Monday, May 30, 2011

Why Go Indie? Control, Control, Control...

"The writing is on the wall...and the Kindle."







I love these stories.
Stories about old "legacy" model published authors switching to the indie publishing model (be it self-publishing or traditionally based small indie), and achieving so much success they can then make a good living from their fiction.

Terry ODell is one such author who, previously published by Five-Star/Gale is now pursuing self-publishing. In her newest blog at Terry's Place (http://terryodell.blogspot.com/2011/05/e-publishing-dangers.html), ODell spells out the pros and cons of making the move from the old publishing model to the new indie model. I'm repeating them here. And even though they are specific to her individual circumstances, I'm sure these pros and cons will speak to each and every author who frequents the Vox:

Pros:
No lengthy wait time.
Keeps "new" material in front of readers.
Royalty payments come directly to me.
It's not as much of a 'suspense' as the other books, and the 'covert ops' side of things is less of a focus, so it's quite likely the publisher wouldn't have acquired it anyway, since they no longer have a romance imprint.

Cons:
To ensure quality, I paid a free-lance editor and a cover artist out of pocket. I also made the decision to keep the cover "similar" in tone to the other Blackthorne books, even though it's not an obvious "romantic suspense." And because I used photographs I'd taken, I saved some money there.
I had to deal with the other things a publisher normally does. In the case of an e-book, that means formatting it for the various outlets (and there are different requirements for each). It also means I'm solely responsible for marketing.

Regardless of what's pro about ODell's situation or con, the one thing that sticks out most of all is the control she now has over her books. From writing, to bringing them to market, to editing, to cover design to marketing, she is solely responsible. No longer is she at the mercy of a publisher who might take three months to consider her new material only to reject it in the end, or what could even be worse, accept it but not publish it for a a year to two years and then hang on to the rights for a decade beyond that.

One thing I'll suggest to Terry is that if she considers editing and marketing a "con" she might think about submitting her material to a popular maverick indie press like StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink. It's true she would be expected to market like crazy on her own, but their marketing efforts would also increase her chances of breaking into the Top 100 Kindles and/or Nooks exponentially. She also wouldn't have to worry about editing, formatting, conversions, covers, etc. They would naturally do all that for her, allowing her more time and, more control over that time.

Time better spent writing.


GET CONCRETE PEARL, the New Bestselling Thriller by the No. 1 Internationally Bestselling Kindle Author, Vincent Zandri!!!!

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Thursday, May 26, 2011

PART II of my Q & A with J. Carson Black: The Question of Multiple Climaxes

"Sally, obviously enjoying the big bologna at Katz's Deli!"





Ok, get your mind out of the gutter.
This is a family show after all.
But what J.Carson Black has me exploring this time is this: Is it possible for an indie author experience multiple climaxes with his or her books or, what's known as "spikes" up the E-Book, Kindle, and NOOK bestseller lists?

My simple answer is "yes."

While in traditional publishing, it's more common to have a single spike after which the book will slow down and hopefully enjoy steady sales (as Black points out in her query to me), it's more likely that with the indie publishing model, our books can enjoy multiple spikes for as long as we live, or for as long as E-Readers are sold to the reading public, which will be forever and ever.

Unlike in traditional publishing, we authors can better control our pricing (in my case, I consult with my publisher, Aaron Patterson, at StoneGate Ink, who is always receptive to price changes if it's worth it). Take THE INNOCENT for instance, which reached No. 3 on the Amazon Kindle E-Book Bestseller list last month, and stayed in the Top 10 for more than a month. It rose up like a rocket after we changed the price from $2.99 to $.99. But what also fueled this fire was that the novel had just been the subject of a month long virtual tour, and the cyberwaves were full of fresh reviews and interviews regarding the book.

Since May 1st, 'Innocent' has been priced at either $3.99 or back to it's $2.99, and it's never descended lower than 270 or so. Which means we're probably making more money by not being priced at $.99 and holding our own in the top 10. While I'll sell somewhere around 12K copies of 'Innocent' this month, I'd have to sell around 70K in order to receive the same cash payout at the $.99 price. That's a lot of books.

