRITING DAY

Counting all my writing (indie, pro and otherwise), I have about 20,000,000 published words, 10 million pro and 10 million indie, give or take. Those ~20 million words written over a period of 30 years (1986 to present) weren't blasted out at a rate of tens of thousands of words a day or week. They were written at the rather sedate pace of about 2,000 words a day, across a 7-day work week--with some days lots of writing done and some days no writing done too.

Of course, my days also are filled with other writing-related tasks. If I’m not writing, I’m probably designing a book cover, doing illustration work, setting type on an illustrated page, sketching out a story line, reviewing printed pages, or any of the dozens of other things that must be done to prepare a book for publication. Why? Because there’s no one else to do that work if I don’t.

I don’t think many people understand how technical writing works and how involving it is. With technology books, writing is only one part of a much larger process that also involves author review and page review. As I write chapters, those chapters go to editorial and also are sent on to technical reviewers. When I get chapters back from editorial, the chapters contain edits and comments from the copy editors, development editors, and others on editorial staff. The chapters also contain comments from technical reviewers. This part of the process is called author review.

During author review, I’m working with the manuscript in Microsoft Word. I must respond to every question and query and a typical chapter may have several hundred of those which may or may not require me to make actual changes in the text. Author review is followed by page review. Page review is the final part of the manuscript review process.

During page review, I’m working with the manuscript in its final form in Adobe Acrobat. The manuscript is marked up with comments that I must address from the formatters, proofreaders, and others on the editorial staff. For pre-release products, there may be several rounds of author review and several rounds of page review.

After all these years of writing, I have a simple formula to determine how much of my time a writing project will require, inclusive of writing, review, and everything else that a book involves. 1 page = 1 hour. Thus, if I’m writing a 700-page book (inclusive of all front matter and back matter), I must plan for the project requiring 700 hours of my time.

With indie fiction, the formula is probably closer to 2 pages = 1 hour, but the actual work required can sometimes be more, as I have to wear many more hats when I do indie work.

ABOUT MY STRATEGY

As you can probably guess, with all the books I've published, writing is my full-time occupation and my full-time hobby and has been for the past 20 years. My strategy for spreading the word about my books is simple.

In the early days I did book tours when I could and traveled a lot. Traveling gets old though and the good news is that once you've established yourself, you don't really need to tour any more. For those reading this who haven't attended book fairs, done readings, or traveled for book tours, I recommend seeing if it's in your best interest to give it a try.

I haven't done the book fair, reading, book tour circuit thing though for the past 15 or so years. These days, I blog when I can, tweet a few things when I can, and post to Facebook and such when I can. And that's my primary marketing. I occasionally do media advertising and press releases, though I always ensure that I never pay retail for advertising.

Why? I want every dollar I spend on advertising to go 10 times as far as it normally would. Planning advertising across longer periods of time helps. For example, from mid-2008 to late 2009, my publisher and I spent $100,000 on advertising. As it was mostly my money, you can be darn sure that I made sure every dime went as far as it could. Large and repeated buys across various marketplaces got us some extremely good rates (we paid about .20 on the dollar, so our advertising at card rates would have been about $500K).

That kind of spending is not something I would recommend. That spending was for a special occasion, leading up to the recent year-long celebration of the book I counted officially as my 150th. (Significant career milestones are fun and important to celebrate.)

The kind of marketing I recommend to indies is this: market where you see the most value. Facebook is one of the places I see a great value these days. With $250 targeted correctly, I can reach 1 million people (or at least get 1 million views). That's extreme value and it's one reason why I've dropped $30K on Facebook advertising in the past 5 years.

ABOUT THE FUTURE

I'm not sure how many writers realize that book sales are more like the ebb and flow of tides than tidal waves coming ashore. Books sales rise and fall over time, and if you're lucky, they keep rising and falling over time. As the book world transitions to an e-marketplace, it's important to remember that ebooks are really only in their infancy. While ebooks are big in the US and a few other countries, the rest of the world is still largely dominated by print. And beyond both print and ebook are tons of additional opportunities, including audio.

