Thursday, December 8, 2011

KDP Select discussion: observing the pros and cons

I wake up today at the bright and early hour of 10:30 in the morning—perk of writing for a living, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not—and there’s an email in my inbox touting KDP Select, a new initiative to increase the amount of lending titles while also compensating writers in the process. Since releasing The Congregation on Nov. 3, 2011, this option has taken on greater significance for me. I have a dog in the hunt, so to speak. 

Initially, I see the “lending” option and think, “What’s in it for me?” At the same time, I acknowledge “Free,” while often vilified as being associated with “self-pubbed crap,” is an effective way to increase exposure and grab those all-important initial reviews. But automatically, I’m thinking how many loss leaders can my sanity afford after pouring so much time into my books?

(Plural, because No. 2 for me will be out in January.) 

Looking at the numbers included in the email, if the money pot is $500,000, as it currently is, and only 100,000 borrows are made for the month, then each borrow is worth $5 to the author. You lend out 10 copies, you make $50. You lend out 1,000, you make $5,000. Obviously, the more in-demand your book is, the better your paycheck. 

Of course, the flip side of that coin is this: if there are 1 million borrows and only $500,000 in the pot, then each one is only worth 50 cents. Is this good or bad for authors? For the most part, I choose good, and here’s why:
1. Free lending on the best supported eReader format in all of publishing

It took me several minutes to figure out the Overdrive option at my local library, and I must say, I didn’t like it. The cover art didn’t come through, there was a due date, and a waiting list. All these things affect my enjoyment of the reading experience in a negative way. Presumably, Amazon’s system will be as simple as making a purchase. Presumably, the cover art will transfer as well. Presumably, the only “due date” will be the one-month option, and if your book is not read in that month, the reader can always re-up it the following month without having to wait on someone else’s term to finish.

2. More people own Kindles than any other eReading device.
Even those that don’t own a Kindle can and do purchase books on the Kindle App via iPad. But then, my understanding is that this promotion is just for Kindle owners, so we’ll just limit our potential reader base to those persons. Even so, you’re dealing with millions and millions of potential readers. The particularly rabid fans can be found over on the @AmazonKindle Twitter profile. Currently, around 80,000 highly targeted candidates. Actual owners dwarf this number, but let’s say that just 1 percent of the most rabid Kindle fans borrow your book each month. That’s approximately 800 people. Using the $5 per borrow example, this would earn you around $4,000. Furthermore, Amazon has guaranteed a minimum of $6 million to the KDP Select lending pool for 2012. That means the revenue pot will be AT LEAST $500,000 per month. Borrows are another story.

3. Amazon giving away 5 days of free promotion every 90 days.
No details included on what that means, but considering that Amazon are pretty much the best marketers around, 20 days of free exposure per year, depending on the depth of that exposure, can be potentially life-changing at best and a shot in the arm for your career at worst. Even if there are 1 million borrows for the month, and you only earn $400, that’s $400 more than you had and the probability that you’ll pick up some good reviews and a nice little boost in the “also bought’s.”
4. Amazon is only grabbing exclusive rights for 90 days versus a lifetime.

I don’t know about you, but I can give up 90 days of my book’s sales life on other outlets if it means exposure and awareness for my titles increase. Granting Amazon the required 90-day exclusivity clause is an excellent way to jumpstart sales and carry the positive buzz over to other eReader platforms.

5. Not everyone will be eligible to participate, which means it won’t kill your sales.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is essentially a second revenue stream that you can earn through Amazon. It appeals to a different group of readers (the mostly rabid). Prime members are the only ones eligible. There are many, many more Amazon book customers than Amazon Prime members. Your promotional efforts can reach the widest possible base of Amazon customers, and you could earn 50 cents to $5 per borrow or 35 cents to set-your-own-price per sale. Users of the iPad will still be able to read your book through the Kindle App. Prime owners of a Kindle product will be able to borrow as a perk of their membership.

The Downside:

1. Competing against the big boys. Publishers have some hostility towards Amazon, so there is the possibility that you won’t have to fight Stephen King or Dean Koontz or insert-bestselling-author-name-here for a piece of the pie. However, it’s possible since print copies may continue to be distributed at one’s leisure from any outlet. Should publishers embrace this concept, then it could shrink the royalty pie for newbies considerably.

2. Lack of information regarding promotional tools. Just looking at the KDP Select web page, it’s difficult to determine how effective the “free marketing for 5 days every 90” will be. I do wish the company would give a more involved accounting, so you know what to expect before clicking “enroll.”

3. No grandfathering. The Congregation is on sale at Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, iTunes, Kobo, and virtually everywhere eBooks are sold. Had I known about this option ahead of the publication date, I would have likely not hesitated to give Amazon the 90-day head start. If I want to do that now, it looks like I’ll have to unpublish from Smashwords and wait for the title to disappear on the other sites before becoming eligible. Then, after 90 days, I’ll have to do that crap all over again if I want to have the widest possible reach to electronic readers.

What do you guys think of KDP Select? You can read the details here and the legalese here. Please feel free to let me know if I’m confused on something. I think this is a good overview of the pros and cons, but getting the facts about it out there is my first priority.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Free Kindle Fire Giveaway Writing Contest is here

You’re not talking to a world class marketer, people. That’s why I’ve decided that straying too far from what works is a bad idea. So now that Dec. 1 is upon us, I want to get as unoriginal as I possibly can and attempt to move copies of my ridiculously cheap $3-plus-change horror novel The Congregation.

