Archive for the ‘ Writing ’ Category

While I am still waiting for my editor Terry Coleman to complete his overview and comments on my latest Jason Dark supernatural mystery, “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire,” I spent some time over the past two weeks, trying to create a suitable cover for the book.

In the past I had always hired an artist to paint a cover for me, based on clearly-defined ideas and suggestions I had. Many times, I prepared a mock-up that I would send him and then let him paint what I had in mind. Very consciously, I always went for a classic look, as I tried to recreate the flair of old-school pulp fiction, dime novels and the wonderful horror movie posters of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

All of that served my desire to create a certain look for my books, but some time ago, the question came up again and again if, perhaps, this look has been holding back these books, dating them unnecessarily or putting them in a niche where few readers will pick them up. As a result I did major and minor overhauls of some of the covers over the past year or so.

To make a long story short, for “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire,” my idea was to go a slightly different route. I wanted to treat the book as a stand-alone and break with the old, just to see how things will work out. Therefore I decided not to have the cover painted this time, but instead try a different approach.

One was to open up the cover design to the public, essentially, and I created a contest some time ago, offering artists the chance to create a cover for the book and get it published. Sadly, the response was not what I expected and once the deadline was over, I knew I had to take matters in my own hands once again. I toiled away at ideas, but everything I came up with seemed old and stale — completely uninspired. And I knew it.

Eventually I turned over the work to my wife, Lieu, who is a graphic designer, and who regularly winces at the stuff I come up with. To her I am an amateur, stuck in a rut, and she’s probably right. She offered to help and I gladly accepted her offer.

It took Lieu no more than ten minutes to come up with a general design that I liked. Talk about a pro, there. Within a few hours we had set up a photo shoot to take the key imagery that she’d need for the cover and by the end of the day she had things neatly lined up.

All that was missing was the title lettering, and I often tend to think that is one of my fortes. (Oh, stop rolling your eyes, will you?)

Anyway, I gave it a shot and I spent a day creating tweaking and re-tweaking a lettering until I was pretty much satisfied with it. I say “pretty much” because I got to the point that my wife actually said, “Would you stop it? It is great the way it is. Stop messing with it.” Yes, I can get a little carried away, and if it were up to me, I’d probably still tinker with the logo.

The final version of the cover is still not complete. Lieu still has to properly assemble the various elements and balance it all to the point that it will be “perfect,” but I thought I’d give you guys a first peek at the lettering I created. Never mind the background. I included the swirl simply to get a general idea how it looks superimposed over some color, as opposed to having it sit on a black background.

Fu Man Chu’s Vampire Lettering

Doesn’t that have a totally gnarly graveyard look? Can’t you just feel the age oozing from it? It had a different texture first and at one point I started playing with the textures and blend-modes for them, when I hit this one. I started at it and immediately knew, This is it!

I don’t know how you respond to the lettering, but to me it has the look and feel of a crypt. I can practically hear stone scraping on stone as the lid slides away… yeah, like I said, I can get carried away sometimes, so never mind me, but feel free to let me know what you think of it.

Also, don’t forget that I am still running my promotion. If you buy “Curse of Kali”, you will get a free copy of “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire” as soon as it is available. Exclusively, and ahead of anyone else. So, if you want to be among the first people to read my next book, make sure to read the full details of the promotion here.


Dear Amazon,

Recently you sent me an email, telling me about your new Kindle Select Program. It was an email brimming with promise, but all too quickly did I see through your marketing ploy, I’m afraid.

You are truly asking me to give you my books on an exclusive basis for the privilege to forfeit potential sales so that you can lend them to your Prime customers? What’s in it for me?

Oh, yes, I recall, you mentioned something about $7,500 a month… no, that can’t be right. I don’t even make that in sales.

Because 500,000 divided by 7,500 makes 67, what you are so tastefully proposing would give exactly 67 authors the chance to make that kind of money. Will I be one of them? Will you make sure that I will be one of them? No, you will not. Of course, not. What am I thinking? You’ll throw me in the pot with everyone else, as usual. Just like you never took an interest in my success in the past, you will take none whatsoever in my doing in the future, so why should I support an effort that serves the sole purpose to grow your bottom line? Most of the time you don’t even respond to emails when they touch upon a subject you’re not comfortable with.