But...and this is a big BUTTTT....Books that are able to reach not only the Top 100 of the Amazon Kindle Bestseller List, but the Top 25, help propel your other higher priced books. Just take a look at Black's novels. Incredibly, she has something like 4 books in the Top 100 right now, and these books are almost certainly fueling one another. With a $.99 price tag, they are priced to sell, netting her a very nice payday. If she were to price some of her novels at $2.99 or even $3.99, they might not reside in the T0p 100 but they would certainly generate a whole lot of pretty green for her.

So can THE INNOCENT achieve a multiple climax?
Almost certainly.
There are certain books that will drag ass no matter how much you push them. There are other books that will sell steadily at a certain range and not move too far up or down no matter what you do (those are you money makers...your bread and butter books)). Then there are those books that will do better than others if given the slightest nudge, and THE INNOCENT seems to be one of them. Right now it's selling at around 200, making us a nice, fair profit. But I'm certain StoneGate will run a special at some point in the future and when it does, the novel will likely work it's way into a hot, loud, screaming climax.

But remember folks, it ain't all about pricing. It's more about great writing, and putting out a lot of books. You never know which ones are going to take off. So concentrate more on the writing as a craft and you will succeed. Inevitably, it's your best marketing tool. If the writing is no good, you'd better plan on getting a real job.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Bestselling "Silver Bullet" Revisited: Bestselling Author J.Carson Black Chimes In!

"The Killer Bestselling Author... Don't rust that smile for a minute!"



My friend and colleague J.Carson Black and I have a pretty good dialogue going about what makes a bestselling Kindle and E-Book (or paper book for that matter) as opposed to what might sink one. Her books are not only beautiful she knows her chops as an author and her audience is growing by leaps and bounds, as she sells around 2,000 Kindles per day alone. She mentions below that she made it a goal to chase me down in the ranks, and she did so, and surpassed me. Now this is the kind of "friendly" competition I can sink my teeth into (see why writers can't be married to one another????). Now here this J, I'm comin' back after ya!!!!

As for her take on the question, "Is there a silver bullet to bestselling novel?" I give you:

I really do think people make their own luck. There are many things that go into a bestselling book. Quality is number one, but there are other factors, and some of these are… amorphous at best. Selling well starts off with a good product, great packaging, a willingness to make choices as they come up, learning from your mistakes, and dropping to 99 cents when the evidence is overwhelming that you should do so. But I also think it helps to watch and learn from those who are ahead of you, and try not just to emulate them, but to consciously try to get where they are. It's like a long-distance runner who sees the runner ahead of him and sets out to reach him. I certainly kept my eye on Vince and tried to chase him down. (I didn't exactly think of myself as a missile acquiring a target, but that’s the idea.)

There have been studies that overweight people are friends with other overweight people. I’m sure that’s true in a number of categories—like seeking like for friendship, comfort, and inspiration; people unconsciously seeing themselves in others. I knew I had a good book, so I thought, why not see myself in really good company? I don’t view that as wishful thinking. I view it as a goal. There are many goals that can lead you to where you want to be, and trying to chase Vince down was one of mine.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

To Order the new CONCRETE PEARL go here:
http://www.amazon.com/Concrete-Pearl-ebook/dp/B00507GLIS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1306010131&sr=1-1

For J.Carson Black's Website:
http://jcarsonblack.com/

Saturday, May 21, 2011

An Inspiring Visit with NYT Bestselling Author, Debbi Mack

"Seaside with the New York Times Bestselling author, Debbi Mack"


Currently these are the bestsellers in Amazon Hard-Boiled Mysteries:

Bestsellers in Hard-Boiled Mystery

The most popular items in Hard-Boiled Mystery. (Learn more)