The way I plan to do that is this: give away a Kindle Fire for free. While much like the Highlander movies, there can be only one KFW (Kindle Fire Winner), nine more of you will not be going away empty-handed. 

Here’s how the Kindle Fire Giveaway Writing Contest works. 

You get my book, which will only run you $3-plus-change if you didn’t get in on the limited time free promotion (ended yesterday). You read it. You write a review (think about 100-150 words) either on your blog, website, or BN/Amazon/iBooks. Send the live link to aric dot mitchell at gmail dot com by Jan. 1, 2012. I read over all of them and choose the 10 best. Then, my blog followers, which could be you if you join, pick the final winner by Jan. 15, 2012. Said winner gets a free Kindle Fire. The other nine get an eBook of their choice, up to $9.99 in value for each prize. 

All prizes are delivered to your door by the end of January 2012. But in order for this to work, we've got to have a cutoff, so I'm gonna have to be firm on that New Year's expiration date. 

Oh yeah, and family members? Sorry, you're out of luck. Gotta be fair. That's why this promotion is only for people, who aren't offended by some bad language and a whole bunch of stomach churning violence. 

This way, I get sales and publicity. You get at least two books for the price of $3-plus-change and a little bit of your time. And some lucky person gets their very own Kindle Fire. Note: if you’d rather have another eReader at or below the Kindle Fire price, then we can do that. And who knows, maybe if you’re wanting a $11.99 to $12.99 eBook, we can work something out there, too. I’m easy to get along with :)! 

So what are you waiting for? We don’t have much time left. To purchase my book, head over to:


Barnes and Noble

Apple iBooks (look up “Aric Mitchell” without the quotes in the iTunes Store)

Reading it will only take about 4 to 6 hours of your life. Good luck, and as always, thanks for giving me your time. I promise you won’t be sorry, even if I gotta pay you off.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I don't want your money

I don't want your money. Not a single dime. Not right now anyway. But I would like your time. More importantly, I’d like to be a good steward of your time.

My debut horror novel The Congregation is out there and ready to devour. I hope it turns bestseller and moves more than a million. Even at the low $3.19 price point, I’d be a rich man.

But it’s more important to me at this juncture to know I’m delivering quality product to my readers. If you’re a fan of the scary, the gory, the grotesque, or the unknown, I’m sure you’ll love the book. If you’re not, then I’d still like to give you your Christmas present early along with a personal thank-you.

Subscribe to my blog by Dec. 1, 2011. I’ll send a coupon code you can then take to Smashwords. Use it to download my book free to the Nook, Kindle, iPad, or derivative thereof. It’s that simple.

Ultimately, I want an audience. A big one. But how’m I gonna do that without you?

One more thing: after you’re done, I’d be eternally grateful if you did two things for me. One, review it. Choose sites like and or write a review on your own blog. After that, tell your FB friends, Twitter followers, or, God forbid, people you actually see face-to-face.

(Technology abuse—me preacher, me choir.)

Now I've said all that, let me say this: my email address is aric dot mitchell at gmail dot com, and as long as you're not a spamming crap-face, I want you to abuse it. Send me links to your reviews. Talk shop with me about anything horror/writing/book and movie related. You WILL be hearing back from me. With close to 2,000 Twitter followers and more than 800 Facebook friends, it may be a week or two, but you’ll hear from me.

I may make my living with words, but, last I checked, my name wasn’t King or Koontz. Good writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the only way I can deliver high quality horror to your eReaders book-after-book is by knowing what you like and what you don’t. So let's start a conversation.

If you’re just dying to give me money, The Congregation is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble directly. That’s where I’d like you to direct your friends. You can also get it on the iPad by using the Kindle or BN apps. Should be available on iBooks in another two weeks, but why wait?

And Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah. Awesome time of year, friends!

Friday, September 23, 2011

In Defense of Crappy Writers

I try not to get caught up in the “us versus them” mentality that often goes on between legacy publishers and independent authors. If you ever want a good debate on the subject, you’d be better off checking out Joe Konrath’s blog, where the topic is touched on almost daily.

But one thing I hear a lot of in the writing community—from both my legacy and indie friends, and yes, it’s okay to have both—is that bad writers are going to ruin things for everyone. Being a contrarian by nature, it was only a matter of time before I was forced into this blog post:

In Defense of Crappy Writers…

That’s right. I’m going to defend authors, who go to market too quickly, refuse to get help from an outside source, and are incapable of proofreading. Indies think bad writers make them look bad. Legacy guys think they create too many distractions for readers, and a distracted reader is a reader, who isn’t buying their book. And virtually all of us, who may not be the greatest writers in the world but know how to weave a yarn, get insulted that offensively bad writers even attempt to do what we do.

We need more gatekeepers. Crappy self-pubbers give indies a bad name! I’ve heard it all, but I’m not convinced. If that’s what you think, consider this:

We need them. You, me, and indies everywhere. And so do legacy publishers. If every person, who ever published a book was a masterpiece writer, the market would be saturated beyond belief. The next Ernest Hemingway could easily go unnoticed. There would be no way to distinguish good writing from piss-poor. We’d all be great, and, subsequently, ignored.

Writing a bestseller is hard, people. The writing is important, but it’s not the only thing that goes into it. You need to proof your book till it shines like gold. You need to hand it off to a brain you can trust. One who will read it and tear it apart. You need to lick your wounds and declare yourself too stupid to write another word before finally getting past the criticism and using the constructive remarks to make it a better book.

