Thursday, October 11, 2018

More from the Hybrid Mindset

The truth revealed...

I write a lot of books and stories. I work at pulp speed, for the most part (3,000+ words per day). I edit my new work on a daily basis so that at the end of a new novel or novella, I'm not left with the daunting task of having to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, because he was never put together properly in the first place.

Prior to the digital revolution, you were going to be hard-pressed to find a publisher, big or small, who would be willing to publish more than one book per year. Maybe you could enjoy the benefits of multiple publishers, but even then, if you were somehow miraculously able to put out three projects of say, 60K words per year, you were among the very few who were doing so (romance authors got away with this). The more accurate truth is that you would be pissing off all three publishers. They'd accuse you of competing with your own titles (thus those pesky non-compete clauses in publishers contracts).

Competing with your own titles: Almost all publishers will discourage you from publishing books other than the ones they are publishing for you. They don't want you to be stealing sales from yourself. Or more accurately said, they don't want you stealing from their bottom line. But this is nonsense. I compete with my own list on a monthly and sometimes bimonthly basis, and no one single title is stealing sales from another. If anything, the more books I publish under my own label, the more sales I enjoy. This is exponential growth based on tangible assets--my books. And as far as my core group of fans are concerned, I can't possibly write fast enough.

If a publisher isn't moving your title, its not because your indie books are competing for shelf space (again, this is nonsense because in digital world there is unlimited shelf space), it's because of one thing and one thing only: they are not marketing and advertising your book effectively enough. Nor do most publishers need to spend cash flow on marketing since they rely on making small profits from lots of authors on a monthly basis. They aren't in the publishing business, so much as they are in the copyright real estate business.

As a hybrid author, you should be in the copyright real estate business too. You should be writing at pulp speed and creating a cityscape of titles that will earn significant positive returns over long periods of time.

My new short book The Hybrid Author Mindset tackles these very topics. Here's a sample.    


Traditional publishers don’t want you writing. At base, a traditional house wants one book per year and only one book. There are several reasons for this. A publishing house is essentially a mega Goliath of editors, artists, marketing personnel, bean counters, you name it. They work high up inside a steel and glass tower (the Bertelsmann Building), and it costs them thousands just to turn the lights on every morning. Your book is just another expenditure in a sea of expenditures.
Lots of…let’s call them publishing professionals…will want a say in how your book gets to see the light of day. Everyone from the accountants to the foreign rights department will need some time with it, which means with all this bureaucratic swamp-like inefficiency running amok, it takes a year or sometimes more for the book to go through several rounds of edits and finally make the trip to the printing press.
Writers, when signing major contracts, need to be weary (and beware) of clauses that prohibit the author from publishing any other books that might compete with the contracted book for shelf space. This essentially hogties a writer and limits their income potential. Writers, like me, who are prolific and can write a novel in a single month, have trouble with this aspect of the traditional model because I can write way more than one book per year. Truth is if I don’t write more than one book per year, I’m doomed financially. That’s why most writers who publish exclusively with the Big 5 (or is it Big 4 now?), must maintain a day job while lots of hybrid and indie authors write for a living.
Which way would you rather live your life?

Like I just said, I can write a 40,000-60,000 novel in about a month. Some novels, especially the longer (80,000 to 100,000 words), more literary psychological suspense standalones might take two months. A short story of up to 5,000 words might take a single day. A novella of anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 words might take a week but no more than two. A 30,000 word short novel can take three weeks and another week to produce a final rewrite. What all this means, of course, is that I am able to put out a lot of good to great material, fast. There are indie and hybrid writers who are faster than me. Much faster. They write at what bestselling genre author Dean Wesley Smith has coined, Pulp Speed. That is, around 5,000 words per day, six days a week. At that speed, you can write a full 60,000 word novel in a week. And get this, you can do it easily.
I write full-time, but that doesn’t mean I sit at the laptop for eight hours per day. Far from it. I write utilizing the sprint method. In other words, I do maybe three to four half-hour to hour long sprints per day in which I produce anywhere from 500 to 1200 words. By the end of the day, I’ve written anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000+ words. You might be a little slower or a little faster. It’s all up to the individual.
But the point is, a professional writer should be writing every day. That’s how many of the pulp writers of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s became rich—by writing tons of words, day in and day out, and getting paid by the word by the pulp magazines. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the big establishment publishers began demanding that writers only put out one book per year. That ushered out the pulp era and began a new era whereby writers were no longer in control of their careers. But now, in this new digital age, writers are back in control and can decide for themselves how to publish. That’s why I choose to be a hybrid author, because I get the best of both worlds--the notoriety and acclaim that comes from traditional world, and the solid investment and passive income that comes from indie world. 

The point to all this, is that I am able to put out way more than one book per year. Each book or 

product I put out makes me money. Money I need to live and save and travel and eventually to pass 

on to my children.


The truth revealed in one sitting...

The Hybrid Author Mindset

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Hybrid Author Mindset

So I've had this non-fiction idea for a some time now. It originally started out as an article but ran way too long for publication in any journal or magazine, which signaled to me that it should be a short book instead. Part memoir, part confession, part instructional how-to, The Hybrid Author Mindset will offer writers a no bullshit peak at what it's like to be a full-time professional writer who publishes independently and traditionally.

It begins with my scoring that quarter-million dollar deal I've spoken so much about in the late '90s (plus lucrative deals that have followed) and all the stupid mistakes a young early thirty-something piss-and-vinegar-filled young man can possibly make to screw the deal up, not to mention his love life. But it also busts through the publishing myths, such as advances. Think a $100K advance is a big deal? Think it will save you from the poor house? Think again.

Here's an excerpt from the The Hybrid Author Mindset that just might rattle your cage:

So you finally nailed the big contract. Your agent just called, all out of breath and beyond excited. She can hardly wait to tell you that you have been offered $100,000 for a two book, hardback, soft, eBook, and audio world rights deal. You’re about to become the darling of New York City and the talk of the town. You’re do excited, you scream! All your office workers become so alarmed they think someone has died. But the only thing that’s died is your need for a day job. Everyone is so excited for you they take you out for drinks at Happy Hour.

So here’s what happens over the course of the next few months. You sign the big contract. In turn, your agent sends you the signing portion of the advance. Since this contract is for $100K that means it’s $50K per book. The signing portion of the first advance might be $25,000. That sounds like a lot and it is a lot. But after the agent takes her 15% you are down to $21,250. Next in line is Uncle Sam and his cut which, if you have a good accountant and get lucky, might be 25%. Now you’re down to $15,937.50. Okay, still not bad. But conservatively speaking, if it costs you $4,000 per month to live, you’re going to run out of money in just little bit shy of four months. If you have a savings put away, you’ll have to start digging into it. If you don’t have a savings, you might have to start thinking about asking your boss for your old job back. But you would rather hang from the ceiling by your fingernails than do that. You’re about to be a mega bestseller. Everyone thinks you’re a major success, even before the book is released. You have your pride to think about.

Plus you have another $25K coming for the first book, right? So what’s to worry about? You pull out the credit cards and cover yourself until you get the next round of monies. Easy Peasy. That next round of cash comes in say, six or eight months down the road when you deliver your revised manuscript. If…the important word is IF here…your revised manuscript is accepted, you will receive the Delivery and Acceptance portion of your first advance. Let’s say it’s $12,500. After you do all the math you’re left with about $7K and change. That might last you two months if you stretch it out. It most certainly doesn’t cover the credit cards you’ve been racking up. But you’re stubborn and you look forward to the next and final portion of your advance which will arrive on publication day…

…four months later.

Okay, so it’s the big day you’ve been waiting for. Publication day. You just got a nice check for $12,500 minus the agent’s fee (You’ve decided to forgo Uncle Sam’s portion on this one, because you’re book is going to be a bestseller and you’ll earn out the initial $50K in a matter of weeks when the book lands on the New York Times bestseller list). You have a check in your pocket for $10,625 and even if your credit card balance is more than that (and don’t forget the back taxes), you feel on top of the world. Your author copies arrive, you take a ton of selfies for Facebook and Instagram, you collect a ton of “likes”, you do a couple signings in your home town, and maybe, just maybe if you live in proximity to NYC, you do a signing at the B&N in Union Square. The reviews come out and in general they are very kind. Maybe you didn’t get the New York Times review you were dreaming of, but you did get one in People and Entertainment Weekly. In a word, you are a rock star.

Then something happens…The Big Yawn.

Your book doesn’t make the New York Times bestseller list. It doesn’t even make the USA Today bestseller list which is easier. But it does make several Amazon lists which is encouraging, or so your editor tells you over the phone. The troubling thing however, is that as time goes on, you notice your conversations with both your editor and agent are becoming shorter and shorter. They don’t seem to be as emotionally invested as they once were. It’s troubling because even before your second book in the contract comes out, you realize you desperately need another very big contract in order to get yourself out of debt.

You go to work on the next novel. You write frantically and finish it in record time. You hand it in to you editor. You don’t hear from him for weeks, months. You email him and your agent incessantly. Finally, the editor emails you back. He says he’s read the book and “likes” it. However, seeing as it looks like you’re not going to earn out the first half of your advance, they are going to forgo the hardback publication and go straight to mass market paper and eBook. You feel your heart drop into your stomach.

The year goes buy and you receive the balance of your $100,000 contact, or $50,000. After your agent takes what he’s owed, you make the horrible decision to keep the entire $42,500 since you’re in such debt you can’t possibly pay the $10,000+ plus federal and state tax bill owed. As it is, you already owe more than $5K to the IRS from the previous advance check.

You call your editor. He takes the call which is encouraging. You tell him about your next book project…a high concept thriller. But all you get is dead air, which is not only discouraging, it is downright disconcerting. He calmly explains to you that it’s probably in your best interest to pursue another publisher for your next book project. He hangs up. You’ll never hear from him again.
After living on the $42,500 for the year, you are dead broke, in serious debt to the credit card 

companies, and the IRS. Your agent and editor don’t return your phone calls or emails. You don’t

have a job or any means of income. You’re a good if not great writer with two books to your credit, 

yet you have a very tough road ahead of you. 

The point to the book, other than to inform while entertain, is to encourage authors to build up both a 
traditional list as well as a very healthy indie list. That way, when one media outlet goes dry (or goes belly up, or parts ways with your editorial staff, or just plain becomes disinterested)...and 
believe me, it will go dry at some have other outlets to rely on. Take it from one who
knows, those authors who don't treat this game like a business are doomed to failure. Just ask James
Patterson. He's made a fortune by treating authorship like a business. 
Methinks you should too. 

Get The hybrid Author Mindset. 


Saturday, September 22, 2018

And then the windows steamed up...

... The third and final episode of Season II of my new erotic noir series, The Handyman, Savage Women, is here. It's got all the graphic stuff you might expect of a steamy if not erotic story, but it's also an edge-of-your-seat, or bed, suspense thriller.

In this episode, crime writer, Victor Casey, is being hunted down for three counts of Murder One by a beautiful, blonde bombshell of an APD homicide detective by the name of...wait for it, Lawless. But when Casey's muse and newlywed wife, (the sexually insatiable) Stella, falls head over heels for the detective, all bets are off.

When I started writing this series I wasn't sure I could pull it off. Sometimes, as an author, you need to force yourself to experiment and to push yourself beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. I've definitely managed to accomplish that with The Handyman series. Case and point? The raw, energetic, passionate, sexy, steamy graphic noir series is collecting reviews like, “Superb,” “Captivating,” and “Just beautiful.”

Who'd a thunk it?

I hope you indulge in The Handyman erotic noir series this weekend and realize there's more to Vincent Zandri than just your garden variety mystery.  And don't forget, this one ain't for the kids.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Where the F@#$ is Zandri?

Consistency is key when it comes to blogging and podcasting and YouTubing. At least that's what all the marketers and their SEO know-how will tell you. I rarely go two weeks between posts, but there you go. A big fat blank space between September 5 and the 19th. That's today btw. If you live in Asia, it's the 20th already. Time flies when you're having fun. And I'm having fun working on more projects that I can shake a stick at.

Therein lies the problem. Last week I went to start on a new Dick Moonlight novel when I noticed the four full-length manuscripts that had yet to be edited for my Bear Media editor sitting on my living room desk. They screamed at me to pay attention to them, as if they were little needy children.

Add to that a sale of a new stand-alone plus a new noir series to Down & Out Books late last week (I won the ITW Thriller Award and PWA Shamus Award with them for Moonlight Weeps in 2015), plus another book up for sale in a week or two, and I'm just about flat out crazy. But it's a good crazy. I wouldn't want to live life any other way.

Late next month I'll be headed back to Florence, Italy until Christmas time, so I will likely start on the new D&OB series, which I'm calling BRUTUS. It's a vigilante killer series. So be warned all you Batman fans! Okay, I've got to get back to the Novel in Progress, and then go to the next Novel in Progress and so on, and so on...

Write, Publish, Repeat...



Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Who doesn't love a typewriter?

Ian Fleming types James Bond

I know I do. So much so that I own about two dozen antique typewriters. I have two Olivettis, at least four Remingtons, one of which my grandfather used for writing letters about KIA GIs under his command to grieving parents and wives during World War II. My black Remington Rand is identical to one Hemingway used in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and I keep a sixty-plus year old Royal on my desk for making notes.

I once wrote a full novel on a typewriter just to see what it would be like. That novel, Scream Catcher, had a real rhythm to it, precisely because that's what a typewriter provides. A rhythmic rat-tat-tat, like a machine gun or a snare drum. You not only invent the words, you find yourself physically living them as you create them. I'm so in love with typewriters that I use a typewriter sound program on my laptop just to mimic the experience. When I hit the Enter key, I get the sound of the carriage being shifted for a brand new sentence and/or paragraph. It's a lot of fun.

There seems to be a resurgence of typewriters these days. A kind of literary, back to the roots, forget about the digital revolution typewriter movement. You can get a brand new typewriter for yourself or your high school/college student for not a lot of money at all. When you consider the machine will last years and years, it's a solid investment. I have a brand new typewriter my ex bought me a couple years back and I use it often.

If you don't want to write a novel on it, you can write poetry, or flash fiction, or keep notes, or even write short scripts. You can always write love letters and send then the old fashioned way by snail mail to your secret lover,  whoever he or she may be. What a romantic thought. But then, that's what typewriters are all about. Romance, and a trip back to the days when words were crafted one letter at a time to the rhythm of the keys.

I love this typewriter: 

American Crafts Typecast Retro Typewriter by We R Memory Keepers

and this one (It's the one I use):

Royal Epoch Portable Manual Typewriter