When it Comes to Publishing

 

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Never before has it been easier to write a book and publish it. Never before has it been so easy to generate income from the words you write. Never before has it been so easy to skip the gatekeepers one had to go crawling to on hands and knees for the opportunity to publish (books and articles). Never before has it been so easy to become a full-time writer.

But as of late, many authors who were making a substantial living at this game just a few short years ago, are now having to either supplement their income with a side gig, or they’re quitting full-time writing altogether and taking a day job. Something they thought would never happen to them again. Not when it’s so easy to publish what you want, when you want.

I’ve been extolling the virtues of the indie scene for a long time now. Ten or so years anyway. In that time I’ve sold tens of thousands of books. No that’s not right, hundreds of thousands (The Remains alone has sold well over 200K and still sells anywhere from 5 to 10 per day). My experience is not unique in that I once nailed a mid-six figure two book deal only to have the publisher be bought out by another publisher prior to my first book coming out. The cover was botched and everyone working in the industry was worried about their own asses. Would they have a job tomorrow, or be out on the street? The answer to that one came pretty quick when I found my editor in chief walking out of the Bertelesmann building with her desk lamp in her hands and tears in her eyes. “Good luck,” she said to me with a gentle kiss on the cheek. In other words, RIP Vince. I never saw her again, nor have I any clue what she’s up to.

This is an ever changing business, and because it doesn’t pay its overworked editors very well, the door is always revolving. It’s more of a passion than a job. Since I started professionally over 20 years ago, 98% of the publishing professionals I’ve worked with either in editing, marketing, or agenting, have moved on to other pursuits. My first agent, who was dynamite, is now a professional magician. That’s right, you can’t make this shit up. Another agent gave up, got his MBA and is now in big business. Another agent got into public relations. And so on and so forth.

Of the many authors I’ve known and liked along the way, lots have disappeared. One or two, like Harlan Coben and Don Winslow, have just crushed it and deservedly so. They are perhaps a part of the last class of traditionally published authors who can count on a steady paycheck. Other authors whom I admire who have had staying power, such as Blake Crouch, Lee Goldberg, Russell Blake, Scott Nicholson and more, are in a league of their own. They were mavericks in that they recognized the power of indie publishing very early on and in the process, single handedly changed the way books are published today. They will be around forever.

This latter group of authors taught me a valuable lesson along the way. There was a time when I would have considered self-publishing a novel about as appetizing as swallowing my own vomit. And I’m not trying to be overly dramatic here. But while the guys (and gals, like Diane Capri), were making bank and building a steady fan base without the need for the gatekeepers, I was busy banging my head against the wall trying to grab another six-figure advance.

But it wasn’t until I started publishing independently that everything changed. I sold a ton of books and ironically, nailed a bunch of big advances again. But by now, I’d learned another valuable lesson. It was never keep all those farm fresh eggs in one basket. I learned to diversify. I kept a steady income stream of writing trade journalism and the occasional feature. I also began my own publishing imprint, Bear Media. As a third means of income, I continued to write for publishers big and small. Something I still do today. The point is that I would never be without an income, no matter how humble, on a monthly basis.

So what have I learned along the way?

The books I publish with other publishers do the poorest. No reflection on the publishers, but they just don’t have the time or resources to pour into my titles when they are publishing so many titles so fast. Those authors I mention in the opening graph? Many of them were still dependent on these traditional publishers and in turn, their income stream was not sustainable.

Consistency is key. I write new words everyday, rarely taking a day off. I also spend part of the day editing a book that’s already written. It’s not unusual for me to have two or even three books going at once. One must feed these beast as they say. Consistent publication means consistent sales. I’m shooting for 100 titles/products over the course of the next three years. When that happens, even humble sales will generate me $6-7K per month, although I suspect, that number stands the chance of being substantially higher.

Jame’s Altucher’s bestselling book, Choose Yourself, has been a terrific inspiration for me. He published five books traditionally, never earned back his advances. Then he decided to self-publish Choose Yourself. It sold like, well, hotcakes. He never considered going back to the traditional publishing world and why would he when he not only owns his own copyrites, he makes a 70% royalty on each copy sold.

It’s true that the indie publishing space is indeed way more crowded than ever. But I’m not competing against someone who sells self help for instance, or low content books, or billionaire romance, etc. I’m competing against a relatively small percentage of authors who publish hard-boiled mystery and noir. I don’t have to be top dog to be making a decent living, although every now and then I get lucky and get to hold the position of top dog for a while.

Luck. The only sure thing in publishing is indie publishing. The success you achieve is a direct reflection of the amount of time and effort you put into it. Not everything is going to sell. You’ve all heard of the 80/20 principle. Only about 20% of your books are going to make you 80% of your cash. What’s this mean? The more books the better. Content is still king and Amazon, for instance, rewards authors who publish consistently because it means you’re making new content available for its customers.

So even though the publishing business is hard (it’s always been hard), the more you choose your own destiny the better the chances of never being without an income. It’s hard work, but eventually you will reach a tipping point where you can’t help but make a very nice passive income. And guess what, if you wake up on a crappy, rainy, cold Monday morning, you can turn right around and go back to sleep. That in itself is quite the reward.

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BUY MY NEW NOVEL IN HARDCOVER ON MAY 28

THE CARETAKER’S WIFE

12_27_2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Postman Meets Clint Eastwood

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When I sat down to pen my new thriller, The Caretaker’s Wife, for Polis Books, I had no clue what I was going to write about. In terms of ideas, I had zero, zip, nada.  But that didn’t stop me from putting in 3,000 new words that day. It wasn’t a matter of writing in the dark. That is, coming up with a neat title and trying to wrap 60,000 words around it. Instead, I applied an old rule of thumb that infamous Basic Instinct screenwriter, Joe Eszterhas, used all the time. I simply combined two movie/book ideas.

 

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In this case, I came up with an elevator pitch: The Postman Always Rings Twice meets High Plains Drifter. How did I come up with that? I simply love both movies (and in the case of Postman, the book). Both are steamy, violent productions I wish I wrote. I love Postman so much that I named Caretaker’s femme fatale, Cora. Talk about an homage.

Now, my agent tells me we have serious movie interest in Caretaker. Go figure. Maybe we can convince Clint or Jack to make a cameo.

Grab The Caretaker’s Wife at special pre-order price today!!!

12_27_2018

 

 

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Paris is Burning: Notre Dame is mourned

Paris is one of my homes, even if I only visit it occasionally. It’s always been a place of inspiration for me. Today will be remembered forever as the day Notre Dame burned out of control, and for the most part, to the ground.

The iconic symbol will be mourned forever.

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I pray the cathedral will be rebuilt.

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A Taste of The Caretaker’s Wife

12_27_2018

Who doesn’t crave some hard-boiled mystery in their everyday, mundane, “It’s because of my spouse I’m so miserable” lives? Novels where men are men, and women are women; where sex is hot and steamy, and murder is bloody, unapologetic, and above all else, unrepenting. This is no place for man-boys with hair buns, safe spaces, or political correctness. This is as raw as it gets, and that’s precisely why it’s so appealing. Because although it might be fiction, it is also so damn true.

The Caretaker’s Wife explores danger within the domestic life. Domestic suspense, I believe they call it. Because who really knows the person they’re sleeping beside every night? Who really knows the secret life they live outside the confines of the bedroom? When you look at your spouse seated across from you at the dinner table, are you truly convinced you know her inside and out? Why is she diverting her eyes from yours? Why is she always looking at her texts? Why is she always on the phone, whispering? Why does she always seem preoccupied and nervous? Why is she always on edge? Can she be trusted anymore?

Instead of concentrating on her, you should take a good look at yourself. Is your life at risk? Is the one person you thought you trusted implicitly, the person you should fear more than anyone else?

Home: it just might the most dangerous place on earth.

But what exactly is The Caretaker’s Wife all about? From Goodreads:

What happens when you’ve been betrayed by those closest to you?

When ex-con and novelist JA Kingsley loses everything he ever cared about, including his wife and teenage daughter, he abandons his home in order to start anew, write a new book, and most of all, restart his fractured life. Traveling to the Adirondack Mountains, he checks himself into The Loon Lake Inn, a peaceful, lake-side resort. For a brief moment, he feels at peace with himself and a world that has seemingly turned its back on him. But what he doesn’t expect is the lurid attraction that ignites between him and the wife of the owner of the Loon lake Inn, who has connections to some of most dangerous people imaginable. And what begins as a torrid affair turns into something much more sinister when they decide that nothing will stand in the way of their love–including murder. For readers of Michael Connelly, Robert B. Parker, Ace Atkins, Lawrence Block, and more, Thriller Award and Shamus Award-winning New York Times Bestselling author, Vincent Zandri, brings you an unputdownable novel filled with suspense and deadly romance. Scroll up to purchase this tantalizing thriller!