You need to get on the social networks and build a Twitter / Facebook following. You need to write blog posts that people may actually find informational, enlightening, entertaining, or inspirational. You need to fight discouragement when your book isn’t selling by writing another book. And you need to go through the entire process again and again and again until the world gets the point that you’re not going away.

It’s the 21st Century, and there are more opportunities than ever before to find your audience. Write well, write often, finish what you start, and connect with people. Don’t wait for Amazon to algorithm your book to the top. They won’t. Keep writing. Keep connecting. Build authentic relationships with people, and the rest will fall into place.

Crappy writers are not stopping you from doing that, and they’re not stealing your potential audience. They’re proving themselves to be crappy writers, and they’re making your book look that much better when it is finally discovered. Furthermore, they are making your eventual audience grateful to you for providing a good story at a good price.

Bitching doesn’t help. Forming a new body of indie gatekeepers won’t either. Only writing the best book that you know how to write, not becoming discouraged, and continuing to do what you love until you break through or don’t love it anymore will help. Those are the keys to success.

So the next time you buy a 150,000-word tome for 99 cents and pick out 18 spelling and grammar issues on the first page, thank the author. Oh, not personally. That would be tacky, and staying positive is a far better way to live. I mean inside your head. Because when your book finds its audience, that writer is going to make your work stand out.

Joe Konrath has a philosophy: cream will rise to the top. But it can’t do that unless there’s a bottom.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Local Writing Markets: The 21st Century Writer's Untapped Revenue Source

As writers, many of you dream of becoming the next John Locke or J.A. Konrath or Scott Nicholson. There’s nothing wrong with this dream. Keep dreaming it, and more importantly, keep working toward doing it.

But it could be that while you’re so busy keeping up with the Joneses, you’re leaving a huge untapped market out there for someone else to discover. Allow me to share my journey, which has taken place in just a few months time.

I’m a former high school football player. Before I go all Al Bundy on you, let me share how this is relevant. Coming from that kind of culture, I am well aware of how rabid the local audience is for their Friday Night Frenzies. They treat their hometown heroes like gods, basically.

And many locals can tell you stats from a team that played 20 years ago, if said team was good enough. One day over a dinner conversation with my brother, he had the idea of doing a “Where are they now” book series for the Arkansas Razorbacks. It was a good idea, but surely someone was already doing it.

My writer’s brain started working. I checked all the websites that covered local football and discovered two things: 1) There already was an albeit rudimentary “Where are they now” system on former Razorbacks; and 2) Most of the sites were doing the same thing: covering the Razorbacks and the current season of local high school football.

As an Internet writer, I’ve made quite the living with list-based articles and writing on hot national topics pertaining to men’s interests and a variety of other fields that include entertainment, sports and technology. Many of these articles have done gangbusters with people I don’t even know.

Incredibly, nobody was doing this type of thing at the local level. Opportunity was starting to reek like a moldy three week old corpse bricked up in the wall. I had to rip out those bricks and reveal my discovery to the world. So I started thinking. How could I take my background knowledge and experience and use it to create something familiar yet entirely new that on idea alone would appeal to local advertisers?

From this challenge, The Varsity Wire was born. This week, we (and by we, I mean myself and owner Michael Tilley) launched the new site as an extension of his established hub for local business news and human interest.

The site’s content is written entirely by me. I cover some of the current season, but I don’t go entirely in that direction because there are too many local sites that are already hitting the scores and stats better than me. I don’t want to compete with them. I simply want to tell stories of interest that pertain to area high school football teams.

So far, the response has been astounding. We have five main sections on the site. Three of the sections are currently under sponsorship. We also have a large local bank supporting the entire site. In just a short amount of time, we’re generating a couple of thousand in revenue, and we’re getting a hugely favorable response from the local school systems.

This experience has taught me several things about making a living—and I mean a good living—as a writer. Here they are:

1. Tap your local writing market

The national level has way too much competition for you to make a lot of money quickly. The faster route is to do your homework and find that untapped niche in your local market. Then, develop a site around it. Pitch your idea only after coming up with several well thought-out features. Then, find people, who are already using the web as a business model and partner with them to avoid the laborious hours of site building that you’re probably not that good at anyway.

2. Diversify your audience

The Varsity Wire is not yet my full time job, but it is giving me a four-figure monthly income. In addition to the other sites that I write for—,,, and a few content aggregators here and there, I’m able to make a nice living in a really crappy economy doing what I love (for the most part). I’m also able to pay the bills while I work on my fiction career, and that brings me to:

3. Turn your active income passive

Look at Nicholson, Rain, Konrath, Hocking, and Locke. Their careers have taken them the digital route because they can write and market well. And because, unlike me, they’re making a passive income off the books they have already written. Hopefully, that will change next month when I unleash The Congregation on the world. But I don’t think it will. I’ll have to invest more of my time and energy into books two, three, four, five and six, in all likelihood, before the public gets the point that I’m not going away.

And that brings me back to The Varsity Wire. Tilley, my partner and friend in this journey, confessed to me that what attracted him so much to my story ideas was this: shelf life. The stories I’m writing and posting this week may not get a huge boom in traffic the first few days, but as The Varsity Wire becomes better known in the surrounding communities, my pieces on “The 5 Best Charleston Tigers Football Teams of All Time,” and “Where Are They Now” for past local football phenoms, will continually bring in traffic and ad revenue. Passive to active. Find a way to do it.

