Tag Archives: E-book

The Birth Day Giveaway

In the past it was customary to give out cigars to celebrate the birth of a child. However since times have moved on, and since I don’t smoke cigars and don’t know many people who do, I decided to do something else instead.

So for the next few days, my stories A Prairie Home Apocalypse: or What the Dog Saw and The Mulch Pile are available for free from Amazon.

What’s that? Why yes, this does somewhat lessen the incentive to enter and win the flash fiction contest I’ve got going on. I’m just peachy with that. And let me anticipate your next question and firmly deny that this is anything like a veiled attempt to use my newborn son’s cuteness to get you to check out my books.

Just look at the little fella. Look at those cute little duckies on that….cute little sleeping bag with arms? I’m not sure what’s going on with that.

Anyway, what manner of person would dare use the power of such cuteness to suggest you might read his stories and write a nice review (assuming you like them) or maybe click that little “Like” button on the top of the books’ Amazon page? Not this guy. And furthermore I would never stoop to adding that the more books I can sell the less likely it that this innocent little baby will die of malnutrition.  No my friends, I have higher principles than that.

So snap up this offer while you still can. If you need a format other than Kindle, feel free to shoot me an email.

Here’s to you Baby AJ. May you live long and live well. And just between you and me kiddo, I’ve got about as much idea of what I’m doing as you do right about now. We’ll figure it out together, okay?

In Defense of “Free”

Last week I came across an interesting post by social media maven Kristen Lamb about the dangers of authors making ebooks available for free. You should read the full post for yourself, but the general theme of the post was that because the ebook market is flooded with free stuff and most of it is worth less than a barrel of turds (because, hey, at least turds make good fertilizer) so making your book available for free could do more harm than good merely through the power of negative association.

As some of you may know, I’ve had some experience with the free side of the ebook market in the past, both as a seller and a buyer. And while I’ll concede that there are dangers in offering your ebook for free, in my experience there are also some advantages.

Last year Amazon made my ebook Derelict available for free without my prior knowledge or consent. It hit me as a shock, but it was perfectly within Amazon’s rights to make the change, and rather than gripe and moan about what was happening to my book, I decided to take a positive outlook on the situation. After all, it wasn’t like I was burning up the internet with that story before it was offered for free, and at least now people were READING it. And more than just reading it, some people responded with generally positive reviews.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when Amazon took the book back to its original price. Of course it didn’t move in the same numbers as it did when it was free, but it still outsold the rest of my fiction by a factor of a thousand percent (that’s a multiple of ten for those of you who ain’t so swuft with the math stuff.) Today it continues to sell just as well.

Which is why, when I recently released another short story, The Fisherman’s Nightmare, I chose to make it available for free on Smashwords. Of course the free book selection on Smashwords is even worse than what it is on Amazon, and the traffic there isn’t nearly as heavy which means I didn’t have terribly high hopes for the story, but not only did it move at a reasonable rate, it also drove a few sales for my other paid books as well.

Now this is only anecdotal evidence, and I’m not trying to say that everything Kristen said in her post was wrong, but I do feel like there’s a little more to the story.

We all want to get people talking about our writing, and as an unknown author it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, lost in a sea of other authors of varying ability, all them trying to break through to become the next Amanda Hocking. There are lots of ways to get the message about your books out to the world, but the core of the equation remains: are they any good?

And whether you choose to spread the word via social media, or making your books free, or hiring out a plane to do skywriting, people aren’t going to respond if they don’t like your work.

Remember, there is plenty of bad self published fiction out there, and at whatever price it makes the rest of us look bad.

Do your part. Don’t make it worse.

Bizzaro Book Review: Sharing by Miracle Jones

Some writers are wonderful storytellers. They spin tales with twists and turns that make the reader hunger for more. Some writers are wordsmiths, constructors of sentences so beautiful they make you want to cry, placing exactly the right word in exactly the right place. These two we know all too well. But there is a third proficiency found in a very small group of writers that is often overlooked. Some writers have great ideas.

Such is the case with Miracle Jones an author who spins concepts so unique, and literary constructions so strange, it’s almost as if they were hand-tailored to be reviewed on this blog.

I picked up Sharing for the same reason I pick up most of my ebooks: it was free. But downloading free ebooks is a haphazard venture at best, the literary equivalent of eating out of a dumpster. Sometimes you might find something worth consuming, but most of it is probably going to make you sick. But as your literary hobo taste-tester, I’ve taken it upon myself to take the plunge to sift through the trash looking for treasure.

When I started reading Sharing, I was certain is was little different than the other failures and fizzbombs from the bottom of the self publishing barrel. The voice was uncertain and shaky, as jagged as broken glass. The characters didn’t quite seem real. And the plot…well at first it seemed as nonexistent, as if the author were simply pulling random weirdness out of the air.

And yet there was this indescribable quality to it. Imagine if you will, walking down the street, minding your own business when out of an alleyway a sound of strange music emerges. You step forward, vaguely intrigued, and there in the darkness you find an old man seated at a weather-worn piano plunking away at the keys. The instrument is out of tune, the player, seemingly amateur, and yet there is something in those discordant tones that keeps you from continuing on your way. You stand there, listening for the pattern in the music, trying to suss out what it is that draws you in so, when suddenly from the shadows, the sound of more instruments begin to emerge. From deep in the shadows come the strains of bent tubas, badly tuned violins, and other musical implements that produce sounds unlike anything you’ve ever heard. And suddenly, the pattern becomes clear. All the pieces fit together, none of them whole on their own, but each somehow striving to a weird synergy of sound that lifts your spirit unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.

That’s what reading this book was like. It was undeniably flawed, and yet also undeniably brilliant.

And, as I mentioned earlier, the weirdness factor was off the charts. Venture into this book and you will meet fantastic cast of characters, seemingly plucked from the darkest of Lewis Carol’s nightmares. There is a bull-like creature with a blade for a horn that flies by means of hundreds of writhing tentacles. There is a talking cockroach who claims to be a fairie. And there is a tiny sentient planetoid, covered by vampiric computers, that projects the psychic image of a cute kitten over itself.

All of these and one ordinary human girl meet in a desert where the sands are ever flowing toward a gaping hole in reality and the only fixed points are a massive cathedral covered in alien runes, and a strangely terrestrial diner.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the utterly strange. The writing is raw, but in a way, that is part of its charm. This is a work that could only exist in the world of e-publishing. It has its flaws, but if you’re willing to look past them, there is something simply brilliant to be found here.

You can download Sharing for free, here.

The Anachronism’s Survival Guide

Dear Theoretical Future Grandchildren,

A few weeks ago I wrote you a letter, bemoaning the fact that it was likely you would never set foot in a physical bookstore with physical books. Because from where I’m standing it sure looks like everything’s going electronic.

Back here in the past there’s a bookstore you’ll have never heard of called Border’s that’s just gone belly-up and a lot of people seem to think that this is a sign of things to come for every book store.

But I was thinking about it the other day, and it occurred to me that I might have gotten it wrong. You little dearies from the future might be reading my post to you from the past and thinking, “What a lark! Good old pop pop, and his ‘End of Physical Books’ nonsense.”

So I’m writing this to cover my bases. But also because, I really do see a possible future for physical books, if only some company is bold enough to seize it.

Let me explain by way of a seemingly unrelated tangent: I work for Walmart. I expect they’re still around in the future, but if not, they’re so big now that I’m sure you’ve at least heard of them.

And here’s the thing about Walmart: when they were spreading and growing a lot of people said that they would push a smaller locally owned stores out of existence. After all, none of those stores could compete with the mega low prices that Walmart had to offer. And indeed many local stores did go out of business after Walmart came to town.

