Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

PRESS RELEASE:
For release on Tuesday, September 10th.
For additional information or interview, contact Rebekah Berthet or Candy Shaw: (315) 788-0825

WATERTOWN, NY - Christopher Hopper signs a copy of The Sky Riders for fans at The Vault in New Life Christian Church

WATERTOWN, NY – Christopher Hopper signs a fans book at The Vault in New Life Christian Church. Photo by Joseph Gilchrist.

Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

CLAYTON, NY – What do vintage airships, giant birds, floating cloud cities and steam-powered engines all have in common? If you guessed local author Christopher Hopper’s new steampunk epic, then you’d be spot on. The Sky Riders, Hopper’s seventh novel to date, hits digital and physical bookshelves today via Amazon.

“This is really exciting for me,” says Hopper, a resident of the Town of Clayton. “From right here in the 1000 Islands, I get to publish my novels worldwide, all because technology has made it easier to reach fans.”

Formerly with traditional legacy publishers like Thomas Nelson Inc. and Tsaba House Inc., Hopper is one of the growing body of writers who’ve jumped ship to self-publish. Bowker Identifier Services reports that there are over 235,000 self-published titles now for sale, a 287% growth surge since 2006. And with entities like Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace—both Amazon companies—self-publishing for digital and print has become more accessible, and more lucrative. Bookstats reported that 2012 sales figures of ebooks hit $3.04 billion, which gives Hopper even more reason to be excited.

“Where you’d only make between 8-15% with a legacy publisher,” says Hopper, “my lowest royalty bracket with self-publishing is 30%, and my highest is 70%.”

While some ask Hopper about the readers he’s missing out on by abandoning the traditional publishing route, he’s quick to correct them. “I was missing huge amounts of readers with traditional publishing, as they were mainly targeting book stores. Today, I have instant distribution to millions of Kindle and Nook readers, and sales up are up over 300% from my legacy publishing days. The bottom line is that I’m reaching more readers with less work than ever before.”

Thinking of self-publishing your own title? Not so fast. “It’s a lot of work,” admits Hopper. “But outsourcing exterior and interior design, for example, as well as shopping for editing services, can help people where they might be weak.”

If you’re still wondering just how to self-publish through something like Amazon, Hopper has an answer for that too. He published his Handbook to Publishing Your Novel ebook last December.

From where Hopper sits atop his floating cloud cities in his fictional world, the future is bright for readers and authors alike, and the return is anything but make believe.

The Sky Riders is available locally at The Vault in New Life Christian Church, as well as online at http://www.christopherhopper.com. •

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:

GHOST by Wayne Thomas Baston

GHOST cover

By dear friend Wayne Thomas Baston has just released his newest creation to the masses, GHOST. I’ve had the privilege of tracking with this story from its inception, and I’m thrilled to have been asked to help spread the word.

If you’re not familiar with Baston, this is a gripping, riveting introduction – one definitely not for the faint of heart (or weak stomached). And if you’ve been reading Baston for a long time, then be ready for something altogether new.

Thriller meets CSI meets supernatural/paranormal. That’s all I’ll say. Get it, read it, love it.

I will warn younger readers: this book might not be for you. Here’s Wayne in his own words:

For my younger readers, please note that this is a story for older readers. At the very least, age 16+ Why? It won’t be for sex and bad language––that’s a promise. And it won’t be for gratuitous violence either. I’d say the violence and bloodshed would be on par with my pirate books.

So why the audience designation? Two reasons: these books will deal with the criminal element, and some of the scenes / topics may disturb younger readers. Ghost is a special sort of investigator who will go after the worst of the worst criminals, the ones no one else can or will catch. These are villains who have literally been getting away with murder…or worse. Another reason for the change in reading audience is that these books will be on a whole new level of intensity. Seriously. We’re talking, white-knuckle, pit of your stomach, fear. There’s a point to it all as well, and hopefully a message of hope.

So without any further ado, here’s the write-up and links to the Kindle version. (Print version to follow later this summer. Stay tuned).

ch:

_____________

GHOST

“Fans of Lee Child and Jim Butcher will love this series!”
—The Underground

Protector and punisher…

Hunter and hunted…

Down-to-earth and otherworldly…

John Spector, aka GHOST, isn’t your ordinary investigator.