What ideas in your surrounding area have a human interest appeal that you can tap in to? Share your thoughts below.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How buying books helps you sell books

What does this guy know about selling books, you’re probably thinking. The one book he is advertising isn’t even out yet. You’re definitely within your rights to be skeptical of me. I’m still sitting on the sidelines. Hell, I barely update my blog. Too busy working on that book that I’ve promised but not yet delivered. Also developing some other ideas I hope to lay on you sometime between THE CONGREGATION’s release and the start of 2012. But what I lack in experience as a proven bookseller, I more than make up for in my expertise as a buyer. That’s right. I’ll stake my buying reputation against J.A. Konrath, John Locke, and any other successful author making a name for themselves peddling ebooks. I buy ebooks like they’re going out of style—they’re not—and I’ve taken it upon myself to study these habits I exhibit in hopes of becoming a more successful writer. I encourage you to do the same as you build a marketing plan.

1. Use Twitter.

Jon F. Merz, God bless him, opened my eyes to the successful use of Twitter. If you haven’t read his ebook on the matter, you really should. He’ll have your follower count in the thousands in a matter of days. If you’re like me, you’re probably following the successful ebook authors online: Konrath, Locke, Scott Nicholson, Amanda Hocking, etc. Once you read Jon’s book, you’ll know why that matters when it comes to finding potential followers for your ebook. After you’ve built up a following, you’ll start to notice that many of your new friends are writers, too. Don’t worry. Writers and readers are often synonymous with one another. Even though they’re selling a product, they’re still open to buying yours and establishing relationships that are mutually beneficial. Accept these friendships and be glad you have them. But once you’re set up, make sure that you take the next step seriously, which is:

2. Get off Twitter as soon as humanly possible.

Twitter is great for establishing the connections that will make your career worthwhile, but it’s not the endgame for your newfound relationships. While you will want to spend time on the social networking site each day, you want to focus on taking your relationships from Twitter to the actual website of the follower. Build relationships by leaving comments on blogs. Start email relationships with these people that are genuine. Find a common thread that unites you. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and talk about your work, but value their blogs and join in on the conversation. If you’re going to establish true marketing connections and friendships, you can’t stand at the door (Twitter); you’ve got to go in for a visit and a cup of coffee (blog/personal website). You’ll find that your new friends are open for doing the same, and for seeing what you have to sell. But that isn’t going to be enough to convince them to buy. For that, you’ve got to talk about your books and make them sound as interesting as possible. And that brings us to the hook.

3. Keep your hooks brief and compelling.

A hook is basically the back jacket copy of the paperback. It’s the spiel that a Hollywood pitchman uses to try and sell producers on his movie idea. It isn’t a 500-word description of the plot and sub-plots of your novel. I read so many “synopses” on iBooks and Kindle that aren’t synopses at all. They’re friggin’ chapters. And as a buyer, my eyes instantly cross together and I quickly lose interest before moving on to the next indie author, who understands the concept of enticement. So before you put yourself out there, go back to your website and your entries at the Kindle and iBooks and Smashwords stores, and make sure the book sounds something like this:


What if you looked exactly like a famous movie star, and one day decided, that along with their beautiful face, you wanted the life that came with it?

And not like this:


Sarah Roberts has a unique problem. Routine blackouts occur to her on a random basis. What’s different about her temporary unconsciousness is she wakes to various notes written by her own hand.

These notes are prophecies. Dark Visions. Future events with dire circumstances. Circumstances that she can avert, for Sarah is what they call an Automatic Writer.

The novel begins with Sarah perched under a bridge with no idea why she’s there, except what the note said;

Sit under the Elizabeth St. Bridge at 10:18am. Bring hammer.

There’s a car accident on the bridge, plunging a vehicle into the river below. If Sarah wasn’t there at the right time, with the hammer to force her way into the car, people would’ve died.

The novel’s intensity increases as more blackouts occur, causing her to note them down. Her next task is to avert a kidnapping. She’s done it before. Couldn’t be that hard. But on this one, the kidnappers recognize her and nab her instead of their intended victim.

People are killed. Witnesses place Sarah at the scene. The police find her notebook riddled with prophecies of accidents and crimes.

They want answers. They want to know how she has such information.

All this happens while the eighteen year old star in this first novel of a trilogy suffers from trichotillomania, which means she’s a puller.

Most of her hair is missing.

The story has numerous twists and turns and finally ends with a massive climax and a lead in to The Warning, which is Part Two of this trilogy.

Overall a great read, combining the likes of John Saul, and Dean Koontz.

Crouch distills his story to the main idea and presents the premise in the form of a question—always a good tactic, though unnecessary so long as the hook is a compelling one. This time, it wasn’t. I didn’t buy Crouch’s story, but his product description was succinct enough that I decided to explore more of his catalog and did end up purchasing SERIAL UNCUT. So I would say FAMOUS works as a good description.

On the other hand, I’m sure Mr. Saul is a fine writer, but I’ve never read a word he’s written. Why? Look at the length of that description. Too many ebooks are on the market today, and I’m going to need to know right away whether one is worth my time or not. If you can’t capture my interest in two to three sentences, then I doubt you will in as many paragraphs. Besides, he tells you the entire story in the description. Why should I even read it?