But the other day I was standing inside a local hardware store called Hall’s Hardware just down the road from Walmart and they seem to be doing rather well for themselves. And as I looked around me I realized that the future of physical books might look a lot like Hall’s.

This is how Hall’s Hardware succeeds in a town that has not one, but two big box hardware stores.

Finnish civilian gas mask from 1939.

Image via Wikipedia

1. They have stuff you can’t find anywhere else.

This is a store that has gas masks. This is a store that has eighteenth century style manacles. And on top of the weird stuff, they’ve also got hard-to-find hardware items, kitchen utensils, pet supplies…you name it they’ve got it. And every day when customers can’t find something at my store I send them down the road with the phrase, “You know they’ve probably got that at Hall’s.”


2. They understand that shopping with them is about an experience.

This is a store that sells gas masks. Yeah, I know I said that already, but…really. Gas. Masks. How cool is that? They’ve got shelves and shelves full of oddities you never knew you needed until you walked past them. There are lots of times when I’ll go in there just to look. And their people? Don’t get me started on their people. Helpful, knowledgeable, friendly… they know who I am when I walk in the door (though to be fair that’s probably because I’m there ever other day). Just being there is a joy.

So what does all of this have to do with books, my theoretical future grandchildren? Simply this: if physical bookstores are going to survive the digital tidal-wave that’s rushing toward them, they’re going to have to learn these lessons too.

They won’t be able to fight the low prices online so they’re going to have to stock books that you never would have found on your own, books that make you stop and do a double-take. They’re going to have to foster the midlist and leave the bestsellers to the online giants.

And they’re going to have to realize that shopping in a physical bookstore isn’t merely about buying books. It’s about an experience.

Will they do these things? Only you can know, my theoretical future grandchildren. As for myself, I don’t intend to worry about it too much. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

With all my love, your theoretical future grandfather,

Albert Berg

P.S. What did I say about calling me pop pop? For serious ya’ll.

The Long Run

You know what I like? Money.

Really I do. I think it’s likely that some of you do too. But it’s hard to come out and say it sometimes isn’t it? Because we want people to believe that our motives are pure, untarnished by such a vulgar thing as money.

So we beat around the bush. We say things like, “Money isn’t everything in life,” and “I would rather be happy than rich,” and while there isn’t anything wrong with these statements I think in some small way they’re really our way of saying, “I’m not rich, and so I’m going to justify my relative poverty through moral superiority.”

But let me tell you, I get kinda sick of shopping the discount bread rack at the grocery store, or doing the math in my head to see if I can afford to fill my gas tank all the way up. I’m not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me. I have a house, two cars, two televisions (that I’m currently trying to convince my wife we should really get rid of) and I eat well enough that I’ve started back into exercising to shed those extra pounds. I’m not hurting.

But I wouldn’t say no to more.

Which is why, when someone commented on this blog yesterday, asking how many self-published authors made a profit, it got me to thinking and thinking hard. Because while I can honestly say I write because I love it, and would continue to do it whether I got paid or not, you had better believe that one day, I’d like to make some money with this writing thing.

Here’s what I think about the prospects of making money as a self-published author: it can be done, but it won’t be fast (or easy).

I’ve been reading Bob Mayer’s blog on and off recently, and one of the things he loves to hate on is the fact that Amazon’s sales tracker lets self-published authors check their numbers in real time. In his eyes, this is symptomatic of a get-rich-quick, show-me-the-money-now kind of mentality that plagues the majority of the self-published authors out there in the world.

And while I mentioned yesterday, that I myself check my sales numbers far too often for Mr. Mayer’s taste, I agree with the general assertion he’s making about the industry.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Self-publishing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. I’ve been following several authors who have released self published books recently, hard working people who I admire as writers and who seem to be doing everything right.

But the numbers just aren’t there. The general pattern is: sales start pretty well at first, but as the author reaches the outer limits of his internet audience, those sales start to drop off pretty quickly. Because let’s be real, the odds of some stranger finding your work at random amidst the piles and piles of other self-published books out there and buying it are way lower than we’d like to think about.

