Knee-Jerk Defensiveness

There's a very narrow range of acceptable opinions in the "indie" world of self-published authors. And here they are, in no particular order:

1. the "traditional" publishing system is evil, unfair, and inept. Oh, and it's doomed. It will collapse by next Tuesday.
2. "traditional" publishers are terrified by the talent and imagination of self-published authors. 
3. bestselling authors like Meyer/Rowling/Grisham etc are miserable hacks who owe their success entirely to marketing.
4. any 99 cent indie book by an amateur is going to be as good, if not better, than any "traditionally" published book. 
5. published authors are elitists who fear the democratization of publishing because it offers more choice to readers and threatens their sense of entitlement. 
6. readers can't tell the difference between self-published books and "traditionally" published books because there really is no difference.
7. any published author who criticizes any aspect of self-publishing is criticizing YOU personally and YOUR book. 
8. "beta readers," no matter who they are, are really the best judges of your work, not any editor or agent.
9. there's really no need for experienced editors or copyeditors, since "traditionally" published books often have errors in them.
10. there's no such thing as a bad self-published book.
11. there's no such thing as a bad self-published book cover
12. always encourage "indie" work and never criticize it, no matter how awful it might be.

Any deviation from those accepted attitudes is seen as condescending, destructive, and treasonous. That's not to say there isn't some truth to them, but God forbid anyone in the "indie" ranks should ever acknowledge that: 

1. the stigma associated with self-published work is often well-deserved
2. the stigma, if anything, might endure and even become stronger as more unreadable swill is put out there.
3. failing to acknowledge the stigma doesn't make it go away, it only reinforces the negative stereotype that self-published authors have blinders-on and can't tell good writing from slop.
4. self-published work should be judged by the same high creative and editorial standards as "traditionally" published books. (Yes, there are standards, and we all know it).
5. readers *can* tell the difference between amateur, self-published work and professionally-written, "traditionally" published books. Most of the time, there *is* a difference.
6. there are a lot of awful self-published books.
7. there are a lot of awful self-published book covers…and yes, it matters.
8. self-published work could benefit from, and often desperately needs, professional editing, copyediting, and art design (regardless of whether you found a typo in Michael Connelly's last book).
9. relying on inexperienced "beta readers" can often be a case of the blind leading the blind
10. the reason Meyer/Rowling/Grisham etc. are bestselling authors is because they had great ideas for books and wrote them very well…and they might actually be more creative, and better writers, than most of us (it wasn't just luck).
11. it's okay to be critical of self-published work (and when someone is, that doesn't mean they are talking about YOU and YOUR book).

Gumming up the Plumbing with Your Old Underpants

Charlie Wendig has written a hilarious… and genuinely insightful…post about the justifiable stigma attached to self-publishing and how to avoid it. Here's a taste:

I (and I’m sure other capable writers) have noticed and noted that self-publishing bears a certain stigma. With the term comes the distinct aroma of flopsweat born out of the desperation of Amateur Hour — it reeks of late night Karaoke, of meth-addled Venice Beach ukelele players, of middle-aged men who play basketball and still clutch some secret dream of “going pro” despite having a gut that looks like they ate a basketball rather than learned to play with one.

Self-publishing just can’t get no respect. This is, of course, in contrast to other DIY endeavors.[…]This is in part because it’s a lot harder to put an album or a film out into the world. You don’t just vomit it forth. Some modicum of talent and skill must be present to even contemplate such an endeavor and to attain any kind of distribution. The self-publishing community has no such restriction. It is blissfully easy to be self-published. I could take this blog post, put it up on the Amazon Kindle store and in 24 hours you could download it for ninety-nine cents. It’s like being allowed to make my own clothing line out of burlap and pubic hair and being allowed to hang it on the racks at J.C. Penney.

That last line just killed me. And it's not even the funniest bit in his post. What's great is that he doesn't just take cheap shots at bad, self-published writers the way, say, I would.  By using strong examples, he clearly and hilariously illustrates the many cringe-inducing mistakes made by aspiring writers and, at the same time, offers solid advice on how to avoid "gumming up the plumbing with your old underpants."  It's a very entertaining read, whether you're a writer or not.

Paperback Parade

Mygunhasbulletspod_2-001 My two "Charlie Willis" novels, MY GUN HAS BULLETS and DEAD SPACE, are now both available as trade paperbacks. These are the best-looking print editions of those two books yet, thanks to cover artist Carl Graves and designer Steven Booth.

 MY GUN HAS BULLETS, in particular, really looks nice...and it's about time. It was published back in the 1990s in hardcover by St. Martin's Press and I've never been satisfied with any printing of the book until now.

Those two books join THE WALK, THREE WAYS TO DIE and MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE, which are also available now in trade paperback editions.

Kindle Tales

Devils-playground-813x1280 A bunch of my friends have new and out-of-print books that have just been released on the Kindle.

Bill Crider's classic westerns RYAN RIDES BACK and MEDICINE SHOW are out and cheap, too.

Doug Lyle has brought back his Samantha Cody books, including DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND.

And James Reasoner, Bill Crider, and Mel Odom have teamed up under the pen name "Colby Jackson" on RANCHO DIABLO, an original series of westerns, that kicks off with SHOOTER'S CROSS.

Check'em out!

Farewell to the Mystery Bookstore

IMG_0057 Tonight, the Mystery Bookstore had their farewell party. It was a bittersweet event. It was great to see so many mystery writers and fans in one room…but sad to see a legendary, independent bookstore close down.


The owners and employees, in their good-byes, observed that they've never met a nicer, more supportive group of people than mystery writers and what a pleasure it was just having the chance to get to know them all.

They're right. As I was looking at all those faces, and talking to all those writers, I was struck by what an incredibly friendly, warm, and out-going group they are…and how much I like them.

Unlike TV, where there is a real class system…you don't see showrunners hanging out with staff writers and treating them as equals… that isn't the case at all among mystery novelists.  Everyone mixes together. The superstars like Michael Connelly and Robert Crais are as friendly, approachable, and supportive as the least-known mid-list writer. They don't just hang out with other writers in the bestseller list. Everyone treats one another with mutual respect. Sure, there are a few in the biz who don't, but those are the exceptions. 

The Mystery Bookstore was like our home, the place where all of us could get together several times a year, like a family gathering for the holidays, and talk shop and catch up with one another. Losing the store is like losing our home. I wonder now how often we'll all get together under one roof now that we've lost the store…my fear is that it will be hardly ever.

The loss of independent bookstores, which are really so much more than just places that sell books, is one of the real, and painful, downsides of the success of the Kindle.

(Pictured: Lee Goldberg, Dick Lochte, Thomas Perry)

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 21

The_Walk_FINAL This was, far and away, my best month ever for sales of my out-of-print backlist on the Kindle.

I sold 3075 books and earned $6624.40 in royalties.  My biggest seller was THE WALK, which sold 1083 copies and earned $2230.98.  

I also did nicely on Createspace with the trade paperback editions of my books, earning $483.94 but not-so-well on the Nook, earning  just $211.46 (though I am told B&N was having accounting problems this month and may be adjusting those numbers upwards, as they did in December).

The grand total in royalties for January, not including Smashwords (Apple, Diesel, Kobo, Sony) or Amazon UK sales, is $7319.80.

By comparison, in January 2010, I sold 536 copies and earned $775 in royalties.


(My poorest selling books are the four JURY titles, formerly known as the .357 VIGILANTE series. I blame that, in part, on the negative reviews they've received due to sloppy proofreading. No matter how many times I've gone through the books, errors still seem to slip past me. So the books are now in the hands of a professional copyeditor…when she gets them back to me I will relaunch the books, give way free copies for fresh reviews, and update the product descriptions).