4. Be very clear about the genre you are working in.

Too many of my followers on Twitter simply say they are a writer. Not compelling enough to grab my attention. When I go shopping for indie fiction, I want to find someone, who I’m compatible with (mostly horror, suspense, and thriller authors). If you just say “writer” or “author” or “I tell stories,” then you’re not giving me the info that I need to take a chance on you. As of this writing, I’ve got about 1,200 followers. Not gonna dig through all of those to find someone, whose writing I may like. Tell me the kind of writing that you do, and don’t give me that, “Well, it really can’t be confined to one genre” crap. Maybe it can’t, but that’s for me to decide as a reader. Just tell me the genre it most fits in to. If you can’t, then I’m going to think that you have trouble determining theme and focus, and that your writing will likely be one confusing mess not worth my time and attention.

5. Go shopping.

How does spending money help you become a more successful writer? Think about it. By getting to know your own buying habits better, you are developing a closer understanding of what it means to be a buyer. You know what they are looking for, and you know how best to reach them. That’s why it’s important that you don’t just add books to a wish list, but you actually make the purchase. When it’s real money that you’re parting with, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what it takes for sales conversion, because you’ve just responded to a successful marketing tactic. After you’ve bought the book, determine what it was, in particular, that compelled you to buy. Was it the description? The price? Or a combination of both? If you’re going to charge $3.99, $4.99, or even $9.99 for your ebook, then you’d better make damn sure there is a good reason for it. That means a professional looking cover, a succinct hook, and a reasonable price. If you’re selling a “book” of 11 pages for $2.99 and Michael Prescott is selling three novels for 99 cents, who do you think is going to win that little battle? I’ll pay $2.99 for your novel. Hell, I’ll even pay $4.99 if the hook intrigues me. But I’m not going one penny over $1.99 for a novella, nor one cent over 99 for a short. End of story.

Here’s the thing. I am desperate to give you my money. Dying to. I’m an eReader fan, who loves discovering new authors and getting a great deal on a book. I’m just waiting on you to give me a reason to purchase. Are you willing to do that for me?

What are you willing to pay for a short story, novella, and novel? What most intrigues you—cover, price, description, or a combination of the three? Share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What do you write and where did it begin?

When I was a little boy, all bright-eyed and full of wonder about what the future would hold for me, I never would have thought that 20 years later I’d end up in virtually the same place. I foresaw a Mars landing in my future. A metamorphosis into some kind of intergalactic hero a la Buck Rogers. I’d do that after I rescued a few damsels in distress and put away some bad guys while wearing trademark yellow Dick Tracy coat and hat. Perhaps I’d even swing across the rooftops of a place not unlike Gotham City and do harmless battle, invincible to any effects the Joker could throw my way, because I was a kid, and that’s what we were. Invincible.

My list of fantasies were my reality, and life was a long enough time to experience them for real. Unfortunately, life can do a lot to knock those dreams out of you. But in my case, an unfaithful ex-wife, several missed opportunities, and other unexpected losses along the way have not been enough to take away one dream from the 10-year old boy that still resides somewhere in my psyche. When I’m not busy writing things that keep the lights on, usually for other people, and usually stuff that’s a lot more of a job to me than I would care for it to be, I let the child out to play, and he writes some pretty dastardly, horrific things, some of which you will see when my debut horror novel THE CONGREGATION lands with Kindle, iBooks, and Barnes and Noble in October.

Every scrap of torn flesh, each drop of spurting blood, can trace its roots back to a single comic book that my father allowed me to have one summer day about 20 years ago. I’d heard of the old movie TALES FROM THE CRYPT. I’d also heard that HBO would be doing a TV show of the same name. I was excited about the possibilities, but it wasn’t until I saw an old Gladstone Comics reprint on the newsstand of my local Waldenbooks that it would come to me this was, in fact, the original source material. TFTC was a comic book before it was anything else, and here I was holding a beautifully rendered full color reprint on cheap newsprint and standard four-color cover. The Jack Davis werewolf drawing, the corpse stretched across a tombstone under moonlight, was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. I couldn’t wait to get home and tear through every last page of it.

And that’s what I did. Along the way, I read about a group of poor Hungarian immigrants accused of lycanthropy by a bigoted sheriff. (I actually learned “lycanthropy” was the technical term for werewolf from this book.) The tragic twist of fate that closed the story left me stunned and excited to move on to the next story. “Midnight Mess,” the Vault-Keeper’s offering, was a cozy little small town vampire story with another glorious twist ending that all but took my mind off the fact that there was more than just the Crypt-Keeper in this book. The next tale was one of a cheating spouse looking for a way out and finding that murder was the only way to do it. In the end, just desserts were served. Such was also the case in “This Wraps it Up,” a fast-paced and exciting mummy story.

Beyond these stories, there was a reprint of CRIME SUSPENSTORIES in the back 32 pages. It was filled with more of the same kind of lurid tales, each with a twist at the end I didn’t see coming. When I finished those 32 pages, I went right back to the front of the book and tore through them all again, focusing on advertisements for other books and old Crypt-Keeper’s hilarious verbiage in the letter column.

My whole life I’ve been drawn to horror movies, but this one day is when the dream to become a horror author was born. It’s something I’ll do for the rest of my life, whether I make a dime from it or not. It’s a passion and it was born to me on that hot summer day in our dearly departed bookstore. A lot has changed for me, and a lot has changed for publishing, in the last 20 years. I feel the biggest changes are yet to come, and I’m hopeful of where they’ll take us all on this journey into the future. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that little tinge of excitement that I still get whenever I break open that old comic book and relive those stories that awakened my creative spirit and showed me how truly fun the world could be through blood colored glasses.