Bummer right? Well, yes and no. Like I said, this isn’t a short term game. These lackluster numbers are coming from authors still working to establish a presence in this crazy world of digital publishing.  And that takes time. Amanda Hocking, the personified holy grail of self-publishing, wrote seventeen books before she started self-publishing them. That’s a lot of hours spent in front of a screen leading up to what seemed like an “overnight success.”

So here’s my advice to you authors hoping to someday may a profit. Don’t think about next week or next month, or even next year. Think about where you’ll be a decade from now. Are you willing to stick with it for that long? Are you willing to keep writing, and keep putting your work out there even when it seems like it’s going nowhere?

Because that’s what it’s going to take. I’m not saying you’ll get rich like Amanda Hocking, but if you stick with it for the long haul and give it your all, I believe it is possible to make this writing thing profitable. That’s my plan anyway, and I’m sticking with it.

In the Land of the Free

Something weird happened this weekend. And I’m not talking about my being attacked by an alien Elvis impersonator in a Gorilla suit. I’ll tell you kids that story some other time.

What happened was this: I was checking the sales numbers for my books in the Kindle store. (I know Bob Mayer says that doing this too often means you’re taking your eyes off the long road, but it’s all so shiny and new right now it’s hard to keep myself from checking at least once a day. And that’s okay because I’m pretty sure I’ll grow out of it, just like I grew out of compulsively checking my blog stats every fifteen minutes.) Anyway, the last time I checked I had sold exactly five of my new scifi/horror short story “Derelict.” But when I checked my numbers on Saturday night that number had shot up to twelve hundred.

I froke out.

I chicken danced right across the ceiling I was so excited. Unfortunately my feet got caught in the fan blades, and I thumped back down to reality. “Wait a moment,” I said to myself. “Did not a wise man once tell me that if something seems to good to be true it probably is? And further was not this wise man my father, who’s noble office I am preparing to celebrate on the morrow? Perhaps this warrants further investigation.”

And what do you know, good old dad was right. Because when I checked my Amazon page I saw that my ebook, which had been listed at the bargain-basement price of ninety-nine cents, had been marked down into the sub-basement of freebies.

At first I was angry. Because hey, this was my story and they were just giving it away? Without my permission?

And then I remembered another wise thing my dad once said: “Always read the fine print.” So I did. And lo and behold, I found out that Amazon has every right to take your story and mark it down to whatever price they feel like.

Gradually my anger faded and was replaced with a heaping dose of pragmatism. I learned two things that night, things that my fellow authors would do well to keep in mind especially if they plan to ever go the indie/guerilla/self/gorilla-publishing route.

1. Amazon is large and in charge.

Seriously people, the Kindle is it right now. I’m sure some of you out there love your Nooks, and for what it’s worth I don’t own either, but from my side of the equation I can tell you that I’m selling way more ebooks through Amazon than anywhere else.

Which means that Amazon can basically afford to do whatever they want to do and you’ve just got to sit there and take it. Sure you can go out and whine and moan about how big they are and how its not fair, but none of that really matters. You’re in the game, and these are the rules. Maybe they aren’t “fair” but that doesn’t give you the excuse to stop playing to win.

2. Free stuff is the best publicity ever.

I want to reiterate something I said at the beginning of the post. Before, my story was in the hands of a total of five people. At this point it’s in the hands of nearly two-thousand.

Now sure, some of those people only downloaded the story because it was free. Maybe they won’t ever even get around to reading it. But now I have two five-star reviews on that story, where before I had none. And the odds are good that if people like my writing, some of them will check out my other ebooks. And having my story move so many copies so fast has done wonders for it’s ranking.

So yeah, maybe I’m just being a Pollyanna here but I see some huge potential upsides to all of this in the long run. And it is a long run. So I’m gonna pace myself, and keep doing my best. Because, honest success doesn’t come overnight.

P.S. You really should go and check out Derelict if you haven’t done so already. You’ve got no excuses now, and I really think you’ll like it. If you do like it, maybe you would be inclined to write a review?

On Self-Publishing

Last week I put my book A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw out for Kindle on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Since it has been an entire week since my book’s debut and since a number of people who are not my mom bought the book, this means that basically I’m an expert now.

Okay, so maybe that’s stretching things a bit, but you’d be surprised how your perspective on things can change in a week. With that in mind, I’m going to give you the top (whatever number I get to before I run out of material) things I have learned from and about being self-published.

1. People Are Awesome

You think you’ve gotten a sense of this through blogging and tweeting and such, but trust me when I say that nothing you’ve experiences will match the outpouring of support from people who desperately want to help you sell your book. They may not actually buy it, but they’ll jump off a cliff for the chance to retweet your announcements.

This is part of what I love about the writing community. Everyone wants to see everyone succeed. There’s no jealously, no sense of snobbery. If one of our friends puts out a book that we like even a little bit we’re gonna promote the crap out of that thing baby.

So even though I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again. Thank you. To all of you.

2. Being Self-Published is Hard Work

I should clarify here. The actual state of being self published does not require any effort on your part at all. You’re surely welcome to toss your book out into the cold dark digital world and hope that it maybe can get somewhere on it’s own merits. But if you want to have anything like a realistic chance of success you’ve got to promote that puppy.

Over the past seven days I’ve been on a number of different social media platforms, some of which you’ve probably never heard of getting the word out to all my online acquaintances and asking them to help me spread the word. I did my first blog interview. And then there’s all the questions to answer: the “is it out for the Nook yet?” people, and the “I don’t have a Kindle will you send me a PDF?” people. (And for the record, yes I totally will, just shoot me your email, and we’ll make that happen.)

I hope this doesn’t sound like whining, because it’s really been a blast, but all this promotion does take extra time out of your day.

3. Interviews are Awesome

I did my first interview ever with Cynthia Stewart, which should be going up on her website sometime later today, and let me tell you something, that was fun. Maybe it’s just my oversize ego talking here, but I really got into answering her questions and talking about the things that have shaped me as a writer. I really hope I get to do more of these in the future.

4. Self-Publishing is Not a Get Rich Quick Scheme

When I was growing up one of the things my dad told me over and over was this: “There are no honest get rich quick schemes.” And self-publishing has proved to be no exception to that maxim.

In spite of the fact that I’ve had some modest sales, the bottom line is that it isn’t easy to get people to click that “Buy This Book” button. I know this because I’ve been on the other end of that transaction with my wallet in hand thinking, “Do I really want to spend my three dollars on this?” And a lot of times even though I may like the premise and the author’s writing style the answer is still no.

Overall, taking into account the money I spent on the cover, I’m still in the red with this thing. I hope to change that in the coming week or so, but the bottom line is that I’m not gonna be quitting my job tommorow or the day after that.

So yeah, that’s the rundown. Sorry to end on a down note there, but I hope that something I’ve said has been useful to those of you who hope to tread this path someday soon.

Also, if you haven’t bought my book yet, you totally should.

Peace out ya’ll.


So remember that book thingy that was supposed to go out today?

Who knew that Amazon takes up to 24 hours to process a new book published to the Kindle Direct Bookstore?

Apparently not this guy, that’s who.

Let this be a lesson to you. STAY FLEXIBLE.

I’m actually looking at this work as a bit of a test run for some stuff I plan to release later in the year, so I’m learning as I go.

If the 24 hour estimate is accurate the book will be live in the Amazon Kindle store at around ten o’clock tonight central time.

And to all of the people who have showed such support for this book, I want to send out both a huge Thank You and an enormous I’m Sorry. We will work through the kinks and get this thing out there.

Thank you for your patience.

Of Scents and Sorcery

I was going to talk about agents today. I was going to whine and complain about how condescending they sometimes seem and how that sometimes it feels like they view us authors as tiny little word machines whose only purpose in life is to churn out predictable and easily classified stories for them to put next to other predictable and easily classified stories for the easy sale.

But you know what? Forget about that. Just because I got all riled up last week because of some agent’s  condescending blog post doesn’t mean I need to transfer all that frustration to you. So instead I’m gonna talk about smells.

Huh. That sounded kinda wrong. How about scents? “I’m gonna talk about scents” sounds better right?

Specifically I’m talking about the smells of books. Have you ever smelled a book? Ever stuck your nose in its pages and breathed in its essence?

Oh. Well, maybe I’m the only one then. That would certainly explain all the strange looks I get at the bookstore.

But I’ve noticed that each one is unique. Each book carries it’s own special perfume. Sometimes its a subtle smell, a whiff of ink and glue and the crisp perfume of clean paper. But other times it’s a stronger, more pronounced, almost acrid smell especially with old books where the paper is starting to brown and the edges of their covers are starting to fray. No two of them are ever quite the same.

Sometimes I like to imagine that each book’s individual smell is like a secret code, and if I knew the code I could absorb the story simply by breathing it in.

That’s one thing eBooks will never have. I’ll never be able to take my eReader and breath in the smell of history on a particularly old book or the scent of barely-dry ink on a new one. Don’t get me wrong. I love eBooks. But I don’t think I’ll ever get over holding a real book with real pages in my hands either.

Somewhere along the way, ink and paper combine together. The ink has no understanding of the words it has been entrusted to convey. The paper has no consciousness of its precious cargo. But somehow these two unwitting accomplices work together to create something of meaning. A memory, a story, a shard of the author’s soul.

It’s a kind of magic in its way. And I’ll never stop believing in it.

An Open Letter to Matthew McClintock

Dear Matthew McClintock,

I hardly know where to begin.  I suppose I should start by saying thank you.  Thank you for the wonderful things you do on your website manybooks.net.  I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled across it, but once I was there, there was no going back.  The interface was so clean and simple, and the selection of eBooks so large that I could scarcely believe such a thing to be real.

I remember starting with the older books, the ones that had fallen into the public domain, and trudging through their stale and stilted prose.  But eventually, as I explored further, I came across the treasure trove of gems and oddities available under the Creative Commons category.  There my eyes were truly opened.  I found works of literature that had long since left the placid waters of the mainstream and were courageously nosing their way into the backwaters and tributaries of creativity.  Some were great works of brilliance, forged from the very essence of originality and crafted with the skill of a master.  But others were amateurish, half-hearted attempts, obviously the product of authors recently inspired, full of exuberance, but badly in need of experience.

And it is for these last, that I believe I owe you the most thanks of all.  Because after I read some of those stories, I realized that anyone could find a place in your roll call of oddballs and outcasts. Even someone like me.  So I filled out the form and sent in my first story.  To this day I remember waking up that night and pulling out my cell phone to check your site only see that my story, had received a whopping total of 71 downloads.  For a writer whose previous readership had consisted solely of his family members it was a moment of pure joy and terror.  The realization that someone somewhere, some stranger I didn’t know, might actually be reading my work was an amazing moment for me.

More than anything, I want to thank you for what you do to make this all possible.  Other than voluntary donations, you charge nothing for the service you provide to the readers and writers of electronic fiction, and the I have had with your site is the best out of any of the eBook publishing websites I have found.  When I have a problem, or need to ask a question about something, I know that there’s an actual human being on the other end of my email.  Other sites might have spiffy and convenient automated update forms, but the human connection you provide is what makes manybooks.net stand out to me.

And so I end as I began, by saying thank you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Your efforts have given me something I may never have found on my own.  In your own way you have helped to change my world for the better.


Albert Berg