I'm tremendously grateful to my readers and my publishers. Currently, I am working to finish an 8-book contract with my publishers. The contract is the largest one I’ve ever signed. The project, which has consumed part of last year, all of this year and will carry me well into next year, entails over 4,000 pages of writing—and I’ve been going at it 7 days a week trying to meet all the timelines.

Four of the eight books have now been published and I am working my way through writing, reviewing, and final work on all the others. I’m very grateful to have this work, especially as the industry is in such flux. Such tremendous flux is not uncommon in the publishing industry. There have been waves of flux in the past and there will be waves of flux in the future.

If all the years of writing have taught me anything, it’s patience. I’m not in a hurry to publish anything. I release my books on my schedule, not anyone else’s. I have so many finished books because I’ve been writing for 30 years--and 20 of those years as a full-time writer.

If you want to be a long-time participant in this crazy game, I hope you'll keep in mind the ebb and flow. The ebb and flow can ruin you or you can embrace it as simply the way things are.

Hope my insights from 20 years in this crazy writing business help you in your writing.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek



Monday, December 9, 2013

Nielsen BookScan Sales Data Can Be Misleading (Or Alternatively Understanding This Brave New World of Publishing a Little Better)

I think most everyone is guilty of preaching. I see lots of opinionated posts that pretty much state, ‘I know everything because I have published a book.” And I know what they mean, because that’s what a lot of people mean when they’re giving their opinion. Sometimes I’m one of those people too. I’d like to think my 20 years of experience as a pro author and 12 years of experience as an indie author get me pretty far in the expert department (but I’m also smart enough to know there are very few actual experts on anything). Publishing has been changing so fast over the past decade that many so-called experts are left scratching their heads as they try to understand what’s going on. One of those experts being left behind is Nielsen BookScan.

For those who don’t know, Nielsen BookScan is a company that collects retail sales information from bookshops. Many companies, including Amazon.com, use Nielsen BookScan sales data to track the sales history of books. Some bestseller lists also use Nielsen BookScan sales data to determine which books are the bestsellers in specific categories at any given time.

Much like bestseller lists, which I’ve written about in Bestseller Lists Can Lie, Nielsen BookScan sales data doesn’t actually show the total sales of any book in any particular category or at any particular time. More accurately, Nielsen BookScan sales data is reflective of a statistical sample of sales of particular books in particular categories or genres at a particular time. More plainly, Nielsen BookScan sales data captures a relatively small portion of book sales in particular markets and locations.

However, Nielsen BookScan sales data is often presented as if it shows a book’s total actual sales or equally as bad some imagined percentage of actual sales. Even Amazon.com which should absolutely know better as a digital online leader misrepresents to authors what Nielsen BookScan sales data actually is. BTW, your Author Central account on Amazon.com shows sales data for Nielsen BookScan US (which is itself one segment of the ten currently tracked markets).

On numerous occasions, I’ve had publishers and others in publishing tell me with a straight face that you can tell the total sales of a book simply by multiplying the Nielsen BookScan sales for a book by some imagined value. Usually, the X factor stated ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 depending on the type of book. Twenty years ago, when books released in the US were primarily sold only in the US in physical, tracked stores that may have been true. Such a thing hasn’t been true for a long, long time in the US or anywhere else.

Here’s what Nielsen BookScan tracks exactly: English Language sales statistics for the consumer book market from about 35,500 tracked retail stores in 10 countries: Australia, Brazil, India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, UK, and US. Prior to approximately early 2011, the tracked stores included only specific chain bookshops, key independent bookshops, and key supermarket stores. After approximately early 2011, Nielsen BookScan also began monitoring sales from leading internet book sites.

What doesn’t Nielsen BookScan track? Everything else. Nielsen BookScan doesn’t track education (school, college, etc) or library sales. Nielsen BookScan doesn’t track sales from most department stores, even though many carry books. Nielsen BookScan doesn’t track non-English Language sales. Nielsen BookScan doesn’t track any bookshops that don’t participate in the program or that aren’t considered key or leading. Nielsen BookScan doesn’t track non-book sites that also sell books. Nielsen BookScan doesn’t track internet book sites that aren’t considered key or leading. Nielsen BookScan doesn’t track English Language sales in any country other than the 10 where it currently does business.