What is your passion, writers? What do you love to write about, and where did it begin for you? I’d love to hear the stories behind the stories. Feel free to share them below.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Having Apathy for Your Work: Good or Bad?

Bearcats All the Way

It doesn't seem like my young adult novel "Bearcats All the Way" has been out now for six years, but that's apparently what the time stamp on's website says. In the early days, I was filled with hope that Lulu's publishing platform would catch on with the general public and that my book would miraculously be whisked away into the realms of bestsellerdom, wherever that actually is. That didn't happen.

Of course, most of the fault lies with me. Books don't sell when you're too shy about pulling the marketing trigger, and for the longest time I suffered from just such a malady. Today, I'm considerably less shy about discussing my work. Earning a few paychecks on your writing ability will give you the confidence that you need to stop making apologies for your career choice. Nevertheless, the book has stagnated, and honestly, I'm okay with it. I've moved on to other projects, and I've grown considerably as a writer since then, both in education and practice.

I'm very proud of "Bearcats All the Way," but at the same time, if I thrust all of my marketing efforts into the past, there wouldn't be much of a future to take hold of, would there? This reality brings to mind a generally negative word that is, for me, somewhat positive in connotation: apathy. When one is apathetic about something, they just don't give a rip. Apathy is really a two-sided coin not unlike the one Two-Face flips in the Batman comics to decide whether you live or die.

(I know--geek!)

Heads, you stop caring so much that you refuse to participate. That can be on writing projects, homework assignments, or the plant/office/professional football organization, where you work. Tails, you're such a forward thinker that you know when to pull the plug on a project and move on to the next big thing with an enhanced set of skills to accompany you on the journey.

To illustrate:

  • Putting away an old writing project and focusing on something new with renewed enthusiasm and vigor--good.
  • Shutting down your football organization because you only stand to profit $5 billion instead of $7 billion in a down economy--bad.

(That's the sort of thing your fans hate you for, and I'm looking at you, owners.)

So when do you know if a project has run its course? Do you look at the dwindling sales numbers? Do you stop marketing because of a change in marketing trends--like when you wrote that young adult wizardry book, Harry Potter was all the rage, but now even J.K. Rowling is moving on to other things? Do you stop if your book gets a couple of 1-star reviews on iTunes, or when you read an anonymous Internet troll's diatribe on why you're the most illiterate idiot on earth? When is it really time to pull the plug?

For me, the process is very organic. You can't be instructed on when the time is right, but you can be told what to look out for. You'll know it when it happens, but you may feel that you need permission to move on without being considered a failure. Guess what? Everyone fails. Your critics are probably the biggest failures of all because they cannot actually "do." They haven't the courage or perhaps the ability to put themselves out there for the world to see. Chances are they work a job they hate, which may or may not pay well, and pieces of their souls die each day they have to go in and punch a clock. Don't worry about them. Worry about whether or not you want to spend time with the project anymore, and whether or not it still excites you enough to talk about it when you're asked the all important question: What kinds of things do you write? The moment I decided to no longer answer that question with "Bearcats All the Way," was the moment I decided it was time to refocus my efforts.

That's not to say the book isn't worth a read. You could probably polish it off in one day, it being summer and all, wink-wink. But I'd much rather focus on future writing plans because I am a writer, read, "one who writes." Not one who has written. "Bearcats All the Way" has been written. Now on to other things!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

3 Reasons You Should Never Send Out Another Manuscript

"It occurred to me today that I wrote my first piece of fiction 25 years ago when I was only slightly less awesome than I am today," he boasted, tongue planted firmly in cheek. That's right, it's like my Silver Anniversary. Since that day, I've seen my name in print a few times, and while it was a good feeling then, it feels less cool today. Don't get me wrong. I'm proud of the things I've got circulating around, I really am. But the novelty of becoming a newly published writer has worn off, and I for one am glad.

Sort of like that new relationship. It's exciting and fun and unpredictable at first, but while you never really want to let go of those jittery feelings--ideally, you've found someone that inspires you to be your best at every turn, and if you ever fail at it, you're inspired to dust yourself off and try again--you don't want to go through life worried about using the bathroom while she's in the same apartment.

There comes a point, where you have to be comfortable with who you are, and plan for the future instead of worrying about the present. So all those fantasies I had when I was younger--of hobnobbing with Stephen King and Dean Koontz--them actually looking forward to MY next book--are locked away in my daydreams forever. If it happens fine, but it isn't going to define my happiness, nor my opinions of what it means to be a success as a writer.

What does any of this have to do with why you should never send out another manuscript if you are an aspiring writer? Hold on and I'll tell you. First, let me start by giving you my three reasons as promised in the title of this post:

1. The Technology Has Changed

Self publishing was once a waste of time unless you had tons of startup capital and plenty of time to go from city to city and beg people to buy your book. Few did. If you didn't prep your manuscript and put your life on hold for the next six months while you waited on that form letter rejection, then you were out of luck. The industry gatekeepers, heretofore mentioned as "The Industry," stood watch with haughty Puritan smirks upon their faces and watched as you ran in place, never going anywhere no matter how hard you tried or how tired you got. Then, ebooks came along while we were still living in the world of Adobe PDF readers. Sure, it was kind of cool for business purposes, but if you wanted to read for enjoyment, the last way you wanted to do it was to scroll up and down, especially on a computer screen after waiting five minutes for a 400-page document to load. Fiction ebooks did terribly, and rightfully so. The Industry patted itself on the back for continuing to up book prices and put out crappier product. But those techie geniuses at Amazon and Apple saw opportunity.

