Blog Archives

MonsterCon and The Devil You Know

In honor of the Magic City MonsterCon (which I’m attending all weekend!) I’m doing the cover reveal for my newest writing project: The Devil You Know.

You can read the first four chapters of the book (what will comprise “Episode 1” in the final product) right now at Wattpad! Here’s a link: https://www.wattpad.com/user/TuckerAuthor

Two alien races vie for control of Earth amidst a human population decimated by a merciless plague, famine, and war.

Meanwhile, the denizens of Hell grow restless. The apocalypse they were supposed to instigate and revel in is happening without them…

Doing their best to create new lives in the aftermath of the chaos triggered by the aliens’ arrival, Abraham Black and Neri White come from backgrounds about as different as their last names would indicate. Yet, together, they may hold the key which allows humanity to remain the primary tenants of Earth. The question is: how much are they willing to give up to save the world? Their memories? Their lives? Their souls?

I’m describing this story as a Post-Apocalyptic, Epic, Suburban Fantasy… with Aliens. Yes, I think it’s going to be something unlike anything you’ve read before and I’m very excited about it. The story is more adult in nature than my previous works and it’s in the final stages of editing and rewrites and my goal is to have it available this winter, hopefully in time for the holidays.

So, without further ado, here is the cover:

tdykcover_v8

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below and I hope to see some of you this weekend!

Books Aren’t Worth the Paper They’re Printed On

Got your attention?

I’m a writer. How could I possibly, truthfully express the sentiment in that headline? Well, let me tell you a story…

My mother is an avid reader, mostly of thrillers and mysteries, and she had a number of bookshelves, stocked with her favorites from over the years. Recently, she had the carpet replaced in her home and, rather than going to the trouble of reshelving most of those books when the new carpet was in and she could return her furniture to the rooms, she decided to sell the majority of those books to a used book store.

About three years ago, she made the reluctant plunge to ebooks. I say reluctant because she didn’t think she’d stick with it initially. Now, you’d have to pry her kindle from her cold, dead fingers. She’s discovered dozens of Indie authors (it helped that her son is one of them) and spends far, far less money on reading material than she used to, all the while enjoying the activity just as much as she ever did, perhaps more.

dreamstimefree_122041The paper books from her dusty shelves, which included pristine, hardback copies of Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, and Jonathan Kellerman best sellers, didn’t hold the nostalgic value they once had. She had no interest in rereading them, so it made sense to take them to a used book store and get a few bucks for them.

Billings, Montana isn’t a huge town by most standards, but we have a number of used book stores. We stopped by one on our way to lunch, thinking to drop the books off, quickly collect a few dollars, and hopefully pay for our meal with the “windfall.” Our visit was indeed quick, but not for the reason we supposed.

“We’re not buying any books,” the clerk explained. “In fact, we’re having a big sale right now to try to pare down our inventory.”

Hm. Okay. No big deal, we thought. We’ll just try another store.

We accumulated strikes two and three faster than Casey from the Mudville Nine.

Resigned to not being able to pay for our lunch, we visited the library after we’d eaten, seeking to donate the books.

“Could you bring them by when we have our big book sale in the winter?” the lady at the front desk asked. “We really wouldn’t have any place to store them until then.”

The library doesn’t want books? It’s not like these were outdated software manuals. Tom freaking Clancy!

We ended up dropping them off at our local GoodWill. The attendant took them with a slight frown on her face.

Being a relatively well informed writer who’s steeped in ebooks, I knew the digital world has been gaining ground on the world of dead trees, but this experience really drove the point home. I remember buying and trading used books as a kid — and as an adult — for many years. Proprietors were always happy to see me come in with a box of books, because they knew I’d be trading them for more reading material and they’d generate some churn in their inventory. Now? Those stores wouldn’t even take books in trade, because their shelves were already packed to overflowing.

And people wonder why the big publishers are doing everything they can to keep ebook prices as high as possible. Their businesses are built on paper. When anyone can publish a book in electronic form and have it appear on the virtual shelves of the largest bookseller on the planet, right next to Tom freaking Clancy, where is the incentive to spend years playing the agent-to-acquisition-to-publication lottery? Especially when the payout for that particular lottery is getting smaller and smaller with each passing day.

Before long, paper books will be a novelty item, only sought out by collectors, much like vinyl records are today. Vinyl aficionados claim digital is too clean. They like to hear the hisses and pops that records produce. I suspect the same sort of folks probably like ink smudges on their fingers from printed pages as well.

Personally, words carry the same impact for me, whether displayed on a screen or paper. A good story carries me off to another world, regardless of the medium in which it’s presented.