To understand Nielsen BookScan, you also need to understand that the data is segmented by market (country). Nielsen BookScan US data is reflective of English Language sales statistics for the consumer book market in the US and began operations in January 2001. Nielsen BookScan Australia data is reflective of English Language sales statistics for the consumer book market in Australia and began operations in December 2000.

Nielsen BookScan New Zealand data is reflective of English Language sales statistics for the consumer book market in New Zealand and has been operating since December 2008. Nielsen BookScan South Africa data is reflective of English Language sales statistics for the consumer book market in South Africa and began operations in December 2003. Nielsen BookScan India data is reflective of English Language sales statistics for the consumer book market in India and has been operating since October 2010. Nielsen BookScan International data is reflective of English Language sales statistics for the consumer book market in the UK and Ireland.

Something else you should know: From its inception to approximately early 2012, Nielsen BookScan was specifically for tracking titles that were physical products, meaning tracking of printed books and packaged audio. In approximately early 2012 Nielsen BookScan began working to track sales statistics for the consumer ebook market. Prior to this Nielsen BookScan did not track ebook sales. Nielsen BookScan also does not track digital audio sales in any market.

Nielsen says that BookScan in the US tracks approximately 16,000 locations or roughly 85% of the market but then states that it collects sales data for only 500,000 titles in a typical week. Visit Amazon.com and you’ll find about 12,000,000 titles. My best estimate is that about 35% of these titles are books actively available in the US, including printed books, digital books, packaged audio, digital audio, etc. 35% of 12 million titles is 4.2 million. 4.2 million - .5 million is 3.7 million. Where exactly is the sales data for these 3,700,000 titles? Well, it’s not tracked.

Within a market, such as the US, Nielsen BookScan also provides historical sales data by category, format, author, and publisher with weekly data aggregated into four and twelve week blocks. Titles are tracked by ISBN, the unique identifier for book products. Nielsen BookScan can track sales across formats. At present, this cross-format tracking is for alternate physical editions of books and the tracking is dependent on each related title being properly cross-linked by the publisher in the first place (generally by specifying a related ISBN).

The clear problem here is that modern books are often released in many formats, in many editions, and in many markets. As an example, in the English language there are over 600 William Robert Stanek titles at Amazon and over 900 William Robert Stanek titles in library distribution. You can check these numbers yourself by counting all William Stanek, William R. Stanek, William Robert Stanek, and Robert Stanek titles.

There are an additional 400 or so of my titles in the English language that don’t even have my name on them. They are sold under a brand name. For example, Bugville Learning and Ruin Mist Publications are two of my brands and titles released in these brands may or may not have my name on them even though I have of course written them.

I have hundreds of inactive and/or otherwise out-of-print titles as well. Additionally, over the past 20 years, my books have been translated into 34 languages. All of these translations were released in many formats and editions as well. In total, there are thousands of my titles published in the past 20 years.

How many of these titles has Nielsen BookScan US ever tracked? Well, Nielsen BookScan US didn’t track any sales prior to January 2001. Nielsen BookScan US didn’t track Internet sales until approximately early 2011. Nielsen BookScan US just started tracking ebooks sales and doesn’t track digital audio sales. Nielsen BookScan US doesn’t track education sales. Nielsen BookScan US doesn’t track library sales. Nielsen BookScan US doesn’t track any sales outside the US. I could go on, but I won’t. I think you get the point.

Finally, don’t confuse Nielsen ratings with Nielsen BookScan US. With Nielsen ratings, the television viewing habits of a relatively small cross-section of households are statistically extrapolated to be representative of millions of viewers across the US. With Nielsen BookScan US, the book buying habits of a subset of leading US retail locations are statistically extrapolated to be representative of the millions of books sold across the US. If you’re an author whose books are sold primarily in these retail locations, you’ll look like a superstar. If you’re an author whose books are sold primarily in other locations, you won’t look like a superstar.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek

Monday, December 2, 2013

More Great Reads from the 2nd Annual BIG Read for the Holidays: Reading for the Holidays & Beyond!