2. The Industry Has Changed

Instead of going with the flow and allowing the Industry to have its way with consumers, Amazon and Apple devised formats for reading that were more pleasurable to the eyes and convenient for the common man. They offered books at cheaper prices, and gave you the option to dispose of the book once it had been read without driving out to Goodwill with a 600-pound box of books that you needed a push-cart just to transport to the back seat of your car. If you wanted to keep said book for another read, you could. No problem. A few short years later, and today, we have the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad. Now, not only is the format better, but the device is as well. Meanwhile, the Industry continues to charge $14.99 for ebooks from popular authors, while decent writers with talent have the opportunity to charge just $2.99 for a novel and use social media and online networking to promote themselves and their books while still enjoying a tidy 70-85% royalty--a heck of a lot more money than they'd ever see from publishing with one of "the big boys." In much the same way that the RIAA inadvertently helped the music industry by screwing itself and removing the middle man from transactions between artist and listener, the Industry has contributed to its own potential demise.

3. The Consumer Has Changed

So who stands to profit from the two changes mentioned above? Two people: the author and the consumer. Who stands to fail? Brick and mortar bookstores and libraries. Meanwhile, the publishing giants will continue to offer premium marketing efforts to the lucky few, but the means for finding an audience has simplified so much that a web savvy author can find exposure for his book without an agent and without a printing press. So in a sense, the publishing companies fail, too. Unless they learn to adapt. Meanwhile, newbie authors with talent are going to charge less for what they write, profit more, and build more personal relationships with their consumers, which, I believe, is truly a win-win--for everyone that matters. When sites like offer a free formatting and distribution service in exchange for a 15% commission each time you sell a book, it just makes sense to take matters into your own hands. Consumers are already embracing ereading devices. And I've got to believe that my network of contacts on Facebook and Twitter is more likely to pay $1.99 or $2.99 for an Aric Mitchell joint AND help spread the word than they would be if I charged them $33 for the same novel at a vanity press (or $25 with a mainstream publisher, for that matter).

Now would seem like a pretty good time to end this little tirade, but then it occurs to me that I haven't told you where I was going with those first few paragraphs. Here's the skinny of it: I'm done sending out manuscripts, and I think you should be, too, because you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting accepted by the limited amount of publishing houses still lucky enough to be in business. Each manuscript mailing is like buying a $1.80 lottery ticket. And I've never been much for playing the lottery. I'm far more attracted to the idea that my own God-given smarts can fuel my passion, enhance my creativity, and help me find an audience. The reasons listed above all play in my favor, and yours as well, Good Writer. The Industry would expect you to do most of the marketing for your book anyway. So why not cut out the middle men, charge a FAIR price, embrace technology full-on, and keep pounding those keys?

How do you think the Industry will adapt to the changes mentioned here? Will they? Or will they continue overcharging for a product with very little overhead? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How I Write and Earn a Living: A Poor Man's Version

It was March 16, 2010, when I started my freelance writing career full time. Scary not knowing whether you'll have enough income to sustain yourself, and that fear never really goes away, but it is easier to manage the more you reach your goals and reproduce results. The one thing I have missed since leaving the private sector is the ability to put work out of my head and veg out at the end of a long day.

Being your own boss, finding your own jobs, handling your own customer service issues, and ensuring your own cash flow, keeps you from ever having a moment's peace, but at the same time, it's worth every minute. It just doesn't feel like work when you're the only d-bag that you have to answer to.

I've had friends tell me since that fateful day that I needed to write an ebook on how I do it with assurances they would make a purchase if I ever followed through. Maybe one day I'll get around to it, but today, I've only got time for a little overview.

How do I write in a manner that guarantees I'll be able to pay the bills each month, save for retirement, and take care of my future family (once the wedding bells ding on July 30)?

Go Where the Money Is

I'd love to spend all my time pounding out short stories, novellas, screenplays, and novels, but the reality is that stuff takes a huge time commitment to do right and you'll probably never get back what you put in to it. I have written a novel, which I self-published (before the ereading devices took off). I've also written a novella that was published in the pulp magazine "Masked Gun Mystery" (print and electronic).

My short story "The Monster of Looking Glass County" closed out Scott Nicholson's under-appreciated anthology of graphic novel horror "Grave Conditions." And I've had an essay published in "The Confident Writer" (Houghton Mifflin, Inc.). Unfortunately, I make more in 10 days of going where the money is than I did for any of those endeavors. Still, there are no regrets. I do it because I love it, and in the upcoming year, you'll see quite a bit more fiction come through the iBooks, Kindle, and Nook stores from me. Hopefully, it will find more value thanks to the ever changing face of the epublishing industry. Either way, I won't stop doing it. But in the meantime, I'll have to put food on the table. Luckily, I know where to look. My three biggest sources of income?

Local Journalism

The problem with writing is that everyone thinks they can do it. However, writing well is more than just stringing sentences together. Local journalism involves the ability to watch what is going on in the community and know what types of things will be interesting enough to read. Then, you have to have the ability to approach the publisher with that idea in a manner that sells. It's just like pitching a script to a big movie executive, but at the same time, there is a much higher acceptance rate if you know what you're doing.