He carries a shiny badge, a billfold ID, and a mysterious silver suitcase. His mission? Seek the forgotten ones, the abandoned ones, the ones no one else can or will help. Visit blunt force trauma upon the world’s blackest souls and deny the devil his day by any means necessary. And never stop. Never.

For more than a decade, the “Smiling Jack” killer has been posting photos of his victims on the Web, daring anyone to catch him, daring anyone to care. But when no missing person files match and no victims are ever found, the FBI closes the case.

Years later, a digital camera washes up on shore, and GHOST finds it. Each macabre photo becomes a clue that will lead GHOST and FBI Special Agent Deanna Rezvani on the trail of one of the most diabolical killers of this world…or beyond.

“No one gets away with murder. Not for long.”

NOTE: This book is intended for mature reading audiences. The appropriate reader age is: 16+

GHOST, available now at: http://is.gd/PHqG2t

Getting Bit By What You Want

I had people comment, write emails, a few in-person inquiries, and send text messages (you all know who you are) requesting that I compile last week’s posts in an ebook. While I argued it was already available for free on my blog, there seemed to be a consensus that an aggregated collection was an attractive option. It was even suggested that $.99 was a small price to pay for the work, especially if there was some bonus content.

While I couldn’t come up with a whole lot in the way of bonus content (thanks for the ideas Gabe), one thought was staring me in the face: the final, unwritten post.

So I’ve decided to hold off my last post on promotion and social media for the $.99 ebook.

Cruel, I know. But I suppose you all have yourselves to thank for it. Or at least some of yourselves. Perhaps your grand idea jumped up and bit you in the buttocks; I was quite content to leave it alone. But you have to admit, it is a good idea. (Thanks y’all).

Needless to say I’m trying to turn this small document around in record time. All my faithful readers will be the first to know when How To Self Publish Your Book: A Real Life Guide On How A Real Life Guy Self Published His Novels live. Thanks for the inspiration; you’re a true example of social media pressure changing the course of history. Or at least my mind.

For now, you socially-persuasive minions (and I mean that in the most affectionate of ways: think Despicable Me) can help me decide upon a byline. The cover above? Or the one below? ch:

A Guide to Self-Publishing: Publishing eBooks

This one is the big kahuna. The full monty. The one that got away…

…but not this time.

This time you snagged it, reeled it in, and grilled it for dinner.

This is the future of book publishing, and we are living in it. It has never been easier for a writer to reach millions of people globally than it is right now. Amazon continues to push its prices lower on Kindles and get them into as many hands as possible. And contrary to recent statements by union-type elites loyal to the author and consumer gouging practices of the Big 6, successful companies that verge on monopolizing any field do not raise prices but lower them. Consumers and creators benefit. As J.A. Konrath so unabashedly pointed out, it’s cartels and unions that are suffering, and are therefore throwing a hissy fit.

What’s the point?

The fact that you’re missing out on free money as I type this should be at least one motivating factor in getting you to start, finish, or prepare your manuscript for sale as an ebook. Yes, I write because I believe words change culture; I also write because I am compelled to be obedient to what I sense the Holy Spirit is calling me to, and to steward the talent he’s given me; as a blood-bought Christian, I will receive a reward (or lack thereof) in proportion to how I stewarded my gifts here on planet Earth. But I also write because it’s added income for my family, and as a husband and father I care a great deal about being faithful to them. You may not share my spiritual beliefs, but you probably share some of my economic ones.

Selling ebooks is probably the simplest, fastest, and most expansive return on my writing investment I’ve seen yet.

Granted, some authors will sell only a very little. Good books sell, and you should never fault consumers for poor sales performance. Other authors will sell gobs. The man I’ve mentioned above has hit $75,000-$100,000 USD/week multiple times in 2012. He’s fascinating to study, and to read. [Disclaimer to my younger readers: Konrath is brilliant, but at times he's very vulgar so please have a parent per-read a new post if you're unsure].

Me? I’m already making more per month than I ever have with my legacy publishers, and I expect my ebook sales to catch up with 6 months of combined print sales in less than 40 days.

As I’ll discuss tomorrow, I’m still experimenting with promotional tactics and trying to isolate what works and what doesn’t. Proper marketing is a fascinating and ever changing beast.

eBook Conversion

Probably the easiest part of self-publishing, and ironically the most cost-effective and lucrative, waits until the end of this whole process. That is unless you have no intention of providing print editions (which would go against the ideology of providing your books to as many people as possible across every available platform).

All the work you did to organize, edit and layout your manuscript, and to craft and refine a cover, now translates easily into creating an ebook. Essentially the conversion process takes the guts of your text and the front face of your cover and merges them together. If you’re skipping the print edition, then having a finished Word file and a front cover design are all you need.

As mentioned yesterday, I use Glendon & Tabatha Haddix of Streetlight Graphics for all my ebook conversions (and I plan to for a while to come). Here’s a little reasoning on why.

Knowing I’m a geek (nerds don’t make money; geeks do), I felt strongly I could attempt converting my own books. I read multiple tutorials on using MS Word and Adobe InDesign to convert manuscripts to ebooks. Given the amount of extraneous code that Word puts on the back end of a document, and the fact that I generally loathe even opening it (I prefer less clunky, more resource friendly and sleeker applications like TextEdit, Evernote and Scrivener) I decided to put most of my time into using InDesign.

I read tutorials, watched how-to guides, and even had some great dialogue with Adobe staff and one noted independent industry guru (all of whom were very helpful, by the way). But my final products never seemed to add up to something I felt represented my books, and I was sure they’d infuriate my readers. Knowing I had one chance to make my e-reading public happy, I needed a better option.

Kindle will help you convert a manuscript – at least to Kindle. When you create your free Kindle Direct Publishing account, they have options where you can have a KDP tech look at your PDF and give you a quote for converting it. Their base price says $69.00 USD. But my quote came back as $179.00 USD for each title of The White Lion Chronicles, as my PDFs had some “layering issues” they would not elaborate on. Ouch.

But having KDP convert for me was only a quarter of the problem. Since they only convert for Kindle – and holding to my “provide my books in as many formats as possible” mantra – I still had to find a way to convert for all the other formats, including Nook, Kobo, Adobe Digital Editions, Smashwords, Sony eReaders and Apple iBooks.

And people wonder where all my hair went.

By this point in the process I was tired and frustrated. I was emailing my fellow Spearhead authors looking for answers. One of their generous friends from a church in Seattle attempted to assist me; but even he, a former Amazon employee and conversion tech, was having trouble because things had changed since when he left a year ago. (Gulp).

That’s when Wayne Thomas Batson forwarded us all a link to Streetlight. At first none of us could believe their prices were legit. (Their cover prices as well as their package deals are amazing too!). So I wrote them to inquire.

Within a few hours I had a personal reply. What seemed too good to be true turned out to be better than too good. It was great. Not only would they format for Kindle for under $69.00 USD like KDP had quoted me, but they’d also convert to all the other formats I needed for under $69.00 USD per title!

I was beside myself.

Following the recommendation of friends I went and purchased a few randomly selected ebooks Streetlight had done, and the quality was above anything I could produce (and to date I’ve received zero negative feedback – a first for any reading format for me). Glendon & Tabatha are first class communicators and converters.

Distributing Online

Within one month I had The White Lion Chronicles ready to upload to all ebook distributing channels. Here’s what you’ll need to do the same.

1.) Open a free account with Kindle Direct Publishing. This will allow you to distribute your ebook to the largest seller in the world. And my own numbers prove it: more than 90% of my sales are on Kindle. You don’t need an ISBN; KDP has its own internal means of assigning yours books identification, though you can use your own ISBN if you have one.

2.) Open a free PubIt! account with Barnes & Noble which will allow you to distribute to the Nook. The Nook accounts for 2% of my sales to date. Like KDP, PubIt! doesn’t require an ISBN number and will track your ebook internally, but they’ll use your ISBN if you supply it.

3.) Open a free Smashwords account. Smashwords is great because it will allow you to reach all the other digital devices and formats out there, including Apple’s iBooks, and making your manuscript available as a viewable or printable PDF (I feel sorry for that printer!). Unlike KDP and PubIt!, Smashwords does require you to have an ISBN. It’s important to note that you can not use your physical book’s ISBN for your digital books. Your print book and you ebook are separate products (even though they have the same title), so they require different identification. Smashwords has their own batches of ISBNs that – like CreateSpace – list them as an associated entity with you, but does not infringe on your legal or moral rights or royalties. Until I feel like shelling out $1,000.00 USD for a block of 1,000 ISBNs from Bowker, this is the route I went. (Yes, you can buy less ISBNs from Bowker at a time, but the price is ridiculous).

One last note on Smashwords: in order for your book to be listed in something like Apple’s iBook Store, your book must meet their Premium status. Essentially, it needs to be a properly formatted, clean conversion that meets strict guidelines. Which Streetlight’s conversions do. It took almost 3 weeks (as your books wait in line), but eventually they were approved (something you see noted in your Smashwords dashboard).

Why not publish through Apple directly? You certainly can. But Apple tends to work faster with large representation companies (like Smashwords) that funnel huge quantities of titles and authors to them. Plus there’s no guarantee they’ll accept your application (they tend to be picky). There’s no real cost benefit either way, and it’s just one less account I have to monitor. I’m used to this already as my digital music is distributed through a San Francisco based company called IODA that supplies over 350 online retailers with my music, including Apple’s iTunes.

Streetlight provides a free step-by-step guide on how to upload your books and list them, and they alert you to any pitfalls in the process. It needs revising for 2012, but is a very simple and methodical overview of what to expect, and outlines just what you get when they convert your manuscript. (Astounding).

Pricing your ebooks can be a bit daunting. And the truth is you’ll never really know what works for you until you experiment. KDP has set the standard for the most part. At the time of my writing, they have two royalty brackets you can operate within: 30% for books set between $.99 and $2.98 USD, and 70% for books set at $2.99 USD and up. There are many articles and opinions on the best performing price points and why, but you risk getting so distracted you never end up setting a price point at all. All my books are set at $2.99 USD across all digital platforms at present; I may experiment later with dropping that further to $.99 USD.

There is a lot of discussion about the merits of selling ebooks for free in order to grow a fan base. While PubIt! and Smashwords allow this, Kindle does not, unless you’re a directly endorsed Amazon-published author (a whole other subject outside of this guide). KDP will only allow $.99 USD as their lowest price point. I’ll discuss the pros and cons of free in tomorrow’s subject of promotion.

The Future Is Calling

Publishing in the digital world is still in its infancy. But one thing is clear: it’s not going anywhere. Innovators will emerge, new companies will be birthed, and world literacy will grow – one of the best results I can think of.

I’ve heard it rumored that 10 is the magic number. Once an author has 10 titles to his or her name, their money-making abilities are firmly ensconced in the digital world. Call it an algorithm, a hunch, or a marketing ploy by Amazon to get more titles on their virtual shelves, the fact is that that premise will most likely mean little to you if you’re not writing.

So stop reading this and get back to writing. ch:

TWLC eBooks Are Here

In what seems to be the coup de grace for my self-publishing journey thus far, the ebook versions of The White Lion Chronicles are here.

Well, almost.

I wasn’t going to post about them until the largest performing of the formats – the Kindle editions (which ironically enough take the most time for Amazon to process to a publishable state) – were ready. But the expected 24-48-hour estimated timeframe was cut down to only a few hours last night, and poof! they’re ready.

The Smashwords versions are also ready to go (which eventually trickles down to the Apple iBooks versions).

The ones I’m still waiting on are the Barnes & Noble Nook versions. I will be sure to post an update as soon as B&N is done processing the conversions; I expect them to be ready later today. UPDATE: Nook versions are live! See below.

A huge thanks goes to the very helpful, ever insightful, and beyond reasonable services of Glendon and Tabatha Haddix at Streetlight Graphics.

I priced them all at just $2.99 in the hopes that as many people as possible will download and enjoy the novels that have meant so much to me and my family as well as thousands of readers over the past six years.

So please grab them for your favorite e-reader and share the news with your reading friends. Who knows, maybe you’ll even inspire a “non-reader” like I was to discover the breathtaking world of reading. ch:

Rise of the Dibor: Kindle | Nook | Smashwords

The Lion Vrie: Kindle | Nook | Smashwords

Athera’s Dawn: Kindle | Nook | Smashwords

Self-Publishing Snapshot

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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:

Waving Goodbye

Are you waving goodby to the publishing industry as we know it yet?

If you aren’t, just try flopping your hand around so you don’t look ignorant (but maybe slightly dysfunctional).

Last night I posted a progress report on my self-publishing journey thus far with CreateSpace. Writing it all out took longer than I thought it would; there’s a lot to putting a book out.

I should rephrase that.

The steps and skill sets need to execute the basic process of putting a book out are fairly simple; the time and cognitive energy needed to keep track of the slew of details is a lot of work.

Margins, headers, consistency, spell-check, where’d that extra indent come from?, did you remember the bleed?, wrong file type, someone found another typo?, what’s the cover art path again?

While we’ll never say goodbye to the need for hard work, it is time to say goodbye to legacy publishing. At least it has been for me.

In one of my comments to Nathan Reimer on yesterday’s comments section, I said:

“I felt a little euphoric clicking submit [on my manuscript upload]. Half fearful I’d missed something catastrophically minor; half peeing my pants that I was publishing a book all by myself without a major publisher holding my hand.”

And that’s the truth of it. As a self-published author, the buck starts and stops with you. You have the tools, and the choices to make it awesome, or to make it a failure. Whatever support staff the traditional publisher provided – dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s – that’s all gone. Bye bye. But so is your expense of parting with a huge portion of your profits to do so. If you felt it was worth it, bravo. I didn’t.

In another comment last night by my friend Christian Fahey, he said:

“I read an interview with Jeff Bezos [founder and CEO of Amazon.com] recently where he stated his vision–swallow this–is to make every literary work known to man available in any language (primarily in ebook). Such extraordinarily big thinking is one of the reasons he, and Amazon, are at the pinnacle of this colossal shift.”

It’s forward thinking like that that’s caused traditional publishers to become a meaningful but isolated relic of the last century.

If you’re still with a traditional press, I’m sure you have good reasons. But I feel a little sorry for you.

If you feel like you’re supposed to be writing a book that others should read but you’re not, I’m sure you have good reasons. But I feel a little sorry for you.

I’m about to re-release my first novel, make it available forever, and make six times the money I’d ever made before. All this while maintaining 100% creative control, and releasing it far sooner then the typical 16-18 month turnaround period of legacey publishers.

Did you hear that? It’s the sound of the self-publishing bus taking the traditional publishing industry to school. ch:

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Rise of the Dibor Cover Art

So as you probably read from yesterday’s news about Spearhead Books, things are getting exciting for our tribe in the post-publishing world.

But you also probably saw a glimpse of Rise of the Dibor’s cover. So I thought I’d give you a little clearer look today.

There are a few more tweaks to be made, but this will at least give you a solid idea of what’s to come.

While I originally thought a warrior (a Dibor) should be on the cover, the whole reason the Dibor were formed was to confront the Dairne-Reih. The Miller Bros took this to a other level by suggesting that a statue-like figurine, eluding to legendary history, be center stage. And so a stone Dairneag was decided upon as the best fit for Book I.

I like the change-up from the first edition in 2006, which was more classically romantic, and think it brings a fierceness and intensity to the cover that it lacked perviously.

I owe a big thanks to Chris & Allen Miller for the concept design, and Jason Clement for the TWLC logo branding.

With the interior design getting wrapped up today, and the cover tomorrow, I’m hoping Amazon’s CreateSpace gives me a ship date by late next week.

Again, thanks for your patience gang. Enjoy the torture a little more; it’s almost done. ch:

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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?

Pre-Realease Reading Winners

As per my post earlier this week, I’ve randomly selected 10 winners among those that left comments to help me proof-read the TWLC Signature Series manuscripts. Without further ado, they are:

Ralyn
Desinty
Leah
Noah
Sarah RVP
Heather
Rae
Emma
Glade
Dannal

The 10 lucky winners will be notified by email with instructions.

Thanks to everyone who participated! I look forward to getting you all the new books in July! ch:

TWLC Update & Special Opp

Hey Readers.

As I’ve been unusually quiet on my blog over the past four weeks, I felt you needed a little update on the release of The White Lion Chronicles – Signature Series. And a special opportunity for 10 of you. Read on!

First off, as I mentioned on FaceBook and Twitter a little while ago – since I’ve decided to use CreateSpace – print versions of the series will be available in addition to the previously-announced ebook versions. I know this makes a lot of you very happy. So rest assured, while the new cover of Athera’s Dawn won’t match the first editions stylistically, you will have a physical 6″x9″ book to fill the hole in your bookshelf.

All three works have been painstakingly re-edited by the brilliant Sue Kenney. I am indebted to her for her services far beyond what I’m paying her financially. She has kept true to the original heartbeat of the manuscripts while cleaning up my errors and asking all the right questions for needed changes to occur.

The covers are in the hands of my sister, Hillary Hopper (TinyCo), and designer Jason Clement. Needless to say my own hands are in the pot a little, too.

The lion share of my time at the moment (and on my flights to and from the West Coast this weekend) is being spent sifting through remaining edits, and formatting the books. Interior design is extremely tedious, but I can’t say that the control freak in me doesn’t love knowing exactly how it’s going to look.

All that being said, I’m hoping Rise of the Dibor is ready to roll out mid-July, followed by The Lion Vrie a week later, and the highly anticipated Athera’s Dawn after that.

Now, for the special opportunity. Because this is my first time formatting my own books for print, I need some extra eyes to read through the print-ready PDFs to make sure they are “clean.” This means checking for missed indents, spacing and page break issues, alignment, page indication mishaps, and any fleeting grammar issues we missed. You’re not critiquing the story, calling for re-writes, or killing off characters.

If you’re interested and have a savvy eye for such things, I’ll be sending the final PDF manuscripts of all three books for free to 10 randomly-selected people that indicate they’re interested in the comments section below. To give people enough time to enter, I will select winners at random over this coming weekend and announce them next week. After I contact you via email, the manuscripts will arrive as-they’re-ready with special instructions.

Thanks for all your support over the years; some of you have been waiting since 2007 for Athera’s Dawn. The fact that there hasn’t been an international uprising upon my home (or computer) astounds me. Hopefully the third installment will put all your longings for completion to rest. ch:

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 Book Publishing

where music leaves us

In addition to wondering about the future of the printed book, there’s at least one more pressing question that those interested in the book-world have been and should be asking: what about the future of print publishing?

While there are some similarities here with the music business, they’re not nearly as close as they were in my previous post on the subject. The main reason is that making good music is still rarely a one-man-show. Even for a guy like me who’s been around and mastered [pun intended] almost all facets of the industry, music-making–from initial creative inertia to final product–involves and even requires many talented people to pull off well. Sure, there’s the occasional one-hit-wonder, or guy-with-a-laptop-who-only-uses-samples-to-create-a-project; but to make a meaningful collection of songs up to industry standards, it takes a team.

It also takes a lot of equipment.

Acoustically perfect rooms are still needed, as well as gold-sputtered large-diaphragm microphones, expensive hard disk space, CPU processing, quality monitors, mixing surfaces, mastering programs, not to mention hiring all the musical talent, engineers, producers, and mixing ears. Then you front the money for design, duplication, and distribution. And unlike book signings, which yes, often do include performances of a sort, music must be performed. And that’s a whole other industry.

I think it’s for this reason alone that we haven’t seen the complete demise of record companies. Because someone still needs to coordinate the talent and front the monies and manage the time lines.

True, musical artists can do much on their own. But those that do are still the exception, and usually have a big wallet or are using inventive methods of grass-roots investment to finance projects (like Eric Peter’s last project which proudly displays “The Hopper Tribe” in his liner notes). Larger record companies also have a lot of pull with what gets played and how many shelves a project sees space on. But even that is beginning to change.

I don’t know anyone that buys music based on “record company,” but on what they like. And in our information-accessible generation, connecting the artist with their listeners–both existing and potential–doesn’t really need the record company. They need an internet connection and a list of tour dates.

the lone art

So how, exactly, are music publishing and book publishing different?

Well, writing novels is incredibly simple: an author sits down…and writes.

Granted, most writers I know are a bit strange.

Some, downright weird.

But then again, you’d have to be.

To spend hundreds and hundreds of hours sitting in front of a computer screen staring at lines of information is pretty tedious. More like a computer programmer. And no matter how cool the Matrix made looking at code seem, computer programmers are even weirder than authors.

In a nut shell, it’s this simplicity that makes the publisher obsolete. Technology just helped push the inevitable along.

but the publisher does so much!

So if a record company does all of the stuff I listed above, a publishing company surely does just as much to merit an equal place of prestige.

Right?

I said, right?

What hundreds and now thousands of writers are realizing is no, they don’t.

As I said, writing books is much simpler than making music.

Yes, there are editors. But a good writer truly only needs one good one; often a skilled writer can edit their own work successfully. A handful of “Proofies”–as I call them–help, but they’re usually willing to proof the book for free seeing as how they had the intangible privileged of reading it before anyone else.

Editors often get in the way, too. Traditional publishers always have a way of using their editors to make you fashion the art they think will sell, not what you think is right. Sure, there’s something to be said for market awareness; but critical thinking and a serious eye can tell you just as much as any market analyst would, and having an editor that “gets” you and your art is almost priceless.

Interior design? Exterior design? Why, but of course! After all, no matter how often the quote is used, we actually do judge books by the their covers. And how they’re laid out. But those services, along with editorial services, are quite easy to secure, especially when producing for the growing e-market.

That leaves distribution. Distribution of thick, heavy paper books that are constantly vying for shelf space–the majority of which you’ll never ever see as an author–and cost anywhere from $12-$15 for a consumer to buy.

Which you, the author, gets all of.

Umm. Actually, no. You get about 8% of it. And 14.5% if it’s a digital sale.

So where, exactly, is that other 92% going?

That, my friends, is the million-dollar question, and what authors like me are trying to figure out. And the only logical answer is into a bloated publishing system with high production overhead, over-staffing, heavy distribution costs…

…and does very little marketing for the author.

I can almost justify the first few items, but that last one is the clincher. Where the benefits of big-publisher name recognition, shelf-placement pull, and high-profile advertising prowess should really kick in is in the marketing. The crazy part is I did more self-promotion for the largest Christian publisher (Thomas Nelson) than I did for one of the smallest (Tsaba House). And none of it changed my personal bottom line…except in countless man hours, personal travel expenses, and creative ideas.

The result?

More fans, but less money for my baby’s mouths.

ok, but they’ll still be the filter

Ah yes. Traditional publishing’s last resort.

Now that anyone can publish themselves, who will help you know what’s good and what’s not? Surely the publisher will.

Any publisher that is still thinking this is already dead, they just don’t know it yet. It’s the same mistake “big government” makes. You’re not smart enough to manage your life, so we’ll do it for you, just give us all your money for the greater good.

In the not too distant future, the reader becomes the filter.

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that if one person likes something, they’ll tell all their friends. And if it’s a truly worthy concept, nothing can stop its success. Which means that if success is that apprehendable by the content creator, they have even more incentive to create their best work for their public. Which means you get better books for less money: the author knows their success rises and falls on whether or not you like it, not whether a publisher says it’s good or not, and can drop their prices for you (because the author is still making more on a less expensive self-published book than they are on a far more expensive traditionally published book).

guilds: the future publishers

I believe that in place of publishers will come alliances. Guilds, if you will. Gatherings of like-minded creators and inventors who’s allegiances are bound by willfully aligning themselves with one another. Sharing resources, combining platforms, and blending fans.

The truth is, more came out of the two Fantasy Fiction Tours that Wayne Thomas Batson and I dreamed up in 2007 and 2008 than almost any other book-related venture we’ve done. Pam Schwagerl, CEO of Tsaba House Inc. was also indispensable in her assistance (proof that sometimes smaller is better). The 9 authors that partook in that have benefited to this very day. And it wasn’t publishers doing the heavy lifting: it was the fans of a single author taking a risk on the work of another by mere association.

I believe that the new face of publishing will be self-published 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. ch:

What authors have you learned about and fallen in love with because of their affiliation with a pre-existing reading allegiance you had?

Are you more likely to buy a book because of the publisher or because of a recommendation?