Hi, readers and authors. Welcome to the continuation of the 2nd Annual BIG Read for the Holidays & Beyond: The Great BIG Book Preview!

As this year’s event was such a success it couldn't be contained in just one post, so I’ve organized the event posts into a series of posts, of which this is the second. I hope you find some great reads for the holidays and beyond!

For those who don't know me, I'm Robert Stanek and I've been a professionally published author since 1995 and an indie published author since 2001. You may have seen me on CNN, heard me talk on NPR, or read about my books in industry publications like VOYA, BookWire, Children's Writer, Children's Bookshelf, Library Journal, School Library Journal, or Publisher’s Weekly.

I've been a strong supporter of my fellow authors ever since my first book was published in 1995. Back then, I supported writers through Writer's Gallery, Internet Daily News, and Internet Job Center (archives athttp://www.tvpress.com/).

In 2007, I launched Go Indie to support independent authors, independent publishers, and independent bookstores. Go Indie has evolved into: Go Indie On Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/goindie/), Free Today on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/freetoday/), Read Indies on Blogspot (http://readindies.blogspot.com/), Read Indies on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/88011-read-indies---discover-the-best-in-indie-publishing), and Novel Writers on Google+ (https://plus.google.com/communities/103231535941872424616?partnerid=gplp0). All of which I created and host.

Show your support for indie authors, indie books and this event by clicking this link and subscribing to this blog!

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


PS

If you like fantasy novels or know someone who does, I hope you'll spread the word about my Ruin Mist books, including The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches, In the Service of Dragons, Dragons of the Hundred Worlds, and Guardians of the Dragon Realms.



*Featured authors in this post include: Cathy Thompson, David Eastman, Sandra Brown, Margaret Brown, G.G. Atcheson, Robert Italia, Helen Haught Fanick, Hadena James, Anne Riley, Kerry Kochanski, Charles Ameringer, Maggie Katz, Jerold Last, Lori R. Lopez, and Chicki Brown.



Image of Cathy Thompson



 If You Dream It. A Silly Rhyming Picture Book for Kids

"If you dream of swimming in deep blue seas… don’t open your eyes before you squeeze." "If you want to have a picnic in the yard… invite a penguin and not the royal guard." 

A silly rhyming picture book for kids by a former teacher and volunteer librarian. Simple rhyming text and fun pictures make this an ideal picture book experience for reading and sharing.


Monster Parade 1, 2, 3. A Rhyming Counting Picture Book for Kids

Monster Parade 1, 2, 3. A rhyming counting picture book for kids. 

One fuzzy wuzzy making a silly face. 
Two trembling gremlins tired of keeping pace. 

Come along and join in the fun! Read and count and play and laugh along with our hilarious monster parade. 



David Eastman

David Eastman has been working on his Giraffe and Elephant stories for several years and was delighted to finally be able to get the stories published.


Giraffe and Elephant are Friends

Save my book series! Disney Press stole my ideas and are publishing an unauthorized book called When Giraffe Met Elephant! Giraffe and Elephant Are Friends uses captivating illustrations and carefully chosen words to teach young children about friendship. This is a great story for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners.

If you are passionate about building your children's curiosity and knowledge in fun and interesting ways then "Giraffe and Elephant Are Friends" is the right picture book for you.




Giraffe and Elephant are back--and they’re breaking out of the zoo! That’s right. Giraffe and Elephant have decided that zoo life isn’t for them. They’re headed to the farm where everything’s better.

The book uses captivating illustrations and carefully chosen words to teach young children about friendship. A perfect story for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners.

If you are passionate about building your children's curiosity and knowledge in fun and interesting ways then "Giraffe and Elephant Break Out" is the right picture book for you.




Image of Sandra Brown
Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is a mother, writer, and unemployed art teacher. While her baby's daddy is deployed overseas, she's living with her mom. Though life has thrown her many curve balls, she says that she still sees light in darkness, hope in rain, wonder in autumn leaves, and laughter in snowfall. Her books include: "Kitten and Butterfly Count to Ten. A Learn with Animal Friends Book"; "Animal Safari ABC. An Amazing Alphabet Book"; and "Valentine Bear Dreams. A Children's Picture Book for Valentine's Day or Any Day".

Animal Safari ABC. An Amazing Alphabet Book

A. B. C. D. Follow along to reveal arctic fox, bobcat kitten, crocodile, and dalmation. Our alphabet and animals make learning ABCs as easy as A, B, C!

This ebook is designed for kindle so you see full-page images and text at the same time.



Kitten and Butterfly Count to Ten. A Learn with Animal Friends Book 

One little kitten was playing in the grass when he saw the most beautiful blue butterfly fly past. He ran after it to say hi.

Kitten couldn't find the butterfly. So he asked his friend, “Duckling, did you see a blue butterfly?” But Duckling hadn't.

Join Kitten as he searches for a butterfly and meets counting friends in this fun picture book for kids created especially for the Kindle.



Valentine Bear Dreams. A Children's Picture Book for Valentine's Day or Any Day. 

"It was almost Valentine’s Day. But Bear was sad, sad as any bear could ever be." 

Valentine Bear Dreams is a beautifully written story about love, friendship, and giving from the heart. Perfect reading for Valentine’s Day or any day. 

Sure to tug on the heart strings of children and adults alike, this book is beautiful on the kindle. The pictures look great in black and white and are gorgeous on the color kindle.




Image of Margaret Brown

Margaret Brown

Margaret Brown taught first grade for many years and later second grade. She dreamed all her life of being a writer and Gorillas: The Complete Guide is her very first book. As a former elementary school teacher, she knows what children like to read and how to present important facts in ways children understand. Margaret's second book, My Wild Animal Book, was recently published as well.


Kittens, Kittens, Kittens (A Beautiful Story About Cute Kittens) 

"Kittens. Kittens. Kittens" uses spectacular photographs and cheery rhyming text to describe the antics of kittens.


Sure to tug on the heart strings of children and adults alike, this book is beautiful on the kindle. The pictures look great in black and white and are gorgeous on the color kindle.

http://www.amazon.com/Kittens-Beautiful-Story-About-Cute-ebook/dp/B00B12SSBY/


My Wild Animal Book (Learn with Animal Friends) 

Your little one will soon learn all about wild animals. On the full-screen pages, your child will discover bright, colorful photographs of all different kinds of wild animals. Each animal has its name written so that children can learn what the animal is called, build their animal vocabulary, and start to develop word and picture association.

http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Animal-Book-Learn-Friends-ebook/dp/B00AMRA0L0/



G.G. Atcheson 

G.G. Atcheson

 (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7244729.G_G_Atcheson)

The Legacy: Fate (The Legacy, # 1)
The Legacy: Fate
After his spaceship crashes on Earth, LX makes a strange encounter. The woman isn't like any other he's ever met before; she is vampire.

For her, he will break rules, his people's rules, until there is no turning back. To protect her, he may have to break his most sacred one: Do Not Kill!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EW39YBC
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/...
https://www.facebook.com/GGAtcheson 

Cristofori's Dream

In the tradition of A Christmas Carol, for our turbulent times . . . .

My holiday fantasy CRISTOFORI'S DREAM is the November featured novel at the Goodreads Time Travel group. Read a free sample chapter and answer the related question below for a chance to win a free ebook in the format of your choice. It's all about a young teen (Chris) who, faced with a family tragedy, abandons his faith for science -- then finds himself in a Victorian fantasy world of his own making as he searches for a miracle cure for his dying younger sister (Janey).

There are consequences.

In the free sample chapter, Chris and Janey defy their father—who thinks the holidays are "nonsense"—by decorating their house for Christmas. To them, it's a much-anticipated family tradition, complete with secret treasures that take on significant roles in the Victorian Dream World, which Chris is about to enter. Even more, their Christmas tree is granted special powers: it has a glow that protects them from all harm. But because of the separate tragedies that befall Chris and Janey, the nature of the tree's light is at the heart of a great debate. Is it a holy light, or one of science?

So here's the discussion question: how do you see Christmas, the tree, and the nature of its light in your world?

If you want to join in, here's that link:

http://www.robert-italia.com/#!goodre...

If you want a quick preview, here's the video:

http://www.robert-italia.com/#!the-vi...

Visit my site for all related info: http://www.robert-italia.com

Merry Christmas to all.

Robert Italia 


Moon Signs
There are many dangers in West Virginia's enchanting Canaan Valley in the dead of winter--icy roads, sub-zero temperatures, and a killer who doesn't care how many people die, as long as the right ones do. Sisters Andrea and Kathleen face these threats in the cozy Moon Signs, Book I of my Moon Mystery Series.

http://amzn.com/B005TJIH7K 


Tortured Dreams

In the cold, dark nights of Alaska, a hunter is stalking his prey. Once found, he takes them into the woods and skins them alive. The deaths are brutal and slow.

Aislinn Cain and the Serial Crimes Tracking Unit have just finished up another case when they get the call. Now they are packing their bags and heading for Alaska in March. Can the team overcome the harsh climate and hostile locals to catch their killer before another woman is skinned alive?

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DUVQPLO 

Elusive Little Sucker - My Entirely Too Long and Totally Circuitous Search for Happiness

Elusive Little Sucker - My Entirely Too Long and Totally Circuitous Search for Happiness

Writing a book about happiness is about the silliest thing to try to do. First, no one agrees on a definition. Second, there are about a million books on happiness. Third, no one in their right mind would admit to being unhappy, so all books on happiness are automatically suspect.

So, of course, I decided to ignore all that and write a book about happiness. Elusive Little Sucker, is a series of short stories about how I found real, satisfying happiness. Each story reveals a piece of the puzzle that ultimately ended in my discovery of happiness.

From my start in life as the eleventh of twelve children to the abrupt end to my career in my 50’s, I realized that I was learning about happiness all the way along. You will enjoy this book. You will laugh. You may cry. But I hope you will realize that the secret to happiness is within you just like it was within me. And sometimes it is the most embarrassing, silly or difficult experiences that teach you the most. Enjoy!

Website: www.AnneRileyAuthor.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Elusive-Little-... 

Kerri Kochanski  

Kerry Kochanski

1,001 People That Suck
1,001 PEOPLE THAT SUCK by Kerri Kochanski

Goodreads Giveaway Winners in the US are saying:

"light & fun"
"you will chuckle"
"funny, real"
"LOVED this book!!!!"
an "OMG read"
"a solid five-star rating"
"I am definitely going to pick up more copies of this book and give them as Christmas gifts this year"
"an ideal gift book"

A NEW humor book,featuring 1,001 people that suck, along with black & white illustrations, quotes, quips & observations about the state of global humanity.

For more information, please visit: www.1001peoplethatsuck.com, or order on Amazon.com 

Charles Ameringer

The Old Spook
Hello! I'm Charles Ameringer, an emeritus professor of history who has drawn on his travels and research to write THE OLD SPOOK, a spy/thriller novel about a fictional CIA operative (spook) who interacts with real people and actual events in recent history on the global stage; he encounters rebel chieftains, Mafia dons, and KGB agents in Miami, Mexico, and Central and South America. Fans of John LeCarre and James Bruno will enjoy sorting out this mix of fact and fiction. Available exclusively at Amazon.com. 

Old Habits
Old Habits by Maggie Katz

Amazon and Goodreads readers are giving Old Habits 5 stars!

From the cover: 
Leila Matapang wrestled with the poverty line for ten years, and then the letter arrived. Now she finds herself trapped in an extortion plot to save her own career orchestrated by the arrogant, yet oddly philanthropic P.I. Aleksander Vold. To make it out alive she will have to learn to exploit others, evade capture, and come to terms with her childhood psychosis. The further she probes, the more she wonders if there is any fiction left in the supernatural world she's discovered.

Old Habits is the first installment in the Insight Surveillance series and Maggie Katz's debut novel. The second novel in the series, The Horned God, is expected for launch in Spring 2014.

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and coming soon to more online retailers.

Amazon Exclusive: FREE ebook edition for Kindle when you purchase the paperback!!
Or purchase only the ebook for just $2.99!
http://www.amazon.com/Old-Habits-Insi...


For exclusive excerpts, news, and free stories and games, visit the author's website:http://keysplatter.com
 
Jerold Last

The Surreal Killer 
The Body in the Parking Structure

The Deadly Dog Show a suspenseful journey into the world of canine conformation contests, provides an unusual backdrop for murder. The cover photo is our own Jolie (Grand Champion V. D. Nacht's Classic Beaujolais, SH, CGC) at a California dog show. Reviewers are enthusiastic about this whodunit novel, which will appeal to mystery fans, dog lovers, and readers who want to learn more about the world of dog show conformation competition. This is the ideal "stocking stuffer" holiday gift for the dog-loving friends on your list who already "have everything". 


An Ill Wind Blows
AN ILL WIND BLOWSSwallowed by an evil storm, an ordinary person and some very eccentric characters must travel through a weird stormworld in search of a magic stone. A dark fantasy novel with touches of horror and humor for ages twelve through adult.

ILLUSTRATED PRINT EDITION: http://www.amazon.com/Ill-Wind-Blows-...

E-BOOK (FREE WITH PURCHASE OF ILLUSTRATED PRINT EDITION)http://www.amazon.com/An-Ill-Wind-Blo... 
The Fairy Fly
THE FAIRY FLYA Black Widow queen, a big bad Wolf Spider, and a Hit-Mantis are but a few of the obstacles for a spunky little spider who must find his way home through a strange land of giants in this witty fairytale fantasy for kids and adults.

Transported out of his element into a realm of dangers and foes, Spider is aided by the insects and arachnids he befriends, but only he can see the Fairy Fly. Is she real or imagined? This whimsical novel about finding oneself while feeling small in a big world takes a step back and several steps downward to peep at humanity from below. At the same time, the story is an allegory of the human condition: life and death matters, war and peace, our everyday struggles on a tiny scale. Part humorous, part philosophical, at times poetic . . . it celebrates a love for animals, books and words. View the planet from a different angle as you take a spiderwalk through the door to adventure.

ILLUSTRATED PRINT EDITION: http://www.amazon.com/The-Fairy-Fly-L...

E-BOOK (FREE WITH PURCHASE OF ILLUSTRATED PRINT EDITION):http://www.amazon.com/The-Fairy-Fly-e... 

Chocolate-Covered Eyes: A Sampler Of Horror
CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES"Death is like a box of chocolates." Lori R. Lopez will tingle your spine while tickling your funny bone in six peculiar tales from two of her story collections: OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES and THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ. Zombies, ghosts, an abused homicidal feline, an ear devil and other creeps abound! This horror sampler is prefaced by the titular poem "Chocolate-Covered Eyes". Beware of strangers offering candy . . .

PRINT VERSION: http://www.amazon.com/Chocolate-Cover...

E-BOOK (FREE WITH PURCHASE OF PRINT VERSION): http://www.amazon.com/Chocolate-Cover... 



A Woman's Worth
A WOMAN'S WORTH

School media specialist, Gianne Marvray, has been through the worst two years of her life physically and emotionally. After a battle with cancer and all it entails, she is finally ready to start living her life again. She wants to see new places, meet new people and experience new things, but she isn’t ready for the roller coaster ride she’s about to embark on when she meets Las Vegas personal trainer and raw vegan foods advocate, Marc Stafford.

After a four year absence, Marc comes home to Atlanta to attend a family celebration in one of his brother’s honor. He’s not thrilled about seeing his father, but he has promised his mother that he won’t throw off the family balance by being the only one of their six sons absent. All Marc wants to do is make an appearance at the event and spend a little time with his brothers. Little does he know that this is the night he will meet the woman who will forever change his life.

Kindle- http://amzn.to/12PktK4 Nook- http://bit.ly/1dTlshd Smashwords -http://bit.ly/17nVKOH Kobo - http://bit.ly/1dJiAVr 




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