Monday, February 28, 2011

It's the publishing wave of the future

Pay attention to Mr. Lankford!

Amplify’d from

Waiting for a Fair E-book Split - David to Goliath: Keep the Advance

By Terrill Lee Lankford
During a recent conversation about the new book, the editor once again mentioned that he also wanted to release an e-book version of my first novel, Shooters. I reminded him that I didn't want to do that until we were solidly in business together on the new work. After the call, I started thinking about the e-book aspect of the deal again, which we hadn't discussed in many months. At that time he had said e-book rights would be "highly negotiable." But I knew things had been changing rapidly on that front so I sent him an e-mail asking, "What is the current split for e-books?" His response: "The split for e-books is 75% publisher, 25% author." Me: "Do you have that backwards?" E-silence. I sent another note: "I'm serious: was this a typo? Does the publisher actually take 75%?" Him: "Yes. The publisher takes 75%." Me: "This amazes me. No amount of ‘platforming' can justify this. If that's the rate they expect me to accept, I'm going to have to pass. On both projects."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who Can Alienate Readers Better?

I'm an author who's old enough to remember when the people who ran "Big Publishing" were book people—people who had some fairly decent intuition about books and the people who read them (in other words, their products and their customers). My first book was published by McGraw-Hill They were the biggest of the big, but they treated me with respect. For example, when I spotted trouble on my royalty statement, the situation was handled personally by the company president (one of the McGraws).

Four McGraw-Hill books later, the company was having some trouble over a bogus Howard Hughes biography, and turned down every new project for a year—including my latest manuscript, The Psychology of Computer Programming. I was naive enough to be shocked that a publisher might turn down a good book, so thought I must have done something wrong. After moping for a year of self-doubt, I recovered sufficiently to circulate the book to four publishers and was offered a contract by each of them. I chose Van Nostrand.

A year later, when the printed book was delivered, I went down to NYC to receive my first copy from the hand of my editor (a ritual I had practiced with McGraw-Hill). When I suggested we go to my editor's office to sit down and talk, he told me he didn't have an office—because he had just been fired.

Turns out he'd been fired by the corporate executives for publishing my book. In the interval since contract signing, Van Nostrand had been purchased by Litton Industries, along with (as I recall) four other publishers. The idea was to convert publishing to a "proper" business model—and this was the first such acquisition/consolidation, the one that began this new era in the publishing industry.

This new model included taking editorial responsibility out of the hands of the editors (real book people) and putting it into the hands of the executives (real business people).

Apparently their business intuition told them the book wouldn't sell, but apparently that intuition didn't work. In spite of fantastic order fulfillment screw-ups (another byproduct of the acquisition/consolidation, but that's another story), The Psychology of Computer Programming outsold all other similar books in Van Nostrand's inventory. It's still selling (I got the rights back—another stupid business decision by the executives—and the book is still selling steadily after almost 40 years—over 250,000 copies in a dozen languages. (It will be out soon as an eBook.)

And, after 40 years, these business executive are still clueless about that "book business," as opposed to their "book business." If you don't believe that, watch them screwing up the eBook business in just about every imaginable way. (Nobody said they weren't creative.) For instance, here’s what MacMillan CEO John Sargent recently had to say about libraries and ebooks:

    "That is a very thorny problem”, said Sargent. In the past, getting a book from libraries has had a tremendous amount of friction. You have to go to the library, maybe the book has been checked out and you have to come back another time. If it’s a popular book, maybe it gets lent ten times, there’s a lot of wear and tear, and the library will then put in a reorder. With ebooks, you sit on your couch in your living room and go to the library website, see if the library has it, maybe you check libraries in three other states. You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing. “It’s like Netflix, but you don’t pay for it. How is that a good model for us?"

    "If there’s a model where the publisher gets a piece of the action every time the book is borrowed, that’s an interesting model." - from

If you don't understand what's wrong with this statement, take a look at the article and comments, "Friday Alert: HarperCollins in cagematch with Macmillan to see who can alienate readers better." <>

Or, if that's not helping, take a look at past history—for example, the reaction of the Western Union executives when the technology for voice-over-wire (telephone) became available. Or, study the music industry executives' bungling of the digital music scene.
Whichever example you choose, it's always the same pattern of response to new science or new technology: The people on top of the existing industry always try to stifle the new in order to preserve the old. They bungle, and that opens the door for all sorts of brash newcomers. Brash, that is, until they become the fat cats and play the same bungling role when the next innovation comes along—as it always does.

The only question is "Who will be the brash newcomers this time around?"

Find my eBook novels and nonfiction listed at these stores

• Barnes and Noble bookstore:

• Amazon Store:

• Apple Store:

• Smashwords Store:

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Ins and Outs of Planning a Conference Program

In response to a number of reader requests, I've asked author Marilyn Meredith to give us an essay on her experience with conference planning. She graciously consented, so here it is:

Public Safety Writers Associations’ Annual Conference

Planning the program for the Public Safety Writers Associations' annual conference is probably different in some ways for planning for other writers' conferences.
The membership is made up of active and retired law enforcement officers and firefighters, people who write articles for law enforcement and other public safety publications, non-fiction writers, and mystery writers—although there are no requirements about who can attend the conference.
When I first started with the job I had to dig a little deeper to find speakers and mainly those who came concentrated on writing topics. This year we are having some speakers who will be talking about writing topics including voice, characterization, writing thrillers, and screen writing, but we also have a police psychiatrist and a county coroner. 
Some speakers have been attendees of the conference who have come to me at the conference suggesting a topic they would like to present. Others have contacted me after the conference offering their services. All of our speakers must pay for the conference just like everyone else—and there is no other compensation. 
We also have panels which are usually writing topics like editing, about creating setting, writing for trade publication and promotion. This year we'll have one on writing with a partner, and a panel of experts (forensic expert, military person, lawyer, FBI agent) telling us what TV gets wrong.
It's up to me to figure out the schedule and I like to stagger the speakers in-between the panels.
We are always on a tight time-schedule; 15 minute breaks between the 45 minute presentations, so volunteers serve as time keepers, displaying signs to notify how much time is left. Some attendees love this job.
And as for the problems that occur sometimes: Once in awhile I have to switch the program around a bit because someone couldn't make it to their slot on time, or got sick, or just didn't show up. One plus to having so many professionals gathered together, there's always someone interesting who can fill in.
For anyone interested in finding out more about this conference, go to
Anyone wanting to be on a panel must register before June 1 so I can finalize the program, however someone can come to the conference and pay on the day it begins.
I love this conference because of all the interesting people I've met and become friends with and are invaluable for research. Because I write about a sheriff's deputy in one series and a whole police department in another, these people have become invaluable to me.

F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of nearly thirty published novels. Her latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, from Oak Tree Press, is Angel Lost. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

Angel Lost, an E. F. Meredith Crime Novel
As plans for her perfect wedding fill her mind, Officer Stacey Wilbur is sent out to trap a flasher, the new hire realizes Rocky Bluff P.D. is not the answer to his problems, Abel Navarro's can't concentrate on the job because of worry about his mother, Officer Gordon Butler has his usual upsets, the sudden appearance of an angel in the window of a furniture store captures everyone's imagination and causes problems for RBPD, and then the worst possible happens—will Stacey and Doug's wedding take place?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Authors You May Not Know–Yet

The writing business is one of the most difficult to break into. (into which to break?) Excellent writing and story-telling are not sufficient to publicize your name and what you can do. I do my primary publicizing through my website:

and through various book retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

I also belong to a number of groups of aspiring writers, including one called Backlist Books. One of the ways we spread the word about ourselves is to exchange links to our blogs and/or websites. Below, I've placed a list of some of the backlist authors I like. There's a wide variety of genres, so take a look at them and see if there's anything to your taste. You'll be glad you did.

Doranna Durgin,

Marsha Canham,

Jacqueline Lichtenberg,

Jeffrey A. Carver,

Jill Metcalf,

Terry Odell,

Maryann Miller,

Patricia Rice,

Pati Nagle,

Lorraine Bartlett or Lorna Barrett,

Karen Ranney,

Friday, February 11, 2011

No More Reviews—With Exceptions

My call for reviewers has been so successful, I'm flooded with requests for free books.

For the moment, I'd like to suspend the reviewing (until next time) with the exception of readers who are willing to review some of my novels—which are under-reviewed.

So, if you want to review one of my novels, let me know. If you're interested in one of the non-fiction, you'll have to buy it (the e-book versions are very inexpensive) or wait until the next free book offer.

For the novels, you can see them and sample them at

And thanks to everyone who has responded.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Free books! Looking for a Few More Book Reviewers

This post is about marketing. As you probably know, I'm in the business of writing books, as part of my consulting business (or vice versa). In the modern publishing world, with more and more books bought online, customer reviews really can help books reach their full potential. Although we work with professional reviewers as well, you don’t need to be a professional reviewer to review books for me. Any avid reader can do it!

Right now, I'm looking for a few more people to help spread the word about my books. If you’re interested, please email me at hardpretzel (at) with the words “Book Reviewer” in the subject line.

I’ll email you back with a password that will give you access to one of my titles in Kindle, PDF, and ePub format, for your computer or your reading device.

Here’s my current titles, with more on the way:

All I ask is that you review whatever book you download on either Amazon or Smashwords or Barnes and Noble’s website (or all three—that’s even better). If you’re a professional reviewer, it’s great if you review it on your blog or website, and I’ll often link to it from my own site, but I still ask that you post your review to at least one of the three just mentioned.

It’s easy to do, and you don’t even need to use your real name if you like. Five or six sentences is fine, though you can certainly write more if you wish. Have fun! And if you’re not sure how to do it, just read some examples.

Please note: It would be unethical to require you to do a positive review; all I ask is that you’re fair, and that if it’s just not your kind of book (remember, everyone has different tastes), that you just pass on doing the review at all. In the modern book selling world, these reviews have become critically important to helping books reach their full potential. Keep this in mind when you’re reviewing and you’ll be just fine: I’ve staked many hours on my novels and nonfiction.

I can give away only so many free books, so I’ve limited this round of book reviewers. If interested, please email us ASAP.*

(Thanks for this idea to Scott at Flying Raven Press, Why not give them a visit.)