Saturday, January 12, 2019

I'm Vincent Zandri and I approve this message...

For all of you people who think I have way too much time on my hands...You're probably right. Which is why I've decided to form an exploratory committee as a first step in announcing my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States on the Democratic (Socialist) ticket.

In the spirit of being one with people, I've decided to forward my message directly to you while taking a shower. What could be more up close and personal? Take that Liz and Beto.



Join my YouTube page, leave a comment, hit the like button and you just might win a free book...and don't forget to vote!!!

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

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Sunday, January 6, 2019

20 years a full-time author...



The book that launched the career in 1999
...or I might have called this post, 20 years of huge highs and some pretty deep lows. Sounds like life in general doesn't it? But it's true, it wasn't precisely 20 years ago today, that I started to play with the big boys and girls in New York City, but close enough. My first big novel, As Catch Can (now The Innocent: A Jack "Keeper" Marconi PI Thriller ), was published by Delacorte mostly to a lot of yawns but to stellar reviews in the Boston Herald, The New York Post, Publishers Weekly, and many others. It was a tumultuous time to say the least with Slick Willy doing the deed in the White House with his young intern (an intern I would later meet while on a train from NYC to Albany). The Internet was new and still in dial-up mode, and I was only 34 years old and a relative pup in this business. They gave me $250K or thereabouts so I partied like a rock star, got divorced, and lost it all. Every penny and then some. I don't regret a minute of that time. It was magical (Catch the original Times Union article about the deal).

But it also served as a maturing experience, since the years that followed were not exactly easy. It wasn't until 2007 that I was able to buy back the rights to not only As Catch Can, but also its follow up, Godchild. The books were republished in 2011, with As Catch Can becoming The Innocent, and along with the help of a new digital eReader device called The Kindle, their combined sales reached about 150,000 units in six week's time. The Innocent stood its ground in the Amazon Overall Bestseller List at Number 2 for a few weeks, it's only barrier, The Lincoln Lawyer which was a major motion picture at the time. The books were then resold to Thomas & Mercer and that's where they remain today.

Then came The Remains, which went gangbusters, and it too was picked up by Thomas & Mercer, and then came other deals with publishers like Polis Books and Down & Out Books. I'd win the Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original for Moonlight Weeps in 2015. That book would also win the Shamus Award for Best Original Paperback from the Private Eye Writers of America. Then came major articles in the New York Times, Business Insider, Publishers Weekly, Suspense Magazine, and appearances on the Fox News Network and Bloomberg Business TV. I hit the major bestseller lists and since 2010 have sold close to 1 mil editions of my books and novellas (I'm pretty damn close if you include the Kindle First promo for Everything Burns for which I received a sweet payout).
"Catch" is now The Innocent

At this point, I estimate I've written and published around 50 novels and novellas with an equal number in print in one form or another. This doesn't count short stories nor the anthologies I'm included in. None of these numbers take into account the freelance journalism I continued to produce almost daily up until three years ago, nor the blogs for the Vox. To say these past 20 years have blown rapidly past is a like saying the sun is hot.

In between the books, came the marriages and relationships, the the solo travel to some pretty hairy places, the raising of the kids, the death of my father, the radical shift to independent publishing and hybrid publishing, and much more importantly, the freedom for writers like me who write many books per year in several genres, to make an excellent living without having to bend over for an agent or any one publisher.

I recall 20 years ago when my first book was published and I also recall thinking how utterly messed up the system was. But that's all changed now, and even if there is a perception that the market is being flooded with sub-par books, it's all for the better. Talent will always prevail in this business, and while hard work is not always rewarded when it comes to the arts, the harder you work, the better your luck will be and the greater your chances of succeeding.

So what's in store for the next 20? My aim is to publish 100 novels and novellas over the course of the next 5-7 years. I also plan on selling several stories to television and perhaps a major motion picture. I've come damn close to both so my guess is, if I keep on jabbing, I'll eventually land something. I'd also like to see a series or two developed as video games. With more and more smartphones being purchased every year and all of those devices containing Kindle, eReader, video game, and YouTube apps, the skies the limit. My only regret is my life is going by too fast to realize all my goals. But then, I think that's an indication of how much fun I've been having.

20 Years...When I was playing drums for The Blisterz, we sang a song called 20 Years. It was about a man who is still stuck at his job after 20 years of backbreaking service. I'm still stuck at my job and thanks to my fans, I'm loving every minute of it.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Data driven inspiration

It's all about the data...

In the beginning was the word and the word was God. It was divine. Most writers, if one could write at all (there's pretty good evidence Jesus of Nazareth was illiterate despite his verbal knowledge of the scriptures. He was a construction worker after all), wrote bibles or holy scripture of one kind or another. These volumes, or scrolls, were considered sacred property.

Almost 1,000 years prior, the Iliad and the Odyssey were written down. These books, although said to be historical accounting's, were still inspired in part, by the Gods.

Jump on over to the Renaissance and you have a grumpy little writer by the name of Dante who writes arguably the first modern novel, The Divine Comedy. It's all about the stages of hell. Again, he is inspired by God (divinity) and read only by the wealthy since they are literate.

Now head on over to the 20th century, when even poor people are able to read, if only on a basic level (my paternal grandparents never finished grade school since they were expected to work, and they were both sharp, telling me they were pretty much self taught). The writers of the day began seeing a huge market for a general public that wanted to not only be enlightened but entertained. During WWII, front line soldiers not only received food rations but they also got dime novels, or pulp thrillers.

In turn, many early 20th century writers who could put out a couple or three thousand words per day on their manual typewriters, and who were somewhat business savvy, recognized the enormous potential in the pulp market, and they made millions of dollars in the process.

But then something happened in the latter half of the 20th century. Gatekeepers were established. Writers were forced to abandon their individualism in exchange for a dependence on an agent and a publishing house. If said agent or publisher didn't believe your book would sell to the general reading public, you were shit out of luck. Or even if you were chosen for publication, if they didn't pay off the bookstore owners for prominent placement of your book, you were doomed to failure.

Enter the dawn of the 21st century and a data driven consumer-centric little company called Amazon. Amazon opens an online bookstore in 1994 and in 2007 introduces the Kindle eReader. They also rattle the very foundations upon which the publishing gatekeepers rest their laurels by instituting Kindle Direct Publishing. IBooks follow, then Google, and Barnes and Nobles (Nook) and more. The era of the independent author is once again upon us. Only this time, it's not God that's inspiring the words, nor is it history, or even other human beings commonly referred to as writing professors. It is instead, data.
In the beginning...

For the first time in the history of literature, writers no longer need to attend writing school to become successful authors. They don't need expensive, snobby conferences or colonies like Breadloaf or Yaddo. They do require talent and proliferation, but they also require a degree of business acumen. Authors don't necessarily look at their books as pieces of art anymore. They look at them as assets that, when published independently, have the ability to earn up to 20-30% return on investment (ROI) annually. And since indie authors own their own rights, the gatekeepers no longer call the shots on whether or not the book remains in circulation.

Authors can now study the Amazon bestseller lists to see which kinds of books are selling the most (the NYT's bestseller list is curated so it's not an accurate accounting). Are they 1st person thrillers? Is the protagonist a female or a male? How long are the most popular books? Do they have an international setting or grounded solidly in the USA? What kinds of covers have the artists created (yes, we now judge books by their covers)? Do the books contain graphics? Are the most successful authors actively engaging in ad marketing programs? How many Amazon and Goodreads reviews do the popular books have? Are the big sellers a series or a stand-alone novel? Is sex still selling? What about sci-fi? Are the books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited or are they wide?

I could go on and on, but the point here is that an author can make a spectacular living now, not by believing in some divine intervention, or by placing all his trust in an agent or publisher, or spending tens of thousands of dollars on a writing program. Rather, today's successful author trusts in himself to do the leg work. To study the data, and the sales numbers which now can be accessed minute to minute everyday, 24/7. He can immediately see which of his own books are selling and which are not and strategically plan for the books he will write in the future. It's all about the data and the data is available anytime, all the time.

No wonder many bestselling authors today don't possess MFAs in Writing. They are instead, computer programmers. 

Like a great punk rock songwriter once sang, This is the modern world!

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM
      

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Year end review and what a hell of a year it was...

Coming April 2019...


It seems as though lots of full-time authors feel compelled to write up an end of the year summary about how things transpired over the course of the past 12 months and where things are likely to go in the coming months, and I'm no different. But seeing as I can't exactly speak for any other authors, I can only speak for myself. 2018 was a year of renewed bachelorhood and I used the extra time on my hands to fulfill my promise of publishing at least one book, be it short read, novella, or full-length novel per month. This doesn't include the book or books I did with traditional houses. Combine maybe a couple dozen short articles and at least one blog per week for the Vox and it's no wonder I've been feeling a persistent tingling in my fingertips.

I also traveled more than 40,000 miles to six or seven different countries, spending in total, three-plus months on the road. Having just arrived home two weeks ago I've had at least a half dozen people ask me, "So where you off to next?" I usually respond with something witty (Not!) like, "I have no clue." Because I truly don't. I guess I could say the same about my writing. Sometimes I never know what I'm about to write. I just do it.

So the indie marketplace got a little tougher this year. I had a better year than the year before, but with Amazon's new Pay to Play Amazon Ads marketplace, things have become a little more difficult. That is, unless you're pouring money into ads, your books are likely not to be seen by hungry readers. I'm not going into major detail on this stuff, because other authors are better at it than I am. Bestselling author Russell Blake just write a terrific piece on the subject of Pay-to-Play. You can get it here. It's enlightening if not a tad depressing. But like they say, it is what it is.

While I use Amazon ads on a daily basis along with watching my ad spends like an over concerned parent keeps an eye on her kids in the park, I rely more on promo services for sales boosts. But creating ads and running promos takes a lot of time (and casheshe). Like Mr. Blake points out in his piece, I got into this thing to be a full-time writer, not an advertiser. Also, unlike some authors who are literally bringing in tens of thousands of dollars per month utilizing Amazon, FB, BookBub, and other ad platforms, I just don't have the skill set for the job. I don't think analytically (which probably explains why I was such a disaster as a construction project manager). I envy these talented indie and hybrid authors and all the power to them. They are killing it and making themselves millionaires in the process.
Coming this Winter...

What this means is, again like Russell, I must sub out my promo and advertising needs. I can suggest my guy to you if you like. Just email me at Vazandri@aol.com and I'll hook you up. He takes care of everything from SEO, to setting up BookBub-like promos, to keeping up with your KU free days, etc. In other words, he does everything I would love to do if only I had the skills and the time. But I'm a writer and that's what I'm good at (he said, humbly).

Even though the market always seems like it's getting tougher and tougher to compete in, I still say it comes down to consistent and steady output (I mean, what else are you going to do with you day?). Even if you don't advertise, a steady stream of titles can't be ignored by the Amazon algos nor the B&N algos, nor Google Books, etc. At the same time, keep on building your tribe of followers and fans. Eventually you will reach a point where you're selling enough to create a full-time semi-passive income (I say semi-passive because books always need tweaking here and there after they're done. Product descriptions can be improved upon, keywords need updating along with SEO, etc.).

Creatively 2018 was a year of experimentation. I delved into several genres I never would have touched in years prior, including YA and it's polar opposite, Erotic Noir. I also started a new "short read" pulp fiction series. Whether these efforts were successful or not remains to be seen, but they were fun books to write and at the very least, I know I am capable of creating something beyond the mystery and thriller genre.

So then, as for 2019? This will be more of a traditional year in that I am back to writing big thrillers and in particular, a thriller with a female protagonist, not unlike that of The Remains and The Ashes. The first book is called Primary Termination and it is the pilot in a three book trilogy that takes place in the near future. Part cyber punk, part apocalyptic, part romance, this thriller will receive a major launch in June. But before that, we will see a new Jack Marnoni PI novel, a new Dick Moonlight PI novel, a full-length Young Chase Baker novel, and in April, my big book, The Caretakers Wife will be published in hardcover by Polis Books.

I'll also be collaborating on at least two books this year. More on that later.

I wish I could predict what the marketplace will be like, but I suspect that more and more thriller authors will go indie and/or like me, hybrid. It seems as though the major houses have not a clue about what can sell and what can't. Even after moving just under a million books since 2010, I still get books rejected and some of these go on to win major awards and sell quite well independently. Like I said, the pubs have absolutely no clue. Zero. Nada. And now, with some editors also rejecting manuscripts deemed not PC enough or too right leaning to be published, we're going to see a significant defection from the majors. You just wait and see.

So then, this is way too long for a blog post, but I thought you deserved a full update. Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. For me, it's back to the writing.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM



  

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Rich Writer, Poor Writer II: Motivation

The 'muy macho' writing studio
Poor writer puts off the word count like he's putting off a trip to the dentist to get a cavity filled.

Rich writer writes everyday, no matter what's happening in his life. He looks forward to it, even if it is like biting on the nail (Hemingway's words, not mine).

Poor writer lacks passion for what he writes. He sees words as a way of showing off intellectual prowess (he's also up to his big fat brain in credit card debt).

Rich writer is absolutely passionate about what he writes, even if he is writing to market (a wise journalist once said, To be a successful freelance writer, "you must learn to write interestingly about a tea bag." Writing interestingly means being passionate about your subject, plot, theme, and characters).

Poor writer makes excuses for not putting words on a page. He needs to wash his clothes, or go to the supermarket, teach a class, or post something witty and engaging on Twitter.

Rich writer puts everything else off on behalf of the word count, unless of course, it's a family emergency.

Poor writer often finds himself working in an unhealthy environment, be it at home or the office (assuming he must have a day job to survive financially)

Rich writer creates a positive, if not fun, work environment. Maybe he builds a writing studio out back, or he converts the garage into an office. Maybe, as in my case, he rents a studio apartment to use as an office. Or maybe he rents a cabin in the woods or goes to Europe for months at a time to concentrate only on writing.

Poor writer never rewards himself for his words. He is far too self critical. His work never seems literary enough, intellectual, or smart enough to impress his peers. He sometimes considers suicide.

Rich writer high-fives himself at the end of the day. He actually has fun reading over his daily word count as though he were one of his own fans. He often asks himself, "Did I really write that?" He loves life because he's making a living from his writing and his life does not suck.

Poor writer never sets goals for himself because artists don't put limits on themselves. They work organically. If the words want to come, they will come. If they don't want to come, they won't.

Rich writer forces the words, like a miner who shows up for work on a cold, gloomy, rainy Monday morning, chipping away at the granite with his pick axe in search of a single gold nugget. It's hard work, but it has to be done.

Poor writer rarely seeks the opinion of someone who isn't already a sycophant, like a fellow writing professor or perhaps his wife.

Rich writer seeks out honest opinions from total strangers and he takes his Amazon and Goodreads reviews seriously, but not too seriously.

Poor writer feels as though he's at the top of his game. The market just hasn't recognized his genius yet. He'd rather be poor than a sell out.

Rich writer feels as though he is always learning, always reaching, always seeking self-improvement. The market has already rewarded him to a degree, but he'd like to turn on more readers and make more money. Lot's more money.

Poor writer doesn't bother with learning anything new.

Rich writer spends a portion of his day seeking out advice from more successful authors/peers not only on the subject of writing, but also marketing.

Poor writer dreads the inevitable writer's block.  He's too tired from working all day.

Rich writer never gets writers block. He's too busy writing all day.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Check out my new book on writing. The Hybrid Authors Mindset. 


 



Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Lady in the Gift Shop

The gym where I lift weights in Florence, Italy, is located on the second floor of a century-plus old building. In fact, I think it used to be a library or a bookstore as evidenced by its beautiful hardwood floors and nineteenth century spiral staircase (which is enclosed in glass according to Italy's stringent historical preservation laws).

During the small breaks between sets, I sometimes go to the window for a breath of fresh air. The window looks out onto the busy cobbled street below.

It also looks upon a small gift shop. 

The shop proprietor is an attractive, forty-something brunette woman who always dresses in black, be it a skirt and tights, or slacks. She always wears high heels too. Fashionista. I don't know how many years I've been coming to Italy for my extended writing retreats (I've spent the past 20 years traveling for assignments of one kind or another), but it's been more than a decade. That same woman has been tending to the same shop with the same merchandise for all that time. Everyday her routine is the same. She opens up the glass door, sweeps and mops the wood floor till it's so clean you can eat off of it. She then does something peculiar. She arranges and re-arranges the already perfectly displayed little knickknacks and jewelry that are for sale.

This attention to detail has always perplexed me. When she arrives, the items have already been set in place as well as anyone can set them. They really don't need any attention at all. But she takes the time to shift an item here and an item there, always taking a step back to review and evaluate the move in her head, like an artist would examine a carefully applied brushstroke or maybe a professional chess player thinking and rethinking a move. My workout can sometimes last up to an hour and all during that hour, she will be arranging and rearranging the little gifts. The decorative shot glasses, the bracelets, the necklaces, the little glass trees, and miniature Ponte Vecchios and Duomos.

Her dedication to job and duty...her pride...got me to thinking about my books. All too often, we publish a book and simply forget about it. It's done, finished, published. Not much more can be done to improve upon it other than a little marketing. But marketing doesn't improve the product. It merely pushes the existing product, great, good, or piss poor. And it's tough these days for publishers big and small to market a book, unless you're Lee Child.

The books my publishers put out, God bless them, are untouchable once published. The publishers simply do not have the time nor the resources to correct editorial mistakes. If a word or two is misspelled, well then, suck it up buttercup. But when it comes to the books I indie publish under my own label, Bear Media, I am able to make corrections. I can fix any misspellings, mess with the cover if it isn't right, or work on improving the product description.

Maybe the book has been published for years. Maybe even six or seven years. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved upon. I can bet the woman in the gift shop who is constantly dusting off the merchandise and improving upon its presentation is never satisfied. She can always do better for her customers. I'm no different from the lady in the gift shop. If I can make even a single adjustment in the copy in one of my books, and take a step back to examine it, like a sculptor who's just made the the most delicate of cuts in a statue he carved a decade ago, then it's worth the effort.

Art might be abandoned, but room for improvement is infinite.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Grab The Sam Savage Boxed Set for the weekend and binge some escapist action, adventure, and romance.




   

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

One True Sentence


When it came to writer's block, or the prevention thereof, Hemingway once coined the famous dictum, "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." Ever since then, scholars have been scratching their heads as to his precise meaning and Papa is no doubt still laughing his balls off even from the grave.

What the hell does that mean? Write one true sentence.

Okay, I get it. You gotta get the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and emotions spot on. Like a reporter would do for a newspaper story (Hemingway started out as a newspaper reporter). He would strive for accuracy in setting and action. But Papa was writing fiction which by definition is a big fat lie masquerading as the truth. Even if you're writing dystopian sci fi, you're going for as believable a book as possible.

But by writing that first true sentence, which in my case is usually a false sentence that should somehow read as something that, theoretically anyway, could have happened (or be happening in the case of the first person POV), I'm creating a kind of truth that would otherwise not have existed. Get my meaning here? I'm creating a whole new world, new characters with real drama, real problems that are at times life threatening. I write thrillers after all.

I just spent the past six weeks writing 70K words for a new book that takes place ten years in the future called Primary Termination. It's about a consumer-centric online company that essentially controls every aspect of your life and the Resistance movement that rebels against it. How did I begin a novel that takes place in a year that hasn't occurred yet, based around a plot that can only be imagined?

I wrote one true sentence.

"She's drowning in her own air." It's the first sentence of the prologue and it's the truth because my protagonist is running for her life. Then I wrote what would happen next and what would happen after that and so on and so forth. All of it is true and all of it is a lie at the same time. A fabrication based on a perceived truth. A sculpture, a painting, a sketch, a video game, a film, a song, an illusion, a book...it's all true and it's all made up.

One true sentence. It's what I have in the place of writer's block.
Thanks Papa.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

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