Even if you did not major in Math, the way I did, it is easy for anyone to tell that your math is broken – very broken.

To split $500,000 between all participating books may sound like a lot, but it is not. Here we are, six hours after you opened the doors to authors to enroll, you already have 15,000 books in your Lending Library. That means that each book will make an average of $33 per month. We both know what will happen in the next few days. The Lending Library will swell to over 100,000 titles and we will be looking at an average of $5 per book. That’s not a whole lot. In fact, it represents two real sales. Not quite the way to make a living.

What’s worse is that we have to take into account that bestselling books sell about 500-1000 times more than midlist titles, which means the potential revenue for the average book will be a few cents. Now, explain to me again, please, why I should be a part of this program? I am giving up potential sales, I am giving Amazon exclusivity for 90 days for the privilege to earn a few cents every month?

Sorry, Amazon, but Homey don’t play that.

To top it all off, I would have to explain to all my disgruntled readers why they can no longer get my books on other retail sites for their Nooks, their Kobos, their iPads. I wish they had all the sympathy in the world for my desire to fatten Amazon’s bottom line with my hard work, but let’s face it, in reality they will be upset with me. The result will be that I am actually losing readers in the long run over this. But it may affect you, too, because you know how people feel about corporate greed. I know, I know, it’s an overused buzzword, but it still works every time to get people up in arms.

You may not know this, but in the business world, if you want something exclusively, you usually have to sweeten the deal. A lot. Companies are typically receiving big fat checks up front to make their products available exclusively to a retailer. It is the way the free market world turns. I mean, after all, you expect me to give up stuff to make you look better. So let me ask you again. What’s in it for me? To become part of a convoluted Lending Library that decreases in value with every new book that is being enrolled?

You may think, all Kindle authors are amateurs and don’t know a scheme if only the verbiage is enticing enough, but I will tell you that I saw right through you. Your mentions of $500,000 and $7,500 figures are nothing but a carrot — ooooh big numbers. It has to be good.

I am sorry to disappoint, but I’m not a donkey. I can do math and I can see clear.

I can’t blame you for trying, of course, but I think you have been making a few serious mistakes lately that indicate to me that you have lost touch with your author base. Perhaps my friends were right. Perhaps you were luring all of us authors to your Kindle platform only so that at the right time you can strangle the life out of us in order to grow your own bottom line and to make your board of directors happy. I am not sure I would like that. I am not on your board of directors, but perhaps we can change that. With a little bit of goodwill on your end, that should be feasible, right?

Write back soon and let me know how things are going,
Guido Henkel

Addendum – 12/9/2011:
As of this morning, the Kindle Lending Library is over 35,000 titles thick. That means the average revenue for each book is now $18 and it keeps plummeting very quickly! Those were only the first 24 hours. I have no doubt that after the weekend we will be looking at 100,00 titles in the Library — all of them devalued, all of them no longer available to Nook, Kobo and iBookstore readers. How can that possibly be good business?

Oh yes, there is the lure of “Free” – you can make your book free for a few days and it will undoubtedly result in millions of downloads, catapulting your name in the ranks of a Dean Koontz, Lisa Jackson or Stephen King. I think people should watch “The Incredibles” a little more, because there’s a lesson to be learned. In the film the superheroes fight a villain who plans to give superpowers to ever man, woman and child in the world, but here’s the crux of the matter, as Syndrome, the villain himself states – “Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super… no one will be.”
To put it in plain Kindle language, if everyone is offering their book for free, it is once again disappearing in the glut and no longer special. Already, this morning there were a whopping 2400 new free books on Amazon. Do you really believe these will all see the phenomenal download numbers of the past? Think again. There is no gain in this.


As I am revising the latest Jason Dark supernatural mystery, Fu Man Chu’s Vampire, my mind was wandering. I thought about possible covers for the book, and then I had an interesting idea. What, if I let fans design the cover?

Here’s the deal. It works like a competition, in essence. You can get your cover on Fu Man Chu’s Vampire! All you have to do, is create a cover artwork for the book and send it over for evaluation. If my wife and I like it, we will use it for the eBook and print versions of the book, and you will receive full credit, naturally. If you’re an artist, this will be a nice opportunity to add to your portfolio, to have a valuable publication credit. I’ll also throw in some goodies on top of it, such as a box of DVDs or so.

Most importantly, however, you will have the ultimate bragging rights!

So, what is the story about? I can’t tell you a whole lot about it, really ,because I do not want to give away the story as such, here in public. You may want to read the opening chapters of the last Jason Dark mystery, Curse of Kali, however – you can find it online here – as it gives you an impression as to where the story goes.

In a nutshell, you can say that evil Doctor Fu Man Chu is putting a Jiang Shi, a hopping vampire, on the trail of Jason Dark and Siu Lin, in an attempt to have them killed.

In technical terms, I don’t want to impose all to many guidelines. Needless to say, it should fit in with the series as a whole. I am posting some of the covers from the previous books below, so you can get a feel for the direction we’ve been taking in the past. Alternatively, please visit the Jason Dark website for a closer look of the respective covers.

However… if you feel you have the ultimate idea, even if it does not fit into the current style of the series, we’d love to see it. The reason is simple. With eBooks in particular, it is easily possible to “play” with covers. To try different approaches and see which cover works best. I know people who have been able to increase their sales tenfold by simply changing the cover of their eBook. With that in mind, I believe, it is important for me to point out that while I have a preference for the current style, I’m not entirely in love with it, either. If someone tosses me a cover that knocks my socks off, I’ll take it, even if is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The only real guideline that I do have is this. The final cover needs to be at least 8.5”x11” at 300 dpi in size. For the purists among you, that would be 2550×3300 pixels. We have this size requirement in place to make sure we can use the artwork for marketing and sales materials.
If you send your cover for evaluation, you can send it in smaller, of course, so that it easily fits into an email, but I want to make sure everyone understands, that the final version will have to be super-sized.

So, get creative! Pull out your pens, markers, canvasses or Wacom tablets and get cracking, already. Email scribbles, sketches, drawings, paintings, layouts, anything you want us to take a look at to You have until Sunday, December 18 to completely blow my mind! I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with.


Things are moving along, as I reported in last week’s post, and I am proud to report that at this time, the Jason Dark Supernatural Mystery Collection 1 has been released.

Currently available on Amazon and Barnes&Noble, the book should be available on Kobo any day now also. For the time being, this collection will be available only as eBook. I will make a print version available if I feel there is demand for it, but at this time I am happy to release the collection for eBook readers exclusively.

Jason Dark Collection 1 cover

As I announced recently, the release features the first three of my Jason Dark supernatural mysteries, namely, Demon’s Night, Theater of Vampires and Ghosts Templar in one book.

As an added bonus, the book also contains the short story Food for the Dead that appeared in Fangoria magazine as a five-part serialized story earlier this year.

Available now for only $6.99 this collection gives readers the chance to safe big money over the individual releases while also getting the short story a a bonus that is not available anywhere else.

Work is also progressing on Fu Man Chu’s Vampire. The first draft is finished and I am currently in the revision stages. I will take a few passes at the story to make sure it feels round and reads well before handing it off to my editor for the last polish. Look forward to seeing it to be released in a short few weeks, hopefully.

I am also ramping up work on a new project. Can’t tell you much about it yet, other than that it excites me quite a bit right now. I will unveil more details as I get deeper into the actual “creation” of it.


It seems I have neglected posting here on my blog for a little bit, but let me assure you that it was simply due to so many exciting things going on here on my end. So, perhaps, I should tell you a little about it.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard that the city of Baltimore had cut their financial support for the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, one of the city’s historic landmarks. I assign quite a bit of significance to this museum, as it is dedicated to perhaps the most important American horror writer. So when I heard that Literary Landmark Press is putting together an anthology of Poe-inspired short stories to benefit the Poe House, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

I wrote a short story with the title The Blackwood Murders and submitted it to the editors. To my delight I was notified shortly thereafter that my story would, in fact, be included in the anthology The Spirit of Poe, which will be released shortly.

I felt both honored and flattered at the same time. Honored to become associated with something relating directly to Edgar Allan Poe, helping to protect his legacy by no small means. Flattered, because the editors of the anthology actually found my piece worthy enough to be included alongside many other accomplished writers.

I had a blast writing “The Blackwood Murders,” and during the entire time, I saw it play in front of my eyes like an old Roger Corman movie with Vincent Price. That should give you an idea what to expect from the story, and I hope many of you will show your support of the Poe House by purchasing a copy of the book. If you do, please DO let me know how you liked my entry. I’m a sucker for flattery. :)

Once I had that short story finished, I decided that it was time for me to put together a collection of Jason Dark mysteries to sell together as one book. After some soul searching and talking to friends, I have decided to release collections featuring three stories in one book. The first one, which will be available shortly, will therefore feature Demon’s Night, Theater of Vampires and Ghosts Templar in a single volume. In addition, as a bonus, I have decided to include the Jason Dark short story Food for the Dead in the collection. As you may recall, this story was a Fangoria exclusive and ran in five serialized installments in the magazine earlier this year. This collection will mark the first time this story will be available in one piece.

My wife and I are currently finalizing the cover for the release, but expect to hear more about it shortly. Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all the cool developments.

And then, just before Halloween, I had a great idea for a new Jason Dark story. Those of you who read “Curse of Kali,” the latest Jason Dark mystery, may recall that I seriously foreshadowed a story called Fu Man Chu’s Vampire in that book. Well, I had finally had the igniting idea where to go with the story.

Funny enough, at the same time, “National Novel Writing Month” – aka NaNoWriMo – kicked off and there was this huge frenzy of writers around the country starting up new projects. While I do not participate in NaNoWriMo, I decided it was a good occasion to kick off “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire” in earnest, and perhaps against my better judgment.

So, on November 1st I outlined and began writing this exciting new Jason Dark supernatural mystery with the intention to fulfill the NaNoWriMo required 1,600 words a day. I knew it would be hard for me to keep that pace with all the other stuff going on in my life, but I was very determined to give it a good and honest try.

Well, here we are, 12 days later and I am very proud to report that I have not only fulfilled my daily word counts, but exceeded them significantly on most days. As a result, “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire” is rapidly heading for its completion. As I am writing this, I am just about to tackle the book’s final scene, which means, the first draft should be complete later today!

I will then set it aside for a few days to work on the cover for it, before beginning the edits and revisions. Although I had planned not to write an Jason Dark stories in the near future, I am very happy I did. This is the fastest I have ever written any of these supernatural mysteries, and it could mean that, perhaps I will actually be able to release it around Christmas time, or at the very least, first thing in the new year. Either way, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for more info on this and other developments. It just so happens that I had another interesting idea for a project that I might pursue in the near future…


Last week I told you about my upcoming middle-grade book, Kitt Pirate and also showed you the cover artwork for the book. Well, as these things go so often, we actually made a number of change to the cover because there were a few things that Juan, my wife and I felt could still be improved.

So, Juan had another go at the cover and added some more detail. The result is an incredible cover artwork, I feel, that is definitely stronger than the one I showed you last week. More fleshed out, it hits the nail perfectly on the head in my opinion and if a solid cover were any guarantee for stellar sales, I am sure that Kitt Pirate would have to become an instant bestseller when it is released. Naturally, things are not all that easy, but hey, one can dream, right?

Preliminary Kitt Pirate Cover

You may also notice from the cover that I have settled upon a pen name for the book. After much deliberation I have decided upon the name Ben Oliver. My wife and I felt that the name has a certain playful quality and a good ring, so we thought for children’s book it may be a good choice. So, there you have it. Let me know what you think of both, the improved cover and the name.


Some of you may recall that I mentioned before that I have been working on a middle-grade book for some time. Well, the book is essentially finished and almost ready to be published and I thought I’d give a quick heads-up, as to what it actually is.

Please meet Kitt Pirate!

Kitt Pirate Logo

As the title suggests, this is the story of a young pirate. A young lad who is captain of a bunch of salty pirates as they sail across the Caribbean in search for treasure and plunder. But they’re not the kind of bunch who will slaughter and kill just about anyone.

Kitt and his gang have a mission. they have decided to take the money from the rich and put it to use to help the poor – of which there are many. Under the oppression of the Spanish, the French and the English, no one in the Caribbean is safe from these greedy, gold-hoarding invaders, and Kitt feels it is only apropos for him to return the favor.

The book I wrote is called “Kitt Pirate: Snaggletooth’s Treasure.” Kitt has come across a treasure map that promises unfathomable riches and for months he and his crew have been sailing across the cerulean seas in search for the elusive island where the treasure is rumored to be buried. When at last it surfaces on the horizon, nothing can stop them… or so they thought.

I have been working with an old friend of mine, Juan Fernando Garcia, to provide me with interior illustrations for the book, as well as the cover artwork. I’ve worked with Juan before, as he was one of the artists on one of the game projects I was producing for Squaresoft, and I knew his style would be perfect. not only is he a killer pencil artist, but he has also branched out into other areas and has recently worked on comic books as well as — I am not kidding you — candy packaging for kids. So, clearly, he was the perfect man for the job, and as you can see from the cover artwork below, it shows.

Preliminary Kitt Pirate Cover

For the past few days I’ve been formatting the book for its digital release and I’ve been tweaking the cover and I am now at the point where I could theoretically upload the book to distribution channels.

There’s only one snag, which keeps me thinking. My name…

I know it sounds weird, but I am seriously considering publishing this book under a pen name. Why would I do that? The main reason in my mind is that it would allow me to separate my horror books from this children’s book. While my Jason Dark mysteries are not overly explicit most of the time, I think they are definitely not suitable for fourth or fifth-graders, at which I am targeting Kitt Pirate. The last thing I’d want is for them to google my name because they liked the book and ending up reading some of my horror fiction. I am sure every parent can appreciate that sentiment — I know, I do.

So, that raises the question, what pen name should or could I use, and that’s what’s holding me up right now. A pen name is something, I feel, I need to take seriously. Not only does it allow me to project something into that name — hopefully an exciting sense of adventure for children — but it is something that will stay with me for a long time, as books do not really outmode. I am sure I will come up with a name I find suitable soon enough, and then it’s off to the races!


As I am taking a self-imposed leave of absence from Victorian England and the supernatural encounters of a certain man named Jason Dark, I have been working no some material to branch out. No, I am not tired of writing Jason Dark mysteries — far from it — but I felt that I needed to add a little diversity to the books I am publishing. The idea is that I want to reach readers that I simply cannot entice to read horror mysteries — such as children.

Yes, you read correctly. I have written a book for children. A middle-grade adventure, to be exact. It is one of those things that happen to you when you’re a parent, I suppose. You start taking an interest in the material your own children are reading and you begin to detect that some of this is actually quite interesting or intriguing. In my case, it sparked an interest to write some stories for children myself.

Easy as pie, you might say, but don’t be fooled. Writing a book for children is a lot harder than writing a book for adults. The reason is quickly becoming obvious when you consider that you are trying to tell a story to someone who has only a fraction of the vocabulary of an adult. Word choice is one of the most critical elements — and one of the biggest challenges — when you write for children.

When we write a novel, it is easy for us to create diversity by spicing up our writing with words of different meaning, sometimes relying on very subtle nuances of these words to create atmosphere, mood or action. This is a lot hard to do when all you have is one or two words for a meaning.

Let’s say, for example, in your children’s book you want to write about a dark and foreboding room. For adults we could draw from a wide variety of words to create the right mood for this. The room could be gloomy, dark, depressing, spooky, ominous, foreboding, shadowy, malignant, pitched in darkness or even tenebrific.

When you write for middle-graders, out of that entire list only two or three words could be really be applied safely. Maybe a few more, depending on the exact age range you are writing for, but the general point I am trying to make is that your vocabulary is severely restricted. In order to be able to still paint vivid images with your words, you end up doing a lot of wordsmithing. I spent a lot of time revising my book over and over again. Not so much for content itself, like it is often the case with my stories for grown-ups, but instead to create sentences that flow easily, that have a solid rhythm. I will check sentences to make sure they are word appropriate, I will double-check sentences to make sure they do not run too long, and I will remove most of my sentence modifiers, rephrasing paragraphs to make the clear and to the point. All of this is essential for young readers to be able to follow your writing.

Much of this is actually good practice when writing for adults, also, but naturally there is a lot more leeway. Starting with the word choices, adults have a much wider knowledge base, usually, a vocabulary upon which we can draw as writers to create more colorful prose.

Naturally, in books for adults, we also want to make sure our sentence structure is not always minimalistic and overly simplistic. While it is never a good idea to get lost in your own convoluted sentences, I do believe that insertions and modifiers can vastly define the style and voice of a writer.

For me, it was an experiment really, to see how well I would do within such limitations. Since English is not my native language I am always very conscious about potential weaknesses in my writing, and creating this book was an exercise for me to really get down to the fundamentals of it all.

Some time soon, I’ll tell you more about this exciting new book. It is completed and I am only waiting for interior illustrations and the cover to be finished.


Seed CoverToday I would like you all to welcome Ania Ahlborn, author of the horror thriller Seed, to this blog, as she is tackling an issue that is not discussed in public very often: hateful reviews. Many authors will not talk about it for a number of reasons, because it is painful, because whenever you’re criticizing a customer’s review you’re dangerously close to sounding touchy and defensive, or for any number of other reasons. By talking about this subject, Ania not only touches upon this subject but she goes one step further and does so from a analytical point of view. It goes a long way to show how professional and serious she is about her work and I am proud to have her on my blog today. So, here’s what she has to say about the Vampire Reviewer.

There’s something to be said for book reviews. Many writers use them as a tool–a stepping stone to improving their writing. They listen to what their audience wants and try to figure out how to make the next book better. But not all reviews are helpful. If you’re a writer who has sold even a handful of books, you’re going to run into it: the dreaded one and two star review.

Believe it or not, this is what keeps a lot of writers as just that–writers, not published authors. There’s a very real and palpable fear in the writing community of being judged, and not just judged, but judged harshly. And while it’s definitely scary to put yourself and your work out into the world, stalling your own writing career because of that fear is downright silly. But writers do it all the time. They do it because of that one reviewer–the reviewer that’s overly harsh, overly critical, and less than specific about what they liked and didn’t like about a work of literature. Every writer has them. Stephen King has a whole army of haters. They’re vampires, and most of the time they huddle in the shadows not under the cover of night, but under the cover of anonymity.

Vampire reviewers huddle under the cover of anonymity

The fact that sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble allow you to post anonymous reviews is a problem. Quite frankly, it shouldn’t be allowed. The second problem: reviews don’t have a word count requirement, and they should. The fact that people can post reviews without it being tied to them in any way, shape, or form, is basically giving that person license to be an idiot. And while some may say ‘what’s the big deal?’, if you’re a writer, it’s a very big deal. A single mindless comment can bring even the best of us to our knees.

I’m not saying that one and two star reviews shouldn’t exist. I’m a believer of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and if you have an opinion, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. But with reviews, there’s a fine line between critique and critic. Critique puts something on the table, be it a comment on character development or plot. It offers the writer some incite on why the reader didn’t like what they read, and while even the most constructive criticism can sting, it’s at least helpful. The critic is the guy who tosses out one and two star reviews like they’re going out of style. They’ll say something like ‘this book sucked, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.’ How does that help anyone? It doesn’t offer a potential reader any incite on why the reviewer thought the work was bad; but worst of all, it strips the writer, for just the briefest of moments, of the hard work, the effort, and the dogged determination they put into that novel… and for what? For someone to shout ‘you suck!’ from the rooftops and run away before they can be identified.

Putting a novel up for sale is a hell of a task

I’m a firm believer that if someone isn’t a writer, there’s no way for them to truly understand how much emotion goes in to producing a piece of work. And then there’s the bravery part. Putting a novel up for sale on a site like Amazon, where anyone in the world can purchase it, read it, and judge it, is a hell of a task. It’s hard enough to be judged for any multitude of reasons throughout our lives. It’s even harder when that judgment doesn’t have a name or a face, or, quite frankly, anything constructive to say.

So the next time you’re ready to post a one or two star review, by all means go for it. But stop, take some time, and put some effort into that review, because the author very well may be reading it as soon as you post it, and that author is just as human and imperfect as you are. The only difference is that they’ve got their head on the chopping block, and you’re the one wielding the axe.

AniaBorn in Ciechanow Poland, Ania Ahlborn’s earliest childhood memory is of crawling through a hole in the chain link fence that separated her family home from the large wooded cemetery next door. She’d spend hours among the headstones, breaking up bouquets of silk flowers so that everyone had their equal share. She’s been drawn to the spookier things in life ever since.

Ania has been dabbling in fiction since the age of twelve. She attended the University of New Mexico, where she received her BA in creative writing. Seed is her first published work.

You can find Ania online at


Focussing your distribution

There is a saying that goes “Money begets more money,” meaning that the more money you have, the easier it is to make even more of it. The rich get richer, because they can make more lucrative investments.

Talking to many authors over the months, I think we can also draw a parallel here to books. “Sales beget more sales” is a mantra I think most authors will agree with. The more you sell, the more your book will be recognized, the more word of mouth it will generate and the higher it climbs in recommendation- and sales charts.

I am pointing this out, because I want to make you think about your distribution strategy for a moment.

Many authors try to cover as many bases as they can. Any outlet they can get their books listed in, they will do so. The believe is that it is a way to maximize exposure and thus generate more sales. Even if a small distribution portal makes only one sale every six months, it is still a sale, right? Money in your pocket and a reader.

I had the same idea initially but changed my approach over time. I delisted my books in all outlets that do not really perform. That means, I took my books off Google, I took them off Diesel, I took them off Smashwords and a number of other more specialized outlets. For the longest time I didn’t even upload my books to Apple’s iBookstore any more either.

Instead, I am driving all my potential sales to Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Kobo these days. These three are the key players in the market. I have even stopped referring potential buyers directly to the Jason Dark website to purchase their books and instead direct them to the major three also these days.

I am sure that by now you are wondering why I would do such a thing. Surely, I must be losing sales. “No,” I say.

I am no longer diluting my sales, is what I say, and the reason is very simple. “Sales beget more sales.” I am trying to drive every sale I can to Amazon for the simple reason that every single sale made through Amazon, improves my book’s ranking. Improving the book’s ranking improves its exposure. It gets listed higher and more often and as a result I am increasing the chances of the book getting noticed and making another sale which, in turn, makes it climb higher yet, further increasing its exposure and hopefully leading to another sale, and so on. With more sales in a channel the odds of getting additional reviews climbs also, and as we all know, customer reviews are one of the most critical drivers in the entire sales game.

It is very noticeable, I think, that books that make it across a certain magic threshold, suddenly begin to climb at an accelerated pace. They have been discovered. I attribute this phenomenon entirely to the “Sales beget more sales” effect. The sales themselves are perpetuating the book’s success by generating more sales.

So, instead of allowing my book sales to get lost in a labyrinth of a vast number of channels, I am focusing my distribution to the three major players. Companies like Smashwords take pride in the fact that they give you access to many small and some premium channels, but ultimately all of that is for naught. Good luck releasing your book as an iPhone App. Now you’re not only competing with a million other authors, but with about 50 million app developers too, as if things weren’t hard enough as they are. All of that extraneous glitter that companies like Smashwords dangle in front of you is really just a sign of how unfocused they are. Instead of getting their core product – the easy one-step preparation and publishing of eBooks for authors – in shape, for years now they have been chasing down a frazzled track in my opinion. And trust me, their core product needs some serious work.

Every author I talked to in the past 16 months tells me the same story. The real money comes only from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Kobo. Everything else is a trickle. Now, if you funnel that trickle and put it to work for you at one of the big three distributors instead, you may actually have not only those few sales, but you may generate even more by pushing your book further up the search results and rankings.

You may not agree with me, or you may simply be afraid that you might be losing that one extra sale in an obscure channel, but I hope that if nothing else, this has given you some food for thought.