  1. 1.
    Vincent Zandri (Author)
    Auto-delivered wirelessly
    $0.99
  2. 2.
    Vincent Zandri (Author)
    Auto-delivered wirelessly
    $3.99
  3. 3.
    Debbi Mack (Author)
    Auto-delivered wirelessly
    $0.99
  4. 4.
    Debbi Mack (Author)
    Auto-delivered wirelessly
    $0.99
  5. 5.
    Vincent Zandri (Author)
    Auto-delivered wirelessly
    $2.99
For the past two months I've been vying for the same positions as Debbi Mack, a writer whom I hadn't heard of until I made the connection one Sunday morning not too long ago when I saw her name appear on the New York Times Bestseller List. Not only was I taken aback since she and I share those top spots, but also because (and astonishingly so), she is a self-published author. A few days later, my former agent and I were speaking on the phone and we got to talking about the stats and she revealed having attended a writing group with Debbi, and what a talented and pretty cool person she was. Finally, like Debbi will attest in her guest blog, we hooked up again on LinkIn over a discussion about indie publishing and what's expected of us now as authors as opposed to a decade ago when I published with Random House imprints. Debbi is not only a committed and talented author, but she literally is forced to write in pain everyday due to a rare condition called Dystonia. Her head is also in the right "Zen" place. She writes because that's what she does and it is who she is. She would be waking up and doing the same thing everyday regardless of her bestselling status. She is a pure artist and frankly, I feel somewhat ashamed of myself for getting caught up with numbers and rankings at times more than I should the writing. If you're a writer, writing should be the most important thing. Just ask Debbi Mack, she has some wonderful words to shed on the subject:

When Vincent invited me to write a post for his blog, it was during a discussion on LinkedIn. (Remember LinkedIn? J Some of us still hang out there.) We were talking about the usual subjects – marketing ebooks, promoting our work online, that sort of thing.

I think Vincent mentioned something about readers expecting us to publish a book every six months or so. I couldn’t resist saying something at that point. You see, I have a problem. I try not to make a big deal about it, but I don’t keep it a secret, either.

I had a stroke in November 1994, due to a post-operative blood clot going through a hole between the atria in my heart (i.e., due to a complete fluke set of circumstances). About five or six months after that, and despite what seemed to be a complete recovery from the stroke, I developed the third most common movement disorder (after Parkinson’s and tremors) called dystonia. As it happens, dystonia has no cure.

This disorder causes constant clenching and contortion of my left hand and foot. (The side affected by the stroke – coincidence? Don’t think so.) And when I say constant, I mean 24/7, day in and day out. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every … oh, you get the idea.

And as for treatments, well … the story is not so good. There are some, but they don’t really work completely. They are, at best, hit or miss. The best neurologists do things and say, “Let’s see what happens.” (In other words, “We don’t WTF we’re doing, but this is our best guess.”)

And alternative medicine. Yeah, been there, done that, spent the money. Currently trying acupuncture. Seems to be doing something. Slowly. Very slowly. Patience, grasshopper.

And pain. Like you wouldn’t believe sometimes. Picture your hand being slowly twisted in a medieval torture device that never, ever stops. Lovely, isn’t it? J

Okay. Now, back to what we were talking about. Publishing a story every six months? No, I don’t think so. Sorry.

And then … Vincent said something even funnier! He mentioned that we were vying for position as #1 in some Amazon category! Well …

I won’t lie. Being #1 is awesome and all, but it’s not why I wake up in the morning and write.

And for me, success is measured in way more than mere numbers.

For me, success is being able to force myself out of bed and convince myself to keep going, despite everything.

And I write because I enjoy telling stories, and I want to tell the best stories I possibly can. No matter how long that takes.

Success is also being able to make a living as a writer, despite all the work that entails. This would not only include all the concentration and creative effort that goes into writing the work, but the physical act of using my hands to type the words. Not to mention all the marketing and promotion.

As for speech recognition software, well … have you ever used it? I have. Two words: it sucks.

