Saturday, August 17, 2019

Who can you trust anymore?



Or should I say, what can you trust these days?

If you own a smart home...if you converse with artificial intelligence in the form of Alexa or a Ring Doorbell, or a smart TV, or a smart whatever...chances are you are not being offered a service out of convenience (it's the natural inclination of human beings to take the easy, lazy way out when offered the chance, no matter the consequences), so much as you are being observed and studied.

Your personal data is being compiled, bit by bit, pixel by pixel (my coding and computer terminology might be off here, but bear with me). You are not flesh and bone to these devices. You are code. They know what you eat, drink, read, listen to, indulge in sexually, pray to or not pray to, and so much more.

One day, they will know more about you than you know about yourself. They will anticipate your every move. If for some reason, they come not to like you, or suspect the worst about you, they can work against you and at best, shut you out...imagine arriving home from work, the Ring Doorbell recognizes you, and decides to lock you out of your own castle. At worst, they will make you a slave.

You just might disappear one day, no questions asked.

Can it happen?

Maybe it already has.

I explore this very thesis in my brand new thriller, Primary Termination
Grab it at a limited time special introductory low price now. 

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Chasing your tail...



...Or what's better known in the writing world as chasing trends (maybe I should have titled this, Chasing your tale, get it?). Every now and then, a blockbuster book is published, the likes of Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games, or The Da Vinci Code. The latter is the only thriller written by a US author that I've seen sold in both the Vatican bookstore and The Uffizi in Florence. That's how popular it is. I'd be surprised if it hasn't yet been translated into Apache.

The point here, dear reader, is that when a book and/or a series goes absolutely ballistic, we as authors with more (clears the frog from his throat) humble sales, relatively speaking, sometimes get the urge to follow the trend and jump on board. The urge to write my version of the Da Vinci Code came to me in the form of an itch in the middle of my upper back that I couldn't possibly scratch. It didn't go away until I wrote the first novel in the unbelievably wildly popular and successful Chase Baker Thriller series, The Shroud Key (Ha-ha).

So here's the point: Under normal circumstances, I would not suggest writing to market. I would not suggest one chase a trend just because it's presently super popular. I would instead suggest one stick to one's brand because in the long run, the brand is what will make an author an artistic and financial success. There's a reason McDonalds hamburgers taste just like the McDonalds hamburgers I used to buy as a kid (for less than a dollar).   


But I did sort of chase the Da Vinci/Dan Brown trend with Chase. However, I did so many years after Da Vinci was published and I also did so by incorporating all the typical Zandri pile driving plotting, romance, mystery, and action. I also...and this is key here...love the genre to death (if you don't love what you're writing it's gonna suck). In the end, the series has gone on to serve me well with tens of thousands of units sold. Chase Baker isn't being sold at the Pope's house yet, but hey, you never know. Maybe I should email him or ring him up next time I'm in country ("Hey, Pope, there's a guy named Zandri on the phone for you").

I don't always stick to the same genre. But all my books have one common denominator. They are thrillers through and through. Some series and stand-alones are darker than others, but all of them contain the Zandri thrills you've come to know and insist upon. And hopefully, I'm still learning and still getting better at my craft.

Speaking of switching up genres, I'm dipping my arthritic big toe into the Cyberpunk and Dystopian Thriller genres with Primary Termination, which is presently available for pre-order (launch day is August 16, but it's presently available in paperback) at a special, limited time price (the point is to sell a lot right out of the gate and impress the Amazon algos). My editor and beta readers tell me it's one of my best novels to date, and I believe them because I wrote it (ha-ha again). But I'll let you and Pope be the judge.

   Grab Primary Termination today, before it's too late...

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM




"Buy Primary Termination or the author gets it!!!"

Sunday, July 28, 2019

"Alexa, make me your slave..."






...Or said another way, "Alexa, write this post."
 After all, the Amazon AI knows everything about me. You not only know my favorite music, television shows, and books. You know what I like to wear, what I like to eat and drink. You know my social security number, my income, my age, weight, and sexual preference. Heck, you probably know my favorite sexual positions.

You know my bathroom habits, and my sleeping routine. You know about my medical conditions, and you know about my vices. You know when I'm feeling down, or way too up. You know what I want to write and don't write. You are all knowing and you have been programmed to know me inside and out, so you can accurately predict my wants and needs.

Sounds nifty, right?

But what happens when Alexa and the company she reps, Amazon.com, becomes so big, so all consuming, so all knowing, that the consumer becomes the slave?

This is the basis for my new novel, Primary Termination. It takes place in 2028 and it's about the last NYC editor who is fired from the last remaining publishing house now that the world's largest online retail corporation, Everest.com (see what I did there?) has taken over the publishing market with their Everest Cradle Direct Publishing service and their Cradle E-reader (see what I did there too?).

