The Stupid 365 Project, Day 79: Go West, Everybody

December 20th, 2010

CJ West is one of the best thriller writers you’ve probably never heard of.

His newest book. THE END OF MARKING TIME, is exemplary in every regard.  Set in a not-very-distant future, it has echoes of Orwell’s 1984 and  even (for me, anyway) Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, but more entertaining than either.  Reading it can only make you wonder why it’s not sitting in a big fat hardcover edition in the window of bookstores all over America.

But it’s not; its primary life right now is as an e-book.  And that means that CJ West is up against the same challenge that all of us are who opt for the newest and most egalitarian form of publishing: with everyone and his maiden aunt and bachelor uncle putting up that long-hidden novel as an e-book, how does good work cut through the signal-to-noise ratio and claim its rightful audience?

One thing CJ is doing is giving away free copies.  This may sound counterintuitive to those who think in terms of more traditional business plans, but ask yourself this: How big is James Patterson’s name on the cover of his books?  The answer is big, big, big, and if they could find a way to make it bigger than the book, they would.  So one way to cut through the clutter is to make your name worth something, and the best way to do that is to be read widely, even if for free, in the expectation that reader recognition will bring you sales later.

CJ is also hoping (I think) for a bump in his Amazon sales.  And I share that hope for him, both short-term and long-term.

Want the book?  It’s a snap.  E-mail CJ at express@22wb.com, and tell him which format you want: mobi, for Kindle; ePub, for Nook and some other readers; .pdf for Adobe Acrobat (you can read that on some readers and also on your computer screen) and .lrf, for I have no idea what.

Make sure you tell him which format, because otherwise he’ll have to write you back and answer you, and he’s already sent out some 600 books.

Or disregard everything in bold above and go spend $0.99 to buy the damn thing right here.  There’s not that big a difference between free and $0.99, and this book would be a bargain at $20.00.  And if you like it, tell people.

I’ve stopped doing my monthly book reviews, both because all the blogging-plus-writing-plus-other-stuff leaves me less time to read than usual, and also because the e-book of War and Peace, in the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation, is eating me alive.  If I were reviewing, though, I would have put The End of Marking Time at the top of the page and given it all five of my imaginary stars.

I think I’ll blog some more about the challenges involved in selling e-books.  I give about an hour a day to thinking about it, and it could easily be six hours.  We all do, all of us who are sidestepping the publishing industry (at least sometimes) in order to talk directly to readers.  The e-book is in one of the great media revolutions of the past 50 years, and God knows there have been a lot of them — and we’re at that interesting stage, similar to DeMille’s Hollywood, where we’re all making it up as we go along.

13 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 79: Go West, Everybody”

  1. Bonnie Says:

    As a consumer, the biggest problem is winnowing the wheat/meat/good stuff from the chaff/schlock/dreck. The old idea that your publisher gave you a good editor who would ensure the book was adequately vetted and improved before seeing print seems to be dying out, just as really competent and sometimes even brilliant authors are bypassing the process and heading straight to Amazon/Smashwords. I suppose that’s one function of all the blogging that is going on out there.

    Have already written to CJ and pointed out how your free Nail Through the Heart offer got me hooked on Poke. But in truth it was all the buzz on DorothyL that led me to take you up on it.

  2. Laren Bright Says:

    Things are just moving so fast in many areas. I don’t know how anyone can keep up with anything any more. This has got to be causing stress on folks in ways we can’t even imagine yet.

  3. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    I’d like to reflect Bonnie’s thoughts about DorothyL, guest blogging on other people’s blogs, and seeing if your good friends will give you a shout out. I have way too many books to read, but the good news for me is that there is a kindle in my immediate future, thanks to some kind souls. Now I can catch up with Junior and other gifties. I’m a bit of a technophobe, so all I’m worried about is learning how to use it. Where is Everett when I need him? So whereis Everett? Now i get to worry about your follogers-his name.
    Hope you are surviving the rains all right. We are sodden up here but not like your fire razed hillsides.

  4. Bonnie Says:

    Where are you, Lil? I’m at the crest of a hill on the western border of Castro Valley with San Leandro, and I adore the rain!

  5. Beth Says:

    I hit the red “here” and the book is now in my pc.

    The problem with doing a blog post everyday is that I spend so much time writing about books that I don’t have time to read them.

    I will get to CJ’s book but I have no idea when. I downloaded the Simeon’s that are on Kindle and I haven’t gotten to them yet.

    Kindle makes it too easy. If I have 15 books piled on a shelf, I know I am far behind. If I have 15 books hiding in my pc, they don’t engender guilt. I can get more to sit silently and wait. When I have to keep moving the pile around ao I can dust, each book is mumbling imprecations.

  6. skip Says:

    Thanks for the book alert. Sprung for the $0.99. Agree on eBooks. 1984 was required study at USMA in early 50’s. Turning out to be visionary, still unfolding.

    The subject of laws, enforcement, punishment, rationale, trends, ramifications, etc., needs far more wide spread thought than is being given. The entire subject is an unfolding disaster.

    Technology, a two edged sword , will become the great leveler from individuals to regions. Imbedded therein is the absolute necessity of extracting sufficient time for thought and awareness. Can’t do it all; have to level set sometimes; calm everything down; pick up on what’s approaching, e.g., trends, shifting positions, etc. Yeah, and smell the flowers.

  7. EverettK Says:

    Lil said: Where is Everett when I need him? So whereis Everett?

    🙂 Right here, Lil! I was a bit busy for 5-6 days. I scanned in Tim’s Simeon novel Incinerator, and then proofread and corrected the scan. That kept me pretty busy, and there wasn’t anything on the blog that I felt just absolutely BEGGED for my comment, so I was giving all of you a rest from the constant pressure of the presence of Me. 🙂

    Now, Incinerator is on Tim’s hard disc (at least, I hope it made it through the email guantlet) and waiting to pop to the top of his “Oh crap, what NOW?” list, so I’m spending the rest of my “winter break” taking care of business (my software/games business) as necessary, putting together jigsaw puzzles (it’s probably been 5 years or more since I’ve done that), reading, getting ready for Christmas, etc, etc. Just the ‘usual’ stuff that leaves us exhausted at the beginning of a new year…

  8. CJ West Says:

    Thanks so much for the support Tim. So glad you enjoyed the book.

    Thanks also to Beth and Skip. If you’d like to share the file with friends, please don’t hesitate to ask me for a copy. You are welcome to send it to anyone you like.

    CJ

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, all —

    Bonnie, the lack of proper editing, proofing, and copy editing really does mar some e-books. I’ve read a few that were literally subliterate. But, on the other hand, a lot of dreck got published under the old model and a lot of good books were ignored. And good old DorothyL has sold a lot of copies of CRASHED, and I’m glad it brought you into the tent.

    Laren, no question about the stress. Take me (surprise!) for example. On the one hand, I’m free for the first time in my life to write any damn thing I want and put it out there, and on the other hand, I have no idea how to promote it. Of course, nobody knew how to promote print books, either — least of all, the publishing houses — but we all had a sort of laundry list of things that could be done, when we’d exhausted it, we could declare a sabbath and rest. But now no one knows what the laundry list is, so we think about it all the time, even when we’re supposed to be writing. Not an ideal state of affairs.

    Hey, Lil, we’re in Santa Monica, without a hill in sight. A great relief after years in Topanga, where I worried about fires all summer and mudslides all winter. Now it’s just global warming and tsunamis. And don;t worry about the Kindle — it will take you ten minutes to learn how to read CRASHED on it. That’s going to be first, right? CRASHED? Remember CRASHED? And Everett is just lurking, waiting for someone to ask where he is.

    Hellooooo, Beth. You’re the first person I’ve heard make that point about the Kindle, and boy, are you right. I can look at my 3/4 of a mile of TBR shelves and identify, from the color and position, about two-thirds of the books on it. I always know they’re there, waiting for me. But the books downloaded on my Kindle, especially the ones that fade back a few pages from the first screen, can’t tap me on the shoulder and say, “What about me?” the way the physical ones can. Huh, that’s very interesting.

