Movie Deal for Mercenary

mercenaryOPTI’m delighted to announce that the movie rights to Mercenary have been optioned.

And So It Begins… Entertainment is a relatively new Hollywood production company founded earlier this year by industry veterans Toby Midgen and Stacey Stanley. Everyone at ASIB has a serious pedigree, having worked for companies like Lakeshore, Anchor Bay, DreamWorks, Fox 21, Ridley Scott & Associates, Starz and BBC Worldwide.

ASIB represents one of the biggest studios in the Dominican Republic and identified Mercenary as a perfect fit for their client, Lantica Media (formerly known as Indomina Media) – which develops projects with an eye on both the English- and Spanish-language markets at their incredible new facilities.

You are probably curious how these guys stumbled across my book. Three months ago, Matt Carpenter (Head of Production & Development for ASIB) attended a NASA memorial at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for his father, Scott Carpenter – one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and the fourth American to go into space – who had passed away in 2013. Matt met one of his father’s old friends at the memorial, a deep-sea diver who recommended a book he’d just finished called Mercenary.

Matt was then called up for jury duty on his return to LA. Impaneled as an alternate but not actually selected, Matt was stuck in a room all day with little to do… and desperate for something to read. Talk about a captive audience. Continue reading

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The Great Amazon Hysteria… Part 31

ChickenLittleAre you scared yet? Because you should be scared. Something really bad is about to happen. It affects all of us.

Our livelihoods are at risk. The ability to support our families. It’s just over the horizon. It could happen any minute. It’s coming for all of us!



I’ve been around for long enough to know that authors can be a skittish bunch. Probably something to do with our over-active imaginations, with an assist from that old writers’ favorite: the whiskey brunch.

More seriously, we are going through a period of unprecedented change so it’s perfectly normal for people to be a little fearful. I think the disruption we are all experiencing is greater than that which has been faced by similar industries. In fact, I think the transition from print book to e-book is akin to going straight from vinyl to MP3, with all that entails.

So, change. Lots of it. And change can be scary – even if you seem to be benefitting from the changes that are happening. I get that. However, at this point, we should all know enough to treat media reports on Amazon (and publishing in general) with the requisite amount of skepticism. As in 100% skepticism.

Patient Zero in this latest outbreak of Amazon Hysteria appears to have been The Atlantic who ran a piece on June 20, headlined: “What If Authors Were Paid Every Time Someone Turned a Page?”

The rather important distinction that this new payment system only applied to some self-published titles – those enrolled in a wholly optional program called KDP Select – wasn’t made until PARAGRAPH EIGHT. And even then the distinction wasn’t super clear and floated the wholly baseless idea that this could also apply to traditionally published books:

While many larger publishers’ offerings are included in these programs, the details of those deals have not been made public. Their authors may or may not be paid by the page. Amazon’s announcement only says that the new formula applies to Kindle Select books that are self-published and distributed through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program.

Continue reading

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Staying Sane in a Crazy (Self-Publishing) World

IASG2 and FLOMHow do you keep yourself from going crazy? It probably helps if you are reasonably well-balanced in the first place, but, for the rest of you, I have some advice today from Susan Kaye Quinn.

As many of you will know, Susan is the author of the bestselling Mindjack series, and lots of other books too, including the highly regarded Indie Author Survival Guide – the second edition of which has just been released.

She’s also releasing a companion book for more experienced authors in mid-July which has the intriguing title of For Love Or Money: Crafting An Indie Author Career and it’s available now for pre-order.

Here’s Susan on how to stay sane in a crazy (self-publishing) world.

Susan Kaye Quinn:

I fight a war every day.

My adversaries are distraction, fatigue, and the demands of ordinary life. They include things I love (my husband and children) and things I loathe (laundry and shopping) as well as an oft-neglected need for renewal (of mind and body). The battlefield is littered with rabbit holes of distraction and fallen warriors afflicted with sales-checking fever. The ever-present siren-call of the Internet wails in the distance.


It feels just like this.

I fight the war every day so I can do the thing that feeds my soul: creative work.

I know you’re engaged in this battle too—every writer is.

When I first started writing, my brother (the true writer in the family) told me something that’s stuck with me: “If you can create something, then you have a moral obligation to do so.” I laughed (nervously) at the time. These are just stories – what is this talk of moral imperatives? In time, though, I completely understood what he meant: our stories are our unique contribution to the collective human imagination. We have to do this.

The world is a better place when people fulfill their creative potential.

But creating art isn’t easy (see The War of Art for a deeper understanding of the forces of resistance) and surviving the publishing process is even harder. So here are a few weapons to help you in the battle. Continue reading

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Authors Guild Dumps Author Solutions (And Pretends It Was All A Bad Dream)

AGASThe Authors Guild – which bills itself as America’s leading writers’ organization – has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions.

The Authors Guild joins companies like Bowker, Writers’ Digest, and Crossbooks in cutting links to Author Solutions – a company which has faced a sustained campaign from writers targeting its deceptive and exploitative practices, as well as multiple class actions which are still working their way through the courts.

Burying the Lede

The announcement was made yesterday at Book Expo America, but the Authors Guild decided to bury its own lede. No mention is made of Author Solutions, just a brief mention of the subsidiary which the Authors Guild was partnered with: iUniverse. If I hadn’t been waiting for this announcement, I would have missed it.

It’s almost as if the Authors Guild is trying to airbrush its partnership with Author Solutions from the history books. As if it was all just a bad dream.

Not so fast. Continue reading

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Digging Deeper Into Author Earnings


The Author Earnings team are attempting to do something which hasn’t been done before, and their work can’t be refined and improved unless there is some intelligent criticism of their approach and findings.

Today I’ve invited Phoenix Sullivan to blog on the topic. I’ve known Phoenix for a few years now, and if there’s a smarter person in publishing, I haven’t heard of them.

KBoards regulars will already know that Phoenix understands the inner workings of the Kindle Store better than anyone outside Amazon. And I can personally vouch for her expertise: she was the biggest influence on (and help with) Let’s Get Visible and also the marketing brains behind a box set I was in, which did very well indeed.

Phoenix offered to take the raw data from Author Earnings, drill down and analyse it, and then see if her conclusions differed from theirs, and whether there were any improvements she would suggest. Phoenix has also been able to pull some fascinating new insights from the Author Earnings raw data.

Here’s Phoenix with more:

Digging Deeper Into Author Earnings

I set aside some time recently to dive into the Author Earnings raw data for the May 1, 2015 Report. The irksome thing about the scraped data is how much of the puzzle that is Amazon’s ebook sales is missing and/or open to interpretative analysis. It isn’t the data’s fault or even the fault of the collection method. It’s simply that the data made public is limited, which in turn means a lot of creative interpretation goes into even so simple a task as coming up with the number of ebooks sold in a day. While the raw data itself isn’t changeable, different tools and assumptions applied to the data can yield different results, thereby opening up the analysis to differing interpretations.

My goal was to apply a set of tools and assumptions that update and possibly correct those being used by the Author Earnings team. The environment has changed dramatically in the 15 months since the first report came out, yet the analytical tools, in my opinion, haven’t necessarily kept up with the times. That in itself does not mean the results are wrong, but without a challenge to them, we’ll never know, right? Of course, even if the results are the same, there can be various ways to interpret those results, but we’ll get to that later.

Playing with someone else’s spreadsheet and formulas can be exhausting in itself. And time-consuming. Which is probably why there haven’t been many challenges to the essence of the AE data and analysis. My own methods for the challenge are likely cruder even than AE’s, and, like AE’s Data Guy, I’ve had to make certain assumptions along the way as well as do a little eyeballing and guesstimating.

Some bits, of course, are purely statistical and can be taken at face value. I’m not challenging the majority of the raw data, so my first assumptions are along the lines of:

  • Ranks are correct.
  • Publisher info is correct.
  • Whether a title is in KU or not is correct, with the exception that several Amazon Imprint titles were not indicated to be in KU.
  • An average 50% of KU downloads are sales; the other 50% are borrows.
  • Authors at the Big 5 are, in general, earning 25% of actual net, not list, under the Agency model.

Assumptive corrections I’ve made include marking the four April Kindle First titles as having a sale price of $1.99 rather than $4.99. As the data was captured on the first of May, those Kindle First titles still in the Top 10 would have changed price around midnight and would owe their ranks to borrows and $1.99 sales. So other assumptions are:

  • 10% of Kindle First titles are sales at $1.99, with normal royalties credited to the authors; 90% are borrows and are uncredited. For this exercise, that’s 12,000 borrows accounted for manually.
  • For this exercise, I was forced to ignore the ghost borrow effect on rank, so the caveat is that most titles in KU are still being credited with more borrows and sales than they in fact have.

Sales-to-Rank Calculations

By far the biggest assumptive correction I’ve made is two-fold: The first part is applying a new set of sales:rank calculations to the dataset and the second part is applying calculations to maintain ranks rather than using the multipliers needed to hit a rank. Let’s be clear that these multipliers are observed only, and best guesses across a lot of observations. However, I do believe the multipliers currently being used by AE are 1) outdated, and 2) don’t reflect the actual number of sales happening for the majority of books that are maintaining rank in the store and not seeing huge rank swings on a day-to-day basis.

