Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Interview at Smashwords

Many of the readers of this blog have asked about the background of the host (me). Smashwords recently published an extensive Q&A author's interview with me on the following site: 

I've also included the entire content of that interview in this post. I invite comments on it, and additional questions that you'd like me to answer about my writing.  Here's the interview:

"What's the story behind your latest book?
"My latest book is actually a two book series (with more to come) introducing the cantankerous private eye, Harry Grouch, and his lover/sidekick, Judy Pacas. Each book is independent of the other, but each story develops the character and skills of Harry Grouch in a way sure to please his growing list of fans. The first book, "The Witch of Maple Park," was published in 2013. The second in the series, "Nanobe," was published in 2014.

"The "Witch of Maple Park," is based on a true story that I find absolutely fascinating. I did tons of research into the historical 1843 case of Polly Bodine, a young woman accused of gruesomely murdering her sister-in-law and niece on Staten Island with an axe. It was a case to rival the famous Lizzie Borden story although it never got the same attention nationally. In New York, however, it dominated the news for several years. Edger Allen Poe wrote an editorial about it, P.T. Barnum, the famous entertainer and con man placed a hideous and bloody axe-wielding wax statue outside the courthouse where Polly Bodine was being tried. He labeled her "The Witch of Staten Island." The media demonized Polly and the public screamed for her blood. Polly Bodine was tried three times and eventually exonerated. The murder was never solved. This case was just crying out for a fictional treatment of the story, so I reinvented it in 1993 Michigan, created another Polly as the prime suspect, and brought the tales of both Polly's, 1843 and 1993, together in what I hope will be a surprising way for my readers. What fun to watch Harry Grouch untangle the mystery!

"Nanobe," also required huge research into the scientific and clinical worlds of microbes responsible for a condition known as Rapidly Progressive Dementia. In case you are wondering, a nanobe is a tiny organism that may or may not be alive but, if living, would be the smallest form of life, 1/10 the size of the smallest known bacteria. So what's a nanobe doing in a Harry Grouch mystery book? Well, terrified neurosurgery patients at Bard Memorial Hospital are dying from Rapidly Progressive Dementia and none of the doctors or nurses know why! Is it a natural attack by a weird new pathogen? A Nanobe? Harry Grouch says "No. It looks like murder in the operating room!" The inspiration for the story came from an actual case at an American hospital in which neurosurgical patients were dying from an initially unknown cause that turned out, after extensive study, to be a nanobe. Harry Grouch is hired by Bard Memorial Hospital to figure it out and, along the way, the reader is introduced to many of the inner workings of a modern hospital.

"When did you first start writing?
"My undergraduate degree is in English Literature. I discovered and admired the great British poets like Keats, Coleridge, Shelley, Burns, Blake, Donne, Wordsworth and, of course, Shakespeare. I began writing poetry then, in my twenties in a (futile) attempt to produce poetry of similar quality. I did get some of it published and even won some awards. In recent years I've focused more on fiction and enjoy creating the colorful characters for my novels and stories. My graduate education in Public Health at Columbia University, and my years in hospital management, have influenced at least one of my novels, several of my short stories, and some unique, medically oriented poetry.
"What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
"My greatest joy comes from the pleasure reported by my readers in reading my work. Not everyone loves it, of course. That would be too much to ask. But the majority of my readers have become my wonderful fans. If my work manages to entertain and stimulate some modern readers, I am satisfied that my efforts in producing these works were worthwhile. I also love creating the characters in my novels. I look forward to sitting down at my computer each morning and wondering what unpredictable things these virtual human beings will do that day. They have their own personalities and generally lead me where they want to go rather than letting me control their goals and actions.
"What are you working on next?
"A book of children's poetry called "Sharkey's Song," written for one of my grandson's when he was in pre-school. It will be revised, re-organized and, possibly, published.

Robert Tell

Monday, December 8, 2014

Which Genre Tops the Indie Sales Charts?

I'm a big fan of Smashwords, the world's largest distributor of indie ebooks, and I sell more books through them than I do through Amazon. I've posted about this dilemma elsewhere. Today's post has another focus.

Smashwords has just announced its bestsellers for October on the Publishers Weekly website. This is fantastic news for all indie authors who hope for the kind of sales volume and professional recognition that this represents. I add my enthusiastic congratulations to these authors for this wonderful accomplishment.

However, an analysis of these 25 top bestsellers also contains a cautionary note for authors who don't write in the romance genre, especially for male authors. All the top 25 bestselling authors are women, some of whom have multiple titles on the list. 20 of the 25 best sellers are adult romances. 4 are young adult books, 2 of which are romances. So 22 of the 25 are romances. 1 adult mystery somehow managed to find its way into the mix. 

Again, this is a wonderful achievement for these authors and I salute them. It does raise an obvious issue, however, for those of us who don't write in the Romance Genre. Is this pattern a fluke or a trend for all time?

Why is it that romance novels dominate the current sales charts? Can other genres ever hope to achieve this level of sales success? What will it take for this to happen?

Any suggestions?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Can Authors Self-Protect Against Exploitation?

Amazon has just unveiled a tempting new program for authors called Kindle Unlimited. It will work in a similar manner to Netflix. As I understand it, for a monthly fee, Kindle readers will have unlimited access to all ebooks whose authors have granted an exclusive to Amazon through KDP Select.

Sounds great, but is it, really? One important perspective on this program is that of Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords. His blog post on the topic makes for interesting reading. Check it out at:

The following brief quote from Coker's essay reflects my own personal experience:

"With KDP Select, Amazon rewards authors who go exclusive and disadvantages authors who do not.  That's right, they're punishing regular KDP authorswho don't go exclusive by denying them access to special sales and discovery tools like free promotional pricing, Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending Library.  These are great tools so it's a shame Amazon doesn't make them available to all authors without restriction. Amazon is creating a caste system within the Amazon store." 

Ever since I refused to give Amazon an exclusive with my own books through KDP Select, my sales at Amazon have plummeted. Coincidence? Unlikely since my sales at other retailers continue to grow. I would have to forgo these sales if I joined KDP Select. Why should authors have to make such a choice?

We authors are getting caught in the middle of commercial wars among publishers and electronic retailers. We are the content creators without which readers wouldn't have stories to read and nobody would make any money. It's a revolution and, as we all know, in times of great change some folks will get hurt. 

Can we content creators can "create" new structure for self-protection. It's worth giving some thought to this, isn't it?

Any ideas?

Robert Tell

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Can you buy best seller status at the NYTimes?

Must reading for all writers and authors hoping to write a best seller. Hope you have a big bankroll. A very big bankroll! 

An article on the site PUBLISHING PERSPECTIVES was published on March 10, 2014, entitled, "How to Buy a Top Spot on the New York Times Bestseller List."

Read it by clicking here:

And you thought it had to do with the quality of your writing!
Guess again!

Friday, February 28, 2014

The 2014 Smashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion

It's that time again. Smashwords is running its Ebook week promotion and I am participating.

All five of my books are 50% off during the sale.

The Witch of Maple Park--- Regular: $3.99   Sale Price: $2
Thirsty Planet--- Regular: $3.99   Sale Price: $2
The Medical Director's Divorce--- Regular: $2.99   Sale Price: $1.50
Dementia Diary--- Regular: $3.99   Sale Price: $2
Police Story--- Regular: $0.99   Sale Price: Free

Here's the link:

Here's how the sale works:

At one minute past midnight Pacific time on March 2, the special Smashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion catalog goes live on the Smashwords home page.  Readers can browse the catalog and search by coupon code levels and categories.  At the stroke of midnight Pacific time at the end of the day on March 8, the catalog disappears and the books revert to their pre-sale levels..

The coupon codes only work at Smashwords, not at retailers served by Smashwords.

And by the way: If you are a Smashwords author too, I hope you'll participate in the sale with your own books.

If you're not an author, please consider reading the books of my fellow indie authors on Smashwords, as well as my own. There's lots of great bargain reading coming up between March 2 and March 8.

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Are We Authors or Retailers?

What is going on here? Since when in recorded history have writers, artists, composers, and other creators been expected to hawk their creations like so much tawdry merchandise? And where are we supposed to get the skills to do this well?

I'm a writer, not a bookseller. I write novels. I enjoy writing novels. I'm good at writing novels.

I don't enjoy promoting, advertising, Tweeting, Google+ ing, Facebooking, Pinteresting, Linked-inning,  Goodread-ing, whatever, and I'm not very good at it anyhow.

I've authored 5 books in print, e-book and audiobook editions that get mostly good reviews and, somehow, have sold in modest numbers on the internet.  That's nice, but not the way to become a best seller, is it? I doubt that any of these sales were stimulated by my amateurish and occasional time-wasting efforts to use social media.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of wasting my time reading articles telling me the 21 (or 5, or 8, or 15, or whatever) best ways to create a buzz about my books using all kinds of Internet platforms. That's not why I became a novelist in the first place. What about you?

We are creators. We create fiction (or poetry, or essays, or memoirs). Selling it takes a different set of skills and interests than creative writing, doesn't it?

I suppose some authors know how to generate sales in this way but, for me, learning and practicing the marketing ropes has proven to be a huge time drain, time that could better be spent in writing and polishing my next novel.

Some would say we should hire the needed marketing skills rather than using a do-it-yourself approach. I'd love to, but has anyone analyzed the cost/benefit numbers lately. Put a pencil to paper and if you can find a way to sell enough books to offset the costs of professional marketing services, please let me know.

This post is now ended. What should I do next? Write a couple of chapters for the next book in the Harry Grouch mystery series, or hang out in social media all day to promote the last one?

What is your advice?

Novelist, Poet & Wannabe Golfer

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Does Preorder Publication Make Sense for Indie Authors?

Working on a new book? Almost done? Thinking about when to release it?  How about listing it before you're done with the major online retailers?

That's called a preorder and, according to Mark Coker of Smashwords, it's what smart authors do to generate pre-publication sales.

According to Coker, "Preorders are a common checkbox item for nearly every title released by a traditional publisher, yet most indie authors don't take advantage of preorders.  It's a shame more authors don't use preorders, because in the battle for reader eyeballs preorders are a great equalizer."

For a comprehensive discussion of the pros and cons of making preorders available for your forthcoming book, see the latest Smashwords blog. 

Novelist, Poet and Wannabe Golfer