I found my local niche in publications, such as "Celebrate Arkansas," one of our few statewide print magazines, and "," Fort Smith, Ark.'s, smaller-but-more-profitable-than-the-print online newspaper. At the local level, people are willing to pay more than they will online for generic content. Of course, there is a greater expenditure of time, but at the least I make about $20 per hour, while at the most I've made $100 per hour. It just depends on the job and the level of time that goes in to it. Plus, if you really do a good job, you'll almost certainly get more assignments. Why? Because, again, not everyone can write well; they just think they can.

Generic Content Online

You want to know where to start with getting paid writing jobs? Start with More specifically, if you have a Craigslist application on your iPhone or mobile device, save a search for each of the major U.S. cities with "writing jobs" as your category. You'll get more than a thousand new jobs per day. The majority of these postings will either be ripoffs, or they simply won't want you. But the law of averages is on your side. You have to put yourself out there and send out the very best query letters that you can (via email, of course) to these potential employers.

If you don't have a body of work, then sign up with a stepping stone service like or, and get a few quality samples under your belt. They will try to pay you through "exposure" and a "piece of the revenue." This means you will make jack squat. However, you will have a recognized forum for your writing. You will have pieces that are web friendly. You will have work that meets certain editorial requirements. Once you have three to five strong samples, you are marketable.

Keep pounding the digital pavement and contacting job posters day in and day out. What you will find is that a pattern develops with your acceptance rate. For instance, you send out twelve queries and get eleven "no's." Sounds horrible, but when you're doing that every week, it doesn't take as long as you would think to have a clientele of six, seven, or eight paying clients. People who will actually show you the money upfront. When you're starting out, take advantage of these payouts. It may seem like crappy money to write for 1 cent per word, but it leads to higher paying jobs. And since so many of these 1-cent-per-word content pieces are easy to write, you can sort of turn your brain off and let the words flow through you.

But you have to love the process, and you have to be familiar and comfortable with online structure. Short sentences. Simple words. Only 300 to 600 words of content per piece. Working like that, I can generally pull in $18-$20 per hour just from this drudgery work. It's not the Great American Novel. In many cases it is written exactly to client specifications, so it may not even be that good. But if you can work fast, you can make money. I wouldn't take a 9-to-5 job for $15 per hour anymore, though I used to think that was good money, because I can actually make that on an off-day.


Quality will find ways of rewarding you. I have one client, who gives me some really inspiring subject matter and pays me at a rate of about $32 per hour. After working with him and giving him the best ideas and writing that I had in me, he turned me on to a colleague, who was also in need of the same kind of work. The colleague's jobs were a tad more time consuming, but they still netted me around $25 per hour. Of all the different ways to get a job, the referral is the most gratifying because it actually validates the quality of your work and doesn't make you feel like you're just a drone, who spits out words according to blueprint. Hang in there long enough and really commit your creative juices to the right people, and you will get a referral. I'm convinced of it.

Wow, that post ended up much longer than I anticipated. Maybe that ebook idea isn't too far off from becoming a reality. Until then, if you have any ideas for how you've landed work, either in print or on the web, feel free to share.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What are you reading now?

Anyone following me on Facebook or Twitter--well, maybe not Twitter so much--will know that I have recently developed a fondness for ebooks. I fought off the urge for a long time, then a friend of mine showed me the error of my ways through the iBooks phenomenon. Even though I am not a big fan of Kindle, it is still a viable ebook platform, and yes, I do read some stuff on there as well, though it isn't nearly as user friendly and doesn't come anywhere close to recreating the experience of reading an actual book.

Nevertheless, in the last two weeks, I've gone from long bouts of reading nothing to reading almost daily. I've blown through one book already and have three others rollicking along nicely. Thanks to ereader platforms, a lot is going to change in the publishing industry over the next few years, and I for one couldn't be happier. So, feeling inspired, I thought I would share what's currently in progress from my library:

Arcane Magazine

Good H.P. Lovecraft inspired short story magazine, available in both print and electronic forms (though limited to the Kindle). From "Gingerbread and Ashes" on, the stories are phenomenal. Nathan Shumate, who helps publish the 74-page collection, has an ear for what makes Lovecraft Lovecraft, and contributes a pretty solid effort himself. Cost is $2.99 for the ereader version and is worth every penny.

Trapped by Jack Kilborn

Mainstream author J.A. Konrath is sticking it to the man with this special edition that includes two versions of his twisted horror novel, both of which were too much for his traditional publisher. For $2.99, Konrath (writing as Kilborn) delivers more scares and gross-outs than you could possibly imagine. Terrific horror effort and unbelievable value for the price. There are enough differences between the two versions of the novel that it really is like reading two books for half the price of one.

Punish the Sinners by John Saul

Twisted, disturbing, and unforgettable, writer John Saul's second horror novel, written in 1989 or 1990, still packs a punch. This one runs about 384 pages and will cost you $7.99 in ereader format. Considering it is hard to find in print form anywhere nowadays, that isn't a bad price. Approaching a tad too expensive for the format, though, but still hovering in reasonable territory as far as I'm concerned.

The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (all free, woo-hoo!)

Good addition. It's in five volumes and free of charge from iBooks. Kindle has the same option. Totally worth your time.

Write or Die by Scott Nicholson and various other contributors

Nicholson has published four comic series, 12 novels, and a slew of short stories. He makes his full time living through the ereader format pretty much, and if anyone is equipped to teach you how to start a writing career of your own in the digital age, it's this guy, and all of his contributor friends. It's also free. But while you're at it, pick up one of Scott's horror novels. He knows how to price these things, and he knows how to write. Whatever you buy from Nicholson will be worth your time and expense.