Books are worth much more than mere paper and ink.

A Letter to Doug Preston and Authors United

Dear Mr. Preston, et al,

You don’t know me. Still, I feel like we have something in common: we love books.

I’ve been a voracious reader ever since I was a little boy. I read detective stories, science fiction, and fantasy novels by the hundreds. While I haven’t read any of your books, I have read many of the writers listed in the Authors United letter and I’ve greatly enjoyed the vast majority of those. I feel confident in assuming that they, too, love books. I’ve found it’s a largely universal reason why writers write.

Yet, it is here, with that very love of books, where the disconnect begins.

Along with loving books, you, Mr. Preston, also love your publisher — and why not? Your publisher has made your tremendous prosperity possible. In your shoes, I’m sure I would love and admire the entity that gave me such an opportunity just as strongly. If I felt they were being wronged, I would come to their defense, just as you have done. I understand your feelings and the actions that resulted from them.

What I don’t understand is this: equating books with publishers.

Why do I make that leap, you ask? Let me explain. The letter you originally penned claimed you were not taking sides in the debate between your publisher and Amazon, even though you only called on Amazon to take action to stop hurting authors. However, when Amazon made proposals to compensate the injured authors, the first of which MacMillan agreed to after their heated negotiations with Amazon a couple of years earlier, you dismissed them as being unfair to the publisher. You even called the idea “blood money”. Suddenly, the focus shifted from authors being harmed to the publisher. The underlying idea becomes what’s good for the publisher is good for the authors and their books.

Is that really true?

The big publishers have recorded larger profits for the last year or two. Random House even gave bonuses to all their employees because of the success of the Fifty Shades novels. Did authors get better terms in their contracts across the board? Was more money spent in marketing the slower selling titles because of the windfall publishers received from strong ebook sales at high profit margins? Were a larger number of new authors taken on to grow and nurture during this time of prosperity? The answer to those questions is no. You might point out that some authors, like yourself, received bigger advances for upcoming work and that is certainly true. At the same time, however, advances for new authors have shrunk to shockingly low levels. Would you sell your book to a publisher today for $5,000, paid over the course of a year or more? It would take more than twenty such advances to pay for the ad Authors United placed in the New York Times recently. Think about that. Twenty new books that those authors toiled over for months or even years. I submit that the economic gulf between you and the authors in harm’s way you purport to advocate for is much wider than you realize.

Mr. Preston, Amazon is a business. So is Hachette Book Group. This fact does not make either of them good or evil, sinners or saints. It simply means that both are trying to win a deal they feel is best for their company. End of story.

Now, I could ask you and your organization to use your influence and champion better contract terms, royalty rates, and accounting procedures for all authors from big publishing, but I won’t do that because it’s not a cause you believe in, as evidenced by your words and actions to date. What I will ask is for you to be truthful. Quit hiding behind straw men and come out and say what you really mean. The dispute between Hachette and Amazon is hurting your sales and you want it to stop. Accept your, and every other Hachette author’s, role as the child in a messy divorce case where there are no winners, only losers. Authors United has taken a side, despite your protestations of not doing so. Own it. By not asking Hachette to be equally culpable in settling their differences with Amazon, you have sided with your publisher. Your stance is emotionally understandable, as I stated earlier. Stop acting as if you’re championing authors everywhere by wielding your fortune and clout to rail against Amazon.

I love books. Books are created by writers, not agents or publishers. Certainly, editors, illustrators, and proofreaders can make a book better, but the book itself is written by a writer. Who, out of all the people I just listed, should receive the lion’s share of money from that creation? I think anyone who loves books will have a similar answer to that question.

I’ll say again, you don’t know me. I’m nobody. You’ll probably never see this letter, but if you do, I hope you’ll take into serious consideration some of the things I’ve said. Books don’t need publishers to exist, in fact, it’s the other way around. It seems to me publishers have forgotten that fact. Maybe you have too.

Sincerely,
Alan Tucker, Lover of Books
(written in response to the Publisher’s Weekly article “Authors United Preparing New Amazon Initiative”)

Content Is King

Twitch_Logo_thumbnailAmazon just spent nearly a billion dollars — yes, that’s with a Carl Sagan “B” — to acquire Twitch.tv. What is Twitch? It’s a site used mostly by gamers to live stream and record videos of themselves playing video games. Some of the users have hundreds of thousands of subscribers to their channels and sometimes tens of thousands of people watching at any one time. Not only can you watch the action, but there is a chat function as well where the streamer can interact with his/her viewers and the viewers can interact with each other.

Why is this significant? Other than the huge chunk of cash, it shows a glimpse of where Amazon is headed. They recognize that content is king. The more content they have available on their devices (Kindle, Fire TV, Phone, etc.) the more Amazon becomes a destination for their customers. Rather than creating the bulk of that content themselves, Amazon is looking to the grass roots — Indies— to fill their gadgets with fun and interesting things to see and do.

Twitch streamers are almost directly analogous to Indie authors. They are creating content and trying to find an audience. Each has their own personality, talent, and unique ideas on how to present their channel.

Books aren’t special snowflakes as some have bandied about recently. They are entertainment. As such, they compete with every other source of entertainment out there for the attention of the public. Writing a good book is a difficult task. So is writing a song, or creating a video or a game. We’re all vying for eyeballs. The big difference these days is we don’t have to have middlemen (publishers, record labels, distributors, etc.) to make it happen. We have direct, immediate conduits to those eyeballs and I, for one, am immeasurably grateful for those conduits.

Independence Day for Authors and Readers

Photo by Jason Smith, Dreamstime Stock Photos

Photo by Jason Smith, Dreamstime Stock Photos

A petition was created last night/this morning on Change.org to help clear some of the air surrounding the Amazon vs. Hachette dispute and Amazon vs. the Big Publishers in general. Here’s the link so you can read it in full and sign if you feel it’s appropriate for you. I signed it to show support for my readers and also in support of letting all sides of this story see some light of day, not just the Hachette side.

I watched an hour and a half video last night from the New York Public Library regarding this increasingly nasty dispute. One of the participants (the man next to the moderator on the left side) writes The Passive Voice blog and expressed some of his opinions in finer detail in a post here (since the moderator kept feeling the need to cut him off). Because I’m sure most of you don’t have that much free time lying around, I’ll hit some of the high/low lights here:

James Patterson referred to himself at first as a wounded gazelle, then amended it to simply gazelle. (That gazelle pulls in approximately $90 million per year through his publishing enterprises)

A lawyer repeatedly called the Department of Justice “silly” and “stupid” for its ruling against the Big 5 publishers when they tried to fix ebook pricing.

The same lawyer also said that, “Lower prices are not always better for consumers [readers].”

The agent/moderator claimed that many important works (largely non-fiction) would never get published without traditional publishing bankrolling those projects.

A medium sized publisher claimed his company had published works they knew wouldn’t see a return for “twenty or thirty years” simply because they felt the work was important to present to the world.

Another lawyer/author claimed Amazon’s search engine was pay based and was unclear where he uncovered that information.

A university professor insinuated that self-published works aren’t edited.

Patterson finished by equating Amazon’s actions to book burning.

Fear was the watchword for the discussion. Fear of Amazon. Fear of monopolies. Fear of loss of revenue and livelihood. I understand these fears, especially the last one as I encounter it nearly every day. But these are mostly fears of a possible future, one which may never come to pass. Where is the fear or anger at what already exists? Big Publishing has operated as a monopoly (an oligopoly technically) for decades. If they were competitors, don’t you think one or more of them would try offering better terms to their writers in order to attract the better ones to their company? Yet this is not the case. Author contracts are nearly identical between all of the major publishers. Rights are signed away for life plus 70 years. Authors receive advances of $5000 or less for work that has often taken months or years to complete. And they are paid twice a year from an antiquated and inscrutable accounting system that allows bookstores to return unsold books in the thousands.

Now, Amazon — and indeed Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and others — has created a way for authors to publish their work and receive fair payment for that work. Readers now get to decide whether a book is worthy of their attention or not, rather than a handful of suits in a Manhattan high rise. This new technology has big publishing running scared, just like the photography and music industries before them, and they are doing everything they can to hold on to the business model that has brought them comfort and joy for many, many years.

I feel bad for the Hachette authors who are now caught in the crossfire of this dispute — which is likely only the first of several by the way. They have no control over how their publisher handles its business, so they lash out at Amazon instead. In most cases, I’m sure, those authors were simply thrilled to have a publisher take on their books. Terms of the contract weren’t negotiable, by and large, so they simply signed and celebrated. I might have been one of them if I’d been offered that choice several years ago.

It’s time, however, for authors to stop being treated like indentured slaves. Embrace freedom and independence. Yes, the unknown can be frightening, but it’s only unknown if you make the choice to remain ignorant.

To the thousands of readers who have enjoyed my work, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You too, have won independence through this revolution in publishing. Works that would have never seen the light of day years ago because the publishers didn’t know how to market them are available in the thousands. There are more worlds to discover out there than ever before. So, go forth and read to your heart’s content and relish your independence.