Here's the product description for Primary Termination.




 
YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THE CORPORATION!

In the year 2028, a massive online corporation called Everest.Com will control everything we buy, including books, food, medical care, police protection, religion, political affiliations...Everything!

When Senior Acquisitions editor, Tanya Teal, 42, is fired from the last remaining NYC publishing house due to overwhelming competition from Everest.com's Cradle Direct Publishing service, she finds herself having to move back in with her parents in Upstate New York. Since she will be hard pressed to ever find another editing job again, they persuade her to join the Everest Primary Program, which will provide her with a guaranteed living wage, so long as she purchases Everest products exclusively. But after rekindling her love affair with an old boyfriend, Tony Smart, 42, who is a Cradle Direct Publishing bestseller, they drink a few too many and decide to visit one of their old haunts, Gus's Hotdog Shack. They know it's illegal, since they are both Primary Members, but what can one hotdog hurt?

That one simple decision leads to their Primary Termination and a horrific hunt on behalf of the Everest Police that begins inside Tanya's own Everest AI-monitored home and that leads up into the mountains and the home of the Everest Resistance. It also leads to a stunning revelation over the precise fate of terminated members—the prisons they are incarcerated in and the massive fulfillment centers where they are used as slave labor.

Part cyberpunk thriller, part dystopian apocalyptic page-turner, part romantic suspense, part paranoid military adventure, and even part alternate reality, Primary Termination is a three novel series that’s a direct if not frightening reflection on the realities of present day and near future global commerce, not to mention all knowing AI development and personal date storage. Think the Matrix meets The Hunger Games or Logan’s Run meets The Man in the High Castle.

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling Thriller Award winning author, Vincent Zandri, comes a new thriller that is a direct reflection of the digital, big brother/big sister times we are living in.


US Link

UK Link

CA Link

AU Link




Primary Termination is currently available for preorder at a special limited time price, so what have you got to lose? If you love books like 1984 you might be particularly interested in this thriller. It's the kind of book that will be analyzed by the high brows and enjoyed by the lowbrows. It will also make you think twice before asking Alexa to do something for you.

Grab Primary Termination today.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM


Friday, July 12, 2019

When the Magic Rubs Off





So I've been invited to two cocktail parties tonight in New York City. They are put on by two of my publishers (on behalf of Thrillerfest), one of whom really wanted me down there. Instead, I'm choosing to spend the weekend, writing, fishing, eating, drinking, reading, living the life.

I shake my head and smile because there was a time not so long ago, I would have loved heading to the cocktail parties (and crashing a few also Haha), rubbing shoulders with some pretty big authors, schmoozing with editors, agents and booksellers, shaking hands and just generally kissing ass.

But things have changed.

Maybe it's the politics of it all, or perhaps it's the been-there-done-that-ness of it all. Perhaps it's my hybrid author business model. Hell, maybe at my age I just can't be bothered with it anymore. Plus I'm just a little obsessed with fly fishing almost as much as I'm obsessed with the daily word count, and it's supposed to be a beautiful weekend.

Listen, I'm all about supporting my fellow authors and paying a friendly visit to my publishers, but on occasion, it just feels better being away from New York City for a while...how did I put it during my acceptance speech for the ITW Thriller Award in 2015?...The ground zero for literary success and tragedy.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Golden Age of Writing Is Still Here...





Ten years ago you could indie publish a novel, set the price at 0.99 and watch it rise to the top of the Amazon charts. This, almost brainless marketing tactic, is what resulted in my selling hundreds of thousands of eBooks, which led to some pretty lucrative publishing deals. It also meant that I went from making zero money with my fiction, to making a nice living. And that's after having scored a major six-figure, two book deal (the majority of those funds went to finance my first divorce, but I'll save that for another blog).

Fast forward ten years and simply setting your indie books at 0.99 is no longer a valid marketing strategy. In fact, so many books proliferate the marketplace now, that an author needs to be a little more creative when it comes to rising above all that white noise. After a couple of down years, this month (July) will be one of my best on record. Not only have I signed a "nice" deal with Oceanview Publishing for the September 2020 publication of arguably my best standalone to date, The Girl Who Wasn't There (the ink isn't dry on the contract and my first advance check arrived yesterday), I've made some significant changes in how I go about marketing my indie list.