Here’s the Prologue to The Caretaker’s Wife, which will be released on April 30 in hardcover and eBook from Polis Books. Be warned: this is the author’s unedited draft, so if you’re gonna bitch about a typo or two, well then suck it up buttercup.

The Caretaker’s Wife

 

“The devil got his money’s worth that night.”

James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice

 

“The only thing you’ve got Sheriff is a short supply of guts.”

–High Plains Drifter

 

Prologue

Loon Lake

February

Two years ago

 

They say you could hear their screams from all the way out in the road. High-pitched screams of unimaginable suffering and torture. Maybe two dozen townspeople stood outside in their mackinaws, wool watch caps, gloves and mittens, surrounded by a bitter cold night that was strangely illuminated in an iridescent orange/red glow by the roaring flames of a two-story house fire.

A house fire that was no accident, or so the rumors go.

The townsfolk gathered in the road and stared at the old wood house and they were helpless to do anything about it, for fear they too would be burned to death. Even the Sheriff, who stood tall in the center of the crowd, could do nothing. His arms hanging by his side, the brim of his cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes as if to conceal his tears, he too was paralyzed with grief and fear. His job was to protect the men, women, and children of Loon Lake. If he were to begin making arrests, they would all be killed. No one would be spared. His hands were tied, and his heart and soul burned along with the flesh of the four innocent souls trapped inside that doomed house.

No one dare say a single word while their cloud-like breaths rose up into the night along with the black smoke from the burning building. Not even the town’s one firetruck had been summoned onto the scene. What was the point? It was instead parked idly behind the Sheriff’s headquarters where it would remain until the house was burned to the ground.

They say you could not only hear the screams of the family…the mother, father, and their young elementary school-aged son and daughter…but you could hear some laughter too. The laughter came from two men. One voice was lower and more burly than the other. The second voice squeaked while it laughed. It was, according to the witnesses, one of the most horrible sounds one could ever hear.

The laughter was coming from the two men who started the fire and who bound the four family members to the chairs that surrounded their kitchen table. The first man, the fearless leader, was the mastermind behind the burning. The second man, his big, black leather clad, right-hand goon, was the one who followed the orders to a T.

They say that while the fire began to spread in the kitchen, Fearless Leader pulled out his smartphone and began to film the family while they suffered a most horrible death. He filmed the faces of the mother and father as they writhed in pain, while the children screamed in agony. He filmed it so he could go back to it again and again and relive the torture. He even made Right-Hand Goon get in the picture along with him, so that they would immortalize the event with a selfie.

So they say…

But they also say that two State Trooper cruisers finally showed up. That the yellow and blue state law enforcement officials offered a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak scenario. They say that four gray uniformed men emerged from out of the cruisers. Three white men and one black man. All of them were said to be big men. Troopers didn’t accept small men into their ranks. Only big, strong men. Only honorable men. Only brave men.

Despite the flames that were now shooting out all the windows and the roof, they say the Troopers ran towards the house. They were careful to keep their backs to the people and especially the Sheriff. It was as if they didn’t want anyone to recognize their faces. They quickly made their way around the back, and entered into the kitchen by way of the back door.

It’s also been said that Fearless Leader wanted to take one more selfie video of all six men before they would have no choice but to exit the burning home before the fire flashed over. If it were to flash over while they were still inside it, they would all be goners.

But no one to this day has ever seen the photos. No one has ever viewed the video documenting the deaths of the innocent family. All the people of Loon Lake Township have to go on, is what they and their helpless Sheriff witnessed from out on the road on that frigid February night and the rumors that soon began to spread around the little lake town that time forgot. Rumors that their town had been taken hostage by some very bad men from downstate. Gangsters, hoodlums, and blood-thirsty mobsters. The innocent men, women, and children of Loon Lake were helpless, abandoned, and perhaps even doomed, and there wasn’t a thing they could do about it.

That’s what they say, anyway.

Order THE CARETALKER’S WIFE @

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Should I Go to Writing School?

I get asked this question a lot for obvious reasons. I went to writing school and I’m not afraid to advertise that fact. I’m proud of what I accomplished there back in the mid to late 1990s. The work was hard, but enjoyable since writing and reading were also a hobby at the time, and the students, for the most part, were good, decent people.

Of course, there were some assholes who couldn’t wait to shit on your work as soon as you walked through the workshop door. But many of these same people are history now, not having published a word once they were given their diplomas. Most likely they now sell insurance or have drunk themselves to death. One can only hope.

But at the time, writing school was a necessary evil for me. I had no idea I would actually write for a living. I thought I would live the cush life of the writing professor. You know, write a novel every five years or so, publish it with a small publisher, bang the crap out of my pretty young adoring female students. Seemed like a nice life to me. But in order to live that life, I first needed my MFA.

These days, for the most part, MFA programs are a scam and a sham. They have sprung up all over the place simply because of the demand. People feel like writers when they are enrolled in a writing program. Problem is, after dropping 30 or 40K it’s more than likely they will never see their work published commercially. They might venture to self-publish, now that DIYing it is hot shit. But the work will probably be mediocre and not attract an audience the way a work published by a major publisher could (or a hotshot indie publisher/small press).

But writing school was a good time. I drank like crazy, spent days and nights on speed, fucked like a rabbit, and yeah, got some writing done too. It was an escape, but not entirely. I was there to work hard and work hard I did. I was determined to be a success one day. Image

Was the experience worth the cost in the end? For me it was. My creative thesis turned into my first full-length power novel: The Innocent (or, As Catch Can). Mind you, the version I worked on at school was very different. The writing teacher who advised me during my last semester suggested all sorts of cuts and revisions, which I did to please him. But as soon as I got back to New York, I put the cuts back in and reversed the revisions. The book was originally bought by Delacorte Press only a year after graduation in a mid-six figure deal, and went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. It still sells at bestseller levels today now that it’s on its third publisher in 13 years. So much for writing school advice.

So, do you need to go to writing school?

The choice is entirely yours. You will meet some like-minded people who will be your friends for life, and you will meet some of the most crappy souled assholes in the world who want nothing more than to crush you and your talent. They are the jealous type. You will meet professors who are old and washed up and who will hit on you. But you will also meet some genuinely great teachers who embrace the fact that teaching writing is as much a spiritual calling as the writing itself.

I’ll say it again. The choice is yours. Do you want to be a serious writer who makes his or her living from words? If that’s the case, writing school can teach you a lot. It’s what you make of it. But if you just want a place to escape to in which you can play pretend writer, save your money and sell insurance.

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Screen Shots

 

As writers in the digital age, there is more opportunity to obsess than ever before. Writing has always been a game of obsessions and emotional turmoils. Years ago, the obsessions were more about the writing. If the words came too hard (or, ugh, not at all!), we obsessed over the well running dry forever. If they came too easily we obsessed over our built-in-shit detectors being on the fritz. No one likes to be thought of as a hack. Hemingway once said he not only wanted to be thought of as a writer, but he wanted to do it better than anyone ever had before. He admitted to being obsessed with this notion of being the best. It led to an early grave for the master.

Now we have other things that make us obsessive. We have Amazon rankings for instance. Take my newest novel, MURDER BY MOONLIGHTImageSince its publication on January 1, it’s been in the UK Top 200 for overall books and in its Top 10 for Mysteries, and is still enjoying a respectable run there. Just this past week it went to the Number 1 spot in Germany for Mysteries and reached the No. 6 for Overall Bestselling Kindlebooks. It’s still the number 1 Mystery as I write this. In France it also hit the Overall Top 10 and the Number 1 Mystery spot. It’s presently the No. 2 Mystery.

So what’s to obsess about?

Once you hit a number 1 spot and the Overall Top Ten, there’s only one direction to go. You guessed it…I guess it’s fair to say that Amazon rankings not only offer up a real-time glimpse of where our work stands in the retail marketplace, they also serve as a kind of distorted, up-to-the-second, “fun-house” mirror reflection of ourselves and our self worth, not only as writers, but as worthy human beings. They give instant gratification, or the lack thereof, a new and often times, dangerous meaning. And they can be the source of severe obsession. Best to unplug and walk away from them for a while. 

When things go well on the retail end of things, I suppose the point is to enjoy the moment, which I most certainly am. I am also mighty grateful to the people all over the world who are giving MBM, which is based on the real life Chris Porco axe murder case, a chance (look for a movie based on the case coming soon on Lifetime).