    Hi, Skip, and welcome. Isn’t it odd to have 1984 be 26 years ago, when we’re not quite there yet? (At least, not in some ways.) The legal end of things, unfortunately, will eventually draw the carrion flocks of lawyers and then the so-called political leaders who will look for new tax hooks and then the moray eels of regulation who will examine the new marketplaces for potential new power bases, and then . . . In terms of it being a leveler, it’s already made it possible for any writer to make a book globally available, a six-figure investment just a couple of years ago. From my limited perspective, that’s pretty amazing. I doubt though that the leveling action will raise up those who are unable or unwilling to open themselves to the information and opportunities new technologies offer. I don’t, for example, see them having much of a liberating effect on deeply fundamentalist communities.

    Hey, Everett — Have you sent me the final, as far as you’re concerned? I’ve been trying really, really hard to do 2500 words a day this past week, with the outcome being that I’m burned out and exhausted.

    Thank you so much for all you’ve done, not just on INCINERATOR but also on LITTLE ELVISES, CRASHED, and the earlier Simeon books.

    I’m thinking of not putting up INCINERATOR until February or so, just so I can continue to haul ass on PULPED, in order to get to the next Poke and/or to finish the third Junior.

  10. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Hi Everett, glad you’re well, and just busy. You mean it’s Christmas? Bonnie, I live in Half Moon Bay, and we tend to get a lot of wind, and power outtages. I also have a cat that likes to go for walks, so she complains mightily when she can’t do that. And, Tim, Topanga was scary to live in, I bet. I’ve just driven through it, but there were some pretty imposing fires as I recall. I did hear the PCH was closed. The weather has been taking charge in a lot of places. Crashed will definitely be the first ebook I download. I believe that it’s just good karma to do that. How could I forget Crashed when I read this blog religiously, and Everett really talks you up on DorothyL. (They’re on hiatus, damn it). Have a good week before…

  11. EverettK Says:

    Tim: I’ve sent you two copies. The first, on Dec 13th, was just an HTML file of the uncorrected (mostly) scan. The second, on Dec 17th, was a ZIP file containing a .DOC file, an .HTML file and an IMAGES sub-folder with the place-holder cover image.

    That second one on the 17th is final so far as I’m concerned. I might find a few more scan errors if I were to read it again, but if they’re there, they’re pretty rare. So, the ball’s in your court, whenever you get the time, energy and desire to take a swing at it. I know what it’s like, trying to stay focused on the project at hand. Let your attention stray, and your productivity doesn’t just fall in half, but far worse than that. At least, that’s how it is for me. 🙂

  12. fairyhedgehog Says:

    I’ve just bought my copy on amazon.co.uk – for less than £1 it’s worth it!

    Some authors seem to be doing well with ebooks. I don’t know if you know Lexi Revellian – she’s written a book called Remix that is doing well on amazon. Like CJ West, she’s selling it at a very low price. Her book is beautifully edited – much better than some books from conventional publishers. I don’t know if that’s the secret, or if the price is! Her blog is here.

  13. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Lil — Poor you, Half Moon Bay. Do you know a guy named Andy Wallace? Former very good friend of mine, now apparently lost in the dim mists of time. And Topanga was occasionally scary but also beautiful and full of sensory raw material and the air was clean and there were hawks and eycalyptus and . . .

    Everett, thanks for the update. I have everything I need, and will go over all of it when I’m comfortably over the creative hump on PULPED. I want to get INCINERATOR up, but I NEED to write PULPED. And your comments about not focusing on the primary creative activity are right on the nose, especially since the longer I take away from a manuscript the harder it is to strike sparks when I come back to it.

    Hi, FHH — it’s a total mystery to me why some books rule the e-book world. I’m willing to stipulate that Lexi Revellian is tremendous, but some of what sells best is just bloody dreadful. And I have nothing against selling at very low prices, except that Amazon only pays a 30% royalty at any price lower than $2.99, so I would literally have to sell seven times as many books at .99 to break even with the $2.99 price point, where the royalty is 70%. (Thirty-three cents versus 2.10.)

    Nonetheless, I may do just that — I may put two of the Simeons on sale at .99 when we put INCINERATOR up to see whether it shakes the tree a little.

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