For the longest time, I avoided educating myself on Amazon Ads. I would simply throw together some keywords, create an ad, and then wait to see if it stuck. Bad way to go about advertising, it turns out, but a good way to stuff Mr. Bezos's already stuffed pockets. Finally, I decided to invest in Mark Dawson' Ads for Authors course (no I am not an affiliate, just a fan), and it most definitely proved one hell of an investment. It's not that I didn't know what I was doing when it came to Amazon ads, it's more like I was blind to their possibilities and rather careless in my tactics, kind of like a parent who tells his kids to fend for themselves for supper. For instance, I might look at the ACOS (ad cost) and if the percentage of ad spend was more than I was receiving in sales profit, which was almost always the case, I would immediately stop the ad. But Mark's course spells out, in detail, how even a negative ad spend can still prove profitable. Just this little tidbit of info alone has become rather valuable to my overall strategy. It was a wake up call.

The course has also taught me another valuable lesson in terms of scaling my ads. Don't just create them and forget them. Tweak them, find out which keywords are working and which aren't. Most of all, if your ad is proving profitable, copy it and scale it. I've also created a separate portfolio for each book which makes a huge difference when it comes to both organizing my ads and determining what's working and what's not.

But Amazon Ads are only a part of the story. I use a marketing manager to take care of my promos. I have a Book Bub for The Shroud Key this month thanks to his efforts, and he is presently seeking ways to boost audio sales. Add to that a subscriber list that should hit my first 10K by the end of the year (some authors have hundreds of thousands of subscribers!!!!), and things are most definitely looking up. My overall philosophy is a simple one. If many hybrid and indie authors are making mid-six and even seven figure incomes, why can't I? I'm currently writing on average a novel per month. I have the material, the reviews, and the street cred (The Thriller Award, the bestseller lists, the sales, etc.). Now it's a matter of scaling my business way up.

Being a hybrid author is most definitely not as easy as it was back in 2010 or 2011. You have to chop through the thick bush in order to reach the valley of good and plenty. A little education definitely goes a long way, and I can see myself reaching my financial goals so long as I continue to adjust to the times and continue to view my writing as not only an art, but a long term freelance career (Free being the key word here. I haven't worked a real job in 20 years and don't intend to ever go back).

The golden age of writing is still here. In fact, it never left. You just have to make more of an effort to seek it out.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM
     

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Death of the Indie Publisher is Upon Us





Not to be all doom and gloom lately folks, but now that 2019 is half over, it's become plainly obvious (or maybe I've just woken up to the sad reality), that what I once was able to count on as a steady, almost passive income from my indie books is rapidly eroding.

The big question is why.
The simple answer is ads (and this only one part of the answer, but for now, let's focus on this).

I've been using paid Amazon ads for a while now. I've also used Facebook and Book Bub ads. In fact, I just spent over $200 on a Facebook ad that ran just last week for maybe five days (don't tell the wife. Oh wait, I'm not married), and it hardly moved the needle. I'm not entirely sure what distinguishes a good ad from a bad ad, but if I had to guess, successful ads are the ones authors pour tons of money into (I'm talking thousands), as opposed to the ones authors put only hundreds or less into.

In other words, if you're not breaking the bank by upping your ad spend by thousands each month, your books are going to go unnoticed. My guess is that indie authors are also competing with ad budgets of medium and major publishers. For the first time in a long time, I'm beginning to think that what was once the savior of the fiction writing industry--the one thing that could provide an author with a steady income stream that would keep him writing for a living forever and ever, proved but a dream.

No way can I compete with the ad budgets of those who can afford to spend five, six, or even ten thousand per month on ads. Ain't gonna happen. I suppose I could invest in one of those $600 courses some authors are offering up for learning how to use Amazon Ads, but I can bet this will only serve to confuse me more. Besides, if an author is really doing that great with the ads, why go to the trouble of creating time consuming courses? Maybe the question answers itself.

So where does this leave me (us!)?

I guess I could go wide, and move all my indie books back over to Draft2Digital. I already have all my short stories there. But, lets face it, iBooks, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, and the like don't have nearly the selling power of Amazon, even without the ads.

I could invest more in monthly promos like KND and Book Bub. I already spend hundreds per month on a marketing dude, and he does a great job getting me all sorts of promos. But even during a year where I've enjoyed several Book Bub promos, you can only go to the various wells so many times with your $0.99 promo books. You can only give away so many free books, and believe me, I've given away hundreds of thousands.

Maybe I could increase my subscriber list. I'm steadily doing this, but now Mailchimp is charging even for those who unsubscribe which is like tossing salt in the wound and then viscously pinching it.

I could write more books and just try to win the battle with the power of numbers. But producing a great book not only takes time it takes cash, and now that the return on investment for said book isn't half of what it was even three years ago, it's a speculative gamble at best.