To commemorate our brief and ever so humble moments at the top of the Amazon lists, we take screenshots. So that every now and then, when the books aren’t moving as well as we want them to, we can look at them and remind ourselves that we are not only writers, but writers who have enjoyed some degree of success. Screenshots are more than glimpses at our past, they are our security blankets when all we’d rather do is obsess and depress.

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The “Vox” is Back

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Well it’s been a while since I’ve posted on the Vox. But that makes sense since Google found a way to archive my blog without notifying me. That said, I started another blog called The Vincent Zandri Voyager, but that one is primarily for my travels. So now that I’m home and grounded back in New York while I await word on the exact amount of dough I’m gonna have to pay the tax man this year, I’ve decided to resurrect the Vox, only under the WordPress site so that Google can’t stiff me once again. After all, Lawrence Block’s blog is here and what’s good for Lawrence is good enough for me.

So, the rundown on what’s been going on in my literary world:

–I’ve had eight books published or re-published over the past four months. They are, The Innocent, Godchild, The Concrete Pearl, Moonlight Rises, Blue Moonlight, Murder by Moonlight, and finally The Disappearance of Grace. All have been published by Amazon Publishing’s Thomas & Mercer imprint except for Grace which was published by StoneGate Ink.

–The numbers since Oct 1, 2012: Currently it looks like I’ve sold around 20,000 units of my T&M books, while I’ve probably moved somewhere around 3-4,000 of my StoneGate/StoneHouse Ink titles. I could be a little conservative on this, but best to err on the light side. 

–I’ve also published one title under my own label, Bear Media. It’s my previously published literary novella, Permanence. I’ve moved only a couple of hundred of these. This is the one title I have that I don’t think my mother will even buy.

–How do I perceive the indie vs. the major markets these days? I honestly believe that once more, the state of publishing is undergoing severe and rapid change. Amazon Publishing imprints have acquired many many titles, and it will be interesting to see how most of these do in the long run. As for self-publishing, I’m having a hard time seeing how any newbies out there can possibly make headway amidst all the titles available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc. Amazon is still the primary place to sell, but now that tags have been eliminated and authors only afforded two categories under which you can list your books, it will get harder and harder to be found by readers. In other words, most self-published authors will not have the chance to attract the readership successes like Amanda Hocking and John Locke were able to accomplish not long ago. Indie publishing remains strong, and by indie publishing, I mean medium-sized independent publishers of maybe 60 authors or more who rely heavily on the Amazon KDP program. This is still an excellent way to publish but success is not guaranteed unless you’re willing to put in the time on the social marketing scene plus engage in other activities that will result in books sold.

–The outlook. I’m seeing more and more of the traditional majors sponsoring their A-list authors on the Amazon bookstore site, which tells me the majors are getting with the program rapidly. That’s a good thing, since the editors in the big steel and glass towers will get to keep their jobs, at least for a while. But if you are to ask me my advice on how to publish in 2013, I will still give you the same answer I gave you last year: Mix it up. Go for some indie publishing, some self-publishing, and if you can, grab up a major deal, be it with an Amazon Publishing imprint and/or a traditional major. Things are changing so rapidly, almost on a daily basis, that unless you maintain your options and avoid putting all those hard-boiled eggs into one basket, you might find yourself desperately without an income or a future (that is, you’re a full-time author like I am).

–So what’s up for me this year? Murder by Moonlight was published by T&M back in December. The Guilty, the long awaited third novel in the Jack Marconi series (The Innocent, Godchild…) is will be published by StoneGate Ink sometime in the mid-spring (StoneGate Ink moved 100,000 copies of The Innocent back in April, 2011). The rights to Moonlight Falls have been released and I am putting that one out under my own label, Bear Media. In the late Fall of 2013 or early Winter 2014, T&M will be publishing Moonlight Sonata. And currently I’m working on my new series CHASE (you’ll recall I traveled to Egypt a couple of months back to research the first novel…I’ve shown the first 100 pages to my agent, and in his words, “It rocks…I was hook from the second sentence on…) So looks like I have a new serial character to follow me around for the rest of my days.

There you have it, the recent past, present and future of my writing life. Now, what are you doing to navigate the perfect storm of change in today’s publishing industry.    

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