I know the AE team is reluctant to introduce another variable into their quarter-to-quarter comparisons, but really this is pretty core to the reports. Not adjusting for sales numbers in a sales-based report is akin to not adjusting for currency exchange rates for companies doing business internationally. Especially when the discrepancy in earnings could be as much as a 25% deviation. Besides, KU’s thrown the whole sales:rank model askew already, so “consistency” really is no excuse here for not updating.

Compared to the rank chart AE is currently using, there’s about a 10% increase to hit #100 today and about a 50% increase to hit #1000. Closer to the #100,000 mark, there’s less of a deviation. While store volume is likely up, I highly doubt it’s up in the double digits, much less by 50%. What the increases are and where they’re occurring in the ranks indicates to me is that this is all part of the KU Effect and is more a product of ghost borrows (credit to Ed Robertson for the term) and converted borrows than of an increase in store volume. More titles are moving, true, but that volume movement isn’t all converting into earnings.

For a fun comparison, I applied the updated chart for the number of sales to hit a rank to see what that would look like. Predictably, it showed about a 7.7% increase in units sold and a 4.3% increase in total revenue from the original AE report for May 1, 2015.

sales-rankHowever, Amazon’s algorithms take historical sales – among other variables, such as velocity – into consideration when calculating rank. The longer a title remains around a given rank, the fewer sales it takes to maintain that rank. Observably, anywhere from 10-50% fewer sales. That means the multipliers for hitting ranks are not good indicators of unit sales numbers for the majority of books in the dataset. Here is my observed chart for average sales to maintain rank, along with the old and new numbers for hitting rank. More work needs to be done to fill in the upper brackets on the maintain side. I used the same numbers from my Sales to Hit chart when I felt I didn’t have enough data points on the Maintain side to chart new numbers in, but the safe assertion is that the Top 500 in my own data is over-reporting by a conservative 10%.

Plugging numbers from the maintenance chart into the calculation tool AE supplies in the raw data report better represents sales volume, I think. For the dataset, that means AE is reporting 17.4% more unit sales than what my calculations indicate (which, remember, are likely a bit high themselves), with the trickle-down effect of inflating the market as a whole. More on this later. Continue reading

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Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story

ASandfriendsweboptAuthor Solutions has forged partnerships with a long list of famous names in publishing – from Simon & Schuster and Hay House to Barnes & Noble and Reader’s Digest.

Recent disclosures in various lawsuits, along with information sent to me by a Penguin Random House source, detail for the very first time exactly how these partnerships work and the damage they are causing.

Since a second suit was filed at the end of March, Author Solutions is now facing two class actions, with the new complaint alleging unjust enrichment and exploitation of seniors on top of the usual claims of fraud and deceptive practices. It also has a wonderfully precise summary of Author Solutions’ operations:

Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so by selling books back to its Authors, not to a general readership, and by selling its Authors expensive publishing, editing, and marketing services (“Services”) that are effectively worthless.


You may not have heard about this second class action as most of the media felt it wasn’t worth reporting – even the trade press like Publishers Weekly and The Bookseller – but you can peruse the complaint here (PDF).

(Note: the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in both class actions are still looking to hear from anyone who has published with Author Solutions. You can do that here.)

Despite Author Solutions’ mounting legal troubles, and an unending stream of complaints against the company from both its own customers and a whole host of writers’ organizations and campaigners, companies are still queuing up to partner with Author Solutions.

Penguin Random House – its corporate parent – has shown no inclination towards reforming any of the deceptive and misleading practices of Author Solutions, or addressing any of the long-standing issues its customers face, handily summarized by Emily Suess as:

  • improperly reporting royalty information
  • non-payment of royalties
  • breach of contract
  • predatory and harassing sales calls
  • excessive markups on review and advertising services
  • failure to deliver marketing services as promised
  • telling customers their add-ons will only cost hundreds of dollars and then charging their credit cards thousands of dollars
  • ignoring customer complaints
  • shaming and banning customers who go public with their stories.

Instead of making any attempt to tackle that list, Penguin Random House has focused on international expansion of Author Solutions, a process which has also seen the re-introduction of practices which had previously been banished from the industry, like reading fees. Continue reading

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Fighting With Both Hands

The LibertiesThis blog has been quieter than usual lately and I thought I should let you know what I’ve been doing.

I’m going to prattle on for quite a while; you might want to get comfortable (or head off to Tumblr).


It’s good to do a bit of soul searching now and then, to look at what you have achieved, where your career is headed, and to decide if you are on the right track.

My goals and dreams have changed a lot since I started self-publishing in 2011. I haven’t been a big success, but I’ve been able to tick off little career milestones along the way. Some months my sales are wonderful, some months they are terrible – generally a function of how long it is since I released or promoted something. Overall, the good months more than outweigh the bad and I’ve been scratching out a living for a while now.

Dream: achieved.

But the sales maw, as all writers know, is insatiable. So I’ve been noodling ways to take my career to the next level. Continue reading

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