Or, I could make a profound return to the traditional way of doing things, and once again rely on advances and the marketing prowess of a publisher. I'm already doing that, but rather than place a major portion of my energies on the indie side of things, I might concentrate more on the traditional. Like I said, I'll soon have news of a new deal in the making, and without that, I might be ready to pull my toe nails out.

2019 has definitely been a watershed year thus far for the indie publishing world. I predict thousands will drop out, hang it up, and look for work. Luckily, the economy is booming. Luckily I invest in Bitcoin!

I also predict many will once again go back to seeking out an agent who will hopefully nail a book deal or two. Personally, I'm going to stick to hybrid publishing, and continue trying to take advantage of both systems. I do this in the hope that eventually, things will change for the better. Hope is a four letter word, folks.

These are the times that try writer's nerves and separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls. Who's got staying power? Who will survive the storm? Methinks the casualties will be staggering.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM
   
  

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Luck





Yup, I'm back at Blogger. I thought the change to Wordpress would be worth it, but it turns out most of my subscribers are present on this portal, and it's like starting all over again using a new platform. So there you have it.

I read an interesting blog recently by JA Konrath, arguably one of the pioneers of the indie movement. After selling millions of books he started taking on deals (or a deal anyway) with one of the Big Five pubs, and he sort of disappeared from not only the blogosphere but also from the indie publishing community altogether (I could be entirely wrong about this, and forgive me if I am, Joe, but that's the way it appeared to me). But recently he made a return with some very interesting blogs about the state of the industry including the state of his personal publishing career.

One of his pieces spoke about how he spent a full year working on a huge project which he sent out to some of the Big Five, plus a couple Amazon Publishing imprints (like me he's been pub'd by Thomas & Mercer a bunch of times). He was surprised to find all the pubs rejected his new project. He offered up logical reasons for why this happened, but it came as a shock to me. Here's a guy who was making upwards of $800K per year, until Kindle Unlimited tore into his profits in a big way. Still, he's allegedly moved more than 3mil books (no reason not to believe him), won some awards, done major book tours, has a huge following for both his blog and his fiction, and yet he gets rejected across the board. Huh?

It gave me pause, let me tell you. That's when I proceeded to another blog that talked about what it takes to actually make it as an indie author (as a hybrid author the rules also apply to me). According to Konrath, it's not paid advertising, or relying on "How to Become a Kindle Bestseller" books (the authors are "full of shit" he says, and I tend to believe him), or social media posts that get your books noticed and eventually purchased. These things help get the word out and therefor have their place, taken in moderation. But the key, aside from hard work, consistent output, talent, and focus on one series and one genre, is pure luck.

Take it from me folks when I tell you, Mr. Konrath is spot on. I've been lucky in my career, and I've been unlucky. Generally, the bad luck comes in long streaks, with occasional breakouts of good luck. That said, the bad luck is usually a direct response to a stupid decision or decisions on my part. For instance, the past couple of years I experimented with shorter books and novellas of which I'm proud. But readers don't want short reads. They want 60K words minimum. I also delved into taboo areas like erotic noir, and those projects stunk up the joint (although the reviews were rave). I was putting out books with a medium sized crime imprint also, but it became frustrating since those titles were competing with my own. I also parted with my long time agent, thinking a new slick outfit would be just the boost I needed to get back on track.

But it was all pretty much a disaster. Over the past two years I've seen my income cut in half if not worse. What's it all mean? Going back to what works (just like coming back to Blogger). By the grace of God, my agent took me back and already, we've been making deals, and making some money too. It never really dawned on me until recently, that my agent isn't just an agent, he's a manager. There's a big difference. I also made the commitment to write thrillers and only thrillers, both stand-alone and in my numerous PI series. If I'm experimenting with anything, it's my cyberpunk book, Primary Termination, which will be out soon. A new genre yes, but trust me when I tell you the book is pure Zandri thriller, nonetheless.

I've also decided to pick up some freelance work again...something I'd always enjoyed but got away from over the past couple years. Lastly, I'm not going to put out one book per month (even though I can pretty much write a book per month). Instead, I'm going to stagger my publications (the indie ones anyway), every two to three months. Taken altogether, this is turning out to be a far better year than than the three previous years. My goal (and as Joe points out, it's important to have goals, not reliance on hopes since you have no control over the latter), is to head back into six figure territory this year. Not an unrealistic goal by any means. Chip has already secured me a "nice" offer for a two book deal (more on this coming later), but we're waiting to see what the other interested pubs say. We've done some non-fiction stuff together, and we have solid movie interest in at least two of my projects. That's a huge step up from the big nothing of last year.

All this involves a lot of hard work, but it also involves luck. I was smart to make the adjustment back to what works. I was lucky I realized it before it was too late.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM