Resolutions Or Misfires?

Eat less.

Read more.

Be nicer to the person at work who picks their nose in public.

You know, the usual New Year’s resolutions we all make. And break. And then kick ourselves over.

Well, this year, I’ve made a solid. Namely, to write more and veg-out less. With the audience I’ve been afforded, I want to steward your attention by providing life-giving, beneficial content more frequently. It requires a considerable amount of self-discipline and creativity. But, frankly, you’re worth it.

While I won’t be blogging every day, I will be blogging more. (Thanks to my friend Mike Kim for inspiring me there; he puts out some amazing stuff). And my goal is at least to get two new books out this year:

1.) The Creatives: Coaching Artisans Who Influence Society

2.) The Sky Riders Book II: Raising Thendara

I’d also like to complete another non-fiction work entitled Loud and Clear: Hearing God’s Voice When He Seems to Be Muted, but that may or may not happen. I’m at least accountable to you on the first two books. Cool?

What is (or was) one of your New Year’s resolutions? Let’s keep each other accountable.

ch:

TSR Comes out Tomorrow!

TSR Book Cover Header 640x350
Hello, my amazingly faithful Readers!

Tomorrow is the big day: the official release of my 7th full-length novel, The Sky Riders. Even just ten years ago, had you told me that one day I’d not only publish a single novel over 100,000 words, but seven, I would have laughed in your face. So each and every time this “book release” occasion comes around, I’m even more indebted to the following:

• God, for humoring my inabilities with his abilities to produce capabilities.

• My wife and children, for allowing me to spend the long hours needed on my laptop at absurd hours of the day (and night).

• My English teachers, notably Dawn Sandquist and Margaret Grace, who poured into me even when I gave them the deer-in-the-headlights look.

• My writing companions and tour mates who encouraged, taught, corrected and inspired me to grow as a writer: Wayne Thomas Batson, Donita K. Paul, Eric Reinhold, Jonathan Rogers, L.B. Graham, Bryan Davis, Sharon Hinck, Gregg Wooding, and Christopher and Allan Miller.

• Former publishers who gave me a shot when I didn’t deserve one: Pam Schwagerl (Tsaba House Inc.), and everyone at Thomas Nelson Inc.

J.A. Konrath for enticing all of us legacy published writers to jump ship and dive into the self-publishing revolution.

Michael A. Stackpole for his abundant wealth of knowledge which he continually gives away for free, but has cost him years of development.

• My Proofies who have leant their selfless eyes to the ARCs I put out. You make me shine.

• The Inkblots, in all our various forms, who met (and will meet again) over pub tables to discuss writing, life and the future.

• The amazing staff, board and congregation of my church, New Life, for believing that my writings are just as much ministry as counseling someone in my office.

• My friends Peter Hopper (and dad), Kirk Gilchrist, Douglas Gresham, Brett Peryer, David Buckles, Joseph Gilchrist, Tony Hayner, Jason Clement, Nathan Reimer, Denis Johnson and Nate Cronk for their conversations, musings and creativity that have inspired me to think hard and dig deep.

And lastly, to my readers. I write every word with you in mind, and couldn’t continue writing without you literally paying my bills. I’m blessed I get to do things I love for a living. It amazes me every day, and I pray I never take it for granted.

Thanks to everyone for purchasing the new book, spreading the word, and leaving honest reviews. (When referencing The Sky Riders on Twitter or Instagram, please try and use #theskyriders or #TSR).

Fly or die,

ch:

The Tide of Unmaking

To all our faithful Elves,

Thank you for your patience, kindness and encouragement. You have journeyed near and far with us, to lands both familiar and foreign. And now the day has come. The Tide of Unmaking is here. And we have both Ellos and you to thank for it.

It was our firm intent to release the book on the 15th as promoted, but our files were approved early. And how fitting that it’s on September 11th – which makes our mantra all-the-more-fitting…

Endurance and Victory!

KINDLE | PRINT

ch:

#tToU Release Date: 09.15.2012

20120910-221719.jpg

That’s right Elves of Berinfell! The Tide of Unmaking debut is nearly upon us, now just a few short days away. Sir Wayne and I shall be unveiling our latest creation this Thursday morning (as long as Lord Asp doesn’t find a way to put a wrinkle in our efforts), with the ebook versions following a few days behind (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad, Droid, iPhone, etc). Price points will be $14.99 for the paperback, and $2.99 for the digital editions.

As a personal favor, we’re asking all our fans to purchase directly through our CreateSpace/Amazon store here. It’s the same price and great customer service for you, and a better rate for us.

Thank you for your faithfulness to this story, and your love of the series. You’re why we write.

ch:

Kindle: The Skeleton Project

When you work closely with someone, you sometimes take for granted that they have other ideas besides the ones you’re developing together.

Oh. Wayne Thomas Batson writes other incredible stuff besides The Berinfell Prophecies.

So I get this info in an email late last night:

If you’re a Wayne Thomas Batson reader, rejoice! Gone are the days of waiting a year for the next story. While working on several novels to hit the shelves later this year, Mr. Batson is releasing a whole array of new stories on Kindle (and then other formats).

The first release is The Skeleton Project, a quirky, scifi, mystery thriller with a wee bit of humor. The Skeleton Project is now live on Amazon for just $1.29!

I’m already a third of the way through this short story and loving it. If this is a sign of the sort of serial-storytelling that we can expect from Wayne in the future, bring it on. ch:

Self-Publishing Snapshot

20120125-075132.jpg

I took a snapshot of this graphic by Alan Grundy while perusing Delta’s inflight magazine over the weekend. You know, during that time where they make you turn off all your electronic devices for take off and landing.

iPad off. Delta magazine open. Ironic that I was reading an ebook.

Let’s address a few of it’s points today.

Aside from the personal investment of time, MS Word, and Adobe InDesign, my hard costs have been paying for a good editor ($400 per title, á la Sue Kenney), and CreateSpace’s Premium service (as opposed to their regular free service, which nets better royalties) at around $39 per title. Granted, this is for physical copies (CreateSpace), not ebooks. Spearhead absorbed my cover design costs by my team, but that would have been another $400 roughly (had I not done it myself) and hired it out. But again, that’s for a full print cover, not the smaller single page needed for ebooks; average cost for a good design is now under $150. And finally a conversion service (unless you want to deal with the headaches of doing it yourself). I’m using streetlightgraphics.com (who also do covers) for under $80/title for a package of Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords formats.

So I’m well under half the cost of the statistical average.

From all my study I have to say the price points listed above are not only correct, but where a self-published author (of any breed) should list. Remember, ebooks are forever, and that’s a very long time to sell on a global market. We’re trading price point for sheer volume to a world that will soon have a billion e-readers in their hands (Amazon’s Kindle is about to hit India).

As for the number of authors hitting the NYTBS list? Let me just say, who cares! The industry model has changed. The selling power of a legacy published book is usually 6 months with its peak lasting for less than 2. Recently I spoke with a friend who had his book hit #1. It lasted for a few weeks. Then it was gone. How many royalty checks did it earn? Yes, a nice big one. And then what? Nothing. The publisher has kept the rights, and it’s overpriced as an ebook, selling only a few copies a month (of which he sees next to nothing).

Much like Dave Ramsey’s “status symbol of choice” being the paid off mortgage, authors are finding keeping their world-wide rights at 70% forever is the highest status symbol they can get. Already my CreateSpace sales of The White Lion Chronicles are earning an extra $75/week for my family; I’m expecting the ebook sales, due out next month, to exceed that.

When my most recent royalty check came in from my legacy publisher my dad happened to be with me. It was a $700 check. He was really happy for me. Then I told him what it would have been had I sold the same number of books through CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing (numbers I’ve sold on your at my own merch table).

$6,500.

And the crazy part is, it wasn’t name recognition that sold those numbers with my publisher. It was me and my hard work (et all, Wayne). I should know. They had no budget for 4th quarter marketing and made me submit a list of what I was going to do. (Actually they only ever had $500 for first quarter marketing).

Time to feed my family, not a pig. Of course, I’m about to eat the pig anyways. ch:

What I’m Reading

I’ve always believed that leaders are readers. I also believe that it’s important to read because what I currently know isn’t enough. Plus, every leader that I admire in my life is constantly suggesting books for me to read, which tells me if I want to be like them, I need to know what they’re reading. Better still, I need to read what they’re reading.

For the record, I always have fiction and non-fiction on my bedside table (physical or iPad). I like to dream, imagine, and be taken on an adventure. Likewise, I serve and lead people in a very nonfictional world. Both platforms have immense value to me.

Two non-fiction books were recently given to me by two different influential church leaders.

Lasting Impressions by Mark Waltz has not only been a thought provoking journey of how we incorporate people into the environment of church-life, but how we view them as individuals.

A pair of quotes from Mark that have really affected me:

We extend grace when our acceptance comes without requirements.

We must meet people where they are, not where we wish they were.

By far the most refreshing book I’ve read all year is Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. While books like Divine Nobodies, Quitting Church, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore, and Frank Viola’s divisive Pagan Christianity - which, in my view, have only succeeded in splitting churches and emboldening already-disgruntled complainers who just needed confirmation why their complaining was “theologically sound” – DeYoung and Kluck urge readers to fall in love with the “betrothed of Christ” again, and renew their vigor for seeing her as beautiful like Jesus does.

Fiction-wise, I just finished The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. While there are handfuls of worldly-truth or witty anecdotes, I read it because I found her study on post-war adolescent behavior fascinating, and not that far emotionally from many of the situations I counsel young people through on a weekly basis. As a writer, it has a gripping premise, is a fantastic example of character development, and all three books are written in first-person, present tense. That deserves an award right there.

What are you reading? And why? ch:

20110810-082721.jpg

Spearhead Books

For those that follow my musings here, you are familiar with my perspectives on the future of books and publishing.

One of the underlying currents of this post-publishing seascape has been the idea of reigniting a very old entity: guilds. Bands of artisans that co-create, and share resources as well as influence.

Unlike publishers which own rights to manuscripts, take huge percentages of sales, and do very little in the way of concrete marketing, a band of like-minded creators who are bound solely by their will to contribute has the versatility and and flexibility to do far more than a publisher ever could. From artists maintaining 100% creative control, to keeping a far larger percentage of profits, to sharing their most valuable commodity–their loyal tribe of followers–guilds have the potential to be the driving force of the next era of publishing.

And we’ve started one.

I present to you Spearhead Books.

Chris Miller (of The Miller Brothers, who brought you The Codebearers Series) first called me earlier this year to discuss an idea he had: start with a small group of trusted, Christ-centered authors to pool their skills and create a central banner and meeting place for creating and distributing good stories. I immediately signed on, sharing his vision, and started to give some suggestions. A few name changes later–and the immediate incorporation of the magnanimous Wayne Thomas Batson into the fold–and Spearhead was born.

This announcement, of course, comes as no small coincidence with the pending re-release of The White Lion Chronicles in a week or so. (UPDATE: I’m waiting for Amazon to give me a hard release date, which is still pending). I’m thrilled to say that Rise of the Dibor, The Lion Vrie, and the highly anticipated Athera’s Dawn will be the very first books printed in association with Spearhead. Following shortly after will be The Miller Brothers’ Mech Mice (which I can’t wait to get my hands on!), and Wayne Thomas Batson’s new adult thriller Ghost (a story that may actually cause you to pee your pants).

Spearhead is a gathering of authors who combine efforts and resources, link arms through shared branding and emblems, co-occupy websites, and venture out on tour together. Not because they have strong backing, but because their audience is strong enough to trust them and those they create alongside of.

You should definitely check out the website spearheadbooks.com and read about the group (which is being launched tonight and receiving constant updates from all of us hourly), and share it with your friends. But even more importantly, you should tune in to Chris & Allan’s live broadcast tonight at 7pm EST/4pm PST to hear more about the big announcement [UPDATE: archived broadcast coming shortly]. I may even call in from NY just for fun.