Writing this post itself takes not only energy, but decision making. I don’t wish to present myself as an object of pity. However, I am interested in raising public awareness of dystonia. So I find myself striking a fine balance between talking about the matter and not talking about it too much.

Success is summoning up the blind faith to keep going in the face of what, at times, has seemed to be insurmountable odds and endless obstacles.

Frankly, achieving bestseller status is (pardon the cliché) just icing on the cake.

Author bio:

Debbi Mack is the author of two hardboiled mystery novels: New York Times ebook bestseller IDENTITY CRISIS and Kindle bestseller LEAST WANTED, both featuring her lawyer protagonist Sam McRae. Her third book in the series ALIEN SHORES should be released by the end of the year. She’s published several short stories, including an ebook anthology called FIVE UNEASY PIECES, and has been nominated for a Derringer Award. A former attorney, Debbi has also worked as a journalist, librarian and freelance writer/researcher. Her Web site is www.debbimack.com and her blog My Life on the Mid-List is at http://midlistlife.wordpress.com.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is There a "Silver Bullet" to Achieving Bestselling E-Book Sales?







(What follows is part one of an ongoing informal Q&A I've got going with bestselling author J.Carson Black. The Q&A will be published in parts here and on Black's blog and eventually in its entirety)

The Silver Bullet for bestselling book sales: Does it actually exist?
My humble opinion: There is no silver bullet per se, when it comes to selling a lot of E-Books, Nooks and Kindles, so much as there are "bullets."

What's for certain is that every E-Book which is successful (and paper book for that matter) will have at least four things in common:

1. A great cover.
2. An intriguing and well written product description.
3. A price that says "Buy me" to impulse buyers ($.99 is a good place to start).
4. Great writing and a great story.

The other stuff or, in this case, more bullets: Social Networking on Facebook and Twitter helps keep you in the know, and so do virtual tours. Every published author has to maintain an up-to-date blog these days, and it pays to put out as many books as you can write well in a reasonable amount of time since you never know which title or titles is simply going to take off. Bestsellers like Aaron Patterson and JA Konrath have reminded us of the important of title proliferation time and time again in their own blogs.

The one silver bullet no one can control however is this: Luck.

Some books either have it or they don't. There are books out there that get terrible reviews and win no prizes that somehow hit the Amazon Top Ten Bestselling Kindle E-Book List and there are books that win major awards like the Edgar and receive wonderful reviews that tank in the marketplace. You simply never can tell.

I'm convinced my new books have sold well in part because I've published two novels with the big legacy publishers in New York City. Titles that received a lot of praise from such notable publications as Publishers Weekly, The Boston Herald and the New York Post. Those reviews are mine to keep forever and ever, and my new publisher at StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink does not hesitate to display them prominently now that the same books, THE INNOCENT and GODCHILD are republished and enjoying Top 100 Amazon Kindle Bestseller status ("Innocent" was in the Top Ten for a month).

However, despite all the above, if you were to twist my arm and hold me down on the ground and demand one solid answer to the question, "What's the silver bullet?" the closest sure bet would be price. Simply said, when a title is $.99 it tends to sell. On the other hand, there are many more books priced at $.99 that DO NOT SELL than there are books that move! Remember what I just said about luck?

There's something else to consider about price: Do these "one buck" discounted e-books make the kind of money that a novel priced at $2.99 or even $3.99 will make? Not by a long shot. But if you are lucky, you might move a thousand or more per day and that will give you a great Amazon ranking.

"Innocent" was priced at $.99 for a short time. But at the start of this month it went back to its normal, $3.99 price tag. At the same time we witnessed a steady drop in ranking from No. 3 to around 90-120 over the past three weeks (after moving around 80,000 - 100,000 units in eight weeks). Trust me when I say we are pleasantly surprised. A price increase of 400% raised the possibility of the novel immediately plummeting in ranking to somewhere back in the 4 figures. But "Innocent" has proven its worth with a great cover, great product description, great reviews, and what I hope is very good story. What it won't do at that price however, is entice many of the impulse buyers who buy now/read later. Still, the novel is making far more money at the new, higher price. And we feel that $3.99 is still a bargain. Have you bought a Big Mac lately?

So, to repeat, there is no silver bullet when it comes to selling books, but there are bullets. And each and every one of them is painted with a layer of luck in order for them to hit their target.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dudes Writing from a Dame's POV

"Ok, lucky kid, I know... But AJ would make a great AJ "Spike" Harrison."






I'm a dude.
A guy.
A boy.
I have a pee-pee and I like football games, weight lifting, beer, wings, black coffee and toasted hard-rolls, shooting guns, facial hair, scratching my ass in public, spitting, swearing, Clint Eastwood, Hemingway, Levis, cowboy boots, cut-off T-shirts, drums, violence of all sorts and varieties, sexy girls, and no, I don't eat quiche and tough guys don't dance (unless it's with the devil).

So how is it that I've just written my third novel from a female point of view, and somehow gotten away with it? Last summer, when THE REMAINS was first released, I was asked that very question a lot by both interviewers and fans. And now that my newest novel in a series, CONCRETE PEARL has been released by StoneGate Ink, I will almost surely get asked the question again and again.

So, in order to cut to the chase, here's my answer.

Truth is, I don't freakin' know how I'm able to pull off the female POV.

But I can tell you this: I grew up entirely surrounded by women. My mom, and my two sisters. My dad worked a lot, like lots of dads back in the 60's and 70's, and he couldn't be around all the time. Plus I was a bit of a loner so, when I was home, I was home with girls. And man, could they fight!

Then my parents moved me to a new neighborhood when I was 7 years old, and much to their chagrin, but my pleasant surprise, the kids in the hood were almost entirely female. And yah, they were real cute. How I figured this out at 7 years old I'll never know, but I should have known back then I'd be in for a life-time of heartache.

But, I digress...

Later on in my teens, I would become one of those dudes who always had to have a girlfriend. You know, the type who can't be alone with himself for too long. Which might seem strange since you all know me as a bachelor who works alone and often travels alone. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. I'm just getting off a breakup now with a girl I was seeing on and off for almost two years and yah, it hurts. I might be a boy, but I'm also sensitive (wiping a tear from my right eye...)

In my 20s and 30s, I would become the guy who always had to be married. Luckily however, after two failed marriages, I've learned not to jump into the a third one so quickly. What else have I learned? That just because a woman smiles at you doesn't mean she wants to bear your children. But I digress once again...

So, what's my point?

Ah yes, the female POV.

Well, as far as CONCRETE PEARL goes, Ava "Spike" Harrison was easy. She's a construction business owner and a tough but sexy broad who also likes to solve a good mystery now and again. Especially when her size 8 ass and even her life is on the line, as it is in "Pearl." I too grew up in the construction business and had I chosen to, could have been a construction business owner.

Don't confuse Spike for a guy with boobs, she's a real woman who enjoys men, but who can hold her own with the toughest guys. And she doesn't carry a gun. For an "equalizer" she likes to carry around a framing hammer, and she's not afraid to use it should some dude take a swipe at her or try and place his paws someplace where they don't belong.

Think "Tomb Raider" meets "The Woman's Murder Club" and you'll begin to have an idea of what Spike and her new series will be all about.

Ok, that's it for now, I have to go get my nails done, and I'm feeling bloated and I have a headache. I've been crying a lot lately too ... at the littlest things.....

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Friday, May 13, 2011

Indie Publishers Achieve the Impossible

"The novel that has become the poster child for the new publishing model that achieved what the big legacy publishers could not: Consistent Amazon Top 100 sales."






I came across a blog yesterday by writer/marketing expert Robin Sullivan of Michigan (Write to Publish) who seems to have her finger pressed against the pulse of self and indie publishing, especially the Amazon Top 100 for Kindle E-Books. For the past few months she has been watching the progress of my novel THE INNOCENT (as well as it's sequel, GODCHILD), and in the meantime, reported some interesting facts on its position in the Top 100 these past 57 days, the most interesting of which, if not ironic, is this: the new self-publishing model has enabled me to make a living as a traditionally published author.
A good living.

In other words, since my indie publisher StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink runs their operation on only a fraction of the overhead of that of the big boy legacy pubs in NYC who used to publish both THE INNOCENT and GODCHILD, they are able to liberally play with pricing. In this case, THE INNOCENT was priced at $.99 for about a month allowing it to reach as far as No. 4 in the Top 100. Once that happened, StoneGate then changed the price to $4.99 in order that we might increase our profits for the month of May, which has worked. The risk that can occur from such a dramatic pricing shift is that the novel could be bumped out of the Top 100 in a matter of a couple of days. But INNOCENT has shown some resilience in hanging in there for 13 days now at the new price, or about half the month.

Add to that another price change down to $3.99 as of yesterday afternoon, and it's possible we'll hang in there for the entire month. Time will tell. But even if we don't, we will have made as much money in the past two month on THE INNOCENT as I made when I cashed my first big advance check for the novel (and that check was about as much as some people make in a whole year!).

Which leads me to conclude: StoneGate Ink has been able to pull off what Random House could not. It has made both THE INNOCENT and GODCHILD Top 100 Bestsellers and it made them profitable. The publisher has also gave the novels staying power by recognizing that a novel isn't something that's static once it's released to the public; or something that you toss up against the wall to see if it sticks. A novel and it's pricing is something that must constantly be tweaked and honed, until it finds its own sweet spot.

But regardless of pricing, the most important thing the indie publisher has done for me is to generate an audience of enthusiastic fans that now measures in the hundreds of thousands.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"One True Sentence"

"1920's Paris was where Hemingway sought to write the 'one true sentence.'"







Then there was a young man who no longer wanted to pursue a traditional education. That young man would be my son, Harrison, whom we refer to as "Bear" because he looks like one in every bit of that cuddly, dark, and furry curl-up-to-him kind of way. Recently the Bear came to me to ask if he could stop attending his high school (where he was an A student) in order to pursue a writing career. Naturally I was both thrilled and frightened by this notion. While on one hand I was happy that he wanted to engage in a career that has become my own life-passion, I was also concerned that he too would have to experience many of the pitfalls, calamities, frustrations, depressions, losses too many to count, and all those hardships that can go with the writing life, not to mention being scary broke at times.

But having expressed my feelings to him (and some of these so called "expressions" occurred in the form of heated discussions to say the least), I acquiesced to his desires. And I did so for one reason and one reason only. I wanted him to be happy.

Fast forward to the present.

That said, the young literary neophyte hasn't given up his education. It's just that his education is no longer the traditional public high school You-Read-What-We-Tell-You-To-Read-Or-Else program. Now, I'm more or less home-schooling the Bear and in the process, utilizing my library of paper books and his brand new Kindle as a learning tool.

We've been focusing a lot on Hemingway as a foundation, since Papa was so instrumental in my own education and also because the public high schools of today have fallen out of favor with Hemingway as not being "PC." This past Sunday we sat down for two hours to watch a two-part biography on Ernest Hemingway produced by the BBC in the mid 1980s that I had video-taped off the television back when I wasn't that much older than the Bear. Having watched the program for the first time in years, I was once again struck by Hemingway's notion of wanting to write "one true sentence;" how as a young writer struggling to write his first publishable stories in 1920's Paris, Hemingway came up with the idea that if he could only write the truest sentence he knew, then the rest of the words would follow. When the writing was finally going well, he could stop for the day in a place where he would know what would happen next. That way he could be assured of continuing on the next day with, of course, another "true sentence."

Writing from a cold room that overlooked a sawmill in the Montparnasse section of Paris, Hemingway expressed the difficulty in trying to write one true sentence along with the story that would follow. On the days "it wouldn't come," he would have to remind himself that he had written before and he would most definitely write again. But in his words, you not only sense an overriding fear or anxiety that it might never come again, you also sense a tragic prophecy in the making:

"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."

I remember a writing teacher of mine giving a lecture to the student body of my MFA school up in Vermont posing the question: "What the hell does 'one true sentence mean?'" I guess in the usual academic sense of beginning with a subject and adding a verb to it in order to spark some action and inevitably a plot, the concept of "one true sentence" might not exactly fit the bill for would-be writers trying to learn their chops. But in the context of where Hemingway was at in his young life, and how his entire well-being would come to depend upon that first sentence, and the one that would follow that, and the one that would follow that, "true" begins to take on another meaning entirely other than something that is real, or that had certainly happened, or that he had personally witnessed. True begins to take on a more philosophical context of self. Rather, in this case, the existential parts (or personalities) that make up the self and that are constantly at battle with one another.

In learning to write one true sentence, Hemingway was chiseling away the rock that was his outer shell, and revealing his true being. He was striving to reveal his inner core and the hell of it is, is that he had no choice but to engaged in the impossible task all alone. The young man who would come to write unmistakably stylized classic like "Big Two-Hearted River," "A Farewell to Arms," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," and "The Old Man and the Sea," would reflect this battle with the individual self in his anti-hero characters who will have no choice but to fight and die alone, and do so "tragically." This individual battle with the self to write one true sentence is precisely the process my son is just starting to go through, and that I still go through everyday I place a pencil to a blank sheet of paper or face the infinite blankness of the computer screen. This sense of not knowing what will happen, and having no one to depend upon other than yourself to make it happen. That's what it means to write one true sentence, and it doesn't surprise me in the least that an MFA in Writing Prof would miss the point entirely.

It's a frightening reality contemplating the day when that one true sentence won't come anymore. For Bear, that doesn't seem to be a possibility while he spends his days learning his craft and mortality to him is at best a vague concept. It doesn't for me either, as I enter into my middle years and hopefully, my stride as an a prolific author and journalist. What I worry about more are the later years, when our faculties fail us as human beings, and the writing, which takes as much emotional, mental, and physical strength as it does creativity, doesn't come as easily. That time when we face the void and the void wins out.

In the early summer of 1961, Hemingway the man of blood, bone and flesh, was beginning to fail. And it took a toll on his ability to write his "one true sentence." In his own words spoken with tear-filled eyes to his then private doctor, George Saviors,MD, Papa sadly admitted, "It just won't come anymore, George."

That's when Hemingway performed the last, most truest final act of his life by placing both barrels of a shotgun inside his mouth, pressing them up against the soft upper palate, and thumbing back the triggers.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Past is Prologue: Oh How We've Changed Since 2001

"Hard to believe there was a time you could light up in a bar!"




It's a one of those existential Saturday mornings after a later night gig with The Blisterz, when I'm sitting at my writing desk, a little worn and torn from having only gone to bed a few hours ago and back up pretty much with the sunlight as its rays sneak their way into my bedroom through the cracks in the shades. It's been a monumental week in that we got Osama. It took us ten years but, like everyone like's to put it, "We got him."

That said, I'm not about to get into some political OBL thing. He was a cold blooded killer who committed mass murder in the name of God, and the world is a better place without him. What I'm thinking about is how so much the world as we knew it has changed in the past decade.

Curiously, back then, I used to smoke cigs, and I can recall sitting in a bar in New York with my then editor while we smoked and drank. GODCHILD had just been released for the first time, so I was still in a hopeful of its success, and we were still young enough that we could party into the early hours of the next morning. Since that time, smoking has been banned in public places in New York, and I in turn quit the cancer sticks almost six years ago now, and I can no longer party in the early hours.

I remember enjoying long jogs on the East River back then (I used to stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel located nearby back when it was still an inexpensive European style hotel). In those days you'd see all the joggers with portable CD players strapped to their waists and the headphones in their ears. The players, though small were cumbersome and sometimes it was easier to hold it in your hand while you ran. Now the CD player is a dinosaur while MP3 players, Ipods, and Smartphones give you a million choices in songs all packaged in a far smaller, far more lightweight, portable music distribution system.

Back then, I only took my laptop with me on my travels when it was necessary. The laptop of 2001 was thick, and heavy, and the battery hardly ever worked for more than an hour. Plus you needed to carry an external floppy drive. Now laptops are practically credit card thin and some batteries last up to eight hours. Or you can simply go for the mini-laptop, which is great to travel with (I wrote all my dispatches from Africa with one). Floppy disks? Huh?

Almost every weekend back in 2001, I would rent movies from the Hollywood video. Or the Blockbuster. Often times we wouldn't bring the VHS cassette tapes back on time and we'd be hit up with a late fee. The video stores are gone now, since you can order what you want, when you want on Netflix and similar online sites, and no longer do you have to put up with that tiny Monday morning annoyance of seeing the tape rental sitting out on top of the kitchen table.

If I drove down to New York from Albany, which I often did since gas was around $1.50 per gallon, I'd bring along a bunch of CDs. Those are gone now too since you can plug your Ipod into the dash and rock your socks out on whatever you want. Back in 2001 I had a combination CD/Cassette player in my new Jeep. You might still be able to find CDs, but not cassettes. The CDs of course, have to be ordered online since the record store has disappeared since 2001.

In our travels, I usually carried books, or bought books at my destination. Back then, I never would have imagined the demise of the bookstore, but as of this writing, I can recall more bookstores that have closed than I can the ones that remain open. These include bookstores that I have signed my own published books at. Now, Borders is gone and Barnes and Nobles is right behind them. How are people reading my bestselling books, like THE INNOCENT and THE REMAINS nowadays? Via E-Readers like the Kindle and the Nook. They're also getting their newspaper and magazine fixes from these E-readers while some people just choose to do it all on their IPads. Oh yeah, did I mention that newsprint newspapers used to be state-of-the-art back in 2001?

I'm still thinking about how it seems like only yesterday I was having that drink with my then editor in New York where I used to be published. Well, that publishing house is gone now. Technically it's there in name, but it was swallowed up in a corporate consolidation that left a lot of editors and authors unemployed. I was one of them. So was my editor. My then agent is gone too, along with his agency; along with a lot of literary agencies. They're just not that necessary anymore. Like the cassette tape and Hollywood Video, they are becoming obsolete.

Likewise, over the last ten years the big legacy publishers in New York have begun to see their power over authors and what they deem salable diminish due to the influx of indie presses like StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink, and/or the acceptance of self-publishing via Kindle, as legitimate. The publishing world is in the midst of a revolution that's giving way to a golden age for authors. Good authors. Something I never would have believed back in 2001. Established blockbuster authors like James Frey and Barry Eisler now self-publish their work.

I don't self-publish, but these days I publish my material through an indie press, and it's proved to be one of the best career moves I could have ever made since 2001. This weekend, I'll make more profit from online E-book sales than I did in all of 2001. In one week, I'll make more in E-book royalties than I did in all of 2002 and 2003 combined. In a month I will make more than the average New York Legacy Publisher "Nice" advance. In one year, it's possible I will make more money as an indie published author than the Governor of New York State.

A lot has changed in the past ten years, much of which none of us saw coming. Some people are still ignoring the writing on the wall. They believe the E-Book will just be a fad. They want to smell and feel a "real book" in their hands. Well, I've got news for you, the "smell" they are always referring too is also long gone. So is "that feel." In the years since 2001, paper book publishers have, for the most part, switched over to a far cheaper paper stock. It was a cost conscious move. That cheap paper no longer has that feel and the smell of the old quality printed books we used to know and love back when 8-track cassette tapes were all the rage.

It's 2011. The monster that was OBL is dead and gone. So is much of the way we lived our life back in the earliest years of this new century. Something tells me that the next ten years will bring even more astounding change, and that much of it will be good for those who embrace it, and bad for those who insist on living in the past.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM