EBooks ARE a Game Changer

It’s been exactly one year since I uploaded my Lawson Vampire backlist to Amazon and Barnes & Noble and started selling them as ebooks for the Kindle & Nook. Prior to doing so, the way I made money as a writer was as follows:

1. Come up with an idea that I was both excited about AND had tremendous marketing potential (in other words, one that would hopefully sell a gazillion copies)
2. Write up an exhaustive proposal package containing the idea, a synopsis of the first book, sample chapters, character breakdowns, marketing competition analysis, and a marketing plan.
3. Submit this to my agent, who would then submit the package to a number of editors.
4. Wait.
5. Wait.
6. Get rejections from most editors; maybe get an acceptance from another.
7. Wait.
8. Wait.
9. Get an offer. Usually this offer was in the low five-figures. Certainly, it was never enough to “live on” in the real world.
10. Wait.
11. Wait.
12. Eventually, a contract would arrive at my agent’s office. My agent would then go over the contract, argue certain clauses, get push-back, etc. etc.
13. Wait.
14. Wait.
15. Eventually, I would receive my advance check after it had first gone to my agent who took his 15%. An advance is just that: an advance against future royalties. Said royalties would normally be a low percentage of the retail price, ranging from 6% at the low end to 10% at the high end.
16. Wait for the book to be published – usually at least one year from the contract signing. In some case, up to two years.
17. The book goes on sale.
18. Wait.
19. Wait.
20. Traditional publishers give you an accounting of sales of your book twice each year. If your book sells well, it is at this point that you get “paid.”
21. Except that your pay, in this case, actually goes back to cover the cost of your advance. When you “earn out” that means you’ve made enough to cover the advance the publisher paid you. If you’ve sold well enough, you then earn royalties beyond that advance and get paid.
22. Except that publishers have this antiquated business model that allows the book sellers to pay them long after they get the books. So publishers have this nefarious little clause called “Reserves Against Returns,” which means they hold onto a sizable chunk of any money you’ve earned beyond your advance in order to cover the possibility that some of the books the bookstores “bought” might come back to the warehouse if the title doesn’t move.
23. Wait another six months and repeat #22.
24. Hopefully, somewhere down the road, you actually earn out and see royalties.
25. In the meantime, your agent is *hopefully* (and I say, hopefully because an awful lot seem to NOT pursue this very aggressively even though they should) selling subsidiary rights like audio, foreign translations, film/TV, etc. which earns you more money. But your agent undoubtedly has other clients vying for his attention, so your subsidiary rights get forgotten, unless you hustle your ass off and bring deals to them directly. And even though you were the one that went and got those deals, your agent still takes a nice cut.

While all this is going on, you are simultaneously writing new proposals and doing work-for-hire novels – possibly to the tune of writing eleven Rogue Angel novels like I did (if you live in the real world, that is, where you must make up the shortfall of that crummy advance by picking up other writing jobs to cover the household finances, make mortgage payments, etc.).

The old way had a lot of “hope” in it. As in, “I hope this sells,” “I hope they pay me better than last time, ” and “I hope this editor’s boss doesn’t have his head on speed dial with the bottom part of his alimentary canal.”

Enter the world of ebooks. According to publishing industry veteran Michael Cader, it’s premature to call ebooks “a game changer.”


Well, howzabout we just look at how much of a game changer they’ve been for me…

Since I uploaded my Lawson backlist late last January and then throughout the year introduced new Lawson adventures, a few standalone novels, some non-fiction, and a bunch of short stories, the way I earn a living has changed dramatically. Here’s how it works now:

1. Come up with an idea about something cool I’d like to write.
2. Write it.
3. Let my beta readers check it out, offer critiques, suggestions, etc.
4. Edit until I’m confident it reads well.
5. While 2-4 is happening, hire a cover artist to come up with a concept I like and one that I think will help sell the book.
6. Once finished editing, format the ebook.
7. Upload the ebook, set a price point.
8. Announce publication of book.
9. Sell the ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, and any number of other places.
10. 60 days after the book goes on-sale, I start seeing the money from the sales.
11. In the meantime, the work I already have on-sale continues to earn me income. I get paid every single month, direct deposit to my checking account by Amazon US, Amazon UK, every other Amazon store internationally, and Barnes & Noble. Smashwords pays every six months (which is a ludicrous throwback to traditional publishing and one Smashwords absolutely needs to change if they hope to remain relevant).
12. As a result of getting paid every month, I can budget my household finances better, which means infinitely LESS stress.
13. As a result of less stress, my creative juices flow better and I come up with more cool ideas (ideas that I do NOT have to run past a whole committee of supposed “professionals” in New York who think they understand the tastes of the reading public) I then turn into books and put on sale earning me more money.
14. The more ebooks I have on-sale, the larger my virtual shelf space becomes, and the more I sell. As a result, my monthly income tends to go up – it’s like getting a raise every time I write something new.
15. As more people migrate to digital e-readers, my potential market share also increases. Coupled with my social media presence, I am always growing my fan base and therefore, selling more ebooks while still barely scratching the surface of the entire ebook-reading public.
16. Ebooks are forever. Whereas a traditionally published book MIGHT have a lifespan of six weeks on a bookstore shelf, my ebooks stay on their cyber shelves forever, meaning they earn money for me forever.
17. Since I bypass all the various middlemen that make up the world of traditional publishing, I get paid between 65-70% of the RETAIL royalty rate compared to the horrifyingly insulting 25% NET royalty rate offered by traditional publishers on ebooks. The result: me much happier.

Now, as I said, Michael Cader believes it’s still premature to call ebooks a game changer. But Michael Cader also works for an industry that is in serious trouble; his livelihood depends on keeping things the way they are, so of course he’s going to perpetrate such silliness.

Ebooks most definitely ARE a game changer for one simple reason: when the lifeblood of your industry (in this case, the content creators aka “writers”) figures out they can make more money, get paid on a consistent and steady schedule, do it all without jumping through stupid hoops like “acquisition meetings,” and bypass all the middlemen and go directly to the most important part of the equation – the readers themselves – then you have real change occurring.

Whether folks like Michael Cader accept it or not.

I’ve been writing since 1994; I’ve been a traditionally published author since 2002. In the ten years I tried to play the game by New York’s rules, I’ve seen so much ridiculousness, it amazes me the publishing industry has lasted as long as it has. Midlist writers (that is to say those who are not gifted with million-dollar advances and groomed for the supposed bestseller lists) are treated like indentured servants: crummy advances that New York insists are “livable,” crappy royalty rates, contract clauses that are meant to provide steady income for the publisher not the writer, and an accounting system woefully behind-the-times and deliberately complicated so as to render auditing it both costly and intimidating for the average writer.

In the year since I’ve been publishing as an indie, I’ve made more money than at any other point in my writing career. I’ve sold more books than at any other point in my writing career (over 20,000 copies of my Lawson adventures JUST on the Amazon US marketplace). And I’ve been able to engage and meet more fans than at any other point in my writing career. And I’m not even as succesful as other indie ebook authors – some of them are making thousands of dollars every single DAY.

Traditional publishing loves to claim that they do a ton of stuff for writers – hence the low pay and royalty rates.

It’s BS.

Unless you belong to that rarefied strata of bestselling author, traditional publishers aren’t doing much for you.

1. These days, editors rarely edit. Back in ’02, my first editor never even edited the first four Lawson novels. I’ve had exactly two editors ever edit me at all: one for a short story and one for a novel. Otherwise, “editing” doesn’t much happen at all.
2. Marketing falls to the author to accomplish. The last marketing person I worked with at a major house lined up exactly ONE signing and ONE interview. My huge blog blitz? All those other interviews, podcasts, etc.? All done by hustling my ass off.
3. Publishers pay lip service with regards to cover art & design. The author doesn’t get a say in what the final cover is, because the sales & marketing folks think they know best what will sell a book. Sometimes they’re right; but more often they’re wrong.
4. Bookstore presence: yes, you have print versions of your book available in major retailers. Oops, I mean RETAILER. Because right now, Barnes & Noble is the only real national major chain. One chain. Down from about four. Why is there only one major chain left? Because people don’t visit bookstores like they used to – they are switching to ebooks. And as far as indies go (and side note: I love indie bookstores – Jim at Park Street Books in Medfield, Massachusetts is awesome and everyone should go buy from him!) they only account for roughly 10% of sales in the publishing industry. So this argument is no longer as viable as it once might have been. An enterprising author can set up a book at Lightning Source for about $100 bucks, get into the major distributors like Ingram and Baker & Taylor (they service those bookstores) and have print editions of their books without giving up the enormous percentages that signing a traditional deal would hamstring them with.

I have complete control over my books now. I write them as I think they should be; I design them as I think they should be; and I sell them for a very reasonable price point instead of price-gouging consumers the way traditional publishers do (really New York? $16.99 for an ebook? Who are the wizards who came up with THAT one?)

As you read this, THE FIXER is being translated into Spanish in preparation for it going on sale in the HUGE Spanish language market. I’m at work on a TON of stuff I’ve wanted to bring out for years. And my middle grade/YA boys adventure series (y’know, the one that LANGUISHED for 18 months as editor after editor sent back notes like “boys don’t read,” “what if the protagonist was a girl?”) THE NINJA APPRENTICE gets sets to debut to the burgeoning demographic of younger readers. Apple has rolled out a new ebook authoring tool for free that will enable me to embed multimedia in my ebooks that are sold on iBooks. And each day, more and more people are discovering the convenience, ease, and enjoyment that ebooks offer.

All of which makes people in the traditional publishing industry – people like Michael Cader – very, VERY worried. Hence they make silly proclamations in the hopes of stemming the tsunami with a finger in the proverbial dike.

Here’s my prediction: in 12 months, I’ll still have a job in the publishing world – I’ll be doing what I love to do: creating exciting entertainment for people looking for an escape from their everyday lives. I’ll do this regardless of how my stories reach my audience. If ebooks suddenly implode (they won’t) and I have to carve my writing out on discarded pieces of tree bark, then that’s what I’ll do. Because long ago someone taught me that when one thing doesn’t work, you adapt and overcome. You evolve. You get smarter.

Insisting that things are the same when they most obviously are not isn’t adapting. It’s not meeting the challenge and figuring out how to make the best of it. It’s not evolution.

And it’s definitely not smart.

I wonder what Michael Cader will be saying 12 months from now…

Training & Learning

Several years ago, I found myself in a position of having to deal with some distinctly unpleasant “stuff.” Dealing properly with this stuff necessitated me being away from my teacher, Mark Davis of the Boston Martial Arts Center, for an extended amount of time. This was the first time I’d ever been away from training with my teacher for such a long time, and it was unusual for me, to say the least. There was nothing formalized about my absence; my teacher and friends didn’t even know what was going on – just that I was no longer at the dojo; and for all intents and purposes, I was pretty much gone from everything.

I was determined, however, that I would keep training. Even though I was away from my teacher, I resolved to continue my training at any opportunity. I consoled myself with this resolution, thinking that I would be able to return to the dojo and pick up where I left off. So as I dealt with the situations in my life that mandated my absence from routine and normalcy, I found opportunities to apply a lot of what I had learned. I also found opportunities to visit several other dojo associated with the art I study. I thought that was a good thing. And again, I told myself that even though I wasn’t with my teacher, I was still training. And that would help my skills continue to grow and improve. I had, by this time, already earned my 5th degree black belt and felt pretty confident that I could uncover new things to learn and practice.

So I kept training as much as was possible. I honed certain skills, I had my own techniques tested in a variety of ways, and I kept trying to continue the practices that I’d learned under my teacher’s guidance.

Eventually, as do all things pleasant and unpleasant – my time away ended and I returned to the dojo. I still remember vividly the first night back, climbing those steps and smelling the familiar tang of sweat in the air as I approached. I was home. At last.

And I was ready to pick up where I’d left off.

Instead, I got a serious wake-up call.

Foolishly, I’d expected that my time away wouldn’t decrease my skill. That despite being away from my teacher, my skills would at least remain at the level they’d been when I left. And that I’d be able to pick up anything new that had been taught during my absence.

But time didn’t stand still just because I wasn’t there. My teacher had kept on teaching; my friends had kept on learning and evolving as practitioners; and flow of the art itself had never ceased moving through the universe.

I’d been training, yes. I’d learned some rather unique lessons as well.

And yet, I’d been left behind. Far behind.

I was angry with the forces over which I’d had no control for depriving me of the time that I could have spent training with my teacher. I was upset that despite my attempts to retain my training schedule, to retain my level of ability, it hadn’t seemed to matter all that much. I’d been out of the flow; I’d been away from the learning. And I was upset with myself because my ego had once again sabotaged me. I’d conned myself into imagining that as a 5th degree black belt, I was astute enough and accomplished enough to be able to teach myself what I needed to know in order to continue to evolve as a practitioner.

I suddenly learned there’s a HUGE difference between “training” and “learning.”

It’s possible, after all, to go out and punch trees for a few hours and then congratulate yourself afterward for all the hard training you just did. But despite the training, you didn’t learn anything (except perhaps how utterly stupid it is to punch trees). You can, after all, go to different dojo and work out with other individuals and different body types and practice techniques. But that doesn’t mean you learned anything (except perhaps that your technique either works or doesn’t work as well as you thought.) And you can, after all, spend your time away creating excuses and allowing your ego to convince you that you’re still training.

But you’re not.

Throughout the course of the history of this particular martial art system, there have been instances where a practitioner was forced to be their own teacher. The 34th Grandmaster found himself alone when his teacher passed on. He had to spend years trying to find his way through the maze of notes and scrolls and letters that he’d amassed. Eventually, he did. And some would say he is perhaps an even better practitioner for having to pass such a trial.

Not everyone is like the Grandmaster, however. And I wonder if given the chance, would the Grandmaster have preferred to continue to learn under his teacher’s guidance instead of being forced to go it alone?

The path of this particular budo is strewn with traps at every turn. Some of those traps are obvious. But some are so carefully concealed within the very essence of ourselves that only those who have carefully and painstakingly cleaned out every last bit of untruth and mastered their ego will even see them.

For me, coming back from being away was a profound lesson. Despite the amount of training I was able to continue during my absence, despite the things I actually did learn during my time away, I hadn’t evolved as a practitioner. I returned to my home dojo to find that my skills were no longer at the level that I expected them to be because I hadn’t been continually exposed to new training and new challenges from my teacher. I had to acquire a lot of new knowledge in a short span of time to get back to the level of expectation I set for myself.

It’s easy to imagine that after a certain duration in studying this art that we no longer require the guidance of a teacher. There’s something inherently romantic about the notion of going it alone, or being some pioneer out on the edge of exploration. I know. I’ve been there.

But the reality is this: why do you want to go it alone if you don’t have to?

My absence from my teacher was mandated by things in my life I couldn’t control at the time. I had to take that time and be away from him not out of choice, but of necessity.

What’s keeping you from being with your teacher? What’s holding you back from “learning” instead of just “training?”


It’s Friday and it’s been a busy week. Outside, I’ve got several inches of snow (finally) and more on the way for tomorrow. In short, it’s a perfect weekend for reading – you know those days? When the weather’s blowing hard and you’ve got nothing to do but stay inside and curl up on the couch, maybe with that steaming mug of coffee, tea, or cocoa, listening to the crackle of the fireplace while your heart races along with the plot of great story.

I’ve already got my book picked out for reading tomorrow. And here are my contributions, if you’re looking to expand your Lawson library:

OATHBREAKER, a new short story is now out on its own. It’s also part of the SIX TIMES DEADLY collection, but this is the standalone version. It’s only 99 cents and meaty at 6,000 words. This time around, Lawson enters the hospital undercover to find out who is bleeding patients dry – but what he discovers is actually a whole lot worse than was previously thought.

Get OATHBREAKER for Kindle | Get OATHBREAKER for Nook

And then…

If, for some inexplicable reason (say, you were off-planet fighting alien invaders or possibly got kidnapped by clowns and forced to perform mime for the last six years) you haven’t yet gotten into the Lawson series, I’ve bundled three novels into one great ebook, DEADLY TRIO, which collects THE FIXER, THE INVOKER, and THE ENCHANTER into one volume for only $9.99 (which saves you about $3 bucks over buying them separately). LETHAL TRIO will be out within the next few days and collects THE DESTRUCTOR, THE SYNDICATE, and THE RIPPER into one volume for the same $9.99 price.

Get DEADLY TRIO for Kindle | Get DEADLY TRIO for Nook

So there you have it: two releases to go along with earlier this week’s A FOG OF FURY novella (HERE for the Kindle & available for the Nook in April). Grab ’em all and you’ve got oodles of fun reading for the entire weekend – regardless of whatever weather you might be experiencing.

A Fog of Fury: A Lawson Vampire Mission – FREE!

So, as part of my drive to find a huge bunch of new fans for all things Lawson, I’ve decided to make A FOG OF FURY, the Lawson novellas that was released in the first annual Supernatrual Ink. anthology, part of the Amazon KDP Select program for 90 days. Today & tomorrow, it’s absolutely 100% FREE.

That’s right, you can get a nearly 20,000 words of Lawson awesome for without spending a penny.



If you’ve never tried Lawson before, this is your chance to get wrapped up in one of the coolest urban fantasy series around. Let his effortless lethality thrill you while his sarcastic sense of humor brings you chuckles. Lawson rocks and here’s your chance to see why.

Of course, if you’re already a Lawson fan, then this is a nice gift to start the work week back up with. And it’s also your duty to get at least two of your close pals to pick this up as well and get them hooked on the series. What have they got to lose? Only about an hour after which time they will promptly fall on their knees and thank you for delivering unto them the same Lawson awesome you enjoy on a regular basis. They might even buy you lunch. Or at least a pack of Twizzlers from the office vending machine.

So go forth and rejoice – A FOG OF FURY is yours free. Spread the word and help others find the radiance of Lawson as he dispatches bad guys with bullets and snark.

Have fun!

Get A FOG OF FURY here right now for your Kindle for FREE!


More New Lawson!

Yesterday saw the release of the next Lawson novel, THE RIPPER, which puts Lawson back in Boston trying to uncover the identity of a serial killer while dodging a Chinese assassin, dealing with Marty’s advances, counseling Niles, and dealing with Arthur’s past. It’s a chaotic mix of non-stop action and mayhem. And sales have been very good indeed!

You can grab your copy of THE RIPPER for the Kindle here and for the Nook here.

But THE RIPPER isn’t the only new adventure out…

Earlier today, I released SIX TIMES DEADLY, the first Lawson story collection featuring six short stories: The Price of a Good Drink, Interlude, Red Tide, Enemy Mine, Rudolf The Red Nosed Rogue, and Oathbreaker. Along with those six stories, I also included some cool bonuses: the script for the first part of the Lawson graphic novel and the first two chapters from the Talya spin-off novel series CODENAME: BELLADONNA. Yep, you heard right: there’s going to be a Talya spin-off novel series. It’s been in the works for a while now and with the advent of ebooks, I can actually write what I want without having to appeal to the whims of New York City publishing. I have three Talya novels sketched out and expect to complete the first one this year. I’m excited about it; Talya’s a great character and well-deserving of her own series. Hopefully, the fans will enjoy it.

You can grab SIX TIMES DEADLY for the Kindle here and >for the Nook here.

And finally, FROSTY THE HITMAN is now available for sale. This is the freebie short story I gave away on Christmas Day, but that window has now closed so if you want it, it’ll cost you 99 cents. You can grab that for the Kindle here and for the Nook here.

Next week, I’ll be releasing OATHBREAKER on its own, but if you want this new story now, you’ll have the get SIX TIMES DEADLY.

I’d like to thank all of you who have bought THE RIPPER. I’m very pleased with it’s rapid sales and success. And I’m especially thrilled to be finding so many new Lawson fans out there! Enjoy the new adventures – more are coming!