There will be plenty of news surrounding Spearhead in the weeks to come, including ways you can join the movement and the conversation, so please stay tuned. There are some incredible plans in the works, as well as ideas that I don’t know of anyone else doing to date.

I’m thrilled to be collaborating with such amazing men for the advancement of the Kingdom, and look forward to what these divinely-inspired minds will produce in the days to come. ch:

Let us know what you think! How can guild-like models be utilized in the future and to what end?

The White Lion Chronicles: eBook Editions

2007. That is the year I left readers on the edge of a precipice. And I’m only surprised they don’t loathe me more.

So you can only imagine how good I feel saying this (almost as good as my readers must feel!):

I’m personally re-releasing The White Lion Chronicles Books I & II as second edition ebooks, and Book III as a first edition ebook.

When my contract with Tsaba House expired, the publishing rights reverted back to me. And just as I’ve replied to hundreds of emails and FaceBook message and tweets, I’ve been looking for a mutually beneficial traditional print contract. But over the course of the last year, the publishing market has changed so dramatically that self-publishing – once an insult – has become the smartest option, by far. In fact, I can’t imagine looking for a legacy publishing deal ever again.

Editing and proof reading are just about to start on all three books, and cover designs are already in the mock-up phase. My plan right now is to release Rise of the Dibor first, followed a few weeks later by The Lion Vrie, and ending with the long-awaited Athera’s Dawn. All three ebooks will be available via digital retailers with an anticipated price point of just $2.99. If I can lower the price even more, I will.

So to all my fans who have stayed so loyal over the years, c’symia. ch:

The Future of Print Books

putting it in context

Vinyl.

I have very fond memories of sifting through my parent’s record collection as a boy, and my dad teaching me how to handle the large black discs “only touching the sides” – as if my finger tips had the ability to annihilate the music forever if I slipped and touched the center. Zeppelin. The Who. Peter, Paul & Mary. The Yard Birds. Earth, Wind & Fire. Peter Frampton. Cream. All subject to me touching only the sides.

But vinyl was on its way out (with the strange 8-track obsession quickly averted) and cassettes were in. Of course seeing tape made more sense to me as that’s all I saw in the studio. I watched my dad splice thousands of feet of tape for an album, all whizzing by at 30ips (inches per second). So shrinking a 2″ tape down into a hand-held version was nothing short of miraculous.

Then CDs came along, and the digital age was born. Even though I knew that I was trading true sine-waves for digital bits, there was something sexy about them. That, and I never had to use a pencil to wind the music back in. Sure, there was the whole scratch issue, but that would be solved in the next iteration.

Digital music files.

No tape to unravel, no plastic to scratch, and most of all, instant access and ultimate portability.

Perhaps you’re asking what this has to do with books? But you’re an intelligent audience: you’ve obviously gathered that the example of ingenuity, invention, and marketability played out in the music industry is exactly where the publishing industry is headed. And you’re right. In fact, most of my generation was willing to accept the digital transformation of books long before publishing companies did (and have yet to).

So is that as far as the comparison of music and books goes?

here today, gone tomorrow (or just later today)

If you’re even remotely interested in the book-world, you know publishing companies are scratching and clawing to make up for lost time (which most will never get back), and are being crushed beneath the weight of high overhead as they’ve failed to account for the consumer’s low tolerance of high price points and the author’s ability to take control of their own work – conception to delivery.

Amazon reported that Kindle sales exceeded hard cover sales last July, and just surpassed paperback sales in January. Likewise, digital ebook sales are exploding, with year-to-date percentages moving into the hundreds, and dollars amounts into the tens and hundreds of millions. Trends are changing so fast, numbers are being reported on a weekly basis.

And while traditional publishers are busy trying to push $15.99+ digital book price points to meet the needs of their bloated budgets due to an outdated means of mass production, new entrepreneurs are dropping prices to $1.99 – with others, like authors JA Konrath and Cory Doctorow, giving away certain titles in order to win readers who will be more likely buy the next book.

And it’s working.

Not only are the most affluent, highest spending demographic of consumers excited to ditch the cumbersome tomes in exchange for the sleek e-reading status symbol of their preference, but authors are making more money than they ever dreamed. By themselves. And they deserve it. [I’ll do a raw numbers break-out of my own accounting in a tell-all forthcoming post].

With what once was the trademark term of an author that didn’t have the goods to land a real deal, suddenly “self-publishing” is becoming the method of choice for the new era of writers.

from common to collectible

So print is on its way out and digital is well on its way in. But the question everyone wants to know is, what’s going to happen to books?

Most analysts I’m following say that by the time ebooks reach 25% of the market share (a figure that – according to current trends – will be reached in the third quarter of 2012), the traditional publishing industry will collapse. So does that mean the physical books all readers have a secret (or often times public romance) with will vanish?

My answer: no.

But their function will change. In essence, their purpose.

What was once a means of communicating written content will now become a collectible. And the music industry prophesies this perfectly.

In 2007 and 2008 Jon Foreman released 4 EPs (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer). As I’m a huge Switchfoot fan, and love anything Jon does,  I wanted them right away. So I bought the downloadable digital version of each release as soon as it was available. 3 minutes later I had my iPhone plugged into my car stereo and was jamming to “Equally Skilled.” I actually did end up buying the physical CD version of Fall, but realized it wasn’t that unique in packaging, and I never played it once.

Then the vinyl collectors edition came out.

Signed. Numbered. Limited. Rare. And full of never-before-seen photos that Jon took himself.

And I had to have it. I easily parted with the extra money for it.

Now it’s interesting to note that I haven’t actually played the records. Nor do I necessarily plan to (though I’m not opposed to it). I listen to the music regularly on my iPhone or Mac Book Pro because it’s convenient. But I savor the art on the vinyl collectors set that proudly rests in my bedroom.

And this is the point.

Self-published authors (and publishers that manage to survive; that’s another post) will produce ebooks as the new means of media distribution. It is inevitable. But traditional print books will serve a purpose: the collectible. And with the most recent advents in POD (print on demand) services, running small numbers of a high quality product has never been easier and more accessible. In fact, I dare say printed books will become more sought after, but never more prolific.

The signed, numbered, dated, leather-bound, silver-plated, hand-embossed, wax-sealed, parchment-printed, collectors set, the tangible version of the book that changed your life that you simply cannot live without, that book will always live on. Even as sacrilegious as it may sound, I haven’t touched my favorite physical Bible in over a year, though it sits proudly on the bookshelf beside my bed, signed and dated by my father Peter. Instead, my iPhone and Mac Book Pro have become my sole source of daily Bible reading.

And now I feel vindicated for starting off with a music comparison: books and vinyl really do belong in the same post after all. ch:

Flying with an ARC

I’m sitting on a plane bound for BRU with good company: my Daddy Hopper, Peter, and an Advance Reader Copy of Bryan Davis’ new book 1 from his forthcoming Tales of Starlight Series, Masters & Slayers.

Davis fans everywhere, eat your heart out. (Sorry, how often do I get to do that?).

Needless to say, I’m honored to even be asked to give this book an endorsement; it’ll be two thumbs way up, for those interested.

So why the flight to Europe? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned right here for more updates, and jump on my Twitter and FaceBook streams for tid-bits.

Or you could just look at my Dates page. ch:

CotSK Amazon Blitz Today!

amazon cotsk

Hey gang! Today, October 7th, is our “let’s blitz Amazon” day. We’re asking all of our friends to rally behind us and pre-order Curse of The Spider King, helping shoot the book up on the national ranking. For anyone that purchases the book today, please email me a digital copy of your receipt (ie. forward the receipt email), and Wayne and I will send you an autographed book plate to stick on the inside of your edition. Thanks again for jumping into the fray with us! ch: