The letter below arrived in my e-mail at 12:40 AM, Saturday, August 9, 2014
I post it here because I am a fan of Amazon. Both as a customer and an independent publisher/writer.
Some people say that Amazon is changing the publishing industry with disruptive technology. Now, disruptive technology is a good thing. It moves the world into the future. But Amazon is not
changing the publishing industry. Amazon has
changed the publishing industry. It’s already too late to go back to the bad, old days of Gatekeeper Publishing. Thank you, Amazon. I adore the new world you’ve helped create.
(For clarity, KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s the Amazon publishing platform that brings eBooks to your Kindle and other devices.)
Dear KDP Author,
Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.
With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.
Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.
Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.
The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.
Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.
Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.
But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.
And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.
We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.
We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.
Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com
Copy us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please consider including these points:
- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
- Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.
Thanks for your support.
The Amazon Books Team
P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com
Dan, again. The readersunited site offers more links to commentary on the negotiations between Amazon and Hachette.
June 14, 2014…the second Father’s Day since my dad died. On the day after his 81st birthday.
In the film, Elizabethtown, Drew (Orlando Bloom) and Jessie (Paul Schneider) are talking. Drew’s dad has recently died and Jessie asks, (and I’m paraphrasing, here), “So you and your dad were close?”
Drew answers, “Oh, yes. Very close. I knew him well. Very, very well.”
With deep understanding Jessie says, “Yeah, I don’t know my dad very well, either.”
So how well did I know my own dad? Not sure, but I do remember a lot of little things. And maybe little things are the most important.
On December 21, 2012, I offered the eulogy at my dad’s funeral. I offer it again, here, as evidence of one of those little things.
Baseball has never held a position of prominence in my life. I haven’t played much baseball over the years. Didn’t play in junior high. Didn’t play in high school. I think I was in Little League for a single season. I don’t follow the teams. Don’t watch on TV. Toma and I have only been to one professional baseball game in our lives.
And yet, baseball does hold a position of prominence in my memory.
There is a house on 16th Avenue in Rockford with a grassy side yard. Years ago that side yard seemed huge but drive past it today and you’ll see it is just a narrow strip of grass maybe fifteen feet wide.
Long ago, sometimes, on sunny Saturday afternoons, a young father living at that house would take his young son out to that side yard with a couple baseball gloves and a regulation hardball.
One of those baseball gloves was left-handed. The son was growing up as a southpaw but that didn’t seem to bother the young dad. He would simply move the boy to an imaginary pitcher’s mound, pace off several feet of lawn, turn, and take his place behind an imaginary home plate. Strategically positioning his own right handed glove, the young dad would coach his boy to throw fastball strikes, “As hard as you can.”
You see, that young father played professional baseball for the Chicago White Sox. At least that’s what he always told his son, all the while hiding a sly smile.
Sometime later the boy would figure out that the games he attended, with Mom, watching dad play center field was not the Chicago White Sox. It was the Rockford Firefighters Softball League.
The dad did not play professional baseball in Chicago with Luis Aparicio. He played family friendly softball with his Rockford firefighter pals.
Playing professional baseball was make-believe, but that’s okay. All of us live bits and pieces of our lives vicariously. Most times that’s a good thing.
In case you haven’t figured out the characters in this story, yet…well, I still own a left-handed baseball glove. And I’m sure there are a couple of baseballs hiding in the corners of our home.
Still, as I said, baseball does not hold a position of prominence in my life.
Baseball just hangs around, locked in my memory of throwing strikes, “As hard as you can.”
And baseball will remain forever in my memory because I am father’s son.
My dad was a veteran of the United States Air Force.
My dad spent too much time at work and not enough time at home.
My dad worried about too many things that really didn’t matter in the long run.
My dad liked tossing baseballs around in the side yard on 16th Avenue.
So, yeah, I guess I did know him well enough.
Fire Dust, my latest novel, is now available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook. Okay, it’s June 3rd and a long time ago I said Fire Dust would be out by the first part of April.
But really, after all this time what difference does it make? Oops. Sorry, I suddenly slipped into some sort of other-worldly, snarky politician, mode. Excuse me while I snap my head back on straight.
There, that’s better.
So why the big delay? Because I am flat out of time. My life is consumed by my day job and I’m struggling to find the time to devote to my own company. (That would be 1008 Productions for the uninitiated.) I will say that Toma and I were able to spend all of last Saturday, Sunday, and Monday working on Fire Dust. We finished the revision, added all the front and back matter, built the table of contents, formatted everything, designed the cover, and got it uploaded to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing by Monday around 2:30 PM.
We previewed it before clicking publish and found a couple formatting errors. Add another twenty minutes to correct the errors in the source file and re-upload.
Yeah, yeah, I hear everyone saying, “Yeah, yeah, what about the story?”
Fire Dust is my first YA thriller although that doesn’t mean it’s just for young adults. The story revolves around five teenagers heading up to Wisconsin for an April camping trip before the end of the school year.
Through their own youthful foolishness they end up spending an uncomfortable first night at the camp ground. Things gets worse and they end up trapped in the forest preserve meadow for a second night. Without realizing it, they unleash some (maybe) super-natural dangers that put all their lives at risk during the terrifying second evening.
The story was originally titled Masked Moon, but I changed it to Fire Dust to better represent the plot twist that puts the teenagers at greater risk after the first attack by chupacabras. Talking with my brother-in-law, Greg, we thought a story about chupacabras would be unusual enough to support a novella.
The first draft was okay, but I added the super-natural twist for a bigger biting fear among the teenagers. And hopefully a bigger bite of fear for the readers, too.
As usual, the book is available from Amazon as a Kindle eBook. And, as usual, Amazon offers the ability to download the book to several platforms. (Don’t ya just love Amazon? I do.) If you didn’t already know, you don’t have to have a Kindle to read a Kindle eBook. You can download Amazon’s FREE Kindle app to your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, or any Android based device. Did I mention the Kindle app is FREE? (Yes, I did.)
Check out Fire Dust and let me know if you think Rand and his Winchester should… Ah, I guess I won’t finish that question. Might be a spoiler. You’ll understand when you read the story.
In December 2011 Toma and I set up 1008 Productions as a sole proprietorship, independent publishing company. A sole proprietorship has a sole proprietor (get it?) and such a company automatically dissolves upon the death of said sole proprietor. That left Toma with no legal ownership of the company but it was the least expensive method to start with. We’ll change that soon so she ends up with all the copyrights to MY original fiction when I go to that great word processor in the sky.
(This isn’t about any health concerns or anything. It just…well, there’s a lot of busses out there and one of them just might have my name on its bumper.)
Back to the plan. 1008 was supposed to act as the umbrella for all the pen names and different genres of the stories we’d publish. I’ve talked about this before. I also recently said I was dropping all those pen names and putting everything under the granddaddy of my pen names, D. C. Chester.
I’d owned the internet domain name dcchester.com for a long time but never set up a separate website. I also owned tomalee.com and some others, but I’ve let everything expire except dcchester.com.
I’ve just finished transferring dcchester.com to my hosting service and I went through the steps to have www.dcchester.com
point to 1008productions.com.
Now everyone, (and by everyone I mean the four people who read this blog) can use dcchester.com to navigate to my website. The site is still named 1008 Productions because 1008 has been with me longer than D. C. Chester. Even though it used to be The PJ 1008 Film Company. (I’ve explained the 1008 part, but I still can’t remember what the PJ part was. If I’m ever involved with making another film I might just have to re-register The PJ 1008 Film Company moniker. It just brings back so many memories.)
Here’s the problem. Typing dcchester, dcchester.com, or www.dcchester.com
into the Google search bar takes you to a list of sites that are not me. Typing any of the above into the Google ADDRESS bar works just fine.
But the world uses the Google SEARCH BAR, and no one uses the ADDRESS BAR.
I’ve spent two days trying to correct this problem and the tech geeks I’ve talked to can’t explain why this is happening. These are the guys in control of the entire planet. Oh well, for now.
But the real reason I’m writing, today…(I can hear everyone slapping their foreheads and shouting, “Get to the point.”)
The next novella just went back to the editor for a revision “spit-polish”. I swear that’s the term she used after the first draft edit. Fire Dust
should be out as a Kindle book in the first part of April. Which is pretty disgusting. It shows how much writing time I’ve lost with my freakin’ day job. Fire Dust
should have been published in January or February but some things are just out of my control. By the way, Fire Dust
is a working title, so don’t hold me to it.
And what’s it about, you ask? It’s teenagers on a camping trip that goes awry. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Wait, I’ll say one more thing. It’s a thriller so maybe we should replace ‘awry’ with something more evil.
I’ll ponder that and get back to you.
Now all I have to do is figure out an image for the left side of this page, because I haven’t decided on a Fire Dust
My tiny home office is filled with cork and dry erase boards. The four cork boards hang on walls and all but one of them are covered with notes, story ideas, partial movie scripts, random scenes, and bits of dialog for upcoming projects. The fourth cork board is marked off for screenplay development. Note cards of descriptions are tacked to sections that read, Act I, Act II Part 1 & Act II Part 2, Act III, and Denouement.
Next are two dry erase boards free floating around the room. The small one, about 18” X 24”, is sort of a day planner. It’s labeled ‘Speed’ and it identifies upcoming work, and that work’s order of importance. (That’s the ‘speed’ part.) This board has two categories, Writing and Nuts & Bolts.
The Writing category, as should be obvious, is creating new stories. But it also includes revising, or detailed re-writing. (I have very few detailed re-writing tasks planned. If a project needs massive re-writing it’s probably a good idea to burn the damn thing over hot charcoal and move on. Revising, or tightening, or clarifying, well, that’s not so bad.)
Nuts & Bolts is the business of writing and the non-writing part of writing. Things like formatting for publication, cover design, and marketing. Both sides of the day planner dry erase board are full.
It’s the BIG dry erase board that scares me. It stands four feet tall, three feet wide, and it leans against the far wall like a hoodlum, smoking cigarettes, and thinking about stealing the car parked across the street.
The Big Board is sectioned off into 62 separate lines of activity. As I write this post I’m snatching glimpses of the stuff on the Big Board off to my left. (I never stare at it directly. Too dangerous.) I count fifteen short stories waiting for publication in a series of collections I’ve created called Dissymmetry. Those are just the stores that are done. (Two file cabinets – one metal, one electronic - house all the unfinished stories.) Some of the fifteen on the Big Board might need a little polishing, but it’s mostly Nuts & Bolts stuff holding things up here.
Also on the BB are the working titles of twenty one novels on the To Do list. The really scary part? Three are completed first drafts. Four are half done. The rest are plotted with some chapters already finished. Lots of work just waiting for time.
Waiting for time. Which brings me to Ten Minutes.
Earlier today I pulled a paperback from our home library. The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra. I bought the book some time ago but never invested any quality time with it because I was writing about eight hours a day and didn’t think I needed it. (I bought it before I had oodles of hours available to write.) Pilar’s premise is writing in ten minute blocks. Not because it’s the best way, but because it might be the only way what with day jobs and the other responsibilities of life.
I never thought I could write in short time blocks. Thought I needed a running start, like a freight train, where I could build up steam and then plow through until the early morning hours. And that’s how I used to do it. Today that doesn’t work. (Damn day job keeps getting in the way.)
So, I tried a Pilar Experiment. I got out my timer, set it for ten minutes, and wrote off the cuff as the timer ticked off seconds. Just wrote randomly, making it up as I went.
When the chime chimed I perused my Ten Minute Exercise. Keep in mind I didn’t backspace to correct typos. Didn’t restructure any sentences. Didn’t ponder any great literary meanings. (Well, I never ponder any great literary meanings, but you get my point.)
What I saw on the laptop screen was 426 words of a brand new short story that didn’t exist ten minutes earlier. So maybe I can write in ten minute blocks. That would be a good thing because ten minute blocks of free time are mostly what I have left.
Now I’m curious about what could I do in ten minutes with a plot already deigned? With a chapter or scene already in my head?
Of course, now, my day planner cork boards have to be adjusted. Have to add another short story to the “To Do” list. Working title…“Ten Minutes”. Yeah, the one I just did during my ten minute Pilar experiment. Because that story might just turn out to be something I could put my pen name on.
Plus I have to really read Pilar’s book. Might be some more gems in there. Thanks a lot Pilar, you just made my days busier. Geez.
It was 50 years ago today, that The Fabs came to the USA.
(With apologies to Billy Shears.)
As the sounds of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band waft through the house…
It was Sunday dinner at my grandparent’s house with my parents and little brother. The small black and white TV across the way in the living room section of the house was on. On during dinner for the first time ever. It was time for a special edition of The Ed Sullivan Show. The Beatles were coming to America.
My grandfather was an ex-amateur jazz musician. Used to blow horns – sax, clarinet and such – with local bands. That was before tobacco inspired emphysema pushed him over to the drum kit.
Grandma played piano until she was 90 or so.
Everyone at that dinner table had opinions on the performance of four young musicians with long hair. (Long hair? Have you seen the photos? What long hair. Have you seen my senior high photo? That was long hair.)
All those opinions were negative. Except mine.
I sat there straining to see the TV over the bowl of mashed potatoes, listening to the adults in my life bad mouth The Beatles.
I was nine and somewhat still heavily influenced by the authority figures in my world. That was about to change.
I listened to those complaints flow around the table, confused. Someone was missing something that night and I was afraid it was me.
A few days after that fateful appearance I visited my cousin. We ran upstairs to her room where she pulled out a new album. “Did you see ‘em?” she asked. “Did you see The Beatles on Ed Sullivan?” She was ecstatic and I stood there bathed in a beam of vindication. I had been right watching the song set last Sunday. I was right and everyone else was wrong. Since that time authority figures have held diminished sway over my life. Thank you for that John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Over the years I have purchased Beatles music on vinyl, reel-to-reel tape, cassette, 8-Track, and CD. I’ve hunted down bootlegged versions and editions only available overseas. The Beatles pushed and prodded me in ways that changed me over the years. I was introduced to new music and different musicians whom I would never have experienced if not for The Beatles. I’ve owned several guitars and struggled to recreate the sounds I heard weeping from George Harrison’s fingers. I beat on Ludwig drum kits in my parent’s basement covering the heads with bath towels to try and capture Ringo’s sound. And I held the sticks wrong. Grandpa Les had dismissed Richard Starkey because he didn’t hold his drum sticks like proper jazz drummers had taught for years. Well, Ringo held his sticks like hammers because he intended to beat the shit out of those drums. Me, too.
I’ve written songs trying to emulate the Lennon / McCartney catalog. (Yeah, those songs are filed away in the metal file cabinet with all those other stories I’ll probably never publish.)
I still own a ton of musical instrument but music has faded into my background. I don’t play anymore except for doodling around with an old acoustic guitar. The piano sits idle in the family room. The Epiphone Les Paul Custom electric seldom leaves it case. The Fender tubed amp doesn’t go to eleven. It doesn’t even go to ‘on’, anymore. The ukulele is dusty. (Ukulele? Yeah, thanks George. I never would have known.) Electric keyboard, banjo, flute, sax, cello. All silent, rotting away. I suppose I should sell all the instruments. Or maybe donate them. Get them into the hands of people who might actually put them to good use and make music.
But I can’t. That would be like turning my back on the soundtrack of my life.
The only bad thing about all this is that it was 50 years ago. Damn, I’m old.
But hey, Sir James Paul McCartney just won another Grammy. In 2014. (His first was in 1965.) Ringo can still beat the shit out of that drum kit.
John and George are gone but I’ve got a stack of vinyl and tape that can take me back to visit whenever I choose.
In the overall scheme of things this remains: The best damn music that ever came out, came out of Liverpool.
And I was there…in front of that b/w TV, and in front of the stereo, in front of the stage, watching and listening to four lads from England change the world.
Lots of cool things have happened during my life. Put the Beatles near the top.
Yesterday, Toma and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. We went home early and slept because we’re both suffering colds. Wow. What a party.
In lieu of our last night party that never happened I offer the following tale. And this one is entirely true.
by D. C. Chester
It was a warm June evening in 1980. I was in Beloit, Wisconsin with friends at a bar and grill. Admittedly, more bar than grill. And I was twenty-five years old.
Cordoned off by a half wall railing, a small group of booths, two steps higher than the main floor, acted as the home turf of my group of friends.
I was at one of the foosball tables with part of our group while the others held court in the booths just behind those game tables.
Something caught my attention…a breeze, or a flutter from overhead, or a nudge from the cosmos…I’m still not sure.
I happened to look up from our foosball match and between the top of the railing corralling our booths and the bottom of the light hanging just above the game table I saw the gentle curve of a decidedly female derriere.
I leaned around the light fixture searching for a better view and there she was. A slender young woman with long brown hair.
I froze and starred as she turned slightly to speak with someone to her right. I saw her face, I saw her smile, and I lost my breath.
As if I were a disembodied spirit watching from a quiet distance I heard myself whisper, “She’s so pretty.”
I was mesmerized and at that moment my real life began.
I think she spoke to me that evening simply because I learned to pronounce her unusual name. You see, Toma doesn’t like her name. Throughout her life people have mistakenly called her Toe-ma. Even today her grown daughters call her Tooomah, just to tease. But her name is Toma…Tah-ma. And even though she dislikes her name I love it. It is willowy and feminine, just like her.
She told me she was nineteen and at first I was taken aback. I was, after all, twenty-five, and nineteen seemed so young.
“However,” she said, “my birthday is in August.”
So, in a few short weeks she would be twenty. That seemed okay.
I would later learn that she had already applied the numeric value of her approaching birthday to her declared age. The evening we met - she was just eighteen, if you know what I mean. She was almost a Beatles’ love song.
We started spending time together. Lots of time together. She would drive to Beloit from her dad’s home in a near-by town on off nights because I was at the bar in Beloit on off nights. In the early morning hours I would drive to her house and leave Teddy Bears and special notes in her car.
We graduated to weekends alone together, a ritual we still embrace.
We would travel together to foosball tournaments in cities across Wisconsin like Marshfield, Fort Atkinson, and Stevens Point. But our travels weren’t limited to Wisconsin.
On the road one Friday for a weekend in St. Louis I feared we might have to cancel the trip as I was deathly ill with the flu or something like it. Toma suggested we swap places…she would drive and I would sleep in the passenger seat, and hopefully get better. She drove us, in my car with a standard transmission, to Missouri. Learning how to shift on the way. Toma is both resourceful and determined. I have always hoped that it was a weekend with me and not the lure of the Gateway Arch that flavored her desire to salvage that trip.
Finally, (finally) on December 5, 1981 we gazed into each other eyes and repeated the words, “I do.”
When first married our life together was chaotic and passionate. We were quick with the petty fights of youth and just as quick with making up. We argued and kissed, and argued and kissed again. And we are here today because Toma always worked harder on our marriage than did I. Now, even after so many years of striving to catch up to her commitment and balance that ledger, I admit I am still far behind.
Toma is as comfortable in the shops on Michigan Avenue, as she is at the cafés of South Beach, as she is in the casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard, as she is fishing for bluegill on Lake Shabbona. And she can fashionably wear almost any hat.
She is my sweetest inspiration and, at the same time, my greatest obstacle. When we’re together I lose all my ambition, fully and freely admitting that I just wanna hold her hand.
Even now, after all this time, whenever I look at her she still takes my breath away, breathes it back into me, and takes it away, again.
And always apprehensive that she might see me as just a silly boy, I tell her as often as I dare that I am the luckiest man in the world.
I get to live my entire life with Toma.
A few days ago I was talking to best selling Wool author, Hugh Howey.
Okay, I wasn’t really having a conversation with Hugh Howey. I emailed him a question and he graciously responded.
In a recent interview Hugh talked about author branding and using various pen names for different genres.
Some of you might know I use four different pen names. D. C. Chester for SF, weird way, and thriller stories. Danny Essex for crime dramas. Toma Lea for romance and chic lit. Dillion Case for Young Adult.
I queried Hugh because he said in the interview that he dismissed the notion of diluting an author’s “brand” by writing in several genres under the same name. He trusted the intelligence of the readers to figure it out.
He pointed out that James Patterson, the bestselling author in the world, writes murder mysteries, thrillers, Young Adult, and so on. All those books in different genres carry the same name, James Patterson. Hasn’t seemed to dilute his brand any.
Hugh’s point was good enough for me and in the future all of my stories will carry the same pen name, D. C. Chester. I’ll use appropriate cover images and typography for different genres and I’ll use cover blurbs and story descriptions to avoid reader confusion with genre.
As for the stories already published, over time I‘m going to redo the covers and change author pen names where needed. In some cases I’ll go further and replace images and art work. I can easily do that because my books are digital. A benefit of modern electronic publishing.
D. C. Chester is the pen name I designed in 1974, based on family history. And even through all those years I spent in corporationville, when writing was shuffled off to the side, I still identified myself in my own mind as the writer, D. C. Chester.
So Danny Essex is dead and buried. Toma Lee – gone. Dillion Case, Dani Chi, Jonathan Daniels, and other names I’ve drafted over the years that you’ve never heard of, are gone.
Thanks to Hugh Howey I’m D. C. Chester. And now it seems a lot less crowded around here. That’s a good thing.
KINDLE FREE PROMO 9-21-2013 through 9-23-2013.
Charcoal is finally live on Kindle available in all the usual categories – Kindle purchase, Kindle Lending Library, and Kindle Prime Free Borrow.
I’ve never taken so long to get a story up and running, even after the final edit. This is my first ghost story and thinking back to all the great horror stories I read in my younger days I fretted over Charcoal holding its own. Maybe I was afraid the ghosts would track me down just for publishing it.
Now I’m wracking my brain for other paranormal stories to write because this one was great fun. I just need to come up with a couple ideas that haven’t been done to death. (In a ghostly sort of way.)
In The Scent of Pine in Moonlight the character Janine describes her husband, Carson, as her charcoal ghost.
Charcoal ghost stuck in my mind and when Scent of Pine was finished I started rummaging around in my head for ghost story plots. This blended in with a tongue-in-cheek story I had fleshed out probably a year ago about a ghost who gets in trouble with the ghost guild (or something) because his intended victim is way too sexy to haunt. He’d rather date her. I think his name was Gary the Ghost so you get an idea how frivolous the story was.
Shades of charcoal stuck in my mind (not to be confused with 50 shades of mommy porn) and Gary the Ghost went away. I kept the non-traditional haunting and tried to color the story with, well, with charcoal. Keeping everything murky and unclear. Nothing specific, yet nothing truly hiding. I tried to use charcoal for everything. The setting, the house, the grounds, the emotions of the characters, their baggage. Everything, except the finale at Burke Manor. And even that ended clouded in gray.
I used that theme for the cover as well. The first proto cover was an angry raven, but I eventually went with the murky shadow because it fits more points of the story.
I didn’t use lots of blood and guts. I don’t remember lots of gore in the thrillers from my youth, so why should I use it? (Okay, there’s a little blood in the ending of Hippies and some blood on the cover. But that’s more of a zombie story so it doesn’t count. Honest. It doesn’t count.)
This is also the first cover that doesn’t use Baskerville Old Face for the author’s name. There’s lots of talk on the indie writer boards about branding an image for novels. Same fonts, same layout. Stuff like that.
I just decided to let Charcoal stand alone with the title in DK Oyukis Ghost and author’s name in Wolves, Lower. Sorry, but those fonts won't show up in this post. You'll just have to peruse the cover of Charcoal.
SoGet your free copy of Charcoal for Kindle and don’t forget to tell everyone else on the planet to get a copy, too. (After it’s back to regular price, of course.)
What is Success?
According to Earl Nightingale, the definition of success (and I agree) is, “The progressive realization of a worthy goal.”
Over the past couple months more than a thousand readers have downloaded free promotional copies of my Kindle eBooks.
Is that success?
Well, I’m trying to build a career with my fiction. And career means – gainfully employed. And all those promotional copies earn me absolutely nothing. Zero dollars and zero cents.
Indie published writers actually selling lots of copies of their books tell me free promos lead to more purchases. Over time. It’s the long tail theory of business. It takes time to build a brand and it takes time for customers (readers) to find you. So, I take
the advice I’ve tried to instill in my daughters – keep moving forward.
I have a background in marketing for financial services. And the main thing I’ve learned since returning to my first love – writing, is that marketing for books is different. Tell people enough times that you have a service that could help them and eventually you’ll start generating business.
Tell people enough times that you have a book for sale and eventually they’ll come to hate you and never buy your book. Plus,
they’ll tell all their friends not to buy your book.
According to all the experts in writing, the best marketing is simply writing the next book. Just make sure you provide a quality
product. (A good read.) But that brings me back to the first question.
Is that success?
Two facets, here. First, Nightingale’s success definition highlights, “progressive realization”.
Am I progressing? Every month more and more readers take advantage of my free promos. So, yes, I’m progressing. And as I progress the definitions of my goals change to reflect current realities.
Second, in descending order of units downloaded, my Amazon Kindle Free Promo reports look like this.
US – Canada – United Kingdom – Spain – Brazil – Japan.
That means readers in all those countries have downloaded copies of my various stories. Japan for crying out loud.
I’m international, which is something I never considered when I started my new career. (The one I chose in 1972.)
In the early 1980s I got nothing but rejection slips from major magazines for stories I’d submitted. That’s normal, but it was still discouraging. I’d lay awake at night and think, “I take words of the English language, print them on sheets of paper, and actually expect people to pay good money to read those words.”
Of course, readers don’t pay just for the words. They pay for the order in which the words are arranged. I just used that for self-pity.
But then, the next day I’d head back to my typewriter and start another story. I'm doing that, again. Heading back to my word processor and starting another story.
When I was in high school I told my dad I was going to be a writer. And then for almost forty years I put that goal on hold as I busted my ass striving to make a success of other men’s companies.
Now, I don’t begrudge those other men. One of them is a good friend of mine. Still, I never worked as hard for me as I worked for other people. I’m changing that.
Some people might say that my results from the 1980s are about the same as my results today.
Those people would be wrong.
Still, sometimes I get a little melancholy because I wasted so much time and never got to tell my dad, “Japan for crying out loud.”